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Turning back the clock after dialling back his time trial position to its previous iteration, Tony Martin grabbed his fourth Elite world TT title in Doha, Qatar on Wednesday with a storming ride.
The German rider finished a clear 46 seconds clear of last year’s champion Vasil Kiryienka (Belarus), who did what he could to repeat but had to settle for silver. Spain’s Jonathan Castroviejo was one minute 11 seconds back in third, while Rohan Dennis (6th), Bob Jungels (10th), Tom Dumoulin (11th), Alex Dowsett (12th), Taylor Phinney (15th), and Luke Durbridge (18th) will likely be disappointed with their performances.
One who will be encouraged, though, is young Irishman Ryan Mullen. He was one of the earliest starters, set the quickest time and remained in the hotseat until the final few minutes of the competition. He eventually finished fifth, one minute 22 back and just 11 seconds off bronze.
Given that Mullen is young enough to have ridden the under 23 event, he will be back in future years fully believing he can take gold.
Martin doesn’t have to look ahead, though. He can savour a rainbow jersey right now, repeating his victories in 2011, 2012 and 2013.
“It is amazing, I can’t believe it. Everyone knows I didn’t have a good year so far until Sunday,” he said, referring to the Etixx QuickStep team’s victory in the team time trial. “Becoming world champion here is incredible. It makes everything forgotten that happened during the year.
“It was amazing and I think it will give me a lot of strength for next year.”
Yes!!!! I'm so, so, so happy for @tonymartin85!!! He's a fighter, never gave up & now came back with a boom. ???
— Marcel Kittel (@marcelkittel) October 12, 2016
Qatar’s course was flat and fast, and had some technical corners. Martin said it ticked the boxes perfectly.
“The course was really made for me. The only thing I was scared of was the heat, but I have to say I made a good preparation already at home.
“Then coming here, having also a really, really good week with the team. I got a lot of knowledge about what I have to do also for today. I learned a lot from last Sunday.
“I was really also strong in the head. I was not the favourite, I had no pressure at the start. I just had fun on the road, I have to say. Knowing that I had from the start the best time on the road just made my race perfect from the start. I actually have a lot of morale after the finish.”
How it played out:
Ireland’s Ryan Mullen has had an at-times tough first pro year with Cannondale-Drapac, but things came good at the end of the season for the 22 year old. He was twelfth off out of the 69 riders in the event and tore up the course, beating the time set by the rider ahead of him, Andriy Grivko (Ukraine).
Mullen’s pace of 46 minutes 4.74 seconds was one minute 13 seconds faster that Grivko, and earned him what would be a long stint in the hot seat of TT leader.
Nice little surprise to make it on to the hot seat. Gave it everything. May or may not have passed out at one point.
— Ryan Mullen (@ryanmullen9) October 12, 2016
Dutch rider Jos Van Emden was quicker than Mullen at the second time check, prompting questions about whether he might go faster at the finish. However he faded and ended up 24 seconds back, taking a provisional second.
Subsequent starters included Durbridge, Dowsett, Phinney and Edvald Boasson Hagen (Norway), but these would be unable to trouble Mullen.
Tony Martin was a bigger danger, though, and the three-time champion showed he meant business when he went through the first time check 7.6 seconds faster than Mullen.
The German was back in his former TT position, eschewing the setup he adopted over the winter and which his coach Sebastian Weber had felt should give him additional speed.
Dumoulin was another one to watch but he was only a provisional eighth at the first time check. However defending champion Kiryienka was trucking and was just three seconds back on Martin, showing that he was a big rival for gold.
Australia’s Rohan Dennis was also going well, ten seconds back, and he was quicker than Mullen at the second time check. However Martin was gobbling up the road and clearly on a big ride, going quickest at that second checkpoint.
Kiryienka was second fastest, but had conceded 21.8 seconds and was drifting away from a new rainbow jersey.
Dowsett and then Phinney reached the finish line, netting a provisional fifth and eighth respectively. Jungels pushed all the way to the line but had to accept provisional fifth, 34.84 seconds behind Mullen.
Felt good for the first half of today's race but then out went the lights. Struggling in the longer TTs as of late, but mojo is comin back.
— Taylor Phinney (@taylorphinney) October 12, 2016
— Taylor Phinney (@taylorphinney) October 12, 2016
The Irishman was hanging on at the top but he knew that there were several strong riders out on the course and that nothing was guaranteed.
Sure enough, Maciej Bodnar (Poland) hurtled in soon afterwards and went 4.98 seconds faster. He was followed very soon afterwards by Jonathan Castroviejo, who beat Bodnar by 5.86 seconds. However the Spaniard’s time at the top was extremely short-lived, with Martin racing in almost immediately afterwards and went a huge one minute 10.91 seconds quicker.
Dennis finished a provisional fifth, one minute 27.12 behind Martin. Kiryienka then hammered home for second, 45.05 second behind.
The defending champion didn’t get gold, but he proved that his victory last year was no fluke.
Martin was waiting close to the line to find out if he had done enough. When it became clear that he had won, he and his entourage let out huge whoops of satisfaction, celebrating a return to the top after missing out in the past three championships.
In taking four wins, Martin equals the career record of Fabian Cancellara. However he said that this kind of statistic is not his big focus.
“I don’t count the victories, I look for it from year to year,” he explained. “I want to be world champion every year. For the moment I am so proud that I am able to wear the world champion’s suit for all of next year.
“I really missed it a lot and I am just looking forward now to riding next year in the jersey.”
More to follow soon…
MARTIN Tony MARTIN Tony Germany
KIRYIENKA Vasil KIRYIENKA Vasil Belarus
CASTROVIEJO Jonathan CASTROVIEJO Jonathan Spain