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Will Tom Dumoulin overcome his wrist injury to win gold in Rio?

Photo: Sirotti
10.08.2016 @ 11:03 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

The individual time trial may always have been a key discipline in professional cycling but in an Olympic contest, it is a relatively new event. However, like most other Olympic events, it features high on the list of priorities for the biggest specialists in the world who have all made the race in Rio one of their biggest goals of the season. On Wednesday, the entire elite will battle it out for the prestigious medals in one of the most highly anticipated time trials of this century and on a brutal course that will put the big engines at a disadvantage compared to the versatile stage race specialists.


The Olympics have a mythical status in most sports but for some reason it has been slightly different in road cycling. While it is the pinnacle event for most disciplines, the magnitude of the Tour de France and the classics and the fact that a victory gives no distinctive jersey have all contributed to the fact that the Olympic road race has played less of a role in the sport of cycling. Furthermore, the fact that only amateurs were allowed in the Olympic events until 1996 gave the event a position far down the hierarchy.


It hasn’t been the same in the other cycling disciplines. Track cycling has no big event like the Tour and for riders that excel on the boards, the Olympics are the absolute highlight. The same goes for mountain bike and BMX which are relatively new disciplines in the Olympic portfolio.


However, things have gradually changed since professional riders became eligible for the event and nowadays road riders pay more attention to the Olympics than they have traditionally done. Every fourth year, the battle for the prestigious gold medal now features close to the top of the list for every rider with a realistic chance on the course that the host city has designed. Even in 2016 when the route in Rio is tailor-made for Tour de France contenders, most of the climbers and GC riders have put the Brazilian event almost on par with the Tour when they planned their 2016 season.


The slightly less glorious prestige compared to other sports is not for a lack of history. In fact, the road race is one of the few events that have been on the schedule for every Olympic Games since 1896 and so it dates back longer than the Tour and most of the classics. Greek rider Aristidis Konstantinidis became the first gold medallist but it wasn’t until 1912 that the sport was back on the calendar. That year it returned as a team and individual time trial and it stayed that way until 1928 when the road race returned, both in an individual and team format. The team race was replaced by a team time trial for the 1960 Games and those two disciplines formed the road programme until things changed for the 1996 Games in Atlanta. The team time trial was replaced by an individual race against the clock and since then the two key disciplines of road cycling have offered the two gold medals in road cycling at the Olympics. Track cycling was introduced in 1988, mountain biking was added to the schedule in 1996 and BMX is the newest Olympic cycling discipline, having made its debut in 2008.


If one combines all cycling disciplines for both genders, it is no surprise that the medal table is topped by those of cycling’s traditional key countries that have been strong on both the road and the track. France tops the table with 89 medals, Italy are second with 57 and Great Britain round out the top 3 with 75 medals but fewer golds than their Italian rivals. The top 5 is completed by the Netherlands and the USAA while powerhouses like Belgium and Spain that are mostly focused on the road, find themselves down in 10th and 12th respectively.


Individual time trialling has always been a key discipline in road cycling but apart from its short stint on the schedule almost 100 years ago, it has not been an Olympic event. The International Olympic Committee carefully decides which disciplines deserve to be included in the event and they are very keen on not making the schedule too heavy. Hence, it has never been easy for anyone to get the ultimate honour of being become an Olympic discipline and it wasn’t until the team time trial was abandoned that the door was opened for the ITT.


The time trial was added to the Olympics in 1996 when the door was also opened to professional riders and this has given the event a different status than the road race. While the main event suffered from a lack of prestige, the time trial was a huge event right from the first edition where Miguel Indurain ended his career on a high by claiming an Olympic goal. Since then, it has been a massive objective for all the best time triallists that have usually dedicated their entire season to the unique chance of becoming an Olympic medallist.


