Olympic Time Trial: The Contenders

This should be a somewhat shorter and easier piece then the Olympic road race preview, for two reasons: firstly, because whilst anyone can win the Road Race, this doesn’t really apply to the ‘race of truth’, where only the strongest, rather then the canniest, will prevail. Secondly, and somewhat unfortunately, the major contenders have been somewhat whittled down by injury. The race should be an exciting three way duel between the Current World, Olympic and Tour de France champions, but with the first two injured, it looks like Bradley Wiggins may have it easy then anticipated. Of course, there is always suprises in these Time Trials – at the last Olympics, Stefan Schumacher was a strong favourite after winning both the long Tour de France time trials…or should that read ‘winning’, after he tested positive for CERA and the victories went to Kim Kirchen and Fabian Cancellara. The enigmatic Swede Gustav Larsson always seems to pop up for a silver behind Cancellara, although this year might be the exception to the rule, and then there is still Taylor Phinney and suprise packages such as perhaps Lieuwe Westra. There we go, I’ve talked myself into thinking it might be better then it will be…

Bradley Wiggins (Great Britain, Team Sky)

On current form, the bigger shock will be if Wiggins doesn’t win his fourth Olympic Gold, taking the British medal record in the process. Wiggins has been in imperious form in Time Trials all year, even winning against Andrew Talansky after dropping his chain. He took both long Time Trials at the Tour and was second at the prologue, and in a perfect scenario, would already have the satisfaction of having delivered Mark Cavendish to Olympic glory. In reality, this may prove to drive Wiggins on even more as Team GB also seek their first Gold of the games. So what can stop him? Well, Wiggins has history of mechanicals striking him in time trials, usually caused by his choice of ovalised chain rings, which essentially mean the chainring isn’t circular so that more power can be generated through the strongest thrust of the leg. These rings however can mess with the tension and positioning of the chain, causing it to drop off. You’d expect Sky and Team GB to have sorted this by now though, and so the only real contention may end up being his own team mate…

Chris Froome (Great Britain, Team Sky)

The Kenyan born Brit became a slightly divisive  figure at the Tour, having initially been extremely polite and diplomatic before making some comments about expecting leadership on a more mountainous course and making some odd moves on the last mountain stage that looked more like he was trying to make a point then help his leader, whatever he claimed. Froome beat Wiggins in the Vuelta TT last year, and was still second in the long time trials at the Tour, although losing hefty chunks to Wiggins, and he dropped off earlier in the road race. Might need one of those Wiggins mechanicals to have a chance – although Team GB won’t be telling him to slow down a la the Tour if Wiggins goes to the rocks.

Fabian Cancellara (Switzerland, RadioShack-Nissan)

Cancellara destroyed the field in Beijing

It’s a real shame that the gladiator of the peloton crashed in the road race, especially after the Swiss team’s tactics had worked so brilliantly and Cancellara looked set to at least equal his silver medal performance of Beijing. The damage to his shoulder may hold him back from full gas, although whether he would have been in good enough form anyway, we will now never know. Cancellara will have to negotiate the same corner in the Time Trial, and it will be interesting to see how he goes around them – the man oft described as one of the best bike handlers in the peloton has managed to crash in the Worlds and Olympics in the last two years, both times costing him a shot at the big prize. A medal should be a good result, but he will see it as  a bare minimum.

Taylor Phinney (United States, BMC)

The young American prodigy, who, a la Wiggins, was forced onto the road and into the time trial when the UCI/IOC removed the individual pursuit, the discipline Phinney was World Champion in at the time, took 4th in the road race and reminded us all that he existed. For Phinney has kept a quiet profile after an eventful Giro which saw him take pink, before seemingly crashing every stage and putting an almighty hole in his ankle before retiring. He has apparently been training in Colorado specifically for the event, and whilst his fourth place in the road race reminded everyone of his sprinting credentials, it is the Time trial that is at his heart. The podium is a real possibility.

Tony Martin (Germany, OmegaPharma-QuickStep)

The German World Champion, who destroyed everyone last year, has had an annus horriblis since his move to Omega Pharma Quick Step. He’s crashed, fracturing his cheek bone, then crashed again, fracturing his scaphoid, and then crashed last week in training as if to add insult to injury. Plus, when the crashes haven’t got him, the punctures have – he punctured whilst setting the best time in the Tour prologue, and again in the first TT. Whether Specialised can fix the tyres they raved about pre-Tour will probably have little effect however – Martin has already publically declared he most likely won’t win.

Michael Rodgers (Australia, Team Sky)

The sole Aussie competitor after Cadel Evan’s withdrawal, Rodgers has targeted the Olympics specifically, and done some strong TT rides, albeit far from the podiums. Whether he can step up another level to medal is a big question, and it is unlikely, but the man is still a three time World Champion at the discipline, and it would be foolish to count his out of contention for Bronze.

Gustav Larsson (Sweden, Vacansoleil)

The Swede always seems to pop up for the big occasion, taking silver in Beijing and oft taking second to Cancellara, although not without controversy – he has been accused of using the Swiss powerhouse as a wind break once Cancellara passes him. An outside bet nowdays however.

Lieuwe Westra (Netherlands, Vacansoleil)

Lars Boom in foreground, Westra on the left.

Someone from Larsson’s own trade team, Vaconsoleil, who could suprise though is Westra, the powerful Dutchman who has an impressive time trial in him on his day. He has already pushed Wiggins in the hilly Paris-Nice TT, and the London route is hilly as well (not as bad mind, and longer) and it will be interesting to see who wins between him and compatriot Lars Boom, although I’ve probably cursed them both by tipping them.

Luis Leon Sanchez (Spain, Rabobank)

After third in the final Tour TT, Sanchez will be hoping for a medal, although he would be well advised not to have a strop once more if Team GB knock him out of the medal spots like he did when they chased him down at the Tour. The competition should be too strong however, but the top 10 would be good.

Edvald Boassen Hagen (Norway, Team Sky)

After finishing 9 minutes down in the road race with no real explanation, it will be interesting to see what Boassen Hagen does in the time trial – I had of course tipped him to do well in the road race, so of course, he flopped. He is a much better time triallist then his team lets on, and has won two editions of the ENECO tour through the time trial. Whether his speed has been blunted by riding up mountains for Wiggins is another question mind, or perhaps he is simply fatigued.

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