Over the next fortnight, the Herald will feature 12 Kiwi athletes or teams to keep an eye on at the Games - whether for their medal potential, rapid global rise, or captivating road to Tokyo. This is the story of George Bennett.
Tackling an unpredictable road cycling race can be daunting but New Zealander George Bennett likes his chances ahead of the event at the Tokyo Olympics, and knows he has the necessary support to nab a strong result.
Bennett is one half of the men's road cycling team, alongside Patrick Bevin. Both will compete in the road race this afternoon, before recovering for the time trial on Wednesday.
Bennett made his Olympic Games debut in Rio in 2016, and at the time he described the road race as the toughest of his career as he crossed the line 33rd, after having to evade crashing riders, a course riddled with tricky inclines and unforgiving cobblestones while in scorching heat.
His teammate at the time, Zac Williams - whose speciality lay on track rather than tarmac - failed to finish the race, along with 78 others.
Those factors come together to offer Bennett a blueprint of what to expect in Tokyo. He likens the conditions to what he experienced five years ago, with today's weather for the road race set to stymie the riders - a high of 31°C in 66 per cent humidity.
He says the humidity, in particular, is "what kills you", and did a lot of work around heat adaptation at his home in Andorra.
"You get home from a ride, straight away you're in the sauna and you're just trying to get your core temperature as high as possible," Bennett says.
"The lessons we learnt from last time – Rio was super-hot, humid. Didn't have any teammates but didn't have any support on the road either, wasn't getting any water.
"I've sat down with the Bike NZ staff and we've worked out a plan for cooling and hydration."
This time around Bennett has the more proven Bevin by his side who, like his Kiwi counterpart, is no stranger to cycling's top races around the world. Among six appearances on the three Grand Tours, Bevin is a two-time winner of the New Zealand national time trial and is a top all-around rider.
Bennett says Bevin's inclusion makes a huge difference.
"Absolute luxury having Paddy there – doesn't get much better than him when you're looking at people in his role – big strong guys, that are there to help position you and can ride all day.
"He's got the time trial three days after, so he's not really going to be in a position to completely bury himself, but I still think [it's] day and night compared to last time."
Unlike Bennett, Bevin's focus comes in the shorter and more speed-centric time trial. He admits he may not even finish the road race due to his other obligations.
"It might sound a little bit negative," Bevin says. "I'll go probably halfway in and call it a day and focus on the time trial. It's this weird situation that's the truth - my event is three days later."
Both riders haven't raced competitively since the Giro d'Italia in May, which saw them skip this year's Tour de France – a decision they were both pleased with given the number of crashes and the at-times treacherous weather that engulfed the three-week race.
"It's meant building my training around that here and not racing obviously, not doing the Tour de France and building up for the TT [time trial]," Bevin says.
"It's always hard to really know where you're at until you step out onto the course come race day. It's been a very satisfying, very steady and very strong build-up."
The 234-kilometre race begins at Musashinonomori Park and features a lap around Mount Fuji. The time trial course on the other hand is 44.2 kilometres - two laps around a course situated close to the Fuji International Speedway.
Bennett describes the two courses as honest.
"[As opposed to] London which wasn't necessarily a super hard course and there was an opportunity to get lucky. The Olympics is a strange race - teams are generally smaller, there's not guys there that are paid to be there to help, so generally there's a lot less control," he says.
"[The road race] is four and a half, five thousand metres of climbing, it's super-hot.
"It's clear I'm strong enough to be there with the best 10 guys coming over Mt Fuji, and then there's 40 kilometres and they might be a lot stronger than me – the best guys left in the race might be stronger than me – but when it's a bit flat and when there's no control and when there's a huge element of unpredictability, anything can happen."