Five things to look out for at the Imola World Championships 2020 time trials

Chloe Dygert’s title defence, Dennis vs Ganna, and the British hopes - watch out for these moments 

Can Chloe Dygert repeat her amazing 2019 performance? 

Chloe Dygert is favourite for the women’s TT (Photo by Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

The 2019 World Championships in Yorkshire were host to some unforgettable performances across the races, but one that stands out was Chloe Dygert’s elite women’s TT win. 

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Dygert (USA) was untouchable on the 30km course from Ripon to Harrogate, taking victory by a staggering 1-32 ahead of Anna van der Breggen, when she was aged just 22. 

While she may have been overlooked by many heading into last year’s race (myself included), Dygert is the bookmakers’ clear favourite heading into the 2020 World Championships TT in Imola after her dominant performance. 

But she still remains an unknown quantity this season, as we haven’t seen any of her on the road this year.  

Dygert will face determined rivals however, most notably newly-crowned European Champion Anna van der Breggen (Netherlands), who has just won the Giro Rosa. 

Former Worlds TT winner Annemiek van Vleuten (Netherlands) is not expected to race after suffering a badly fractured wrist in a crash during the Giro, which might make things a little easier for Dygert. 

Sadly Dygert didn’t get a single opportunity to wear her World Championships stripes, as she hasn’t raced any time trials since the end of the 2019 Worlds due to coronavirus. 

That may act as extra motivation for the 23-year-old track specialist, as she will hope for a chance to show off the prestigious jersey in competition.  

The rise of Filippo Ganna 

Filippo Ganna on his way to Tirreno-Adriatico TT victory (Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)

Could this be the year of Filippo Ganna? 

The Italian heads into the elite men’s TT as the favourite to take the rainbow jersey from his Ineos Grenadiers team-mate Rohan Dennis. 

Ganna, a track specialist like Dygert, was remarkable in the final stage time trial of Tirreno-Adriatico earlier this month, setting a new record for the 10.1km course and putting 18 seconds into the best time trialists in the world. 

The 24-year-old has an enormous engine over shorter distances thanks to his individual pursuit pedigree (earlier this year he pushed 500w for 13 minutes during training), but the question is whether he can outgun his rivals on a longer course like the 30km Imola circuit. 

But with a fast and mostly flat profile, the conditions could be perfect for Ganna to hit the top after his third place finish in Yorkshire. 

Rohan Dennis an unknown quantity 

Reigning time trial champion Rohan Dennis (Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)

The big rivalry of this year’s Worlds TT is between team-mates Filippo Ganna and reigning champion Rohan Dennis.

Both riders were among the strongest in the Tirreno time trial, with Dennis finishing third, 26 seconds off the win. 

While Ganna’s power over shorter distances is proven, the 30km course for the 2020 Imola course tips the balance in favour of Dennis, who prefers a longer and more challenging time trial.

After back-to-back wins in 2018 and 2019, this year’s Worlds will be Dennis’s main goal of the year and his first time fighting for the rainbows since joining Ineos, a team that prides themselves on their attention to detail, particularly in time trials. 

We’ve seen very little of Dennis in 2020, who has raced against the clock just twice since the start of the season (and only in Tirreno after the coronavirus break).

But the lack of racing is no indicator of form with Dennis, who didn’t race in the two months leading up to the 2019 Worlds because of his strained relationship with his Bahrain-McLaren team.

Coronavirus lockdown may have taken its toll on the Australian, but based on his previous record Dennis has earned his spot as the bookmakers’ second choice 

A chance for the Grand Tour riders 

Wout van Aert has a chance in the Worlds ITT (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

Thanks to coronavirus the 2020 calendar has been thrown into complete disarray and riders will have faced huge uncertainty around their schedule.

But one unexpected result of the redesigned season is that the Worlds TT is perfectly located in the season for riders who have just finished the Tour de France, and those who will be starting the Giro d’Italia the following week. 

The Worlds TT in Switzerland was due to clash with the Tour, but now there is plenty of TT talent heading directly from France to Italy, most notably Tom Dumoulin and Wout van Aert.

That Jumbo-Visma pair were key figures in the  2020 Tour in their support or Primož Roglič, and both finished high in the stage 20 time trial to La Planche des Belles Filles.

Dumoulin (Netherlands), World TT champion in 2017, looks to be back to his best after two seasons plagued by injury and illness, while Wout van Aert (Belgium) is still on the rise as he continues to find his potential in all disciplines.  

Rémi Cavagna (France) is also a great racer against the clock and will be confident after his second place in the European Championships to Stefan Kung (Switzerland), who also raced the Tour but left early to prepare for the Worlds. 

Hour record Victor Campenaerts (Belgium) has been amazingly consistent in TTs in recent years, but can never seem to pull together a winning performance at the highest level. 

The Tour de France may have taken it’s toll on these riders though, so perhaps the momentum could be with the riders heading into the Giro d’Italia like Victor Campenaerts and Geraint Thomas.   

Hour record Campenaerts has been amazingly consistent in TTs in recent years, yet can never seem to pull together a winning performance at the highest level, but with podium finishes in the Belgian National Championships, the European Championships, and the Tirreno TT, with a bit of luck a World Championship win could be within reach.  

Chances for the British squad? 

Geraint Thomas is preparing for the Giro d’Italia (Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)

For the elite men, the time trial could be the best chance at a medal in this year’s Worlds. 

British Cycling have opted to back a young developing team for the men’s road race (fear not, Lizzie Deignan is amongst the favourite’s in the women’s road race), but in the TT two of our best are going up against the clock in Geraint Thomas and Alex Dowsett. 

Dowsett, British time trial champion on almost countless (six) occasions, is as pure a time trial specialist as you can hope to find, with a pedigree in the domestic dual carriageway TT scene but with some big performances at the highest level.

In last year’s Worlds, Dowsett found himself nipping at the heels of the best solo riders in the world when he finished 5th in Yorkshire, 2-02 behind the winner Dennis. 

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This year the 31-year-old looks to have refined his equipment choices to maximise the aero gains and now lives at altitude so his fitness should be up there with the best, with his fourth place in the European Time Trial Championships a promising sign.

Going up alongside Dowsett is Geraint Thomas, who is deep into his preparation for Giro d’Italia leadership in early October.

Thomas, also a former British TT champion, looks to be in glowing form based on his second place finish overall in Tirreno-Adriatico.

In the final stage TT he was also outstanding, just two seconds behind team-mate Rohan Dennis. 

For the women’s TTers, Alice Barnes and Lizzy Banks, a top-10 finish would be the ideal result. 

Alice Barnes in the 2019 Worlds TT (Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)

Barnes, who won the British National TT and road race last season, was 16th in the Yorkshire Worlds but hasn’t raced an ITT since. 

For Banks, time trialling is a fairly new discipline to her and she admits she hasn’t been through the wind-tunnel testing and aero optimisation needed to win at the highest level.

But the 29-year-old has the engine and is using the Worlds TT as a learning experience, in the hopes of potentially competing in the Olympic time trial for GB in 2024.