The two best time trialists of the season, Fabian Cancellara and Bradley Wiggins are not taking part in the World Champions this year that means we could see some surprising names on the final podium Wednesday afternoon. Still, last year’s World Champion Tony Martin is here and together with Vuelta España winner Alberto Contador he is one of the big favorites.
The course last year in Copenhagen was perfect for Tony Martin without any hills and with plenty of parts where he could get his big engine going. This year the course is completely different with nasty hills and many turns. According to home soil favorite Lieuwe Westra the longest straight out part of the total 45,7 km is about 4,5 km while the rest is a couple of hundred meters before turning left and another couple of hundred meters before turning right. It’s a course for riders with good bike handling skills and I think the many turns and the undulating route will make it hard for Tony Martin to repeat his win from last year. I’m not saying he is not going to win, I’m just saying it will be very tough to pull it off.
My personal winner pick for the gold medal is Alberto Contador. The Vuelta was hard - no doubts - but he should be able to recover well and do a great race already. Before Contador got his ban, the Olympic time trial was a big goal for him this season and looking at the two courses I would say this one suits Contador even better. He finished 2nd after Fredrik Kessiakoff without taking big risk on the descent towards the finish line. Contador had best time at the check point and if it had been a time trial for the overall win in the Vuelta I’m sure he would have won too.
Earlier this year I picked Lieuwe Westra as joker for the World Champion time trial and after his insane time trial in Post Danmark Rundt (where he beat Geraint Thomas with 19 seconds over just 14,5 km) I would say he seems ready. Normally Westra is better in the short time trials but on home soil and with the hills in his favor I think he will be able to get a very good result. It won’t be easy getting on the podium, but I think he can do it on a good day.
Another outsider for the podium is Tejay van Garderen. In the team time trial TJ went so fast over Cauberg that Phinney couldn’t follow and that probably cost BMC the win. Both Phinney and TJ have high hopes for this time trial but I think TJ has the best chance of a medal - mainly because of the hills. It also depends on the weather. A strong tail wind will minimize the influence of the hills and that would mean Taylor Phinney finally could step up on the podium after his two 4th places at the Olympics. Both Americans have a good chance, but I’ll go with Westra and TJ as my podium jokers.
Winner pick: Alberto Contador
Jokers: Lieuwe Westra & Tejay van Garderen