Great Britain men’s coach Matt Brammeier believes that his four-man team for the Tokyo Olympic Games will be spurred on and highly motivated after a hugely disappointing Tour de France. Three of the team for the men’s road race started the Tour de France almost four weeks ago with Geraint Thomas, Tao Geoghegan Hart, and Simon Yates all arriving in Brest with major ambitions.
Thomas’s hopes of winning a second Tour de France effectively ended on stage 3 when he crashed and dislocated his shoulder. He lost time almost daily and has been riding in the services of Richard Carapaz for most of the race, while Geoghegan Hart lost time in the first week, and like Thomas, has been riding as mountain domestique for much of the race.
Simon Yates headed into the Tour hoping to win stages but a crash took him out in the second week. The fourth member of the team, Adam Yates, headed to Tokyo last week along with his brother and has been training on the mountainous course which should suit the riders selected.
The Yates brothers have been joined in Tokyo by James Knox, who has been confirmed as the team’s reserve rider for the men’s road race. Geoghegan Hart and Thomas will ride the individual time trial after the road race.
“Definitely. That’s the feedback that I’ve had from Simon, Tao, and Geraint. They all want to take away something more than what they’ve got at the Tour,” Brammeier told Cyclingnews when asked if his riders would be spurred on to bounce back after their Tours.
“They’ve put in a lot of sacrifices for this block of racing with the Tour and then Tokyo. It’s almost like the same block of time. They’re going to want to bring something home after this block.
The high rate of crashes in the Tour de France – especially in the first week – left Brammeier nervous, but with two days remaining until the race reaches Paris, his initial selection will likely be healthy and ready for the road race in a week's time.
“I’ve not been watching every minute of it but every time you see a crash you wince a bit and just hope that it’s not one of your lads on the deck. It’s not been great with three out of our four guys crashing but I think that all of our guys are in one piece still.”
Knox, who heads to the Vuelta a España after the Olympics, is unlikely to race in Tokyo. It would take an illness or a further injury scare for the team selection to change, but Brammeier has been hugely impressed with the climber’s attitude towards the situation.
“Obviously the team has been selected so it will take an injury or an illness for something to change. We can change up until 72 hours before but unless there’s a disaster we’ll stay as is. It’s good to have him there though as backup. He’s good for motivation as well. It wasn’t hard to persuade him to come. Without blowing my own trumpet, it’s a testament to what we’ve done," he added
“If I look back over the three years since I started it’s great to think that we’ve got someone of James’ capabilities. He’s up for contract this year, he’s off to the Vuelta, and for him to put his hand up for this, with no questions at all, and go all-in, is a big deal for me and the team. Before the race has even started we’re already in a winning position, I think."
Brammeier has also taken the positives out of a disappointing situation at the Tour and believes that both Thomas and Geoghegan Hart will potentially arrive in Tokyo far fresher than if they had been genuine GC contenders at the Tour.
“Psychologically it’s a blow for the lads, but we’ve all been chatting and gone every eventuality in terms of how we’d come out of the Tour and then go again. They’re in a good place mentally and then on a physical level, it’s definitely a benefit as there’s so less stress. Thomas hasn’t been in the grupetto all his life until now so there are benefits and being able to switch off some days will be a massive benefit.”
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