Olympics Time Trial Preview

The final road event of the Olympics, the time trial is open to many but unlike the road race the medal prospects seem to be reserved for a select few. Here’s a quick look at the course, the contenders and the start times.

Rio time trial course

The Course: 29.9km for the women and 54.6km for the men, gender parity seems on hold. They use some of the same roads used in the weekend’s road races, the Grumari beach coastal road only this time they avoid the cobbles and use a narrow strip of tarmac that’s been laid parallel to the pavé. The come the Grumari and Grota Funda climbs, with one loop for the women and two for the men before a brief coastal run to the line. The women’s TT has a vertical gain of 580 metres and the men get 1045 metres.

As a reminder the Grumari climb is steep in places as it snakes up through the tropical woodland and has some steep and tight bends on the descent. Grota Funda is a steadier climb on a wider road. As routes go this is hilly and not one for the big gear specialists, this is the kind of course where riders will be changing gear a lot, including with the front derailleur.

The Contenders: the women go first at 8.30am Rio time and the men are next at 10.00am Rio time. Can Anna van der Breggen do the double? You might see her as a punchy, attacking rider she’s good when pacing and steady riding matters too. See her second place in the worlds last year and second in the Giro Rosa time trial stage. Annemiek van Vleuten would have been a top pick today but instead Ellen van Dijk is the other Dutch option but the climbing won’t suit her.

Evelyn Stevens is a versatile rider who was climbing with the best right until the top of the Vista Chinesa but can win time trials and as the current hour record holder knows a thing about pacing. USA team mate Kristin Armstrong won gold in London but the course and the passage of time – she’s 42 – mean this is harder even if Rio has been the big goal.

Linda Villumsen of New Zealand is second to last off as the reigning world champion but the climbing here could be here undoing compared to the names mentioned above. Lisa Brennauer is another outsider with a linear career progression, she rode the team pursuit in the 2012 Olympics, won the 2015 World Championship TT in Ponferrada. The stealth pick is Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio, the South African can be labelled a climber but has decent results against the clock and here’s a course to suit.

08:30:00, 25, PLICHTA Anna, POL
08:31:30, 24, KOPECKY Lotte, BEL
08:33:00, 23, MAJERUS Christine, LUX
08:34:30, 22, YONAMINE Eri, JPN
08:36:00, 21, HEINE Vita, NOR
08:37:30, 20, LEPISTO Lotta, FIN
08:39:00, 19, CORDON Audrey, FRA
08:40:30, 18, WHITTEN Tara, CAN
08:42:00, 17, NIEWIADOMA Katarzyna, POL
08:43:30, 16, AMIALIUSIK Alena, BLR
08:45:00, 15, POOLEY Emma, GBR
08:46:30, 14, CANUEL Karol-Ann, CAN
08:48:00, 13, DUYCK Ann-Sophie, BEL
08:49:30, 12, WORRACK Trixi, GER
08:51:00, 11, GARFOOT Katrin, AUS
08:52:30, 10, MOOLMAN-PASIO Ashleigh, RSA
08:54:00, 9, LONGO BORGHINI Elisa, ITA
08:55:30, 8, SOLOVEI Ganna, UKR
08:57:00, 7, van DIJK Ellen, NED
08:58:30, 6, STEVENS Evelyn, USA
09:00:00, 5, ZABELINSKAYA Olga, RUS
09:01:30, 4, BRENNAUER Lisa, GER
09:03:00, 3, van der BREGGEN Anna, NED
09:04:30, 2, VILLUMSEN Linda, NZL
09:06:00, 1, ARMSTRONG Kristin, USA
Anna van der Breggen, Evelyn Stevens
Armstrong, Brennauer
Villumsen, Moolman-Pasio

Tom Dumoulin would have been the prime pick for this until that freak crash in the Tour de France. He won two stages of the Tour de France including the first time trial and it was all part of a plan for Rio which fell to pieces when he fractured his wrist in the Alps. Since then he’s been back on the bike but his plans will have taken a knock too. If this course was flat maybe he could cope but the climbing and the twisting descents mean he’s bound to pay.

