Olympic Time Trial Preview

Olympic rings

It’s not often a time trial gets a preview but this is the Olympics. But as special as the occasion might be, the course is a classic test of speed and power for men and women alike. It’s also the moment the Olympics leave London’s shiny new sports facilities and medieval palaces for the suburbs and their brick-built houses.

The Route:4 4km for the men and 29km for the women. If the road race visited the green countryside and Box Hill – scene of one of Britain’s earliest lanscape portraits – before finishing outside the Queen’s palace in London then the time trial is not so scenic. An impressive start in Hampton Court Palace quickly gives way to surburbia and there’s little in the way of technical riding, whether climbing or descending.

Both routes start outside Hampton Court Palace, once home to King Henry and all his many wives. A glance of the map reveals names like Seven Hills Road, Painshill and Strawberry Hill but forget it, the course is largely flat. For the men’s route the total vertical gain is 125 metres.

The men get two extra loops, one before the women’s course and one after. So they start on a flat section, passing alongside the River Thames and then riding below some large water resevoirs whose embankments offer some shelter from the wind. Then they join the same route as the women, it is flat before a short 600m long incline that gains 30 metres, with a short kick to the top to blunt the legs if a rider doesn’t change down the gears enough. Then any height gained is lost and the race heads out to the highest point of the course called The Seven Hills Road. But it’s a gradual rise. The road does indeed have seven slight changes in incline but no more. There’s a short descent soon after followed by one section of road after 14km for the women and 23km for the men that has four uphill ramps. Here pacing and power needs to be balanced here but they’re short and should normally incite riders to get out of the saddle and blast over.

Later the men have a loop to Strawberry Hill but there is no climbing, in fact a railway bridge provides the only noticeable vertical gain before it rejoins the finish outside Hampton Court Palace.

Technically there are not many sharp corners either, most roads are large and wide and the suburban aspect means the junctions are regular. The only irregular aspect is the road surface. The course is suburban and the roads at times look like a patchwork quilt of tarmac with repairs, cracks, inspection covers and more proving the technical challenge. As such riders can’t always take the normal racing line but must always look out for obstacles.

But flat doesn’t mean easy. No, instead the difference comes in two areas:

  • Selecting the right line because the road surface varies. The riders can choose between roughened sections and smooth sections. Ideally a clever team will have noted the bad sections of road and relay the information to riders via radio, like a rally driver getting course info via their co-pilot (yes, race radios are allowed). This is small but dunk your front wheel into a small hole and it’ll cost a bit of momentum, ride on a rough section of tarmac and the rolling resistance increases. This is not to say the roads are dangerous, rather one second per kilometre quickly adds up.
  • Second, the wind direction could play an even bigger role. Knowing where to go in order to seek shelter from the wind will also help save valuable time. The suburban aspect of the course means the rider can be sheltered from the wind one moment because of garden walls, leafy avenues and big buildings but exposed the next minute. Again taking this into account can save time.

Course summary: flat but the technical aspect comes from picking the right line to avoid the rough sections and exploiting the suburban landscape to find shelter from the wind.

The Contenders: There’s a full start list below for men and women.

In the meantime I see a battle between Fabian Cancellara, Tony Martin and Bradley Wiggins but with a few other names in the mix for the men.

  • Bradley Wiggins is the home contender. He’s been on form for a long time now but he was so far ahead in the final time trial of the Tour that he’s surely a prime contender today but it’s all part of a plan, “we’ve trained for that”. After the Vuelta last year he kept up the work to be ready for the world championships and he’s hoping to emulate this. I don’t think the pressure got to any of the Brits in the road race but certainly a gold from Wiggins would be very welcome for the hosts of the games as they’ve yet to win a single gold medal. He’s unbeaten in long distance time trials this year.
  • Fabian Cancellara by contrast is aiming for gold and left the Tour de France for the birth of his daughter but also to get ready for this race. He was close to Wiggins in the Tour and normally I’d put him ahead of Wiggins given he should be fresher. But he crashed in the road race and has only now confirmed he will ride. Nothing was broken but he’s reported to be riding with some pain in the shoulder.
  • Tony Martin is the reigning world champion who beat everyone by some margin in the last worlds. He’s been aiming for this event all year and even sat up in the road race on Saturday to stay fresh. But he suffered a wrist injury during the Tour and if this is gone, he might have found his training thwarted. Without any recent results, he’s a relative unknown quantity.
  • Taylor Phinney is my next pick. The American has been training specifically for this since the Giro and so he comes fresh. His powerful build is suited to the course and he doesn’t have any injuries either. I think there’s a very good chance he’ll get a medal.

