The 2017 UCI Road Cycling World Championships kick off on Sunday with the time trial events. We pick out five things to watch out for in Bergen in the races against the clock
Can Team Sky replicate Grand Tour success in the Worlds Team Time Trial?
We’ve all seen how well Team Sky work together to win Grand Tours – the team’s collective strength was enough to leave all their rivals exasperated at the Tour de France and Vuelta a España this season.
The question this week is whether Sky can translate their performances in these races to the discipline of the team time trial.
While the British team has for a while now been clearly established as the best Grand Tour team in the world, the best they have managed in the team time trial world championship is a solitary bronze medal in 2013, while BMC and defending champions Quick-Step Floors have shared the five gold medals awarded since the event’s inauguration.
Chris Froome will lead the line-up this year, joining many of the riders who he has worked so well with on the road this season, including Michal Kwiatkowski, Gianni Moscon and Geraint Thomas, plus former individual time trial world champion Vasil Kiryienka and young talent Owain Doull.
It’s a strong team that could threaten Quick-Step and BMC’s duopoly, but also look out for former silver medalists Orica-Scott and improving Team Sunweb and LottoNL-Jumbo line-ups.
Chris Froome bids for time trial supremacy
If there was one criticism that could be made of Chris Froome’s career, it was that his career success tended to be limited the Tour de France at the expense of other high-profile events.
His Vuelta victory this month has gone someway to redress that, and now he plans to expand his palmares even more with a world time trial title.
It won’t be easy, however. We all know how great a time triallist Froome is, but against the likes of Sky team-mate Vasil Kiryienka, defending champion Tony Martin and the favourite Tom Dumoulin – who have a more specialised background in this discipline and who will have shaped their training towards this race as a specific goal – he faces an up uphill challenge.
Hope resides in the fact that historically, when Froome has targeted a time trial, he is capable of mixing it up with the best names – he won bronze medals in the time trials at both the 2012 and 2016 Olympics.
For the first time in a while Froome will enter a race without being overall favourite, but given how things have gone for him this season, it would be foolish to write him off.
Will Boels-Dolmans defend their title?
Boels-Dolmans last year capped of a season of complete dominance with the team landing a first ever world team time trial title.
Improved competition from other teams has meant the Dutch outfit hasn’t quite scaled those heights again, but they’ve still continued to be the most successful team in the peloton, spearheaded by WorldTour winner Anna van der Breggen and the teams several other stars.
Many of those stars are on the long list to ride the team time trial, including Van der Breggen, Chantal Blaak, Megan Guarnier and Lizzie Deignan, although two of the key names in their title-winning line-up last year – Evelyn Stevens and Ellen van Dijk – have since moved on.
Boels-Dolmans are favourites having already won three team time trials this season, but they will face stern challenges from the likes of Van Dijk’s new team Sunweb and four-time winners Canyon-SRAM.
Dutch riders to compete for women’s time trial title
The Netherlands are expected to compete for plenty of medals in the time trials at the World Championships, as they boast three of the favourites for the women’s team time trial (Boels Dolmans, Sunweb and WM3 Pro Cycling), and the outright favourite for the men’s individual race (Tom Dumoulin).
The event in which the Dutch look most dominant, however, is the women’s individual time trial, in which all four of the riders representing them can hope to post competitive times.
The recently crowned European champion Ellen Van Dijk has enjoyed an excellent season and possesses a particular aptitude for time trials, and looks a good shout to improve upon her second place finish from last year and regain a title she last won in 2013.
Anna van der Breggen does not specialise against the clock the same way her compatriot does, but has been on such good form that she remains a threat to win the the title, while Annemiek Van Vleuten is on a hot streak of having won the last four time-trials she has lined-up in, and Lucinda Brand is also capable of a good time.
These Dutchwomen will come up against some strong opposition, including defending champion Amber Neben, but the safe bet would appear to be with one of them winning it.
More so than any other kind of road bike race, the outcome of a time trial can alter dramatically depending on the weather. If some riders enjoy more favourable conditions than others, the advantage gained can be enough to cause some big surprises.
So the forecasts predicting potentially rainy weather during the championships could prove crucial. If conditions are temperamental during any of the events, then being the best rider or team may not be itself enough to win the title – a substantial dose of luck may be necessary too.
The 2017 UCI Road World Championships take place in Bergen, Norway, over September 17-24 and comprise team time trial, individual time trial and road race events.