The moment Dumoulin fell out of the Tour de France Chris Froome became the bookmaker’s pick for Rio. His odds won’t be so good after Saturday’s road race where he rode to a decent 11th place but he wasn’t at home on the climb and on the final lap was even overtaken by Rui Costa. Hyped by the British media for the road race, the time trial is much more his event. He won a bronze medal in London in this discipline on a flat course so here’s a course to suit.

Rohan Dennis is an outsider pick if only because he’s had a very quiet year at least when measured against the expectations invested him. He won his national title and the Tour of California’s time trial stage where the opposition wasn’t big. However the focus all year has been this race and he’s delivered big results like the prologue of the 2015 Tour de France. He can cope with the hills too but a recent training crash might have knocked him back.

Vasil Kiryienka gets to ride for himself and when he does he often impresses, most all of all when he won the world title last September to everyone’s surprise. At ease on hillier courses the Rio route suits him.

Ion Izagirre has beaten the best on big occasions now, see his Tour de Suisse time trial win. Powerful on the flat, good on the climbs and as we saw with his stage win to Morzine, handy on a steep descent too. Only he’s rarely cited among the TT greats.

Which brings us to Tony Martin and Fabian Cancellara. A few years ago the pair shared all the big wins between them. Cancellara’s on his retirement tour and this course is surely too hilly for him but he was seen hanging with the best on the road up to the Vista Chinesa which makes him worth looking out for. Martin quit the Tour de France with a sore knee although a little bird says a dispute with his team incited him to bail before Paris. Even without this he’s been beaten in every time trial he’s started with the exception of the German national championships.

Taylor Phinney‘s being tipped by some but the length and the climbing mean he’s surely an outsider. Among the outsiders the story goes that Primož Roglič only won the Giro’s Chianti stage because of the rain, he enjoyed dry conditions that others did not. The weather’s true but he was a shock second in the Giro’s opening time trial too so could feature here, especially as he climbs well.

10:00:00, 37, CRAVEN Dan, NAM
10:01:30, 36, REGUIGUI Youcef, ALG
10:03:00, 35, ORKEN Ahmet, TUR
10:04:30, 34, MIZBANI IRANAGH Ghader, IRI
10:06:00, 33, LAHSAINI Mouhssine, MAR
10:07:30, 32, MONSALVE Yonathan, VEN
10:09:00, 31, KOCHETKOV Pavel, RUS
10:10:30, 30, SEPULVEDA Eduardo, ARG
10:12:00, 29, JUUL JENSEN Christopher, DEN
10:13:30, 28, PREIDLER Georg, AUT
10:15:00, 27, VUILLERMOZ Alexis, FRA
10:16:30, 26, GRIVKO Andriy, UKR
10:18:00, 25, GESCHKE Simon, GER
10:19:30, 24, BOOKWALTER Brent, USA
10:21:00, 23, ZEITS Andrey, KAZ
10:22:30, 22, CARUSO Damiano, ITA
10:24:00, 21, KÖNIG Leopold, CZE
10:25:30, 20, KWIATKOWSKI Michał, POL
10:27:00, 19, WELLENS Tim, BEL
11:15:00, 18, BOASSON HAGEN Edvald, NOR
11:16:30, 17, HOULE Hugo, CAN
11:18:00, 16, THOMAS Geraint, GBR
11:19:30, 15, ALAPHILIPPE Julian, FRA
11:21:00, 14, ROGLIČ Primož, SLO
11:22:30, 13, CASTROVIEJO  Jonathan, ESP
11:24:00, 12, SIUTSOU Kanstantsin, BLR
11:25:30, 11, BODNAR Maciej, POL
11:27:00, 10, BARTA Jan, CZE
11:28:30, 9, OLIVEIRA Nelson, POR
11:30:00, 8, DENNIS Rohan, AUS
11:31:30, 7, IZAGUIRRE Ion, ESP
11:33:00, 6, PHINNEY Taylor, USA
11:34:30, 5, CANCELLARA Fabian, SUI
11:36:00, 4, MARTIN Tony, GER
11:37:30, 3, KIRYIENKA Vasil, BLR
11:39:00, 2, DUMOULIN Tom, NED
11:40:30, 1, FROOME Christopher, GBR
Chris Froome
Rohan Dennis, Vasil Kiryienka, Tom Dumoulin
Izagirre, Cancellara, Martin, Roglič

Weather: cool, cloudy and a top temperature of 23°C. There’s a chance of rain too.

