An open cycling road race that will revolve around unfamiliar team discipline, writes Jack Houghton, and a returning star in the rowing
"It seems a ridiculously patriotic piece of biased tipping, but Helen Glover and Polly Swann are a solid bet to medal in the Women's Pair at around 2.407/5..."
Yates could win Team GB first Gold
The course for the men's road race is carefully balanced: it's likely too difficult for the out-and-out sprinters to get to the finish; but not difficult enough for the hardmen of the mountains to excel. The winner is most likely to be a one-day specialist, the type who can win the continental Classics.
It's easy to get sucked into the narrative of the Tour de France and think that the biggest Grand Tour will supply the likely winners here. It might, but on balance it is likely better to side with those riders who bypassed the punishment-fest of the Tour. Three weeks of hard riding, followed by a long flight and less than a week to acclimatise is not the ideal preparation for an Olympic road race.
Belgium brings a formidable team, with the defending Olympic champion Greg Van Avermaet (340.00339/1) and Tour wunderkind Wout Van Aert (7.6013/2). Their best chance, though, is likely Remco Evenepoel (11.0010/1), who rode a solid Giro considering his time off with injury and will be peaking here. The danger for Belgium - as with all these unfamiliar national teams - is how team orders will (or perhaps will not) work: a team of individuals will likely fall prey to a breakaway effort by a more unified outfit.
Team GB also play a strong hand, and Adam Yates is worth an interest at big odds of 24.0023/1. He rode well in the Spring Classics and has centred his season around the Olympics. The course is perfectly suited to him and, given two of his GB teammates are on the payroll of his professional team (and his other teammate is his brother), he should get the support he needs.
Men's 400m Freestyle might go against favourite Winnington
Elijah Winnington (2.206/5) is the obvious favourite to pick up one of the first gold medals in the pool. His win at the Australian trials - beating reigning Olympic champion Mack Horton into third place - is the fastest in 2021 to date, and at just 21-years-old, many see Winnington as a future swimming star.
This event is deeper than the market suggests, though, with fellow Australian Jack McLoughlin finishing only around half-a-second behind Winnington in the trials. China fields a strong team, and Lithuania's Danas Rapsys is more than capable of challenging the Australians. Winnington has also drawn the hardest heat; there will be no relaxing when securing a final birth.
Glover and Swann an outside chance
It seems a ridiculously patriotic piece of biased tipping, but Helen Glover and Polly Swann are a solid bet to medal in the Women's Pair at around 2.407/5.
Glover is one of the stories of this Games. Out of the sport for four years, she returned in 2019 and reformed the partnership with Swann that brought so much success in 2013 and 2014. Their return to competitive rowing has not been pretty (they looked ragged when winning the European Championships), and they missed their warm-up event in Lucerne due to injury. The competition here will also be fierce, with the New Zealand pair of Gowler and Prendergast being dominant in recent years, and Canada, the USA, and Australia all in with a chance.
Glover has the class and experience, though, (as do British Rowing) and her duo can be expected to have improved since last seen in competitive waters. A gold medal (7.006/1) might be too much of a stretch, but a podium spot is not.
*Odds correct at the time of writing
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