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World championships - CM

Madrid, Spain, September 21-25, 2005

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Race 3 - September 22: Elite men's individual time trial, 44km

Top three against the rest

By Hernan Alvarez Macias in Madrid

2004 champ Michael Rogers (Australia)
Photo ©: AFP
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The top three that finished on the podium in Verona 2004 are the last three riders for Thursday's Elite Men's time trial in the 2005 World Championships: Alexandre Vinokourov (third), Michael Rich (second) and Michael Rogers (champion).

The Australian Michael Rogers will be the last to start at 16:24 local time, while the first man on road will be Argentina's Matias Medici at 13:00. Rogers is ready to do it again. He was the best in Italy last year, fourth in Athens 2004 and world champion in Hamilton 2003 after David Millar was disqualified.

Vinokourov is a top class rider, capable of the best against the clock and also ready to do battle in other fields. He was third in the two individual time trials in the last Tour de France in stage 1 and 20. The Kazakhstani should be among the top contenders, although his recent form is questionable after he missed the Tour of Poland due to visa problems.

The German Michael Rich is the other from the big trio. The veteran from Freiburg is also German champion against the clock. Let's see how he races this time trial in the capital of Spain, which suits a powerful rider.

They are obviously the top candidates, but there are plenty of others that can fight for the podium, like the local Ruben Plaza, who won the last Vuelta a España time trial in Alcala de Henares. He is very fit after the Vuelta finished last Sunday, and may be in the best shape of all the riders. Colombia's Victor Hugo Peña is another candidate. He was sixth in Alcala and he suffered a crash during the last stage of the Spanish tour, but he is capable of doing a good time.

We can not discard Russia's Viatcheslav Ekimov, a specialist against the clock who will wear the number 18. The Czech Jan Hruska is another cyclist who can perform well. Ukraine's Yaroslav Popovych is also a dangerous rival for the three top riders in Verona.

More names: Bobby Julich (USA) was third in the TT in Athens 2004; Denis Menchov (Russia) won the two other races against the clock in the Vuelta a España and finished second overall; Fabian Cancellara (Switzerland) was seventh in the first individual TT in the last Tour de France. Sweden's Gustav Larsson, Italy's Marzio Bruseghin, Netherlands's Thomas Dekker...and the list continues. As in every World Championships, the best riders on the planet are here and the show is guaranteed.

Course preview

By Shane Stokes in Madrid

The tree-lined avenue
Photo ©: Shane Stokes
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All three of the time trials will take place on a variation of the same course in and around Casa de Campo, a vast and picturesque park to the West of Madrid. Serviced by the city's excellent metro system, it is expected that a large crowd will attend on Wednesday 21st and Thursday 22nd of September to watch, cheer and fiesta, Spanish style, as the under 23 men, Elite women and Elite men slug it out against the clock.

The time trial begins close to the artificial lake on the east side of the course, a few hundred metres from where the TT ends. It should therefore be possible to travel back and forward between the two, again facilitating the spectators here to see the world's best do their thing.

Once out of the park,
Photo ©: Shane Stokes
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The time trials get underway on the Pase de los Castaños, a sheltered, tree-lined section which stretches for about a kilometre before opening up into the slightly more exposed Paso de Los Platanos. After about 1.3 kilometres of racing the route bears gently left and then travels past the theme park and zoo, all the while dragging gradually upwards on the sluggish Carretera de los Rodajos.

Approximately 4 kilometres into the test the riders head out of the park, flick left, bear right around a roundabout and then onto an undulating dual carriageway. The road rises for about 100 metres, gaining altitude, but riders should be well able to power up this and over subsequent drags; however, this section is quite exposed, so if an unexpected wind crops up it may well play a part in the outcome.

Around the turn
Photo ©: Shane Stokes
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The under 23 men and Elite women have a slightly shorter TT course, the riders looping around a roundabout 5.6 kilometres into the lap and tearing back along the other side of the dual carriageway to once again pass through the gate of the Caso del Campo. This represents for them the high point of the TT, with an altitude of 650 metres (as compared to the starting height of 580 metres).

However the Elite men continue on past the Under 23/Elite women's turn for another 1.6 kilometres, passing through two roundabouts before their own 180 degree switchback. Apart from lengthening their lap, it also sees them climb to a slightly higher altitude of 680 metres.

Past the summit,
Photo ©: Shane Stokes
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Once back into the Caso de Campo the riders have a gentle downhill to the lowpoint of the course, the 570 metre base of the Teleférico climb, close to the start/finish area. The ascent up the Camino de los Pinos sees a gain of 60 metres in just under a kilometre and features the steepest part of the course, with riders powering up the hill in an effort to either make up time or to limit their losses. Once past the top, the course plateaus briefly before flicking right onto the Carretera de Garabitas and the start of a long, fast decent through a wooded section and back down towards the lake.

The riders will then head around the right hand side of the water to the finish area at the Puerta del Ángel (573 metres altitude). The Elite women end their race here after one lap, while the under 23 riders and the Elite men continue on to do a second circuit before completing their time trial and determining who are the new world champions.

Putting the final touches
Photo ©: Shane Stokes
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Reaction: The course has been described by several riders as 'deceptive.' Many say that they were told it was flat but were then surprised to discover that it is quite rolling and definitely a bit tougher than they were expecting.

"It is quite a deceiving course, really," defending Elite men's TT champion Michael Rogers told Cyclingnews on Tuesday. "All the reports were saying it is pretty much flat, but that is not the case. It is relatively up and down the whole way and on narrow roads, too. It is harder than people think."

Trivia: While undeniably beautiful and a big hit with cyclists, joggers, race walkers, soccer players and other sportsmen and women, the Caso de Campo is somewhat notorious amongst Madridlenos due to the high presence of "ladies of the night" there. Surprised passers by often get flashed by those keen to show off their wares, even during daytime.


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Images by Shane Stokes/Cyclingnews.com

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