Monday, September 23, 2013

World Championship - Time Trial Preview & Favorites

Tony Martin got the best possible start to this year’s World Championship when he and Omega Pharma Quickstep won the opening team time trial last Sunday. Now it’s time for the individual time trial and just like the last two years, the strong German is the top favorite.

Except for a slightly different finish, the course is the same as for the team time trial. It’s a power course for the big engines and basically it’s all about speed. The small hill in the beginning won’t matter much as the following 50 km are flat. Only the final few kilometers inside of Florence are technical but the riders doing the team time trial already know how to take the corners without losing time.

Half a year ago, I had no doubts Tony Martin would win this race and take his third consecutive World Champion title. However, I must admit Bradley Wiggins has been extremely strong recently. Both Martin and Wiggins are best on a course like this one and I think it will be a close fight. Still, I’ll stick with Tony Martin as my number one favorite. He’s been training on the course, he did the team time trial and he knows how to take the tricky corners in Florence. According to the German, he’s in better shape than last year and he feels more prepared. He got a massive motivation boost when OPQS won the team time trial and he’s now very confident.

While Tony Martin has had the same approach towards the time trials within the last handful of years, Bradley Wiggins' focus has changed completely. He went from being a time trial specialist to winning the Tour de France. In this process, Wiggins lost a lot of weight and he had to comprise his time trial training. After his failed attempt to win the Giro d’Italia this year, Wiggins now seems to have given up on winning another Grand Tour. He’s now 7-8 kg heavier than when he won the Tour and since June, he’s only been focusing on his time trial. In his comeback race after the Giro, Bradley Wiggins won the 37 km time trial in Tour of Poland when he distanced Fabian Cancellara and Taylor Phinney with a minute.  Last week he won the short time trial in Tour of Britain without any problems and according to Wiggins, he too feels a lot better than last year. In 2012, Wiggins won the Olympic time trial just 10 days after winning the Tour de France. This time the World Champion time trial comes just three days after Tour of Britain. It will be very interesting to see if it’s enough time for Wiggins to switch focus and beat Tony Martin. Personally, I doubt it.

According to the bookmakers, Fabian Cancellara will take the bronze medal this Wednesday. The way I see it, Cancellara is a strong candidate but riders like Taylor Phinney and Adrian Malori have a solid chance of making podium as well. As stated in my preview for the team time trial, Fabian Cancellara’s main focus in on the road race on Sunday. No other top favorites are doing all three races and if Cancellara wants to win on Sunday, it may not be the best idea to test his limits on a course like this and take risks in the tricky corners. Cancellara has worked hard to get better on the climbs, we saw that in Vuelta España, and it means he has lost some speed on the long flat parts. He’s still among the very best in the world but against Tony Martin and Bradley Wiggins, I honestly can’t see him win.

Last year Taylor Phinney did the time trial of his life when he finished second to Tony Martin. Phinney was only six seconds from beating Tony Martin and becoming World Champion and now he’s out for revenge. He lives near the course and knows it like the back of his hand. Every time Phinney is out training on his time trial bike, he’s riding on part of the course and I doubt any of the riders starting tomorrow knows it better than he does. BMC had big ambitions for the team time trial but failed to live up their own expectations. They finished fourth and Taylor Phinney didn’t hide his disappointment. Wednesday the young American has another chance to show his potential and personally, I have Phinney down for a spot on the final podium.

The Italians haven’t had much to cheer for in the time trials for a while. Marco Pinotti was on his way to medal last year but then crashed in the final. Right now Adriano Malori is the Italians best hope and on a good day, he could surprise and make podium. Malori is getting better and better every year and this season, he has been very close to Tony Martin a couple of times. In Tirreno-Adriatico, Malori finished second in the final time trial, just six seconds after Martin. In time trial in Tour de Romandie, Malori finished second again this time 16 seconds after Tony Martin. It’s worth noticing that in this time trial Malori put in 18 seconds on the overall winner Chris Froome. The time trial in Florence is obviously a big goal for Adriano Malori and he’s been working hard in order to deliver a top performance this Wednesday. He knows the competition is fierce but if some of the other candidates strike out, Malori will be ready to take advantage of the situation.

The five mentioned riders are also the five riders starting last. For the complete starting order click here.

Among the super jokers for a medal we'll find riders like the Vacansoleil-DCM duo Thomas De Gendt and Lieuwe Westra. In the Tour de France this year, De Gendt started right before Tony Martin. The strong Belgian had never been overtaken in a time trial before and he was eager to not to change that fact. Fighting to keep Tony Martin behind him, Thomas De Gendt put in such a strong performance that he finished third on the stage. This time, his teammate Lieuwe Westra is starting right after De Gendt. Westra isn't on the same level as Tony Martin, but I still expect him to do Top10 this Wednesday. In fact, Lieuwe Westra says that being the first to catch Thomas De Gendt in a time trial is an extra motivation for him. It will be interesting to see how the two - soon to be - former teammates will perform against each other.

For live coverage of the team time trial go to


  1. Vacansoleil DS Aart Vierhouten yesterday said that De Gendt is not in his best shape. Westra told the Dutch press he was feeling really strong and is ready for wednesday. So I hope for Westra! :)

    When the TTT was on tv, one could easily notice that Cancellara lost much weigth... I think he misses just that little bit of superpower that you need on this course. But he is ready for sunday, that's for sure!

  2. Oh snap, you said the exact same, more or less :)

  3. Great preview as always! Thanks!

    Its certainly gonna be very exciting. I think you couldnt have put it better, regarding Martin, Wiggins and Cancellara. The only doubt I have concerning Martin is, why was he second, behind Spartacus in Tarazona, Vuelta TT? Was it because Cancellara was so much stronger on the ascent (it was up and down course) or because Martin didnt have it yet after his crash in the tdf?

    Wiggins - a big threat, after his special and focused preparations for one specific event - and we all know how determined he is in that.

    Another thing about Cancellara, that I dont completely agree with you, Mikkel; he is the only big fav.thats doing all three races and i can't help but noticing the doubt you are stressing about his total dedication to the TT in order to save his energy for sunday (i hope i didnt misunderstand you). I would say the opposite - he will dig in properly in the TT, without calculation, and perhaps knowing the other two are stronger, he will at least try to secure a bronze (silver?) TT medal in case he comes out short on sunday (spaniards from mendrisio 2009 could happen to him again this year :) ). I can't imagine him going to the worlds TT and coming out fifth.

    I appologize for being so long.

    Cant stand waiting!


  4. I agree with Rok when it comes to deal with the fact that Cancellara has beaten Martin just two weaks ago in Vuelta's TT. To neglect it may lead to a misplaced preview of what is to happen tomorrow.
    Secondly, I also feel that Cancellara would be the last athlete to engage on such a competition holding something back and going to the road doing any kind of calculations. As for his leaner look that Teundewit is pointing out, there is just no evidence whatsoever that his maximum power output might be reduced by that reason. What is obvious by now is that he has been loosing some fat and that has nothing to do with decreased power/velocity.
    If Martin or Wiggins are to win the championship, it will be because one of them is simply the best on that ocasion, either for having trained more specifically for the event or just because he had a 100% day.

    Filipe Lima

  5. Cancellara can definitely climb better compared to Tony Martin, hence the victory at Vuelta's TT.. However, the much flatter profile tomoro suits Tony Martin better.

  6. Wiggins has more speed on a flat track and similar endurance along with his current excellent conditioning - he's your winner.

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