Bradley Wiggins and Fabian Cancellara skipped it, and the top names suffered, but Belarusian Vasil Kiryienka still had to fight to take his time trial gold medal in the World Championships on Wednesday in Richmond.
Team Sky’s Kiryienka stood on top of a surprise podium, with Italian Adriano Malori (Movistar) one step down and Frenchman Jérôme Coppel (IAM Cycling) below with the bronze medal.
One year after Wiggins was crowned king in Ponferrada, Spain, his former teammate Kiryienka completed the 53.5-kilometre Richmond course in one hour, 2-29 minutes.
“It was the kind of course that suits me, and even if [four-time champion] Fabian Cancellara and Bradley Wiggins were not here, all the other top names took part,” Kiryienka said afterwards. “It was a race with a high level [of participation] and it was a hard race to win.”
Dutchman Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin), who placed fourth, suffered from a pre-race muscle problem, Australian Rohan Dennis (BMC Racing) punctured and three-time champion, German Tony Martin (Etixx-Quick Step) “couldn’t find his rhythm and lost morale.”
Watch: How to beat a long time trial
A combination of factors paved the way for Kiryienka, who placed fourth the last two years and took bronze in Valkenburg in 2012.
“It’s great in Team Sky, the time trial is very important for them,” he said.
“The team helped me prepare, and they supported me.
“This year I was not in the Tour de France because I was tired from the first part of the season, they gave me the chance in the Vuelta to not just work for our leaders, but to plan ahead to the World Championships.
“They told me that this could be my year, my chance to do what Bradley did last year.“
Kiryienka won the Giro d’Italia’s Valdobbiadene time trial in May and the European Championships in June. At the Giro, he was free to ride his own time trial after working for Richie Porte.
In 2013, he helped guide Chris Froome to his first Tour win and thanks to his help, became second Brit after Wiggins to take the maillot jaune.
Kiryienka, who grew up in Rechytsa, close to the Ukraine border, made history of his own in Richmond yesterday. Winning the time trial, he claimed Belarus’s first gold medal in the 21-year-old event.