TV: up to your host broadcaster. The Olympics are a celebration of sport but often a festival of nationalism as broadcasters cut away from a final to feature a home contender with a shot at bronze. The first woman is off at 8.30am Rio time, 1.30pm Euro time, 7.30am in New York and 9.30pm in Sydney. Chris Froome is off at 11.40am Rio time, 10.40 in New York, 0.40 for Sydneysiders and 4.40 Euro time and the course will take over an hour to complete.

71 thoughts on “Olympics Time Trial Preview”

  1. Paving over the strip of pave is deplorable. Back-in-the-day the bikes were chosen and equipped based on the course, now we have the course modified for generally-useless-for-anything else “chrono” bikes?
    I’m sure the TV ratings and spectator interest in this competition will be very low. I’d rather see more track events instead of this borefest, but I guess the UCI thinks otherwise?

      • Larry T has a point Chuffy. A bike race, even a boring testers race, is supposed to be man and machine against the course and elements. Why the sudden need or desire to manipulate one of the basic parameters, simply to suite bikes that are simply not designed, suitable or road worthy for the conditions.

        The question is simply about the basic concept of a bike race, not as you imply, some old fashioned view of the world.

        • It’s a time trial. It should definitely be held on a Sunday morning at 4am on a dual carriageway.

          And non of those climbs should be there. That’s not a proper TT either.

        • @BC
          He doesn’t, he’s just being a grumpy old man. Cobbles in a TT would be gratuitous and silly, that’s why they’re reserved for the Classics and as an occasional seasoning for flat GT stages. And time trialling is as pure an athletic discipline as any, if people don’t find it interesting, don’t watch it and don’t bore the rest of us with tiresomely predictable grumbles about drying paint.

          • I’m not trying to wind you up Chuffy, just trying to understand your logic. Should the road race have avoided the cobbles as well? Should we get the asphalt trucks out on Strade Bianche? Time-trial stages must be held only on perfect surfaces so the skittery, hard-to-control TT bikes don’t spit their riders off? What’s wrong with a course that might cause someone to consider a more normal type of machine? I’ll admit this is an extreme example, but F1 and MOTOGP have allowed the machines to evolve to the point many of the classic venues that hosted competitions have been made obsolete. Should pro cycling follow that model? We already have velodromes, do we need to defang every road race course as well? Should the TT be little more than a test of watts vs aero drag? No bike handling skills required?

    • Get off my lawn, things cost too much, etc, etc.

      Olympics only come around every four years and some guys will only get one shot at winning this. I don’t want a TT to be decided by a chain jumping. This is avoidable and therefore should be avoided. Besides it’s not like TTing on cobbles is a thing anyway.

      • Chain jumping, stray dogs, torrential weather, puncture, chain breaking, what have you…
        Of course a race can be decided by a “race incident”. Didn’t we just see 2 RRs being decided by “accident”?
        I think Larry has a valid point here; riders should ride bikes to suit the course, the course shall not be adapted to the bike. That is clearly going down a wrong lane.

        • How can you say the course has been modified? It is a brand new course.
          Obviously I understand that it is in the same place as the road race but they could have decided to have it in a completely different place, on the formula 1 circuit for example? Would we be having this discussion then?
          Yes I would have watched a time trial one a cobbled course but the organisers obviously wanted a climber friendly circuit.

          • Sorry, Bilmo but I got the impression from reading Mr. INRNG’s blog post – and he (she?) confirms my impression below – that this was done to accomodate the event.
            I never visited Rio so, of course, I cannot say it is so for a fact. I posted on the basis of the article I read.

