Cycling at the 2008 Summer Olympics – Men's road race

Cycling at the 2008 Summer Olympics – Men's road race

Infobox Olympic event
event = Men's cycling road race
games = 2008 Summer

caption = The field shortly after the start.
venue = Urban Road Cycling Course km to mi|245.4|precision=1|abbr=yes
date = August 9
competitors = 143
nations = 55
win_value = 6:23:49 convert|38.36|km/h|mph|abbr=on
gold = Samuel Sánchez
goldNOC = ESP
silver = Davide Rebellin
silverNOC = ITA
bronze = Fabian Cancellara
bronzeNOC = SUI
The men's road race, a part of the cycling events at the 2008 Summer Olympics, took place on August 9 at the Urban Road Cycling Course. It started at 11:00 China Standard Time (UTC+8), and was scheduled to last until 17:30 later that day. The convert|245.4|km|lk=on|adj=on course ran north across the heart of the Beijing metropolitan area, passing such landmarks as the Temple of Heaven, the Great Hall of the People, Tiananmen Square and the Beijing National Stadium. After rolling over relatively flat terrain for convert|78.8|km|abbr=on north of the Beijing city center, the route entered a decisive circuit encompassing seven loops on a convert|23.8|km|abbr=on section up and down the Badaling Pass, including ramps as steep as a 10 percent gradient.cite web|url=|title=Road Cycling Day 1 Preview: Great Wall course serves up cycling vertical challenge|publisher=The Official Website of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games|date=2008-08-08|accessdate=2008-08-09]

The race was won by Spanish rider Samuel Sánchez in 6 hours, 23 minutes, 49 seconds, after a six-man breakaway group contested a sprint finish. The hot and humid conditions were in sharp contrast to the heavy rain weathered in the women's road race the following day. [citeweb|url=|title=Cooke grabs first GB gold medal|publisher=BBC Sport|quote=(...) with heavy rain making the road treacherous in places.|date=2008-08-10|accessdate=2008-08-11]

The event was one of the earliest to be concluded at the 2008 Summer Olympics, taking place on the first day of competition. [cite web|url = |title = Olympic Games Competition Schedule |publisher = Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games (BOCOG) |accessdate = 2008-08-11 ] Concerns were raised before the Olympics about the threat of pollution in endurance sports, but no major problems were apparent in the race.citeweb|url=|title=Humidity Is the Problem in a Race of Attrition|publisher="New York Times"|author=Greg Bishop|quote=(...) the racers found the real nightmare not in the pollution, but in the humidity and heat.|date=2008-08-09|accessdate=2008-08-12]


Qualification for the race was restricted to five athletes per National Olympic Committee (NOC), providing that these athletes qualified through the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) rankings, with the UCI ProTour considered to be superior to the UCI Continental Circuits. The number of qualification places allocated varied among the different UCI tours, which all maintain their own ranking system. Any NOC unable to fill its quota of athletes from the ProTour was permitted to enter athletes from one of the continental tours, and if that was not feasible, from the "B" World Championship. The number of places allocated to each tour were thus (in descending order): 70 riders from the ProTour, 38 from the Europe tour, 15 from the America tour, nine from the Asia tour, five from the Africa tour, and three from the Oceania tour. Five entrants qualified through the "B" World Championships. [citeweb|url=|title=UCI qualification system|publisher=Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI)|accessdate=2008-08-11]

The final number of competitors was set to be 145, but only 143 athletes started the race. Four cyclists were scratched from the race shortly before it took place. Damiano Cunego of Italy had not yet recovered from the injuries he sustained in the 2008 Tour de France, so he was replaced by Vincenzo Nibali. Portugal's Sérgio Paulinho, the silver medalist at the 2004 event, was said to be in insufficient shape to race. After Russian Vladimir Gusev was fired by his professional team Astana for failing an internal doping check, he was replaced in this event by Denis Menchov, who later competed in the time trial. While training earlier in the week before the race, Switzerland's Michael Albasini crashed and broke his collarbone; there was not sufficient time to find a replacement for him.citeweb|url=|title=Four cyclists scratched from road race|publisher=The Official Website of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games|date=2008-08-09|accessdate=2008-08-09]


