With less than a week separating the end of the 2020 Tour de France and the Tokyo Olympics road race, riders may be forced to choose between the two huge races.
The organisers of next year’s Tour have shifted the race forward in the calendar making it possible for riders to race in France before turning their attention to their medal ambitions.
But even with the adjusted schedule Olympic hopefuls will have just have six days from the Tour finish in Paris to prepare for the road race in Tokyo, and with a 12-hour flight from the French capital to East Asia, riders may face a tough choice next July.
Reigning Olympic champion Greg Van Avermaet, who is the star rider for his CCC Team and will be expected to ride the Tour, but is concerned about the gap.
The Belgian told home newspaper Het Nieuwsblad (opens in new tab): “If you are riding on the Champs-Élysées on Sunday at 10pm, you cannot be in the best condition, especially with the time difference, jet lag and weather conditions, in Tokyo on Saturday. But I ride for a team that pays me all year and I am the leader of the team.
“Don’t ride the Tour or leave early? It is not an obvious choice.”
In 2016 Van Avermaet was able to finish the Tour, having won stage five to Le Lioran and holding the yellow jersey for three days, before racing the Clasica San Sebastian in late July and then winning gold at the Olympics in Brazil in the first week of August.
The Tour will be held earlier next year, starting on June 27 and finishing on July 19, to accommodate riders taking part in the Olympics, but with a seven-hour time difference and humid summer conditions riders would ideally spend two weeks in Japan before the race to acclimatise.
Lotto-Soudal rider Tiesj Benoot, a formidable one-day rider with proven climbing ability, is also hoping for selection, telling Het Nieuwsblad: “It seems difficult to finish the Tour and go to Tokyo. I really want to go.
“I don’t have to sacrifice my entire season for it. I can still ride the spring Classics and then work towards the Olympics. I would have no problem skipping the Tour for a year. The Tour is not a must – there's still the Giro d’Italia and the Vuelta a España.”
A test event for the Olympic road race course will be held on July this year, giving riders the opportunity to recce the 234-kilometre route from Musashinonomori Park in Tokyo to the speedway at the foot of Mount Fuji.
The mountainous route racks up 4,865 metres of climbing over five passes.
World champion Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) has put an Olympic gold medal at the top of his wish-list.
Tokyo would be the final opportunity for the Spaniard to achieve that dream, as he plans to retire at the end of the 2021 season.
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Alex Ballinger is editor of BikeBiz magazine, the leading publication for the UK cycle industry, and is the former digital news editor for CyclingWeekly.com. After gaining experience in local newsrooms, national newspapers and in digital journalism, Alex found his calling in cycling, first as a reporter, then as news editor responsible for Cycling Weekly's online news output, and now as the editor of BikeBiz. Since pro cycling first captured his heart during the 2010 Tour de France (specifically the Contador-Schleck battle) Alex covered three Tours de France, multiple editions of the Tour of Britain, and the World Championships, while both writing and video presenting for Cycling Weekly. He also specialises in fitness writing, often throwing himself into the deep end to help readers improve their own power numbers. Away from the desk, Alex can be found racing time trials, riding BMX and mountain bikes, or exploring off-road on his gravel bike. He’s also an avid gamer, and can usually be found buried in an eclectic selection of books.
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