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With a dominant performance on the 54.56km course in Rio, Cancellara got a fairytale end to his Olympic career by taking his second gold medal in the time trial; the Swiss beat Dumoulin by 47 seconds and Froome by 1.02

Photo: A.S.O.

CHRIS FROOME

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FABIAN CANCELLARA

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TOM DUMOULIN

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TREK - SEGAFREDO

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10.08.2016 @ 18:56 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Fabian Cancellara (Switzerland) got the fairytale end to his Olympic career as he took a surprising gold medal in the time trial at the Rio Games with a dominant ride on the hilly 54.56km course. Gaining time over almost the entire distance, he beat pre-race favourites Tom Dumoulin (Netherlands) and Chris Froome (Great Britain) by 47 seconds and 1.02 respectively to take his second first place in the time trial following his gold medal from Beijing eight years ago.

 

At the start of the year, Fabian Cancellara couldn’t hide his motivation to get a fairytale ending to his long and glorious career and he came out from the winter break with all guns blazing. A win in the Strade Bianche set him up for a great classics season but from there, what seemed to be a dream season turned into a nightmare.

 

Cancellara crashed in E3 Harelbeke and Paris-Roubaix and so he left his beloved classics with a second place in the Tour of Flanders and a fourth place in both E3 and Gent-Wevelgem. He quickly turned his attention to the Giro d’Italia where he was aiming for success in the opening time trial but he fell ill on the eve of the race and never got close to the win.

 

His home race Tour de Suisse was his next goal and he got a small encouragement by winning the prologue but then things again turned sour at the Tour de France where he was far from his best form. He left the race early to focus on the Olympics but no one had any big expectations for the Swiss due to his poor showing in France.

 

However, Cancellara know how to prepare for a big event like any other and when he turned up for the road race, he was on fire. He caught a lot of attention by the way he was climbing and suddenly he firmly established himself as a strong medal candidate for the time trial.

 

Despite Cancellara’s showing in the road race, many still expected the time trial to come down to a duel between Tom Dumoulin and Chris Froome but before the race Froome already warned that Cancellara could be back to his best. He truly was as he delivered a dominant ride on the hilly course in Rio to get the fairytale end to his Olympic career that he was dreaming of.

 

Cancellara was the fifth last rider to start the time trial and showed his intentions right from the start. At the top of the first climb, he was one second faster than Rohan Dennis who had been superior at that point, with a strong Geraint Thomas sitting in third. Dumoulin was down in fourth, 15 seconds off the pace, while Froome could only manage seventh, 5 seconds further adrift.

 

However, it suddenly looked like Cancellara had started too fast. At the second check, he was suddenly down in fourth place, a massive 24 seconds behind Dennis. Dmoulin had moved into second, 16 seconds down, with Jonathan Castroviejo (Spain) sitting in third. Froome was still in medal contention, having moved into fifth place, and it was now clear that it was a battle between those five riders.

 

While many expected Cancellara’s downward trend to continue, the Swiss suddenly turned on the gas. With a dominant ride on the second descent and up the first of the two climbs on the circuit that was covered twice, he put enormous amount of time into his rivals in the third section. At the third time check, he was back in the lead, no less than 18 seconds faster than Dennis, whom he had distanced by 42 seconds over just 14.9km. Dumoulin had now down in third but he was only 8 seconds behind the Australian, with Froome now sitting in fourth 7 seconds further adrift.

 

That’s when disaster struck for Dennis. While Cancellara continued to power towards victory, the BMC rider was forced to change his bike and even though he had already started to lose time at that point, it potentially cost him a medal. When the riders crossed the final time check, he had slipped to fourth and was now 12 seconds behind third-placed Froome.

 

However, there was no one stopping Cancellara who was a massive 33 seconds faster than Dumoulin and he showed no signs of slowing down. In the final part of the course, he gained another 19 seconds on the Dutchman before stopping the clock in 1.12.15 to take a dominant first place.

 

At this point, it was already evident that the gold medal would be Swiss so the attention turned to the exciting battle for silver. At the final time check, Dumoulin was 8 seconds faster than Froome and the Dutchman managed to increase the gap in the final part, taking silver with a time that was 52 seconds slower than Cancellara’s and 10 seconds faster than Froome’s. The Brit had to settle for a second consecutive bronze medal, having beaten Castroviejo by four seconds. For the Spaniard, it was another frustrating near-miss as he lost on a medal at last year’s Worlds by a similarly small margin. A disappointed Dennis slipped to fifth after his mechanical.

 

While Cancellara enjoyed a glorious moment, some of the TT greats were left disappointed. Tony Martin could only manage 12th and continued to slide away from the top of time trial hierarchy. World champion Vasil Kiryienka did even worse as he had to settle for 17th, almost four minutes behind Cancellara. Taylor Phinney who was aiming for a medal was the big loser as he was more than five minutes behind in 22nd place.

 

With the road events now done and dusted, the attention turns to the track where the action starts tomorrow. The road riders will head back to Europe where many will be on the start line at the Vuelta a Espana which kicks off on August 20.

