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Off to Rio! Your guide to the women’s Olympic road race

August 04, 2016
Off to Rio! Your guide to the women’s Olympic road race

It has been four years since Marianne Vos (Rabo-Liv) sprinted to victory in a soaking wet London city, beating Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans) on the line and celebrating a very emotional win. Four years later, the same two riders are the top favourites for the gold medal.

With just days to go until the start of the 2016 Olympic Games, it’s time to get excited! Here’s everything you need to know about that race, including route, start and finish times and riders to look for in Rio!


Rio Olympics Course Map Womens road race 2016

The women’s road race is held on Sunday, August 7 and runs from 12:15 p.m. to 4:35 p.m. local time approximately (5.15-9.35 p.m. CEST, 11:15 a.m. – 3:45 p.m. EST, 1.15-5.35 a.m. AEST on August 8).

Starting and finishing at Fort Copacabana, the Olympic road course will be 130.3 kilometers long and pass through the famous Ipanema, Barra, and Reserva Beaches and loop around two circuits.

The first circuit, the Grumari Circuit, features two climbs: the narrow Grumari climb and Grota Funda. The 1.2km-long Grumari climb averages seven percent and has a maximum gradient of 13 percent. At an average of 4.5 percent gradient, the Grota Funda is less steep, but also longer at 2.1km. The circuit also features a 2km cobblestone section.

The second circuit is hillier with the Canoas climb at the start, then the 8.9-km Vista Chinesa climb and a technical, 6 kilometer descent on the way out.

Potential medalists will have to be able climb well, but with the long stretches of flat road in between, the course may favor an all-rounder and good teamwork.


There will be 36 countries represented at the startline of the Rio Olympics, and many will be rocking newly designed kits. Here is a selection of the biggest teams and their new kits. For the full startlist of riders, click here.

The Netherlands

  • Marianne Vos (Rabo-Liv)
  • Anna van der Breggen (Rabo-Liv)
  • Ellen van Dijk (Boels-Dolmans)
  • Annemiek van Vleuten (Orica-AIS)

Fun fact: The Dutch kit is designed by fellow pro rider Iris Slappendel (United Healthcare), which celebrates both the red-with-and-blue flag and the orange colour of the royal family. The lion on the shirt is made up of little symbols that characterize the country, like a bicycle, the logo of the Dutch cycling federation and tulips.

Great Britain

  • Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans)
  • Nikkie Harris (Boels-Dolmans)
  • Emma Pooley (Lotto-Soudal)

Fun fact: Armitstead is the current world champion and Emma Pooley (Lotto-Soudal) returned from retirement to take on the Olympic time trial.


  • Trixi Worrack (Canyon-SRAM)
  • Lisa Brennauer (Canyon-SRAM)
  • Claudia Lichtenberg (Lotto-Soudal)
  • Romy Kasper (Boels-Dolmans)

Fun fact: Trixi Worrack’s crash at the Trofeo Alfredo Binda on March 20th this year resulted in the loss of one of her kidney. She worked hard on a comeback and showed good form at the German national championships. This will be Worrack’s fourth Olympics.


  • Leah Kirchmann (Liv-Plantur)
  • Karol-Ann Canuel (Boels-Dolmans)
  • Tara Whitten

Fun fact: Whitten is mostly a track racer but she’s also the Canadian national time trial champion and, in preparation for Rio, she recently competed at and won the hilly Cascade Cycling Classic in Bend, Oregon, ahead of riders such as Carmen Small and Kristin Armstrong.

The United States

  • Megan Guarnier (Boels-Dolmans)
  • Evelyn Stevens (Boels-Dolmans)
  • Mara Abbott (Wiggle-Honda)
  • Kristin Armstrong (Twenty16-RideBiker)

Fun fact: The very first women’s Olympic road race in 1984 was won by American Connie Carpenter. The Americans have not been on the podium of the road race since. Perhaps, this year, WorldTour leader and Giro Rosa winner Megan Guarnier can change that.


  • Amanda Spratt (Orica-AIS)
  • Gracie Elvin (Orica-AIS)
  • Rachel Neylan (Orica-AIS)
  • Katrin Garfoot (Orica-AIS)

Fun fact: With all the Australian riders coming from the same team, Orica-AIS bike sponsor Scott provided the four women with brand new Scott bikes to take to Rio with a fluo yellow colourway and Olympic rings on the fork.


  • Emma Johansson (Wiggle-High5)
  • Emilia Fahlin (Ale-Cipollini)
  • Sara Mustonen (Liv-Plantur)

Fun fact: Fahlin and Johansson have been alternating national road race titles since 2010 and individual time titles since 2007. They earned at least 19 national road titles between them in the last 12 years!


