DOHA (AFP) — Tom Dumoulin goes in search of his first world championship time trial title in Qatar on Wednesday, a result that could overturn cycling’s established order.
The 2014 bronze medalist has excelled in time trials this year, storming to stage wins in both the Tour de France and the Giro d’Italia. He then came agonizingly close to gold in Rio, edged into second in the time trial by Swiss specialist Fabian Cancellara, who has since retired.
In Rio, Dumoulin, 25, also beat TT rival Chris Froome, another who will be absent from the race in Qatar.
The tall, lean rider with the upright cycling style posted on Twitter “That was a hot ride” after the team event earlier this week, his bike computer showing 42 degrees celsius (107.6 F).
And his ambitions go further than this one-off race. “I want to win a grand tour in 2017, I don’t know which one, possibly the one with the most time trials in it,” he told Cyclingnews last week.
If he is to win the world title though, he will have to beat Germany’s Tony Martin, a three-time world champion in this discipline. The 31-year-old won the time trial at the recent Tour of Britain, pushing Dumoulin into third place, and has already claimed gold in Qatar as part of the Etixx – Quick Step team which triumphed in Sunday’s team time trial event.
And he has been in very special training for the Doha heat, with which he claims to have no great problem. “It’s all about percentages, I’ve been training on rollers in a heated room,” Martin explained.
Belorussian Vasil Kiryienka of Sky was last year’s surprise champion at Richmond, Virginia. He has shown poor form of late, but even so, the English bookmakers odds show he is their tip to win.
Other potential winners include Spain’s Jonathan Castroviejo, who won the European time trial event last month in Plumelec, France. And another challenge could come from the man who finished second in the Tour of Britain’s time trial, Australian Rohan Dennis. The 26-year-old is becoming a major force at time trial events and last month won the Eneco Tour event.
The Eneco TT, however, was over a distance of just 9.6 kilometers and Wednesday’s world title event will be raced over 40 kilometers, which shows off energy-rich Qatar’s extravagant wealth. It begins in Lusail — which required an estimated $45 billion to build from scratch, and is where the 2022 soccer World Cup final will be played.
Then, just as in the women’s event, the race finishes on the Pearl Qatar, an artificial island in Doha, estimated to have cost $15 billion to build, and which is home to some 12,000 people.
UCI organizers, under criticism for staging the event in Qatar because of the desert country’s heat, could reduce the distance if temperatures get past 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
The forecast at the moment is for temperatures to hit triple digits on Wednesday, around the time the race begins.
Some cyclists have criticized the conditions. Others have simply chosen to prepare specifically for the heat, including the U.S. team, which trained for the championships by having riders use saunas to acclimate. On Tuesday, American Brandon McNulty won the junior men’s TT, and his compatriot, Amber Neben, won the elite women’s time trial.