Nonetheless, the event has had its fair share of surprise winners. After Indurain’s expected win in 1996, no one had expected Viacheslav Ekimov to come out on top in 2000. The Russian repeated the performance four years later after Tyler Hamilton had been disqualified and so stands out as the best Olympic time triallist ever despite never having been regarded as one of the best in the more traditional races. Things returned to normal for the 2008 and 2012 events which were both won by the biggest favourites, with Fabian Cancellara winning on the hilly course in Beijing and Bradley Wiggins taking a popular home win in London.


This year it is no different. Tony Martin, Tom Dumoulin, Rohan Dennis and Fabian Cancellara are widely regarded as the four biggest specialists in the world and they have all made the race in Rio their number one goal for 2016. Dumoulin has put all grand tour ambitions on hold for a year to focus fully on the Olympics, Martin has been talking about this event ever since his disappointing silver medal in 2012, Dennis has dedicated his entire season for this goal and Cancellara skipped a final chance to ride on the Champs-Elysees to make sure that he is at 100% for the TT in Rio.


Other specialists have put a similar focus on the race. The hilly course in Rio is by no means suited to heavy guys like Taylor Phinney, Alex Dowsett and Adriano Malori but they were all prepared to do everything possible to improve their climbing just to have a shot at a medal in Rio. The American has barely raced all year to be fully ready but the efforts didn’t pay off for the Brit who failed to get the only British spot in the race. Malori never got far in his preparations as he crashed badly in January and is still recovering from his injuries. However, it speaks volumes about the magnitude of the event that they were ready to put in such a dedicated effort just to have an outside shot at the medal.


To the list of time trial specialists, one can add a string of grand tour contenders and stage race specialists. The hilly route in Rio di Janeiro is better suited to riders that can climb than to big engines and this has made it a busy summer for those of the GC riders that can time trial. With the heavy course for the road race also tailor-made for climbers, riders like Richie Porte, Chris Froome and Thibaut Pinot all went into the season with the ambitious goal of going for the treble: the Tour, the road race and the time trial. This has been a difficult burden to handle and it has been very hard to find the right balance in the preparation. However, it is another testament to the importance of the event that some of the biggest Tour de France favourites have been willing to go all in for Rio just weeks after the Tour which is usually unrivalled in the cycling world.


However, an Olympic and a Worlds time trial is always very different compared to most of the TTs that the riders do during a year. Almost all of them come in stage races where the issue of recovery can play a big role. At the same time, distances in time trials have generally been shortened in the last few years and this make the TTs at the big championships very unique. A time trial where everyone is 100% is generally much different from a grand tour TT where the better recovery of the GC riders give them a big advantage compared to the specialists.


Another aspect that characterizes the big championships is the diversity of the courses. In some years, the routes are flat and suited to one kind of riders, in other years they are hilly. Like any other aspect of road cycling, time trialling depends a lot on the terrain and every strong time triallist should at least get one chance to go for gold during a career. In London, the course was one for the big engines but in Beijing it was a hilly route for climbers. This year it will again be a day for the more versatile rider as there is a pretty big amount of climbing on the menu.


When the race last took place in 2012, Bradley Wiggins and Tony Martin went into the race as the two big favourites. Coming straight from a maiden British Tour win, Wiggins turned out to be in a class of his own as he beat Martin by 42 seconds on the flat course in London. The German was hugely disappointed to miss out on his big goal after a crash in the Tour had destroyed his preparations. Chris Froome made it a memorable day for the home nation as he claimed bronze, 1.08 behind his compatriot, and so the two arch-rivals stood next to each other on a major podium less than two weeks after their successful 1-2 at the Tour. With a focus now on the track, Wiggins won’t defend his title but Froome and Martin will both be back in an attempt to get that elusive gold medal.


The course

As it was the case for the road race, there has been much talk about the course for the time trial. The long distance has from the European centre of the cycling world to Brazil means that only a select few have had a chance to take a look at the challenge in Rio and there have been different opinions about its toughness. With two tough climbs, it has always been evident that it is a completely different route than the flat one in London but for most of the past 12 months, there has been a lot of discussion about how the specialists will handle the two ascents that will be tackled twice.


