Okay, so I live here these days. Raised my hand a couple years back to move from DC to Rio, and wil be here through the Games. I ride these roads every day (I live in the flat section in Barra da Tijuca just before the first Grumari ascent). In fact, I'm headed to Grota Funda tomorrow for an 80k out-and-back.
1. The pave is difficult, but certainly in better condition than the Hell of the North. It's uneven pave, but is VERY wide (3 cars wide) and lacks the killer potholes. I'll be interested if they try to improve it between now and then.
2. The climb to Grumari is wickedly uneven, several truly nasty pitches, but is super short. Road is HORRIBLE, but I'm sure the IOC will demand improvements. Awesome little restaurant at the top, where im headed tomorrow for some moqueca! Don't read this climb as 1.2K at 7%. Reality is that the last 400M probably vary up to 15%, with obvious switchbacks. Not a rhythmic climb.
3. descending after that climb, it's twisting, narrow, but manageable. They will then head through a little barrio, bringing the most excitement that area has probably ever seen.
4. The climb to Grota Funda is from the longer, but easier side. Either way, it will be a big-ring cruiser for these guys. Slightly twisty descent, but this will just be a softener. Read this exactly as it is. Not challenging for these guys.
5. They'll be in the vicinity of the Olympic Village (looks way behind schedule right now every weekend when we ride by!) during each loop of the Gru/Gro circuit.
6. Canoas. Canoas. WOW. I could not be more pumped!! Easily the most difficult of the "main road" climbs in the Rio area, IMO. There are much harder and nastier climbs around the city (cool cobbled 15-percenters in Santa Teresa come to mind). Starts hard, and has some nasty, long walls that probably pitch over 10%. Reminds me of a shorter version of the Col du Granon.
7. I then divide the climb into the Canoas piece and the Vista de Chinesa piece. VdC is a pretty mellow finish that follows the Canoas ascent and quick descent to VdC. DO NOT think of this climb as 8.5k/5.7%. Will ride MUCH more difficultly than that. Twisting, uneven, etc. very tough.
Lots more to say, but I'll close with this - I cannot think of a more perfect course. We've been PRAYING for this. I ran into a few USACycling suits a couple weeks back and was getting worried that the race might be headed to Teresopolis. Thankfully, they kept it right here. The view are going to be unbelievable. Such a mix of beachfront, mountains, and rainforest-y locale. Will be stunning. Weather here that time of year can be rotten. Rainy, windy, etc. the prevailing winds are not cross winds as this course is laid out. Will be a headwind out and a tailwind home.
What is so cool is that it is REALLY hard to figure out who should be a favorite, though I would equate it to a World's course. You can absolutely, 100% eliminate the pure sprinters, and the rouleurs. It will truly be a climber/puncheur course. The Canoas climb is such a bear. My initial thoughts are a Dan Martin/JRod/Valverde type, but you could just as easily say Contador, Talansky, Nibbles, etc.
Will be awesome. Sorry for the length.