The first three-quarters of this year’s Individual Time Trial course in Richmond, Virginia are fairly straight, with a couple of bends but nothing technical. With some meaty ascents to be tackled from the 3km mark and then again at 15km, the first 40km or so of this 53km route will be all about power.
Within the last 20km there are three short and sharp inclines, which will be a real test to any riders who hit their threshold too early, and as the course returns to Richmond there are several harsh corners to tackle on the way in towards the line. However, even with this relatively technical finish, there’s no big opportunities for a surprise today; this is a time trial which will come down to the purely powerful riders.
Looking at the start list, it’s appears to have the makings of a battle between the old and the new guard, in the form of Tony Martin and Ronan Dennis. Martin seems to have recovered well from a broken collarbone sustained during a stint in the Tour de France’s yellow jersey. Both Martin and Dennis won recent week-long stage races (Martin at the Tour du Poitou Charentes and Dennis at the USA Pro Challenge). Dennis, who briefly held the hour record earlier this year, will be on a high after his team (BMC) reclaimed their Team Time Trial title over the weekend, with Martin’s Etixx-QuickStep team only 12 seconds in arrears.
But there is one big question that needs answering before we can call this a Martin-Dennis podium: has Tom Dumoulin recovered from his dazzling but draining Vuelta? If the answer is yes, then he will be certain to feature high on the leader’s board today. If not, then perhaps he’s human after all.
Movistar are another team with some aces up their collective sleeve. The trio of Malori, Dowsett and Castroviejo have all peformed well in time trials recently, and all are the current national TT champions for Italy, Great Britain and Spain respectively. Any one of them could make the podium if the favourites have a bad day, but a top 10 is a more realistic dream for the Movistar team.
There are plenty of other big names who will hit the course hard today, but only a handful of those need be mentioned. Rigoberto Uran Uran, so good they named him twice, is perhaps not yet good enough to be looking to the podium. A recent win in Quebec showcased some strong legs, but he’s not performed well in a time trial of this scale for some time now. Taylor Phinney would also like a good result today, but an exceptional performance from him in such strong company will still only look like a low top ten finish at the end of the day.
Betting persons looking for a strong outsider aren’t spoilt for choice today, but one dark horse might be Vasil Kiryienka. The strong and silent Belarusian finished fourth in the time trial in the recent Vuelta, and he took the top spot in the Giro d’Italia’s time trial. Showing he has the form when it counts, he’ll be out to improve on a fourth place at last year’s world championships. If Dumoulin really hasn’t got it in the legs today (and reports, this morning, are that he is suffering from a touch of saddle sore), then that may well be the opening Kiryienka needs.
Other notables who have shown good form of late are Steve Cummings, Nelson Oliveira, and Maciej Bodnar. But individual sparkling displays within the grand constellation that is the Vuelta are one thing — when the action is all condensed into one time trial, it is quite another. We here at Marmeladrome cannot look past Tony Martin, Rohan Dennis, and Tom Dumoulin. James is rooting for Rohan Dennis, who’s had a great year and has been targeting this alone for some time now. But for Chris, it’s another big outing for Tony Martin, and another spell in the rainbow stripes. Either way, it should be a good and close race.