By Lisa Flueckiger, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – One year before the 2016 Olympic Games hit Rio de Janeiro, the city hosts a series of test events to evaluate facilities, locations and to test-run the organization of the biggest sporting event in the world. This weekend, cyclists raced the roads from Copacabana to Recreio and the event was deemed a success by athletes and organizers alike.
The circuit for the 164.9km road cycling race took athletes along some of Rio’s most scenic spots starting at the Copacabana Fort, continuing along the beach until Recreio and then finishing back in São Conrado. The course features steep climbs with the highest being the 502m to Vista Chinesa (Chinese Viewpoint) in the Tijuca Forest, flat seaside roads and cobbled streets and was deemed difficult by the 73 participating athletes.
“It was an amazing race. The course is very challenging. There are a lot of very steep climbs and flat parts with wind, so it’s a very complete course, very difficult, and a beautiful course for the Olympic Games. The organization of the event was very good, it was like a World Cup race. Everything was perfect,” French cyclist Alexis Vuillermoz, who won the gold medal, told Rio 2016.
Runner-up Serge Pauwels from Belgium agreed, saying “It’s a very hard circuit, so for sure it will be a great rider who wins here next year. Everything ran really smoothly and there were a lot of spectators as well. It was a really good test and I hope to be here next year too.”
The route and starting time of the race had to be changed shortly before the event, due to the announcement of protests along Copacabana beach. However, with cyclists starting an hour earlier from Copacabana and finishing in São Conrado instead of coming back to the starting point, everything run smoothly.
The International Cycling Union (UCI) was impressed with the event’s organization. “From the perspective of the UCI, we are very happy with the outcome,” Matthew Knight, the head of road cycling at the UCI, said. “The organizers did a fantastic job putting everything in place.”
At next year’s Olympic Games, road cycling will be one of the first competitions, taking place the day after the opening ceremony. It will therefore serve as an introduction of Rio de Janeiro as a host of the sports event and give spectators a good grasp of the beauty of the city.
Other test events that have already been held include volleyball, triathlon, rowing and equestrian, while the sailing competition is currently taking place in Guanabara Bay. Next to follow are marathon swimming, beach volleyball and canoe sprint.