With the need to acclimatize to the time zone, all riders have of course arrived early and they have all had time to check a look at the route in recent days. With the rules mandating participation in the road race, they have even all had the chance to test it out in a race even though many of the big favourites preferred to abandon early to save energy for Wednesday’s battle. In fact, the race will be held on a route that formed a big part of Saturday’s big battle for the first medals.


The race will be held over a typical championships TT distance of 54.56km and will mainly consist of two laps of the Grumari circuit which was covered four times in the first part of the road race. From the start, the riders will follow the flat coastal road for 2.58km before they get to the 24.72km circuit that they will do twice. The first part is largely flat and follows the lumpy coastal road that even includes a small section of cobbles. This section created chaos in the road race but a strip has been paved for the time trial which means that the riders should be able to avoid the rough surface.


Then they will head inland to go up the Grumari climb which averages 9.4% over 1.3km. The first 600m are easy at 3-5% but then a very steep section with double-digit gradient follows, peaking at 24.1%. The climb levels out near the top.


After the climb, it’s back onto flat roads before the riders hit the Grota Funda climb which averages 6.8% over 2.13km. It is much more regular than the first climb as it only briefly touches 10% and only eases off slightly at the midpoint. From there, the riders will descend to the coast to complete the circuit before they do it all again for a second time. The circuit has some technical sections on the climbs and descents but there is also a long, flat power section along the coast where there are no major turns


After the end of the second lap, the riders will follow the flat coastal road for 2.44km to get back to the start-finish area. There will only be some sweeping turns in the final 3km which are completely flat.


The time checks will be taken at the top of both climbs.




The weather

In the build-up to Rio, one of the key topics of discussions has been how to best handle the hot conditions that the riders were expected to face in Brazil. The heat was definitely an issue in the road race but for the time trial, it will be a completely different challenge that will take the attention.


Wednesday is forecasted to be a rainy day as there is a 50% chance of rain all day. In total, 5mm of rain are forecasted. There will be a bit of sunshine too and the maximum temperature will only be 24 degrees which is much less than most had expected.


There will be a moderate wind form a southwesterly direction which means that the riders will have a cross-headwind in the coastal section and mainly a cross-tailwind and tailwind in the hilly section. The wind will pick up slightly as the day goes on and this could be a slight advantage for the early starters.


The favourites

Rarely has a time trial been as highly anticipated as the battle for Olympic gold in Rio. As said, all the biggest specialists have made it one of their biggest goals for the season and most of them have fully dedicate the year to being at 100% for the 54.5km in Brazil. For Tom Dumoulin, Rohan Dennis and Tony Martin, 2016 has been all about Rio, Fabian Cancellara left his final Tour early to give it a real shot and Chris Froome has done very little racing all year to be able to go for gold just weeks after the Tour de France.


The situation is a bit like it was at the 2013 Worlds. Back then, the time trial in Florence was seen as the ultimate test of time trialling ability as the three giants Tony Martin, Bradley Wiggins and Fabian Cancellara were all there at 100% of their abilities. However, the course for that race was markedly different from the one in Rio. Back then, it was made up of long, flat straights and it was regarded as the ultimate test for the biggest engines. In Brazil, the course is a lot more diverse and this opens the door for more riders and makes the outcome much more unpredictable. During the last 12 months, there has been a huge discussion about the difficulty of the course. Will the big engines be able to limit their losses on the climbs? And are the climbs hard enough for Chris Froome to match the real specialists?


Unfortunately, it seems that we will have to deal with an unexpected joker. Everybody has been preparing themselves for hot conditions but now it seems that we may get some rain. As some of the descents can be a bit tricky, it will be a clear disadvantage to tackle the course in wet conditions and so a shower can completely change the outcome. At the moments, there is a constant 50% chance of rain so it is impossible to predict when and if the roads will be wet. That could turn the race into a bit more of a lottery and if the conditions change dramatically during the day, it could produce a surprise winner. As no one can predict the exact conditions for each of the riders, we will base this preview on the assumption that they will all do the race under the same circumstances.


