Olympic Time Trial Preview: Can Fabian Cancellara and Kristin Armstrong repeat?
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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Olympic Time Trial Preview: Can Fabian Cancellara and Kristin Armstrong repeat?

by Ben Atkins at 8:41 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Olympics
Defending champions far from certain after injury hit seasons and road race crashes

fabian cancellaraAfter the iconic road race finish in front of Buckingham Palace, the home of Britain’s current Monarch, the Olympic cycling circus moves south and west to the home of arguably its most famous one, in Henry VIII’s Hampton Court Palace on Wednesday, August 1st. Like the road race, the time trial courses - 44km for the men, and 29km for the women - head out into the Surrey countryside, via Hersham, Whitney, Cobham, Esher, Thames Ditton, and Kingston-upon-Thames.

Unlike the road race course however, there are no serious climbs on the time trial route, although the rolling nature of the countryside means that it will be far from flat. The big challenge on the course could be the weather, with rain threatening to fall on the day of the race, which would make many of its multitude of corners treacherous.

Both champions from Beijing four years ago - in Switzerland’s Fabian Cancellara, and the United States’ Kristin Armstrong - will be there to defend their titles, but neither has found the path to London to be a smooth one. Both have suffered fractured collarbones in 2012, with Cancellara smashing his into four places in April’s Ronde van Vlaanderen, and Armstrong breaking hers as recently as late May’s Exergy tour prologue. Both have returned to winning ways this month, but both crashed in the weekend’s road races, with Cancellara’s heavy landing putting his participation in doubt.

Both Beijing silver medallists will also be present in Sweden’s Gustav Larsson and Great Britain’s Emma Pooley. Pooley, the 2010 World champion, is the more likely of the two to seriously challenge, and - after being instrumental in compatriot Lizzie Armitstead’s road race silver medal on Sunday - will be fired up and ready to take the host nation’s first gold.

Ordinarily the two favourites for victory would be the two German World champions, in Tony Martin and Judith Arndt, but - like Cancellara and Armstrong - Martin has had a less than ideal run up to the games. The Panzerwagen’s season has been beset with injuries, and the latest of those came in the first week of the Tour de France where he fractured a bone in his hand.

Martin looked strong in the first half of Saturday’s road race however - and was the one German to help out the Great Britain team in the early stages - before pulling out to rest up before Wednesday.

Arndt has had a better path to London, with overall victory in the Thüringen-Rundfahrt just a week before; the 36-year-old led an almost single-handed chase of the winning break on Sunday for some kilometres however, which may cost her on Wednesday.

kristin armstrongMuch of the big money in the men’s race will be on Great Britain duo Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome, who dominated both of the long time trials in the Tour on the way to Wiggins overall victory. A one-off time trial is very different to one in the middle of a three-week race however, but with Cancellara and Martin uncertain, either one could be set to exorcise the spectre of Great Britain’s fruitless road race.

Women’s road race winner Marianne Vos of the Netherlands is a possible wild card for doing the double, and emulating compatriot Leontien Zijlaard-Van Moorsel’s domination of the road events in Sydney. The 25-year-old is unproven in time trials at this level however - which is virtually the only discipline in the sport that she does not dominate - and could only manage tenth in last year’s World championships, but there is no denying the Dutch phenomenon’s class and she could surprise.

Elsewhere, the big names to watch in the women’s race will be 2008 World champion Amber Neben, who beat teammate Evie Stevens to the second US spot, Canadian champion Clara Hughes - who took the bronze medal way back in Atlanta 1996 before switching to speed skating - and Dane turned New Zealander Linda Villumsen.

In the men’s event, other riders that could shine include Germany’s 2008 World champion Bert Grabsch, young American Taylor Phinney, who performed excellently in the time trials of the Giro d’Italia - winning the first and heading for a result in the second before following a race moto off course - Spanish champion Luis León Sánchez, and Italian Marco Pinotti, who took the Giro’s final Milano test.

The start list has now been released, confirming that Armstrong and Cancellara will set off last in their respective races; read it here.


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