Fabian Cancellara made history by becoming the first man to win the World Time Trial Championship four times when he produced a typically imperious performance in Geelong.
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The Swiss rider said it was the most difficult of his four wins because he’d been uncertain about his form after pulling out of the Vuelta a Espana.
Cancellara sprinted down the finishing straight to beat David Millar’s time by a minute and two seconds.
After victories in Salzburg in 2006, Stuttgart in 2007 and Mendrisio last year, Cancellara has edged ahead of Michael Rogers, who has three titles to his name.
Afterwards he said: “I’m really happy. I wanted to win this for the fourth time and I have done that. It was maybe the hardest one because I didn’t know where I was with my condition.”
Asked about the aggressive racing line he took, particularly on the chicane descent where he seemed to almost brush the barriers, he said: “I didn’t touch the barriers. I tried to do what I could. I tried to go close to the barriers but without going too close. In every metre of the race you have to find an advantage. Every second counts. The tactics I did were amazing.”
Now thoughts turn to Sunday’s road race, with people speculating that Cancellara could do the double. He was quick to brush off such talk. “I will relax a little, enjoy what I have. The pressure is off for Sunday.”
Cancellara is the hot favourite for most time trials but he was pushed hard by Britain’s David Millar, who rode brilliantly.
Millar, who ‘won’ the world time trial title in Hamilton, Canada, in 2003 before being stripped of his victory after confessing to using EPO, produced his best ride at the Worlds since returning from suspension.
At the first checkpoint, at the 6.6-kilometre mark, Millar was well up. When Cancellara, the last starter, reached that point, he was six seconds slower than Millar.
Although Millar got his pacing spot on and finished strongly, Cancellara was stronger.
Millar took the silver medal for the second time in his career – the first came when he was second to Jan Ullrich in Lisbon nine years ago.
Cancellara reeled Millar in and by the halway mark he was 11 seconds up. On the second lap the Swiss rider pressed home his advantage, stretching away.
The early pace-setter was Spaniard Jose Ivan Gutierrez, a silver medallist in 2005 but well below that level today.
Poland’s Maciej Bodnar, whose time was eventually good enough for ninth place, beat Gutierrez and he held the lead until another Spaniard, Luis Leon Sanchez, became the first rider to go under the one hour one minute barrier.
Sanchez didn’t lead for long. The next rider, Michael Rogers, went 19 seconds faster, giving the Australians hope of a place on the podium.
But as the last group got underway, it was clear his time was not going to withstand the pressure.
Millar’s time was 1-23 faster than Rogers and by now it was a two-horse race, with Cancellara making himself the more likely winner with every passing kilometre.
Ahead of him on the road, there was a gripping battle for the bronze medal between Germany’s Tony Martin and Australian sensation Richie Porte.
Martin eventually edged it by just seven seconds but Porte, a first-year professional, only confirmed his talent.
World Championships 2010, men’s time trial
1. Fabian Cancellara (Switzerland) 45.8 kilometres in 58-09
2. David Millar (Great Britain) at 1-02
3. Tony Martin (Germany) at 1-12
4. Richie Porte (Australia) at 1-19
5. Michael Rogers (Australia) at 2-24
6. Koos Moerenhout (Netherlands) at 2-40
7. Luis Leon Sanchez (Spain) at 2-44
8. David Zabriskie (USA) at 2-51
9. Maciej Bodnar (Poland) at 3-00
10. Gustav Erik Larrson (Sweden) at 3-01
Britain’s David Millar rode strongly for silver
Fabian Cancellara wins his fourth world TT title
Millar’s Worlds TT ride was flawless, says Brailsford
Pooley wins Worlds time trial
Phinney lives up to expectation, Dowsett suffers setback
World Championships 2010: Cycling Weekly’s coverage index
David Millar: Rider Profile