Ecuador's Carapaz wins Olympic road race

Ecuador cycling star Richard Carapaz has taken out the men's Olympic road race gold medal in Tokyo.
Ecuador cycling star Richard Carapaz has taken out the men's Olympic road race gold medal in Tokyo.

Ecuadorian cycling star Richard Carapaz has scored the biggest win of his career, soloing to the Olympic road race gold medal.

Carapaz dropped American Brandon McNulty with 6km left and the 2019 Giro d'Italia champion won his country's second gold in Olympic history.

"The truth is this is the best moment," Carapaz said. "The truth is it is an incredible moment that words can't describe."

Belgian Wout van Aert, who was the standout in a disorganised chase group of nine riders, outsprinted two-time Tour de France champion Tadej Pogacar (Slovenia) by a tyre width for the silver medal

Australia did not feature at the finish, with top hope Richie Porte unable to go with the key move.

Porte was the lead Australian home in 48th place, finishing in a group that finished 10 minutes 12 seconds behind the winner.

It was a bitter result for Porte after he crashed out of the road race at the Rio Games.

"When you ride professionally, you don't come here for the encouragement award," he said.

"So of course it's disappointing to be where we are."

Carapaz, who finished third last Sunday at the Tour, won by one minute seven seconds in the brutally tough 234km event.

The race featured 4865m of climbing and was decided in hot and humid conditions.

A lead group of eight went clear from the start of the 234km race and built a hefty lead, but it featured none of the big names and was never going to stay clear.

As expected, the key move came on the brutally steep Mikuni Pass inside the last 40km.

The 13-man group featured Carapaz, van Aert, Pogacar, McNulty and other big names such as Adam Yates (Great Britain) and Rigoberto Uran (Colombia).

Porte was well-placed when the race detonated, but could not go with the leaders.

"It was one of those climbs where you either had the legs or you didn't, there was no hiding - it was seven kilometres at 10 per cent (gradient)," Porte said.

Carapaz and McNulty broke clear of the leaders and built their advantage to more than 40 seconds inside the last 20km.

The Ecuador star, sensing McNulty was faltering after a mighty ride, dropped the American and comfortably held off his chasers at the finish.

The race was a rare chance for fans to watch the Olympics live, given stadiums are off limits because of COVID-19, and they turned out in their thousands along the route.

The stands at the Fuji International Speedway were packed with spectators.

Australian Rohan Dennis skipped the event to focus on next Wednesday's time trial, where he is one of the top Australian cycling medal hopes at the Tokyo Games.

Lucas Hamilton and Luke Durbridge rode as domestiques for Porte. Hamilton finished 71st and Durbridge was 72nd in a group at 16:20.

As expected it was a race of attrition, with the temperature in the 30s and the humidity more than 50 per cent.

The event started with 130 riders - German Simon Geschke pulled out after he tested positive to COVID-19 and his compatriot Michal Schlegel also did not start.

British star Geraint Thomas crashed and eventually did not finish the race.

Australian Associated Press