Men’s Olympic time trial review

Great Britain’s Bradley Wiggins satisfied his country’s expectations when he won gold  – his fourth in total – in this afternoon’s Olympic time trial, held in the magnificent setting of Henry VIII’s Hampton Court Palace. 32-year old Wiggins has now won more medals (seven) than any other British Olympian – exceeding the haul of Sir Steven Redgrave – and, after his recent historic Tour de France win, cemented his place in the history books amid cries for him to be knighted or, at the very least, win BBC Sports Personality of the Year. [With those purple and gold rococo thrones as hot seats, I thought he was going to be crowned at the very least – Ed.] This medal caps a truly remarkable and well deserved season for Wiggins and British cycling as all the sacrifices he’s made have paid dividends.

Wiggins hurtles through Hampton Wick (about 2.5km from the finish) en route to golden glory (image courtesy of Roz Jones)

It is Wiggins’ first Olympic road title, having won his three previous golds in track cycling’s pursuit events. On winning his fourth gold medal, he said:

I cannot put it into words. I wouldn’t do it justice. To win an Olympic gold in your home city. When you win in the velodrome, there are three or four thousand people cheering. Here, around the streets of London, the noise is just amazing. I don’t think anything will top that. I’ve just won the Tour de France. It’s just been phenomenal. Just to be mentioned in the same breath as [Sir Steve] Redgrave  and [Sir Chris] Hoy is an absolute honour. To be up there with those guys is very special.

Froome added bronze to his Tour de France second place (image courtesy of Roz Jones)

Wiggo finished 42 seconds ahead of the reigning German world champion Tony Martin who, given his season – car crash, broken wrist and oodles of bad luck – did remarkably well to finish as runner-up. In third place – ever the bridesmaid, he’ll surely one day be a bride – Wiggo’s wingman and compatriot Chris Froome won the bronze. Taylor Phinney (USA) put in a valiant effort to finish fourth, replicating his road race result. The last three are all young enough to burn brightly in Rio in 2016 as is the youngster in ninth place, Basque Jonathan Castroviejo who came in as a substitute for Samuel Sanchez and was left holding the flag for Spain after Luis Leon Sanchez‘s karma totally deserted him. A snapped chain as he tried to power away from the start gate, followed by a puncture, it wasn’t to be his day.

Everything that could go wrong did go wrong for Spanish national time trial champion Sanchez (image courtesy of Roz Jones)

Popular with a lot of our female readers, along with VeloVoices’ Kitty, defending champion Fabian Cancellara mounted a heroic defence of his golden crown but he was clearly in pain from the injury he received after falling in Saturday’s road race. He still finished in the top ten but we’re handing out soft tissues, cuddles and comfort to scores of disappointed ladies. He’s endured a miserable two seasons since leaving Bjarne Riis’ team and will have an opportunity to return to the fold if those stories about unpaid RadioShambles wages are true.

How the race was won

Wiggins was the penultimate rider to leave the start house and he finished the 44km course in 50:39.54, having demonstrated his form by winning both the Tour de France’s long time trials. Despite his efforts to help Mark Cavendish to gold on Saturday, he showed no sign of fatigue and reached the first time check after 7.3km in 8:27, five seconds behind Martin, but thereafter surged ahead to take the lead at the second time check after 18.4km, where he was 11 seconds faster than the German world champion, in 23:14. He increased that advantage to 22 seconds at the third time check at 29.9km, and virtually doubled it over the closing 14km.

Teammate Froome, who had set off ahead of the other contenders, finished strongly to set the provisional best time before being subsequently beaten by first Martin and then Wiggins.

Positive note

With only 37 riders setting off at 90-second intervals over the 44km, this was one of the shortest time trials in time terms I’ve ever seen. But instead of large portions of the peloton coasting round or taking notes for their faster team mates, every man here meant business, setting off with intent from the start house in the grounds of Hampton Court and heading out around Surrey’s pricey commuter belt with the cheers of thousands of supporters ringing in their ears. Wiggo may have had the loudest support, but the crowds which lined the entire route cheered everyone. Britain is finally appreciating cycling. It started with Le Grand Depart [of the Tour de France] in London 2007, has been stoked by British Cycling’s success on the track, Team Sky on the road and it’s reached a crescendo in London 2012. Britain’s gone cycling mad. It’s taken them a while to catch up with their continental cousins, but finally, finally they get it.

