World Championships individual time trial preview

Including the junior (men’s and women’s) and under-23 (men’s only) versions, the five individual time trial events included within the Road World Championships commence on Monday and conclude with the blue riband event, the elite men’s race on Wednesday afternoon.

The most recent winners of the elite men’s event are:

2007 Stuttgart: Fabian Cancellara (Switzerland)

2008 Varese: Bert Grabsch (Germany)

2009 Mendrisio: Fabian Cancellara (Switzerland)

2010 Melbourne: Fabian Cancellara (Switzerland)

2011 Copenhagen: Tony Martin (Germany)

What happened last year?

Germany’s Tony Martin blitzed the course at an average speed of 46.4kph to take his first gold medal and the World Champion’s rainbow jersey after leading at every split. Throughout the season, he’d been at the top of his game, winning time trials in the Tour de France, Vuelta a Espana and pretty much any other stage race with a time trial. Defending and four-time world champion Fabian Cancellara (Switzerland) looked to have landed silver but he overshot a bend, brushing the barrier in the process, and lost out to Bradley Wiggins (Great Britain) who turned in a solid and consistent performance. When 26-year old Martin caught David Millar (Great Britain) –  no mean time-trialler – who’d set-off 90 seconds ahead of him, he must have known it was a gold-winning performance. 2008 champion Bert Grabsch (Germany) finished fourth after pushing his customary huge gear.

World Championships individual time trial podium 2011 (image courtesy of official race website)

Afterwards, a jubilant Martin said:

In the last kilometre I was sure that I was going to win. It’s such a good feeling. It’s a dream come true. It’s amazing for me.

David was one of the favourites and for sure when you pass him and you are 1:30 faster, you must be having a good ride. I gave my all, so I was really happy. I felt under pressure but I’ve learnt to work with the pressure.

1. Tony Martin (Germany) 53:43

2. Bradley Wiggins (Great Britain) +1:15

3. Fabian Cancellara (Switzerland) +1:20

4. Bert Grabsch (Germany) +1:31

5. Jack Bobridge (Australia) +2:13

6. Richie Porte (Australia) +2:29

7. David Millar (Great Britain) +2:45

8. Lieuwe Westra (Netherlands) +3:18

9. Alexandr Dyachenko (Kazakhstan) +3:19

10. Jakob Fuglsang (Denmark) +3:30

This year’s race

The 2012 edition will be a more testing event than last year’s. It starts in Heerlen – home to the 1967 World Championships – covers 45.7km and features three climbs, the toughest of which is the first in Simpelveld before it finishes just past the summit of the Cauberg.

Who to watch

Last year’s winner Tony Martin will be back to defend his crown, hoping that he’s already had more than his fair quota of bad luck this season with punctures, mechanicals and falls. Although it’s a hilly course, it shouldn’t cause him too many problems. Remember his winning performance in the 2011 Tour de France time-trial in Grenoble?

Sylvain Chavanel record equaling 4-times national time-trial champion (image courtesy of Omega Pharma QuickStep)

Sylvain Chavanel, record equaling 4-time national time trial champion (image courtesy of Omega Pharma-Quick Step)

This time he won’t have to contend with those who stood with him on the  2011 podium [is that Kitty I can hear weeping and wailing? – Ed] but there’s still plenty of stiff opposition from established riders such as France’s Sylvain Chavanel, who will be looking for at least a podium spot, Spain’s Alberto Contador, fresh from his win at the Vuelta, gunning for more victories and Britain’s Chris Froome looking to cement his credentials after his Olympic bronze.

But it’s just as likely that Martin’s strongest opposition will come from that brigade of young Turks who not so long ago were competing and winning in the under-23 category. I’m thinking the all-American Taylor Phinney, Aussie turbo Luke Durbridge, Martin’s compatriot Patrick Gretsch and Kiwi youngster Jesse Sergent. Not forgetting, of course, a pair of Vacansoleil teammates: local boy Lieuwe Westra and Belgium’s Thomas De Gendt, who’ll be hoping their time has come in front of partisan crowds.

However this unfolds, we can be assured that it’ll be a thrilling battle with the outcome much less predictable than it’s been for many a year.

Race details

September 17th: Junior men, Landgraaf to Valkenburg aan de Geul, 26.6km

September 17th: Under-23 men, Landgraaf to Valkenburg aan de Geul, 36km

September 18th: Junior women, Eisjsden Margraten to Valkenburg aan de Geul, 15.6km

September 18th: Elite women, Eisjsden Margraten to Valkenburg aan de Geul, 24.3km

September 19th: Elite men, Heerlen to Valkenburg aan de Geul, 45.7km

Daily live coverage and highlights of the Road World Championships will be shown by Eurosport in the UK. For other live coverage check cyclingfans.com.

Link: Official website

Friday Feature: Bridie O’Donnell’s Olympic women’s road cycling review

Over the past few days, a few people have asked why VeloVoices has not been covering the women’s road cycling at the London 2012 Olympics. The simple answer is that, while all of us take an interest in women’s cycling, none of us would profess to be particularly knowledgeable about the distaff branch of road racing. However, we do listen to our followers, so we tracked down someone who is an expert on women’s racing – because she happens to be a professional rider herself.

Australia’s Bridie O’Donnell is a former triathlete who signed her first pro contract in 2009 at the age of 35, first with Team Valdarno – where she was a teammate of road world champion Tatiana Guderzo – and then Top Girls Fassa Bortolo. She now rides for Vanderkitten.We figured she was probably a teensy bit more qualified to comment on the women’s road race and time trial than we were, so we sent Panache off to get her view on them. Here’s what she had to say.

Women’s road race

Panache: You told me on Twitter that you were excited to watch the women fight it out. What were your impressions of the parcours and how the race played out?