    • Were the cobbles paved over just for this event, or as a general improvement? There seemed to be a smooth section parallel to the cobbles during the road races.

    • Pooley looked to me to retain her “pound for pound the strongest woman in cycling” title.
      She likely was happy w/ her RR form on the climbs and when “team” duties were over,
      it was a recon/training session.
      If this be her “Swan Song”, let her be Gold.

  2. Martin in a dispute with his team? That seems odd, he’s hardly a diva and surely he wouldn’t ditch his team duties on the Champs unless there was a compelling reason.

    • Indeed, there was something going on with EQS late in the Tour. I was in France watching when Tony Martin baled and Dan Martin was left to try and fend for a delayed Boonen. The FR2 commentary team were guffawing and making funny little remarks as if they’d seen a team hotel bust-up but couldn’t really talk about it properly. Expect an AAA feature documentary on EQS before the spring classics.

    • I know it’s uncouth to hijack the subject matter of the blog post, but I found this comment most intriguing of the TT preview, “Martin quit the Tour de France with a sore knee although a little bird says a dispute with his team incited him to bail before Paris.”

      To quit on the very last day of the Tour is totally unthinkable. Something definitely seems to be wrong at Quick Step. I would love to know what’s up. Is Tony Martin heading to a new team? Is Quick Step imploding just to keep washed-up Boonen in the ranks (and I say that as a big fan of Tomke, but you have to admit, the sun has been setting on his career the past couple of years)?

  3. Izagirre “Only he’s rarely cited among the TT greats.”
    So true. And I don’t understand why. He’s a constant podium rider last 1½ years in TT. My money is on him for Rio.

    • Not to mention an incredible descender, including recently, both TdS and TdF, and I remember that tricky Romandie course too. He was very invisible in the RR, did he abandon like Dumoulin or just avoid fatigue/injury? Love to see him do it.

  4. Is a TT without the context of a GC battle really the best use of an event slot by the UCI at the Olympics?

    Bring back the Madison or Points Race instead!

    • I love an ITT an think it should always be in the Olympics – the race of truth and all that.
      However I don’t understand why cycling has so few events. When one contestant can win so many swimming medals for basically the same distance race but doing it backwards, with one had behind their back, and blindfolded etc.
      I know its all about politics and lobbying within the IOC but you would think with the expense of building a velodrome they would want to make the most of it.

        • Unfortunately for the fringe sports, the IOC has been on a mission to reduce the number of events and athletes (think cost & ROI), and diverse sports like cycling suffer because of it.

          Swimming and Gymnastics are hugely popular, and generate the most TV ratings. Gymnastics in particular could be easily cut down, without losing skills or “events”. Instead of having separate individual, overall, and team competitions (with the same athletes), they could all get 1 crack at it like a stage race, with individual event winners (stages), overall (GC), and Best Team (Team GC), but this would not generate the ticket sales and TV rights money that the existing format does. The IOC knows where their bread is buttered…

          • What countries are the swimming audience data referred to (or are they worldwide?)? And what is the source?
            Not asking for “polemica” ‘s sake, just curiosity (since I’ve got contrasting figures about several countries, but not referred to the Olympics).

          • Totally agree RE: Gymnastics. I tried to make sense of the gymnastics format for the first time the other day… I can’t believe how confusing that is.

            It wouldn’t matter much how many events each individual sport has, except that the entire USA is now saying that Michael Phelps is the greatest Olympian because he now has 20 gold medals. Well, that’s completely unfair to athletes like Kristin Armstrong. There’s no way she could have won as many as Michael Phelps, but what she has done is arguably way bigger. She’s won 3 Golds in the TT, the last one at 42 years-old! The second one was after taking a year off to have a baby. Unbelievable stuff. Michael Phelps couldn’t do that.

          • Globally, I don’t think anybody can say which the most popular events are, as so many countries don’t have a TV rating system.

            And it will vary from games to games, as the most popular sport in the time zone and, especially, country concerned will get a boost each time. (So I would have expected table tennis and badminton, for instance, to do better during Beijing 2008, when they were on at a convenient time for east Asia, than in 2012, when Europeans were less interested. This time round, Brazil’s (volleyball/football?) and the US’s favourite sports will get a boost.)

