Hello and welcome to our live coverage from the men's road race at the Tokyo Olympics.
It may have been a long wait, with the 2020 COVID-19 postponement, but now it is just a little over an hour until the first of the Olympics cycling events kicks off, with the road race leaving from Musashinonomori Park in the west of Tokyo.
It looks like that much talked of heat we've been hearing so much of as a potential factor in the run up to the Games is going to be on display today, with forecasts for Tokyo of 32°C today.
There are 130 riders on the start list, set to set. off into the heat. The national teams from Belgium, Colombia, France, Italy and Netherlands all earning the right to line up with five riders per nation. With a quota of four athletes there is Australia, Denmark, Great Britain, Germany, Norway, Slovenia and Switzerland while nations with three riders per team include Austria, Canada, Czech Republic, Kazakhstan, Poland, South Africa and Russia.
The rest earned either one or two spots per team.
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Though not all the teams will be on the start line with the full number of riders they are entitled to through the quota. Australia, for one, will be lining up with three riders instead of four as Rohan Dennis has opted to skip the Olympic road race so he can focus completely on the time trial, where he looked on the way to a medal in Rio until an issue with his bars meant he needed a bike change.
German rider Simon Geschke too is out after a positive COVID 19 test less than 24 hours before the start.
"More then disappointed to miss the Olympics tomorrow but also glad everyone else tested negative. It’s a dark day in my career, but I will be back soon later this year hopefully," Geschke said in a message on social media.
And it looks like Geschke isn't the only one, with Reuters reporting that the Czech Republic would be without Michal Schlegel after he returned a positive test for the virus.
It brings home a point made by Australia’s performance director Simon Jones when we talked to him last week.
“This Games is unique and extraordinary, getting on the start line is actually a goal. All it takes is one close contact with COVID. Everyone has got to travel internationally … we've got to make sure people are healthy and we are really strict with social distancing and preventative measures.”
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But enough about the riders that won't be on the start line, let's start talking about the riders that are taking on the climb heavy 234km road race from Musashinonomori Park to the Fuji International Speedway.
Well first there's Tadej Pogačar, the number one favourite to add a gold medal to his yellow jersey haul. He was so far ahead of all the other climbers at the Tour de France and if he's still carrying that form through from the race that ended just six days ago it is going to be hard for his rivals to find a weakness. The Slovenian, too is this timing lining up with Primož Roglič, making it a tough duo to get past.
Then there's Jakob Fuglsang, who certainly didn't have a stellar showing like Pogačar at the Tour de France, but the question is can the silver medallist of five years ago find his form when it matters most? The rider from Denmark has certainly shown he is committed to delivering as good a showing as possible, pulling out of the French Grand Tour before the final stage to get to Tokyo earlier, and he believed that his condition during the three week race was subdued there due to his second COVID vaccination.
The Belgian Wout van Aert certainly wasn't hiding his form at the Tour de France, and while not fitting in with the list of climbers if we learnt anything from his three weeks in France it is that there is little the talented rider can't do. He's shown he is tough to drop and almost unstoppable in a sprint.
One rider we didn't get to see at the Tour de France was Adam Yates, with the rider from Great Britain not having raced since Liège-Bastogne-Liège, but he has been targeting this race since the start of the year. Plus, he'll be fresh and lining up in a quartet including three Grand Tour winners.
Plus the Great Britain men’s coach Matt Brammeier told Cyclingnews that he believes the squad will be entering into the race with extra motivation after Adam's teammates – including his brother Simon, Geraint Thomas and Tao Geoghegan Hart – did not have the Tour de France they were hoping for.
"They all want to take away something more than what they’ve got at the Tour,” said Brammeier. “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."
We'll talk more about the contenders after the start, but if you can't wait take a look at the article on the 12 riders to watch from our Cyclingnews editor Daniel Benson.
The riders are lined up at Musashinonomori Park and the race is about to start.
They are off and racing in the Tokyo Olympics men's road race.
They are rolling out slowly now behind the car, with masked spectators lining the streets as they head out through the mostly flat outskirts of Tokyo.
