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UCI Road World Championships: time trial previews

Doha 2016: Alex Dowsett and Hayley Simmonds lead British charge on technical time trial courses

Talk of the 2016 UCI Road World Championships in Qatar has so far focussed on the negative stories – the threatened WorldTour team boycott of the men’s team time trial, and rumours the elite races might have to be shortened because of the heat, for example.

But the action finally gets underway in Doha this weekend, with the team time trials, followed by the individual time trials at the start of next week.

After the threatened boycott, the UCI did not make the team time trial compulsory, and consequently 15 teams will make up the men’s race (ten from the WorldTour, including Team Sky) and eight teams are expected on the women’s start ramp.

Team Sky’s Vasil Kiryienka won time trial gold for Belarus in Richmond 12 months ago but who will be celebrating in Doha? (pic: Sirotti)

The individual time trials, on pan-flat but very technical courses have welcomed some stellar casts, however, even if neither Olympic champion – 43-year-old Kristin Armstrong (USA) and 35-year-old Fabian Cancellara (Switzerland) – could be tempted to Doha.

National champions Scott Davies (men’s under-23), Hayley Simmonds (elite women) and Alex Dowsett (elite men) are among the Brits in action, while Dutch duo Anna van der Breggen and Tom Dumoulin start high on the list of favourites for their respective elite events.

So, with the Championships now finally getting underway, what can we expect from Doha 2016? We’ve taken a closer look at the time trials…

Team time trials

Kicking off the Doha 2016 action are the team time trials, though with no UCI WorldTour points on offer anymore, the men’s event has taken on much less significance.

British champion Alex Dowsett rides for Movistar, who will look to improve on last year’s bronze medal and dethrone two-time back-to-back champions BMC Racing.

Team Sky have not confirmed their line-up in advance, but the British WorldTour team are also likely to have Brits in their six-man line-up, including Geraint Thomas.

BMC Racing are the team to beat in the men’s team time trial (pic: Sirotti)

BMC Racing start as favourites, however, with five of the six riders who won in Richmond last year returning, including Rohan Dennis, Taylor Phinney and Manuel Quinziato – the respective national champions of Australia, USA and Italy.

Movistar are also packed with time trial aces, including Dowsett joining Portuguese champion Nelson Oliveira (Portugal) and European champion Jonathan Castroviejo (Spain).

Orica-BikeExchange and Etixx-QuickStep have also won medals in the past – the Belgians beat the Aussies by less than a second back in 2013.

Lizzie Deignan will be one of three British riders in action in the women’s team time trial, as she bids to help Boels-Dolmans better than silver medal from 2015 (pic: Sirotti)

British interest in the women’s time trials includes Hannah Barnes riding for defending champions Canyon-SRAM, Lizzie Deignan in action for Boels-Dolmans and Rio team pursuit reserve Ciara Horne with Cervelo-Bigla.

Canyon-SRAM beat Boels-Dolmans to gold last year, with Rabobank-Liv also on the podium, and all three are among the teams to watch on Sunday.

Boels-Dolmans hold the mental edge, however, having beaten Cervelo-Bigla at the Crescent Women World Cup TTT event in Vergada, Sweden, in August.

Elite individual time trials – women

With no climbs in Qatar, the elite time trials are on pan-flat courses but organisers have ensured both the men’s and women’s courses are extremely technical.

The men’s under-23 race uses the same course as the women’s race the day before, before the women take on the 29.9km circuit on the Tuesday.

Taking place on the artificial Pearl-Qatar island, the course circumnavigates Porto Arabia and Viva Bahriya, and features a handful of sharp bends and u-turns.

The women’s course is very technical (pic: UCI/Doha 2016)

Brits in action

National champion Hayley Simmonds rides her second UCI Road World Championships having gone from strength to strength since finishing 26th on her debut last year.

Simmonds, 28, has twice smashed the women’s ten-mile time trial record on the V718 course in East Yorkshire since winning her second national title in June.

Hayley Simmonds has been in fine form on the British time trial scene in 2016 (pic: Sirotti)

She also smashed the 25- and 50-mile marks in a stunning year on the domestic scene, while her most recent international race saw Simmonds finish sixth at the Chrono Champenois- Trophée Européen.

National road race champion Hannah Barnes will take the second British spot, meanwhile, riding three days after bidding to defend Canyon-SRAM’s team time trial title.

