Rio 2016 Olympic Games: men’s time trial – preview

Chris Froome bids for gold medal after bronze at London 2012

Next up on the cycling agenda at Rio 2016, after two thrilling road races, are the individual time trials – the second and final road cycling event of the Olympic Games, taking place on Wednesday (August 10).

While defending men’s champion Sir Bradley Wiggins will not be riding, having switched his attention back to the track, Britain still boast one of the favourites for gold.

Bradley Wiggins won gold at London 2012, just a month after winning the Tour de France. London bronze medallist Chris Froome bids to follow suit for Great Britain at Rio 2016 (Pic: Sirotti)

Tour de France champion Chris Froome will bid to better his bronze medal of four years ago, and has been installed as bookmaker’s favourite after Tom Dumoulin’s Tour de France crash.

Dutchman Dumoulin will also ride, but the effects of the fractured wrist he suffered at the Tour remain to be seen on a course otherwise seemingly perfect for him.

As with the road races, the course is a hilly one, favouring the likes of Froome and Dumoulin over pure time triallists like Germany’s Tony Martin.

So what’s in store, and who will be following Greg van Avermaet and Anna van der Breggen onto the top step of the podium? We’ve taken a closer look…

The route

The route uses the same Grumari circuit as the road race did, with two climbs for the riders to negotiate.

The men’s race covers two laps of the circuit in all, so four climbs and a total distance of 54.6km.

Up first is the Grumari climb, a 1.2km ascent with an average gradient of seven per cent and pitches as steep as 13 per cent in parts.

After descending that climb, next up is the linger Grota Funda ascent – 2.1km with a more moderate average gradient of 4.5 per cent.

As stated, the men will take on the circuit twice with uncategorised climbs taking the total ascending to 7.4km per lap.

Chris Froome (Great Britain)

Tour de France champion Chris Froome will bid to repeat what Sir Bradley Wiggins did four years ago – follow the yellow jersey with an Olympic gold medal.

Froome was in superb form against the clock at the Tour, finishing second on the flatter of the two time trials and winning the uphill time trial in the final week.

Chris Froome was first and second at the two Tour de France time trials (pic: Sirotti)

Having won bronze in London, the course looks perfectly suited to the Kenyan-born Brit, 31, and it is little surprise to see him installed as favourite.

He is not the only Brit in with a shot at a medal, either, with Geraint Thomas a late addition to the startlist after crashes in the road race have left some countries unable to fulfil their allocation of places.

Thomas himself crashed on the Vista Chinesa descent, but has recovered sufficiently to bid to add to his two Olympic team pursuit gold medals from 2008 and 2012. A bronze medallist at the Commonwealth Games, the Welshman is no slouch against the clock.

Tom Dumoulin (Netherlands)

After following up victory in the first time trial of this year’s Tour de France with a second place in the second of the two races against the clock, Dumoulin was a big favourite for Rio.

Just 24 hours later, and his Olympic dream lay in tatters after the Dutchman suffered an innocuous crash at the back of the bunch and fractured his wrist.

Tom Dumoulin was favourite until he broke his wrist at the Tour de France (pic: Sirotti)

Dumoulin has fought back, however, and was back on his bike just days later to revive hopes of a Dutch gold medal.

The course is well suited to him, and his ability against the clock – with time trial stage wins at all three Grand Tours – is undoubted.

His medal hopes, however, will rest solely on how well he has recovered from injury – he dropped out of the Rio road race after just a few kilometres in order to rest up, so he has given himself every chance.

Ion Izagirre (Spain)

Another Tour de France stage winner set for the Olympic time trial, Ion Izagirre’s victory at the Tour came from the breakaway but he is national champion against the clock.

Two top-ten finishes in the time trials at the Tour, in the skinsuit of national champion, showed some form – though were undoubtedly affected by his efforts supporting his GC-chasing team-mates in the mountains.

Spanish time trial champion Ion Izagirre certainly has the pedigree to succeed on the Rio course (pic: Sirotti)

Prior to the Tour, Izagirre also won in Davos on an undulating 16.8km route at the Tour de Suisse so the form is definitely there.

Despite being Spanish champion, and a multiple stage winner against the clock, he is being overlooked by many as a contender but a medal is well within his grasp.

Primož Roglič (Slovenia)

Primož Roglič stepped up to WorldTour level for the first time with LottoNL-Jumbo and the Slovenian announced himself in style at the Giro d’Italia.

The 26-year-old former Adria Mobil rider was second behind Dumoulin in the short stage one time trial, before winning stage nine in Chianti.

Primoz Roglic announced himself in style, with stage victory at the Giro d’Italia (pic: Sirotti)

Roglič beat the likes of Fabian Cancellara and former hour record holder Matthias Brandle on the 40.5km course to prove he is a serious time trial contender.

The national time trial title followed and in his most recent race against the clock he was third behind Alex Dowsett on a flat 25km course in Krakow.

Roglič’s rapid rise in 2016 has propelled him into contention for a medal, but how he will cope with the climbs will be key to how he fares in Rio.

Vasil Kiryienka (Belarus)

His form against the clock in 2016 may be nothing to shout about, but world champion Vasil Kiryienka has not been wearing the rainbow bands for nothing.

Belarus’ flag bearer at the Olympic opening ceremony, Kiryienka has been handicapped by his work for others – notably going easy in the two Tour de France time trials as he supported Chris Froome to overall victory.

Vasil Kiryienka’s last time trial victory was one that mattered most – the world championships (pic: Sirotti)

But the Team Sky rider can climb, and he can certainly time trial, so there is no reason – if he has the legs – that he couldn’t be in with a shot at a medal.

Kiryienka has proved before he tends to save his best performances in the time trial for the world championships, so it’s not out of the question he has kept something up his sleeve for the Olympics this year instead.

Fabian Cancellara (Switzerland)

Realistically the route for the Rio 2016 men’s time trial rules out the likes of 2008 champion Fabian Cancellara but never say never.

At the Giro d’Italia, Cancellara was fourth in Chianti on an undulating – though not quite as hilly as Rio – course, and his career is packed full of victories against the clock.

Fabian Cancellara won gold in 2008 but may find the course does not suit him (pic: Sirotti)

Rio 2016 marks Cancellara’s last Olympics, and he has invested plenty in them – dropping out before the final Tour de France time trial in order to prep for the Games.

Cancellara has proved with his multiple victories at the Tour of Flanders that short, steep climbs are nothing he can’t cope with – even excel on.

The 35-year-old retires from professional cycling at the end of the season, and one final hurrah is certainly not of the question.

Tony Martin (Germany)

Like Cancellara, and indeed Australia’s Rohan Dennis, USA’s Taylor Phinney and Poland’s Maciej Bodnar, the course profile is not one for Tony Martin despite his undounted quality against the clock.

His preparations have hardly been ideal either – a mysterious knee pain curtailing his Tour de France just as the race reached the Champs-Elysees on the final stage.

The German national title is also Martin’s only time trial victory of the year – Der Panzerwagen off the pace as he finished ninth on the stage 13 time trial at the Tour.

Tony Martin’s time trialling ability is undoubted, but the hilly course does not suit him (pic: Sirotti)

But three world titles, and a silver medal at the Olympics four years ago are evidence of what he can do on his day.

The climb-heavy route is less suited to Martin than the likes of Froome and Dumoulin but Martin’s phenomenal engine means you can never confidently count him out.


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