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

Anna van der Breggen stands on brink of historic road race-time trial double

After Anna van der Breggen won gold in the women’s road race at Rio 2016 on Sunday, the Dutchwoman will bid for a history-making double when the women kick-off the time trial action on Wednesday (August 10).

No rider, male or female, has ever won gold in both disciplines at a single Olympic Games, but Van der Breggen has taken a big step towards a landmark win after victory in the road race.

Anna van der Breggen could become the first rider – male or female – to win both the Olympic time trial and road race at the same Games (pic: Sirotti)

She faces some serious competition on the Grumari circuit, however, which the women will tackle once – with a host of current and former world champions set to roll off the starting ramp.

Emma Pooley is Britain’s sole representative, and one of those former world champions on the startline.

So what can we expect from the women’s race? We’ve ran through the leading contenders below.

The route

The women’s race also covers the Grumari circuit, with two climbs – as used for the first part of the road races at the weekend.

Where the men cover the circuit twice, however, the women will ride it only once – meaning 7.5km worth of climbing spread across several uncategorised climbs and two main ascents.

The 1.2km Grumari climb is the shortest, but also the steepest with a maximum gradient of 13 per cent, while Grota Funda is longer but less steep (2.1km at 4.5 per cent).

It is a course more suited to those happy to take on the lumpy stuff than the all-out time triallists, so which women are in contention for gold?

Anna van der Breggen (Netherlands)

Second at last year’s World Championships in Richmond, the same place she finished in the road race, Anna van der Breggen could make history in Rio.

After proving her form with victory in the women’s road race, the Dutchwoman bids to become the first ever rider to win both disciplines at a single Games.

Anna van der Breggen was runner-up at last year’s World Championships (pic: Sirotti)

So can she do it? She certainly has the time trialling pedigree – she won against the clock at last year’s Giro Rosa and was second this year behind Evelyn Stevens.

Van der Breggen, 26, has been one of the most consistent performers on the women’s scene over the last couple of years and would be a fitting person to achieve the first ‘double’.

Evelyn Stevens (USA)

The Americans boast 2008 and 2012 champion Kristin Armstrong but it is team-mate Evelyn Stevens in the form of her life.

A multiple medallist at the world championships, without ever stepping onto the top step of the women’s time trial podium, Stevens is certainly a contender against the clock.

USA have 2008 and 2012 winner Kristin Armstrong, but Evelyn Stevens is the woman in top form (pic: Sirotti)

She proved as much by winning the time trial at the Giro Rosa to seal second place overall, but that victory – her third of the race – came on a much flatter course.

Armstrong also should not be ruled out of contention, despite now being 42 years old – the American’s last race against the clock was at Crooked River, at the Cascade Cycling Classic, where she finished third on the testing 25.5km course.

Ellen van Dijk (Netherlands)

Anna van der Breggen is not the only Dutch hopeful in the individual time trial, with Ellen van Dijk taking the Netherlands’ other time trial spot.

Van Dijk, 29, was world time trial champion in 2013 and in her last race against the clock – at the International Thuringen Rundfahrt der Frauen – she won on a hilly 19km course.

Ellen van Dijk is another Dutch contender for the podium (pic: Sirotti)

All eyes may be on her Dutch team-mate, but the Netherlands have two great shots at a gold medal and could well double up on the final podium.

Van Dijk tested her legs by getting in one of the breaks during the Rio 2016 road race, so while Van der Breggen has stolen the pre-race headlines, Van Dijk does have the form too.

Emma Pooley (Great Britain)

Is the Rio 2016 women’s time trial course well suited to 2010 world champion Emma Pooley? Well she came out of retirement to race it so that’s a good sign.

Pooley relishes tough courses like these – it’s why she has three times won the Queen of the Mountains title at the Giro d’Italia Femminile and been runner-up in that race twice.

Great Britain’s Emma Pooley was tempted back into cycling by the Rio 2016 time trial course (pic: Sirotti)

She can also time trial – her world championship win in 2010 is the tip of the iceberg but she also boasts three national titles and silver medals from the 2008 Beijing Olympics and 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games.

Her cycling form is relatively unknown, having only just returned to the sport, but she was sixth at last year’s Chrono des Nations and has won a host of triathlon and duathlon events since leaving cycling too.

The 33-year-old is a long shot for a gold medal, but then again she wasn’t even in contention just 12 months ago, so never say never.

Elisa Longo Borghini (Italy)

Elisa Longo Borghini finished third in the women’s road race on Sunday, and given she is also Italian national time trial champion should not be written off against the clock.

The only rider in this list not to have won a world championship medal in the individual time trial, she could still be a dark horse on Wednesday.

Elisa Longo Borghini was third in the road race, and could be in contention again in the time trial (pic: Sirotti)

Third behind Evelyn Stevens in the time trial at the Giro Rosa, Longo Borghini is also a former podium finisher at the Chrono des Nations.

The 24-year-old Italian can climb too – that is undoubted, but if you need more proof than her third place in the road race, she was Queen of the Mountains at this year’s Giro Rosa – so don’t rule her out.

Lisa Brennauer (Germany)

Germany’s Lisa Brennauer was crowned world time trial champion in 2014 and has been a perennial time trial contender since then.

Winner of the 2015 Aviva Women’s Tour, too, the 28-year-old was fourth in her home country at the Thuringen Rundfahrt in her last competitive time trial, which came on a hilly course.

Lisa Brennauer will bid to better compatriot Judith Arndt’s London 2012 silver medal (pic: Sirotti)

Brennauer has also been an integral part of the women’s team time trial success enjoyed by Specialized-lululemon and then Velocio-SRAM at the last three world championships too.

Germany, through Judith Arndt, were on the podium at last year’s Olympic Games and in Brennauer have a rider capable of at least the same this time out.

Linda Villumsen (New Zealand)

New Zealand’s Linda Villumsen is the reigning world and Commonwealth Games time trial champion, so an Olympic gold medal would complete her set.

But the 31-year-old has won just once since being crowned world champion – in her first race in the rainbow skinsuit at the Joe Martin Stage Race in America.

World champion Linda Villumsen has been quiet since finally pulling on the rainbow skinsuit but don’t rule her out (pic: Sirotti)

That victory came on a short 4.8km course, but she does also have top-fives from the Tour of the Gila time trial and Thuringen Rundfahrt TT too.

At the latter she was more than a minute behind Van Dijk, the stage winner, so Villumsen has a lot to make up on a course not as suited to her as the one used for the Worlds last year. But you don’t become world champion by accident.


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