A reduced schedule of riders will contest 2016’s Olympic Individual Time Trial after a crash strewn road race last weekend left several nursing road rash and broken bones. The 54.6km course which is set to decide 2016’s gold medal winner mostly comprises two laps of the Grumari / Grota Funda ascents, bookended by two relatively simple flat sections at the start and finish. Riders will face the Grumari first, a 1.3km climb which averages 9.4% and features a leg-breaking ramp of double-digits which strikes a dizzying 24% before the top. The Grota Funda is longer at 2.1km, but its average gradient of 6.8% is a much more consistent affair which only briefly touches 10% towards the summit. These two ascents are then repeated, before a final ride down to the coastline will allow many to lay down the final watts ahead of the finish line.
Chris Froome crushed his opposition against the clock at this year’s Tour de France at each time of asking and arrives here as the favourite for many to perform best on a course which leans in favour of those comfortable with climbing. It is unlikely that he shall be at his absolute best for this race, but that is likely to still be enough to earmark Froome as a potential medalist in Rio.
Tom Dumoulin seemed destined to walk away with gold today from the start of the season, but a seemingly innocuous crash late in this year’s Tour de France inflicted a broken wrist and thus raised huge doubts as to whether the Dutchman would even compete. This mixed course of power flats and steep climbs is ideal terrain for Dumoulin and it is difficult to see anyone as well suited to this as the peloton’s leading time trial specialist. The greatest concern is obviously his recovery from the broken wrist, a factor which could become more problematic as the strain of this 54.6km race takes its toll on the demanding aerodynamic position required here.
Vasil Kiryienka is the reigning World Champion of this discipline and has a well documented history of peaking perfectly for major occasions. The Belarusian rider may not have impressed a great deal this year, but his commitment to the orders of Team Sky and his race leaders often limits his efforts when it comes to these contests. Today however is a totally different story, Kiryienka provided the freedom in Rio to demonstrate why he is the current World Champion.
Rohan Dennis has long focused upon performing well at Rio and appears to have enjoyed a relatively neat lead up to this race. Dennis performs well on this type of contrasting profile, giving him the opportunity to lay down the power at each end, while showcasing his climbing prowess during the larger mid-sections. He may be viewed as somewhat of an outsider, but given his incredible intentions to peak for today, it would be foolish to think he cannot cause an upset.
Fabian Cancellara‘s farewell season has done little to shine the kind of glory upon the Swiss legend we have grown accustomed to before he hangs up his wheels for life. He is another rider who specialises in reaching peak condition for a single day in the calendar, with this being one of the few remaining chances of major honours in his career, there is no doubt that he will have invested the utmost in challenging for a medal in Rio. The climbs are tough in places, though their short length will encourage him to pace the ascents and focus upon gaining the maximum amount of time during the downhill segues into the flat sections.
Tony Martin is well deserving of a mention here, even though there has been little evidence to suggest backing him to victory at the expense of all highlighted above. The German time trial specialist is no longer the dominant force he once was, yet he has maintained that Olympic gold is still a great ambition of his in 2016. Martin has improved his climbing ability year on year, without having to concede a great deal of engine power to do so, equipping him with a perfect set of skills to perform well today.
Other names who could all cause a stir at the top of the classification by the end of the race include; Taylor Phinney, Ion Izagirre, Jonathan Castroviejo, Geraint Thomas and Nelson Oliveira.
1st Vasil Kiryienka 2nd Chris Froome 3rd Tom Dumoulin