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Last year's time trial champion Bert Grabsch (Germany)
Outgoing world champ disappointed but realistic
This time last year Bert Grabsch was celebrating a victory in the time trial at the world championships in Varese, Italy. Fast forward 12 months and it's a different story for the German and his young countryman and teammate, Tony Martin.
The more experienced of the two Columbia-HTC riders finished Mendrisio's test against the clock in 10th, 3:37 behind the one-man juggernaut that is Switzerland's Fabian Cancellara. Meanwhile, Martin took third, finishing 2:30 in arrears of the winning time.
Cancellara missed last year's world titles after a successful but exhausting Olympic campaign. It left the door open for Grabsch to take the rainbow jersey, although in 2009 it was a different story.
"I'm really disappointed. I didn't find my rhythm today," Grabsch told Radsport-News after his ride. "This morning, at the start of the day, I felt fine, but unfortunately this was not the case in the race."
This was in contrast to Grabsch's countryman Tony Martin, who managed to secure the bronze, despite the threat of cramps during the second lap. "I'm really pleased with how it all worked out. Normally [2008 World Champion and Columbia-HTC teammate] Bert Grabsch and I are about equal, but today I had a really good day," said Martin.
"It was a tough ride to calculate your strength in, so I had to be careful, but it all paid off. I did a very fast first lap and paid the price a bit for that in the second, where I had cramps and thought I was heading for a difficult moment," he explained.
"But then in the third lap I started feeling better again and finally I could finish strongly and end up with bronze."
While there were other big names in addition to Grabsch who struggled for a variety of reasons - Bradley Wiggins' mechanical, for example - the defending champion said he just wasn't feeling right in the saddle, and it showed.
"After five or ten kilometres you notice if it's working or not. I have no explanation for it so soon after the race. In the last two years it [the time trial] went great for me, just this time not so. Now I hope for next year," he explained.
With a winning margin of 1:27 over Swedish rider Gustav Larsson, in reality Cancellara was virtually untouchable in the race for the rainbow stripes, a fact not lost on Grabsch, who paid homage to the Swiss master's performance.
"But even in top form today, I would have had no chance at the gold medal," he said. "In three weeks at the Vuelta I was only 35 seconds slower than Cancellara; today there were more than three minutes."