            But hosts and broadcasters will know which events interest advertisers most, and the fact that they give so much time and space to athletics, gymnastics and swimming indicates that those are the big draws. Also football – for all that the Olympics are a second tier competition – sells a lot of tickets, so they like to keep that too.

            In the UK, the biggest audiences for the last 3 games were for the athletics events with the best known British medal contenders/other blue riband athletics (men’s 100m)/events with British ‘celebs’ competing – Hoy/Pendleton/Wiggins 2008, Tom Daley (diver) 2012.

          • @Nick
            In my current experience as a spectator, the Olympics are broadcast on ads-free public channels. But that’s just one case, admittedly.
            However, the interest towards any single sport in terms of viewing figures can vary hugely from country to country.
            Hence I’d be hugely surprised if any decision about the number of available medals was TV-audience related (that’s what we were talking about).
            OTOH, what’s been actually disclosed about the distribution of medals, disciplines and so on suggests that the whole thing works essentially out of sheer politics and corruption.

          • @gabriele, I also watch on public service free-to-air TV – which is currently providing a channel for each sport, which is fantastic. But even here, you can see which sports are popular with advertisers, by looking on the commercial channels, and the sportsmen and women invited onto the most popular reality TV shows. So adverts feature athletes, some cyclists and swimmers, and Strictly Come Dancing (our Dancing With Stars) had a cyclist and gymnast in the last Olympic year.

            @Frances, that article is pretty interesting, though a little dubious – team sports take ages to award their medals, having games every day throughout the 2 weeks, so it’s no wonder they have a high viewer to medal ratio. And I think it’s the time/size of competition that’s the real driver, rather than medals per se . But the sources that article cites are much more interesting: the IOC’s revenue rankings (http://www.reuters.com/article/olympics-athletics-revenues-idUSL3N0EA2F620130529) and each sport’s self assessment of its popularity (https://stillmed.olympic.org/Documents/Commissions_PDFfiles/Programme_commission/RIO2016_International_Federations_Report.pdf) The latter in particular has quite interesting figures for TV viewership per minute of coverage. For instance:
            *gymnastics claimed 49m viewers/minute in London (who knows how they counted),
            *athletics 44.5m/min
            *swimming 43.5m/min,
            *triathlon 36m/min
            *volleyball 30.5m/min
            *equestrianism had 23.5m/min,
            *fencing has 16.2m/min,
            *sailing 14.5m/min.

            And cycling was on 27.5m/min, similar to basketball in appeal.

          • According to Frances’ link, buttwatching wankers sport beach volleyball got more attention than cycling or real volleyball.
            All you need to know. Chances to see nice asses in Track and field and swimming also high, like their viewer numbers. As if anything of this has to do with sport.

          • track and field should get skipping, running backwards, and hopping added to all distances.
            The field events should have left and right hand shot put, discus and javelin too.

          • Swimming has far too many events, most of them short and having only minor variations.
            The USA often has a penchant for “quantity” over “quality” — nearly half the country is overweight or morbidly obese — so the 20+ Phelps medals is something the armchair athlete demographic can relate to. (I say this as a USA natural born citizen).

  5. Interesting point with Martin, thought it was weird to pull out on final day. Any idea what the dispute was?

    As a Brit, hoping for a Froome win, although didn’t have a strong show in the road race do you think this was his target race all along? He looked fantastic in hilly TT at the tour and remained in aero position on climbs indicating he’d put specific focus on it.

    Dumoulin will be hindered with his wrist. Can imagine him been in some severe discomfort considering it is still only a few weeks since the fracture. How bad of a fracture was it?

  6. Intriguing race coming up, but I’m damned if I am staying up all night in Australia to watch it …

    Women: Pooley may well feature but her descending used to be as poor as Abbott’s. A shame Garfoot is (or was) sick – she could have done well here. Longo Borghini could by a smokey if her RR performance is anything to go by.