Bridie O’Donnell

Bridie: The weather certainly made the day a lot more difficult than the course profile suggested. The smaller bunch also made it hard for slower climbers to maintain contact or rejoin after they’d been dropped. Had there been 100 or more starters [only 66 riders took the start – Ed], I think we would have seen more groups fighting it out to make a bigger group to the finish.

I was unsurprised by the Netherlands’ tactics of attacking early and often. That’s the kind of race that Vos likes & clearly they were the strongest team. Even more impressive that she too attacked relentlessly to “tire herself out as well as the others” and that it paid off with a win.

We knew that teams of one or two really had no chance on a course like this. Using one’s firepower was the only way to get a medal, and no ‘hiding’ or foxing was going to work. A lot of talk by supporters of Team USA was that had Olds not punctured, she would have won but I disagree for two reasons: firstly, many riders had bad luck and mechanicals (Italy had three punctures, Australia two, and Gunnewijk, Armstrong and Villumsen all crashed) and secondly, any fourth rider in that break would have changed the outcome. Perhaps Olds’ lack of desire to work may have led to aggravation in the others, the break may have dissolved, been brought back & another gone. Wishful thinking by the Americans, understandably.

Panache: The weather for the women’s road race was wet to say the least. What’s it like to be in a prestigious race like the Olympics when the weather is terrible?

Bridie: For many, it’s a disappointment, knowing that your preparation and talent may be compromised by a greater degree of bad luck. For others – like the Dutch – who often prefer harder conditions, they believe it gives them an advantage. But still, the field was smaller than a World Cup, so the consequences of a crash/mechanical were less significant.

Panache: Before the women’s road race I asked you to give me three names of possible winners:

Panache: You said either Vos, Teutenberg, or Bronzini.  Of course, you picked the winner! What makes these three women so special?

Bridie: The first two in particular have won more races than any pro male (combined) and possess the qualities of champions: elite physiology, aggression, tactical nous and a strong team. They both race offensively and aren’t afraid to work hard. Bronzini is perhaps a more stereotypical Italian rider: opportunistic, skillful and always there in the finale.

Panache: Is there a tougher rider in the world than Marianne Vos?

Bridie: No.

Panache: Who surprised you with their performance?

Bridie: Zabelinskaya was surprising in both the road race and the time trial. She obviously timed her form perfectly for the Olympics but had showed no outstanding performances all season. Unfortunately, Australia’s riders were surprisingly poor, given the generally strong performances throughout the season.

Panache: Many people thought the women’s road race was much more exciting than the men’s race. (As if women’s racing is less exciting normally?!?) What do you make of these comparisons?

Bridie: There is no comparison. I keep telling people this! Women have different physiology, different brains, smaller teams, less financial incentive to ride for their team mates, fewer championship/media-sponsored opportunities to perform and completely different paths both to cycling and after it.

Women’s time trial

Panache: Your palmares illustrates your experience and success in the time trial. Okay, basically you’re a legend in my mind! What did you think of the Olympic route?

Bridie: It’s a great course, I would love to have ridden it! Just because it was flat, doesn’t mean it’s not difficult. Rhythm, pacing, holding close to your threshold … these are all part of TT talent as much as a climb/descent is.

Panache: Kristin Armstrong won the gold medal again after coming back from a broken collarbone. You raced against her in the Tour of California Women’s time trial this year. What goes through your mind when you line up against someone like her?

Bridie: Well I knew we would all be riding for second place, that’s for sure! She is a fierce competitor who gifts nothing. I didn’t have a great day in Bakersfield, and finished a long way down on Armstrong. But two weeks ago I had a better 25km TT at the Cascade Classic and was only two minutes down, so she’s a benchmark for all of us.

Panache: The average age of the women’s podium was 36. Are women riders in the time trial like fine wine? They only get better with age?

Bridie: It’s common knowledge that women continue to improve in their endurance capabilities into their late 30s. We see world record times for marathoners, ironman triathletes and road cyclists. It shows that these athletes have been amply supported by their friends, families, federations and teams. It also shows that they know what is required to perform at a world-class level.

Panache: We’ve seen dominant performances from riders like Armstrong, who should we keep our eye on in the future?

Bridie: Van Dijk, Vos, Longo Borghini, Armitstead, Pooley and Ferrand Prevot (from France, who didn’t start due to mountain biking commitments).

Advice from Bridie

Panache: Bridie, before you go, leave us with some sage advice. What do you think we as fans do to help encourage more media coverage and support for women’s racing?

Bridie: You engage with riders, support us, motivate us, keep us grounded and remind us that what we’re doing is important. In turn, this allows female cyclists the opportunity to feel important, valued and empowered. It means we expect more of our coaches, our team directors and our federations. This can place more pressure on race organisers and the mainstream media to better promote the sport.

Panache: What advice do you have for young women who are interested in participating in the sport?

Bridie: Do it! Ride, race, find people to help you, find role models to inspire you and learn to live with disappointment. Most importantly, learn the difference between a ‘performance’ which is something you can control and a ‘result’ which you can not. You can control how you prepare, how hard you train, who you surround yourself with and how you race. If someone is faster, that’s beyond your control.

Panache: How can women get that sexy wind-blown hair like in your Twitter profile? (Mrs. Panache wants to know)

Bridie: Get your hair cut, coloured & blow dried at a salon. Then go training, have a shower, sleep eight hours and wake up the next day …

Panache: I can use all the help I can get. Any advice for a 40-year old male masters racer with two kids, who works at a library?

Bridie: Goal-setting helps me, no matter how ‘small’ or amateur that goal is. It helps keep momentum, maintains morale and gives you something to work towards.

Panache: Bridie, thank you very much for your time and thoughts.

You can follow Bridie O’Donnell on Twitter or via her personal website.

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