At the start of the year, many expected the time trial to be a battle between Tom Dumoulin and Tony Martin, with Rohan Dennis and Chris Froome looming as strong outsiders. However, things have changed dramatically during the season as the hierarchy has been turned upside down. Martin has been far from his best and as it was always going to be on the limit for him on this course, the German is now more of an outsider than a real favourite. At the same time, Froome has returned to his former TT level after a couple of meagre years and the Brit has firmly established himself as one of the leading time triallists on a course like this.


The Tour de France offered two time trials which were both held on hilly courses. The second TT was almost a mountain time trial so it can’t be used too much as a gauge for Rio but the first one is an excellent indication. All the leading contenders were present for that TT and the course had the right mix of climbing, descending and flats to make it comparable to the race in Rio.


However, it is important to remember that there is a massive difference between a grand tour TT and a time trial at a major championship event. In Rio, there will be no question about the ability to recover as everybody will be fresh and so the stage race riders are generally at a disadvantage in these events. Furthermore, the riders had different ambitions for the road race where Martin, Dennis and Dumoulin abandoned early while Froome rode full gas in an attempt to win the race.


In the two Tour de France time trials, Dumoulin and Froome occupied the two top spots, with the Dutchman winning the first battle and the Brit coming out on top in the second one. Based on those results and knowing that the course in Rio is very hard, it is obvious that those two riders stand out as the major favourites and it is likely that the race will come down to another duel between the pair.


When he rode to a dominant win in the first Tour TT, Tom Dumoulin firmly established himself as the number 1 favourite for the gold medal and he openly admitted that he had to carry the favourite tag. Everything seemed to be on track for the Dutchman whose stage win in Andorra and second place in the mountain time trial were just further indications that he had timed his form for his main goal perfectly. All year, the Rio time trial has been his overwhelming goal and he has postponed all his grand tour ambitions for another year to make sure that he is at 100% for the TT in Rio. He has still achieved a remarkable amount of success, winning stages in both the Giro and the Tour, but he has avoided all the traps that could compromise his performance in Rio.


Dumoulin had a low-key start to the year and then had a first big goal at the opening time trial at the Giro which he won with a tiny margin. He briefly tried to ride for GC but unsurprisingly the lack of altitude training made it impossible for him to compete with the best on the climbs. A saddle sore forced him to abandon and then a stint at altitude set him up for his successful Tour.


Unfortunately, his preparations have been seriously compromised at the worst possible time. One day after his good performance in the final TT, Dumoulin crashed out of the Tour and was left with a broken wrist. It briefly looked like he was out of the event in Rio, especially as he made it clear that he would only go there if he was in medal contention. Luckily, he was back on his bike almost immediately and he even did a criterium before he headed to Brazil.


Dumoulin abandoned the road race almost immediately to avoid any risks. That makes it hard to gauge how he is really doing. He claims that his form is just as good as it would have been without the accident but he also admits that he is in a lot of pain when he rides. His problems are worst on the climbs and the descents where his injured wrist has a significant impact on his ability to handle his bike. In recent days, he has expressed more concerns as he has not yet made a real test of his wrist on a descent.


If he had not had his accident, we would have made Dumoulin the big favourite but now we expect a much closer fight. However, we still regard the Dutchman as the likely winner of the race. After all, he was in a class of his own in the first Tour de France time trial and he insists that his condition is not any worse than it was back then. His injury could cost him a bit of time on some of the descents but his winning margin in the Tour was so big that he has room to lose a bit of ground in some sections.


Actually, Dumoulin hasn’t been time trialling really well this year. He only won the Giro TT with a very small margin and in the spring he missed out on the victory in races that he should usually have won. However, things really changed at the Tour where he did his first time trials on really hilly courses. Those are the ones that he really prefers and the course in Rio is tailor-made for his characteristics. He likes the mix of climbs and flats as he can gain time on the likes of Martin and Cancellara in the tougher sections while he is much more powerful than Froome on the flats. Furthermore, his bike-handling skills on the descents are excellent. In general, he is by far the best time triallist in the world for this kind of mixed course. The injury leaves some doubts but unless it hampers his ability to handle the bike more than expected, Dumoulin should claim a maiden Olympic gold on Wednesday.


