By Andrew Hood
Fabian Cancellara might have been satisfied with his 2007 season after wearing the yellow jersey for the better part of a week and winning two stages at the Tour de France, but the chance to defend his rainbow jersey in the elite men’s world time trial race proved too alluring.
Laszlo Bodrogi of Hungary claimed silver at 52 seconds off the pace with Dutch rider Stef Clement taking bronze at 57 seconds slower on the rolling 44.9km course in the hills around Stuttgart,.
But this show was all about Cancellara.
The big Swiss time machine caught his one-minute man, Vladimir Gusev of Russia, at the first passage on the undulating, two-lap course and then passed a soon-to-be-former teammate, last year’s runner-up Dave Zabriskie, in the final stampede to the line.
“It was not an easy thing. I had big pressure after last year and I am not in the same condition as last year,” said Cancellara, who covered the course in 48.375kph. “I am pretty happy and satisfied about what I did today. It was something beautiful. I will have a glass of champagne and more today.”
Cancellara’s life is like a bubbling bottle of champagne these days, but he admits he lost a bit of sparkle after an exhausting Tour. He raced the first three days of the Tour of Germany in August to help motor the team time trial effort that helped seal overall victory for teammate Jens Voigt and then he finally hit the wall.
After a busy spring calendar that also included the Giro d’Italia, Cancellara finally had a chance to decompress, and he admitted it wasn’t easy to regain his form for a run at a second straight gold medal.
“After the Tour and Germany, my head was totally blocked. I took a 10-day break. I really needed that after a long season. My head was already tired,” said the German-speaking Swiss. “I went back for Poland and I was lucky with good weather. Then I did 10 days of motor-pacing. I am pretty satisfied with what I did today.”
Cancellara started last and was fastest at all three time checks on the rain-slick course. The early starters faced worse conditions after morning rainfall but roads were nearly dry as a slight wind kicked up for latest of the 69 starters.
“When I saw that it was raining, I was remembering the rain at the stage of Albi when I crashed. I didn’t want to crash today,” said Cancellara. “I went hard at the start and it was good to have pole position and I knew the time gaps. It was an advantage to start last because I had all the times. I was a little nervous today and I absolutely wanted to avoid a crash today.
Cancellara brushed off suggestions that the late starters had an advantage over the earlier riders.
“The riders that started in the beginning, they were not the favorites. It would be better to have the same condition and be fair play for all riders, but I have had myself some bad luck to have some bad conditions when I was racing on other days. I don’t think it was a big factor with the weather condition. The best riders won.”
All but one rider in the top 10 – eighth-place Andrey Mizurov of Kazakhstan at 2:02 back – were part of the last wave of riders heading out on the course at one-minute intervals.
Two Germans rode well, with Bert Grabsch, a winner of a 52km time trial at the Vuelta, missing the bronze by 15 seconds while Sebastian Lang stopped the fifth.
Zabriskie’s disappointment was complete when Cancellara passed late in the race. The two-time U.S. national time trial champion started off well, posting the third fastest time at the first time check at 14 seconds off Cancellara’s time and still had possibilities for a medal.
Zabriskie held within podium range with the fifth-fastest time at 27 seconds off the bronze, but lost ground in the final half of the course.
“I’m not in the mood,” Zabriskie growled when asked about his ride. “The legs weren’t good.”
Jason McCartney stopped the clock at 2:42 off the pace in 20th. Fresh off winning a stage at the Vuelta a España, the Iowan said he just didn’t have the legs to challenge for the podium.
“I wasn’t able to carry the speed like I wanted to. I’m not feeling as fresh as I did a week ago at the Vuelta,” McCartney said. “Guys like Bodrogi were able to leave the Vuelta to rest before the world’s, and I think that made a difference.
“I finished the Vuelta, partly because of my team and because it’s nice to finish a grand tour. Hopefully Sunday we’ll able to do something in the road race.”
Canada’s Ryder Hesjedal was 24th at 3:07 slower while compatriot Svein Tuft was 30th at 3:45 off the pace.
The world’s takes a break from competition Friday and returns Saturday with the U-23 and women’s road races.
UCI world road championships
Individual time trial — elite men
1. Fabian Cancellara (Swi), at 55:41
2. Laszlo Bodrogi (Hun), at at 0:52
3. Stef Clement (Ned), at 0:57
4. Bert Grabsch (G), at 1:12
5. Sebastian Lang (G), at 1:17
6. Vladimir Gusev (Rus), at 1:46
7. Jose Ivan Gutierrez (Sp), at 1:56
8. Andrey Mizurov (Kaz), at 2:02
9. Vasili Kiryenka (Blr), at 2:03
10. Bradley Wiggins (GB), at 2:10
11. Dominique Cornu (B), at 2:10
12. David Zabriskie (USA), at 2:13
13. Raivis Belohvosciks (Latvia), at 2:19
14. Marco Pinotti (I), at 2:20
15. Gustav Larsson (Swe), at 2:30
16. Matti Helminen (Fin), at 2:31
17. Andrei Kunitski (Blr), at 2:37
18. David Millar (GB), at 2:40
19. Vincenzo Nibali (I), at 2:42
20. Jason McCartney (USA), at 2:42