Conclusion

They say that to become good at anything requires 10,000 hours of practice. To become great requires so much more. You’ll have to ask Bradley Wiggins whether it was worth it, but I’m guessing he’d answer in the affirmative.

Result

1. Bradley Wiggins (Great Britain) 50:39

2. Tony Martin (Germany) +0:42

3. Chris Froome (Great Britain) +1:08

4. Taylor Phinney (USA) +1:58

5. Marco Pinotti (Italy) +2:09

6. Michael Rogers (Australia) +2:11

7. Fabian Cancellara (Switzerland) +2:14

8. Bert Grabsch (Germany) +2:38

9. Jonathan Castroviejo (Spain) +2:49

10. Janez Brajkovic (Slovenia) +3:30

Link: Preview

What’s happening in August?

The races continue to come thick and fast this month, with the Olympic time trials opening the month and the Vuelta a Espana straddling the end of it. Indeed Spain’s Grand Tour starts less than four weeks after the end of the Tour de France.

A packed calendar in August also contains four other WorldTour events and birthdays for two of the peloton’s most experienced veterans, so here are the key dates for your diary.

Olympic time trials (1st)

Where Team GB faltered in the road race in their bid to launch Mark Cavendish to victory in Saturday’s road race, in today’s time trial they have not one but two realistic shots at the gold medal. Bradley Wiggins has been unbeatable over long time trials this season – six wins in six attempts against the clock over 10km or more – while Sky teammate Chris Froome was second-fastest in both long time trials at the Tour de France. Gold plus a second medal are a realistic possibility, but current and former time trial world champions Tony Martin (Germany) and Fabian Cancellara (Switzerland) will be looking to inflict double disappointment on expectant Brits. Also look out for the US pair of Taylor Phinney and Tejay Van Garderen to shine over the 44km course.

Before the men’s race, however, comes the women’s equivalent, run over the shorter distance of 29km. The partisan Brits among us will be cheering on Emma Pooley, but it’s hard to look beyond Germany’s Judith Arndt as the short-odds favourite, with Linda Villumsen (New Zealand) and Kristin Armstrong (USA) the most likely to displace her on the top of the medal podium.

Links: PreviewOfficial website

Eneco Tour (6th-12th)

This seven-day WorldTour race marks a distinct change from the parcours of the Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana which sit close either side of it. Run on a combination of largely flat and undulating roads in Belgium and Holland, the race is traditionally a welcome haven for sprinters and time-trial specialists, with punchy all-rounders typically faring well in the general classification. Sky’s Edvald Boasson Hagen won last year’s race, his second success in three years. This year’s field will be enlivened by the return from suspension of Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank’s Alberto Contador, who will be looking to get some racing miles in his legs ahead of a tilt at the Vuelta.

The key stages this year are likely to be a pair of time trials – both team (stage two) and individual (stage six) – with the latter being followed by the concluding queen stage which finishes with circuits of the city of Geraardsbergen including repeated ascents of the Mur de Grammont (also known as the Muur van Geraardsbergen), a 1.1km climb – well known to followers of the Tour of Flanders – which includes sections of close to 20% gradient.

Link: Official website

Clasica San Sebastian (14th)

Very much a climbers’ race suiting bold puncheurs, San Sebastian is a relatively young race – it was first run in 1981 – but has already established a deserved reputation as one of the more visually spectacular races on the cycling calendar, full of coastal views and twisting, rolling roads. It also boasts a winners’ list which reads like a Who’s Who of cycling, including such illustrious names as Miguel Indurain, Lance Armstrong, Laurent Jalabert, Alejandro Valverde and 2011 winner Philippe Gilbert.

Run over a distance of close to 230km, the race is frequently decided by a final selection on the climb of the Alto de Jaizkibel, an 8km climb averaging 5.6% just under 30km from the finish.

