Men’s Olympic time trial preview

Following on from the first day’s men’s Olympic road race, we now have the individual time trial starting at 1415 BST tomorrow (Wednesday) in the genteel surroundings of Henry VIII’s Hampton Court Palace. For the uninitiated, a time trial is a race against the clock. It relies solely on your judgement and pace. It’s you just cycling as hard as you can go and, hopefully, harder than anyone else. A race that’s likely to be rather more predictable – look out for defending champion and Kitty-fave Fabian Cancellara (Switzerland), reigning world champion Tony Martin (Germany), new kid on the block Taylor Phinney (USA), Britain’s first Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins and his wingman and Tour runner-up, Chris Froome.


So who’s qualified to take part? There’s one rider from each nation in the top 15 of last year’s UCI WorldTour rankings, the top seven from the UCI’s Europe Tour, the top four of the UCI’s America Tour, the top two from the UCI’s Asia Tour and the leaders from the UCI’s Oceania and Africa Tours. In addition, ten nations have an extra rider participating as a consequence of their performance  in the 2011 UCI World Time Trial Championships: Germany, Great Britain, Switzerland, Australia, Netherlands, Kazakhstan, Denmark, Spain, Sweden and Canada. Additionally, all those taking part in the time trial also had to take part in Saturday’s road race.

The route

At the Tour de France, time trial stages are particularly popular with fans as they offer a full afternoon’s viewing and, more importantly, the riders are easily identifiable as they ride past one by one. While Buckingham Palace was the backdrop to the Olympic road race, the men’s time trial starts and finishes on the driveway in front of Hampton Court Palace. In between is a 44km tour of Surrey’s pricey commuter belt: Esher, Kingston, Teddington, Sandown, East and West Molesey.

The route of the 2012 Olympic Time-Trial

The route of the 2012 Olympic time trial

The course will take the riders setting off at 90-second intervals over Hampton Court Bridge to circumnavigate the Bessborough and Knight Reservoirs, before looping back through East Molesey towards Hampton Court Palace. From there it heads south-west with the first ‘hill’ at the 14km mark, on Lammas Lane. It is quickly followed by the toughest of the hills on Seven Hills Road, 5km later. While the hills aren’t overly hard, the long drag effect can sap the legs quite quickly. A further couple of lumps can be found around Esher High Street, at 29km. The competitors will then ride round the back of the Palace, before heading out to Kingston-upon-Thames, Richmond, Teddington and Strawberry Vale, before crossing the finishing line back at the palace. Simon Lillistone, the course designer claims:

It’s a good balance of challenges for the riders. As well as the hills, which are taxing enough, there’s the old marketplace in Kingston town centre, which has different road surfaces, not great visual lines round the twists and turns, so the riders will have to get those absolutely right, which is quite an ask.

As this is one of the few events of the Olympics that isn’t completely ticketed (only required for Hampton Court), there should be thousands of spectators. If you want a good spot, get there early and be prepared to stand your ground.

The contenders

Britain’s Bradley Wiggins would overtake Sir Steve Redgrave’s British Olympic record medal haul with a podium finish. Wiggins already has six Olympic medals to his name – three golds, one silver and two bronzes, all in track cycling, but another medal would seal his place as Britain’s most successful Olympian. Wiggins is also a phenomenal time-triallist, comfortably winning the two long time trials in the Tour de France, not to mention those in the Critérium du Dauphiné, Tour de Romandie and Paris-Nice. In 2012 he has a 100% record in the six time trials over 10km he has contested. He also won a silver medal at last year’s World Championships.

Bradley Wiggins on the Champs Elysees (image by Kitty Fondue)

Chris Froome did not make the most auspicious of starts to his time trial career, crashing into a race marshal just 100 metres into the under-23 World Championship race in Salzburg, but things have since been on the up. He was fifth in the 2010 Commonwealth Games time trial before finishing second in last year’s time trial at the Vuelta a Espana to Tony Martin. In the recent Tour de France he was second in both time trial stages to Wiggins. To be honest, he’d probably fare better on a hillier parcours but nonetheless, expect him to be in the mix.

The two Britons have the edge over the opposition as they’re both at the top of their games coming out of the Tour while their main opposition, Cancellara and Martin, have enjoyed mixed fortunes this year.

Cancellara is the defending Olympic champion and has four world titles to his name, but his 2012 preparation has been far from ideal. He smashed his collarbone in April’s Ronde van Vlaanderen, which ruled him out of contention for two months, he left the Tour de France early to be at his wife’s side when she gave birth to their second daughter and he crashed out of Saturday’s road race after he failed to negotiate a corner and is still in pain.

Cancellara alone and in pain after his crash (image courtesy of Roz Jones)

Martin is the current world champion and has been on the podium in the past three World Championships. Last year he put more than a minute into Wiggins at the Worlds in Copenhagen and also won time trial stages in the Tour de France, Vuelta a Espana and Paris-Nice. He collided with a car in the early part of the season and then, in this year’s Tour, he suffered punctures both in the prologue and first time trial and, having broken his wrist in the first stage, retired early from the race.

Tony Martin (image courtesy of Tony Martin)

Tony Martin (image courtesy of Tony Martin)

Who else might be in contention? The young American pair of Taylor Phinney and Tejay Van Garderen – both of whom performed excellently in the time trials of the Giro and Tour respectively – Spanish champion Luis Leon Sanchez, French champion Sylvain Chavanel and Italian Marco Pinotti, who won the Giro’s final time trial in Milan.

