American Kristin Armstrong has had a monopoly on the elite women’s individual time trial for the previous three Olympic Games, winning the gold medal in 2008 Beijing, 2012 London and 2016 Rio de Janeiro. Now retired from an outstanding career in professional cycling, the door is wide open for a new Olympic champion.
At just 22.1km, the women's time trial course outside of Tokyo is a relatively short one compared to the last three Olympic Games where, across routes with varying degrees of difficulty, Armstrong covered 23km in 34:51 in Beijing, 29km in 37:34 in London, and 29.9km in 44:26 in Rio de Janeiro.
The route designed for the 25-rider women’s lineup at the Fuji International Speedway will be suited to the most powerful specialists, with climbing through the first half followed by descents, sweeping turns and undulating terrain into the finish line.
The first rider off is Afghanistan's Masomah Ali Zada, who was named to the IOC Refugee Olympic Team, at 11:30:00 local time. Cyclingnews highlights seven major contenders for the medals in the elite women’s individual time trial on Wednesday.
Anna van der Breggen (Netherlands)
Reigning world champion and bronze medallist in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Anna van der Breggen is the outright favourite to win the gold medal in the individual time trial in Tokyo.
She has shown excellent form in her final year of racing ahead of retirement and would no doubt like to punctuate her career with another Olympic gold medal, since winning the road race title five years ago in Rio.
After winning double - road race and time trial - titles at the World Championships last September in Imola, Van der Breggen has gone on to win two additional time trials this year, the Dutch National Championships and the stage 4 mountain time trial at the Giro d’Italia Donne, where she also won the overall title.
Chloe Dygert (United States of America)
Dygert’s dominant performance to win the individual time trial world title in 2019, putting more than a minute and a half into Anna van der Breggen and Annemiek van Vleuten (both Netherlands) will resonate with riders and fans as she lines up for the race against the clock in Tokyo.
Dygert’s form is somewhat unknown coming into this event, however, after a long recovery from a lacerated quadricep sustained in a crash during the time trial at the 2020 Road World Championships in Imola.
She recently won the time trial title at the USA Cycling Pro Road Championships, which bodes well for her recovery and for her upcoming performance in Tokyo.
The time trial will be her second of three events at these Olympic Games, after she competed in the road race on Sunday, finishing 31st, and she will race in the Team Pursuit next week on the track.
Marlen Reusser (Switzerland)
Swiss champion and time trial specialist Marlen Reusser made a name for herself in the discipline when she secured the silver medal at the World Championships last year in Imola.
She has a history of strong performances in the discipline winning four national time trial championships during the last five seasons. She also won the European Games time trial in 2019 in Minsk.
Reusser stepped up to the Women’s WorldTour with Ale BTC Ljubljana in 2021 but made it clear that she would continue her focus on the time trials at major events such as the European Championships, Olympic Games and World Championships.
Outside of winning a fourth national title in the event at the Swiss National Championships, she has not competed in another individual time trial this year, but she has been specifically training for this event.
Lisa Brennauer (Germany)
Brennauer has a long and successful history in the time trial discipline. She won the individual time trial world title in 2014 and took bronze in 2015, and has secured three more world titles in the former trade team time trial in 2013-2015, along with a silver in 2016, and another silver in the new mixed team relay in 2019.
Brennauer is a powerful time triallist and well-suited to the Tokyo course because of the long climb and then her ability to push power on the descents and sweeping turns.
Although she has placed a focus on racing with Ceratizit-WNT on the Women’s WorldTour in recent years, putting her time trial skills to the test in late-race breakaways, she has also had time trial wins at Madrid Challenge in 2019 and 2020 and at the German National Championships in June.
Annemiek van Vleuten (Netherlands)
Van Vleuten has won her share of time trials over the last five years including two world titles in 2017 and 2018. She has also claimed time trial wins during stages of the Giro d’Italia Donne on her way to winning overall titles in 2018 and 2019.
Now racing with Movistar, Van Vleuten has dialed in a new position with bike sponsor Canyon and spent much of the early season and pre-Olympic Games training camp specifically working with her new time trial set up.
After the miscommunication in the women’s road race that led Van Vleuten to mistakenly celebrate victory at the line because she was unaware Austria's Anna Kiesenhofer had already won, the Dutch team will be in full pursuit of the gold medal in the time trial.
Grace Brown (Australia)
Australian Grace Brown proved to be on great time trial form placing third in the stage 4 mountain time trial at the Giro d’Italia Donne behind SD Worx teammates and Dutch compatriots Anna van der Breggen and Demi Vollering.
Brown was hoping to race strongly in the women’s road race but finished a disappointing 47th place, however, her intention from the start was to focus on the time trial in Tokyo.
She has won the time trial national title in 2019 and then twice placed second to Sarah Gigante in 2020 and 2021, who will also be competing in the time trial on Wednesday.
Gigante arrived at the event as an unknown after breaking her collarbone, elbow and fibula at La Flèche Wallonne, and while she has a shot at doing well in the time trial, it will be Brown that have the better odds on a power course at the Fuji International Speedway.
Mavi García (Spain)
There are a number of other riders we could have chosen for the seventh spot, including Canadian Champion Leah Kirchmann, Italian Champion Elisa Longo Borghini and former World Champion Amber Neben (USA).
However, we’ve selected Spanish Champion Mavi García for her history as a world-class duathlete. García took up running relatively late - at age 25 - then added cycling and took on duathlons, becoming known as the 'queen of duathlon' in Spain for her success in the sport.
Now racing on the WorldTour circuit with Ale BTC Ljubljana, García is a perpetual lover of the solo breakaways and doesn’t shy away from long-range attacks to disrupt the status quo in the races. She hasn’t strictly had a focus on time trials with her trade team but she remains a three-time national champion in the discipline.
Kirsten Frattini is an honours graduate of Kinesiology and Health Science from York University in Toronto, Canada. She has been involved in bike racing from the grassroots level to professional cycling's WorldTour. She has worked in both print and digital publishing, and started with Cyclingnews as a North American Correspondent in 2006. Moving into a Production Editor's role in 2014, she produces and publishes international race coverage for all cycling disciplines, edits news and writes features. Currently the Women's Editor at Cyclingnews, Kirsten coordinates global coverage of races, news, features and podcasts about women's professional cycling.
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