Pollution issues

Prior to the opening of the Games, the International Olympic Committee was keen to play down the risk that athletes faced from pollution; however, the organizing body considered re-scheduling of endurance events (such as the cycling road race) if the pollution levels were too high. [citeweb|url=|title=Bellis prepares for Beijing start|publisher=BBC News|date=2008-08-06|accessdate=2008-08-09] Athletes partaking in these events can consume 20 times the amount of oxygen as a sedentary person. A higher level of pollution in the air could adversely affect performance, damage or irritate an athlete's lungs, or exacerbate respiratory conditions, such as asthma.citeweb|url=|title=Beijing pollution: Facts and figures|publisher=BBC News|date=2008-08-08|accessdate=2008-08-09]

Independent sources showed that pollution levels were above the limit deemed safe by the World Health Organization on August 9. [citeweb|url=|title=Air quality guidelines - global update 2005 (pg. 12)|publisher=World Health Organization (WHO)|accessdate=2008-08-23] [cite news |url=|title=In pictures: Beijing pollution-watch|date=2008-08-06 |accessdate=2008-08-09 |publisher=BBC News] [citeweb|url=|title=Air Pollution in Beijing|publisher="The Wall Street Journal"|accessdate=2008-08-23] However, the cycling event went ahead as scheduled with no objections from the athletes. Fifty-three of the 143 cyclists pulled out during the race; however, this is not unusual (over half withdrew mid-race at the 2004 Summer Olympics). Post-race, a number of riders highlighted the punishing conditions, in particular the heat (convert|26|C|disp=/|lk=on) and humidity (90%), which were much higher than in Europe, where the majority of UCI ProTour races are held. Pollution, however, was not widely cited as a problem, [citeweb|url=|title=U.S. cyclists Zabriskie, McCartney pull out of Olympic road race|publisher="Sports Illustrated"|author=Associated Press|date=2008-08-09|accessdate=2008-08-09] citeweb|url=|title=Sanchez clinches road race gold|publisher=BBC Sport|date=2008-08-09|accessdate=2008-08-09] though Stefan Schumacher of Germany, who had been considered an outside favorite for victory in the event, said the elements and the pollution played a role in his withdrawal.citeweb|url=|title=Spain's Sanchez wins men's road race|publisher=Reuters|author=Deborah Charles|date=2008-08-09|accessdate=2008-08-14]

Pre-race favorites

Among the pre-race favorites was the entire Spanish contingent of riders. [citeweb|url=|title=Seven gold medals on opening day|publisher=Associated Press|date=2008-08-08|accessdate=2008-08-12] It included two winners of Grand Tours in Alberto Contador and Carlos Sastre, along with highly regarded countrymen Alejandro Valverde, winner of the 2008 Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré and the reigning Spanish national road race champion, and Samuel Sánchez, who had won three stages in the 2007 Vuelta a España. They also had 2008 Tour de France points classification winner and three-time world champion Óscar Freire available to work on their behalf. Valverde was seen as the strongest threat among the Spaniards. [citeweb|url=|title=Olympics: Cycling -- Men's Road Race|publisher="Sports Illustrated" and CNN|date=2008-08-09|accessdate=2008-08-10] citeweb|url=|title=Sanchez of Spain wins Olympic road gold|publisher=Agence France-Presse|date=2008-08-09|accessdate=2008-08-10] [citeweb|url=|title=Why 250km cycle route will favour Valverde|publisher=BBC Sport|author=Simon Brotherton|quote=Alejandro Valverde is the name that keeps cropping up in previews ahead of the men's Olympic Road Race|date=2008-08-08|accessdate=2008-08-12] Other medal hopefuls included the defending Olympic champion Paolo Bettini of Italy, [citeweb|url=|title=Olympic road race preview|publisher=USA Cycling|date=2008-08-08|accessdate=2008-08-10] Germany's Stefan Schumacher, [citeweb|url=|title=Olympics-Cyclists wilt as Beijing competitors feel the heat|author=Francois Thomazeau|publisher=Reuters|date=2008-08-09|accessdate=2008-08-10] and Australian Cadel Evans, twice a runner-up in the Tour de France (2007 and 2008). It was thought that members of the overall strong squads from Germany and Luxembourg could also contend for victory. [citeweb|url=|title=The 2008 Olympics - The Battle of Beijing|author=Fred Dreier|publisher=VeloNews|date=2008-08-07|accessdate=2008-08-10] The German team contained Schumacher and many veterans of Grand Tours such as Jens Voigt to work in support, while Luxembourg had the Schleck brothers Andy and Fränk, along with Kim Kirchen, all of whom had worn leader's jerseys during the 2008 Tour de France. [citeweb|url=|title=Tour de France Roll of Honor Result after Stage 9|publisher=Tour de France|date=2008-07-13|accessdate=2008-08-18] [citeweb|url=|title=Tour de France Roll of Honor Result after Stage 15|publisher=Tour de France|date=2008-07-20|accessdate=2008-08-18]


