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Primoz Roglic wins Olympic gold!
Kenny could be tempted to push for place at Paris 2024
Tom Dumoulin takes his second Olympic TT silver, with Rohan Dennis, the future team-mate of both riders, claiming bronze.
Roglic smashes Dumoulin’s time
Wow! Over a minute quicker than his trade team-mate, he must have been on an absolute stormer on that second lap. Talk about a negative split. Nevertheless, Roglic is taking no chances as he charges through the finish. "They're going to need a net to catch him," says Dr. Hutch.
10km to go for Ganna
And he’s three seconds behind Dumoulin, our leader in the clubhouse. I can’t believe how close this is.
Says Michael Hutchinson, explaining the swings in numbers, which are going back and forth between our five all the time. So that’s all that cleared up.
Dumoulin is going to set the fastest time
In a few short minutes time, but for how long will he hold it? There can’t be many - not out there on the course, at least, or who supports one of the other riders, or is friends with them, so maybe, actually, there’d be quite a few - who wouldn’t be delighted for Dumoulin to bring home a second gold medal for the Dutch.
I forgot to mention Stefan Kung!
So very sorry Stefan Kung fans, but he’s doing really well! Just another 6 seconds back in 6th place.
One lap to go
All the riders have now completed one lap, and the order of the top five at that point is Primoz Roglic, Tom Dumoulin, Filippo Ganna, Rohan Dennis, Wout van Aert. That quintet is separated by just ten seconds.
It's fair to say that this is not the Filippo Ganna show.
Matt Stephens informs us that Remi Cavagna has been able to acquire a new aerodynamic carbon bidon for his bike, so has probably had a little drink. He’s not going to win an Olympic medal but at least he won’t be too parched at the finish.
Ganna fastest at split one... but only just
Less than a second of advantage to the Italian on the climb. Primoz Roglic was himself two seconds ahead of Dumoulin, but he’s much more of a climber than the Dutchman. Wout van Aert was a few seconds further back, while Rohan Dennis is also on a very good day. This is a seriously competitive affair and we’re a long way from knowing who’s going to win it.
Tom Dumoulin averaging 48km/hour over the first lap
Putting him 40 seconds faster than anyone else at halfway. It is great to see that the Dutchman, who seemed to be struggling with his relationship with cycling earlier this year, has found his mojo again.
Tobias Foss having a right Weston Super
The Norwegian rider is getting quicker, but he’s still a minute behind, in 13th place, after the first lap. We would have expected him to fare better than that.
Don’t pretend you’re not interested. Look, we’ll talk about Ganna and Wout in a minute, okay?
Remi Cavagna has lost his bottle
By which I mean the bidon off his bike. Matt and Michael are finding this fascinating, for some reason.
Is Primoz Roglic going for gold?
It’s currently a legal requirement to attach the word “torrid” to any mention of Primoz Roglic - international law, look it up - but he’s had a super duper first sector. Three seconds faster than Dumolin by the top of the first climb.
Geraint Thomas, Matt Stephens says, is putting in a “respectable” performance. Which means he won’t get a medal, but could maybe finish in the top seven.
Tom Dumoulin fastest at the first split
While everyone else’s eyes are (understandably) on Filippo and Wout, I’ve been keen to know what Dumoulin would come out with. I had a he'd go well (sure you did, Nick) and he’s currently 35 seconds ahead of Rigoberto Uran after the first time check.
We’re into the third wave
No, not more Coronavirus, but the final batch of riders to begin their runs. This should be where the race is won, but will Rigo have something to say about that? Of the next riders to go Michael Hutchinson says he fancies Rohan Dennis. I can understand that, Michael, but my sense is he wouldn’t be the easiest person to live with. Oh, you mean in this race? Yeah, the Australian definitely has a good chance.
Rigoberto Uran takes the lead!
He crosses the line 2.58 seconds ahead of Evenepoel. We’ve always known he was a good time trialist but he’s far from a specialist and I don’t think (m)any of us saw that coming.
Remco sets the time to beat
The next Eddy Merckx (lolz) goes 35 seconds clear of Hugo Houle, who vacates the hot seat. Evenepoel clearly found something in the last few kilometres to pull that one out. Richie Porte is not on such a good day, however, as he crosses the line more than 3.30 slower.
