Olympic qualification up for grabs at Tour do Rio

The winners of three of the Continental Tours (L to R): UCI president Pat McQuaid, Murilo Fischer (Europe), Andrey Mizourov (Asia), and Edgardo Simon (America)

The winners of three of the Continental Tours (L to R): UCI president Pat McQuaid, Murilo Fischer (Europe), Andrey Mizourov (Asia), and Edgardo Simon (America) (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

As host for the 2016 Olympic Games, Rio de Janeiro is a city with a sporting purpose and in its second year, the Tour do Rio is growing in importance on the world cycling stage.

In 2011, the Tour do Rio will be raced over five days and 808.5 kilometres with teams from all world participating. Brazil will be represented by 11 teams, seven from Sao Paulo, two from Rio de Janeiro, while Curitiba and Belem have one team each. Team TBank Skechers make the relatively short trip from Chile, while also in attendance will be Under 23 squad Rossato – Trevigiana (Italy), Jamis-Sutter Home (USA), MMR Bikes (Spain), Team Rwanda, and Team Petroli Firenze (Italy).

The Tour do Brazil takes on extra significance for the Brazilian teams, 12 months out from London 2012 with local riders chasing qualification for the Games with a top 10 result.

Here's a rundown of the challenge ahead:

Stage 1: Rio de Janeiro - Angra dos Reis 149.5km
It's no mistake that the race kicks off from Barra de Tijuca in the southwest of the city – it's where many of the 2016 Olympic venues are. ‘Barra' as it is known by locals, is home to Rio's longest beach which is 18km long and many of the country's elite and it's from there that the Tour do Rio will depart before heading southwest towards the port city to Angra dos Reis. The peloton will have a relatively easy first half of the race, but the 75 kilometre mark sees a lumpy parcours for the remainder of the stage with a downhill run to the finish line.

Stage 2: Volta Redonda - Três Rios 165.7km
Day two is an inland run heading northeast to the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro state. King of the Mountain points are available at both the 40km and 143 km mark which should result in splits the peloton. A sharp rise around three kilometres from the finish is the sting in the tail.

Stage 3: Três Rios – Teresópolis 120.3km
Returning to Three Rivers for the start of stage 3 for the Tour's shortest stage – but it won't be easy. Making a beeline southeast back toward the coast, the road to the alpine hub of Brazil - the city of Teresópolis - steadily rises before peaking at 1459m above sea level around 10km from the finish. If the race is together at the bottom of the descent, the final 3km is flat which should result in a cracking bunch sprint to the finish.

Stage 4: Teresópolis - Rio Das Ostras 197.6km
From the shortest to the longest day on the bike, the race heads east to the coast and Rio Das Ostras – or the Oyster River which lies to the north of Rio de Janeiro. The halfway mark sees the peloton climb 1300 metres to the Cat.3 Placa De Declive Amarela and after the descent, a perfectly flat final 40 kilometres awaits towards the Atlantic.

Stage 5: Rio Das Ostras – Rio de Janeiro 183.9km
While this is a race with its eye firmly on Rio de Janeiro's future, the final stage gives a nod to the nation's past, with the race reaching its conclusion at the grounds in which the imperial family called home, Quinta da Boa Visa – or park of the nice view. It's a relatively flat stage as the race heads southwest back to the city, with four sprint primes on offer.

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