Rohan Dennis (Australian) produced a crushing display to win the elite men's time trial at the World Championships in Innsbruck and claim his first rainbow jersey in the discipline after enduring more than his share of disappointment on such occasions over the years.
On a day of pleasant sunshine in Tyrol, Dennis made light work of a demanding course to beat defending champion Tom Dumoulin (Netherlands) into second place by an emphatic 1:12, while Victor Campenaerts (Belgium) took the bronze medal just fractions of a second further behind.
They were the only two riders to finish within two minutes of the flying Dennis, who scored around the course at an average speed of some 49.6kph. Michal Kwiatkowski (Poland) finishef 4th at 2:01, while Nelson Oliveira (Portugal) came home in 5th.
"It's a dream come true, I've been chasing this since I was a junior," said Dennis. "I've never won it in any age group so to win my first one in the seniors is really special."
The race had been billed beforehand as a duel between Dumoulin and Dennis, the two outstanding time triallists of the 2018 season, but by the midway point, it was already apparent that the Australian was virtually in a race of his own. The 52.2km parcours was made up of a flat and fast start before a decidedly lumpy finale, and Dennis proved a master of all terrains.
Dennis was the penultimate rider to set off, with Dumoulin following, and he quickly put the Dutchman on the back foot by leading him by 9 seconds at the first time check after 16.6km. That was as close as Dumoulin would get, as Dennis stretched out his advantage on the remainder of the course.
The terrain became decidedly more rugged after the midway mark, with the Gnandenwald climb the defining feature of the course. Received wisdom suggested Dumoulin might expect to peg back time on Dennis on its slopes, but on the evidence of Sunday's team time trial, the Australian felt that he had the measure of his rival on the climb. He duly excelled on its slopes, catching and passing Jonathan Castroviejo (Spain) for 90 seconds on his way up.
"We lost 19 seconds on the climb in the team time trial, and I held higher power up the climb today than I did there," Dennis said. "I knew [Dumoulin] rode the front and was pushing pretty hard in the team time trial, so I had a fairly good idea of what power I needed to ride to hold him. I think I was 35 seconds up at the bottom and when I got to the top I was fairly confident that I'd at least done the same time as him."
Dennis had done more than break even. Come the time check at the summit, he had a lead of 1:01 over Dumoulin and 1:12 over Campenaerts. Even by that point, with a little over 17km still to race, he knew that he needed only to stay upright to secure the rainbow jersey and yet he continued his ferocious pace on the drop towards the finish, almost matter-of-factly catching 2015 world champion Vasil Kiryienka for three minutes along the way.
On easing to a halt past the line, Dennis immediately broke into a broad smile. Dumoulin may still have been out on the course, but it was already clear that his time would not be bettered. The world title was his.
"I was being coached form the car by Brad McGee, and he gave me confidence at the top of the climb," Dennis explained. "Once Dumoulin was through, he told me I was a minute up and he kept me calm. I was considering a bit of a victory salute, but I wanted to make sure – you're never sure until Tom crosses the line."
Dumoulin, for his part, fought gallantly in defence of the crown he won in Bergen a year ago. He must have known from some way out that the rainbow jersey would pass onto Dennis' shoulders, but still he persisted in taking risks on the sweeping descent towards the line, and managed least to hold off the fast-finishing Campenaerts to take the silver medal.
It proved to be a close-run thing, but Dumoulin had just enough strength left for the final 200 metres to produce one final surge to pip Campenaerts by half a second. It seemed a scant consolation, mind, as Dumoulin paused at the finish line and started forlornly into the middle distance as he draped across his handlebars.
How it unfolded
There were 62 starters in Wednesday's individual time trial, but much of the attention beforehand focused on the last two men down the start ramp, and with some justification. Wildo Kelderman (Netherlands) was the first starter and set the first benchmark at the finish, though it would ultimately only be good enough for 16th place, some 4:21 off Dennis' remarkable pace.
Jan Barta (Czech Republic) and Martin Toft Madsen (Denmark) would later enjoy spells in the hot seat, while Tejay van Garderen (USA) caught the eye with a fast start before fading to 27th place at the finish, but the UCI's seedings proved prescient: the top places at day's end were dominated by the later starters.
Patrick Bevin (New Zealand) produced a fine display to take 8th place, 2:34 down on his BMC teammate Dennis. Tony Martin (Germany) began strongly on the flat opening section, hitting the 16.6km mark just 14 seconds back on Dennis, but he faded once the road began to climb, finishing 7th at 2:25.
Kwiatkowski and Oliveira, by contrast, climbed their way up the rankings as the road began to bite, but it was long since apparent that Dennis was all but assured of the rainbow jersey, while the Dumoulin and Campenaerts would fight it out for the other steps of the podium.
The European champion Campenaerts' position and lack of eyewear make him a distinctive presence in any time trial, but he is a coming force in the discipline. With an eye firmly on the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, he underscored his potential for that race with a first Worlds medal. He impressed, too, by all but broke even with Dumoulin on the climb and then picking up time on the Dutchman in the closing kilometres.
The day belonged to Dennis, however, who has made some amends for the setback he suffered at the Rio 2016 Olympics when a damaged set of aero bars forced the late bike change that denied him a medal. At the Worlds, meanwhile, Dennis has been a perennial contender in the individual time trial since turning professional but had never managed to score a medal at an elite level before this year.
