German wins gripping two-man battle in the Netherlands, Pinotti crashes out with podium place in his sights

Tony Martin of Germany has successfully defended his world time trial title in Valkenburg in the Netherlands this afternoon following a gripping battle with Taylor Phinney of the United States. Martin dug deep on the final climb of the Cauberg to see off the challenge of the American, who missed out on becoming the youngest ever world time trial champion by just 5.37 seconds.

Italy's Marco Pinotti had looked like he was heading towards a podium place but crashed out, suffering what appears to be a broken collarbone. Instead, it was Vasil Kiryienka of Belarus who claimed the bronze medal having set a benchmark time with more than 25 riders still to finish, although it would turn out to be 1 minute 44.99 seconds slower than that of the winner. Great Britain's Alex Dowsett finished eight, 2 minutes 26.06 seconds behind Martin.

As early as the first intermediate time check on the 46.2km course, it seemed evident that the 22-year-old Phinney who went through fastest, 4.37 seconds ahead of Martin, would present the greatest threat to the German’s hopes of retaining the title he won in Copenhagen 12 months ago when Great Britain’s Bradley Wiggins, not riding today, clinched silver.

By the second time check, however, a third rider was in the mix – Phinney’s BMC Racing colleague, Pinotti, who had picked up his pace after going through the first checkpoint in fifth position.

The Italian, who had eased off the gas ahead of the Cauberg on Sunday’s team time trial in which BMC Racing finished second to Martin’s own Omega Pharma-Quick Step team, clearly had his sights set on challenging for the win today, posting the third fastest time at the second check.

His time there would be beaten by nearly a minute by Martin but was comfortably inside that set earlier by Kiryienka and Pinotti seemed to be heading towards a podium place.

However, his ride would soon be over as he crashed heavily on a left hand corner, his front wheel slipping on a white give way line on roads that were still drying out from an earlier downpour.

Pinotti remounted and tried to ride on, but shortly afterwards, following a brief discussion at the roadside with national coach Paolo Bettini, he pulled over and abandoned the race with what seemed to be a broken collarbone.

Meanwhile, the battle between Phinney and Martin for the rainbow jersey was ebbing and flowing. The German got the time he’d lost to the American in the early part of the course back with interest, and had and advantage of 13.26 seconds at the second checkpoint.

His title defence was back on track, but Phinney, who rode gingerly through the corner on which Pinotti had come to grief minutes earlier, got a big chunk of that back ahead of the third checkpoint, and the question of which of them would stand on top of the podium would be decided on the Cauberg.

That was the last of the three main climbs on today’s course, which started in Heerlen and finished in Valkenburg, the summit of the 1.2km ascent, which has an average gradient of 5.4 per cent, coming ahead of a 1.7km flat section ahead of the line.

Martin, who had caught the man who started two minutes in front of him, Alberto Contador – the Spaniard, apparently stung by the ignominy, would go on to finish strongly – did enough on that final climb to ensure that Phinney didn’t get any more time back on the final part of the course, although at times it seemed touch and go whether he would prevail.

In doing so, he becomes the third man in the past decade to successfully retain the title – Australia’s Michael Rogers, awarded the 2003 championship after Great Britain’s David Millar was disqualified, went on to win in 2004 and 2005, while Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland won back-to-back titles in 2006 and 2007 and again in 2009 and 2010.

Martin's win comes at the end of a tough season in which he was sidelined for several weeks after being hit by a car while training, returning in time for the Tour de France where he fractured his wrist in a crash during Stage 1. At the end of July, he took Olympic silver in the time trial behind Wiggins.

UCI Elite Men's World Champiship Time Trial 2012 Result

1  Tony MARTIN          GER   58:38.8
2  Taylor PHINNEY       USA      5.37
3  Vasil KIRYIENKA      BLR  +1:44.99
4  Tejay VAN GARDEREN   USA  +1:49.37
5  Fredrik KESSIAKOFF   SWE  +1:50.56
6  Dmitriy GRUZDEV      KAZ  +1:56.44
7  Jan BARTA            CZE  +2:12.49
8  Alex DOWSETT         GBR  +2:26.06
9  Alberto CONTADOR     ESP  +2:30.00
10 Adriano MALORI       ITA  +2:40.54
11 Andriy GRIVKO        UKR  +2:43.69
12 Svein TUFT           CAN  +2:56.24
13 Tanel KANGERT        EST  +2:57.13
14 Riccardo ZOIDL       AUT  +2:57.27
15 Sylvain CHAVANEL     FRA  +2:58.15
16 Cameron MEYER        AUS  +2:59.65
17 Kristijan KOREN      SLO  +3:05.29
18 Jérémy ROY           FRA  +3:08.16
19 Gustav LARSSON       SWE  +3:11.99
20 Thomas DE GENDT      BEL  +3:15.29

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.