Richmond offers up a relatively simple course to decide the 2015 Individual Time Trial World Champion, laying down the foundations for a race built upon power and speed, though a hard finish will ensure nobody slinks across the line having not sunk deep into the lactic acid. This 53km long course is certain to catch many of the thoroughbred time trialists here by surprise, off the back of a season which has lacked opportunities to test themselves over similar courses and distances at the very top level.
With wide boulevards marking the way throughout the race, riders will not require any great technical nous to negotiate tight bends or tricky descent, instead finding themselves able to focus intently upon both power and aerodynamics. The course itself does roll gently throughout, extended hills appearing on occasion, but it is the run into home which will require the greatest focus and effort of all. The last 2km lead downwards to a turn which places the riders onto the opening ramps of the 300m ascent of Governor Street, this relatively short ascent is extended by a close to 700m false flat which pushes right the way up to the line.
Ultimately, though the course is a mixed bag, it comprises two relatively contrasting halves; opening with the majority of the rolling terrain and concluding with a more technical second half which includes the tougher ascent of Governor Street. As mentioned, the two deciding factors here are bound to be power and aerodynamic position, with less of a focus upon power-to-weight ratio, those who can keep low to the bike and churn over a big gear steadily are favourites to emerge in the battle for a medal.
Tony Martin finds himself faced with an opportunity to regain his rainbow bands once again, but on this occasion lacking his greatest adversaries in the shape of Bradley Wiggins (who will not defend his title) and Fabian Cancellara. The German powerhouse however is not in the same pomp which once secured him the World title and could even struggle to impose himself upon the emerging leading lights of the time trial discipline. This year has not seen a wealth of victories against the clock to be forthcoming, failing to contest anything close to this distance at all this season; his national title competition being the most similar (like for many entering today). Despite crashing out of Le Tour de France while in yellow this summer and briefly suffering a viral setback shortly after his return, Martin should arrive here considerably fresher than several of his nearest rivals. The fact that this course allows him the chance to lay down sustained high power output will certainly play to his strengths, but it is the last 2km which will test him the most it seems. Though on paper he is not the same man who won this title a couple of years ago, if he summons up his best, the German will yet again be the man to topple in pursuit of victory.
Tom Dumoulin was the favourite of many to win this competition ahead of his performance at La Vuelta a España, but the efforts which he invested up to the penultimate day in an attempt to defend the leader’s jersey in Spain, will have no doubt left their mark upon the Dutchman heading into today’s race. He has however dominated the time trialing scene of the WorldTour in 2015, cementing his position as one of the strongest amongst the peloton against the clock. The course itself has caught several by surprise during the opening few contests, hinting at a tougher route which will favour Dumoulin’s strength. If he is not burnt out after his swashbuckling exploits in Spain, and can also take advantage when the terrain swings to his favour instead of Martin’s, he could force a tighter contest than anticipated here.
Rohan Dennis appears to have built his condition perfectly ahead of a convincing tilt at winning the rainbow bands this year. The Australian has made no secret of his intentions surrounding the contest, but he does perhaps lack a convincing depth of results at similar distances to confirm him as a gold medal contender. In fact, Dennis has never displayed a convincing aptitude for these long affairs and instead has a history of dominating prologues and short time trials which allow him to focus upon getting the power out, regardless of the consequence. Of all the riders billed as favourites for today, Dennis is the one most likely to see his predicted level increase on the day as a consequence of the preparation which he has focused upon ahead of the contest in question, though it remains to be seen if this will be enough to dispel the question marks surrounding him.
Taylor Phinney is America’s best chance of a medal in both the men’s road race and the individual time trial, an incredible thought given his recent upheaval. It is easy to imagine him entering this as the favourite had he enjoyed an injury free season’s worth of racing, such is his innate level of talent. Instead, the recent longterm layoff from the sport has left him earmarked as one of the biggest dark horses for a medal in Richmond. His return has not been one of active recovery since rejoining the peloton, instead he has arrived at a competitive level which has already won him a stage of the USA Pro Challenge and a gold medal as part of the BMC Team Time Trial squad which defended their rainbow bands last weekend. If there is one rider present on the entire start-list who is most likely to execute a spectacular rider, seemingly out of nowhere, it is the indomitable Taylor Phinney.
Vasil Kiryienka has been one of the most consistent competitors at the World Individual Time Trial Championship in recent years, outlining him as a serious contender for a podium spot once again. The Belarusian Sky rider possesses a reputation within the peloton for superhuman strength which sees him churning over Alpine passes in the big ring from bottom to top. This level of strength can only breed the necessary brute force required to nullify the lumps and bumps present on this course, utilising the final week of La Vuelta a España as a springboard into this race for the last three years. His condition as a result has been impressive thanks to this technique, leaving no reason to question whether or not this plan will work once again in 2015. Such is Kiryienka’s depth of talent, it seems he is able to medal on courses varying from the pan flat, to the steep roads which allow him to demonstrate his mountain climbing prowess upon; the possibility of that medal being gold however is not clear.
Alex Dowsett no doubt possesses the greatest education against the clock, the Essex rider grew up amongst Britain’s obsession with time trialling and is naturally gifted in this discipline to an incredible degree. However, despite having demonstrated this ability, his results in the WorldTour have never been consistent; a Giro d’Italia stage win when beating Bradley Wiggins his greatest success thus far on the road. However, he is the reigning Commonwealth Games Champion and showed his class when setting the official hour record earlier in the year too. The course appeals immensely to Dowsett, its blend of rolling terrain, smooth boulevards and moderately technical finale suit him particularly well and he cannot be ruled out from finally living up to expectation with the rainbow bands at stake.
Jurgen Van Den Broeck peculiarly decided that today’s race was to be his biggest goal for the entire season, switching tact from middling general classification hopeful and instead knuckling down to nail his time trialling efforts. His performances this year have been relatively consistent, often securing him a position inside the top ten at some major races. The solitary win this year against the clock came at his national competition, though he was not far off the pace when finishing fourth on a testing lumpy stage at this year’s Tour de Romandie. Factoring his seventh place on Stage 14 of this year’s Giro d’Italia, which was contested upon an almost 60km route, the Belgian remains an interesting prospect to monitor if nothing else.
Adriano Malori maintained all season that this was his major goal for the year, but it is difficult to see the Italian who is often a dominant on shorter courses, realistically challenging for medals in Richmond. Last year saw him secure a sixth place finish and he certainly has the talent to match many of his rivals here in terms of speed and power. However, much like Rohan Dennis, he has never done anything convincing over this sort of distance and subsequently looks to have the odds stacked against him to earn a medal.
Rasmus Quaade truly is an outsider to feature in the shake up for the medals, but the Dane genuinely has the talent and history to rise to the challenge at the World Championships. Last year he finished thirteenth in the competition on a course which failed to play to his strengths, whereas today’s is somewhat more suitable for the Cult Energy Pro Cycling rider. He finished fifth at this year’s European Games time trial over a 51.6km course and has a silver medal at this event as an under-23 rider, both sound indicators of the sort of level which he can compete at; there is nothing to say he cannot improve yet again here.
1st Rohan Dennis 2nd Tony Martin 3rd Vasil Kiryienka
Outsiders: Taylor Phinney & Rasmus Quaade