Link: Official website

Vuelta a España (18th August-9th September)

The 67th Vuelta a España, the last of the year’s three Grand Tours, kicks off in Pamplona with a team time trial before embarking on a parcours which could only be described as vertiginous. It is one of the toughest Grand Tour routes in recent memory – rivalling even the 2011 Giro d’Italia – and includes just six flat stages and a headache-inducing 13 mountain stages, six of which conclude in summit finishes. Even the 40km individual time trial on stage 11 which neatly cleaves the race into two halves includes a climb of nearly 400 metres.

Needless to say, this is a race tilted heavily in favour of the pure climbers so expect Spanish riders to be out in force, not least a certain Alberto Contador. His most likely challenger may well be Sky’s 2011 runner-up – and, of course, second in the 2012 Tour de France – Chris Froome, if his Tour and Olympic exertions have not sapped his legs too much. The race may well remain alive right up until the penultimate stage which, as in 2010, will conclude on the monstrous 21.6 km, 6.3% ascent of Bola del Mundo near Madrid, a climb which features sections with 19% and 20% gradients in the closing 2km and could provide a spectacular head-to-head showdown for the overall.

Link: Official website

Other key races this month include the Vuelta a Burgos (1st-5th) – read Sheree’s preview here –  a key build-up race for the Vuelta a Espana and one-day races Vattenfall Cyclassics (19th) and GP Ouest France-Plouay (26th). The latter two are both WorldTour events.

Links: Vuelta a Burgos website, Vattenfall Cyclassics website, GP Ouest France-Plouay website

This month’s birthdays

A selection of some of the more notable birthdays in the peloton this month:

4th: David Millar, Garmin-Sharp (35 years old). The Scotsman is now one of the senior statesmen of the peloton, as well as wearing the mantle of anti-doping poster boy. An otherwise quiet year in which his time trial form has been largely mediocre was transformed by his breakaway win on stage 12 of last month’s Tour de France.

O’Grady creeps one year closer to 40 (image courtesy of Orica-GreenEDGE)

6th: Stuart O’Grady, Orica-GreenEDGE (39). More of a mentor and all-purpose engine than a hard-man sprinter these days, the 2007 Paris-Roubaix winner was a member of GreenEDGE’s winning team time trial squad at Tirreno-Adriatico and was part of the key breakaway at the London Olympic road race, eventually placing sixth.

6th: Jerome Coppel, Saur-Sojasun (26). Viewed as one of the great young hopes of the new generation of French riders, Coppel has so far failed to make a big breakthrough at the Tour de France, finishing 21st this year after a 14th place in 2011. He did, however, win the early season Etoile de Besseges stage race and was an excellent third overall at the Vuelta a Andalucia.

20th: Dan Martin, Garmin-Sharp (26). The cousin of AG2R’s Nicolas Roche has had an up-and-down season following his Grand Tour breakthrough at the 2011 Vuelta, where he won a stage and rode aggressively in the mountains en route to 13th overall. Strong form in the spring saw him place fourth overall at the Volta a Catalunya and then fifth and sixth respectively in the Ardennes Classics Liège-Bastogne-Liège and Flèche Wallonne. But he had a relatively disappointing Tour de France – expected to be a key aggressor in the mountains, he managed no higher than a seventh place as he finished 35th overall.

22nd: Theo Bos, Rabobank (29). The Dutch sprinter has had a relatively quiet 2012, but has continued his streak of winning stages in pairs. Two stage victories at the Tour of Turkey were added to a palmares which includes a sprint double at the 2011 Tour of Oman and a brace at the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon the previous year.

Also on the blog

As usual, we’ll be providing comprehensive race coverage all month, with previews and reviews from all the major races. Plus watch out for some additional coverage as we branch out from our traditional core of men’s road racing.

Every Tuesday, Tweets of the Week will bring you all the news that’s fit to print (in 140 characters), with focus shifting from the Olympic rings to our annual romp through the mountains of Spain as the month progresses. Our regular Friday Features will bring you in-depth analysis from the wider world of cycling. We’ll continue to find all the best images from our favourite sport, both here on the blog and via our Facebook page. And, of course, you can always chat with us on Twitter.

Whether serious or light-hearted, VeloVoices is the place to come for all the latest cycling news and views! Pro cycling for fans, by fans.

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.

Qualification

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