Here’s a run-down of our top favorites for Thursday’s World Championship time trail from Melbourne, Australia. Share your comments and picks below.
The last few weeks haven’t exactly gone as planned for Switzerland’s Fabian Cancellara He failed to finish the year’s Vuelta a Espana—much to the disappointment of team management—and was uncharacteristically defeated in the race’s one and only ITT by not one, but two men. All signs point to a poor performance Thursday is Australia for the reigning World Champion, right? Think again, this is Fabian Cancellara we’re talking about. Do you have the courage to doubt him?
Of the men who stand to benefit from Cancellara’s reported struggle for fitness, Germany’s Tony Martin stands the most to gain. Martin’s proven over the past two years that he’s the world’s second-best best time trialist—a title he’s ready to abandon with a storming ride Thursday. Martin only finished third in Mendrisio after skipping last year’s Vuelta—an ominous sign considering he made the same decision (skipping the Spanish grand tour) this season. But for a young rider with seemingly limitless potential, anything seems possible.
Peter Velits pulled-off a bit of a surprise when he won Stage 17’s ITT at the Vuelta two weeks ago—beating Cancellara, Denis Menchov, and several noted time trialists in the process. For the young Slovakian, his stage win and subsequent 3rd-place finish overall confirms the potential he showed when he won the 2007 U23 World Championship. If he manages to hold-on to the form he displayed in Spain, his only obstacle on the way to a podium spot Thursday might be his ambitions for Sunday’s road race. Look out Spartacus, you have some pretty serious competition in your quest to become a double world champion.
Gustav Erik Larsson
Sweden’s Gustav Erik Larsson’s the guy everyone forgets about each year—until the World Championship ITT. Last year Larsson was the only person able to stay within two minutes of Cancellara in Mendrisio—this year he hopes to have the form necessary to topple his soon to be former teammate. He won an ITT in this year’s Giro as well as a silver medal in the 2008 Olympics. Does the Swede have what it takes to trade silver for gold?
Grabsch won the World Championship ITT in 2008—the last time Cancellara didn’t race. A veteran with a knack for finding his form just when he needs it—especially in time for a time trial—the German might be asked to use his ride as a gauge for Martin, his German teammate. Regardless, Grabsch is a solid podium candidate.
Like Grabsch, Tuft’s best performance at Worlds came in 2008—he finished second. This year, the Canadian rode impressively at the Tour of Denmark and Benelux Tour, perhaps earning him his new contract with Pegasus Racing/Fly V. Without the Vuelta in his legs though, I wonder if Tuft can really challenge for the podium—he deserves mention nonetheless.
Talk about a riddle wrapped in an enigma! DZ is one of the hardest nuts to crack in the professional peloton. When he wants to be, he’s one of the 3-5 best time trialists in the world. On other days though, he’s pack fodder. Zabriskie’s last high finish at Worlds came in 2008 when he finished third. I have a hunch he might put in a good ride Thursday—he rode an aggressive Vuelta (by his standards), and needs a good result to justify his spot on a team that has few seats left on the bus.
Edvald Boassen Hagen, Luis Leon Sanchez, Michael Rogers, and Richie Porte deserve mention as outside contenders for top placings Thursday. Boasson Hagen ‘s a proven performer who’s underwhelmed thus far this season. Sanchez has placed well as Worlds in the past, but is better bet to save himself for the road race Sunday. As for Rogers and Porte, Rogers is a former World Champion while Porte’s been one this year’s biggest surprises. Both could make their home fans proud.
And my prediction?
1. Fabian Cancellara
2. Tony Martin
3. Gustav Erik Larsson
Share your comments and picks below.