This season doesn’t half fly by. It feels like only a week ago that we were watching Wiggins and Froome grind up the Alps, and yet the World’s are already upon us. It’ll be the Tour of Lombardy before we know it. Well, it will, given they’ve moved it to next Sunday for some reason. Anyway, its time for the Time Trial, which has long been the domain of Fabian Cancellara, but with the man who has medalled since 2006 every year but 2008, when he didn’t ride, out of the race, the event is arguably as open as it has been for a long while.
It’s not just Cancellara who isn’t there – the Olympic champion, undefeated in long time trials this year, is also missing out, as Mr Wiggins has decided to concentrate on the road race. His compatriot on the podium, Bronze medalist Chris Froome, was originally down to ride but has since pulled out, also to concentrate on the road race. Intriguing for what this means for the GB road strategy, this will have to wait for another day.
Of course, this means that of the Olympic podium, only the Silver medalist, who just happens to be defending World Time Trial champion and part of the newly anointed World Team Time Trial winning squad, is left in contention. That is of course Tony Martin, and the big German power house will be after a repeat of his title, especially after suffering the dreaded ‘curse of the rainbow jersey’ this year, leaving him win-less and with surgery required on his hand after the Worlds. The course is apparently not as bad as first thought, and so will suit his powerful, high cadence/big gear style.
In the list of other contenders, Alberto Contador is still the big unknown. He was very strong in the Vuelta TT, but that was over a mountain in effect and he still didn’t win. Contador is still motivated however, and the combinaton of confidence from his epic Vuelta triumph and his desire to get a rainbow jersey off the organisation that banned him in a manner he sees as unfair will be a potent combination. If all goes well, he should reach the podium. If all goes perfectly, well, then by definition, he’ll win, and arguably he is the favourite given Martin hasn’t been at his best this year. Time will tell.
Battling for the third step on the podium could be three men: a Frenchman in Sylvain Chavanel as well as the American duo of Taylor Phinney and Tejay Van Garderen. Phinney has found a niche recently with the worst of all positions, 4th place, managing the position in both Olympic road events, and then missing out by 3.23 seconds in the TTT with BMC. It was in this race that team mate Van Garderen showed his cards, charging up the Cauberg and dropping his team, and in doing so showing he has excellent form. We must recall that he caught team leader Evans for 3 minutes in the Tour de France, and that the 23 year old American has a serious chance of a medal. Chavanel on the other hand is a dark horse, sneaking in under the radar after some excellent performances and seemingly transformed from the breakaway rider he was at Cofidis and Classics Specialist at Quick-Step to all around powerhouse. A French time trial champion? It might not be as unlikely as it sounds.
We are then left with assorted ‘dark horses’ who might be able to cause a shock, like Bert Grabsch did in 2008 when Zabriske, Llarson and co were expected to triumph. Kessiakoff could be one name after his Vuelta win, but it’s hard to see anyone really dominating and breaking onto the podium.
So the prediction? Martin, Contador and Van Garderen 1-2-3. With Phinney in 4th, of course.