As is traditional, the time trialists will open the curtain on the UCI Road World Championships with the elite men the second rainbow jersey on offer in Australia later this week.
For the first time, the men will ride the same distance as the women as the UCI continues to make some effort to infuse some equality into the sport. The 34.2km course will see the riders tackle two loops of a circuit around the twisting streets of Wollongong.
It is a rolling and technical course that will test the skills of the contenders to the limits. Filippo Ganna comes in as the double defending champion and he is a major favorite for a third rainbow jersey this weekend.
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He’s going to face some stiff competition with a strong field set to roll down the starting ramp Sunday.
VeloNews has picked five riders to watch for the elite men’s time trial at the world championships.
Remco Evenepoel (Belgium)
Hot off the back of his Vuelta a España victory, Evenepoel will be looking to add a rainbow jersey to the red one he won in Spain. Evenepoel’s Vuelta win saw him become the first Belgian grand tour winner in over four decades and he would be the first Belgian ever to take a TT title if he could pull it off in Wollongong.
It was a bruising encounter in Spain and it remains to be seen how he comes out of it but he reaffirmed his TT chops during the race with his emphatic win against the clock at the start of the second week. Evenepoel has twice been on the TT podium at the worlds since making his senior debut in 2019.
He finished second to Rohan Dennis on that occasion and he took third behind Ganna and teammate Wout van Aert in Bruges last year. He didn’t compete in the TT in 2020. If he can hold onto the form he had at the Vuelta, he’s going to be tough to beat.
Filippo Ganna (Italy)
This weekend, Ganna will be looking join an elite club of three-time TT world champions and an even smaller club of three-time consecutive winners. Michael Rogers and Tony Martin are the only riders to have taken the TT title three years in a row, with Fabian Cancellara’s run of four split in half after he decided to skip the 2008 competition.
Ganna won his first title by a comfortable margin of 27 seconds over Van Aert but saw that cut to just five seconds last year. The Italian has been almost unbeatable against the clock throughout the season with just a few exceptions. He was fifth in the final time trial of the Tour de France, took bronze at the European championships in August, and finished second in the UAE Tour in February.
He won’t be too worried about that as he lost out in the European TT last year and still turned it on when he needed to at the worlds.
Stefan Bissegger (Switzerland)
Switzerland comes to the world championships with two potential winners in its lineup with Bissegger and Stefan Küng set to ride. To be honest, both riders could be on this list, but Bissegger just edged it out with his performances this season.
The 24-year-old edged out Küng to take the European title in Munich last month, beating him by a second and Ganna by nine. The course in Munich was not as challenging as the one in Wollongong but it was a rolling parcours and is a good indication of how he and the others should go.
Bissegger’s key worry will be the technicality of the course and he’ll be hoping there’s no rain Sunday. He had a nightmare day on the opening stage of the Tour de France, slipping out three times on the twisting Copenhagen course.
Ethan Hayter (Great Britain)
In his third season at the pro level, Hayter has had a standout season with a string of victories, including the Tour de Romandie prologue, the British TT title, and the overall classification at the Tour of Poland. Hayter’s strengths lie in the flatter parcours where he can lay down the power he’s honed on the track.
Hayter’s form is a bit of an unknown going into the worlds after he was forced to abandon the Vuelta a España following a COVID-19 positive on the rest day. His early abandon meant we didn’t get to see how he was shaping up against the others in the TT and it remains to be seen if his bout with the virus has had a lasting impact.
Bauke Mollema (Netherlands)
Mollema might be a surprise entry on this list, but his TT performances this season have been something of a surprise themselves. The 35-year-old Dutchman has always had a decent TT in his arsenal, and he even had a time trial victory on his palmarès at the Tour of Alberta, but this year has seen him really step up in the discipline.
This season saw him take his first national TT title, ahead of strong specialists like Tom Dumoulin and Jos van Emden. While he has formed part of the more recent mixed team relay teams, this year will be the first time that Mollema will represent the Netherlands in the individual discipline for the first time. He is a bit of a wildcard for this event and will be interesting to watch.