The contenders

Defending champion Linda Villumsen (New Zealand) will not take part, and neither will Olympic champion Kristin Armstrong (USA) but there are plenty of riders with strong time trial pedigree on the startlist.

Anna van der Breggen (Netherlands) is one of the most notable, having been runner-up in 2015 and a bronze medallist at Rio 2016.

The Dutchwoman was also second behind compatriot Ellen van Dijk at the European Championships last month, and the Dutch will fancy their chances of winning gold.

Anna van der Breggen was runner-up at last year’s World Championships and won bronze at Rio 2016 in the time trial (pic: Sirotti)

Olga Zabelinskaya (Russia), who won silver in Rio and bronze at the Europeans in Plumelec is another contender.

German duo Lisa Brennauer and Trixi Worrack were absent in Plumelec, but Brennauer was world time trial champion two years ago and remains a strong contender – she was fifth at the Chrono Champenois-Trophée Européen.

Australia’s Katrin Garfoot won that event, beating Zabelinskaya into second by just 13 seconds, adding to her victories in the Australian and Oceanic championships earlier in the year.

Russia’s Olga Zabelinskaya could not hide her disappoinment at missing out on gold at Rio 2016 but has been in good form against the clock (pic: Sirotti)

Elite individual time trials – men

The men’s course, rather than being simply the women’s course but over the more laps, is on a different route.

While it still finishes on the Pearl-Qatar, the starting ramp will be at the Lusail Sports Complex – which itself has been used as a time trial track for the Tour of Qatar.

The 40km route packs in sharp turns at either end, with the course including no less than 11 90-degree bends and three U-turns.

In between is a long straight section down the Al Khor Coastal Road, which before crossing onto the Pearl, and circumnavigating Porto Arabia en route to the finish line.

The men’s course is technical at the start and finish, bookending a long, straight middle section (pic: UCI/Doha 2016)

Brits in action

British Cycling only confirmed who would be rolling off the start ramp in British colours in Qatar on Friday (October 7), with Alex Dowsett and Steve Cummings selected ahead of Geraint Thomas.

Dowsett won the time trial stage at the Tour of Poland, but missed the opportunity to ride the Giro d’Italia earlier in the year after requiring surgery on the collarbone he fractured in 2015.

Alex Dowsett and Steve Cummings will represent Great Britain in the men’s event (pic: Sirotti)

His best result at the Worlds, however, remains the eighth place he earned in Valkenburg in 2012.

Cummings also rode last year’s world time trial event, finishing 14th, and is a man in form after winning the Tour of Britain at the start of September.

However, the 35-year-old crashed out of the Giro della Toscana and also cut short his Giro dell’Emilia as he felt the effects of that crash, so it remains to be seen how he has recovered.

The contenders

Dowsett has proved he can be beat the best on his day, but he faces some serious competition in Qatar.

Olympic silver medallist Tom Dumoulin (Netherlands) is high on the list of favourites, having won against the clock at the Giro d’Italia, Tour de France and Dutch national championships this year.

Three-time former winner Tony Martin (Germany) will be keen to recapture his rainbow jersey, meanwhile, and after disappointing time trial results at the Tour de France and Rio, won against the clock at the Tour of Britain to restore some momentum.

A change back to his old set-up could also benefit Der Panzerwagen as he bids to add to his three back-to-back triumphs in 2011, 2012 and 2013.

Tony Martin has returned to form just in time for the Worlds (pic: Sirotti)

Last year’s winner, Vasil Kiryienka (Belarus) did not win a single time trial in the rainbow skinsuit, sacrificing his chances at the Tour de France as he opted instead to take it easy and recover ahead of more work for the team and Chris Froome.

Nevertheless, you can’t count the Belarussian 35-year-old out after he won national, European and world titles in 2015.

This year’s European champion is Spain’s Jonathan Castroviejo, who was narrowly denied a medal at the Rio 2016 Olympics when he finished fourth.

Castroviejo also finished second behind Froome on stage 19 of the Vuelta a Espana and certainly has the form.

Tom Dumoulin starts among the favourites for the men’s individual time trial (pic: Sirotti)

Also among the favourites is in-form Rohan Dennis (Australia), who claimed the national title in January and has since gone on to win time trials at the Tour of California and Eneco Tour, and finish second on stage 7a of the Tour of Britain.

Dennis was setting the benchmark times in Rio, but a mechanical ultimately disrupted his momentum as he went on to finish fifth. Doha offers a chance, therefore, of some redemption.


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