Max Schachmann giving it the full Thomas Voeckler
With his tongue hanging out, it’s not a pretty sight. We all have Olympic events that we tune into every four years and think: “This looks fun, I wouldn’t mind a go at that,” don’t we? No-one says that about time trialling, do they?
Rigo riding strong, and Remco finally motoring btw. The young Belgian has caught and passed Tao, as well as Richie Porte, and is twenty seconds to the good after the final intermediate split.
Alexandr Vlasov going well
The rider representing definitely not Russia was five seconds behind Hugo Houle’s time at the first intermediate split, which is increasingly looking like a really solid performance. It's always hard to know without any of the big name's times to compare to.
Ion Izagirre cramping up
Only twenty minutes into his ride and he almost comes to a standstill. It’s going to be a long way to the finish for him, if he even makes it. As someone who has stood up from the couch once in the last four hours, I cannot relate.
Remco going slow
Obviously not slow slow but he was only third fastest at the first intermediate split, although he had taken back seven seconds by the second. Struggling with conditions or did something happen in the first 9km?
In contrast Alberto Bettiol (Italy) set the fastest time in the first sector but was over 20 seconds behind Houle at the second.
Nikias Arnt sets the first fastest time
A 58.49 - slower than we might have expected, and testament to how tough this course is - which Stefan De Bod comes through and slices 53 seconds off. The South African won’t get to make it to the hot seat, though. Oogo Ool sneaks under De Bod’s time by 0.64 seconds.
“I sat in the first ever hot seat in 2006,” Michael Hutchinson tells viewers. That’s a good story, Doc.
Tao Geoghegan Hart hits the circuit
In a good way. The 26 year-old from Hackney is not a TT specialist, but he’s no slouch either. Last year’s Giro d’Italia winner took the maglia rosa in the final day time trial, finishing 13th on the stage and beating Jai Hindley into second by more than a minute and a half.
Remco Evenepoel is on the course as well. Although the Belgian superstart has not had a great season so far, he is a seriously strong time trialist, finishing second at the Worlds in Harrogate in 1999. Definitely a contender for the medals and could well set the first competitive time.
A silver lining
One upside to Alex Dowsett not actually being out on the course is that we get the benefit of his wisdom via Twitter. Bit late for a trip to the bookies, though Alex:
Matt Stephens: gentleman, diplomat
“Nico Roche will put his heart and soul into this time trial. There’s no doubt about his commitment, but this really is one for the specialist.”
How many different ways can Matt say that Roche is a rubbish time trialist?
Roche is 10th fastest of the 13 riders to complete a lap so far. So our commentator is not exactly wrong.
A break in proceedings
So that there aren’t too many riders on the course at the same time, Nelson Oliveira is the last rider to start before a gap of 28 minutes. So far Canada’s Hugo Houle (pronounced Oogo Oole, because he’s from the French part) is setting the standard. He’s 16 seconds ahead of South Africa’s Stefan De Bod after 15km.
As we’re served up a shot of Wout van Aert meticulously pinning the numbers on to his skinsuit, Dr Michael Hutchinson tells us that, contrary to popular belief, a flappy number doesn’t make much difference when it comes to aerodynamics at all. Because it’s on their backs. It just looks untidy, and time triallists are not untidy.
The skinsuit does, of course, affect things, as does the bike, and nothing more than the rider’s position on the bike. Dr Hutch reels off the specific watt gains that can be made, and they all pass straight through my brain.
Time trialling. Doesn’t. Get nerdier than this.
A mixed field
The Olympic selection rules meant that to ride the time trial, an athlete had to be selected by their country for the road race as well.
As Matt Stephens and Michael Hutchinson, on comms for Eurosport UK, point out, however, they didn’t actually have to start it. Neither Ganna, nor Australia’s Rohan Dennis did. That’s also why we see a few non-specialists in the TT, and ultimately why Tao is there for Team GB rather than Alex Dowsett.
We're back on track at the Fuji race circuit
At the relatively respectable time of 6am in the UK, with Ahmad Badreddin Wais of the Olympic refugee team rolling down the ramp, the men’s Olympic time trial is underway.
The big question is, can anyone stop Filippo?
The answer is absolutely yes. Two or, at a push, possibly three of them could. One of those is Ganna himself, however, who may have his mind partially on the track, as he’ll also be competing in next week’s team pursuit.
Favourites haven’t fared particularly well so far in the cycling at Tokyo, but could Ganna be the first to deliver?
