01/19/2016 11:31 EST | Updated 01/19/2017 00:12 EST

Canada earns 3 spots in men's road race at Rio Olympics

Canada has qualified three spots in men's road race cycling for the 2016 Rio Olympics, giving it six months to prepare for what is expected to be a challenging event.

Canada earned the spots after finishing second in the Union Cycliste International (UCI) America Tour as of Dec. 31. The three riders ultimately selected to fill the spots will join 142 other riders from 59 other nations and the Tripartite Commission.

"Establishing our quotas early gives us time to work more collaboratively with our top athletes and their professional trade teams to ensure we get the right guys to Rio, with the right build-up race programs", said Kevin Field, Cycling Canada's men's elite road manager.

Challenging course

The 256-kilometre race, on Aug. 6, starts and ends at Fort Copacabana, on the coast. Riders will have to make four laps of the Grumari National Park circuit before zooming along the Vista Chinesa circuit through the Tijuca forest —which includes an 8.9-kilometre climb with gradients as high as 10 per cent — and along Ipanema beach back to Copacabana.

"Our riders are excited the courses will be challenging," said Field. "We have guys who can be very competitive and the internal work is well under way to narrow our selections to our best three riders."

"Our job now will be to select the riders best suited to be competitive in both the men's road race and the time trial," said Jacques Landry, Cycling Canada's high performance director.

One of the riders will also compete in the individual time trial, which happens Aug. 10.

Up two spots from London 2012

Canada earned just one spot at the 2012 London Olympics after consistently qualifying three at previous Games. Cycling Canada credits support from organizations such as Global Relay's Bridge the Gap, a development program that provides coaching, resources and equipment to five of Canada's top up-and-coming cyclists.

Top Canadian contenders include national team member Guillaume Boivin, who finished third at the 2015 Pan Am Games, and Hugo Houle, the top Canadian in the elite men individual time trial race at the UCI Road World Championships in September. 

Belgium, Colombia, Great Britain, Italy and Spain all qualified the full number of starters for the men's road events: five.

The women's road race, and time trial, quota will be announced on June 1st by the UCI, after the May 31st qualification deadline.