Tom Dumoulin (Netherlands) claimed an emphatic victory in the elite men's time trial at the UCI Road World Championships in Bergen, mastering the demanding, technical course and the treacherous conditions to beat Primoz Roglic (Slovenia) into second place, while Chris Froome (Great Britain) took third.
The clock may be the ultimate arbiter in the race of truth, but the results sheet told only part of the story. Dumoulin finished some 57 seconds ahead of Roglic, but he also came close to catching Froome – who had set out 90 seconds ahead of him – in the closing metres of the race atop the climb of Mount Fløyen.
Froome was among the strongest performers on the stiff, 3.4-kilometre haul to the finish, and used the climb to move from provisional seventh to the third step of the podium, but he still conceded some 30 seconds to the rampant Dumoulin. Food for thought if and when the Dutchman lines up to challenge him at next year's Tour de France.
Nelson Oliveira (Portugal) spent much of the afternoon in the hot seat after successfully switching his bike for the final haul to the line, but he had to settle for fourth place, 1:28 behind Dumoulin, while the Sky pairing of Gianni Moscon (Italy) and Vasil Kiryienka (Belarus) placed fifth and sixth, respectively.
Dumoulin was the pre-race favourite and the quickest rider at all bar the first check point on the 31-kilometre course, where only Rohan Dennis (Australia) was able to remain within 10 seconds him on the opening third. Dennis' challenge effectively ended when he crashed on the increasingly slippery roads in the second half of the course, however, and he had to settle for 8th place, 1:37 down.
A rider enjoying a day of grace typically professes that he could scarcely feel his pedals or his chain, but Dumoulin, an analytical kind of bike rider, reached for a more modern metaphor. "I thought my power meter was off because it was so high. I felt really, really good," Dumoulin said.
"It started raining and I needed to take the corners really slow, especially in the first kilometre of the climb with all the twists and turns – on every corner my back wheel was slipping as I had the TT tyres on because I thought it was going to be dry."
The build-up to the race was dominated by debate over the necessity of switching to a regular road bike for the climb of Mount Fløyen, and the UCI catered for the eventuality by laying out a red carpet at the base of the ascent which served as a transition zone.
Before arriving in Norway, Dumoulin was convinced of the need to switch his bike, but began to revise his opinion on arriving last Friday, and, like Froome, he ultimately opted to remain on his time trial machine all the way to the finish. It proved a sage decision.
"I was doubting for a long time actually," Dumoulin said. "At first I thought definitely bike change, but then saw the climb last Friday and was already doubting. And now I took the decision not to risk it. I'm one of the guys who can do a good climb on a TT bike, I have no problems handling it, so it was the right decision I think."
Roglic, on the other hand, switched bikes to good effect, and was even five seconds quicker than Dumoulin on the final climb, but by that point, the destination of the rainbow jersey had been long since decided.
How it unfolded
The early starters on Wednesday were able to enjoy the best of the conditions, as a steady drizzle would wash over Bergen by the time the final tranche of riders had tackled the course, but few of their number would make any real impact on the leader board by day's end.
Jan Tratnik (Slovenia) enjoyed a lengthy stint in the hot seat after he clocked a time of 46:24, and he ultimately held on for a creditable 10th place, but the battle for podium honours only truly ignited once Wilco Kelderman (Netherlands) stopped the clock in 46:15.
Unlike his Sunweb teammate Dumoulin, Kelderman opted to change bikes for the final climb the line, a tactic replicated to fine effect by Nelson Oliveira, who produced a fine surge on the ascent to move into the hot seat.
The Sky duo of Vasil Kiryienka – champion in Richmond two years ago – and Moscon were almost inseparable on provisional time throughout the course, and both men stopped the clock within a second of Oliveira after each deciding against a bike change.
Alexis Gougeard (France), meanwhile, had looked good value for a place on the provisional podium at that juncture, and after switching bikes, had looked fluid on the lower slopes of Mount Fløyen, only to drop his chain and lose all hope of a top 10 finish.
Roglic was the early pace-setter among the final tranche of riders to set off, and he was 3 seconds quicker than Dumoulin at the first check after four kilometres, but the Dutchman settled into his rhythm and began to take command.
The reigning champion Tony Martin (Germany) was the last rider to start, but he was skeptical of his chances beforehand and he was never truly in the hunt for the medals. He rode consistently across the course, and had the second quickest time after 19 kilometres, but faded as the terrain became more rugged thereafter, eventually placing ninth, 1:39 behind Dumoulin.
Froome, meanwhile, appeared to stake everything on the final haul to the line. He was 10th quickest at the second and third checks, and though he was up to seventh by the base of the final climb, he was already too far behind Dumoulin – some 51 seconds – to entertain any prospect of taking the rainbow jersey.
In truth, perhaps only Dennis might have had the wherewithal to pose a robust challenge to Dumoulin's pre-eminence, but his crash as conditions grew more treacherous divested the race for gold of much of its suspense.
Dumoulin took few risks as rain fell ever more steadily over Bergen, but still he augmented his advantage all the way to the foot of the final climb. From there, victory was ineluctable.
