Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Olympic Preview - The Time Trial

Mark Cavendish and Team GB failed, despite a strong performance, to take a medal in the Olympic road race and therefore it's now last chance for the home soil favorites. 

Fortunately the chances are also pretty good. Because if Mark Cavendish was the big favorite for the road race (and he was!), Bradley Wiggins is an even bigger favorite for the time trial.

If you think this time trial will be like the first one in the Tour de France you better think twice and keep your money in the pocket. With a total 'climbing' of just 125 meters this 44 km time trial it's really just a basic, flat one suited for the riders with a big engine. With only a few tricky corners and a tiny 'hilly' section on Seven Hills Road, riders like Tony Martin and Fabian Cancellara would have had a medal waiting with their name on if it hadn't been for their recent crashes. 

One could argue that Chris Froome would be a good candidate for this time trial after his outstanding performances in the Tour, but asked by me about his chances Froome says that the course is too flat for him. "It's one for the the real time trial specialists, but of course I'll give it my all", he explains.

German Tony Martin
World Champion.
Tony Martin had a terrible crash earlier this year, when he got hit by a car, but still managed to come back and get ready in time for the Tour de France. In the prologue he was on his way to a super fast time but punctured in the final and saw his chances of a top spot disappear. Martin then changed his focus to the long time trial on stage 9 but crashed again the very next day causing a fractured scaphoid bone in his hand. Once again he managed to get ready (more or less) for the time trial but just like in the prologue he punctured and lost time to the best riders. Tony Martin withdrew from the Tour after the time trial and has ever since been spending all his time and energy on getting ready for this Olympic Time Trial - a major goal for Martin this season.

In the road race Tony Martin was the only other rider helping Team GB in chasing the breaks but after a great effort in the front of the peloton - where he could stay out of troubles - Tony Martin withdrew half way through the race in order to get ready for the time trial. Tony Martin is super motivated to win an Olympic medal for Germany and hopes that it will "help making cycling popular again" in his home country. I think this course suits Tony Martin perfectly and if the pain from his hand doesn't affect him too much he could very well be the biggest threat to Bradley Wiggins.

Bradley Wiggins won the silver medal at the World Champions last year.
Now the Brit aims at the Olympic gold!
 And make no mistakes. Anything but an Olympic gold medal will (almost) be a disaster for Bradley Wiggins. It may sounds odd to talk about a disaster for a man who just won the Tour de France, but remember that this is what Wiggins has been working on for so many years;  to win the Tour and Olympic gold. Plus if Wiggins takes home another Olympic medal it will be his career's seventh medal and that is more than any other Brit has ever won. Last year he crashed out of the Tour and quickly changed his focus to a test-run for 2012 by doing Vuelta+World Champs. He ended 3rd overall in the Vuelta and took silver in time trial at the World Champions in Denmark. A pretty good preview for what could happen this year I would say!

Bradley Wiggins and Team Sky won, as planned, the Tour de France and even though Wiggins said he felt some fatigue in the road race (who wouldn't?!), I think it's safe to say that it will be a massive surprise if Bradley Wiggins doesn't win this time trial. At least the way I see it...

As said in the beginning this time trial looks pretty good for Fabian Cancellara as well but after he crashed (hard) out of the Olympic road race I doubt he will be able to be at his best already. Still, this time trial has been his biggest goal of the season and if Cancellara manages to ride through the pain he should take a medal.

The way I see it there is one super strong outsider that you simply must not forget! Sylvain Chavanel has been improving his trial skills quite a lot over the last few years and has shown to be among the best riders in the discipline this year. He beat Contador in the time trial in Tour de San Luis back in January, won in Driedaagse De Panne where (at the moment monster strong) Lieuwe Westra was beaten by four seconds and right before the Tour de France he become French national champions and got fifth in the time trial in Criterium du Dauphiné in front of super time trialists like Chris Froome, David Millar, Cadel Evans etc etc.

Sylvain Chavanel has been among the best in all the time trials this year.
I think you get the picture, but just to make it even clearer Sylvain Chavanel took 3rd place in the Tour prologue and 5th in the long time trial on stage 9. Unfortunately Chavanel got sick during the race and after suffering a few days he decided to quit the race in order toget ready for the Olympic time trial. In the road race last Saturday he showed he was back at his best level and I honestly think that Sylvain Chavanel will be able to take medal Wednesday afternoon.

Gustav Erik Larsson started out this season in a fantastic way for his new team, Vacansoleil-DCM, when he won the opening time trial in Paris-Nice. Unfortunately the Swedish time trial specialist hasn't been able to follow up on that strong performance. In the Giro d'Italia he did well when he took 5th (in the prologue) and 7th (in the final time trial) place, but in the Tour de France he didn't do much. Still Larsson did manage to put in a good performance in the time trial on stage 9, before withdrawing on stage 11 due to back problems. Despite "feeling like shit" the day before the time trial, Larsson finished 21st and even though that might not be such a good result it still showed that the Swede was about to find his legs again.

Gustav Erik Larsson always performs well at the big one day events!
The Olympic time trial has been the biggest goal for Gustav Erik Larsson this season and even though I strongly doubt he will be able to win it you have to remember that Larsson really knows how to peak at the big one day events. I think he will be in mix...

Winner pick: Bradley Wiggins
Top3: Tony Martin
Outsider: Sylvain Chavanel
Joker: Gustav Erik Larsson


  1. Hey Mikkel. Me again :) I posted about the TT yesterday. My name is Daniel. Nice preview of the TT.

    I just wanted to show you an online article that tried to model, and predict, results for the London TT using the Copenhagen World TT for comparispn.

    Here is the site: http://www.cyclingpowermodels.com/OlympicTimeTrial.aspx

    One thing that struck me was the graphs of the profiles for each event. The London TT course looks more like a mountain stage of the TDF when compared to the Copenhagen course!

    Any thoughts on this?

  2. Hi Daniel. I've seen the profile and thought about using it in the preview but I think it cheats the eye a little bit (a lot actually). The ITT in Copenhagen was SUPER FLAT, but even though this one seems to be very hilly, it's really not at all! It will be a super fast time trial for the pure specialists, which is also why a great rider like Chris Froome says it's not really a good one for him.

    Will be interesting to see how it goes though. We should be in for a good race!

  3. Ok, excellent. Personally, I cant see Wiggins losing this...barring a crash...