By David Hunter
Alpbachtal Seenland – Innsbruck 53km ITT
Time for the men to battle against the clock.
A route that can certainly be described as interesting. We have 52.5km of relatively flat roads, but it involves one serious looking climb. The organisers did plan on having a small climb at the start, but changed the route only weeks ago. Just like last year, to win this title, you need to be able to climb as well as push a huge gear in the flatlands.
The climb is 4.1km at 7.8%, but the opening 3km is actually at 9.3%. This is a hugely difficult climb on a TT bike. If you want to compare this to last year, the climb was 3.4km at 9.1%, both climbs are relatively similar, but the distance is the big difference. In 2017, the climb appeared at the end of the 31km ITT, once over this climb the riders still have 18km left to race. The increase in distance makes this route much harder than last year.
You might remember that the organisers put in a changing position in 2017, but I doubt we’ll see it this year. You will get a benefit from riding a road bike on the hill, but to change before and after the climb will waste too much time.
A beautiful sunny day for the riders, but the wind is interesting. Now, it is very light, but the forecasters are saying it is a headwind for the early starters, but switches around to be a tailwind for the riders starting later. That sounds a bit weird to me!
Tom Dumoulin – the Dutchman is back to defend his title. After winning in 2017, he’s had a decent year on his TT bike, but not exceptional. He’s won TTs in the Tour de France, Giro, but also lost the longer Giro TT to Rohan Dennis. As Dumoulin continues to focus on trying to win grand tours, it’s only natural that his TT results won’t be as impressive as before. The good news for him is that this route means his climbing ability will allow him to gain time on Dennis, something he might need to do after the flat section. It’s very hard to compare him and his Aussie rival, as they have totally different goals in grand tours. Dennis arrives focused on the TTs, but Dumoulin has to think about the three weeks. The Tour finished a long time ago, allowing Dumoulin to focus on this event and you can bet he’s here to win, but can he beat his big rival?
Rohan Dennis – the Aussie has enjoyed another exceptional year on his TT bike, with wins in the Vuelta, Giro, Tirreno and Abu Dhabi. He’s certainly the man to beat in a stage race TT, but often underperforms in the marquee events. His best result in the World Championships was 5th, back in 2014, when he was just 24. A combination of bad luck and poor form always seems to effect him at this event, but that bad luck can’t last forever. With BMC finishing at the end of the year, he is due to move to Bahrain for the next two seasons, which means no more BMC TT bike. I get the feeling that this could be his best chance to win the crown for quite some time. After dominating in the Vuelta, he’ll arrive with lots of confidence, but can he turn that into his first world title?
Fighting For Bronze
Vasil Kiryienka – strong as an ox! The former world champion was 5th in 2017, which was one of his best results for a while. The difficulty of the course is good news for him, but the distance is even better. The Belarusian is a man who only seems to get motoring after around 40km. I would expect to see him make big time on his rivals after the climb, when everyone else is tired, he’ll be at his best.
Bob Jungels – not had a great year on his TT bike, but looked strong in the TTT. Jungels is quite similar to Dumoulin, but not as good on the climbs and not as good on the flat!
Max Schachmann – only 24, but he’s still able to challenge for a medal. The German was 3rd in the Euro TT race, finishing 28 seconds behind Campenaerts. This route is good for him, as he’ll climb better than some of the heavier riders. To end the race with a bronze medal, he’ll need to ride a perfect race.
Tony Martin – I’m just not convinced by him anymore, the move to Katusha has been a disaster.
Nelson Oliveira – another rider who performs well at this time of year. Last year he managed to finish 4th in Norway, his best ever result in the World Championships. He’s a rider who continues to fly under the radar, but I would be amazed if he didn’t finish in the top 10. Like many, he can win bronze on a really good day.
Michal Kwiatkowski – 2013 was the last time he competed in this event, that’s a long time. He’s enjoyed a good year on his TT bike, but with one eye on the road race, will he go as deep as the others?
Jonathan Castroviejo – the nearly man! Castro is one of those riders who always seems to just miss out on a big result. This season his TT record is 3rd in the Vuelta, 2nd in the Euros, 4th in the Basque Country, 3rd in Tirreno and 2nd in Abu Dhabi. He has an amazingly consistent level, but just can’t seem to land the big one. His best position in the Worlds was 3rd back in 2016, last year it was a big surprise to see him down in 14th. I see him getting very close to the podium.
Victor Campenaerts – the hill will kill his chances.
I sense a slight surprise is in the air and Rohan Dennis will win his first world title.
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