September 20, 2012 (Valkenburg, NED) – The Elite men’s and women’s Individual Time Trial races at the Road World Championships in Holland this year seem to have a formula that goes like this: the weather quickly changes from sun to torrential rain for just 5 minutes adding drama for the crowd and the riders with slippery roads causing a few minor crashes. At the end, a German wins – no, repeats – taking home the rainbow jersey honors followed by an American not far behind winning the silver medal.
Like Judith Arndt, his counterpart on Tuesday, Tony Martin (GER) was in the starring role with Taylor Phinney in cameo riding the best time trail of his life to almost steal the scene from Die Koenig of time trialing. Martin admitted, “Phinney rode a perfect race today and although I knew I was ahead more or less ten seconds for much of the race, he came back very strong at the end.”
Canadian Svein Tuft, who was on form earlier in the week and seeded 6th today, wasn’t as sharp as he wanted to be, but his performance (12th) got him within 20 seconds of Alberto Contador Velasco. “I felt ok today, but obviously it wasn’t my best ride – still I’m feeling consistent and ready for Sunday’s road race.”
All eyes were on Martin, last year’s champion and although the field was lighter than normal with big guns like Bradley Wiggins and Fabien Cancellara not on the start line, he didn’t expect to walk away with the medal. “Everybody was looking at me saying you just have to ride and pick up the gold, but there were a lot of good riders near me today. Taylor had a perfect ride today and the course put the hurt on my body. I gave it all, so it was one of my hardest wins ever in my career. It was the longest 1,000 meters in my career…it was hard to climb the Cauberg at the end, and I just went deeper to pull this off.”
When asked if he would tire of being a time trial specialist, Martin said, “I don’t think I’ll get sick of winning this race as I’m a specialist but I love it for now – in the future maybe setting other goals with my manager, perhaps also the Tour de France, but it’s not yet realistic…. I still love the time trial and will always try to win it.”
When asked about possible surgery for his hand injury during the first stage of the Tour de France, he shared, “It is possible, but I hope not.”
Phinney came close to snatching the gold from the favourite today, but Martin was too strong. The American chuckled with a bit of chagrin adding, “If I’d known I could come this close to winning gold I would have been turning myself inside out even more. To lose by such a little margin, to be so close to such a champion is painful, but I’ve progressed a lot and gotten better to be more than a prologue specialist and training for the longer distances.”
When asked about the competition today, he noted: “Obviously, we are missing some big names here like Cancellara and Wiggins, but the field and the course, which I liked a lot, have given me a lot of motivational push for next year to step up to another level.”
When asked how he lost the race today, Phinney reflected: “This was the best time trial of my life, better than the Olympics, so I don’t know where I lost the race today – I don’t like to use the radio, as normally I’m slower when hearing it and knowing where the others are on the course freaks me out! The dutch road furniture (the turnabouts) slowed me down a bit… that might have been my undoing?”
The bronze went to Vasil Kiryenka (seeded 28th), who along with another Kazakhstan rider, Dimitry Gruzdev (seeded 40 but came in 6th): “I’m surprised to be on the podium as I turned professional very late. I’m 30 and its my first medal and I hope I can improve in the future. Movistar gave me my first big possibilities but its time to change the air and I’m happy to be with Sky next year.
Contador, seeded 2nd, was very much the big question today, would he show up with his A game or would he be drained from just winning the Vuelta d’Espana?
It became apparent very early that his best was behind him – at least for the time trial – the first climb at Sint Remigiusstraat a short steep climb with an average 7.7% grade already separated Contador from Martin by over 40 seconds. Contador was in trouble early, and by the second climb at Rozekoel he lost just under two minutes as Martin was about to pass him. Contador confessed, “I just didn’t have good sensations, the legs felt slow, I have no excuses, but I’m not disappointed either.” Contador ended up 9th at 2:30 behind Martin.
Quote of the day, another Phinny-ism on being a good time trialist, “I just realized that you have to be in the pain cave for an hour. You don’t like the feeling, but then… it’s over!”
Full results HERE.