'It's not impossible, but it'll be difficult': Can riders combine the Tour de France and the Tokyo Olympics in 2020?
With just six days between Paris and the road race in Tokyo, riders may be forced to make a difficult choice
Only six days separate the Tour de France and Olympics in 2020, with riders facing a task that's "not impossible, but difficult" if they're hunting glory in both races.
>>> Tour de France 2020 route revealed
The 2020 Tour de France begins in Nice on June 27 and ends in Paris on July 19, a week earlier than usual because its an Olympic year, with the Olympic men's road race taking place on July 25.
Even though the Mount Fuji course suits climbers, it could making the trip could prove too much for those who want to also aim for the Tour.
"You have to consider there's a big difference from the Rio de Janeiro Games [in 2016], where there two weeks between the end of the Tour de France and the road race," Italian national team director Davide Cassani told Cycling Weekly.
"In 2020, there are only six days. It's not impossible to race the Tour de France in 2020, but it'd be pretty difficult to wrap up in Paris and fly to Tokyo and not have it takes its toll."
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In 2016 most of Italy's team, including Fabio Aru and Vincenzo Nibali, rode the Tour before heading to Brazil. Only Alessandro De Marchi did not compete in the Tour.
Chris Froome ( Team Ineos) and eventual gold medal winner Greg Van Avermaet (CCC Team), also rode the Tour that year.
"Consider the flight to Tokyo, the time zones, seven hours time difference from Europe. In Rio you could do it, because you had only five hours time difference and we had a good group that did both," Cassani said.
"Again, the timing was different and the timing will be important when we sit at the table to study Tokyo."
Cassani has this season guided the Italian team at the European Championships, where they took the win in the men's road race with Elia Viviani. He then led the team to the Yorkshire World Championships where Matteo Trentin finished second in a tough road race.
After clearing out of Harrogate, Cassani now has time to devote to the Japanese course – which he already previewed in December 2018 – and the scheduling of his potential athletes.
"It's a course that suits those Grand Tour type riders too, riders that go well on the climbs. For Italy, riders like Nibali, but it's too early for me to name any names," he continued.
"That final climb is 30km from the finish and that could decide things, from there, you'll see a small group go to the line to play for the gold medal."
The course covers 234 kilometres, five passes and a finish in the shadow of Japan's famous Mount Fuji. Cassani spoke of the Mikuni Pass - The 6.8km climb averages 10.2% and touches 12.6 to reach 1159 metres. From there, 34 kilometres remain to decide the gold medal.
The women's race includes 2692 metres of climbing in 137 kilometres.
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"What would be the ideal lead up? You have to study the races on the calendar, but the Tour leaves too few days before the Olympics to be possible. I'm not ruling out the Tour for the Olympic hopefuls, but the time difference is so tight," Cassani said.
He spoke of the small stage races, the Giro d'Italia and other events in the spring that could suit gold medal hopefuls.
"We will talk with the athletes and teams after the Worlds in Yorkshire to start to hone in on what's possible and what the athletes want to do."
This article was originally published on August 14, 2019.
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Gregor Brown is an experienced cycling journalist, based in Florence, Italy. He has covered races all over the world for over a decade - following the Giro, Tour de France, and every major race since 2006. His love of cycling began with freestyle and BMX, before the 1998 Tour de France led him to a deep appreciation of the road racing season.
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