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Worlds timetrial preview, September 27, 2007

Big guns scrap it out for Gold

Tough parcours makes for big showdown

By Shane Stokes in Stuttgart

Defending champion Fabian Cancellara
Photo ©: Rob Jones
(Click for larger image)

As is habitually the case, the road world championships got underway with the time trial events coming first in the schedule. Since the junior races were moved from the main programme after 2004, the number of such races has dropped to three. The under 23 and elite women’s TTs were held on Wednesday, covering 38.1 and 25.1 kilometres respectively, and the 44.9 kilometre elite men’s test follows one day later.

All three are held on variations of the same course and just shy of two complete laps. The start will take place approximately 500 metres past the finish line, meaning that the second lap is fractionally shorter in each case

The women’s race was held on a loop of 12.8 kilometres and went to triple world cyclo-cross champion Hanka Kupfernagel of Germany. She beat defending champion Kristin Armstrong (USA) and the Austrian Christiane Soeder by 23.47 and 41.53 seconds respectively, a performance which she attributed in part to her racing background and the nature of the parcours.

“Cyclo-cross has been very good preparation for this time trial, because the course was very good for me,” she stated. “There were downhills with a lot of bends, and also climbing, so it was something like a cyclo-cross circuit.”

Svein Tuft (Canada)
Photo ©: Rob Jones
(Click for larger image)

The under 23 riders used the same course but also had to do an out and back stretch of 6.5 kilometres each time, bringing their lap up to 19.3 clicks. Lars Boom (Netherlands) was quickest, taking the first gold medal of the championship ahead of Russian rider Mikhail Ignatiev and Jerome Coppel (France). They were 9.06 and 45.59 seconds back respectively.

Thursday’s Elite men TT will head even further along the Wildpark Strasse dual carriageway, adding on an additional 3.4 kilometres and thus covering 22.7 each time. Last year’s winner Fabian Cancellara (Switzerland) is the clear favourite, while Dave Zabriskie (USA), David Millar, Bradley Wiggins (both Great Britain), Vladimir Karpets (Russia), José Ivan Gutierrez (Spain) and Marco Pinotti (Italy) are amongst those looking to go quicker and take gold.

Despite some flattish, fast sections, the general consensus about the time trial course was that it is a very hard one. The overall undulating nature plus the scattering of steep sections means that motivation will have to be high amongst the elites on a day when the average speeds will be relatively low.

The race of truth gets off to a fast start with a gradual downhill soon after the riders leave the ramp. The road starts to level off and then after 2.6 kilometres, stats to climb again. It then returns to a gradual descent. After approximately 4 kilometres, the women hung right and headed off on the circuit. The Under 23 men continued on from there as will the elites, hitting the steepish climb of Birkenhopf, which rises to a height of 450 metres and tops out 5.1 kilometres into the time trial. The speed will rise again due to the short descent, after which the tree-lined route becomes wider and flatter.

The Dutch do some motorpacing
Photo ©: Rob Jones
(Click for larger image)

Under 23 riders took a hard right turn approximately 6.8 clicks after the start, their course taking them under the original road and then back onto the far side. They climbed the Birkenhopf in the reverse direction, then descended, swung right and branched left under that road to move onto the circuit.

The elite men will however continue on for a while longer [1.7 kilometres, to be precise], heading up a gentle false flat climb to the turnaround point. The sweeping turn over the dual carriageway is wide enough to be safe, although if it rains the paving stones at the edges may become slippery.

The big guns of time trialing will then thunder back in toward the Birkenhopf climb, following the under 23 men in scaling the other side and crossing the summit, descending down to the turn-off point and making sure to balance out speed and skill on the technical section which follows.

After 14 kilometres of racing they will enter the village of Botnang, where the course runs alongside the tram tracks for some time. The elite men will take a sharp right and head up a steepish climb which is a couple of hundred metres in length.

Once over the top the riders can get a respite with a fairly long, gradual descent, allowing them to pick up speed once more. The road gradually curves right and straightens out again, continuing on a level surface for some time and passing by some scenic wooded areas. The road then becomes more undulating around the 18 kilometre point, with a short sharp drag serving to stretch the legs.

The race passes through a populated area in Stuttgart-Feuerbach and becomes a little more technical with narrow roads and some turns to be negotiated there. The course reaches its lowest point around about 20 kilometres [approximately 270 metres in altitude], then a gradual climb up towards the finish area kicks in. This section is quite testing, with the tough drag up past the line and on to the start of the second lap really testing the legs.

From there it will be eyeballs out all the way. The final lap will determine who is in the medals and, more importantly, who will end the day clad in the maillot arc-en-ciel of world champion. Will it be a past winner? Will it be a new name? All will be revealed in a few hours.



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Images by Rob Jones/www.canadiancyclist.com

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