As an under-23, meanwhile, Dennis entered the Valkenburg 2012 Worlds as the overwhelming favourite, but he was denied by surprise winner Anton Vorobyev of Russia. Now 28 years of age, Dennis is nearing the peak of his career. 16th overall at the Giro d'Italia hinted at his still unlocked potential as a stage race rider, while his haul of seven time trial wins this season highlighted his consistency.
Dennis, who will join Bahrain-Merida next year, is Australia's second elite men's time trial world champion after Michael Rogers, who won the event three times in a row between 2003 and 2005, though he was coy about his prospects of emulating his fellow countryman. "I'm not too stressed about trying to beat a record," Dennis said. "I'll just enjoy the moment."
|#||Rider Name (Country)||Result|
|1||Rohan Dennis (Australia)||1:03:45.53|
|2||Tom Dumoulin (Netherlands)||0:01:21.09|
|3||Victor Campenaerts (Belgium)||0:01:21.62|
|4||Michal Kwiatkowski (Poland)||0:02:04.58|
|5||Nelson Oliveira (Portugal)||0:02:14.34|
|6||Jonathan Castroviejo (Spain)||0:02:17.53|
|7||Tony Martin (Germany)||0:02:25.23|
|8||Patrick Bevin (New Zealand)||0:02:34.78|
|9||Vasil Kiryienka (Belarus)||0:03:07.54|
|10||Martin Toft Madsen (Denmark)||0:03:23.39|
|11||Maximilian Schachmann (Germany)||0:03:39.95|
|12||Stefan Kung (Switzerland)||0:03:44.23|
|13||Alexey Lutsenko (Kazakhstan)||0:04:07.98|
|14||Jan Barta (Czech Republic)||0:04:08.15|
|15||Joseph Rosskopf (United States Of America)||0:04:20.09|
|16||Wilco Kelderman (Netherlands)||0:04:21.09|
|17||Maciej Bodnar (Poland)||0:04:22.47|
|18||Soren Kragh Andersen (Denmark)||0:04:28.86|
|19||Matthias Brandle (Austria)||0:04:31.20|
|20||Jos Van Emden (Netherlands)||0:04:33.61|
|21||Benjamin Thomas (France)||0:04:44.96|
|22||Tanel Kangert (Estonia)||0:04:45.14|
|23||Marc Soler (Spain)||0:04:47.78|
|24||Bob Jungels (Luxembourg)||0:04:47.94|
|25||Josef Cerny (Czech Republic)||0:04:49.29|
|26||Hamish Bond (New Zealand)||0:04:50.45|
|27||Tejay Van Garderen (United States Of America)||0:04:53.58|
|28||Alessandro De Marchi (Italy)||0:05:05.54|
|29||Alex Dowsett (Great Britain)||0:05:24.70|
|30||Fabio Felline (Italy)||0:05:25.71|
|31||Jan Tratnik (Slovenia)||0:05:38.14|
|32||Hugo Houle (Canada)||0:05:39.52|
|33||Pavel Sivakov (Russian Federation)||0:05:49.99|
|34||Yoann Paillot (France)||0:05:57.58|
|35||Tao Geoghegan Hart (Great Britain)||0:06:03.37|
|36||Georg Preidler (Austria)||0:06:12.60|
|37||Rodrigo Contreras Pinzon (Colombia)||0:06:20.28|
|38||Andrey Grivko (Ukraine)||0:06:22.11|
|39||Tsgabu Gebremaryam Grmay (Ethiopia)||0:06:23.36|
|40||Kristoffer Skjerping (Norway)||0:06:24.48|
|41||Domingos Goncalves (Portugal)||0:06:29.11|
|42||Anton Vorobyev (Russian Federation)||0:06:34.19|
|43||Ignatas Konovalovas (Lithuania)||0:06:47.52|
|44||Toms Skujins (Latvia)||0:06:47.80|
|45||Eduardo Sepulveda (Argentina)||0:06:49.23|
|46||Nicolas Roche (Ireland)||0:07:03.69|
|47||Silvan Dillier (Switzerland)||0:07:03.85|
|48||Tobias Ludvigsson (Sweden)||0:07:05.22|
|49||Ryan Mullen (Ireland)||0:07:17.92|
|50||Laurens De Plus (Belgium)||0:08:14.20|
|51||Gediminas Bagdonas (Lithuania)||0:08:16.52|
|52||Marek Canecky (Slovakia)||0:10:50.19|
|53||Ahmad Badreddin Wais (Syrian Arab Republic)||0:15:30.45|
|54||Dealton Nur Arif Prayogo (Indonesia)||0:17:33.55|
|55||Ho San Chiu (Hong Kong, China)||0:18:05.50|
|56||Darel Christopher Jr (British Virgin Islands)||0:28:41.30|
|DNS||Najeeb Ullah (Pakistan)|
|DNS||Eugert Zhupa (Albania)|
|DNS||Arsalan Anjum Muhammad (Pakistan)|
|DNS||Daniel Teklehaimanot (Eritrea)|
|DNS||Mekseb Debesay (Eritrea)|