Road cycling is often described as an individual sport raced by teams. (Or is it the other way around?) Teamwork is essential to winning three-week races like the Tour de France and Giro D’Italia. How often did you see 2016 TDF champ Chris Froome being escorted up the biggest climbs by his Sky teammates likes Geraint Thomas and Sergio Henao?
The sprinters, like Mark Cavendish and Marcel Kittel, are also highly dependent on their teammates. They need their protection in the early going of stages, and they need solid leadout trains in the run up to the finish line.
Even one-day races, such as Paris-Roubaix, are usually won by cyclists whose teams formulate and execute solid gameplans, i.e. protect your team leader in the early portions of the race, use your domestiques to chase down early breaks, and make sure your leader doesn’t miss out on the decisive move.
But there’s one discipline where teammates can’t help you: the individual time trial. In the ITT, it’s just you, the bike, and the clock.
This year’s UCI World Championships will take place in Doha, Qatar, from Oct. 9-14, with the individual time trial running – er, make that rolling – on Oct. 12.
Last year, Vasil Kiryienka was able to capture his first championship in Richmond. The 2014 champ, Bradley Wiggins, didn’t attempt to defend his title, but Kiryienka still trumped a strong field that included three-time champ Tony Martin, Dutchman Tom DuMoulin, and Aussie star Rohan Dennis.
All three of those names will be in the mix again this year, and the flat, 40 km course shouldn’t offer up much resistance. These powerful men and their big diesel engines are going to lay down some blazingly fast times.
Who’s engine room will be burning hottest? Let’s look at the odds.
2016 UCI Time Trial Championship Odds
Tom DuMoulin: 3/1
DuMoulin is coming into his own. Often thought to be too big () to compete in three-week tours, his breakout performance at last year’s Vuelta a Espana turned a lot of heads. The TT has always been his best discipline, of course, and his blossoming as a GC rider has coincided with a leap in time trial prowess.
The two-time Dutch national champion has a palmares riddled with ITT success, including: second at Rio 2016; third at the 2014 World Championships; and wins during the 2016 Giro (Stage 1), 2016 TDF (Stages 9 and 13), and 2015 Vuelta (Stages 9 and 17).
Tony Martin: 6/1
There was a time, not so long ago, when the big German was unbeatable against the clock. He won three straight ITT World Championships (2011-2013) as well as six straight (seven total) German national championships (2010, 2012-2016). He finished a disappointing seventh at the UCI’s last year, though, and was a stunning 12th at Rio.
He’s only 31, so it’s hard to say his best days are definitely behind him. After all, a 35-year-old Fabian Cancellara turned back the clock to win gold at Rio. Martin has a different body type than Spartacus, but he’s cut from the same cloth, talent-wise, when it comes to time trialing. Count out the big German at your peril.
Rohan Dennis: 13/2
The 26-year-old Aussie has been on the rise for several seasons. He finished seventh at the World Championship last year, which doesn’t sound great until you learn that he had to change bikes mid-race.
Dennis won his first Aussie national championship this year while also taking the TT at the Tour of California (Stage 6) and Eneco Tour (Stage 2). In 2015, he surprised a stacked field by winning the time trial prologue of the TDF. His fifth-place finish at Rio portends more good things in the coming months.
Vasil Kiryienka: 15/1
The Belarusian hasn’t confirmed his participation in this year’s World Championship, but it’s highly likely he’ll try to defend his title. His win last year was a surprise, but it’s not like he hadn’t proved his TT bona fides. He already had third (2012) and fourth-place (2014) finishes on his resume.
This year has been a down one. He was a disappointing 17th at Rio, nearly four minutes back of Cancellara. He also showed up late to the TT at the Eneco Tour recently, only to find that the clock waits for no man! Not even the one in the rainbow jersey of the World Champion. (The clock already read 30 seconds before he left the gate.) He’s a long shot to defend.
Keep in mind, these odds will shift as the field becomes more clear, especially when big names like Fabian Cancellara and Chris Froome either confirm or deny their participation.
Photo credit: Rob Schleiffert (Tom Dumoulin) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.