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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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OLYMPIC GAMES 2008: GUIDE

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