In perhaps the most fitting final chapter to his decorated career, Fabian Cancellara won gold in the Olympics time trial on the wet roads of Rio de Janiero Wednesday. The Swiss, a 2008 Olympics TT champion and four-time world champion in the TT, will retire at the end of 2016. Cancellara rode a patient race as Australian Rohan Dennis clocked fast early splits in the 54.5km test. After the second climb of the Grumari circuit, Cancellara was clearly in charge. The 35-year-old ended up winning the race with a time of 1:12:15.42.
Tom Dumoulin of the Netherlands was second, 47 seconds behind, while Tour de France champion Chris Froome won bronze, 1:02 back.
“It means a lot to participate in sport’s highest event that the world presents and to win the gold medal in my retirement year; I think I’m just super proud,” said Cancellara.
After the first 10 kilometers, Cancellara had the fastest split time: 15:12.88. Dennis was second-fastest, a fraction of a second behind, while Team GB’s Geraint Thomas had the third-best split, 5.86 behind the Swiss leader. Pre-race favorite Chris Froome was seventh at the first time check.
After 19.7km, Dennis had moved into the lead with a split of 28:47.05, while Cancellara dropped to fourth, 24.26 down. Dumoulin moved up to second, 16.91 back, ahead of third-place Jonathan Castroviejo of Spain, 21.92 behind.
On the second passage of the Grumari climb, Cancellara had clawed back his virtual lead with a split of 48:30.45. Dennis faded, and clocked a 48:48.42 time at the 34.6km time check. Dumoulin was third, 25.74 back.
But things soon got worse for Dennis as he was forced to take a bike change a few kilometers later. The mechanical was costly, and at the final time check, Cancellara was 52.74 seconds faster than the Aussie and Dennis fell off the virtual podium. He slipped to fifth, a heartbreaking eight seconds out of medal contention.
As Cancellara had convincingly clocked the best time, the battle for silver came down to Dumoulin and Froome. Britain’s Tour de France champion came on strong on the final descent and flat run to the line but had to settle for bronze behind the Dutchman.
“At the moment I’m more or less quite disappointed,” said Dumoulin, who broke his wrist in a crash at the Tour de France just over two weeks ago. I had my objective at the beginning of the year, that was the gold medal — I didn’t succeed.
“Everyone is telling me I should be very proud of myself, especially after the last couple of weeks after my injury. I know I should be and I know I will be after tomorrow, but at the moment I can’t control my feelings.”
Froome said he could have no complaints about the result. “Fabian was definitely the strongest rider out on the road today,” said the Briton. “I’m happy with my performance. The focus of my season was the Tour de France. Now to medal again at the Olympics is an amazing feeling — I’ve got no regrets.”