There is an early wheel change for Greek rider Polychronis Tzortzakis and Ireland's Edward Dunbar has also had a mechanical, but there is little stress while the peloton rolls along in neutral.
Tadej Pogačar is sitting up the front of the peloton along Nic Dlamini of South Africa, who recently became the first Black South African to start cycling’s biggest race. The riders can be seen keeping their fluids up right from the start in the hot and humid conditions.
The roads have been narrow in the opening neutral kilometres, but now they have opened up and the 0km mark has been passed and flag to start the racing has dropped.
A group has quickly taken off out the front, with the peloton looking content to let an early break go.
There are eight riders off the front and they already have a gap of more than 1:30.
Kasper Asgreen of Denmark can already be seen slipping back on a rise.
The gap is growing, with the Belgians and Slovenian team colours prominent at the front but looking relaxed and chatting while Belgian Wout van Aert is at the back at his team car talking.
222km to go
We have the names for the riders in the break, who now have a lead that is approaching five minutes. They are Nic Dlamini (RSA), Michael Kukrle CZE), Juraj Sagan (SVK), Polychronis Tzortzakis (GRE), Eduard-Michael Grosu (ROU), Aular Sanabria (VEN), Paul Daumont (BUR) and Elchin Asadov (AZE)
It looks like stocking sales have been soaring ahead of the road race, filled with ice and tucked down the back of the jersey they are a popular commodity on the race today.
Another of the riders to watch on the race, Bauke Mollema of the Netherlands, was sounding confident about his form in the run into the race but he, like many, was wondering how he would react to the heat.
"The biggest challenge will be to cope with the jet lag and the conditions on site in terms of humidity and extreme heat," Mollema told WielerFlits. "It is difficult to estimate how my body will react to this and many will suffer."
The break is working well together but the pace is picking up in the peloton which has finally decided it is time to respond. A Belgian rider is on the front, stretching the group out to single file.
It is actually the defending champion working on the front. Greg Van Avermaet has enjoyed a five year reign as the Olympic champion after his unexpected win at Rio, and while it may be time to say goodbye to the golden helmet he’s clearly trying to help keep the medal with Belgium, supporting the prospects of Wout van Aert and Remco Evenepoel.
We spoke to Van Avermaet in the run up to the Olympics and he said: "For me it's important and I'll try and do my best. We've a super strong team and we're going in with a different mindset to the one we had in Rio, where we were more of the underdogs. But with this team, and Wout and Remco on higher levels, we can be quite sure about ourselves and that we can win the race."
Van Avermaet is still sitting on the front, while his teammate Van Aert goes out the back to the car looking for more ice.
200km to go
The front group has still been rolling turns. We took a closer look at one of bikes in the break, Nic Dlamini's BMC Teammachine with its South African theme. You can take a closer look here.
The race is still working its way out of the suburbs but the climbing is coming.
There is of course plenty of climbing, 4,865 metres of elevation to be exact, with five major climbs to tackle before the finish line at the Fuji International Speedway.
A mechanical of some type for New Zealand's Patrick Bevin but he is quickly back riding and hooking on to the peloton.
The break is on the lower slopes of the Doushi Road climb and the gap has stretched out to over nine minutes while the big teams are starting to become more visible at the head of the peloton.
Actually that gap is now over 11 minutes, but there are no signs of concern behind.
There is very familiar surname in the break rolling through the front right, Juraj Sagan one of the two Slovakian riders in the race. His brother Peter couldn't make it to the Olympics as he needed knee surgery after an infection developed as a result of his Tour de France crash with Caleb Ewan on stage 3.
Tadej Pogacar is coming back to the peloton though the cars, though we are not quite sure why he was out the back.
He's back, and certainly not looking stressed, flashing a cheeky smile toward the camera as it went past.
The big teams of the favourites seem content to sit back for the moment and let Tristan de Lange from Namibia do the chasing.
Elchin Asadov (AZE) is struggling to hold onto the lead group on the descents so it is seven out the front at the moment.
The rider from Namibia, Tristan de Lange, has now decided to ride away from the main group, though it's a long way to the leaders.
