Olympic road races yield early drama for delayed Tokyo Games


By DAVE SKRETTA - AP Sports Writer



The pack with Netherland's Mathieu Van Der Poel, wearing the overall leader's yellow jersey, rides during the third stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 182.9 kilometers (113.65 miles) with start in Lorient and finish in Pontivy, France, Monday, June 28, 2021. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)

The pack with Netherland's Mathieu Van Der Poel, wearing the overall leader's yellow jersey, rides during the third stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 182.9 kilometers (113.65 miles) with start in Lorient and finish in Pontivy, France, Monday, June 28, 2021. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)


Netherland's Demi Vollering of the SD Worx smiles after she won La Course by Le Tour de France women's cycling race, in Landernau, France, Saturday, June 26, 2021. (Benoit Tessier, Pool Photo via AP)


File-This Sept. 27, 2019, file photo shows United States' Megan Jastrab celebrating winning the women junior event at the road cycling World Championships in Harrogate, England. The cycling team that the U.S. is taking to the Tokyo Olympics is a little bit different than the one it would have taken a year ago, when the COVID-19 pandemic forced organizers to postpone the Summer Games by an entire year. Among those on the team announced Thursday, June 10, 2021, are mountain biker Haley Batten, who's been on the podium each of the first two World Cup races of the season; Jastrab, the 19-year-old track cycling prodigy who will be part of the gold medal-favorite women's pursuit team and also contest the Madison; and 23-year-old time trial star Brandon McNulty. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez, File)


Britain, Netherlands aim for more cycling gold in Tokyo

By The Associated Press

HIGHLIGHTS FROM RIO: Britain won six gold medals and 12 overall at the 2016 Games, thanks mostly to its dominance in the velodrome. Jason Kenny won gold in the sprint, keirin and as part of their three-man sprint squad, and Laura Trott won gold in the omnium and as part of their four-woman pursuit team. … Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland and Kristin Armstrong of the U.S. have retired after their time trial gold medals. … Colombia’s Mariana Pajon defended her Olympic gold in the BMX race.

WHAT’S NEW: Freestyle BMX makes its debut, bringing a little X Games flavor to the Olympics in a bid to attract a younger audience. The four Americans in the field are headlined by Hannah Roberts, the top-ranked woman in the world, and all are medal contenders at Ariake Urban Sports Park. It is the only cycling event on the Olympic docket decided by judges. … In the velodrome, the two-person Madison returns to the Olympics after it was cut following the 2008 Beijing Games. It’s a relay race with both riders on the track at once; one rests as the other races, and vice versa. Points are awarded for sprints every 20 laps, and the team that finishes 200 laps first with the most points is declared the winner.

TOKYO EXPECTATIONS: The men’s road race will be the first medal awarded, and a tough course that includes a trip up Mt. Fuji should play into the hands of riders who can climb. The women’s race figures to be a showdown between the powerful Dutch team, including reigning champion Anna van der Breggen, and the rest of the world. … Mountain biking and the track cycling program will take place away from Tokyo near the small city of Izu, which could mean the events lose a little of the Olympic flavor that comes with events in the host city. … BMX racing is back for a third Olympic cycle, and the chaotic, fast-paced races with their spectacular crashes tend to be crowd-favorites.

ATHLETES TO WATCH: Tour de France star Mathieu van der Poel and Britain’s Tom Pidcock are among several riders that will ditch the pavement for the dirt and compete in men’s mountain biking. In the women’s race, the U.S. contingent led by young star Haley Batten will try to upset French favorite Loana Lecomte. … Kenny will try to win a sixth gold medal and seventh overall, breaking a tie with Chris Hoy for most among British cyclists. Kenny’s wife, Laura, will try to add to her own four gold medals. … Chloe Dygert, who is coming back from a career-threatening crash at the worlds, will try to make it four straight gold medals for the U.S. in the women’s time trial. Armstrong, her coach, won the past three before retirement. … Dygert will join a powerful women’s pursuit team in the velodrome that is taking aim at British dominance in the four-person endurance.

GOLD MEDAL MOMENTS: July 24-25, road racing; July 26-27, mountain biking; July 28, time trials; July 30, BMX racing; Aug. 1, BMX freestyle; Aug. 2-8, track cycling.

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More AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/2020-tokyo-olympics and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

The men’s and women’s road races kick off the cycling program at every Summer Olympics, yet the pair of races that will depart from Musashinonomori Park and finish at Fuji Speedway in late July could not be more different.

The men’s race should be a wide-open affair with dozens of potential winners, many of them coming off a grueling slog at the Tour de Franc e. The women’s race will amount to the four-woman Dutch team taking on everyone else.

