By Rabun Kosar
The Olympic cycling road race will be held on the road in the center of
Athens, starting and finishing in front of the town hall (see course map below).
The course is a total of 13.2 kms, which will be toured 17 times, for a total of
224.4 kms. The road is fairly smooth; however there is the "Lycabetous Hill"
just in the middle of the course. The name means Mountain of Wolves. Although it has rise of only around 100
meters, it will surely hurt a lot of legs after 17 laps.
Further, the hill juts out right in the middle of Athens, as you can see from the
photo below, and the climb is narrow. That factor also plays into the hands of
Spring Classic Campaigners (the usual suspects of course - see below).
Lycabetous Hill. Courtesy
An epic city for a bike race... Photo courtesy
At the top of the hill there is a 19th century chapel, an amphitheatre as well
as restaurants, and of course has a very nice view of the city and the Attica
peninsula. See more about Lycabetous
The race will start with two hairpins starting just in a couple of hundred
meters. After those hairpins, road is segmented into 5 straight streets, the
longest being around 1.5 kms and with a 50 meter increase. After the 5
kilometers mark, the hairpins show themselves more frequently. Starting with the
Lycabetous hill, the profile becomes more circular, having straight sections of
only some hundred meters. The last rise on the Ermou Street turns left and hits
the smooth road to start-finish line in front the town hall.
The course is more circular in comparison to the Road Race course in Hamilton
for the last year's Worlds. And with 14 "at-least" 90 degree turns (half of them
being left handed and the other half right) it is slightly more technical. Also,
unlike Hamilton, the descents are not straight, but more circular. The weather
forecasts show good temperatures for cycling, with some nice winds. Hence riders
themselves are the only factors to affect the outcome of the race.
The Olympic race, unlike the Worlds, does not allow more than 5 riders per
nation. This means there will not be no Italian domination, neither a Spanish
domination. However, the overall course favors the usual suspects from such
countries. Expect especially Bettini, Van Petegem, Astarloa, Valverde, Hincapie,
Rebellin to play their usual game as they hit the final climb on the Ermou
Street. Not too surprisingly, they will try to form an elite group to keep the
peloton at bay and ride to the finish. They, all being also good sprinters, will
also like the smooth finish once they get to Athinas Street after the climb.
Since those riders will be dangerous in such small bunches, others will
likely try what Ullrich did 4 years ago: Escape early and stay away. The most
important jumping board will be the only hill of the course. An escape on the
Lycabetous Hill has a high chance of being successful, especially for a rider
with decent descending capabilities. Especially the last 4 laps will present
chances for strong riders with some power left, like Ullrich, Vinokourov,
Hamilton maybe Botero. Those riders like long time trials and may take the
chance when presented.
The sprinters will not have many chances, like in Hamilton. Moreover, they will
not have a team to keep things under control. They have to look after themselves
for 223 kms, and hit the fore when they turn left to Athinas Street. This may
seem unlikely, but Freire showed that sprinters can do well on hilly courses
like the one in Portugal 3 years ago, where in a nice and convincing way, he beat
Bettini on the finish line.
Road Race map - click for much larger image. Courtesy UCI.
The Road Race Altimetry. Click for larger image. Courtesy UCI.