Next we have a series of outsiders. Chris Froome is a strong time trialist but I wonder if the course is too flat for him, whether he’d like some more climbing in this one. Instead there’s always Gustav Larsson, the Swedish time trial specialist who was been a fixture on courses like this. Finally the flat course might suit Sylvain Chavanel too but I think it’s too much to expect a medal from him. If the Frenchman is suited to the course, perhaps its one for Lars Boom of the Netherlands too?

Women’s Time Trial: who would bet against Judith Arndt of Germany? If you want to then there’s home contender Emma Pooley but the course is one for the big gear specialists and so less suited to her. Instead Linda Villumsen of New Zealand could be a good pick and the same for Kristin Armstrong of the US and maybe Ellen Van Dijk. Vos is in such good form that she could win a medal, even if time trialling is her relative weak point. Normally she would be an outsider but Olga Zabelinskaya was strong on Sunday and could be an outsider.

Weather: the forecasts had been threatening bad weather but now it looks more moderate with a 20km/h breeze from the south and a chance of showers in the afternoon for the men. Even if wet the course seems not too tricky.

TV: the women’s event is from 12.30pm-1.45pm London time and the men go 2.15pm to about 4.00pm. It is all being filmed and broadcast live so your local broadcaster should be showing on TV or online. All riders go at 90 second intervals.

Do: check out the course. Those who have done their homework can easily save 30-40 seconds over a rider who saw the course for the first time this week.

Don’t: put too much air in your tubs. The rough roads means a little bit of give in the rubber will help roll faster.

Women’s Startlist
12:30:00 24 FERNANDES SILVA Clemilda BRA19790625
12:31:30 23 SUNDSTEDT Pia FIN19750502
12:33:00 22 de VOCHT Liesbet BEL19790105
12:34:30 21 MOOLMAN Ashleigh RSA19851209
12:36:00 20 CORDON Audrey FRA19890922
12:37:30 19 ANTOSHINA Tatiana RUS19820727
12:39:00 18 TCHALYKH Elena AZE19740325
12:40:30 17 GUDERZO Tatiana ITA19840822
12:42:00 16 RAMSDEN Denise CAN19901121
12:43:30 15 ZABELINSKAYA Olga RUS19800510
12:45:00 14 FAHLIN Emilia SWE19881024
12:46:30 13 WORRACK Trixi GER19810928
12:48:00 12 CANTELE Noemi ITA19810717
12:49:30 11 GILLOW Shara AUS19871223
12:51:00 10 van DIJK Ellen NED19870211
12:52:30 9 ARMITSTEAD Elizabeth GBR19881218
12:54:00 8 JOHANSSON Emma SWE19830923
12:55:30 7 NEBEN Amber USA19750218
12:57:00 6 POOLEY Emma GBR19821003
12:58:30 5 HUGHES Clara CAN19720927
13:00:00 4 VILLUMSEN Linda Melanie NZL19850409
13:01:30 3 VOS Marianne NED19870513
13:03:00 2 ARNDT Judith GER19760723
13:04:30 1 ARMSTRONG Kristin USA19730811