One of the teams we are starting to see sneaking up toward the front of the peloton as soon as the road goes up is that of the Spanish. The team – which includes Alejandro Valverde, Ion Izagirre, Gorka Izagirre, Omar Fraile and Jesús Herrada had a team masseuse test positive for COVID-19 on Friday but were cleared to start with the riders subsequently having passed PCR tests.
De Lange is still in the gap between the peloton and the lead group. He actually wasn't expecting to be riding the road race, getting a late call up after the selected rider from Namibia, Dan Craven, tested positive for COVID-19 a week before the Olympic Games.
The first-time Olympian, also a mountain biker, seems to be making the most of his opportunity and is doing what he said he would in a post before the race and engaging "beast-mode".
A photo posted by on
There has been a crash!
Two riders from Great Britain were involved, Geraint Thomas and Tao Geoghegan Hart.
Both are up and chasing back onto the peloton.
Also involved were Italy's Gulio Ciccone and Gregor Muehlberger of Austria.
Thomas and Geoghegan Hart are working their way back together, with the younger rider dousing himself with water as he tries to keep cool as he chases.
It hasn't been the easiest run of late for Thomas, who clearly came down heavily in that accident judging by his torn skinsuit and bloody arm and shoulder. Back at the Tour de France, he said he had dark moments in what was mentally his toughest Tour de France and included a crash which dislocated his shoulder.
Thomas and Geoghegan Hart are bow back in the group.
150km to go
The lead group has now shrunk to five, with the gap at 17:30, and Van Avermaet is back leading the peloton.
It looks like the chase of Tristan de Lange is over, but at least we all know his name now.
Jan Tratnik takes a turn on the front for Slovenia while Van Avermaet slots into second.
The roads are now damp for the lead group, looks like there has been a little rain.
Michael Woods of Canada is out the back at his team car, seems to have a problem with his shoe.
The break of Dlamani, Kukrle, Sagan, Tzortzakis and Aular Sanabria is still working well together, with a gap of about 16 minutes.
The race has now passed Lake Yamanaka and is getting closer to the climb of the lower slopes of Mt Fiji, which means its time to refuel and get ready for the explosions ahead.
A bike change, and not the quickest one at that, for France's Guillaumme Martin.
What do you know, Van Avarmaet is on the front again and not surprisingly looking a little worn. It must be nearly time for someone else to take another turn.
Paul Daumont (BUR), who was in the lead group earlier, has now been swallowed up by the peloton.
The gap to the lead group is now under 13 minutes and former break rider Eduard-Michael Grosu has also been swallowed up by the main group.
Jan Polanc of Slovenia is out the back with a mechanical as the climbing ramps up while his teammate Tratnik is setting the tempo up the front.
100km to go
The Fuji Sanroku climb, 14.3 kilometres with an average gradient of 6 percent, is starting to take a toll with riders clinging on the back of the peloton and the gap to the lead group slipping to under 11 minutes.
Thomas is sitting near the back of the peloton now, while Avermaet, having done a huge amount of work, is losing touch.
The rest of the Belgians are sitting up the front of the peloton, looking comfortable
Thomas doesn't look to be going to well, back at the team car taking a sticky bar and bottle on the climb.
Spain's Omar Fraile is surprisingly dropping off the back too.
The gap to the lead group is now down under eight minutes and we see more riders slip off the back of the main group, with Chris Juul-Jensen of Denmark among those drifting away.
The Italian team have been largely hidden in the bunch up till now but have now appeared up the front to do a bit of pace setting.
Alejandro Valverde is out the back and the Spanish rider looks like he is done.
It looks like the turn of pace from Italy's Giulio Ciccone was too much for him, and a few others as well.
This is the fifth Games for the 41 year old, who has also come straight from the Tour de France where he got oh so close to taking a stage victory on stage 15 but ended up with second behind Sepp Kuss. He couldn't catch up on the descent on that stage but perhaps Valverde, with his super descending skills, will be able to make it back to the peloton on this one. The group is now heading down after cresting the Fuji Sanroku climb.