All eyes will be on the races, too. They offer two of the first gold medals for an Olympics that has been delayed an entire year by the COVID-19 pandemic, and that many in Japan still believe should not happen. And they come on the heels of the Tour, which Olympics partner NBC will have been broadcasting daily on its networks for much of the previous month.

“Everybody in the world is trying to figure out how to beat the Dutch girls,” said Jim Miller, the high performance director for USA Cycling. “The only way to deal with them is isolate and reduce their numbers, but they’re super strong. They have three world champions and their fourth rider will be at some point. All are super fast, capable of going long — any scenario.

“It’s the Dutch’s race to win or lose,” Miller added, “and every other nation is going to race off how they control the race.”

That doesn’t mean it’s a foregone conclusion that 2012 Olympic champion Marianne Vos, 2016 gold medalist Anna van der Breggen, world champ Annemiek van Vleuten or recent La Course by Le Tour de France winner Demi Vollering will continue an era of Dutch dominance. But the men’s road race and the other cycling disciplines — the time trial, mountain biking, BMX freestyle and racing and the track program — should prove a whole lot more difficult to handicap.

That includes the women’s time trial, where three-time Olympic champion Kristin Armstrong has retired. She now coaches Chloe Dygert, the American standout who is coming back from a catastrophic crash at last year’s world championships.

And the men’s time trial, where the form of riders coming off the Tour usually plays a big role in who captures gold. Geraint Thomas of Britain is example No. 1 — he dislocated his shoulder during a crash in Stage 3, and how the the Ineos-Grenadiers leader recovers on the roads of France will have a big impact on how he performs on the roads of Japan.

MOUNTAIN BIKING

Organizers shuffled the Olympic program to insert mountain bike between the road races and time trials, effectively moving the event from one of the last of the entire Summer Games to the opening weekend of competition.

In the men’s race, defending champion Nino Schurter of Switzerland will go for his fourth consecutive Olympic medal. Swiss teammate Mathias Fluckiger, Britain’s Tom Pidcock and Mathieu van der Poel — who wore yellow during the Tour de France but will switch to the dirt for the Olympics — should contend for the podium.

Loana Lecomte has dominated the World Cup season, but French teammate Pauline Ferrand-Prevot and the American team of Haley Batten, Kate Courtney and Chloe Woodruff promise to be in the mix at the course in the Shizuoka Prefecture.

BMX FREESTYLE

The new discipline for the Tokyo Games should be a medal bonanza for the U.S., which features two of the world’s top five men (Justin Dowell and Nick Bruce) and women (Hannah Roberts and Perris Benegas). The X Games-style trick competition at Ariake Urban Sports Park, which has been added to the Olympic program in a bid to attract a new and younger audience, is the only cycling discipline in Tokyo that will be decided by judges.

BMX RACING

The U.S. also should factor into BMX racing, which debuted at the London Games in 2012. Gold medalist Connor Fields and silver medalist Alise Willoughby return five years after their success in Rio to lead a team that could sweep the top step.

Worth watching is whether the lack of competition over the past two years gives an off-the-radar rider a chance to snare a medal. More than any other discipline, the pandemic has wreaked havoc with BMX events around the world.

TRACK CYCLING

Britain has dominated events in the velodrome during the past two Olympic cycles, and despite a scandal that caused major changes to the team structure, Jason Kenny and Co. should be hard to beat at the track in the small city of Izu.

Kenny, who has come out of retirement, has six gold medals and a silver on his resume, and another gold would break a tie with Chris Hoy for most among British cyclists. Kenny’s wife, Laura, will try to add to her own four gold medals.

Returning to the program is the Madison, an event for two-rider teams that was dropped for the London Games because there was no equivalent event for women. Now, the men will be joined by the women in the Madison for the first time.

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More AP Olympic coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/2020-tokyo-olympics and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

The pack with Netherland’s Mathieu Van Der Poel, wearing the overall leader’s yellow jersey, rides during the third stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 182.9 kilometers (113.65 miles) with start in Lorient and finish in Pontivy, France, Monday, June 28, 2021. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)
https://www.wnewsj.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/22/2021/07/web1_126887524-23c9115fec1042598282385956aba314.jpgThe pack with Netherland’s Mathieu Van Der Poel, wearing the overall leader’s yellow jersey, rides during the third stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 182.9 kilometers (113.65 miles) with start in Lorient and finish in Pontivy, France, Monday, June 28, 2021. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)

