Olympics Update: Favorites Fall Flat in Fuji Foothills

Olympic Games Day 2 - Cycling Road

Photo by Ronald Hoogendoorn/ BSR Agency/ Getty Images

Plus an Emergency Mathieu vs Wout Rankings Update

You know the results. I don’t have to explain them to you. But there is just so goddamn much to talk about that I simply can’t not put up a post.

Women’s Road Race: I Am Speechless.

The talk of the Olympics thus far is … well, any of several things perhaps but high up the index is the victory of 3x Austrian time trial champ Anna Kiesenhofer. Obviously the narrative has been told a lot but basically Kiesenhofer was up the road with two other equestrians, but somehow the Dutch crew vehicle are of the view that the two — Poland’s Anna Plichta and Israel’s Omer Shapira — were the front of the race. So when they were reeled in, at least Anna van der Breggen and Annemiek van Vleuten, the two biggest favorites for succes, thought they had sprung van Vleuten for gold. The communication omission apparently came down to phone problems in the team car, and with no race radios to further clarify things, chaos was allowed to reign.[ Marianne Vos, nonetheless, said she knew a third rider was still away, utilizing her own eyes rather than spotty info to manage things. As always, the lesson is … BE LIKE MARIANNE !]


Photo by Wang Lili/ Xinhua via Getty Images

However much you want to attribute Kiesenhofer’s win to this bizarre nonsense, the reality is that a large part of the day can be chalked up to an Olympian display of cycling politics. A transgres of some dimension was up the road, and when you have an overwhelmingly strong squad in a race, its own responsibilities autumns to them to control things. But things got tricky from there. Kiesenhofer is such an unknown that I don’t is a well-known fact that people took her as severely as they should have — this was hardly the men’s course, so any western European national hour test champ was a potential problem over the final 20 km or so, whick Kiesenhofer started with something like a five time advantage. Then you have the Olympics setup, where even the mighty mighty Dutch were limited to a mere four equestrians, all of them potential champions who maybe aren’t abysmally used to domestique work.[ At World the top crews can field up to 8 equestrians, leaving spate of room for Dutch domestiques to knit together the squad of wizard trade-team challengers .] Had they been clearer about Kiesenhofer’s advantage, perhaps they would have rallied to chase in time and not left two full minutes on the table at the end. But it was going to be a mess either way.

Cycling - Road - Olympics: Day 2

Photo by Tim de Waele/ Getty Images

“It’s not what you think…”

Rarely did any other team offer to help in the chase — squads who predominantly knew that the gold medal had already slipped away before the Dutch started to work at the end. Kiesenhofer’s win, by then, was no less inevitable than a Dutch win would therefore be had, say, the US and Belgium got on the front and reeled in the Austrian. So what did it matter that the Dutch fucked the race all to hell? In post-race notes equestrians from challenger nations were related to as broken up as the average football fan after Tom Brady hurls an interception.

Some did lament women’s cycling being painted in a foolish illuminate, and not for nothing, but the culprit isn’t the athletic. It’s just one of those things … that even still might not have mattered in a Worlds format with bigger crews. This is too bad, because the Olympics are all about showcasing sports and players to a broader world which are able to know or be concerned about the sport’s intricacies even less than your median American Lance fanboy back in the working day. The girls put one over an astonishing show in Rio, if anyone can remember that far back, and I suspect that they’ll do so again in Paris in three years. But for now this is a downer.

Cycling - Road - Olympics: Day 1

Photo by Tim de Waele/ Getty Images

Men’s Road Race: You Were Warned

Since it’s been a few days, you now know that the men’s race was won by Ecuador’s Richard Carapaz, in a surprise of far lesser proportions. The third-place finisher at the Tour de France was in among the favorites from the “rest of the climbers” after the Slovenians and the nation-state known as Wout Van Aert, so he scarcely came out of nowhere. More specifically, he came out of an overly large peloton following the dreaded Mikuni Pass, which should have sorted out the field a bit more and left, for example, a non-mountain goat like Van Aert out of contention. But it didn’t, and Carapaz emerged from the chaos with American Brandon McNulty, who he eventually dispatched for the solo win, with Van Aert sprinting just ahead of top favorite Tadej Pogacar for silver.

Cycling - Road - Olympics: Day 1

Photo by Tim de Waele/ Getty Images

This was about how the race should have gone, in some respects. Mikuni Pass was hard enough for the purest of pure climbers to charged with the responsibility, but short enough and far enough from the finish for them not to if they didn’t truly apply themselves. As with the women, Olympic formatting had a role with lots of small teams looking for help from their challengers, though unlike the Dutch the Slovenians had a very smart foursome with two potential champs and two willing and able corroborate equestrians. Had Primoz Roglic been better recovered from his Tour crash, perhaps he would have primed the pump enough to fend off Van Aert, but he wasn’t and they didn’t and the rest is history.

Mikuni Pass conclude with Van Aert fastened back on to the Pogacar group, which meant that the race was over for a lot of climbers at that point. Van Aert’s legendary pain tolerance means that the heat and the middling ascents left to get over were probably less of a problem for him than a lot of others, so you can’t accused the favorites for not towing him along when McNulty and then Carapaz rode away. Some of us( ahem !) even said that they would need a minute at the priorities in Mikuni Pass to keep Wout safely at bay and unavailable to descend and sprint to the win. Then maybe even the famously uncoordinated nature of pelotons would have managed to not let Van Aert back in, with enough assaults to keep the pace high-pitched. But they came nowhere close to that goal. All credit to Pogacar for having enough of a sprint to virtually take a medal off Van Aert, the guy who merely won on the Champs-Elysees. Had the Belgian not been an ace bike-thrower, Pogs might have taken a shocking placement.