Wout van Aert, off the back of an amazing Tour de France and a strong road race on Sunday, is the most to deny him. They’re the last two riders to start in almost exactly two hour’s time. For British followers, Geraint Thomas takes his start at 8.02am, with Tao Geoghegan Hart taking his at 6.56am.
Who will challenge Ganna for gold?
It’s no fait accompli that the Italian powerhouse will win the gold medal. After all, Ganna only has a 50% success rate in time trials this season having won four out of eight. Most recently, he only came fourth in the Italian national championships over a TT course of around the same length.
Strong competition will come from the Belgian duo of Wout van Aert and Remco Evenepoel, who are both very solid against the clock – Van Aert, notably, winning the time trial in the Tour de France on the penultimate day.
Runner-up in the Tour’s first time trial, Switzerland’s Stefan Kung finished above Ganna – but behind Van Aert, the winner – in the final time trial in Tirreno-Adriatico earlier in the season. British duo Geraint Thomas and Tao Geoghegan Hart may come into the Olympics a little cooked and – in the case of the Welshman – bashed up following Ineos Grenadiers’ disappointing Tour campaign, but their trade teammate Michal Kwiatkowski could be a dark horse for a medal alongside his fellow Pole Maciej Bodnar.
Portuguese duo Nelson Oliveira and Joao Almeida have the requisite skills to pick up a medal, as does Ganna’s own teammate Alberto Bettiol, the second man in the Italy squad.
From the nations who are only allowed one representative, Rohan Dennis – who Ganna recently usurped as the peloton’s most accomplished time triallist – carries the torch for the Australians. He has a 40-60 record in TTs this year with two wins from five.
Colombia’s Rigoberto Uran put in a monster TT in Andermatt to win Stage 7 of the Tour de Suisse but he was well off the pace in both events in the Giro d’Italia.
Dutchman Tom Dumoulin posted the 16th and 5th best times in the two Tour de Suisse TTs on his comeback to racing following an enforced sabbatical. But the 30-year-old was back to winning ways in the Dutch national championships in June and this is a course which could suit him well.
Trade teammates Remi Cavagna and Kasper Asgreen carry the hopes for their respective French and Danish teams. Both riders are accomplished in the discipline and should go well over the terrain. Russia’s Aleksandr Vlasov and Kazakhstan’s Alexey Lutsenko are dark horse outsiders who would rejoice with a bronze medal.
Finally, there’s Primoz Roglic, who got the nod for Slovenia despite not racing the national championships earlier in the year (won by Jan Tratnik). On paper, Roglic will lap up this hilly course. But how his body responds to being back in the saddle following the crash which curtained his Tour earlier this month remains to be seen. We will have a better idea of the 31-year-old’s condition after Saturday’s road race, which features a series of climbs far more testing than these mere rollers.
A downhill opening segment of almost four kilometres takes the riders around the speedway track and then onto a circuit which is tackled twice. The first uphill grind lasts for five kilometres with an average gradient of almost 4.5%. After a 5km descent, the course re-enters the speedway track with a short climb ahead of a technical rolling section of 4km before the riders cross the line to the sound of the bell.
While a fleeting glance at the profile brings to mind a mountain stage of a Grand Tour, the total altitude gain of 846 metres over the two 22.1km laps is actually 200 metres less than that of the time trial at Rio, where Swiss specialist Fabian Cancellara beat Dutchman Tom Dumoulin (+47) and Britain’s Chris Froome (+1:02) to land the second Olympic gold medal of his career – eight years after the first in Beijing.
The 2021 course is also 10.3km shorter than the Rio course, which featured more, but shorter, climbs, and longer segments of pan-flat roads along the coast.
Taking place four days after the men’s road race, the men’s Olympic time trial plays out over 44.2 kilometres with a hilly route of two identical laps in and around the Fuji International Speedway and a total vertical gain of 846 metres.
Filippo Ganna, then just 20, did not make the Italy selection for the Rio time trial five years ago, but the Italian has picked up 10 professional time trial wins since then – including two national titles, a world championships gold medal, and five Giro TT scalps in just two appearances.
It’s fair to say that, if defending Olympic champion Fabian Cancellara was the modern-day Monsieur Chrono back in 2016, then Ganna is very much his heir apparent. But will it all be plain sailing for the rider who will celebrate his 25th birthday just three days before he rolls down the ramp at the Fuji International Speedway?
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