“Tour de Rio”: Reimagining the Olympics as a Two-Stage Race

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We’ve been treated to a frantic couple of races with some big surprises on both the road race course as well as the time trial — Greg Van Avermaet took a surprise win on Saturday, with Cancellara cleaning up in his retirement year TT. However, did you ever stop to think how the race would have played out if it were a two-stage race? Probably not, so let us do it for you! It’s been a quiet evening of data entry for us, and now we’ve put down the calculators and we’re ready to share the results.

First, let’s answer a few frequently asked questions. Top of this list: Q) is this exercise a bit stupid? A) Well, a little, yes. The tactics in play for a road race followed by a time trial differ dramatically from any that we would have seen for a continuous ‘two day tour’ Olympics. It’s noteworthy that riders with time trial hopes were required by the Olympic committee to also be signed up for the road race; hence the slightly ludicrous situation where big-name rider Tom Dumoulin ‘pulled out’ of the road race within the first few kilometres. Also note that, because the road race was a one-off event with only the medal places truly mattering, only 63 riders out of a startlist of 144 actually finished. This would never have happened in a multi-stage race, especially with big time trial names (Nelson Oliveira, Tony Martin) dropping out of the road race. But for the sake of our fictional mini-tour, all this needs to be considered. This won’t be a representation of the ‘best rider at the Olympics’ — it’s just a bit of fun. However, the results are interesting, and offer some insight into how certain riders approach their races.

We must first deduct all the riders who were not signed up for the time trial as well as the road race; they can hardly be considered for the mini-tour if they weren’t intending to ride both. We’ll let off Geraint Thomas, who crashed on ‘Stage 1’, managed to finish in a respectable time, and then also managed to sign up and sign on for the TT late in the day. This radically alters the top of the table at stage one, which now looks like this:

Stage 1 results:
1 Julian Alaphilippe 6:10.27
2 Andrey Zeits +0:03
3 Geraint Thomas +2:07
4 Christopher Froome +2:36
5 Brent Bookwalter +3:09
6 Alexis Vuillermoz +5:50
7 Primoz Roglič +9:16
8 Christopher Juul-Jensen +9:16
9 Fabian Cancellara +11:27
10 Eduardo Sepúlveda +11:56
11 Pavel Kochetkov +11:56
12 Damiano Caruso +11:56
13 Andriy Grivko +12:56
14 Georg Preidler +19:15
15 Kanstansin Siutsou +19:48
16 Michal Kwiatkowski +19:48

We must also deduct the road race and TT riders who were DNF on stage one (meaning Dumoulin is out of the running for an Olympic medal!). They are: Örken, Dumoulin, Kiryienka, Martin (Tony), Geschke, Phinney, Izagirre, Castroviejo, Dennis, Oliveira, Bárta, König, Bodnar, Houle, Boasson Hagen, and Tim Wellens. Nice try, guys. This leaves us with our reduced 16-man race. After a difficult day on the TT course, the riders produced the final results (with the stage podium going to Cancellara, Froome, and then Thomas). Here, then, is the Olympic Tour general classification:

G.C.
1 Christopher Froome (G.B.) 7:26:20
2 Geraint Thomas (G.B.) 7:27:26 (+1:06)
3 Andrey Zeits (Kazakhstan) 7:29:17 (+2:57)
4 Brent Bookwalter (USA) 7:31:33 (+5:13)
5 Fabian Cancellara (Switzerland) 7:43:09 (+6:49)
6 Primož Roglič (Slovenia) 7:34:38 (+8:18)
7 Julian Alaphilippe (France) 7:35:07 (+8:47)
8 Christopher Juul-Jensen (Denmark) 7:36:32 (+10:12)
9 Alexis Vuillermoz (France) 7:37:00 (+10:40)
10 Andriy Grivko (Ukraine) 7:38:56 (+12:36)
11 Eduardo Sepúlveda (Argentina) 7:41:34 (+15:14)
12 Damiano Caruso (Italy) 7:42:09 (+15:49)
13 Pavel Kochetkov (Russia) 7:42:30 (+16:10)
14 Georg Preidler (Austria) 7:45:44 (+19:24)
15 Michal Kwiatkowski (Poland) 7:46:10 (+19:50)
16 Kanstansin Siutsou (Belarus) 7:49:13 (+22:53)

And there you have it — gold medal to Great Britain! *waves teeny tiny British flag*. No, no, alright — we know this whole thing is pretty ridiculous. These ‘results’ need to be taken in context, and it’s of course clear that no one was racing to anything like this agenda. However, it’s testament to those riders who threw themselves into their races with gusto that they’ve risen to the top here — out of a field of 144, only 16 made the final selection, and they were all within 23 minutes of the best overall time. Geraint Thomas’s tenacity and racing spirit is undeniable, and the above table also does more justice to the great riding by Zeits than do his 8th and 24th placings. France have two men in the top ten, which is impressive in its own right. But best of all might be that Cancellara, who loses out on our fictional gold medal, is still fifth overall. No one is critical of Dumoulin for ducking out of the road race, especially given his injury. But the fact is that the eventual time trial winner came in a respectable 34th on a difficult day of racing, on terrain that really didn’t suit him and when two-thirds of the field dropped out. Spartacus, hold your head up high! We’re pleased he got the real gold, even if he didn’t quite top the table at the Olympic Tour.

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