Britain’s Olympic team aim for Tokyo triumph after Tour de France trauma


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The Tour de France did not go as Geraint Thomas, Tao Geoghegan Hart and Simon Yates would have liked.

Maybe an Olympic medal will erase the disappointment.

Thomas, Yates and Geoghegan Hart were all victims of a crash-strewn tour that dashed hopes for yellow jerseys and stage wins. However, when joined by Adam Yates, the GB squad have an impressive quartet which performance director Stephen Park says are well within reach in the Tokyo Olympic Road Race on Saturday.

“I think we have a very good chance of winning a medal,” Park said. VeloNews this week. “All four riders have shown that on their day they can race and win against the best in the world.

“If the day they feel good and that goes well for us, I think there is no reason why we should not fight for the podium.

With three grand tour winners in Thomas, Geoghegan Hart and Simon Yates, and stage racing star Adam Yates, it’s a quartet bristling with options for Tokyo’s grueling road racing course.

Unless three weeks of touring threw a wrench into Team GB’s heart, of course.

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Thomas crashed hard on Stage 3 of the Grand Tour and dislocated his shoulder, while Simon Yates retired after a gravel-strewn crash on Stage 13, suffering trauma to the abdominal wall . Geoghegan Hart remained standing but lost time early and was the shadow of his best Giro d’Italia winner.

Ironically, Park sees the trio’s traumatic tour as a boon to Britain’s Tokyo hopes.

Yates was able to fly to Tokyo earlier than planned to start preparations with his brother Adam. Geoghegan Hart and Thomas were free from any leadership role, and the leader had room to recover and rebuild during the second half of the race.

“The Tour hasn’t gone very well for them, but the mood is better, more upbeat than you might think,” Park said on a call shortly before flying to Tokyo.

“Geraint and Tao having fallen at the start of this first week, they quickly retired from the race and were able to get back in shape towards the end of the race. You could say that they actually did a really good training over the last couple of weeks.

“Simon had a heavier fall, but he’s been in Tokyo for a while and is well looked after by the medics there. Looks like things are looking good and he’ll be back on track by the time we get to the road race.

Park said a fit Simon Yates might be the team’s best option in the high-altitude road race.

However, Geoghegan Hart, Thomas and Adam Yates will hear echoes of their ‘all for one’ team playbook Ineos Grenadiers in British Olympic strategy.

“It’s just going to be about seeing how everything goes in the day and how their legs feel to ensure we get the best support for our strongest runner,” said Park. “I think the end of the race will be a bit of a war of attrition, so we have to stay flexible and save whoever looks the best.”

Deceuninck-Quick-Step climbing ace James Knox is in Japan as a reserve if the Tour contingent struggles this week. Park is hoping the young Cumbrian doesn’t need to be used – especially with Geoghegan Hart and Thomas competing in the time trial four days later.

The turnaround of the Tour de France makes the difficult road race even more difficult

Thomas and Geoghegan Hart are among the main contenders in Tokyo who faced a tight turnaround after the Tour.

Champs-Élysées star Wout van Aert flew with a large number of Tour riders just hours after the podium ceremonies in Paris. Geoghegan Hart and Thomas flew to Japan the next morning to land on Tuesday local time.

The 11-hour flight, a battery of COVID protocols, and the ability to acclimate to the scorching temperatures and dense humidity of the Japanese summer could be essential in the running of the race on Saturday.

“The way the runners get off after the Tour is over will be key for all the runners coming to Tokyo,” Park said. “Some of these runners will fly and they will be doing great. Others will come to the end of the Tour and another long bike race will be the last thing they think of.

Teams such as Slovenia, Belgium and Italy top Tokyo’s pecking order for a medal this weekend – unless the unprecedented six-day turnaround flattens the field. There are so many unknowns that the GB team only looks inside.

“It will be one of the toughest Olympic races ever and this approach makes it harder – there’s no point spending too much time worrying about the opposition right now,” said Park.

“We really don’t know what the riders will be like this week. We’re just trying to do everything we can to get our runners in the best shape possible to give them the best chance to do what they can do. And that will either be good enough that day or not.

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