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Editor’s note: This article was originally published in the December 2014 issue of Velo magazine, the annual awards issue.
Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) doesn’t want to be known only as a time trial specialist. But that’s just what he is. He’s the most successful modern time trialist since Fabian Cancellara, having eclipsed the Swiss time machine in 2011, when he won his first of three consecutive world time trial titles.
In 2014, Martin was all but untouchable against the clock. After a slow start in the spring, he won nearly every major time trial he started, from the Vuelta al País Vasco in April through the Vuelta a España in September. Chris Froome (Sky) nipped him by less than one second at the Tour de Romandie, but otherwise, Martin ruled with an iron fist.
At 29, Martin needs and wants new challenges. Though he admits he’s too heavy to ever challenge for a grand tour, he still harbors ambitions of winning stage races, particularly shorter, one-week races that feature a time trial. That’s a formula he’s used to win three straight Tours of Belgium, as well as races such as Paris-Nice and Eneco Tour.
He even won a road stage at this year’s Tour de France in impressive manner — you might even call it in time-trial fashion — soloing home into Mulhouse on stage 9 to win easily against the chasing pack, nearly three minutes in his rearview mirror.
But it’s time trialing that he does best, and what motivates him most.
“To win a time trial takes a lot of preparation,” Martin explained. “It’s not just the training, the positioning, and the equipment, but also things like diet and the warm-up. There are many pieces to winning a time trial.”
The only blemish on an otherwise perfect season was his world championship run in Spain. Despite leaving the Vuelta early, he came into Ponferrada unsure of his condition. A third-place finish with Omega Pharma in the team time trial was the first warning sign that he was off. A superb performance by Bradley Wiggins ended Martin’s bid to win a record fourth straight TT title. Even Wiggins, who beat Martin after losing to him in 2011 and 2013, admitted it wasn’t easy.
“On a pure power course, Tony is hard to beat,” Wiggins said. “But with the climbs [in Ponferrada], I thought I would be in with a chance.”
Martin was gracious in defeat, admitting that he was “not a machine,” but vowed to return for another time trial title in 2015.
There’s another German powerhouse against the clock, and her name is Lisa Brennauer. In a breakout 2014 season with Specialized-lululemon, the 26-year-old won every time trial she started.
Unfortunately for women’s cycling, there are simply not that many time trials across the calendar. Most stage races last a week, and many do not feature races against the clock. But when there were, Brennauer was without rival in 2014.
“I’ve improved in time trialing, and my team has helped me a lot,” Brennauer said. “The equipment is important, and I always get good support.”
She capped her season with an impressive run at the road cycling world championships in Ponferrada, where she helped power Specialized-lululemon to its third straight title.
She confirmed her TT prowess with her first rainbow stripes against the clock, knocking back defending world champion Ellen Van Dijk with ease. She proved she’s no one-trick pony, riding to silver in the road race.
“It’s been an amazing week at the worlds,” she said. “To almost win the road race is unbelievable. It gives me motivation for the future. I cannot believe it.”
Neither could most of her awed competitors. Meet the new queen of the clock.