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Primož Roglič struck gold in his second appearance at an Olympic Games, winning the Tokyo 2020 Olympic individual time trial.
While the 31-year-old is a two-time winner of the Vuelta a España, due in part to his time trial skills, Roglič memorably lost the 2020 Tour de France during the final time trial.
2017 world time trial champion Tom Dumoulin — back on the bike after an early-season, brief hiatus from racing — rode into a very strong silver medal.
Former world-hour-record holder, and 2018 and 2019 world time trial champion Rohan Dennis earned a bronze medal, just fractions of a second ahead of Switzerland’s Stefan Küng, and not two seconds ahead of Italy’s Filippo Ganna.
Here’s what the stars said after the Tokyo Olympics men’s individual time trial:
Primož Roglič (Slovenia): 1st
In the 2021 Tour de France which ended just days ago, Primož Roglič crashed on stage 3 and subsequently abandoned after stage 9 to recover prepare for the Tokyo Games.
In the Olympic men’s road race three days before the start of the time trial, Roglič looked strong in the first two-thirds of the race with compatriot Tadej Pogačar riding to support him. But Roglič ultimately wilted in the heat and unrelentingly hilly route, and saw Pogačar take bronze.
Whether he raced to Olympic gold to prove something to himself or to others is something only Roglič knows.
“For me, it’s just incredibly nice after all the hard things that happened in the last moments to me. It has paid off all the work that we put in from my side, from the family side and the people all around me. Today I managed to win the gold medal and become Olympic champion,” Roglič said. “It’s super hard [to keep calm]. The things are not going the way they would like to. In the end, I worked hard and I always try to keep believing in it, that ‘Still it’s me, it’s Primož, and everything is always possible every day.’”
Describing his race execution, Roglič explained he had a simple plan, with nothing to lose, and so he gave the test against the clock his all.
“I went out and I had nothing to lose. I went all out from kilometer zero and I managed to come to the finish. That was my job and I did it good. In the end, it was good enough,” Roglič said. “In cycling, it’s stupid to compare things. Everything is super hard to win. Even your home race behind your house. Every achievement is special and this one is super special and I’m really happy.”
Tom Dumoulin (Netherlands): 2nd, at 1:01
Tom Dumoulin struggled with the pressures of international cycling in the first half of 2021, and took several months away from racing to gain perspective and to rekindle his fire for racing.
His recharge and refresh break seems to have been effective, and the winner of the maglia rosa at the 2017 Giro d’Italia found the form which has also seen him win two world time trial titles in recent years.
“It means the world to me,” said Dumoulin on his performance. “It was the goal three months ago, to go for a medal. I didn’t ride my bike a lot from January until May. And in May I really started preparing.”
“I was happy to be a cyclist again. That’s what I told the team also. How we do it exactly is something we need to talk about,” he added.
Stepping onto the podium alongside Jumbo-Visma trade teammate Roglič just eased the transition back to his life as one of the most skilled time trialists in the peloton.
“Primoz was on another planet today,” added Dumoulin. “I know that he’s a special guy.”
Rohan Dennis (Australia): 3rd, at 1:04
In the time trial on stage 20 of the 2021 Tour de France, Rohan Dennis was in the hot seat for most of the day, until Wout van Aert upset him and ultimately won the stage. This was a good test of his recent form ahead of the Olympics.
Like others on the podium, Dennis stuck to a simple plan: Go hard and then go even harder on the second lap.
“It’s very good. I gave it everything, everything was left out there. My form was good but in the end, I was beaten by two better guys on the day. I’m just glad I got that medal in the end,” Dennis said. “The first lap was quite easy and then the second lap took a long time to catch Geraint Thomas. That second climb out the back was brutal, and I think that’s where Primož destroyed us all and that’s where he definitely won it.”
Dennis has previously proven to know what he needs to perform under pressure in time trials while not being afraid to push back on equipment sponsors, team bosses, and his national federation in order to set himself up for success. While some criticized his late withdrawal from the Olympic road race, which may have left Australian squad captain — and Ineos Grenadier teammate — Richie Porte without a strong wheel to follow, Dennis again proved his critics wrong and earned an Olympic bronze medal.
“It was just a dog fight between the rest of us and I was lucky to be on the positive side of that. There’s a lot of joy but it’s been an extra 12 months to get here and it possibly helped me to get settled into the team a little bit longer and get used to the equipment,” Dennis said. “It would have been nice for it to have been at the end of 2020.”
Filippo Ganna (Italy): 5th, at 1:04
Before the Olympics, some speculated that the current world time trial champion Filippo Ganna would ride roughshod over the competition based on his performances at the previous UCI world road cycling championships, and at the Giro d’Italia earlier this year.
But Ganna also showed that he is not infallable, and had also failed to make the podium in several instances this season in time trials.
The tall Italian did not compete in the road race three days prior to the time trial, keeping his focus ahead of him in the race of truth. He came up less than two seconds shy of a podium performance, and was 65 seconds back of the gold medal time.
“I played my hand and we finished up with four of us inside a few seconds of one another. Obviously, there’s a bit of regret about the placing, but I’d say it went well. If you think and look at the parcours closely, I shouldn’t even have finished in the top-10,” Ganna said. “At the start I was good and I was gaining a lot on the downhills and the technical sections where I managed to ride the bike well. But obviously on the parts where we were climbing, my legs weren’t at the top level to be competitive with the climbers.”
Ganna is slated to race in the Team Pursuit on the track in a week’s time, where Italy is a favorite.
“If we had arrived to this Olympics one year ago, I would have just done the team pursuit,” said Ganna. “After the worlds last year, I decided to ride also in the time trial and I can see the result is not bad. Now we’ll try to recover well for the track.”
Brandon McNulty (United States): 24th, at 4:54
Brandon McNulty was the United States’ best hope for a medal at the Tokyo Olympic Games in mens’ road cycling.
In the road race, he stuck with road race gold medalist Richard Carapaz until 3km to go, ultimately finishing in sixth place — a very respectable performance for his Olympic debut.
And McNulty has proven his time trial skills by taking silver and bronze medals respectively in the 2017 and 2019 UCI U-23 world time trial championships.
But the young American — who calls Tadej Pogačar a teammate on UAE Team Emriates when he’s not racing for Team USA — struggled in the hot and challenging parcours of the time trial.
“This really wasn’t my day, and I wasn’t able to connect the dots. The first time split, I think I was good, and then I just couldn’t sustain what I wanted to sustain. I think this season is starting to catch up on me,” McNulty told reporters.