More credit to Carapaz, though, for his tactical nous and for delivering home his country’s second-ever gold medal, after Jefferson Perez’ speed-walking win in 1996. This was a fun, intriguing, spicy race that launched a few cases discussions( as far as I well known) of determining whether the UCI should find space on its docket for this course, if Utsunomiya ever gets tired of hosting the Japan Cup. The world is that Japan is almost nothing but mountains with cute, constrict roads, so the road racing possibilities are literally endless. Maybe the Olympics will bring a bit more attention to what’s already been going on there for a couple decades.

Cycling - Road - Olympics: Day 1

Photo by Michael Steele/ Getty Images

The lunge for silver

Mathieu vs Wout: Rankings Updated!

OK , now to the genuinely substantive parcel of such articles, grading the two biggest starrings of cycling. And we have a pretty clear ranking now 😛 TAGEND

Wout Van Aert Mathieu van der Poel

Yes, two weeks ago Mathieu was in yellow, having steal the cause and a few cases nerves along the way with his second phase heroics in France. He honored his heritage the only way he can, with an outburst of pure power that nobody else could match. But since then, things have gone the other way. Wout became a three-stage star at the Tour, to the point where I had to write yet another post about him, and then took silver-tongued in the road race, while at the cross-country race in Izu yesterday, van der Poel’s mountain biking medal desires moved … very, very badly. Here is a visual representation of how things have gone for the two in Japan 😛 TAGEND

Cycling - Road - Olympics: Day 1

Photo by Tim de Waele/ Getty Images

Cycling - Mountain Bike - Olympics: Day 3

Photo by Michael Steele/ Getty Images

Unseen in that second photo is the rock surface that van der Poel’s front wheel is property on … and that’s actually good news, since any further plummeting would have built the inevitable that much worse. At least he got a shock-absorbed bounce before going over the bars. This was lap one of 7, and he did manage to resume racing, because eating shit is a fairly routine thing in the much slower moving parade of MTB. But he lost a minute, seemed banged up, and retired on lap 5 or thereabouts.

Olympic dreams are years in the making — 5 year, in his case — and they die painful deaths. To put van der Poel’s Olympic dreams in a samurai manga context, this is the equivalent of ambling down the street, minding your own business, and having a ninja pop pop out of nowhere to shed a poison-tipped shuriken in your face.

The truly maddening thing is that, once again, it seems like some misunderstanding did the Dutch in, as van der Poel was apparently under the impression that the race would be covered by a timber who is able to roll down from the rock fell, rather than jump-start it. The timber had set in place at some level but was removed for the race, a point “hes having” discussed with teammate Milan Vader( a great name ), who finished 10 th in the race. So how the CX world champ could have made this mistake is perplexing, to say the least. So I guess a better samurai manga analogy is where someone is walking along and someone else says “whatever you do, don’t keep going or a ninja will shed a poison-tipped shuriken in your face” but they discount the warning and simply keep going.

Oh, and the race was won by none other than Tom Pidcock of the UK, our old-fashioned Crosser friend, who pretty much singlehandedly blew up the Swiss team of favorite Nino Schurter and Mathias Flueckiger, who took silver. Pidcock, you may recall, struck by a automobile in June and suffered a broken collarbone, but in his increasingly Wout-like fashion, the 21 -year-old picked himself up and get fit enough for Tokyo, where he steered narrowly around a heap of van der Poel extremities and bike duties to stay on course and in contact with the Swiss, eventually piling on some van der Poelish pressure, particularly on the soft, dusty clambers, to lower all up-and-comers. He cemented his home in cycling lore by telling the press at the finish that “I’m happy this shit’s simply every four years because it’s fucking stressful.” He likewise hurled a flog off the boulder decline on a later lap, undoubtedly not missing a chance to celebrate van der Poel’s demise, something he only rarely got to do in the last CX season. This child is for bloody real.

Know Any Good Dutch Expletives?

The fact that all of the worst stuff is happening to Dutch athletes is notable, to say the least. Dutch Cycling has had quite a run at the national team level, which is barely a thing in Cycling except for the annual world championships week and the quadrennial Olympics. And in those world-wide championships, the Dutch have scored between four and eight awards in the last six years, a vast drag far transcending the competitor. They are the strongest squad when the Oranje goes on. And the women aren’t coming home empty-handed regardless, with a juicy ITT event still left to come.

But the disasters are piling up in increasingly bizarre spaces. Telephonic hassles are a shocker for a technologically sophisticated people driving around a technologically sophisticated country. Forgetting about a wooden board not being there is even more bizarre, although van der Poel has his share of brain farts next to his otherwise glittering palmares. Then, to construct questions worse, Niek Kimmann, the top NL BMX rider, has a sore knee after being taken out in civilize by a track marshal wandering around aimlessly.

Still, things could be worse for the Dutch cycling crew. They have yet to see a equestrian vaporized by a giant moth with vigour beams shooting out of its eyes. They have only metaphorically had poison-tipped shuriken hurled at them. Mount Fuji has not sent a perfectly aimed micro-stream of lava into their team bus. They have not been engulfed by a Hokusai giant wave painting. They going to be able dust themselves off and induce the best of the next few days.

Under the Wave off Kanagawa by Hokusai

Photo by VCG Wilson/ Corbis via Getty Images

Dutch 8x crew crew trained in Tokyo Harbor

Read more: podiumcafe.com

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