Fabian Cancellara has been “King of the Chrono” since winning the first of his four world time trial titles in 2006. But this year could see Tony Martin dethrone the reigning champ.
For the past five years there have been very few occasions that Cancellara has rolled into the starters hands to race against the clock anything less than the unbackable favourite.
But in the race for the rainbow jersey this year he’ll start as the joint favourite with the Martin.
The big German has been labeled the heir apparent for at least the past two seasons and seems ready to take the top spot.
Head-to-head battles between the two, since Martin’s debut at the WorldTour level in 2008, sees Cancellara leading 10-4.
As a sign of the shifting winds those four victories to Martin have all been in the last 18-months.
And the most recent ones, at this year’s Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana, saw the German win by significant margins. At the Tour the gap between the two was one-minute and 42 seconds, while in Spain it was one-minute and 27 seconds.
In fact recent form suggests Der Panzerwagen is the favourite. But never underestimate a champion. And Fabian is a champion.
Spartacus headed home after stage 16 of the Vuelta to polish his preparations. For Martin it was after stage 18.
Martin is 26 and coming into the peak of his powers. Cancellara is still only 30, which theoretically has him right in the sweet spot of his career.
As for where the most pressure lies?
Cancellara is accustomed to being the hunted. It’s just that now he can feel the hunter’s breath on the back of his neck – I wonder if it makes his hair stand up. While a sense of expectation, after collecting bronze for the past two-years, must be starting to weigh on Martin.
But, as much as they are the favourites, sport doesn’t always follow the script.
Among the other contenders David Millar was second last year and, along with becoming a father for the first time, has been preparing specifically for this race since the end of the Tour de France. A medal is definitely on the cards but I’d be surprised if he won.
Bradley Wiggins will like the flat course. It will allow him to revert to his individual pursuit days, where he was the world’s best. Fatigue from the Tour of Spain is the major question mark over the Brit.
And what of Richie Porte?
In reverse to Wiggins the pancake flat course isn’t ideal for the Tasmanian. However, at the recent Tour of Denmark he won a 15km time trial ahead of Olympic silver medallist Erik Gustav Larsson, which shows there’s plenty of speed in his legs. And at Le Tour, although he was a minute and a half slower than Martin, he finished ahead of Cancellara.
He is the major dark horse to upset the two big favourites.
The other two I’m really looking forward to seeing in action are Jack Bobridge and Taylor Phinney.
Bobridge has only recently turned 22 and Phinney is still just 21. At 46.4km the course will probably be too long for them to challenge seasoned professionals but the race between these two could be a preview to the race for gold in the near future.
I’ll go with Tony Martin for the win. Who’s your pick?
1. Jack Bobridge (Aus)
2. Fabian Cancellara (Swi)
3. Erik Gustav Larsson (Swe)
4. Tony Martin (Ger)
5. David Millar (GBR)
6. Taylor Phinney (USA)
7. Richie Porte (Aus)
8. Bradley Wiggins (GBR)
9. David Zarbriskie (USA)