Gustav Larsson declared his World Championship silver medal "as good as a gold" in a time trial against the Swiss maestro, Fabian Cancellara. But the Swede rejected suggestions that he remained too close to his Saxo Bank teammate after being overtaken by him at the start of the second lap.
"I was going faster in some parts, and slower than him in other parts," said Larsson, in explaining why he seemed, for several kilometres, to yo-yo behind the eventual winner. "Fabian has a better way of distributing his power [around the course]," he said. "Not only is he stronger, he is also very good at riding consistently like that."
On a circuit that was tight and narrow in places, Larsson wasn’t the only rider to get close to someone after being caught. It was a problem exacerbated by one-minute time gaps, which Larsson felt were not enough.
"No, I don’t think a minute is long enough," he said. "It should be two minutes, and usually it is two minutes in big time trials. I think that’s how it should be. It’s really hard with so many riders, and there were five groups today, but I think it’s important."
Having criticised the time trial circuit before the race – calling it "a shit course" – his silver medal didn’t persuade him to revise his opinion. "I still think it," said Larsson. "The tarmac is really rough in a lot of places. It’s not really smooth, there are holes. It’s not a nice course."
Larsson admitted he wasn’t surprised – or too disappointed – to be caught by Cancellara. "Like he said himself, he was going out really, really hard," said the Swede. "I was going hard, but not super hard. I thought he would come from behind; he has won by big margins before, so I wasn’t frightened. I saw as I crossed the line [after one lap] that I was five seconds faster than everyone else [in fact, he was second, five seconds behind Tony Martin] and I was going fast."
Catching Bradley Wiggins (Great Britain) for a minute was more of a surprise. "It was a good feeling," said Larsson. "I know one minute is not that far, but I was a little bit surprised that I caught him. On the first lap I saw his car ahead of me so I already felt that he was getting closer to me. I was a bit surprised, but it was a good sign for me, it confirmed I was going well."
As for Cancellara, Larsson could only say: "You have to give it him – he’s the better man. I don’t think it’s impossible to beat him some day in the future, but I really need to step up my game. I need to work on my own performance. Everybody can improve on everything. But it will be really hard to do. I know when he gets it right he has phenomenal power."
Follow Cyclingnews on Twitter for the very latest coverage of events taking place in the cycling world - twitter.com/cyclingnewsfeed