Netherland’s Demi Vollering of the SD Worx smiles after she won La Course by Le Tour de France women’s cycling race, in Landernau, France, Saturday, June 26, 2021. (Benoit Tessier, Pool Photo via AP)
https://www.wnewsj.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/22/2021/07/web1_126887524-8a6e6ac4e141496b94b9aeab844af425.jpgNetherland’s Demi Vollering of the SD Worx smiles after she won La Course by Le Tour de France women’s cycling race, in Landernau, France, Saturday, June 26, 2021. (Benoit Tessier, Pool Photo via AP)

File-This Sept. 27, 2019, file photo shows United States’ Megan Jastrab celebrating winning the women junior event at the road cycling World Championships in Harrogate, England. The cycling team that the U.S. is taking to the Tokyo Olympics is a little bit different than the one it would have taken a year ago, when the COVID-19 pandemic forced organizers to postpone the Summer Games by an entire year. Among those on the team announced Thursday, June 10, 2021, are mountain biker Haley Batten, who’s been on the podium each of the first two World Cup races of the season; Jastrab, the 19-year-old track cycling prodigy who will be part of the gold medal-favorite women’s pursuit team and also contest the Madison; and 23-year-old time trial star Brandon McNulty. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez, File)
https://www.wnewsj.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/22/2021/07/web1_126887524-5d6e5927520b4711aa74067fb7944a3b.jpgFile-This Sept. 27, 2019, file photo shows United States’ Megan Jastrab celebrating winning the women junior event at the road cycling World Championships in Harrogate, England. The cycling team that the U.S. is taking to the Tokyo Olympics is a little bit different than the one it would have taken a year ago, when the COVID-19 pandemic forced organizers to postpone the Summer Games by an entire year. Among those on the team announced Thursday, June 10, 2021, are mountain biker Haley Batten, who’s been on the podium each of the first two World Cup races of the season; Jastrab, the 19-year-old track cycling prodigy who will be part of the gold medal-favorite women’s pursuit team and also contest the Madison; and 23-year-old time trial star Brandon McNulty. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez, File)

By DAVE SKRETTA

AP Sports Writer

Britain, Netherlands aim for more cycling gold in Tokyo

By The Associated Press

HIGHLIGHTS FROM RIO: Britain won six gold medals and 12 overall at the 2016 Games, thanks mostly to its dominance in the velodrome. Jason Kenny won gold in the sprint, keirin and as part of their three-man sprint squad, and Laura Trott won gold in the omnium and as part of their four-woman pursuit team. … Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland and Kristin Armstrong of the U.S. have retired after their time trial gold medals. … Colombia’s Mariana Pajon defended her Olympic gold in the BMX race.

WHAT’S NEW: Freestyle BMX makes its debut, bringing a little X Games flavor to the Olympics in a bid to attract a younger audience. The four Americans in the field are headlined by Hannah Roberts, the top-ranked woman in the world, and all are medal contenders at Ariake Urban Sports Park. It is the only cycling event on the Olympic docket decided by judges. … In the velodrome, the two-person Madison returns to the Olympics after it was cut following the 2008 Beijing Games. It’s a relay race with both riders on the track at once; one rests as the other races, and vice versa. Points are awarded for sprints every 20 laps, and the team that finishes 200 laps first with the most points is declared the winner.

TOKYO EXPECTATIONS: The men’s road race will be the first medal awarded, and a tough course that includes a trip up Mt. Fuji should play into the hands of riders who can climb. The women’s race figures to be a showdown between the powerful Dutch team, including reigning champion Anna van der Breggen, and the rest of the world. … Mountain biking and the track cycling program will take place away from Tokyo near the small city of Izu, which could mean the events lose a little of the Olympic flavor that comes with events in the host city. … BMX racing is back for a third Olympic cycle, and the chaotic, fast-paced races with their spectacular crashes tend to be crowd-favorites.

ATHLETES TO WATCH: Tour de France star Mathieu van der Poel and Britain’s Tom Pidcock are among several riders that will ditch the pavement for the dirt and compete in men’s mountain biking. In the women’s race, the U.S. contingent led by young star Haley Batten will try to upset French favorite Loana Lecomte. … Kenny will try to win a sixth gold medal and seventh overall, breaking a tie with Chris Hoy for most among British cyclists. Kenny’s wife, Laura, will try to add to her own four gold medals. … Chloe Dygert, who is coming back from a career-threatening crash at the worlds, will try to make it four straight gold medals for the U.S. in the women’s time trial. Armstrong, her coach, won the past three before retirement. … Dygert will join a powerful women’s pursuit team in the velodrome that is taking aim at British dominance in the four-person endurance.

GOLD MEDAL MOMENTS: July 24-25, road racing; July 26-27, mountain biking; July 28, time trials; July 30, BMX racing; Aug. 1, BMX freestyle; Aug. 2-8, track cycling.

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More AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/2020-tokyo-olympics and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports