One of the first medals up for grabs at the Rio Olympics is the men’s cycling road race. Taking place in the afternoon (UK time) of Saturday 6th August – the first official day of competition – it's sure to be a popular event with TV audiences, particularly as it comes just a couple of weeks after the Tour de France.
144 men from 60 different countries will ride 237.5 kilometres through some of Rio’s most beautiful scenery, starting and finishing in Flamengo Park and passing through some of the city’s famous landmarks, such as Copacabana.
The hilly course and the forecast hot weather on Saturday make this a tough test of endurance for those taking part. The riders will tackle the ‘Grumari Circuit’ four times and a 2km cobbled section during the race, but the toughest part of the course will be the ‘Vista Chinesa Circuit’.
With three laps of this 8.9km climb followed by a 6km descent, it's expected that this is where the race will be won and lost before a 20km flat run to the finish line.
Experienced Spanish rider Alejandro Valverde has been installed as the favourite to win the road race. The 36-year-old competed at the last three Olympic Games but has never finished higher than 13th.
With this likely to be his final games, he will be determined to at least get on the podium as he leads a five-man Spanish team. Valverde finished sixth in this year’s Tour de France and also won a stage of the Giro d’Italia, but the Rio course should suit him better. He is best priced at 5/1 with Coral.
Close behind him as second favourite is Vincenzo Nibali. The reigning Giro d’Italia champion and 2014 Tour de France winner finished 101st at the 2012 games in London but that came just one week after the Tour and on a course that was not suited to him. Like Valverde, Nibali is an excellent climber and at 8/1 with Betfair, is a decent bet to win gold for the Italian team.
Great Britain’s hopes rest, of course, on Tour de France winner Chris Froome, who won bronze in the time trial at London 2012. The 31-year-old is clearly in great form but winning this race on a different continent is a big ask just two weeks after his third Tour victory.
On top of that, his form in one-day races is not great and he does not take part in them very often these days, so it would be somewhat of a shock if Froome (16/1 with Betfair) was to add an Olympic gold medal to his collection.
Ireland’s Daniel Martin is certainly in with a shot at a medal. The English-born rider finished ninth in this year’s Tour and has a good record in one-day races, winning the Giro di Lombardia in 2014 and the Liège-Bastogne-Liège in 2013. He is up there with the world’s best climbers and is 16/1 with bet365 to win in Rio.
Other names to look out for include Romain Bardet (33/1) and Nairo Quintana (50/1) who finished second and third in the Tour, but as with Froome, fatigue is likely to be a factor for them. In fact, for France and Colombia, Julian Alaphilippe (16/1) and Rigoberto Uran (33/1) offer better bets.
Rui Costa of Portugal is also being tipped by many to do well in this event. On the face of it, Costa’s recent record is not hugely impressive, but the 2013 World Championships winner does well in long, hilly races. He came 13th in London four years ago and at 22/1 with Betway is a dark horse for Rio.
With so many contenders, the men’s road race is notoriously difficult to predict – after all, who guessed at Alexander Vinokourov’s dramatic victory in London? What is certain is that the event will be one of the early highlights of the games. If you visit Ladbrokes's bookmaker site today, you can check out the latest odds on all 144 riders!