Link: Interactive route map

Olympic Tweets of the Week: Quads, Cav and carbon fibre splinters

Funny, cruel, odd, personal … you get it all on Twitter. Each week, we’ll have a rundown of some of our favourite tweets. Here are the tweets for the week ending 29th July 2012.

The boys are back in town

Our heroes began arriving in London for the Olympic Games early last week and they used their iPhones and Twitter accounts with a renewed enthusiasm, posting up pics of their shiny new surroundings like kids at summer camp! I think we should all take a moment and consider how bereft our lives would be if our guys didn’t believe in oversharing.

So first up, my dream scenario: looking around an airport queue and finding My Beloved Fabs  standing there. Of course the next picture would be me taken away in handcuffs as I’d, um, broken the conditions of my restraining order. #FreeTheFondue will be the hashtag, kids. Remember it. Good chance you’ll have to use it one day.

Ladies’ favourite Bernie Eisel might be a relative newbie to Twitter but, boy, he’s embraced the ‘this is where I am and this is what it looks like’ ethos. And he’s getting creative with his picture taking … four, four, four pics in one!

While Bernie is flicking the switches and looking in all the storage cupboards in his room, Tom Boonen is availing himself of the free transport in the Olympic village. Notice the white socks and sandals ensemble – other than his remarkably trim figure and his rather fetching Belgian national jersey, he’s just like any other London tourist in summer.

One thing we have learned about our intrepid adventurers is that, no matter where they are, food is a big, big priority for them. Here the German team with Andre Greipel, Marcel Sieberg and Tony Martin have found some new friends at the Village and are tucking into their lunch. “So do you think if we throw spitballs at the British, we’d get in trouble?”

Bernie, however, had decided that breakfast in his cozy new East London pad was the way to go. Much less spitball action, I suspect.

Those crazy boys even had a ‘quad-off’ – who has the biggest thighs in the German camp? Apparently, not Andre Greipel. However, Greipel definitely wins the superhero underpants’ contest.

However, some athletes, hmmm, didn’t have it quite so good. What did Janez Brajkovic do to be made to sleep on a kid’s mattress on the floor? And that bedspread just adds insult to injury – it looks like it’d throw sparks if you rolled over too quickly. I wonder if he was forced to wear Spiderman jimjams as well.

So once the boys got their room assignments, met up with their old friends and made some new ones, it was time to explore the countryside.

On recon

First up, Team GB take to the Surrey roads – and the convenient stopping points along the way.

Hollywood Phinney had promised himself that he would not become distracted this Olympics by an #OlympicLoveStory and that he was going to get his head down and focus on the task at hand. Which, considering he placed fourth in the road race, seemed a fairly good policy.

But there were still photo opportunities for this American sparkler.

The Day of Reckoning

So the day arrived, the crowds had gathered, the media had whipped everyone into a gold medal frenzy. But you and I both know, gentle readers, that cycling races don’t always go as planned. The strongest and the fastest don’t always win. The final play rarely goes to script. And so it was on Saturday. So many strands to this story, it’s hard to figure out where to start. Let’s start with Cav and work through it together. Everyone hold hands now. Deep breaths. Here we go.

There was a mighty big reaction on Twitter as you can imagine. This is just a sample of opinions. First, the reaction to Team GB’s finish.

The following string was a continuation of a discussion about the absence of race radios and if that contributed to Team GB’s loss.

The winner, the crash and the controversy

Of course, Alexandre Vinokourov won the gold medal, aided in part by Fabian Cancellara‘s crash on the corner with 15km to go. Here are some of the responses in respect of those two events.

A big discussion on Twitter was around Vinokourov’s past – it was a very mixed reaction. Some people liked that he won, others were still suspicious. In any case, I think Jonathan Vaughters hit the nail on the head.

Then there was the small matter of why Uran sat up and looked the other way just before the finish line. A mystery I suspect we may never unravel.

Then there was My Beloved’s reaction to his crash.

“We share your pain”

No, not Cavendish’s or Cancellara’s. That’s what the broadcasters, both here in the UK (I’m looking at you, BBC) and the US, seemed to be saying about their third-rate, downright abysmal commentary on the race. Lack of time information is one thing, but getting commentators in who couldn’t tell one rider from another (and if you watch enough cycling, you start to notice that, um, they have different riding styles. And faces) was insulting to the sport and to the fans.

And then of course there’s the print media, who reckoned that Vinokourov was a ‘nobody’ – no matter what you might think of his doping past, the man isn’t ‘nobody’. I could spend all of this column detailing the howlers that got through, but this is the one that was most bizarre. For anyone who doesn’t know, Fran Miller is David Millar’s sister and she is head of Team Sky’s business operations. BTW, Telegraph writer, that’s unbelievably easy to find out if you just google the woman’s name. Fact checking anyone? Anyone?

Crowd control : good and room to improve

What with the excitement of a British win at the Tour de France and the fact that this is the Olympics and all, the crowds that came out for the road race (both men’s and women’s) were massive, with some estimates in the region of over a million lining the route. This is some of the reaction from the peloton.

Right, I’m off to the Olympic Village with tweezers and antiseptic to tend to Bernie’s wounds (I am a qualified St John’s Ambulance First-Aider, doncha know). Fabs isn’t staying there so there shouldn’t be any problem with that pesky restraining order. So have a good week, tweeties – till next Tuesday.

Links: Men’s road race round-table, Review, Preview