Men’s Startlist
14:15:00 37 LAHSAINI Mouhcine MAR19850823
14:16:30 36 GIL MARTINEZ Tomas Aurelio VEN19770523
14:18:00 35 HAGHI Alireza IRI19790208
14:19:30 34 AKDILEK Ahmet TUR19880310
14:21:00 33 NAZARET Magno Prado BRA19860117
14:22:30 32 BEPPU Fumiyuki JPN19830410
14:24:00 31 BAZAYEV Assan KAZ19810222
14:25:30 30 McCANN David IRL19730317
14:27:00 29 BAK Lars Ytting DEN19800116
14:28:30 28 ALBASINI Michael SUI19801220
14:30:00 27 DUARTE AREVALO Fabio Andres COL19860611
14:31:30 26 BOOM Lars NED19851230
14:33:00 25 BAUER Jack NZL19850407
14:34:30 24 BRAJKOVIC Janez SLO19831218
14:36:00 23 BODNAR Maciej POL19850307
14:37:30 22 GILBERT Philippe BEL19820705
14:39:00 21 VINOKUROV Alexandr KAZ19730916
14:40:30 20 HESJEDAL Ryder CAN19801209
14:42:00 19 CASTROVIEJO NICOLAS Jonathan ESP19870427
14:43:30 18 FUGLSANG Jakob DEN19850322
14:45:00 17 OLIVEIRA Nelson Filipe S. Simoes POR19890306
14:46:30 16 BOASSON HAGEN Edvald NOR19870517
14:48:00 15 NAVARDAUSKAS Ramunas LTU19880130
14:49:30 14 MENCHOV Denis RUS19780125
14:51:00 13 WESTRA Lieuwe NED19820911
14:52:30 12 KIRYIENKA Vasil BLR19810628
14:54:00 11 LARSSON Gustav SWE19800920
14:55:30 10 ROGERS Michael AUS19791220
14:57:00 9 GRABSCH Bert GER19750619
14:58:30 8 CHAVANEL Sylvain FRA19790630
15:00:00 7 FROOME Christopher GBR19850520
15:01:30 6 PINOTTI Marco ITA19760225
15:03:00 5 SANCHEZ GIL Luis Leon ESP19831124
15:04:30 4 PHINNEY Taylor USA19900627
15:06:00 3 MARTIN Tony GER19850423
15:07:30 2 WIGGINS Bradley GBR19800428
15:09:00 1 CANCELLARA Fabian SUI19810318

52 thoughts on “Olympic Time Trial Preview”

  1. Assume the missing “Gold” is a typo: the hosts of the games as they’ve yet to win a single medal

    Lets hope Wiggo does the job.

  2. So basically you are saying it is still a game day decision for Cancellara? According to Reuters who quote his coach (I think) he will definitely be riding. Do you know something they don’t? PS: this is a genuine question, nothing hostile meant by it πŸ™‚

  3. The people posting about Armitstead and Britain’s medals are trying to say that you appear to have left out the word “Gold” from in between “single” and “medal” when describing Wiggins as a contender. πŸ™‚

  4. Any idea how the start order is worked out.?
    Obviously defending champs go last, but how are the rest worked out?
    eg Pooley, was silver medalist last time, starts 6 from end

    • It’s seeded in reverse order, roughly speaking. Pooley is a good time triallist but less at home on these flat roads even if it’s in Britain.

      But obviously it’s imprecise and most of the main contenders go in a close window of time. All riders at 90 seconds as opposed to 3 minutes / 180 second intervals for the big names in the Tour de France.

    • Surely you jest! Intermediate timing for an Olympic Time Trial? What do you think this is, the Tour de France? πŸ˜‰
      The uci cronies who run the show & produce it for tv don’t want to waste money on that! They’ll just do nothing and blame the internet. Or twitter. Or the rain.

  5. My worry here is the 90 second time gaps. The chances of riders catching each other are much higher. I recall one farce of a Worlds (2009?) where Cancellara caught both Larsson and Wiggins I think and it was pretty obvious Larsson was just sitting on for a medal. I hope that type of thing doesn’t determine medals here.

    Would love Pooley to get a medal as a reward for all her hard work in the road race. She must have a freakish watts per kg output! Reckon Armstrong will win this one. She looked strong a couple of days ago.

  6. Originally I would have said Wiggo gold, Fabs silver, Tony bronze. However, I don’t think Fabs is going to be on form. I could see him placing 5th, but I doubt he’ll medal. Now, I think Tony can get silver and Taylor can get bronze. However, its not like Tony has been on form (injuries). And he didn’t finish the road race. I realize he was probably saving himself for the time trial, but at the same time it would have boosted my confidence in him to see him finish. My dark horse is Chava. Out of the “second tier” time trialists (ie not Wiggo, Tony, Fabs) he’s been near the top in just about every chrono. Personally, I’d like to see Wiggo, Taylor and Chava medal, probably in that order.

    I won’t lie, I don’t really know anything about women’s cycling. I’ve heard most of the favorites names but couldn’t tell you the teams or how well they will do. But for arguments sake, lets say the German, Armstrong, Hughes with Pooley as the dark horse.

  7. You’ve got it all wrong in terms of the main contenders. The guy from Turkey will surely win by a large margin. Just kidding! It will be a close race between the four that you have highlighted as the favorites, but I think given Wiggins year so far he should crush this.

    • British athletes seem snakebitten in these Games (at least as far as gold medals go). I think Martin pulls it out and Wiggo gets the silver.

