Britain, Netherlands aim for more cycling gold in Tokyo
HIGHLIGHTS FROM RIO: Britain won six gold medals and 12 overall at the 2016 Games, thanks mostly to its dominance in the velodrome. Jason Kenny won gold in the sprint, keirin and as part of their three-man sprint squad, and Laura Trott won gold in the omnium and as part of their four-woman pursuit team. ... Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland and Kristin Armstrong of the U.S. have retired after their time trial gold medals. ... Colombia’s Mariana Pajon defended her Olympic gold in the BMX race.
WHAT’S NEW: Freestyle BMX makes its debut, bringing a little X Games flavor to the Olympics in a bid to attract a younger audience. The four Americans in the field are headlined by Hannah Roberts, the top-ranked woman in the world, and all are medal contenders at Ariake Urban Sports Park. It is the only cycling event on the Olympic docket decided by judges. ... In the velodrome, the two-person Madison returns to the Olympics after it was cut following the 2008 Beijing Games. It’s a relay race with both riders on the track at once; one rests as the other races, and vice versa. Points are awarded for sprints every 20 laps, and the team that finishes 200 laps first with the most points is declared the winner.
TOKYO EXPECTATIONS: The men’s road race will be the first medal awarded, and a tough course that includes a trip up Mt. Fuji should play into the hands of riders who can climb. The women’s race figures to be a showdown between the powerful Dutch team, including reigning champion Anna van der Breggen, and the rest of the world. ... Mountain biking and the track cycling program will take place away from Tokyo near the small city of Izu, which could mean the events lose a little of the Olympic flavor that comes with events in the host city. ... BMX racing is back for a third Olympic cycle, and the chaotic, fast-paced races with their spectacular crashes tend to be crowd-favorites.
ATHLETES TO WATCH: Tour de France star Mathieu van der Poel and Britain’s Tom Pidcock are among several riders that will ditch the pavement for the dirt and compete in men’s mountain biking. In the women’s race, the U.S. contingent led by young star Haley Batten will try to upset French favorite Loana Lecomte. ... Kenny will try to win a sixth gold medal and seventh overall, breaking a tie with Chris Hoy for most among British cyclists. Kenny’s wife, Laura, will try to add to her own four gold medals. ... Chloe Dygert, who is coming back from a career-threatening crash at the worlds, will try to make it four straight gold medals for the U.S. in the women’s time trial. Armstrong, her coach, won the past three before retirement. ... Dygert will join a powerful women’s pursuit team in the velodrome that is taking aim at British dominance in the four-person endurance.
GOLD MEDAL MOMENTS: July 24-25, road racing; July 26-27, mountain biking; July 28, time trials; July 30, BMX racing; Aug. 1, BMX freestyle; Aug. 2-8, track cycling.
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