Geraint Thomas says Team GB can "work well together" in Olympic road race

Grand Tour winners Thomas, Tao Geoghegan Hart and Simon Yates eye an elusive Olympic gold medal with renewed confidence: "On paper we have a super strong team."

Picture by CorVos/SWpix.com (t/a Photography Hub Ltd. )

Team GB will field no fewer than three Grand Tour winners in the Tokyo 2020 men's road race on Saturday (24 July).

They are 2018 Tour de France hero Geraint Thomas with that year's Vuelta a Espana victor Simon Yates and 2020 Giro d'Italia champion Tao Geoghegan Hart.

"On paper, we have a great team," admits Thomas, who's also a two-time Olympic track cycling champion before his successful switch to the road.

"Adam [Yates] is the only one that hasn't won a Grand Tour, but he certainly has won a lot of good bike races. And then obviously myself, Tao [Geoghegan Hart], and Simon [Yates] have done what we've done. So, yeah, it's a great team. And I think we can go in there with a lot of confidence and just race hard and well together."

Britain boast a strong and well-balanced team ready to tackle the brutal 234-kilometre course between Musashinonomori Park and the Fuji International Speedway, which features five major climbs for a total 4,865 metres of climbing in very hot and humid conditions.

"We have different characteristics, but I think we're covered across the board really with how we can ride." - Geraint Thomas

Tao Geoghegan Hart and Geraint Thomas are also team-mates at INEOS Grenadiers. 
Picture by CorVos/SWpix.com

Stronger together

Despite road cycling being an individual sport, team tactics play an important part in racing.

"It's always stronger together in cycling, because it's a bit of a bizarre sport, really, where it's one individual that crosses the line, but it's always a team effort," said Geoghegan Hart.

"We have a strong team and I think that we have to aim to have all different scenarios covered, which is the definition of team working in."

According to Thomas, GB riders are also keen on closely working together:

"I think there's no real egos as well, which is a big thing. And yeah, as I say, [we need] communication and rely on each other. And then come up with a plan and try to execute it as best as we can."

However, teams at the Olympic race are smaller than in World Tour events such as the Tour de France with a maximum of five riders for the highest-ranked nations, which makes this event traditionally more difficult to control, and more unpredictable:

"It really changes the dynamic to control the race and try and do your own tactics," said Simon Yates.

"You will have to play off the other teams a bit more rather than force the race into your own path. And so I think that it just makes it more more of a bike race."

Geraint Thomas (second from right) and Team GB in the Rio 2016 men's road race 
Picture by 2016 Getty Images

Third time lucky?

British men riders have enjoyed great success over the last decade, claiming a total of 12 Grand Tour titles.

That has not been replicated in the Olympic road race with Thomas' 11th at Rio 2016 their best result in the last three Games.

"In Rio, I was close to being in the chance of a medal, but crashed on the final descent, like 10K from the finish. I was up for a medal there so that was frustrating," remembers the Welshman.

"In London, we got the favourite in Cav (Mark Cavendish), but that didn't quite happen. A lot of teams wanted to to be away from him, really. So it wasn't a full bunch sprint.

"So the thing with road racing is that there's a lot of tactics and luck is involved as well. So you can prepare physically really well, but I think you still need that bit of fortune. So maybe third time lucky!"

Great Britain has collected three medals in the road race - the last thanks to Max Sciandri at Atlanta 1996 - but never a gold.

While Brits have been dominant in multi-stage races for years, they haven't been specialists in one-day events.

So what's going to be their strategy on Saturday?

"On paper we have a strong team. So that means a lot of the other teams will probably look at us to try and do something," said Simon Yates.

"But I think we are on the back foot. We are the underdogs in one-day races and we have to play to that."

"We expect to have to be adaptable and dynamic to the situation also developed in the race," concluded Geoghehan Hart

"We know it's going to be unpredictable, like in every Olympics for the last couple of decades at least. But we have a super strong team, and we hope to use that depth [during the race]."

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