By Gregor Brown
A small group will likely fight for the 2020 Olympic road race gold medal in Tokyo with the heat, humidly and climbs likely to take their toll, says Italy's head coach.
Davide Cassani travelled to Tokyo to see the Mount Fuji course, which the men will face on July 25. It covers 234 kilometres, five passes and a finish in the shadow of Japan's famous mountain.
The key point could be the Mikuni Pass. The 6.8km climb averages 10.2 per cent and touches 12.6 to reach 1,159 metres. From there, 34 kilometres remain to decide the gold medal.
"It's true, it's the key point but it's a bit far from the finish line," Cassani told La Gazzetta dello Sport. "But this will make the race more special.
"There will be a selection also because in July it is a terrible heat, with a temperature above 30 degrees and an unbearable humidity level. From that climb will come the small group that should contest victory. From there it will be a mano a mano."
The women's race includes 2,692 metres of climbing in 137 kilometres.
The men also start in Musashinonomori Park on Tokyo's outskirts. They head west to the climbs to cover 4,865 metres.
"The first 50 kilometres are on the flat and then the road climbs 30 kilometres from 300 to 1,100 meters. It's a very sweet climb. A descent of 34km in the mountains, up to Lake Yamanakako, turn right and start a 2km climb: Kagosaka Pass," Cassani said.
"Mount Fuji Sanroku: There are 12km at 6-7 per cent, quite regular. The beauty is that this is normally forbidden to ride and is a paid road. From that climb, 95km remain to the finish line. Fast descent and arrive at the car circuit."
After one circuit, the riders head back on the road to face what could be the gold medal decider over the Mikuni climb.
"After that peak, 4km of descent and go back to the lake and then redo the little 2km climb. 20km to go, 11 of which are downhill. The gold is contested on the final circuit and [riders will need to] be careful because at 1,800m out starts a climb of 800 meters of 6-7 per cent that hurts."
Cassani said the pre-Olympic race on 21 July, shorter than the actual event, "will give us important indications."
Belgian Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) is the reigning champion from Rio de Janerio. Just less than two years remain until a new king is crowned.
"Was it too early to come? Nope," Cassani said. "I know that British have already been here. The Olympics is just around the corner!"
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