    Men: the climbs are 1.2km +2.1km x2: so 6.6km of climbing out of 54km in total – is that enough to swing this TT in favour of anyone but the strongest TTers? I’m not so sure: Martin & Cancellara should still feature here. Both are fast on a descent too. Froome looked cooked to me on Saturday.

  7. “Intriguing race coming up, but I’m damned if I am staying up all night in Australia to watch it …”

    +1 it’s on too late for me but unless you have a machine or machines to tape all 7’s channels you might have little or nothing. I selected the wrong channel to record the Mens road race not realising they switched to 7 mate for the last 70kms. No warning or info given which effectively means you’re meant to fork out for their app. At least McGrory is commentating but we still suffer PL.

    • The 7 Olympics app itself is free. If you’re a Telstra customer then all premium content (e.g. Men’s and Women’s RR in full) is also free. Otherwise, if you’re a real fan, you’ll have to pay for the content.

  8. Any explanation for the departure order in the mens race?
    Why is Froome off last?
    Why not Tony Martin (silver in London) or Kiri (current WC) ?
    Similarly, why Dumoulin second to last ?

  9. it’s always struck me as odd there’s no team time trial these days at the olympics – its the ideal forum for one, nation against nation.

    I’m holding out for Geraint today… he’s normally in the top few in these sorts of TTs

    • Just looked up the Olympic TTT, over 100km, would be mac craic. Seeing as the Track cycling events were reduced for the Olympics, the TTT was probable bumped as it may bear too similar a resemblance to the Team Pursuit on the Track.

      • The UCI would need to change the format of the World TTT first, to use national teams rather than trade teams – which would make the world TTT more interesting/relevant as well IMO

      • Definitely agree that a national TTT should be in the Olympics. An even bigger miss for me though is the individual pursuit. Imagine if they said ‘we might as well get rid of the 100 metre sprint, it’s too similar to the 4×100 metre relay’! Wouldn’t happen.

        Anyway, back on topic, Froome to win today.

    • A TTT would favour countries with higher numbers of professional cyclists. How many countries could even form a proper team? Iran, Turkey, Algeria, Namibia?

      Also remember the requirements for riders to be entered for multiple events, to keep their numbers down.

  10. I’d love to see Anna do the double. One rider you didn’t mention who I think has a good chance is Kasia Niewiadoma….her time trial has improved a lot and she can climb.

  11. A TT is as close to a pure test of rider strength as we get in road cycling. Given that the Olympic RR tends to be especially unpredictable, I think I’m in favour of removing as many random elements from the TT as possible.

    I suspect a good day for the Dutch today.

  12. Only saw the womens event, dreadfully dull affair hampered by poor weather. The event hardly warranted Olympic status. Dreadfully disappointed though happy to see K Armstrong take the win at the end. 12th place outside 2 minutes back and the men’s I see not much closer.

    • anyone who watched the Aviva Women’s Tour in the UK and saw Pooley dominating the Lanterne Rouge spot knew she was a poor choice for the road race, based on some spuriously expected improvement in form. I assumed BC were playing the odds and sacrificing a road race domestique for a statistically strong chance of a medal in the TT for Pooley, but her poor bike handling let her down.

      Surely everyone thinks Spartacus was the ‘right’ winner for the men’s, a fitting end to his career and Dumoulin will have other chances.

  13. Amazing ride by Spartacus – didn’t expect him to go so well, although looked strong in the RR. Tony Martin must be disappointed though – expected him to go better, although his form this season hasn’t quite been there in the TT’s. Was his knee causing him problems?

    Have looked at the splits and Cancellara was dominant in all of the splits except the 2nd split (which included the Grota Funda climb where he lost around 30 seconds to most of his rivals. In the 4th split however, (same section of the circuit, where you might expect Froome and the climbers to claw back time) he set the fastest time, 35secs faster than his 2nd split and put 6 secs into Dumoulin and 8 into Froome (2nd and 3rd on the 4th split) – how did he do it? Very strong!

    • Cancellara measured the effort on the first lap and charged home on the second.

      That’s the result of all his years of experience, he knows that a TT is a race and not just a wattage contest.

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