The Urban Road Cycling Course (one of Beijing's nine temporary venues) was convert|102.6|km|abbr=on in its entirety, and the men's race was a distance of convert|245.4|km|abbr=on, the longest in Olympic history.citeweb|url=|title=Sanchez outsprints Rebellin for gold|publisher=The Official Website of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games|date=2008-08-09|accessdate=2008-08-09] citeweb|url=|title=Spectators Guide to Urban Road Cycling Course|publisher=The Official Website of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games|accessdate=2008-08-10] The race's starting line was located at the Yongdingmen Gate, a remnant of Beijing's old city wall, which is a part of the Chongwen District of northern Beijing. The course ended at the Juyong Pass in the Changping District.

(known colloquially as the "Bird's Nest" and "Water Cube").

The men's race layout, which differed most significantly from the women's in that it was over double its length, saw the riders make seven loops back-and-forth between the Badaling and Juyong Passes. The early sections of the race took place within central Beijing; consequently, the gradient of this part of the race was relatively flat. At approximately the convert|78.8|km|abbr=on point in the race the riders reached the Badaling section of the Great Wall, and began their first of seven convert|23.8|km|abbr=on loops. The riders encountered an increase in the gradient at this point, with the Badaling Pass gaining convert|338.2|m|lk=on in elevation over a distance of convert|12.4|km|abbr=on from the start of the circuit to the highest point. From there the cyclists rode over a false flat before descending a highway towards the Juyong Pass. The final convert|350|m|abbr=on of the race gave the riders a moderately steep climb to contend with, which was designed to ensure an exciting finale should several riders have been grouped together at the end of the race, as there were.

Due to security regulations put in place by the Olympic organizers, no spectators were permitted to stand roadside along the course. This decision proved to be controversial: several prominent figures in cycling, including UCI president Pat McQuaid and riders Stuart O'Grady and Cadel Evans (both Australia), spoke out against it. McQuaid and O'Grady both felt that the absence of people along the course deprived the race of the atmosphere present at other cycling events, and said that it failed to take supporters' wishes into consideration. [citeweb|url=|title=UCI head regrets lack of spectators at road race|publisher=AOL|date=2008-08-13|accessdate=2008-08-25] Cycling Australia's reaction to the cyclists' complaints was to request that security restrictions be eased for the time trial to follow, [citeweb|url=,27313,24155306-5014104,00.html|title='Ghost course' haunts cyclists Stuart O'Grady and Cadel Evans|author=Ben English|publisher="The Australian"|date=2008-08-10|accessdate=2008-08-12] but they were not. [citeweb|url=,27313,24169949-5014104,00.html|title=China ignores pleas for better access to the cycling route|author=Leo Schlink|publisher=FOX Sports|date=2008-08-13|accessdate=2008-08-13]


