Worlds Preview: Wiggo goes for glory against the clock
Plus a look ahead to the weekend's racing
At twenty to three this afternoon, Britain’s Bradley Wiggins will roll down the starting ramp in Mendrisio, Switzerland in his bid to become World Individual Time Trial Champion and put the seal on an incredible year that saw him emerge as a genuine GC contender in the Tour de France.
Wiggo, who won the British Time Trial Championship earlier this month, will be the fourth last out of the starting gate this afternoon and will be followed on the 49.8 kilometre course by two Saxo Bank riders, Sweden’s Gustav Larsson and home favourite Fabien Cancellara, and defending champion, the German Bert Grabsch of Columbia-HTC.
Cancellara is the red-hot favourite for the event. The Swiss rider won in 2006 and 2007, but missed last year’s championships in Varese, Italy citing mental fatigue after a season that culminated in his winning the Olympic Individual Time Trial in Beijing. And he’s been in great form this year, winning the opening time trials in both the Tour de France and the Vuelta, and adding a second time trial victory in the latter.
Other riders to watch out for in the fifth and final group are Wiggo’s American team mate at Garmin-Slipstream, Tom Danielsen, the Norweigian Edvald Boasson Hagen, fresh from winning the Tour of Britain and due to join Team Sky from Columbia-HTC in 2010, and Kazakhstan’s Alexandre Vinokourov, just back from a two-year ban for doping.
Racing starts at 10.30am British time, and the other British rider in the race is Barloword’s Chris Froome, off at 12:35 UK time.
The championships, held barely five miles from Varese in Italy where last year’s event was held, got under way yesterday with the Men’s Under-23 Individual Time Trial, won by Australia’s Jack Bobridge, with Britain’s Alex Dowsett finishing an impressive seventh.
In the women’s Individual Time Trial, Olympic champion Kristin Armstrong of the United States added the rainbow jersey to her palmarès, blowing the field apart to come in 55 seconds ahead of Italy’s Noemi Cantele in second.
Britain’s Emma Pooley, second to Armstrong in Beijing and with high hopes of a podium place here after a fantastic season on the road, finished a disappointing 11th, three seconds shy of two minutes behind the winner, while Wendy Houvenaghel came in 23rd.
On Saturday, Nicole Cooke defends her title in the Women’s Road Race, supported by a strong team comprising Lizzie Armitstead, Katie Colclough, Nikki Harris, Sharon Laws, Lucy Martin and Emma Pooley.
That race, on a 124.2 kilometre course, starts at 8am UK time and will be followed at 1230 by the Under 23 Men’s Road Race, when the GB team of Mark Christian, Peter Kennaugh, Jonny McEvoy, Luke Rowe and Erick Rowsell will no doubt have team mate Jonny Bellis, still in a coma in Italy after a scooter accident last weekend, in their thoughts.
The Championships finish on Sunday with a mammoth 262.2 kilometre Men’s Elite Road Race. Yesterday, British Cycling confirmed that Mark Cavendish, who had been struggling to shake off a lung infection, had withdrawn from the squad.
With the course not favouring the sprinters, Cavendish had been expected to play an unaccustomed domestique role, but the British team remains the strongest ever to leave these shores.
Headed by David Millar, who on Saturday won the Toledo Individual Time Trial in the Vuelta, the team comprises Ian Stannard, Stephen Cummings, Russ Downing, Chris Froome, Roger Hammond, Dan Lloyd, Ben Swift and Geraint Thomas.
Lampre-NGC’s Damiano Cunego, who won two stages of this year’s Vuelta with fine individual attacks, is favourite to win and improve on his second place last year, while Olympic champion Samuel Sanchez, runner-up in this year’s Vuelta, is known to have had the Worlds marked down has his principal objective this season.
You can catch the action live on TV on Eurosport and via the BBC’s red button service, and online on the BBC website. And just a little hint for those of you stuck in the office – using the BBC’s pop-out player, you can put the action up on a corner of your monitor to keep an eye on proceedings while getting on with some work. Just try not to cheer too loudly if Wiggo comes through.