His big rival will be Chris Froome. In 2012 and 2013, the Tour de France champion was one of the best time triallists in the world and he excelled on almost every course. He won bronze on the flat course in London and was second behind Wiggins in both time trials at the 2012 Tour. One year later he nearly beat Tony Martin in the flat Tour TT and he won the hilly time trial one week later.


However, something changed after his crash in the 2014 Tour. In the Vuelta later that year, he did a very poor time trial and he didn’t do a single good TT in 2015. Many were at a loss to explain what had happened but it is likely that the lack of time trialling in the 2015 Tour turned his focus more towards climbing. This year the Tour again had a significant amount of time trialling and after a solid TT in Romandie, Froome seemed to be close to his former level in the Tour time trials.


Froome was clearly the best in the mountain time trial in the Alps and he was runner-up in the first time trial. In that stage, he was far better than most of his rivals but he was firmly beaten by Dumoulin who was more than a minute faster than the Brit. That’s a huge gap to close in Rio.


The courses are pretty similar but overall it seems that the route in Rio could favour Dumoulin even more. The climbs are shorter which should suit the explosive Dumoulin, and the descents are more technical which is another advantage for the Dutchman. Furthermore, there are still a significant amount of flat sections and Dumoulin has clearly proved that he is stronger than Froome when it comes to the real power parts.


Furthermore, the fact that the race is a standalone event and not part of a stage race should favour Dumoulin. Froome recovers better than most but this time he can’t benefit from his ability to go hard day in and day out. In fact, his hard ride in the road race should be a disadvantage as Dumoulin barely raced at all and should be fresher than the Brit. Finally, Froome didn’t seem to be at his Tour level in the road race. When he attacked, he dropped everybody so his form is definitely not bad but he was unable to keep it up and was even dropped by Rui Costa. Of course he may have started to think about the TT at that point as he knew that the medal was out of reach but it is hard not to be left with the impression that he is not at 100%.


Nonetheless, Froome is a very serious gold medal candidate. After all, he was Dumoulin’s biggest rival in the Tour and on a course like this, only the Dutchman is probably stronger than the Tour champion. Dumoulin is hampered by his injury and so won’t be at 100%. That could open the door for Froome who will be ready to exploit just the slightest sign of weakness from the big favourite.


Vasil Kiryienka is the reigning world champion and this naturally turns him into one of the favourites. However, the Belarusian still hasn’t been even close to TT win since his triumph in Richmond and he hasn’t really lived up to his status. On the other hand, he hasn’t had many chances to do so. Most of the time trials have been too short for him and in the Tour, he didn’t get the chance to do the TTs at 100% as he had to save energy for his domestique duties.


This makes it hard to know where Kiryienka really is. On one hand, his time trials have been very poor. On the other hand, he has been climbing better than ever and this time trial has been his big personal goal all year. Like most of the specialists, he abandoned the road race very early and this is a clear indication of his desire to do well. He has an excellent track record in the big Championships as he has been in the top 4 at the Worlds every year since 2012. A key reason for this is the distance. Kiryienka is a big diesel engine who excels in the very long time trials and so he should find the course in Rio to his liking. He benefits from the amount of climbing and he always comes out strong from a grand tour. Last year he surprised the entire cycling world in Richmond and he could very well do so again in Rio.


In 2015, Rohan Dennis took the final step into the world time trialling elite. The Australian beat all the stars in the opening Tour de France time trial and a marvelous performance at the USA Pro Challenge made him one of the huge favourites for the time trial at the Worlds. Nothing really worked for him in Richmond and he failed to live up to expectations but the season in general clearly showed that Dennis is now one of the best time triallists in the world.


This year it has been all about Rio for Dennis and he hasn’t really had any other goals. An illness-marred spring meant that he did very little racing in the first part of the year and he only really showed some form at the Tour of California where he demolished the opposition in the time trial. He was still selected for the Tour where he did a great job by riding in the wind for Richie Porte and Tejay van Garderen before his team allowed him to leave the race early to finalize his preparations.


