Wiggins, Martin, Cancellara highlight Olympic TT favorites

Bradley Wiggins is the top favorite for Wednesday's Olympic time trial, but a young American is looking to spoil

LONDON, England (VN) — Two former world time trial champions and the winner of this year’s Tour de France highlight the list of medal favorites for the 44km Olympic time trial competition, held Wednesday in Hampton Court, outside of London, incorporating sections of Richmond, Kingston-upon-Thames and Surrey.

And though both Fabian Cancellara (Switzerland) and Tony Martin (Germany) have earned rainbow jerseys against the clock, it’s a former world pursuit champion, Bradley Wiggins of Great Britain, who is most favored to bring home his nation’s first gold medal of the 2012 Olympic Games.

This prognostication is based on two factors — Wiggins’ exceptional form coming off the Tour, where he won both time trial stages, and injuries to Cancellara and Martin that have left them questioning their abilities.

Cancellara, a four-time world champion, crashed heavily with 15km to go in Saturday’s Olympic road race and injured his right shoulder. The Swiss champion rode 70km on his time trial bike on Monday and reported that he was still in great pain, adding that while he intends to race Wednesday, it could come down to a game time decision.

“I feel better with every hour passing,” Cancellara said Monday. “I have to be positive, otherwise I would have been home already. I’m a hard man. I have to look ahead to the next few hours and days to come to try to get the maximum potential of a good feeling in my body. Now I have to see how I sit on the TT bike.

“Maybe everything turns out ok,” Cancellara added. “The mental aspect is important. I have two legs and I can ride. I have been training many, many hours for the Olympics. We will just have to see how it goes.”

Martin, the reigning world champion, has had a difficult 2012 season. A training crash in April left him with facial fractures and lacerations, requiring plastic surgery. He also crashed hard in the first stage of the Tour, suffering a fractured scaphoid bone in his wrist. The German battled on, but pulled out on the race’s first rest day after finishing over two minutes behind Wiggins in the stage 9 time trial. Last week Martin crashed while on an Olympic road race reconnaissance ride, though not seriously.

“The surface of the road on the course is quite bad but I don’t think that’s too big a problem, because I’m leaning forward and will be resting on my arms,” Martin said. “My goal for Wednesday is still a medal. I still hope for gold, but I don’t have much hope left… There’s just one name and it’s Bradley Wiggins. He’s the one to beat.”

Winning a fourth gold would put Wiggins on an Olympic medal tally of seven, more than any other British Olympian. Rower Sir Steve Redgrave owns six Olympic medals, including five gold. Martin believes riding at home will only spur the Londoner on. Wiggins took silver at the 2011 world TT championship behind the German.

“I think the expectation of the nation on Wiggins will be a motivating factor for him, not a handicap,” Martin said.

As it was with the Tour, Wiggins could face his stiffest competition from Sky teammate and compatriot Chris Froome. Froome finished second to Wiggins in both time trials at the Tour, and is a hot favorite to medal.

When asked about a medal in the time trial, Froome told Reuters, “That would be phenomenal.”

Also among those with a shot at a medal is American Taylor Phinney, who finished fourth in Saturday’s road race. Though he’s excelled at shorter, prologue-type efforts, earning him the maglia rosa at this year’s Giro d’Italia, Phinney, 22, spent the past month training for longer efforts. His performance on Saturday, when he was second in the chase group sprint to narrowly miss a medal, demonstrated that he is on exceptional form. Instead of racing the Tour, Phinney has spent the past weeks training specifically for the Olympics, simulating the efforts required both for the hilly Box Hill circuit used on Saturday’s road race as well as the flat 44km TT course.

“I definitely had a race where I went above and beyond what I thought my body was capable of, so that’s all I can ask for,” Phinney said at the finish of the road race Saturday. “It makes me a little more hungry for the time trial.”

Another rider to watch is Frenchman Sylvain Chavanel. Chavanel won the time trial at Three Days of De Panne in April, and went on to win the national time trial championship in June. At the Tour he finished third in the prologue time trial and fifth in the stage 9 time trial; he pulled out of the race before the stage 19 time trial.

Others to keep an eye on among the 24 starters include Martin’s German teammate Bert Grabsch, the 2008 world champion; Italian national TT champ Marco Pinotti; and Swede Gustav Larsson, the silver medalist in Beijing in 2008 and at worlds in 2009.

One man that will not be racing is former Tour de France time trial stage winner Cadel Evans. The Australian cycling federation announced Sunday that Evans, who finished a disappointing seventh at the Tour, had withdrawn from competition, citing fatigue. Evans finished 52nd in the stage 19 time trial on July 21. Another Australian will not fill Evans’ TT spot; three-time world TT champ Michael Rogers will be the sole representative for Australia.

Agence France Presse contributed to this article.