 

A hilly circuit

The time trial at the 2016 Rio Olympics was held on a 54.56km course around the city of Rio di Janeiro. After a flat opening section along the coast, the riders did two laps of the 24.72km Grumari circuit that was also used for the road race. The circuit included a combination of long, straight roads and two short climbs, with one being very steep and one being longer and more regular. After their two laps, the riders headed back along the coastal road to the start-finish area.

 

After a rainy and windy women’s time trial, Dan Craven (Namibia) had dry conditions and wet roads when he rolled down the ramp as the first rider. However, the Namibian was not the first rider to reach the finish as he was passed by Ghader Mizbani (Iran) who had started 4.30 later and stopped the clock in 1.21.39 to take the early lead.

 

Preidler takes the lead

Christopher Juul-Jensen (Denmark) was the third rider to reach the finish and the first from a WorldTour team. Unsurprisingly, he set the best tie of 1.16.49 but he knew that he wouldn’t get much time in the hot seat. Georg Preidler (Austria) had been faster at every time check and less than one minute later, he relegated the Dane to second with his time of 1.16.02.

 

While Preidler recovered from his effort, Ahmet Orken (Turkey), Mouhssine Lahsaini (Morocco), Pavel Kochetkov (Russia) and Eduardo Sepulveda (Argentina) whom he had all passed during his ride, arrived in times that were far off the mark. The first serious threat was Andriy Grivko (Ukraine) but the Astana rider had to settle of second with 1.16.33.

 

Best time for König

Ultimately, it was a trade teammate who beat Preidler. Simon Geschke (Germany) had been off the pace at the early checks but gauged his effort well to slot into the lead with 1.15.49. That was much better than Alexis Vuillermoz (France) who had to settle for seventh, and Brent Bookwalter (USA) who hit the deck in the first turn and never recovered, ultimately crossing the line in fifth place.

 

Leopold König was expected to be one of the best in the first starting group of 18 riders and he lived up to expectations. After a slow start, he gained a lot of time in the second part to post the best time at the final two time checks. In the end, he reached the finish in 1.15.23 to take the lead, having passed Andrey Zeits (Kazakhstan) and Damiano Caruso (Italy) along the way. The pair had to settle for seventh and tenth respectively.

 

Thomas takes the lead

Michal Kwiatkowski (Poland) was the only real specialist in the first starting group but he was unable to match König. Having consistently been second or third at each time check, he had to settle for third with 1.15.55. Tim Wellens (Belgium) was the final rider from the first group but after a strong start with the best time at the first check, he cracked completely and had to settle for seventh.

 

Edvald Boasson Hagen (Norway) was the first rider from the second group but Geraint Thomas (Great Britain) was the first rider to reach the finish. The Brit posted a fantastic first intermediate time – the third best of all the starters – but he was unable to maintain his speed. However, 1.14.52 was still good enough to take the lead by more than 30 seconds.

 

Dominant ride by Castroviejo

Hugo Houle (Canada) did well to slot into ninth before Castroviejo appeared on the finishing straight. The Spaniard had been clearly the fastest at the final three time checks and so it was no surprise that he posted a time of 1.13.10 to beat Thomas by almost two minutes. He even passed Primoz Roglic (Slovenia) in the finale even though the Giro stage winner still slotted into third, just 3 seconds behind Thomas. A disappointed Edvald Boasson Hagen (Norway) rolled across the line after having been passed by four riders.

 

Maciej Bodnar (Poland) proved his class on a course that should have been too hard for him as he posted the second best time of 1.14.05 to become the first rider within a minute of Castroviejo before Julian Alaphilippe (France) reached the finish in one of the worst times of the day. Nelso Oliveira (Portugal) bounced back from a slow start to take third place with 1.14.15 after having passed Kanstantsin Siutsou (Belarus) who was far off the pace, and a disappointed Jan Barta (Czech Republic) who slotted into ninth.

 

Cancellara crushes the opposition

However, it was Dennis that the spectators were waiting for but the Australian had already been forced to change his bike and was on a downward trend. After having posted the best time at every time check, he lost too much ground in the finale and was ultimately beaten by Castroviejo who was five seconds faster.

 

While Dennis tried to come to terms with the disappointment, Ion Izagirre (Spain) narrowly missed out on the top 3 with 1.14.21 which was only good enough for fourth. He was lucky not to be passed by Cancellara who had started three minutes later. The Swiss blasted across the line less than one minute later to stop the clock in 1.12.15 and firmly position himself at the top of the leaderboard. Moments later, Phinney rolled across the line in 18th place.

 

Silver for Dumoulin

A hugely disappointed Martin just beat his compatriot Geschke to make it into the top 10 by a few seconds but it was Dumoulin that got the attention. The Dutchman arrived just a few seconds later but it was already evident that there would be no gold medal. His time of 1.13.02 was only good enough for second. A little later, Kiryienka barely pedaled when he reached the line in 16th place.

 

Froome was now the only rider left on the course and the excitement was huge as he appeared on the finishing straight, with the battle for silver coming down to seconds. In the end, however, he missed out my 12 seconds and had to settle for another bronze medal four years after his third place in London.

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