Dennis has proved that he can beat everybody in a time trial and he likes hilly courses like this one as he is a much better climber than most of his fellow specialists. Unlike Dumoulin, he has had great preparation and apart from a small training crash a few days ago, he seems to have had the perfect build-up.


However, there is still a big question mark for Dennis: the distance. While he has beaten the best on short courses, Dennis still hasn’t taken a major win in a really long time trial. In fact, he hasn’t even medaled at the World Championships yet. It usually takes a bit of time for time triallists to mature into real specialists for the long races and Dennis doesn’t seem to have reached that point yet.


On the other hand, Dennis’ first major TT result came at a pretty long time trial at the Dauphiné so he definitely has the capacity. Furthermore, he benefits from the fact that it is a standalone event. He was only fifth in the first Tour de France TT but history shows that he doesn’t recover very well in grand tours. He is much stronger in shorter stage races and so he should be much closer to the best in Rio. As he hasn’t been racing much this year, his form is a bit of a question mark but everything has been focused on this race. Everything indicates that he is on track for a great ride and he has the skills to match the best on both the climbs and the flats. If he can finally show his class over a long distance, Dennis could upset the favourites here.


The only rider to have won a gold medal at the Olympics is Fabian Cancellara who came out on top on the tough course in Beijing. Back then, he was by far the best time triallist in the world but that is no longer the case. In fact, the strong Swiss has flown very much under the radar for this race and he has barely been mentioned among the favourites.


A few weeks ago, Cancellara wou’dn’t have featured high on our list of favourites. He was far from his best form in both the Tour de Suisse and the Tour de France where he failed to win any of the time trials. In fact, he did a very poor first time trial in France and he couldn’t even make it into the top 10.He did nothing to hide that the result was a huge disappointment and when he failed to show much in the stage to Bern, it was evident that he was very tired.


Cancellara left the Tour early to recover for the race in Rio and this is a clear indication of his desire to do well. It was his final chance to ride on the Champs-Elysees but he skipped the final part of the race to go for another Olympic medal. History shows that Cancellara is a master in timing his form and when he turned up for the road race, it looked like he had done it again. Cancellara did a marvelous race, climbing much better than many grand tour specialists and playing a key role in between the final two climbs where he chased hard to try to bring Sebastien Reichenbach into contention.


The performance in the road race has convinced us that Cancellara is on track for a great ride. He may no longer be the dominant force that he once was but he is still one of the very best. It is worth remembering that he has even done some of his best TTs on pretty hard courses in the last few years, most notably when he beat a dominant Martin at the 2013 Vuelta. This year he was flying in the spring and it was only bad luck that prevented the fairytale end to his classics career. Of course the route in Rio is not ideal for a big guy like Cancellara but if he is climbing like he did in the road race, he should be able to do very well. Cancellara could very well claim another Olympic medal in Rio.


Ion Izagirre goes into the race as one of the big outsiders. The Spaniard has been one of the best time triallists for hilly course during the last couple of years and he has barely missed the top 10 in a major hilly time trial. However, the 2016 season has clearly marked another step in his development and now he is no longer just a top 10 contender. Now he is winning the big time trials like he did at the Tour de Suisse where he beat Cancellara on a course that was a bit easier than this one. In general, he has improved his power in flat time trials too and this is what really makes him a contender for the big TTs.


Izagirre was a bit off the pace in the first Tour time trial but that was no big surprise. He was clearly suffering in the second week but he bounced back in the third week where he won the penultimate stage. In general, he clearly came out of the race in great form and since then he has been fully focused on Rio. Unfortunately, his form wasn’t great in the road race and history shows that he doesn’t recover very well from the strains of a three-week race. That raises some questions about his ability to perform in the time trial. Furthermore, the distance could be a challenge as he still needs to prove himself in the very long TTs. However, Izagirre still has to be regarded as one of the favourites for a medal as he is suited to this kind of hilly course and has proved that he can beat everybody if he is on a good day.


