The Olympic Cycle Road race threw up some surprises as the favorites didn't win in the men's or women's race. Both winners took their chances and luck played a huge role as they were definitely not the strongest riders out there.
The difference in the rules and regulations compared to a race like the Tour de France has enabled riders to take their chances. Riders normally have the luxury of a team who provide them with information via a radio on where they are and who is up ahead with vital information especially with time gaps. At the Olympics cyclists are allowed to be in a team of four and there are no information boards or team radios allowed. This is what the Tour De France used to be like with break away riders winning stages due to lack of information. I think this goes back to what the Olympics stands for and that is a level playing field for every athlete and having expensive equipment with a big support team would go against that.
In the women's race this became fairly obvious when the second rider home raised her hands in the air as though she had won. She thought she had but had failed to count how many break away riders they had caught up with as they had missed Anna Kiesenhofer from Austria who had crossed the finish line 75 seconds beforehand. She was in the initial breakaway that had a lead of over 10 minutes and left those riders at the 41 km mark to go on her own. When the other riders caught that lot they had no idea that Anna had gone ahead and why there was confusion at the end of the race. The problem being is no one knew who she was and her abilities as even she said she would have been happy with atop 25 finish.
I felt sorry for Wout Van Aert the Belgium rider who was the favorite and had to battle against every other rider in the race. The problem is the others knew if van Aert is there at the finish they didn't stand a chance against his sprinting abilities so they constantly attacked him hoping he would crack and fade away.
At one point event the commentary team had called the race until Van Aert started eating into the breakaway riders lead. 50 seconds became 40 seconds then 30 seconds before Van Aert stood up looking for assistance. He was not going to help the others by being their lead out train. Richard Karapaz is not the strongest rider around and to be frank his strategy was spot on as he relied on the others playing cat and mouse which they did.
What would be a nice idea for the Tour De France is to have no radio days where maybe one day per week there is no team communication and see what happens. I believe that technology has taken part of the magic away from the race and it would be good to see something different. The way the teams prepare they are like robots with all the data at their finger tips knowing who is where and even what speed they are travelling at.
The time trial on Wednesday is where I expect to see the top cyclist like Van Aert challenge for gold as it is a level playing field with just you against the clock. There are only two or possibly three riders who realistically have a chance of winning gold in this event as it is that specialised.