With the end of the cycling season now upon us, attention has once again turned upon the World Championships and all eyes are on Bergen to discover where each rainbow jersey shall end up this year. Today is the keenly anticipated Men’s Individual Time Trial, featuring a route which should shake things up for the usual favourites when it comes to racing against the clock.
This 31km course comprises two laps and a thrilling uphill battle to the summit finish atop Mount Floyen, making it far from familiar territory for the pure time trial specialist. Such a short course for the world title decider is unusual, but organisers are aiming to make the concluding climb as explosive as possible, thus do not wish to drain the riders entirely before the big finale. Rising almost immediately from the start, the first half of the race is a gently rolling affair which shall offer a chance to settle into a rhythm, though there is a strong possibility many will be caught out by how hilly Bergen is to a degree.
Of course, the second half of the race is focused entirely upon Mount Floyen, where many expect the rainbow jersey to be won or lost by the day’s contenders. Lasting for 3.4km in total, the climb is a significant task to be conquered, though such a title is certainly not intended to be an easy win for the riders. The average gradient of 9.1% is relatively true throughout, though it does tip over 10% for a kilometre, eventually softening to 5.5% for the final push to the line. With no real relief en route to the summit, the frontrunners shall need to measure their concluding effort to perfection, as blowing up on Mount Floyen will see riders haemorrhage time.
Tom Dumoulin sees the dominance of previous time trial champions such as Fabian Cancellara, Bradley Wiggins and Tony Martin come to a close in cycling’s history, with his own rise to prominence potentially marking the beginning of another period of dominance. Having enjoyed a super year of racing, featuring a Giro d’Italia title, the Dutchman arrives in Bergen to finish 2017 with a bang. He has been relatively modest of his chances here, despite being part of the Sunweb squad which secured the team time trial title earlier in the week and having been an indomitable force in this discipline throughout much of the year. With his climbing talents afforded the chance to feature as well today, Tom Dumoulin may deliver a devastating victory atop Mount Floyen.
Chris Froome exited the Vuelta a España in fantastic form and could be the man who pushes Tom Dumoulin right the way to the finish line in pursuit of the rainbow stripes. After a defensively ridden Tour de France, the Team Sky captain performed more aggressively in Spain and has spoken confidently of his form approaching the Bergen time trial. Many of his grand tour victories have been built upon his foundation of time trial talents, with much of his career work being focused on climbing, thus the two merge neatly for Froome today with potentially unmatchable results. He will aim to be in a good position ahead of the concluding climb, hoping that he can give it everything to take a big chunk of time out of his rivals late on.
Primoz Roglic is a rider who has enjoyed a breakthrough year and certainly has the capability to threaten the medal positions in Bergen. However, his form is unclear currently and the course does not suit him quite as well as it could have done. His victories during 2017 have often caught pundits and fans by surprise, making him a dangerous name to rule out entirely of challenging for gold unexpectedly.
Vasil Kiryienka is a former winner of the rainbow jersey and might feel he has a reasonable chance of performing strongly once again on a course such as this. Despite sacrificing himself for much of the season for Team Sky once again, often not showing much in time trials along the way, the Belarusian always seems able to muster a last charge for this special race. His pedigree is certainly not under any scrutiny and he will appreciate this great opportunity to take another title on a fitting course.
Victor Campenaerts took the European time trial title this season and deserves consideration as a medal contender if on his most sparkling form once again. The final rise to the line is somewhat of an issue for the Belgian rider, though he might be able to gain such an advantage in the earlier part of the contest, that he can hope to measure his remaining energy well enough to protect a potential lead.
Others worth considering are Rohan Dennis, Stefan Küng, Maciej Bodnar and Jonathan Castroviejo.
1st Tom Dumoulin 2nd Chris Froome 3rd Vasil Kiryienka