  • Giorgia Bronzini (Wiggle-High5)
  • Elena Cecchini (Canyon-SRAM)
  • Tatiana Guderzo (Hitec Products)
  • Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle-High5)

Fun fact: Guderzo is the 2008 Olympic road race bronze medallist. She also participated in the 2004 and 2012 Olympic Games, both in the road race and the time trial. She is therefore a seasoned Olympian, while Cecchini and Longo Borghini will make their Olympic debut in Rio.

Bonus fun fact: Rio will be the third Olympic games in which Giorgio Armani dresses the Olympic and Paralympic teams in a collaboration with Italy’s Olympic Committee CONI.


1. The defending Olympic champion: Marianne Vos

London Olympics Marianne Vos

Defending Olympic champion Marianne Vos (The Netherlands) only returned to racing this spring, after having been sidelined with an injury for all of 2015. But she is showing great form, having won stages in the Amgen women’s Tour of California, the Aviva Women’s Tour and Thüringen Rundfahrt.

2. The world champion: Lizzie Armitstead

Lizzie Armistad World Champion

Runner up in London in 2012, World Cup winner in 2014 and 2015, world champion in 2015, Lizzie Armitstead (Great Britain) won’t settle for anything less than gold in Rio. She has been fully focussing on the Rio road race since winning the Aviva Women’s Tour in June. Her biggest challenge will be Brazil’s heat, but if she’s able to

3. The number 1 ranked rider in the world: Megan Guarnier

Megan Guarnier

Megan Guarnier (United States) won the last three Women’s WorldTour races she participated in: the Amgen women’s Tour of California, the Philadelphia Cycling Classic and the Giro Rosa. She is in smashing form and – together with Vos and Armitstead – regarded as top favourite for this race.

4. The world hour record holder: Evelyn Stevens

world hour record holder Evelyn Stevens

An excellent time trialist as well as a climber, Evelyn Stevens (USA) has the potential to win this race – if she’s allowed to go for it, that is! Guarnier will have two very, very capable teammates in Stevens and Mara Abbott. Stevens set a new world hour record earlier this year and Abbott is considered the best climber in the world. All three riders had a successful Giro Rosa last month, each wearing the pink leader’s jersey at some stage. The question is, will Stevens and Abbott be riding 100 percent in support of national road race champion Guarnier or will Stevens get the green light to take her own chances?

5. The Polish and European U23 road race champion: Kasia Niewiadoma

Kasia Niewiadoma

She might be young, but Poland’s Kasia Niewiadoma shouldn’t be ruled out either. She’s having a fantastic season, with wins in both Polish national championships, the Giro del Trentino and the Festival Elsy Jacobs. She also was crowned Giro Rosa’s best young rider. And even without the help of her strong Rabo-Liv teammates, Niewiadoma took 11th and 7th place in the last two world road championships.


  1. It may seem a little unfair to put Anna van der Breggen (Rabo-Liv) between the outsiders, but that’s solely because Team NL will be behind Vos in the road race, with Van der Breggen getting her chance in the time trial. However, if Van der Breggen makes it in a lead group, she might be allowed to go for her own chance in the road race, too.

  2. Emma Johansson (Wiggle-High5, Sweden) is always a serious podium candidate. Her career has been a tale of seconds including a silver at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the 2013 UCI Road World Championships, and finishing as the runner up in the UCI World Cup series no less than four times If the cards are played right in Rio, she might be able to go home with another medal.

  3. One of two Cervélo-Bigla riders to represent her country in Rio, Ashleigh Moolman (South-Africa) should be doing really well on this circuit. She has Lotto-Soudal’s An-Li Kachelhoffer to support her in Rio, but as the better climber, she’ll probably have to do most of the work herself.

  4. Making her Olympic debut, Italian Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle-High5) has the skills and grit to do really well on this circuit, and she showed good form in the Giro Rosa, where she took home the climber’s jersey. Plus, she’ll have a strong team to support her with sprinter Giorgia Bronzini, veteran Tatiana Guderzo (Team Hitec) and of course Elena Cecchini (Canyon-SRAM), who is considered somewhat of a potential winner herself after winning the Thüringen Rundfahrt.

  5. A world champion mountainbiker, Jolanda Neff (Servetto Footon, Switzerland) is also strong on the road bike. After a near win in the Women’s WorldTour Alfredo Binda and top 15 finishes in Strade Bianche, Gent-Wevelgem and the Flèche Wallonne Femmes, Neff went on to win the inaugural women’s Tour of Poland. The Rio hills suit her very well, so watch out for her there!

This article was originally published on

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