Tejay van Garderen and Joey Rosskopf are each aiming to wrap up their seasons with a medal in the elite men's individual time trial at the 2018 UCI Road World Championships in Innsbruck on Wednesday. Although Tom Dumoulin and Rohan Dennis are outright favourites to take the top spots, both Americans are prepared to fight for the bronze.
"I've prepared well," van Garderen told Cyclingnews following the trade team time trial, where his BMC Racing team secured the bronze medal.
"I don't see myself as a favourite; I think those slots are reserved for Rohan and Dumoulin. But after those two, there's always people fighting for that last medal slot, and if I put myself in there, I think anything can happen."
The elite men will race 52.5km that starts in Rattenberg and travels along flat valley roads for the first half. The course then forces riders over the four-kilometre climb to Gnadenwald, which has pitches as steep as 14 per cent, before a descent and run-in to the finish line in Innsbruck.
Dumoulin won the title in Bergen last year and will line up in the Dutch national team skinsuit as the defending champion and one of two favourites for the long course. This season, he has secured time trial wins at the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France, and placed second overall in both Grand Tours.
Australia's Dennis is the other favourite, and although he has never stood on the podium in the time trial at the World Championships, he has been a critical player in the discipline during his career. He started out this season winning the national time trial title and went on to take time trial stage wins at Abu Dhabi Tour, Tirreno-Adriatico, Tour de Romandie, Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a España.
Van Garderen's performances in the discipline haven't been as stellar or consistent, but he did win time trial stages at the Tour of California and Tour of Utah. He also had some respectable time trial finishes: seventh at stage 3 of Volta ao Algarve and third in stage 9 at Tour de Suisse. He was also part of BMC winning team time trials at Tour de Suisse and the Tour de France.
The other outside contenders for a medal in the time trial in Innsbruck are former world champions Tony Martin (Germany) and Vasil Kiryienka (Russia), along with Bob Jungels (Luxembourg), Michal Kwiatkowski (Poland), Jonathan Castroviejo (Spain) and Victor Campamaerts (Belgium), among others.
One of van Garderen's opponents for the medal place, however, will be his compatriot and BMC Racing teammate Joey Rosskopf, who earned an automatic spot for the individual time trial after winning the national championships in Knoxville in June.
Rosskopf was also part of the BMC roster that placed second in the stage 3 team time trial at the Critérium du Dauphiné, and he placed second in the prologue at the Tour of Utah behind van Garderen.
His time trial form has only gotten stronger, evident after he took a surprising second place in stage 16 at the Vuelta a España, finishing 50 seconds slower than stage winner and BMC teammate Dennis along the 32km route from Santillana del Mar to Torrelavega. However, he doesn't view himself as a favourite for a medal.
"I was pleased, excited, and a little bit surprised with my result in the stage 16 TT at the Vuelta," Rosskopf told Cyclingnews. "That ride gave me a big confidence boost as to what I'm capable of in time trials, but the circumstances of every TT are different. I have to say that just the recent Vuelta result doesn't elevate me to one of the favourites here.
"The competition at the World Championships is the highest all year. It's where you have all the TT specialists coming together focused on one day, with no other goals in mind, and that makes it such a special event. I look forward to doing my best possible effort and seeing where that stacks me up amongst the best in the sport."
Van Garderen signs off with BMC Racing
BMC Racing's future was unstable earlier this year as the Swiss bike manufacturer will no longer title sponsor the program, but team manager Jim Ochowicz announced in July that CCC, a Polish shoe company, would take over as title sponsor in 2019.
Rosskopf signed a two-year renewal and will stay with the team through 2020. Van Garderen has been with the team for seven seasons (2012-2018) but announced that he would move to the EF Education First-Drapac team in 2019.
"I think I'll be a key player in a lot of races next year, but I'm not going to go in demanding this or that," van Garderen told Cyclingnews about his future role with Jonathan Vaughters' program.
"I have to prove myself, being the new guy. But I have a lot of friends there, and I'm excited to start the new chapter of my career."
Van Garderen raced for the last time with BMC Racing in the team time trial on Sunday, where they took the bronze medal behind winning team Quick-Step Floors and silver medallists Sunweb.
BMC has won the world title in the event on two occasions (2014 and 2015), and Van Garderen was part of the winning team in Ponferrada. He said that he was disappointed to not win the title again in Innsbruck, but that he was signing off on good terms with management, staff and riders.
"This was my last race in BMC colours," he told Cyclingnews. "It's been seven great years. It would have been nice to get that fairytale ending, but you know, sports sometimes don't work out like that.
"It's been a good run. Third place in a World Championships - that's a medal, that's nothing to sneeze at. I have fond memories of this team; they supported me well for seven years.
"I'm excited to join a new team, but this team has been a home for me for seven years, and I'm very grateful to them."