The Mendrisio time trial course favors the specialists. The race runs over a 16 kilometer circuit and the elite men will ride three laps for a total of just under 50 kilometers. The circuit forms a loop and includes one climb, the Rossa de Rancate. At 700 meters in length, the Rossa de Rancate will interrupt the rhythm, but not slow the momentum of the crono specialists. The climb briefly hits a maximum gradient of 10% and a false-flat follows the summit. Pacing and gear choice are key here, but the pros should not lose any sleep over this bump. The circuit races over wide, straight roads, and there is nothing especially technical about the course. This one is all about power.
As always, Fabian Cancellara heads the list of the favorites. The Swiss specialist will race in front of his home fans, and this power course will suit him to perfection. Cancellara has said he wants to win the road race in Mendrisio, but it’s hard to imagine that he would turn down another time trial win. Indeed, in Beijing he won the time trial and finished third in the road race. At the recent Vuelta a España, Cancellara won both the prologue and the first time trial stage. He left the race to return home before the final time trial stage, but plainly, he is on good form and on another level in these races relative to the rest of the field.
Last year’s winner, Bert Grabsch will also ride the Mendrisio course. Grabsch is a power rider and only gets it going on the long one day tests like Worlds. So far this year, Grabsch has a time trial win at the Critérium Dauphiné Libéré and the German National title to his credit. The big German should place well here in Mendrisio, but it will be a big ask to overtake Cancellara on his home ground.
Former Swedish National time trial champion Gustav Larsson finished second behind Fabian Cancellara in Beijing. Larsson recently finished second overall at the Tour of Missouri, which was decided almost entirely by the time trial stage. The Swede is handy against the watch and will be in the thick of the fight for the podium.
Bradley Wiggins has two Olympic Gold medals from the successful track career that he has now mostly left behind to focus on the road. The British pursuit talent transformed into a grand tour rider this season with a fourth place finish at the Tour de France. The new, lighter Wiggins may prove a few lightbulbs short on this Mendrisio course, but he certainly deserves mention among the favorites here. He has no previous results in the World Championship time trial, largely due to his focus on the track. Wiggins is not a sure thing here, but his obvious talent earns him a spot among the favorites for a high placing.
Another grand tour rider who will take the start at Mendrisio, Cadel Evans has won several stage race time trials in his career, but has no previous results at the Worlds. Evans recently finished third at the Vuelta a España and may reach Mendrisio with tired legs. The Vuelta did not go entirely according to plan, and Evans would certainly like a good result to end the season. Still, Evans should not offer much challenge to the one-day specialists like Cancellara and Larsson. Michael Rogers, a former World Champion in the time trial, joins Evans in representing Australia. In recent years, Rogers has struggled to match the Golden performances of the past.
Mikhail Ignatiev finished second at this year’s Russian National Championship and is a past U23 World Champion in the time trial. The 24 year old has a background in track racing and has numerous results at the international level in the Points Race and Pursuit. True to his clock-beating background, Ignatiev is most often seen off the front of the bike race and the solo break is his signature move. As a young rider, Ignatiev has yet to show his talents at the elite level at Worlds, but his consistency through the junior and U23 ranks suggest he is a rider to watch here.
Three other young riders deserve watching in this time trial. Edvald Boasson Hagen has twice won the Norwegian National time trial championship and comes to Mendrisio after winning four stages and the overall at the Tour of Britain. The deeply talented 22 year old also won a stage of the Giro d’Italia and the Belgian semi-classic Gent-Wevelgem. He has no previous results at the elite level in a time trial like this one, but for young, talented riders there’s always a first. Dutch talent Lars Boom also rides the time trial in Mendrisio. Boom is a past U23 World Champion in the crono and an elite World Champion in cyclocross. He recently won a stage of the Vuelta a España after attacking the break 20 kilometers from the finish. Plainly, Boom is on good form, and it will be exciting to see how he finishes in his first crack at the elite World Championship races. Tony Martin, meanwhile, has both Junior and U23 World Championship titles to his credit in the time trial. This year, he makes his elite début at Worlds. The talented German finished second behind Grabsch at this year’s German National Championship and is a past U23 German champion in the time trial. All three of these young riders come to the elite level with stellar results in their early careers. Though none of the three will likely score an upset victory over Cancellara, it would not be a surprise to see one of them stand on the final podium.
Outsiders Marco Pinotti, Tom Zirbel, and Svein Tuft will also ride the time trial in Mendrisio. Pinotti has won the Italian National Championship in the crono multiple times, but has never placed notably high at the Worlds races. The “Engineer,” as he is known, recently picked Grabsch and Cancellara as his favorites and downplayed his own chances. The time trial is not big as a discipline in Italy, but Pinotti continues to ply his trade. Time trialing is big in the United States, by contrast, and Tom Zirbel has come close to unseating the repeat American champion Dave Zabriskie, who has several times stood on the podium at Worlds. Zabriskie declined to ride Worlds this year, and Zirbel will represent in his place. The 30 year old American could surprise as the power course will suit his characteristics. Likewise for Canadian Svein Tuft, who is the current Canadian National Champion. Tuft joined Garmin-Slipstream this season after a career of North American racing where he is known for his hard-as-nails mentality and spartan mountain-man lifestyle. Tuft is an outsider for this Worlds race, but he could surprise.
Other notables: František Rabon, Ivan Gutierrez, Koos Moerenhout, Vladimir Gusev (some press reports Wednesday suggested he may not start), Janez Brajkovic, Tom Danielson, Vasili Kiryienka.« 2009 UCI Road Worlds Dashboard