The men's road race began at 11:00 local time (UTC+8) and within convert|3|km|abbr=on of the start, Horacio Gallardo (Bolivia) and Patricio Almonacid (Chile) formed a two-man breakaway. They held a maximum advantage of 15 minutes, but were never really seen as a threat, and in fact neither went on to finish the race. With no single team willing to force the pace, a 26-man breakaway formed at the convert|60|km|abbr=on mark, including Carlos Sastre (Spain), Kim Kirchen (Luxembourg), Jens Voigt (Germany), Roman Kreuziger (Czech Republic) and Simon Gerrans (Australia). Shortly after the race reached the finish line to begin the first of seven convert|23.8|km|abbr=on loops, Gallardo was dropped by Almonacid. The lone Chilean leader was then caught by the now 24-man chase group at the summit on the second loop, after riding solo ahead of the pack for over an hour and a half. Under the impetus of Sastre and Kreuziger in particular, the 24-strong breakaway group built their lead to over six minutes at the half-way point of the race, after four of the seven circuits. At that point, the Italian-paced main field increased its speed in order to bring them back. Aleksandr Kuschynski (Belarus) and Ruslan Pidgornyy (Ukraine) went clear of the leading group afterward and gained an advantage of a minute and 40 seconds over the Sastre group and 2 minutes, 45 seconds over the main field by the start of the fifth lap over the hilly circuit. The Sastre group was absorbed by the main field at the convert|60|km|abbr=on to go mark, leaving just Kuschynski and Pidgornyy out front. Not long after, shortly before the end of the fifth circuit, Marcus Ljungqvist (Sweden), Rigoberto Urán (Colombia) and Johan Van Summeren (Belgium) attacked from the peloton and reeled in Kuschynski and Pidgornyy.The next attack, one that would later be described as "audacious" and "brave", came from Christian Pfannberger (Austria), who went free of the main field toward the end of the sixth lap. His maximum advantage never grew to more than a minute, but he did stay away until well into the seventh and final lap, being caught with convert|20|km|abbr=on to go.citeweb|url=|title=Beijing 2008: Pfannberger high spot before Spanish triumph|publisher=Team Barloword Official Website|accessdate=2008-08-15] Within five minutes of fierce attacks, fewer than 20 riders were left in the front group,citeweb|url=|title=Inside Cycling, with John Wilcockson - The pros finally embrace Olympic cycling||accessdate=2008-08-15] a group that included Cadel Evans (Australia), Levi Leipheimer (United States), Santiago Botero (Colombia), and Jérôme Pineau (France), with Valverde and Bettini left behind them. Five riders, Samuel Sánchez (Spain), Michael Rogers (Australia), Davide Rebellin (Italy), Andy Schleck (Luxembourg), and Alexandr Kolobnev (Russia), came further clear from the group of now 13 due to repeated attacks from Schleck. Sánchez, Rebellin, and Schleck reached the summit of the Badaling climb, with convert|12.7|km|abbr=on to race, 10 seconds ahead of Rogers and Kolobnev, and 26 seconds ahead of the Evans group. Bettini, Valverde and Fabian Cancellara (Switzerland) attacked from the main peloton and joined the Evans group at the top of the climb. [citeweb|url=|title=Team Canada's Michael Barry reports on his Olympic road race.||accessdate=2008-08-17] The leading group's advantage over the two-man chase was 15 seconds with convert|10|km|abbr=on to go.

With convert|5|km|abbr=on left, Cancellara attacked from the Evans group and caught up with the chasers that the group of three had left behind, Kolobnev and Rogers. The three of them successfully bridged the gap to the leaders with about convert|1|km|abbr=on to go, and there were six riders contesting the final sprint. Sánchez won the gold medal, Rebellin the silver, and Cancellara the bronze.

Final classification

Source: Official resultsciteweb|url=|title=Cycling - Men's Road Race Final Results|publisher=The Official Website of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games|date=2008-08-09|accessdate=2008-08-11]


External links

* [ Official page on the Beijing 2008 website]

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