The opening days of the 2016 Road World Championships in Doha are now behind us and it’s just about time for the elite men’s individual trial. In the following preview of Wednesday’s event we’ll tell you everything you need to know about the course, the conditions and the riders to watch.
It’s the same course that was used in the team time trial
The elite men’s individual time trial uses exactly the same course as was used in the team time trials earlier in the week. Starting at the Lusail Sports Complex north-north-west of central Doha, the 40km course takes riders through a series of twists and turns before a long straight section towards the Qatari capital.
From there the riders head east to the artificial island of The Pearl where the course again twists and turns in its final kilometres.
The course is about as flat as it could possibly be, with no sign of elevation gain anywhere on the profile. The course is technical though: the first few kilometres and final section on Pearl Island are both littered with roundabouts and sharp turns, making concentration crucial.
The weather conditions are likely to be a big factor
The Road World Championships were moved back a few weeks this year to avoid oppressive temperatures but still the Doha heat has proved challenging in the opening days of the meet. The elite women’s team time trial was particularly heat-affected with several riders suffering from heatstroke and requiring medical attention.
Even riders who are used to the heat have found conditions difficult in Doha, as Australia’s Miles Scotson said after taking bronze in the U23 men’s individual time trial.
“We’ve done some heat adaption work, but it surprised me the way my body responded in that heat,” Scotson said. “I thought I would cope with it better in 37 degrees than I did today but it must be a different kind of heat here.
“Those last 10 minutes were so hard for me and after the race, I couldn’t hold my head up. I couldn’t talk. I was in a bad way for five or ten minutes.”
At the time of writing the temperature is set to reach 37ºC in Doha on Wednesday. While not as warm as, say, last year’s Abu Dhabi Tour these temperatures demand respect and riders will need to ensure they don’t go out too hard. The winner will be the rider that can perform at their maximum while also handling the heat.
There’s a light north-westerly breeze forecast for Wednesday afternoon meaning the straight early section of the course will likely be faster than normal. But with so many twists and turns it’s unlikely the wind will have too much of an impact on the final result (assuming it blows consistently throughout).
The winner will likely come from one of three main favourites
There’s a lot to like about Rohan Dennis’ chances on Wednesday. For starters, as a South Australian, he copes well in the heat. He’s a proven performer in the 40ºC+ temperatures of January’s Tour Down Under (he won the race overall in 2015) and he won the 2015 Tour de France prologue ITT in scorching conditions in Utrecht.
Dennis is also in great time-trialling form. He won the stage 2 ITT at the recent Eneco Tour and helped his team to second in the TTT later that week. He was also second in the Tour of Britain ITT and, looking back a little further, took fifth in the Olympics time trial. Were it not for a snapped handlebar and bike change in that Olympic ITT, Dennis would probably have finished with a bronze medal.
As such, Dennis goes into Wednesday’s ITT extremely motivated. If everything goes right the Aussie time trial championship should finish on the podium and could quite possibly make it to the top step.
When it comes to time trial world championships it’s pretty hard to look past a rider who’s already won it three times: Germany’s Tony Martin. Martin’s already taken gold at the 2016 Road Worlds, playing a vital role in Etixx-QuickStep’s team time trial victory at the weekend. He’s got a solid chance of doubling up on Wednesday.
Martin hasn’t had quite the same build-up as Dennis, finishing 13th in the Eneco Tour ITT, but he did win the Tour of Britain ITT in early September. If Martin was able to win on Wednesday he would equal the record for the most number of world ITT titles; a record currently held by Fabian Cancellara (who isn’t racing in Doha.)
The final of the three big contenders is Dutchman Tom Dumoulin. Dumoulin finished third behind Martin and Dennis in the Tour of Britain ITT and didn’t factor in the Eneco Tour ITT. But there can be no doubting the Dutch time trial champion’s ability to rise to the occasion.
Dumoulin won the stage 13 time trial at the Tour de France and went close on stage 18 of that race and in the Rio Olympics ITT, finishing second on both occasions. Dumoulin should be in the mix come Wednesday; the result will perhaps depend on how he’s able to handle the heat.
There are four other riders that should be considered outside chances
It came as something of a surprise when Vasil Kiryienka won the time trial at last year’s world championships in Richmond, USA, and a repeat performance would definitely be a surprise as well. The Belarusian’s best individual time trial result this year is a third place at the Volta a la Valenciana way back in February and he’s only been inside the top 10 on two occasions since.
Kiryienka is certainly capable of a big performance on his day though, and as defending champion he deserves a mention at the very least.
Alex Dowsett is another outside chance of reaching the podium should everything go according to plan on the day. His most recent time trial win was on the final stage of the Tour of Poland back in July, a few weeks after winning the Great Britain national time trial title for a fourth time.
Spaniard Jonathan Castroviejo has been knocking on the door of a big time trial win for several years now and could threaten the podium in Doha. He recently won the ITT at the European Championships, was second in the Vuelta a España ITT and was fourth at the Rio Olympic time trial back in August.
Former ski jumper Primoz Roglic would probably prefer some more climbing in the Doha ITT course but could still threaten for a medal if things fall his way. The Slovenian was impressive at the Giro d’Italia, finishing second to Dumoulin in the prologue ITT then winning the stage 9 ITT on a course virtually the same length as Wednesday’s worlds ITT. A gold medal for Roglic would certainly come as a surprise but the 26-year-old should finish somewhere near the top of the leaderboard.
The time trial will be streamed live online
A livestream of the elite men’s ITT (as with other events at the Road Worlds) will be available through the UCI’s YouTube channel. Note however that this stream will be geoblocked in countries where broadcast deals are in place, including in Australia, the USA and UK.
In Australia, you’ll be able to stream the time trial live at the SBS Cycling Central website from 9:05pm AEST (it won’t be on TV). In the US, Universal HD will have delayed coverage starting at 9am local time with a replay at midnight. UK viewers will be able to catch the ITT live on Eurosport 2 from 12:35pm CET.
For full broadcast information in all markets, consult this document at the UCI website.
If you’re following the ITT (or any Road Worlds event) on Twitter, note that the official hashtag is #UCIDoha2016.