Cycling | Olympic Games: The definitive battle: Pogacar, Roglic, Van Aert, Evenepoel … for a gold with Mount Fuji as judge

“The Games may be my last motivation”. This is how forceful Alejandro Valverde is when they ask him in Japan about his fifth Olympic adventure. The Murcian, who has historically been stuck in this race, dreams of getting a medal to round off his already lofty palmars.

In the previous appointments it was 47 (Athens), 13 (Beijing), 18 (London) and 30 (Ro). Although only in China did he feel really well. “The Olympics is a very complicated race, because there are only five riders per team. The year that I was very good was the one that Samuel won but, because of the way the race developed, I couldn’t be there. For me, Samu’s gold is like If I had won because in the end the victory was for the Selection “, said yesterday the one from Las Lumbreras.

Tomorrow’s, you are, will be his last chance. “There is no doubt, I will no longer be in Paris. This will be my last great opportunity. I hope that we can have positive circumstances like I had in the World Cup. a small group … “, says a runner who does not believe that it is essential to attack to win. “With this heat and humidity, adding the track will make the race so hard that it is decided to eliminate it,” he warned yesterday at a press conference.

On Sunday he will face a 234 kilometer track between the Tokyo Musashinonomori Park up to the foothills of Mount Fuji, with five ascents and the Mikuni pass (10 kilometers and ramps of between 10% and 15%) that puts the Murcian cyclist before one of the Olympic routes that can best suit their characteristics. Now what you need is to get back the punch of the best times. You are not concerned about a possible lack of acclimatization. “We will have time to train several days before the race. On Saturday we will see if we have had enough days or not, but I think the best way to perform well here was to go through France. I finished well in the Tour. I was close to those of ahead in Luz Ardiden and another day I hit the stick. I think I have dosed myself as I should and that I face it in the best way “, says to MARCA.

Pascual Momparler: “Our asset is Valverde, but he is not the only one”

He is optimistic, but with some misgivings. “The Games are just a one-day race. I like the route. We are going to try our best, but having respect for the rivals who are many and many factors come into play,” he told us as soon as we crossed the finish line in Paris. , where he ended up satisfied with the work of his own.

Samu Snchez: “Hopefully Valverde gave me the relief like Olympic gold”

Great allies

Omar Fraile, the Izagirre brothers and Jess Herrada will act as his luxury squires. Ion, who will also be the Spanish representative in the time trial on Wednesday, considered that one of the keys would be “not to lose face in the race” so that Alejandro has options. “Then there is the Bullet, who always saves the ballot and in a small group can win well.”

Omar Fraile: “We see Valverde in very good condition”

In any case, the coach Momparler remembers that “the leader is Alejandro but that the whole weight cannot be left to him, the rest must also finish off if the opportunity arises.”

Strategy, key

Izagirre stresses the need to “be very attentive because we have to make decisions.” Momparler needs his team more empathetic than ever because this race is run without a headband. “This is the Innsbruck team. We know where we have to be so as not to fail and not to lose face in the race will be the most important thing.” Belgium, Italy, Slovenia, the Netherlands … “We could spend a while listing them all”. In the end, everything happens through the inspiration of the Bala. “I don’t want to fail on my last big date.”

Pascual Momparler: “Our asset is Valverde, but he is not the only one”

A long list of candidates

The race is presumed lunatic from the first moment. The route, smooth at the beginning, increasing the level with a rise and fall until concluding at the dreaded Mikuni Pass (6.8 km at an average 10% slope and with some ramp that reaches 18%) after ascending four previous heights; puts on the table the necessary ingredients to cook a great menu. The greatest rivals ?: “Pogacar, Roglic, Van Aert, Evenepoel, Urn, Carapaz, Mollema, the Italians …”, sums up Momparler. All those who come from the Tour have the ideal shape to finish off in a race that is marked by heat and strategy.

According to Spanish cyclists consulted by MARCA who have lived or compete in Japan as Prades, Toribio, Pujol or Airn: “The race will be crazy and many cyclists will not finish the test because of the hardness and the weather. The winner will be a pure climber because the last ascent is 20 minutes”. A possibility that offers more opportunities to men like Carapaz, Roglic or Urn. If the race breaks and big ‘engines’ like Van Aert, Evenepoel, Mollema or the Italians slip into the breakout, Spain will be losing the horse. If they make it out of Mikuni alive, they’ll have the medals in their pocket.

Spain will therefore seek a more conservative strategy, waiting for its moment to stoke the final blow. Control is impossible and even more so on a route where the rain could complicate everything much more. “The asphalt is rough and makes the bike float you”says an Airn who has been training here for five years. The lions are on the loose and among them is Pogacar, the boy dressed in yellow who does not stop roaring.

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