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The favourites for the men?s road race will come from Italy and Spain. Both nations have formidable five-man teams, made up of the best one-day riders in the world.

But the Olympic road race is not a straightforward affair. If the World Championship road race is run according to its own unwritten code, the Olympics is different again.

For a start, even the biggest, most powerful nations have only five riders at their disposal. In the case of Spain and Italy they are all leaders in their own right. There are no watercarriers.

Tactically it will be a complex race because no single national team will be able to exert much of an influence. And it?s long ? 254 kilometres ? and very hilly, with seven ascents of the 11-kilometre climb. More than any other race it?ll be every man for himself.

Although such alliances will be strictly off the record, it is impossible to think that trade team loyalties will not have a part to play. We?ll probably see riders from the smaller nations riding in, at first glance, inexplicable ways. The Italians are particularly fond of roping in help from allies. Without wishing to cast aspersions on individuals, watch for riders from small countries who are trade team-mates of one of the favourites. Nudge, nudge, wink, wink.

Remember eight years ago in Sydney when three Telekom riders, Jan Ullrich and Andreas Klöden riding for Germany, and Alexandre Vinokourov of Kazakhstan, got away and worked together to divide up the three medals.

But it?s not even as simple as reminding yourself which trade team each man rides for ? it may also be worth bearing in mind which team the rider will be with next year.

Other than that, the race will fit a format familiar to those who have sat through the full seven hours of any of the recent World Championships. A break will go away, containing relative unknowns, then the attacks will begin in earnest two or three laps from the end, with the final fireworks saved for the final time over the climb. That is when the likes of Valverde and Bettini will come to the fore.

Perhaps the only other nuance to bear in mind is that there are three medals on offer. Gold, silver and bronze. That will play more of a role, and be more of a motivating factor, than a mere podium place would in a Classic or World Championships.

Four years ago in Athens, Paolo Bettini got away with Portugal?s Sergio Paulinho, who was only too happy to tow the Italian round for a lap knowing his reward would be silver. Once the medals have disappeared up the road, it?ll effectively be game over.

ASSESSING THE TRADE TEAM INFLUENCE

So, which trade team has the most riders on the provisional start list for the Olympic road race?

CSC have 15 riders (16 if you include soon-to-be-stagiaire Jonny Bellis) representing 12 different nations. Team Columbia have ten riders in the race, while Silence-Lotto and Crédit Agricole have seven each. It remains to be seen how these alliances influence the race, but it is interesting to note that CSC riders make up almost a ninth of the entire field.

CSC 15

Juan Jose Haedo ? Argentina

Stuart O?Grady ? Australia

Chris Anker Sorensen ? Denmark

Nicki Sorensen ? Denmark

Jens Voigt ? Germany

Andy Schleck ? Luxembourg

Frank Schleck ? Luxembourg

Karsten Kroon ? Netherlands

Kurt-Asle Arvesen ? Norway

Alexandre Kolobnev ? Russia

Carlos Sastre ? Spain

Gustav Erik Larsson ? Sweden

Marcus Ljungqvist ? Sweden

Fabian Cancellara ? Switzerland

Jason McCartney ? USA

PLUS: Jonny Bellis ? Great Britain (Bellis set to join CSC as a stagiaire after the Olympics

Team Columbia 10

Michael Rogers ? Australia

Kanstantsin Siutsou ? Belarus

Michael Barry ? Canada

Gerald Ciolek ? Germany

Bert Grabsch ? Germany

Roger Hammond ? Great Britain

Kim Kirchen ? Luxembourg

Edvald Boasson Hagen – Norway

Thomas Lovkvist – Sweden

George Hincapie ? USA

Silence-Lotto 7

Cadel Evans ? Australia

Matthew Lloyd ? Australia

Mario Aerts ? Belgium

Christophe Brandt ? Belgium

Jurgen Van den Broeck ? Belgium

Johan Van Summeren ? Belgium

Yaroslav Popovych ? Ukraine

Crédit Agricole 7

Simon Gerrans ? Australia

Remi Pauriol ? France

Pierre Rolland ? France

Laszlo Bodrogi ? Hungary

Nicolas Roche ? Ireland

Iganas Konovalovas ? Lithuania

Gabriel Rasch ? Norway

Liquigas 6

Aleksandr Kuschynski ? Belarus

Murilo Fischer ? Brazil

Vladimir Miholjevic ? Croatia

Roman Kreuziger ? Czech Republic

Franco Pellizotti ? Italy

Vincenzo Nibali ? Italy

AG2R-La Mondiale 6

Alexandre Usov ? Belarus

Tanel Kangert ? Estonia

Cyril Dessel ? France

Philip Deignan ? Ireland

Vladimir Efimkin ? Russia

Tadej Valjavec – Slovenia

Astana 5

Maxim Iglinskiy ? Kazakhstan

Andrey Mizourov ? Kazakhstan

Serguei Ivanov ? Russia

Alberto Contador ? Spain

Levi Leipheimer ? USA

Rabobank 4

Robert Gesink ? Netherlands

Laurens Ten Dam ? Netherlands

Denis Menchov ? Russia

Oscar Freire ? Spain

Barloworld 4

Christian Pfannberger ? Austria

Steve Cummings ? Great Britain

John-Lee Augustyn ? South Africa

Robert Hunter ? South Africa

Garmin-Chipotle 4

Ryder Hesjedal ? Canada

Julian Dean ? New Zealand

Christian Vande Velde – USA

David Zabriskie ? USA

Caisse d?Epargne 3

Rigoberto Uran ? Colombia

Vladimir Karpets ? Russia

Alejandro Valverde ? Spain

Gerolsteiner 3

Stefan Schumacher ? Germany

Fabian Wegmann ? Germany

Davide Rebellin ? Italy

Bouygues Telecom 3

Pierrick Fedrigo ? France

Jerome Pineau ? France

Stef Clement ? Netherlands

Milram 3

Niki Terpstra ? Netherlands

Matej Jurco ? Slovakia

Andriy Grivko – Ukraine

Cofidis 2

Maxime Montfort ? Belgium

Rein Taaramae – Estonia

Lampre 2

Marzio Bruseghin ? Italy

Simon Spilak ? Slovenia

Scott-American Beef 2

Luciano Pagliarini ? Brazil

Raivis Belohvosciks ? Latvia

Quick Step 1

Paolo Bettini ? Italy

Française des Jeux 1

Timothy Gudsell ? New Zealand

Euskatel-Euskadi 1

Samuel Sanchez ? Spain

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