After bronze in Ponferrada three years ago and silver in the Rio 2016 Olympics, it was Dumoulin's first global individual time trial title, and his second world title of the week after his Sunweb squad claimed the team time trial crown on Sunday. It also marked a time trial double for the Netherlands following Annemiek van Vleuten's win in the women's event on Tuesday.
Already winner of the Giro d'Italia in May, Dumoulin skipped the Vuelta a España in order to prepare specifically for the Bergen race, a decision vindicated by his triumph on Wednesday. Sunday's road race course does not lend itself obviously to his characteristics, though on this form, Dumoulin might feel himself capable of anything.
"Sunday was very surprising that we won with the team, but it was an amazing day. Today was maybe less surprising – I was one of the favourites – but then maybe it's even more difficult to stay calm," Dumoulin said. "I was calm, and I was on a good day."
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Tom Dumoulin (Netherlands)||0:44:41|
|2||Primoz Roglic (Slovenia)||0:00:57|
|3||Chris Froome (Great Britain)||0:01:21|
|4||Nelson Oliveira (Portugal)||0:01:28|
|5||Vasil Kiryienka (Belarus)|
|6||Gianni Moscon (Italy)||0:01:29|
|7||Wilco Kelderman (Netherlands)||0:01:34|
|8||Rohan Dennis (Australia)||0:01:37|
|9||Tony Martin (Germany)||0:01:39|
|10||Jan Tratnik (Slovenia)||0:01:43|
|11||Bob Jungels (Luxembourg)||0:01:49|
|12||Nicolas Roche (Ireland)||0:01:53|
|13||Alexis Gougeard (France)|
|14||Jonathan Castroviejo (Spain)||0:02:01|
|15||Ilnur Zakarin (Russian Federation)||0:02:04|
|16||Victor Campenaerts (Belgium)||0:02:08|
|17||Edvald Boasson Hagen (Norway)||0:02:11|
|18||Andrey Grivko (Ukraine)||0:02:15|
|19||Nikias Arndt (Germany)||0:02:16|
|20||Ignatas Konovalovas (Lithuania)||0:02:21|
|21||Martin Toft Madsen (Denmark)||0:02:33|
|22||Laurens De Plus (Belgium)||0:02:35|
|23||Yves Lampaert (Belgium)|
|24||Jan Barta (Czech Republic)||0:02:39|
|25||Stefan Kung (Switzerland)||0:02:45|
|26||Tejay van Garderen (United States Of America)||0:02:47|
|27||Gorka Izaguirre Insausti (Spain)||0:02:48|
|28||Alexey Lutsenko (Kazakhstan)||0:03:04|
|29||Hugo Houle (Canada)||0:03:06|
|30||Alexander Evtushenko (Russian Federation)|
|31||Andreas Vangstad (Norway)||0:03:09|
|32||Tobias Ludvigsson (Sweden)|
|33||Rui Costa (Portugal)||0:03:10|
|34||Lasse Norman Hansen (Denmark)||0:03:21|
|35||Jasha Sutterlin (Germany)||0:03:28|
|36||Mateusz Taciak (Poland)|
|37||Eduardo Sepulveda (Argentina)||0:03:31|
|38||Dmitriy Gruzdev (Kazakhstan)||0:03:33|
|39||Hamish Bond (New Zealand)|
|40||Reto Hollenstein (Switzerland)||0:03:34|
|41||Joseph Rosskopf (United States Of America)||0:03:47|
|42||Serghei Tvetcov (Romania)||0:03:49|
|43||Tao Geoghegan Hart (Great Britain)||0:03:50|
|44||Zhandos Bizhigitov (Kazakhstan)||0:04:01|
|45||Jarlinson Pantano Gomez (Colombia)||0:04:10|
|46||Lukas Postlberger (Austria)||0:04:14|
|47||Riccardo Zoidl (Austria)||0:04:46|
|48||Robert Britton (Canada)||0:04:57|
|49||Willem Jakobus Smit (South Africa)||0:05:27|
|50||Maciej Bodnar (Poland)||0:06:02|
|51||Redi Halilaj (Albania)||0:06:03|
|52||Valens Ndayisenga (Rwanda)||0:06:05|
|53||Kostyantyn Rybaruk (Ukraine)||0:07:35|
|54||King Lok Cheung (Hong Kong, China)||0:08:14|
|55||Uri Martins Sandoval (Mexico)||0:08:22|
|56||Nazir Jaser (Syrian Arab Republic)||0:08:34|
|57||Elchin Asadov (Azerbaijan)||0:09:00|
|58||Eugert Zhupa (Albania)||0:09:15|
|59||Meron Teshome (Eritrea)||0:09:49|
|60||Ahmad Badreddin Wais (Syrian Arab Republic)||0:10:57|
|61||Arsalan Anjum Muhammad (Pakistan)||0:11:47|
|62||Gabriel Tan (Singapore)||0:12:46|
|63||Awais Khan (Pakistan)||0:12:51|
|64||Yi Peng Teoh (Singapore)||0:13:00|
|DNS||Jermaine Burrowes (Guyana)|