THERE is no easing into the Olympics as the first medals will be won from tomorrow.
And ever since the Games schedule has been released all the attention has been on our cycling world champion Mark Cavendish who has been widely tipped to start Great Britain’s medal haul.
Cavendish takes part in the men’s road race tomorrow and will be hoping to repeat his final stage success of the Tour de France on the Champs Elysees with a win on the Mall.
He has a team of four British riders picked specifically to look after him and ensure the 250km race, which takes in nine climbs of the leg-sapping Box Hill in Surrey, comes down to a bunch sprint.
As world champion and the undisputed fastest sprinter in the world, expectations on Cavendish are high.
But there are plenty of dangers in the 145-man field and Basildon ’s professional cyclist Russell Hampton, who trained alongside Cavendish on Essex’s roads during the winter, fears those threats may be too difficult to contain.
“It’s the repetition of the climb up Box Hill that’s going to be difficult,” said Hampton. “It’s a real drag over the top and then it drops down really fast and if you are not with the pack you will struggle to get back on.”
The British team are widely expected to try to ride at such a fast tempo, no team will be able to attack and get time on their team leader Cavendish.
It was a tactic that worked to perfection at last year’s World Championships, but then they had eight riders compared to the five they are allowed in the Olympics.
“That’s the problem Cav is going to face,” said Hampton. “It will be very hard for four guys to control the race. I’m sure he is going to have to ride on his own for a bit and be a bit clever.
“There are other nations, like Australia and Germany, who will want it to come down to a bunch sprint too so it’s in their interests to help.”
And it’s from those teams Hampton suspects Cavendish’s biggest rivals will come from.
“The Germans have Andre Griepel and the Australians have Matt Goss who can both get over climbs. At the Tour de France, Griepel was getting over the climbs better than Cavendish.
“It’s not necessarily going to be the fastest guy who wins, it’s going to be the guy that gets to the finish in the best shape.”
So what does Hampton think of Cavendish’s chances?
“It will be tough and I actually think our best chance of a medal on the roads is going to be in the time trial.
“Bradley Wiggins will definitely get a medal. Whether it will be gold, I’m not sure. It will depend on how his legs are after the Tour, Chris Froome tcould be an outside bet too.”
l The men’s road race starts at 9.50am. BBC One will screen live coverage from 2pm.
Other GB action TOMORROW: Women’s basketball: GB v Australia (10.15pm); Women’s football: GB v Cameroon 5.15pm; Women’s handball: GB v Montenegro 7.30pm; Women’s volleyball: GB v Russia (2.45pm)