By Kirsten Robbins in Springfield, Missouri
After winning its second consecutive stage victory at the Tour of Missouri, whispers that Team Columbia could possibly sweep every stage in the event are getting louder. With the help from a strong team effort, Mark Cavendish proved to be an untouchable force in the field sprint – with four more flat stages to come. With the sprinting prowess of the team proven, the only question remains is today's individual time trial, which will likely decide the overall classification.
Cavendish predicted that he will not be wearing the yellow jersey after the time trial, but that he thinks it will most likely land on the back of one of his team-mates instead.
"I think that after tomorrow we'll have the top three spots on the GC," said Cavendish, who claimed it was only fair he deliver a good time trial considering he is wearing yellow. "We have George Hincapie, who is tremendous and who is also time trailing really well. He's one of the favourites.
"We've also got Mick Rogers, who is going really well after his illness," he continued. "He's three-time world champion in the time trial and no one's ever done that other than him. We also have Marco Pinotti and Michael Barry – we've got so many options that it's astounding."
With a roster like that, the leading team certainly has a realistic chance to win stage three. However, it will be a tall order to fill when considering the other time trial specialists in attendance. There are no time differences between top-notch soloists, as they are all currently sitting at 20 seconds behind Cavendish in the overall.
The 29-kilometre course is predominately uphill, ending with a four-kilometre ascent to the finish. This style of time trial will playing into the hands of teams like Garmin-Chipotle, which has strong climbers and time trialists ready to take the lead.
Such riders include Dave Zabriskie, who performed outstandingly to win the USA national championships held in Greenville, South Carolina, last week. The double national time trial champion will no doubt want to deliver another winning solo performance here in Missouri.
His team-mates include Christian Vande Velde, who is coming off a fifth place finish in the Tour de France, along with Danny Pate, a former U23 world time trial champion. There is also Tom Danielson, who has recently put together some strong performances in this discipline.
Other notables include Tom Zirbel (Bissell), runner up at the USA national championships and Jeff Louder (BMC), who recently won the overall at the Tour of Utah after a winning time trial finale. There are also a number of other strong performers like Rory Sutherland (Health Net-Maxxis) and former US national champion, Chris Baldwin (Toyota-United).