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Van Avermaet believes he has 'five percent' chance of winning the Olympic road race.

Photo: Sirotti




05.08.2016 @ 10:14 Posted by Jesper Ralbjerg

Philippe Gilbert was a first hand witness when teammate of Axel Merckx won the bronze medal in the Olympic road race in Athens in 2004. This experience opened his eyes to the fact that the Olympics is more important than the world road race championships.


"That's where you understand the importance of a medal. When you get a [silver or bronze] medal at the Worlds, it's a big disappointment, whereas at the Olympics, it's a moment of celebration. That's the big difference," Gilbert said, according to the Belga news agency.


Gilbert lines out for his third Olympic road race in Rio on Saturday and he points to another major difference between the Worlds, which he won in 2012, and the Games. While the top nations at the World Championships can field squads of nine riders, five is the maximum permitted at the Olympics, making the race notoriously difficult to manage.


"With five riders, you can't just simply control the race. In 2012, in London, Great Britain had a golden team. It was impossible to have better and yet they weren't able to control the race," said Gilbert. "This race will be open all the way to the finish."


Following a reconnaissance tour of the route, Gilbert explained, "The first part of the climb is going to hurt people. It's very steep and quite long, at four kilometres, with sections that regularly go over 10% and even up to 18%," Gilbert said. "It's a serious climb, the likes of which doesn't exist in Belgium really. You don't find climbs like that often. It's very demanding."


Gilbert’s teammate Greg Van Avermaet was in agreement that an open, attacking race would suit Belgium best, rather than a controlled run as far as the final lap of the Vista Chinesa circuit. Van Avermaet and Gilbert are part of the Belgian line-up that also includes Tim Wellens, Laurens De Plus and Serge Pauwels.


"I'll have to choose the right moment to get into a break with solid competitors, that would be best. Beyond that, you have to anticipate a bit on the last climb,” said Van Avermaet, who gave himself a "five percent" chance of landing a medal.


"We're not the favourites but we're coming here with a good team. For me, there's the hope of an ideal scenario or a super day that would allow me to win the race."



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