Richard Karabaz won on his own after spinning five kilometers from the finish line. He completed 234 kilometers, counting nearly 5,000 meters of ascent, in 6 hours 5 minutes 26 seconds.
The other medals were decided in the race between a group of eight riders, which finished in 1:07 behind the Ecuadorean at the Fuji Motors circuit.
Tour de France winner, Slovenian Tadej Pogacar finished third, behind Belgian Wout van Aert. The latter had posted three stage wins in July at Grand Buckley.
The separation was captured by the peloton about fifty kilometers from the end, before the decisive ascent of the Mikuni Pass. Quebec Guillaume Boivin managed to put Woods well at the front of the pack to attack this challenging part of the course.
This third climb, which took place in hot and humid conditions, and is the most surprising of the race, did not forgive many runners. Only about two dozen managed to cling to the leading group, including the 34-year-old Ottoman.
After several repeated attacks, the attack of Americans Brandon McNulty and Carapaz was decisive. Both riders fled a distance of just over 20 kilometers. Karabaz launched his last attack six kilometers from the end, in a false flat at the exit of Mount Kogasaka. McNulty couldn’t follow him. The American was absorbed by the first group in the next kilometre.
With Pogacar-caliber riders, Van Aert, as well as Dutchman Bauke Mollema, Frenchman David Gaudu and Colombian Rigoberto Uran, Woods was able to shine in the sprint.
I wanted to attack the last climb a few times, but couldn’t avoid the peloton and riders like Wout van AertWoods explained.
Known for his qualities as a climber, he hoped to avoid a final race like this, which he doesn’t like much.
I’m a little frustrated, but proud of myself and the way I ran, he added.
Backing him up to Mount Mikuni, his teammates Guillaume Boivin (+16:20) and Hugo Holly (+19:50) finally finished in the 65th and 85th.
Guillaume and Hugo helped me a lot. These two runners are very powerful. I am very fortunate to have been able to rely on them. Once, I fell into a fall, next to several fallen runners, and broke my shoes. I was able to change it during the race thanks to Guillaume and Hugo who protected me and let me into the peloton. They put me up really well on the last climb.
We ran the race we wanted to do, and that meant we stayed cool, protected Mike and, above all, put him on the last bump, which we released immediately after the race. We were in the game, and Mike was in the game. Almost a medal…I think we could be happy with our race even if we got close.
The reigning Olympic champion, Belgian Greg van Avermaet, gave up nearly 50 kilometers from the goal. Forty runners did not finish the race.
That fifth place is a clear improvement for Woods, who finished 55th at the 2016 Rio Olympics. However, he was weakened by a triple fracture to his hand, and he suffered a few weeks before the Olympics.
Woods had hoped for a medal on Japanese soil. He also had He left the Tour de France prematurely, before the nineteenth stage, to maximize his preparation for the Olympic road race.
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