One year ago, Sacha Modolo took part in the London-Surrey Cycle Classic – a test event on the Olympic Games circuit – and finished in a fine second place behind Mark Cavendish. Twelve months on, the Colnago-CSF rider is back on the same roads, this time for the London 2012 Olympics road race itself, and the Italian team’s main rival remains the same.
“Cavendish is the big favourite and it’s clear that he is the man to take into consideration above all others,” Modolo said. “We have to hope that the race isn’t too controlled, otherwise that will play into Cavendish’s favour.”
Part of a strong Italian team that also includes Vincenzo Nibali, Elia Viviani, Luca Paolini and Marco Pinotti, Modolo knows that he and his teammates will have to make the race as selective as possible – the smaller the peloton at the finish, the greater their chances of bringing the gold medal back to Italy.
After leaving central London, the 250km race brings the peloton into the hills of Surrey, where they will face nine laps of a demanding circuit over the testing climb of Box Hill. Though not the steepest of climbs, Modolo believes that the repeated ascensions of Box Hill could take their toll on the peloton.
“It’s a unique race as there are only five riders per team, which makes it harder to control,” Modolo pointed out. “The nine climbs of Box Hill will be very important too. It’s not a very hard climb but the road is narrow. If the peloton is strung out, it will be very hard to move back up to the front.”
A rapid run-in to the grandstand finish at the Mall in London follows. It remains to be seen how many riders will still be in contention at that point, but it seems certain that fast men like Modolo and his teammate Viviani will be to the fore.
“I think other counties like us will try to make the race very hard so that it’s a small group that contests the finish,” Modolo said. “I’d love to be up there myself. Mentally and physically, I’m feeling good. I’m relaxed and ready to do what Paolo Bettini asks of me.”