Geraint Thomas will be spurred on by bad memories from Rio when he rides in Saturday’s Olympic road race on Mount Fuji.
The Welshman – a double Olympic champion on the track – was looking good for a medal in the road race five years ago before landing in a gutter on the final descent around 10km from the finish line.
“I don’t lose sleep over it now, but it’s one of those things,” the 2018 Tour de France winner said. “It was there for the taking almost, it was a great opportunity but that’s the way it goes.
“(Team psychiatrist) Steve Peters is always telling me life isn’t fair and you don’t always get what you deserve but it was super frustrating and obviously I’d love to put that right on Saturday.”
Thomas is one of three Grand Tour winners in Great Britain’s four-man squad for the 234km race, which starts in Musashinonomori Park and takes in laps of a demanding circuit on Mount Fuji before a finish at the Fuji International Speedway.
Thomas is joined by last year’s Giro d’Italia champion Tao Geoghegan Hart, Simon Yates, winner of the 2018 Vuelta a Espana, and the latter’s twin brother Adam.
Though they face a field including Tour winner Tadej Pogacar, Primoz Roglic and Wout Van Aert, the calibre of the British team compares well. But one-day racing is always unpredictable, never more so than in an Olympic race where the small squads lead to a lack of control at the front of the peloton.
“We’ve definitely got a strong team but I don’t think in cycling that really achieves anything other than perhaps putting a bullseye on your back,” Geoghegan Hart said. “There’s probably 20 or 25 guys you could nail on for a medal in this race, and that says it all.”
Britain’s strength on paper is qualified at least in part by recent injuries. Simon Yates pulled out of the Tour de France after a crash on stage 13 that left him with trauma to his abdominal wall, while Thomas soldiered on to Paris despite dislocating a shoulder on stage three.
Both men downplayed any lingering impact going into the weekend, but both Thomas and Geoghegan Hart only flew to Tokyo on Monday after completing a particularly attritional Tour – and things will not get any easier as they tackle the heat and humidity of Japan.
Saturday’s route includes 4,865 metres of climbing, highlighted by the Mikuni Pass – 6.8km long at an average gradient of 10 per cent – inside the last 30km.
“I think it’s probably going to be one of the most physically demanding races that we’ll do this year, if not in our careers,” Geoghegan Hart added. “There’s the temperature, the humidity, the line-up, and that final climb is a hard one.”
Simon Yates has made this race one of his key goals of the season. It was all put in doubt when he hit the deck on the road to Carcassonne two weeks ago, but an early exit from the Tour instead allowed him to travel to Japan early and get a good look at the route with his brother.
“I think as a team we have a really good chance,” Yates said. “Its all about putting the pieces together.
“There are other nations that have more experience than us when it comes to winning on a bigger stage in a one-day race but we’ll see how it goes. We have a strong team and we’ll give it a go regardless.”
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