Tony Martin (Germany) secured his third individual world championship time trial title with a virtuoso display in Florence, Italy. The German secured his third straight rainbow jersey in a time of 1:05:36.65, setting the fastest times through all but one of the intermediate time checks.
Olympic time trial champion Bradley Wiggins (Great Britain) earned a silver medal, 46 seconds adrift of Martin. Four-time world champion Fabian Cancellara (Switzerland) had to accept third, a further two seconds back on Wiggins after the British rider overhauled what had at one point been a 24-second deficit to the Swiss rider.
Last year’s silver medallist Taylor Phinney (United States of America) had to settle for fifth, with Vasil Kiryienka, third in 2012, claiming fourth.
However, there was no doubt about Martin’s domination. The German, efficient and effective as he churned a huge gear, set off last of the 79-man field. Over a course that perfectly suited his rigidity and power, Martin was simply a class apart with the fight for silver and bronze already the focal point from just over the half-way point.
“The first time is always the nicest. For sure this comes close. I think there was a lot of pressure on me, and I really wanted to win the title again. Now the pressure has fallen off my shoulders, and it’s really emotional for me,” a delighted Martin said.
Cancellara’s early lead
Cancellara had started out the sprightlier of the two. The former time trial king missed last year’s event through injury, but after a string of wins in the Spring Classics and an eye-catching win against Martin in the Vuelta a Espana time trial earlier in the month, many had tipped him to roll back the years and claim his fifth world title.
Wiggins, fresh from his overall win in the Tour of Britain, set off before both of his main rivals and at one stage, it looked as though he would be locked in a battle for bronze with his Sky teammate Kiryienka. However, the British rider paced his effort well, and although he was never on terms with Martin – unlike Cancellara – he was able to beat off Cancellara’s fading challenge for second spot on the podium.
Under blue skies and with little wind to affect the main challengers, the world time trial championships had arguably its most decorated field in a number of years. The three medallists from Copenhagen (2011): Martin, Cancellara and Wiggins had all returned, and with Phinney, Richie Porte, Alex Dowsett, Marco Pinotti and Sylvain Chavanel amongst the starters, there was a distinguishable depth to the field.
Gustavo Mino (Paraguay) was the first rider to set off from the start ramp but it wasn’t until Nelson Oliveira (Portugal) set a time of 1:08:51 that the crowds saw a genuine reference point against which to judge the favourites.
Behind the Portuguese, Alex Dowsett (Great Britain) and Rohan Dennis (Australia) were both out on the course. The British rider, not near the form he displayed at this year’s Giro, struggled through the event, while Dennis, who has enjoyed a stellar first season in the professional ranks, briefly led.
It was Kanstantsin Siutsou (Belarus) who raised the bar still further [eventually finishing 10th] before Wiggins, Cancellara and Martin set off.
Cancellara set off like a train. At the first intermediate time check at Serravalle Pistoiese, he led Martin by 0.36 of a second with Wiggins 15 seconds adrift. The early climb of Serravalle Pistoiese gave the impression that Wiggins would not make an impact, that Cancellara would be a reference point and that Martin would do well to hang onto the Swiss rider’s coattails.
But in truth, Martin was merely finding his stride. And with the course flattening the German began to lay to bare his dominance against the clock. Cancellara, who looked the more fluid of the two, simply had no answer and by the 24km mark had conceded 27 seconds to Martin. Wiggins, meanwhile, looked effortless but without Cancellara’s urgency, and trailed by 28 seconds.
Phinney struggled to remain on terms, consistently finishing fifth at each sector but losing time all the same. He faired better than his compatriot Andrew Talansky who backed up his disappointing display in the team time trial with 46th place here.
A number of other well established WorldTour rivals suffered too. Dowsett finished nearly six minutes off the pace, while former world champion Bert Grabsch, Luis Leon Sanchez, Chavanel and Porte all fell below expectations.
A resounding win
By the time Martin reached the penultimate check, victory was in his grasp. Cancellara’s grip on second had begun to weaken as he attempted to find every last second through a number of tight corners. Wiggins was on a march, though, and slowly chipped away so that by the third check, the gap between the pair was down to 12 seconds.
The British rider looked the fresher of the two and used the long straights to claw back second after second as Kiryienka began to focus on keeping Phinney at bay.
Wiggins almost caught Phinney on the line and moments later Cancellara rounded the final bend for his sprint to the line. But it was not to be and the former maestro of the individual time trial would have to settle for a bronze medal.
“I wanted to win the race, but … 46 seconds, there’s not much you can do – even two seconds. To be honest I did a great performance. I wasn’t aware of the splits at all, but there’s not a lot more I could have done. Tony was just on another level today,” said Wiggins.
But both Wiggins and Cancellara had no answer to Martin’s superiority with the German holding up three fingers to signify the number of individual world titles he has now won.