The Olympic road race is like no other Olympic event that is staged throughout the Games. The road race’s sheer length and scope this year will truly engulf London, surrounding boroughs and fans.
The men’s road race is slated for July 28, the second day of competition of the London Games, and many expect Mark Cavendish of Britain to be the host nation’s first medal hopeful. Cavendish has made a career of capturing sprint finish titles.
In London, the 145-rider field will race on a 250-kilometre course that will pass through six London boroughs before winding through Woking and Mole Valley as the riders finish with an extremely fast sprint finish down The Mall.
Canada is only permitted to send one rider to compete in the Olympic road race, a number that has been greatly reduced over the years. When I competed in the 1984 Olympic road race, we were a team of four riders.
This same rider must also compete in the individual time-trial event, which could allow for a time-trial specialist to be selected and focus on a medal in this event versus the road race.
Regardless of who rides for Canada in London, he will be in for a tough day of racing. Entering a 250-kilometre race solo is daunting. Other nations will have multiple riders that can work together until the final sprint when it will be all out mayhem for the line.
To be clear, I have no input to the Canadian Olympic Committee or Canadian Cycling Association on who should represent Canada, but I certainly have an opinion in highlighting some of the names that undoubtedly will make for a tough decision.
Ryder Hesjedal is Canada’s biggest name in international road cycling. Born in Victoria, the 31-year-old is considered a time trialist and climber who would bring extensive World Tour and Olympic experience to the race. Hesjedal placed 17th in the 2008 Beijing Games time trial and 54th in the road race, and sixth overall in the 2010 Tour de France.
Svein Tuft, 35, of Langley, B.C., is the reigning Canadian road race and time-trial champion. Tuft placed seventh in the time trial at the 2008 Beijing Games and has captured seven Canadian time-trial titles.
Michael Barry, 36, a World Tour veteran with powerhouse squad Team Sky, usually rides as a domestique but will garner plenty of consideration for the Olympic team. Barry of Toronto placed seventh at the world championship in Hamilton, in 2003.
The key to selection for the road race is the weight that must be put on the prediction that the Olympic road race will end in a mass sprint. Britain will play the race entirely for sprinter Cavendish, exactly as it successfully won the 2011 world championship in Denmark.
Hesjedal, Tuft and Barry are not sprinters. Based on strong early-season results, Guillaume Boivin or Dominique Rollin should be placed under serious consideration, too.
If Canada wants to have a shot at a medal in the Olympic road race, a sprinter should be chosen.
That being said, Hesjedal and Tuft are superior athletes for the time trial. Who has the best medal shot? Sprinter or time trialist? Good question.
Steve Bauer won a silver medal in the 1984 Olympics and captured 14 yellow jerseys at the Tour de France throughout his career. Bauer is the director of Team SpiderTech powered by C10, Canada’s first continental professional cycling team.