The gap to the lead group of five is now under five minutes with 81 kilometres to go.
The race is now heading down to Gotemba and making its way toward the Fuji Speedway.
There are splits appearing in the peloton on the descent, with Belgium on the front and Slovenia tucked in behind.
Thomas is sitting at the back of the group.
75km to go
It looks like the split has been pulled back in as the road flattens.
Giulio Ciccone (Italy) getting a bit of mechanical assistance on the road, looks like a battery change. He is wearing the signs of that crash earlier with a rip in his shorts at the back of his left leg.
Valverde made the most of the descent, he is back in the group.
We are now in a flatter section of the race, although it is still lumpy, before the brutal climb of the Mikuni Pass, about 30 kilometres from the finish.
Thomas is still sitting at the back of the group while Slovenia again drives the pace.
The leaders have now swung into the Fuji Speedway with a gap of a little over four minutes.
The race has now been going for more than four hours and 30 minutes and we get to have our first glimpse over the Fuji Speedway headline.
Jan Tratnik is leading the peloton through now before it loops through again and then heads out toward the climb of Mikuni Pass.
On the smooth wide roads of the speedway we are starting to see a few more nations assemble up the front, including the Dutch and Australians.
Jan Polanc of Slovenia was involved in a crash near the back of the field.
He looks to be fine with a new bike and continuing on.
But pictures are just being shown of Thomas pulling off the side of the road and hoping off his bike. It looks like he may have had to abandon.
The attacks are starting to come.
The Italians are having a dig, with Damiano Caruso going again.
A group of three, is off the front with a Belgium rider and Dutch joining Caruso.
It looks like Mauri Vansevenant and Wilco Kelderman with Caruso
And more riders are trying to bridge the gap.
Remco Evenepoel is trying to join his Belgian teammate up the front.
Evenepoel, Vincenzo Nibali and Eddie Dunbar are working together to build a gap on the peloton.
It's still Tzortzakis, Kukrle and Aular Sanabria holding on out the front, but not by much.
The break of three including Evenepoel has been caught.
Going through the feed zone now.
It is a race for position now, with the race all back together.
The French team are making their presence felt up the front, and no doubt they'll be looking for an aggressive showing from David Gaudu who wasn't afraid to take a chance at the Tour de France.
Nibali is driving out the front for Italy.
40km to go
It's all strung out as they head toward the Mikuni Pass.
The Belgians are back out the front and the riders are dropping off the back.
Ion Izagirre of Spain and Kasper Asgreen of Denmark are among the riders off the back as is Australia's Luke Durbridge.
The group is starting to look rather small, with Nairo Quintana and Valverde also dropped.
Tom Dumoulin of the Netherlands is also out the back as Belgium's Vansevenant drives the pace.
Remco Evenepoel is also slipping out the back, with the vicious pace of his teammate taking a toll.
Tadej Pogacar has attacked, with Brandon McNulty closing the gap.
Sitting behind McNulty it is also Canada's Michael Woods.
McNulty of the US is taking a turn at the front, with Woods hanging on.
Pogačar seems happy to work with the North American paid and they have a gap of around 18 seconds.
And it is getting seriously steep. The 6.5km climb of Mikuni Pass has an average gradient of 10.6 per cent with sections reaching 20 per cent.
Wout van Aert is trying to claw his way back and the gap is closing, back to around 10 seconds.
Also in the group of pure climbers hanging in there with Van Aert is France's Daid Gaudu, the faces he is pulling clear evidence of how hard he is working.
A group of four lead by Ecuador's Richard Carapaz and Poland's Michal Kwiatkowski are closing the gap.
The Pogačar group is caught and there are now six on the front but Columbia's Rigoberto Uran is trying to make it seven.
The lead group is Pogačar (SLO), Michael Woods (CAN), Brandon McNulty (USA), Alberto Bettiol (ITA), Rigoberto Uran (COL), Max Schachmann (GER) and Michal Kwiatkowski (POL).
On the downhill now and out the front it is Canada's Woods.
