Olympics: Tour just the ticket for road race

By Dylan Cleaver

Greg Henderson. Photo / Getty Images
Greg Henderson. Photo / Getty Images

Greg Henderson looks as if he's just spent the best part of last month riding 3000km on his bike.

Funny that, the 35-year-old road cyclist has just spent the past month going up hill and down dale in one of sport's most glorious pursuits - the Tour de France.

Whether that's a good or bad thing in terms of an Olympic campaign has in the past been contentious, but the Dunedin cyclist is in no doubt.

"There's no better preparation for a one-day event than a Grand Tour," Henderson said, noting that 90 per cent of the Tour peloton would be lining up at the Olympic start line.

"Everyone has the same idea."

The men's road race is the first of the high-profile gold medals to be handed out at the London Olympics and millions of British eyeballs will turn to The Mall tomorrow. They want to see whether their great hope, sprint king Mark Cavendish, gets his wheel across the line first as the odometer ticks over 250km.

Earlier, it is the nine circuits of Box Hill that will determine whether it is a sprint or strength finish.

Henderson, along with teammate Jack Bauer, has done a reconnaissance mission, completing a couple of laps of the course on Thursday.

"It looks like it could be a bunch sprint," he said. Box Hill, which was expected to sap some of the sting from the sprinters' legs, has been re-paved, so it is now a fast and flowing climb. Add that to the fact that it is in the interests of some of the strongest teams - Great Britain, Australia and Germany - to turn it into a sprint and there is little chance that breakaways will succeed.

Henderson says the main reason he was selected is that his attributes suit the course. He believes that if Bauer can help him into a good position with 1km to go, he can mix it with Cavendish, Germany's Andre Greipel and Australian Matt Goss.

"I race them every weekend. I'm definitely not intimidated by them. I'm really looking forward to having a go against them."

Henderson acted as Greipel's lead-out man in their Lotto-Belisol team during the Tour. He says it is not easy, but that inside information means he at least knows how to beat him.

"You've got to tick off the boxes to make sure you're part of that bunch sprint," he said.

"You can't have any mechanicals; you have to eat well and stay hydrated. You have to get up the climb the final time and stay out of crashes and then when you finally get to 5-20km to go, that's when you tick the next box. You start picking what wheels to look for. Who's looking good and what team looks organised? You key off them."

As for Bauer, he is under no illusions what his role is: "My job, first and foremost, is to support Greg. I know what he's capable of; he's shown it all season.

"I'm here to support Greg's ambitions."

- NZ Herald

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