Preview: Ganna vs Evenepoel for the men’s time trial world title?

The two-time world champ and the recent Vuelta winner start as the favourites in Wollongong.

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The 2022 Road World Championships are about to begin in Wollongong, Australia and the elite time trials are first cab off the rank.

For the first time ever, the elite women and men will race on the same course, over the same distance, on the same day. Abby Mickey’s already previewed the elite and U23 women’s race, but read on for our thoughts about the elite men’s ITT, held on the afternoon of Sunday September 18.

The course

As Abby wrote, the course for the elite time trials is 34.2 km in length and effectively comprises two laps of a city-centre circuit in Wollongong.

There are a few climbs out on course but nothing hugely substantial for the riders to worry about. All up, they’ll climb 312 metres over the course of 34.2 km.

The biggest challenge is probably the technical nature of the course. According to the Wollongong 2022 organising committee, the course is in fact “highly technical”, featuring a whole bunch of turns through the city, some of them quite tight.

Success on this course won’t just mean shedloads of power – it’ll also require smooth, efficient cornering and solid bike-handling skills.

The contenders

A quick note on some notable absentees before we talk about who might win on Sunday.

Two-time former winner Rohan Dennis won’t be racing on home soil, because Worlds clashes with his brother’s wedding. Last year’s runner-up Wout van Aert won’t be racing the time trial either, instead choosing to focus all his energy on the road race the following weekend (where he’ll be one of the favourites).

Even without those two strong contenders, we’ve still got an intriguing battle on our hands.

Filippo Ganna has won the past two editions of the Worlds ITT and could well become the first elite rider to win three in a row since Tony Martin in 2011, 2012, and 2013. Ganna’s the strongest TT specialist in the world and comes in with good results this year: wins in the Tour de la Provence prologue, Tirreno-Adriatico time trial, Critérium du Dauphiné time trial, and, more recently, in the Deutschland Tour prologue in late August.

On his day, the Italian champ will be hard to beat, but it’s worth noting his stage 1 time trial at the Tour de France this year. In wet conditions, Ganna’s technical skills left a little to be desired, and he could only manage fourth. Could the technical nature of the Wollongong course work against him?

Three in a row for Ganna coming up? (Photo by David Stockman/Belga Mag/AFP via Getty Images)

Remco Evenepoel comes to Worlds fresh off the back of overall victory at the Vuelta a España where he also won the stage 10 individual time trial. That time trial was about the same length as the course being used at the Wollongong Worlds. The Belgian champion has a handful of other TT wins to his name this year, too: at the Volta ao Algarve and the Tour de Suisse.

Evenepoel clearly has the talent to win the TT world title. The biggest question will likely be how he’s pulled up from the Vuelta. That’s the first time the 22-year-old has finished a Grand Tour and he had little respite throughout the three weeks. Who knows how his body will respond just one week and a long flight later.

Evenepoel en route to winning the stage 10 time trial at the recent Vuelta. (Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)

Beyond these two top favourites, keep an eye out for Stefan Bissegger. The Swiss rider was seventh last year and has since won the time trial at the UAE Tour and the European TT championships just a month ago (beating Ganna, Stefan Küng and other big names). A podium finish from Bissegger is a real possibility come Sunday, if everything comes to plan.

Speaking of other podium contenders, how about two-time Tour de France winner Tadej Pogačar? The Slovenian is clearly in great form, having just won GP de Montreal, and he’ll start as perhaps the favourite for the road race. But the time trial?

On his day, Pogačar is certainly capable of a great time trial – he’s won two time trials at the Tour de France in recent years – but this course probably has less climbing than Pogačar would like. It’s hard to see him beating Ganna and Evenepoel on a relatively flat course (he was 10th on a flat course last year), but just about anything is possible from the 23-year-old.

Pogačar rode to 10th last year in Flanders. Could he challenge for the podium in 2022?. (Photo by Jorge Luis Alvarez Pupo/Getty Images)

There’s a host of others riders we should see nestled inside the top 10 come Sunday afternoon.

Stefan Küng was third in 2020 and fifth last year and a similar finish can be expected from the Swiss powerhouse again in 2022. Yves Lampaert took a surprising win on the opening day of this year’s Tour de France and also won an ITT on home soil at the Baloise Belgium Tour. He should feature high up the leaderboard too.

British champ Ethan Hayter was eighth at Flanders Worlds last year, and has had a great season since, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the 23-year-old amongst the top names again. Hopefully he’s recovered from his recent bout of COVID.

For others to feature inside the top 10, consider three-time U23 world champion Mikkel Bjerg (Denmark); Edoardo Affini (Italy); seventh-place finisher in 2020, Rémi Cavagna (France); and Aussie road race champion Luke Plapp who was second in the U23 Worlds time trial last year.

How to watch it

Hoping to catch the action live? You should be covered regardless of where you live.

In Australia, coverage will come via the Nine/Stan network, with FloBikes having coverage in the USA and Canada. There’s livestreaming available via GCN+/Eurosport and via the UCI’s YouTube channel, too, subject to local geoblocking arrangements. Check out Wollongong 2022’s post about official broadcasters for more information.

The elite men’s ITT runs from 1:40pm to 5pm local time in Wollongong (AEST). That’s 5:40am to 9am for those on CEST in Europe, 8:40pm to midnight on Saturday night for those on the west coast of the USA (PDT) and 11:40pm Saturday night to 3am on Sunday for those on the east coast of the US (EDT).

Who’s your pick to win the elite men’s ITT world title?

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