In 2012, Tony Martin was the dominant time triallist and he was the big favourite to claim gold in London. Unfortunately, a crash in the Tour meant that he was not at 100% and he had to settle for silver. Since then, the biggest goal in his career has been to get that elusive gold medal but unfortunately he is no longer in the position he was four years ago. Back then, he won almost every time trial he did but that has definitely not been the case in 2015 and 2016. In fact, he has only won one time trial so far in 2016, his National Championships which have traditionally been a walk in the park for the strong German.


All year, Martin has made the TT in Rio his big goal and everything has been focused on Wednesday. Unfortunately, nothing suggests that he has returned to his former level. He was far off the pace in both time trials at the Tour and he was set further back when a knee injury forced him to abandon on the final ceremonial stage.


That has only added to his woes. The hilly course in Rio doesn’t really suit Martin and he knows that. Right from the beginning, he has said that he needs a super day to win the race and he seems to have his eyes more on a medal than the victory. He no longer has any knee pain but of course the injury has had an effect on his preparation. It’s a shame as he seemed to be in great form during the Tour where he climbed really well and in general his climbing has been really good all year. It’s clear that he has worked a lot on that aspect for the race in Rio but it can’t make up for his lack of TT results. Martin is definitely capable of a medal, especially in a long time trial like this, but we will be very surprised if he wins the race.


Jonathan Castroviejo was a great time trial talent in the early part of his career but while he improved his climbing, he suddenly lost the edge in his favourite discipline. That changed again last year when he returned to his best, winning the Spanish Championships and taking a very frustrating fourth place at the Worlds. This year has been a bad one for the Spaniard as he suffered a bad crash in Algarve and he only returned to competition in June. However, he was surprisingly good already in his first race and he was even in contention for a spot on the Movistar team for the Tour. He ultimately missed out but since then he confirmed his form with a great second place in the TT at the Tour de Pologne and a second place at his national championships.


Castroviejo is now even stronger than he was in Poland and he played a key role for Spain in the road race where he led the peloton single-handedly during the first lap of the difficult circuit. This puts him in a great position for the time trial which should suit him really well. His tiny stature means that he usually does well on the climbs and he is really strong on the flats too. It remains to be seen if he has already returned to his best form but if he has, he is definitely a medal candidate.


The same goes for his teammate Nelson Oliveira who was a great TT talent at the U23 level before he disappeared into anonymity on the pro scene. However, things started to change at the 2014 Worlds and since then he has progressed constantly. He probably did the TT of his life at the Tour de France where he was third behind Dumoulin and Froome in the first individual test. This naturally makes him a great candidate for this race whose course is very similar.


Oliveira came out of the Tour in great form and he looked strong in the road race until he crashed in the finale. That may have set him a bit back and even though he hasn’t suffered any major injuries, it is a course for concern. However, this mixed course should suit his all-around skills really well and it is definitely impossible that he can be in medal contention.


Finally, we will point to Primoz Roglic. The Slovenian was known as a pure climber but apparently he had a hidden TT potential which only came out at the Giro. He surprised the entire cycling world by taking second in the opening TT and then came out on top in the long time trial a few days later. In the Tour de Pologne, he proved that his result was no fluke as he finished third in the time trial and since then he has had his eyes on this race.


In the road race, Roglic showed that his form is good as he was one of the most aggressive riders on the final circuit and this made him confident for the time trial. As he is known as a climber, this course should suit him really well. Furthermore, he has now started to focus on his time trialling so he may be even stronger than he was at the Giro. It remains to be seen if he can return to the level he had there but there is little doubt that he is capable of another surprise.


***** Tom Dumoulin

**** Chris Froome, Vasil Kiryienka

*** Rohan Dennis, Fabian Cancellara, Ion Izagirre

** Tony Martin, Jonathan Castroviejo, Nelson Oliveira, Primoz Roglic, Geraint Thomas

* Michal Kwiatkowski, Leopold König, Jan Barta, Taylor Phinney, Maciej Bodnar



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