Road World Championships 2012 Men’s Individual Time Trial: The Big Preview

High profile time trials have recently become something of a predictable affair. Bradley Wiggins has been untouchable in the so-called ‘race of truth’ all season, never more so than at the Tour de France and the Olympics.

Meanwhile winning the rainbow jersey had become something of a formality for Fabian Cancellara who won four times in five years between 2006 and 2010. Only Tony Martin has been close to the pair in the last few years, winning the world title last year.

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But with the German struggling for top form and both Wiggins and Cancellara missing, the men’s time trial at the 2012 World Championships looks set to be the most open in years.

World Championships 2012, Men’s ITT: The course
Exacerbating the race’s unpredictability is the route, which could lean towards either heavy or lighter riders. Beginning the 45.7 kilometre course in Heerlen, the riders will first head south to Simpelveld where they will tackle the steep Sint Remigiusstraat, before heading west through Gulpen and Martgraten.

From here the riders pass over two more short ascents, the Bundersberg and the iconic Cauberg, and finally finish in Valkenburg.

Three’s company: Only Tony Martin (c) will race the TT this year

The role these climbs will have on the race however remains unclear, for though they are all fairly steep (7.7%, 5.4% and 5.8% respectively), each is roughly only one kilometre in length. Both roleurs and climbers will fancy their chances.

World Championships 2012, Men’s ITT: Coverage
Wednesday September 19, 13.30-16.00, LIVE elite men individual time trial, British Eurosport
Wednesday September 19, 23.10-00.50, elite men individual time trial highlights, British Eurosport

World Championships 2012, Men’s ITT: Ones to watch

Alberto Contador, 29, Spain

In the absence of Olympic champion Bradley Wiggins and four-time world champion Fabian Cancellara, Contador goes into the race as favourite.

The Saxo-Bank rider will be riding on the back of victory in the Vuelta, the first Grand Tour since his return from a doping ban. At that race his form in the time trial was on display, finishing second in stage 11’s’s 39km route at a time when he was still building his strength.

Contador: likes a hilly TT and rode exceptionally well at the Vuelta 

The worlds’ course has a similarly hilly profile that suits Contador, and having ridden himself into peak form in Spain, he could be the rider to beat.

Last three time trial performances
Vuelta a Espana, stage 11: 2nd, 17 secs behind Frederik Kessiakoff (August)
Eneco Tour stage 6: 7th, 22 secs behind Svein Tuft (August)
Tour de San Luis stage 4: 6th, 1-01 behind Levi Leipheimer (January) (*Result now annulled due to doping suspension)

Tony Martin, 27, Germany

Defending champion Martin was the strongest in time trials last season with a total of eight wins, but his form and luck have waned somewhat this year.

However, a silver medal at last month’s Olympic Games suggests the big German is improving, and, though he’d have preferred a flatter route, a Tony Martin on top form will take some beating.

Last three time trial performances
Vuelta a Espana stage 11: 11th, 1-39 behind Frederik Kessiakoff (August)
Olympic Games Time Trial: 2nd, 42 secs behind Bradley Wiggins (August)
Tour de France stage 19: 12th, 2-16 behind Bradley Wiggins (July)

Taylor Phinney, 22, USA

At just 22 years old, tall American Phinney has bags of talent and looks likely to be crowned world champion one day.

His background on the track makes him perfectly suited to prologues, but recently he has impressed in longer time trials with fourth at the Olympic Games time trial confirming he can compete with the best.

The lumpy terrain that will help some of his rivals will be to his detriment, but as a rapidly developing rider he may well surprise everyone.

Last three time trial performances
Tour of Colorado stage 7: 1st, 10 secs ahead of Christian Vande Velde (August)
Eneco Tour stage 6: 2nd, 5 secs behind Svein Tuft (August)
Olympic Games Time Trial: 4th, 1-58 behind Bradley Wiggins (August)

Frederik Kessiakoff, 32, Sweden

Kessiakoff has been the surprise package in time trials this year, winning races in both the Tour de Suisse and Vuelta a Espana.

The Swede in blue and yellow could be the dark horse this year

As a lighter rider than his main rivals the Swede would have had no chance on a flat course, but wins in Switzerland and Spain make him arguably the leading rider in hilly time trials this season. Despite lacking the palmares of his rivals, Kessiakoff will be one to watch.

