Wout van Aert had simply concluded some of the exceptional performances of anybody within the Tour de France with an exhilarating dash victory on the Champs-Elysees in Paris when he was requested about his Olympic ambitions.
The breakthrough Belgian star, who additionally gained a time trial and mountain stage on the enduring Mount Ventoux, might be lining up at Musashinonomori Park on Saturday for the highway race earlier than tackling the time trial a couple of days later.
“I suppose I am going to attempt to win each,” he stated with what amounted to an audible shrug, “however in fact it’ll be actually tough. Although for now, I am nonetheless overwhelmed by the victories of this weekend.”
There’s the rub: No person fairly is aware of how van Aert and the remainder of the riders who might be jetting from the end line in Paris to the beginning line in Tokyo this week will carry out after three arduous weeks using round France. Biking stands out amongst Olympic sports activities for having its greatest, most prestigious occasion serving as an appetizer to the Summer season Video games. General Tour winner Tadej Pogecar of Slovenia may even be competing in Tokyo.
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Solely two riders to compete within the final 5 Olympics gained a stage on the Tour earlier than profitable a highway race medal, and a kind of stage wins was Fabian Cancellara’s victory in a time trial in 2008. The opposite was Greg van Avermaet, who struck gold on the Rio Video games after profitable the sixth stage of the Tour to cement his standing as Olympic favourite.
Very like his countryman van Aert did this yr.
Different riders have additionally used the Tour to trip into kind for the Olympics.
Paolo Bettini spent eight days sporting the king of the mountains jersey earlier than profitable gold on the 2004 Athens video games, the place Axel Merckx — who ultimately gained the king of the mountains classification — grabbed the bronze medal for Belgium. And on the 2000 Video games, Germany’s Jan Ullrich adopted his second-place Tour end to Lance Armstrong — who, in fact, was stripped of his win — by profitable the gold medal in Sydney from a three-man breakaway.
However for essentially the most half, the three-week grind of the Tour de France tends to go away riders weary after they line up for the Olympics. In spite of everything, it is the Tour reasonably than the once-every-four-years Summer season Video games that they aim above all else.
Take for example the 2012 London Video games. The British had been nonetheless celebrating three stage wins by dash celebrity Mark Cavendish together with Bradley Wiggins’ total title on the Tour de France the earlier week when the duo lined up on The Mall with the hopes of the house nation using on their shoulders.
The whole lot unraveled for the four-man British squad, although. Wiggins and teammates David Millar, Ian Stannard and Chris Froome by no means factored into the race, and Cavendish missed the important thing transfer, leaving him out of place to dash for the win.
Or take the 2008 Beijing Video games, the place Spain was the powerhouse nation. Alejandro Valverde had gained two phases on the Tour, and Olympic teammates Oscar Freire and Carlos Sastre additionally gained phases — as did Juan Jose Cobo and Luis Leon Sanchez, who weren’t even chosen for the Olympic highway race. But it was Samuel Sanchez who made good for the Spaniards when he timed the break completely and gained a decreased dash to carry dwelling the stunning gold medal.
In some circumstances, riders who might need been Olympic favorites do not even make it to the beginning line after the Tour concludes.
That is the case for Peter Sagan, the versatile three-time world champion who competed in mountain biking in Rio however would have been among the many favorites this yr given a course that completely fits his talents.
But the Slovakian standout was compelled to desert the Tour after a Stage 3 crash left him with a wound to his knee that ultimately turned contaminated. Sagan had surgical procedure final week in Monaco to clear it out and harbored hopes of lining up in Tokyo, however the Slovak Olympic Committee made the choice to switch him with Lukas Kubis for Saturday’s highway race.
“We did every part potential on the Tour, however even antibiotic remedy couldn’t forestall an an infection,” stated the doctor for Sagan’s Bora-Hansgrohe workforce, Christopher Edler. “The one possibility was to cease racing and get the bursa surgically eliminated. … The surgical procedure went effectively, and I believe Peter will have the ability to begin with mild coaching once more in a few days.”
Additionally dropping out of the Olympics was Jack Haig, who broke his collarbone throughout the identical third stage of the Tour. He additionally held out hope of lining up in Tokyo for Australia, however his restoration didn’t proceed as rapidly as he hoped.
“Sadly my fracture was a lot worse than first anticipated. The surgical procedure was lengthy and extra invasive than regular, making the restoration interval longer,” Haig wrote on Instagram. “I ought to hopefully be exterior on the bike by the top of this week. Sadly, this implies I might be lacking out on the Olympics.”