It looks like there are now about 13 riders together just behind Woods.
29km to go
Wout van Aert was driving the group and Woods was caught.
Now Bauke Mollema (NED) has decided it is time to have a dig.
Jakob Fuglsang is now on the move with the Danish rider getting a small gap.
Pogačar was working to pull him back and then Kwiatkowski has gone to close the gap with Pogačar on his wheel.
They are back together again in time for another dig to go.
Carapaz and McNulty are opening up a gap.
Let's list the group behind, before it changes again. It is Tadej Pogačar (SLO), Alberto Bettio (ITA), Rigoberto Uran (COL) Max Schahmann (GER), Michal Kwiatkowski (POL), Wout van Aert (BEL) David Gaudu (FRA), Bauke Mollema (NED), Rigoberto Uran (COL), Jakob Fuglsang (DEN) and Adam Yates (GBR)
20km to go
McNulty and Carapaz have a lead of about 27 seconds.
The gap has stretched to 40 seconds as the road begins to flatten slightly after the descent.
The lead duo are working well together, they can sniff a medal and are happy now to work toward silver or gold, for now at least.
Italy's Alberto Bettiol has dropped out of the chase group. Looks like he is suffering with a cramp.
13.5km to go
The lead to the chase is at 44 seconds, with the group behind looking they are trying to measure their efforts.
There is a bit of looking behind the shoulder and swinging off and the group seems to be looking for Van Aert to drive the pace.
And the Belgian has decided he will accelerate and the gaps in the chase group are opening up.
He's split the group but those few who have managed to get across aren't keen to work with Van Aert.
Although Uran has gone to the front to help now and the gap is actually dropping, slipping to 20 seconds.
The chase are likely to be able to see the pair out the front, too, as they go into the open Fuji Speedway again, providing a significant carrot.
8km to go
It's a chase of eight now and its still Van Aert driving the pace with Adam Yates taking a short turn.
Fifteen seconds for the chase group now.
Carapaz is looking back to see how close the chase is getting. There isn't much room to play games.
Carapaz has taken off and gone clear from McNulty.
McNulty is looking back trying to hold off the closing group behind to see if he can hang on for silver.
The chase is closing on McNulty, with Woods leading the charge.
McNulty has been caught.
4km to go
Carapaz is still in the lead, with a gap of just over 30 seconds.
Mollema and Van Aert are leading the chase, with Pogačar hanging in there along with the chase group of eight that also still includes Yates and Gaudu.
It looks like something will have to go really wrong for Carapaz not to get gold now.
Richard Carapaz of Ecuador wins the gold medal, with time to celebrate as he heads into the finish line.
It is going to come down to a sprint for the rest of the medals. No one wants to lead Van Aert out.
Yates has gone but Van Aert and Pogacar get out ahead.
It was so close between Pogačar and Van Aert, we are just waiting for confirmation of who secured the silver.
It was silver for Belgium's Wout van Aert and bronze for Tadej Pogačar of Slovenia.
What a win for Carapaz. Only one teammate but it didn't matter as he timed his run to perfection.
The 28-year-old from Ecuador was fresh from the podium of the Tour de France, with the rider saying the third place was good for him but now that will be well and truly overshadowed by Olympic gold.
Dutch rider Bauke Mollema came over the line in fourth while Canada's Michael Woods managed to hold on after being caught with enough in the tank to take fifth place.
Rounding out the top ten it was US rider Brandon McNulty in sixth place, David Gaudu of France in seventh, Columbian Rigoberto Uran in eighth, Great Britain's Adam Yates in ninth and Germany's Max Schachmann in tenth place.
You can find our report on the race here: Olympics: Richard Carapaz claims men's road race title
One of the two Japanese riders is just coming across the finish line, with Yukiya putting on a show for the home crowd with a bit with a sprint to the finish to come second last, not last.
Nothing like taking gold with time to enjoy the moment.
But you can see just how close it was for Pogačar and Van Aert in the photo below.
In the end 85 riders finished the race, with Hugo Houle of Canada the last rider across the finish line.
Here's reaction from Van Aert
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