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For many road cyclists the Olympics has not been valued as highly as other races. The prestige of the Grand Tours has been far more alluring to those in the pro peloton. This year seems to be slightly different with quite a bit of focus around the London 2012 road race. On Saturday a total of 145 riders will take to the start line on The Mall. The Olympic route involves the riders heading south into Surrey for nine laps of a circuit that includes Box Hill, then it’s back to London for the finish. But who will be victorious? PBK takes a look at some of the favourites.

Mark Cavendish (GBR) 10/11

All eyes will be on the Manx Missile for the road race event. He goes into Saturday’s race still on a high from his victory on the Champs Elysees during the final stage of this year’s Tour. At the end of 2011 Cavendish won the world champs in GB colours. This world champs race was a similar set up to the Olympic race, with different countries competing against each other rather than trade teams. Despite that course being a lot flatter than the Olympic course, the Sky rider has lost around 9lbs in an attempt to improve his climbing and even managed to complete the Giro earlier in the year. A feat he may not have been able to do the year before. Cav has an extremely competent team around him which is probably the strongest in the Olympic peloton. This team includes Christopher Froome, David Millar, Ian Stannard and Bradley Wiggins. There had been rumours that the GB team may seek help from other nations to ensure a sprint finish happens on the Mall but GB road race coach Rod Ellingworth quickly put this rumour to rest.

Peter Sagan (SVK)4/1

The 22 year old Slovakian has 14 stage wins to his name this season and has been one of cycling’s most dominant rider in 2012. After dominating the Tour of California, claiming five out eight stage victories available, the young Liquigas rider went on to win three Tour de France stages on his way to claiming the green points jersey. Despite Sagan being classed as a roleur, he has proven that he does have the speed to compete with the sprinters. Climbing is not a problem for Sagan as seen as this year’s Tour after he joined a early  break away group. Box Hill will be less of an issue for him, however, with no other Slovakian riders qualifying for the Olympics, Sagan rides alone on Saturday. His only hope is to tag on the back of one of the lead out trains of the bigger nations, but even then this may not be enough. An early breakaway may be on the cards of which the green jersey winner is more than capable of.

Andre Greipel (GER) 10/1

Andre Greipel will be the most likely to upset Cav at the finish line. The rivalry between the two stems back to their T-Mobile days and the competitiveness is as fierce as ever. Neither likes to loose as we saw in this year’s Tour de France. Although Greipel might not have quite a strong lead out train as his Lotto Belisol team, you can expect the German team to have planned everything to the Nth degree. The riding style of Greipel is completely different to that of the Manx Missile. The German is a big strong rider that powers his way to victory with brute strength. Although lacking the same kick as some sprinters, once he gets going he’s very hard to catch. Similar to Cav Greipel is not much of a climber so keeping in the main group over Box Hill will be important.

Fabian Cancellara (SUI) 12/1

Despite wearing the yellow jersey at this year’s Tour for several days, the Swiss rider made it very clear that his main priorities for this year was winning Gold at the Olympics. Cancellara won a Silver in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games road race and a Gold in the time trial. Fabian is looking to defend his TT title four days after the road race. In any other one day cycling event you would place Cancellara right up there, but his Swiss team mates may not be as strong as his RadioShack Nissan Trek team. Accused of hiding an engine in his bike a couple of years back, there is no doubt that Fabian will be motoring around this course. The only thing holding Spartacus back may be the thought of defending his Olympic TT title in several day’s times.

Matthew Goss (AUS) 16/1

The Australian team has several strong attackers, but if everything goes as planned it will be Matt Goss who is Australia’s best chance of gaining a medal at the road race. The Aussies may be able to adapt to most situations, but Goss will be the go to man in the event of a sprint finish which is highly likely. Matt is another rider who would like to get one up on the Manx man. A former team mate of Cavendish, the Tasmanian born rider has a similar background to Mark having mastered his trade on the track, eventually migrating across to road. A definite contender if he can catch Cavendish on a bad day.

Tom Boonen (BEL) 20/1

Tomeke had a blistering Classic’s campaign winning Paris–Roubaix, Tour of Flanders, Gent–Wevelgem and the E3 Harelbeke. He showed the type of form which won him the road world champs back in 2005. The Belgium national champ was unbeatable at that point of his career, and after several injuries, looks to have regained his form. Boonen sacrificed the Tour hoping to focus on the Olympics. This gamble may mean he is rested for Saturday’s road race, however, after a lengthy time out of competition, the legs of the Belgian may be slightly rusty. But with a strong team that includes the likes of Philippe Gilbert, there is hope for Boonen.

So there you have it, PBK’s one’s to watch for the London 2012 Olympic road race. What are your thoughts and feelings about the race? Can Cavendish live up to the hype or will we see an Olympic gold given to a breakaway rider? As usual we want to know your opinion in the comments section below.

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