- The men’s Olympic time trial is scheduled to begin Wednesday at the Fuji International Speedway (Tuesday evening in North America)
- The versatile Wout Van Aert is the favorite on a hilly course
- Can a pure sprinter win the day, or is the better bet a more tactical and variable rider?
What is a time trial?
In the simplest terms, it is a race against the clock. The fastest rider to complete a course wins. The better answer might be, an individual time trial can be anything course designers create.
In the 2020 Tour de France, Tadej Pogacar dominated the Stage 20 ITT and stole the yellow jersey. He did so because the course required sprinting, a bike change, climbing, and lots of strategy.
When the Olympic Time Trial begins (10:00 pm ET, July 27th) on a hilly course with multiple up and down hill challenges on Tuesday, it may not be the classic “time trialists,” sprinters with stamina, that succeed. Wout Van Aert (+275), who won a mountain stage, bunch sprint, and time trial at this year’s Tour de France, is the favorite because of his ability to conquer whatever challenge he is presented.
Let’s look at the updated odds and see where betting value is present in Tokyo.
Olympic Men’s Time Trial Odds
|Wout Van Aert||+275|
Odds as of July 22
Van Aert is the favorite because while the course is the right length for a time trial, 44.2 kilometres, its 846 metres of vertical gain feels more like a hybrid Grand Tour stage.
There are two laps of the hilly course which begins at the Fuji International Speedway. The start is on a downhill, and there is a 5 km climb with an average gradient of 4.5% shortly thereafter. Next comes the descent, followed by a lumpy middle portion, and then a repeat of the first half of the race.
While there is no sustained or horribly difficult climbing, this is much more of a hybrid course than a classic elongated sprint that we think of for ITT’s.
The Time Trial has been apart of the Olympics since 1996. Time trial specialist Fabian Cancellara took gold in Rio. In 2012, shortly after winning the Tour de France, Bradley Wiggins stood at the top of the podium in London.
Let’s look closely at some of the top options to win the gold medal.
Tour de France winner Tadej Pogacar is about the only cyclist in the world who can feel more accomplished these days than Van Aert. Sure, Van Aert was never really viewed as a GC contender in France, and one really bad day effectively took him out of the race. That said, he won arguably the toughest stage in the mountains, the ITT on Stage 20, and the much ballyhooed bunch sprint on the final afternoon along the Champs-Élysées.
It is reasonable to wonder how much Van Aert has left after three hard weeks on the Tour, but he clearly was feeling good down the stretch, winning the final two stages. An intermediate course should work well for a rider who has an ability to win in a variety of ways. The question is do you want to take a short price?
Primoz Roglic was the runner up at the 2020 Tour de France. He is the rider Pogacar raced by on the penultimate stage, that uphill time trial. He rebounded to win the Vuelta a España for a second straight year, but crashed out of this year’s Tour.
At the age of 31, Roglic has vacillated recently between looking like among the top riders in the world, and seeming to be beyond his prime. A one day event with some climbing may suit him nicely.
A decade Roglic’s junior, Remco Evenepoel has only ever attempted one Grand Tour race. He did not finish this year’s Giro d’Italia, but very much looks the part.
Over the last two years Evenepoel has won the Tour of Belgium, Volta ao Algarve, Vuelta a Burgos, Vuelta a San Juan, and the Tour de Pologne. In 2019, the native of Belgium won the European Time Trial Championships.
A member of top team Ineos Grenadiers, Filippo Ganna is an accomplished time trialist and individual-pursuit rider.
Ganna has ridden in two Grand Tour’s, the Giro d’Italia each of the last two years. He has won six total stages in those events including five ITT’s. He won last year’s World Time Trial Championship.
Rohan Dennis has won stages on each Grand Tour and took the 2018 and 2019 World Time Trial Championship.
Dennis is also a part of Team Ineos.
If you think the course sets up for a versatile rider, but don’t want to take a super short price, Tom Dumoulin might be a good choice. He won the Giro d’Italia in 2017, and has made the podium at a Grand Tour three times in total.
Dumoulin has won the Dutch National Time Trial Championship four times including this year. He took the World Time Trial title in 2017.