The road race will likely be an uphill climb for the Americans. Team USA sent just two riders to Rio to compete against some of the world’s top five-person teams. So, the odds that Brent Bookwalter will find himself standing on the podium are slim. But for his Olympic debut, Bookwalter is looking to pull off something special.
Bookwalter is no newcomer to road racing. He has eight Grand Tours and nine seasons on the BMC Racing team under his belt. But the 32-year-old’s first Olympic Games will be a different experience altogether. Bookwalter told Cycling News:
"It is a little bit surreal to be going to the Olympics because the Olympics are one of these iconic events in my mind. From my memory of my childhood, I have watched and have been passionate about them. Now, to realize that I am going and I am going to be part of that center stage and taking part in the racing is really inspiring and motivating and encouraging. I am trying to let that not detract from my preparation and stay confident in my own preparation. That is something I know has worked for me and that I have developed over the past 10 years in racing professionally."
The United States didn’t earn enough WorldTour points, so Team USA consists of just Bookwalter and his teammate Taylor Phinney. Competing against Great Britain and Spain, two powerhouses with five riders, will be an uphill battle, but Bookwalter believes anything’s possible.
"I think having one teammate – Taylor – does affect the way we will race a little bit, as a pro and a con. The downside is that we don't have the numbers to play. We don't have the numbers to support a leader as heavily as we could with five. But the good thing is we can kind of sit back and key off the other teams a little bit."
"Hopefully, we can lurk in the shadows a little bit and then use our experience to pick the right moments and be a factor at the end of the race."
Bookwalter knows how to win, but not quite on this big of a stage. His biggest individual win at the 2015 Tour of Utah, where he came away with the points classification crown. The Asheville, North Carolina isn’t ruling out a gold medal, however.
"The goal for the road race is to simply do the absolute best result that I can. I don't want to limit myself in any way," Bookwalter said. "I think the Olympic field and the Olympic event has sometimes shown it can produce some surprise results and surprise medalists, especially with the teams that are there, the team size and racing on a course that has rarely ever been raced on. I am feeling ambitious and motivated to be the best Brent Bookwalter there is and getting the most out of myself."