100km to go
The breakaway’s advantage has grown to around 10 minutes which although sounds like quite a lead, the horsepower in the peloton should be able to soon rein them in once the road starts to head up into the mountains. I don’t think they are too worried just yet – riders in the bunch are looking relaxed, laughing and chatting away.
102.5km to go
Catalina Anais Sota (Chile) and Agua Marina Espínola (Paraguay) have clipped off the front of the peloton, bridged over and beyond Mossana Debesay (Eritrea) and Selam Amha (Ethiopia). As the road starts to rise, Debesay and Amha started to flounder and were unfortunately unable to hold the wheels of the south Americans.
Wiggins: Deignan could get the job done today
Speaking earlier, Sir Bradley Wiggins said that Team GB rider Lizzie Deignan may be able to do the improbable and unpick the Dutch . . .
110km to go
The breakaway’s lead has grown out to a shade below seven minutes.
112.5km to go
Antri Christoforou of Cyprus has been delayed after suffering a mechanical issue. Although she dropped her bike to the ground, the 29-year-old remained calm and took a new ride from the neutral service vehicle and it looks a little too big for the 166cm tall rider. She’s ploughing on though and appears to be looking a round for her team car who will have her spare bike. Not an ideal scenario for her.
115km to go
The peloton has gained a fairly large lead of 4min 31sec over the peloton, while the move from Mossana Debesay (Eritrea) and Selam Amha (Ethiopia) looks doomed – they are 4min 4sec off the pace. One suspects once the race reaches the first climb of the day the stronger teams will get to work and start reeling them in.
If you are new to cycling and are wondering why Austria has just one rider competing in the race (Anna Kiesenhoffer, who is in the breakaway), but the Dutch has four – the maximum permitted in today’s race – then don’t worry almost everybody asks. Team sizes are determined by the number of UCI (International Cycling Union, cycling’s world governing body) points earned by riders from its federation in the year preceding the competition (in this case 2019). In short, the stronger nations – Australia, Germany, Italy, USA and, of course, the Dutch – get more slots, while the less strong nations receive fewer. In the heat and humidity team-mates will play a key role as they drop back to the cars to collect water bottles and fuel.
125km to go
Team GB riders Anna Shackley and Lizzie Deignan have positioned themselves near the head of the peloton, while defending Olympic Anna van der Breggen (Netherlands), who is retiring from racing at the end of the season, is near the back. Incidentally, Shackley is a trade team-mate (SDWorx) of Van der Breggen and Demi Vollering so will have a good understanding of how the Dutchwomen work.
Keeping cool in the heat of battle
Coryn Rivera (USA), winner of a stage at the recent Giro Donne, was just spotted dropping back to a team car to take a drink or some ice to help keep her cool. Managing the heat and humidity today, as it was in yesterday’s men’s race, will be absolutely key. Shortly afterwards Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (Denmark) does the same and has a long conversation with her sporting director.
130km to go
Mossana Debesay (Eritrea) has joined forces with Selam Amha (Ethiopia) in pursuit of the breakaway, however that quintet is working well together and riding hard so they will have to give it beans. The breakaway leads the peloton by around 1min 20sec.
Anna Kiesenhoffer (Austria), Vera Looser (Namibia), Carla Oberholzer (South Africa), Anna Plichta (Poland), Omer Shapira (Israel) wasted little time in getting off up the road and the peloton appears happy, for now at least, while Selam Amha (Ethiopia) is attempting to bridge her way over to that quintet of riders.
And they’re off!
The riders have navigated their way through the neutralised section of the race, passing by some beautiful looking temples and some surprisingly big crowds, and the officials have got the racing under way proper. Interesting to note that the Dutch squad had opted to wear cooling vests which were removed at the last minute and it was Marianne Vos who took those vests off her team-mates and dropped off to her team car. Is this a sign that Vos is working as a domestique here today, or more likely that she’s just a great human?
Calm before the storm
Hello folks, and welcome to our live rolling blog from the women’s Olympic road race, the 137-kilometre drag from Musashinonomori Park to Fuji International Speedway in Japan. The 67-rider peloton – yes it is a very small field of riders, but one that packs a punch – is currently tapping away through a 10km neutralised section before racing gets under way. The four Dutchwomen who are widely expected to dominate the race are positioned on the frontline, just behind the race official’s car, and looking relaxed. In Anna van der Breggen, Annemiek van Vleuten, Demi Vollering and Marianne Vos the Dutch squad has four possible winners of this race today.
So, what’s on the menu today?
Unlike the men’s event, the women’s race disappointingly features neither the long ascent of Mount Fuji, nor the brutal looking Mikuni Pass which proved a selective point. There is, however, around 2,500 metres in vertical elevation over just 137 kilometres of racing.
The two featured climbs are Doshi Road, which tops out at 79.5km into the race and is 4.7km in length at an average gradient of 6.2%. This is followed shortly afterwards by the Kagosaka Pass (2.2km at 4.8%) which peaks 95.5km into the race and is followed by a descent towards the Fuji International Speedway track and then an undulating road. There is a small climb around 7km from the line – the point where Richard Carapaz dropped Brandon McNulty on Saturday – which may offer riders a final opportunity to shake off any unwanted rivals should a small group still be riding together.
Starting list in full . . .
Julie Van de Velde
Catalina Anais Sota
Maria Jose Vargas
Paula Andrea Patiño
Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig
Elisa Longo Borghini
Lizbeth Yareli Salazar
Anna van der Breggen
Annemiek van Vleuten
Agua Marina Espínola
Trinidad & Tobago
Van Vleuten: Olympics as opportunity to showcase women’s cycling
Dutch favourite Annemiek van Vleuten says winning the Olympic road race at the Tokyo Games on Sunday would rank below her three world titles because she is facing a lower-quality field.
Only 67 riders will start the women’s race, which is also considerably shorter than the men’s event and will not tackle the famous Mount Fuji climb.
“The level of such an Olympic competition is qualitatively the lowest level of all races during four years,” Van Vleuten told reporters in the build-up to today’s race.
“Half of the good riders are at home. Many countries only send one. Many I don’t even know.
“I have made it a mission to point this out to people, to wake them up, to put its importance into perspective.
“You did the women short. Fortunately, the rule has changed.”
Equality in women’s cycling has been a running battle in the sport and a women’s Tour de France will finally return next year after year’s of campaigning by the likes of Van Vleuten’s Dutch team-mate and former Olympic champion Marianne Vos.
Governing body the UCI has said that the 2024 Paris Olympics will have 90 riders in both the men’s and women’s road races.
“At the next Games, the men’s and women’s peloton will be the same,” said Van Vleuten, who crashed heavily at the Rio Games in sight of victory.
“Great, goal achieved. But I still think a world title is more important than an Olympic one.
“An incredibly beautiful jersey, achieved in a strong field of participants, with national teams in normal size. Let me put it this way: the Olympic title is half a percent below it.
“But it’s still special because it’s once every four years. The game is widely watched. It is therefore also a moment to showcase women’s cycling, even if it is not representative.”
The women’s road race is 137km long with 2,692 metres of elevation gain. Reuters