  8. I take the view that the betting market is a pretty efficient predictor.

    Current betting on the men’s TT (percentage chance in brackets) is:

    Wiggins 2/5 (71.4%)
    Martin 4/1 (20%)
    Cancellara 9/2 (18%)

    In short the bookies see it basically as a three horse race with Wiggins odds-on to win.

    (The fact that the odds add up to more than 100% is simply a reflection of the bookies overestimating the chances of the favourites to give themselves an edge whoever wins.)

    I think that Wiggins is overbet because of the Brit effect: British punters tend to pile money on to British contenders for nationalistic reasons, and the weight of this money causes the odds to shorten more than they should. The same thing happens when the English football team plays in international competitions.

    I don’t bet on cycling, but if I did, I’d say that Wiggins’ true chance is more like even money (50%), so I wouldn’t consider backing him at 2/5 which is far too short IMO.

    Incidentally, Cancellara’s odds have improved dramatically since Monday, when they were as high as 8/1 (11%), which leads me to believe that the punters think that the injury he sustained in the road race is not as bad as it looked at the time.

  9. Wiggo’s tired, Fabian and Tony off their best from injuries, Phinney wins it! He’s fresh and he’s been training on a duplicate course in US. So, in the interview after he wins, Taylor will get say, “we trained for this”.

    • Any residual tiredness from Wiggo will be trumped by adrenaline of going for Gold on home turf !

      I do believe Phinney has a great chance to take a medal. My big question is in regards to Tony Martin’s form after his last injury. He’s been fairly quiet leading up to this TT and just don’t know if his wrist will be an issue. If it’s not, I’d bet on…


      That being said, I wouldn’t normally bet against Spartacus, but his crash in the RR was nasty and he admits to being in pain. Over 44 kms that pain will likely hinder him just off the medal stand, but I hope I’m wrong. Cancellara is one class act and I wish only the best for him!

  10. Can you do a trifecta box? bet on Wiggo, Martin, Phinney, in any order.

    I agree with SilverSurfer about Phinney, Phinney was pissed that he finished 4th in the RR.
    He blew it and he knows it…

    • “Can you do a trifecta box? bet on Wiggo, Martin, Phinney, in any order.”

      I haven’t seen that on any of the sites that I visit. I’ve seen individual match bets of the form X to finish in front of Y, but it’s not like horse racing where there’s a long established tradition of exotic bets at attractive combined odds.

      You could try the betting exchanges like Betfair to see what they are offering, but the problem is that they automatically shut you out if you are trying to bet from certain countries e.g. the US and France.

  11. Don’t rule out the artful Dodger. Great form for Sky, strong team player in the RR and finally let off the leash to emulate previous WC wins! Certainly worth a punt at >50/1

  12. Anybody know of a site where I can find live timings? Stuck in work and I can only find live blogs, A TV stream would have the IT manager knocking on my door within 30sec.

  13. Compare this race with the Worlds last year and Wiggins is at the least 1:15 better than everyone else vs. then. You can’t use the fitness argument, he had just completed the vuelta last year and today he had just done the TdF. How does one gain 1-2 minutes over the best TT’rs in the world. I’m excluding Cancellara and Martin since both have had injury/fitness issues. But look at others. Grabsch, Westra, Janez etc.

    • As a Chinese, I’m pretty offended by that comment. I think the legal system in the “free west” does say that you are innocent unless proved otherwise. We Chinese suffered enough injustice back home, doesn’t need anymore here.

      On a side note, just found some of the typical American “we doped so they must have as well” way of thinking funny. In the cycling case, it was: Armstrong/US postal doped to dominate TDF so Wiggins/sky must have as well; In the swimming case, it was: Jessica Hardy did it so must Ye.

      • Of course, Chinese swimmers have had their share of doping scandals in the past. It’s not just a “We doped so they must have” argument but a “They’ve doped before so they may be doping again” one.

        I will acknowledge that it’s possible for a swimmer to make a big improvement between the ages of 15 and 16, though. She may be clean. We’ll see.

        • Ye has been tested clean. Of course, that doesn’t guarantee that she’s 100% clean. Without further evidence , all we can do here is making meaningless speculations.

          That said, starting to suspect an athlete doping simply because he/she did something significant and commit a public relation champion to damage the said athlete’s reputation is purely wrong (I am not saying that respective authorities shouldn’t start looking behind scenes to make sure that the feat is done clean. And that is different from irresponsible ranting in media ). Mind you, No-one started to suspect Phelps just because he was that good.

          Anyway, we talked enough about swimming. InnerRing is a cycling blog.

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