Last three time trial performances
Vuelta a Espana stage 11: 1st, 17 secs ahead of Alberto Contador (August)
Tour de France stage 19: 49th, 5-48 behind Bradley Wiggins (July)
Tour de France stage 9: 48th, 4-42 behind Bradley Wiggins (July)

Svein Tuft, 35, Canada

The Canadian time trial champion has been winning time trials for fun in 2012, registering victories at, among others, Tirreno Adriatico and the Eneco Tour.

At 35, Tuft is at the twilight of his career, and he will be seeking to go one better than the silver medal he won four years ago.

Last three time trial positions
Eneco Tour stage 6: 1st, 5 secs ahead of Taylor Phinney (August)
Canadian National Championships: 1st, 2-08 ahead of Christian Meier (June)
Tour de Beauce: 1st, 30 secs ahead of Rory Sunderland (June)

Lieuwe Westra, 29, Netherlands

Westra is enjoying his best season to date, with three wins including the Dutch National Time Trial Championships, and a second overall at Paris-Nice that saw him rub shoulders with Bradley Wiggins.

Riding in front of a home crowd ought to spur him on, and as the best of the contingent from the Netherlands he could well be a dark horse.

Last three time trial positions
Tour of Denmark stage 5: 1st, 19 secs ahead of Geraint Thomas (August)
Eneco Tour stage 6: 4th, 18 secs behind Svein Tuft (August)
Olympic Games Time Trial: 11th, 3-40 behind Bradley Wiggins (August)

Gustav Larsson, 31, Sweden

For many years now Larsson has been bidding for victory at the world championships but as yet has been unable to win the fabled rainbow jersey.

The second Swede on our list has in the past won silver medals in both the worlds and the Olympics but, despite an impressive early season win at Paris-Nice, hasn’t the form to suggest he’ll upgrade to gold this year.

Last three time trial performances
Tour of Denmark stage 5: 14th, 45secs behind Lieuwe Westra (August)
Eneco Tour stage 6: 30th, 1-01 behind Svein Tuft (August)
Olympic Games Time Trial: 16th, 3-55 behind Bradley Wiggins (August)

Marco Pinotti, 36, Italy

At the grand old age of 36, Marco Pinotti is enjoying a stellar season with four victories including the final time trial at the Giro d’Italia.

Former Giro leader Pinotti is a favourite with the crowds and amongst the peloton

He hasn’t a worlds medal to date and at his age such a feat may be beyond him, but expect a respectable ride by the popular Italian.

Last three time trial performances
Olympic Games Time Trial: 5th, 2-09 behind Bradley Wiggins (August)
Tour of Austria stage 7: 1st, 32 secs ahead of Jurgen Vandewalle (July)
Italian National Championships: 3rd, 35 secs behind Dario Cataldo (June)

Bert Grabsch, 37, Germany

The 37-year-old veteran Grabsch is even older that Pinotti, but unlike the Italian his best days appear to be behind him.

Grabsch is the only rider competing to have worn the rainbow jersey after his triumph in 2008 but, without a win since July 2011, he may this time round find a medal eludes him.

Last three time trial positions
Olympic Games Time Trial: 8th, 2-38 behind Bradley Wiggins (August)
Tour de France stage 19: 18th, 3-43 behind Bradley Wiggins (July)
Tour de France stage 9: 79th, 5-46 behind Bradley Wiggins (July)

Sylvain Chavanel, 33, France

Touted in his youth as a potential Grand Tour challenger, Chavanel has since reinvented himself as both an aggressive attacker and super-domestique in the classics, but one constant thread in the Frenchman’s career is his ability to ride a strong time trial.

Chavanel was in great shape at the Tour this summer before abandoning due to injury, and so far doesn’t look to have rediscovered that blistering form with a disappointing 29th at the Olympics. Is likely to be slightly of the pace.

Last three time trial performances
Eneco Tour stage 6: 6th, 20 secs behind Svein Tuft (August)
Olympic Games Time Trial: 29th, 5-28 behind Bradley Wiggins (August)
Tour de France stage 9: 5th, 1-24 behind Bradley Wiggins (August)

Related links

Road World Championships 2012: Coverage index