Chris Froome has tipped Tom Dumoulin (Netherlands) as the favourite win the elite men's time trial at the UCI Road World Championships but the Giro d'Italia winner appeared relaxed and confident before the race.
Dumoulin's 2017 season has already been a huge success and double victory for Team Sunweb in the team time trial events further boosted his moral and confidence. Speaking to Cyclingnews when in Canada for the Montreal and Quebec WorldTour races, Dumoulin suggested that the individual time trial world title would be a "cherry on the cake," adding "I don't have to 'make' my season anymore."
An individual world title is arguably the only thing missing from the 26-year-old Dutchman's palmarès. Since turning professional in 2012 with Argos-Shimano – now known as Team Sunweb – Dumoulin has won time trial and road race stages in all three Grand Tours. He went close to overall victory in the 2015 Vuelta a España after leading the race until the final mountain stage. In 2016 he beat Froome to win the testing Le Caverne de Pont d'Arc time trial at the 2016 Tour de France a few days after winning the mountain stage to Andorra.
Dumoulin and his team have always picked his goals carefully. He focused on stages in the 2016 Tour de France so he would be fresh for the Olympic time trial and only Fabian Cancellara stopped him taking the gold medal. This year he opted to target the Giro d'Italia instead of the Tour de France. It was a wise move as he won the Corsa Rosa after dominating the rolling Montefalco time trial and his rivals in the mountains.
Fresh after skipping the Vuelta
Dumoulin opted to miss the Vuelta a Espana and focus on preparing specifically for the world championships time trial but he won the BinckBank Tour on the way after spending most of July at altitude. He is convinced it is the right build-up. He is fresh while Froome and many of his rivals raced hard at the Vuelta a España.
"I had three weeks off now from racing [after winning the Giro d'Italia]. I went to altitude camp and did one last real big block of preparation," he explained.
"I'm just hoping it works out. I didn't have a lot of race days this year, but obviously it was quite a hectic year for me. We'll see what's left in the tank. I think that's a question for everyone. But I feel good now.
"I was already motivated for the time trial, that wouldn't have changed with a bad performance in the team time trial but winning both the men's and women's titles is a nice boost for moral. It was a great way to start the week."
The 3.4km uphill finish on Mount Fløyen has shaken up the list of likely medal winners. Tony Martin and other powerful rouleur riders are disappointed to have to climb up the twisting road to the viewing platform and the finish line and know thy have little chance of a medal.
This year's world time trial champion will probably produce fewer watts but be an excellent climber.
Dumoulin's best result in the world time trial championships was third in 2014 when Bradley Wiggins won gold in Ponferrada, Spain. He knows that the Mount Fløyen gives him a real shot at victory. However, he's wary of Froome and Australia's Rohan Dennis. He is also wary of changing to a road bike at the foot of the climb but knows it could provide a vital difference.
"I guess Dennis and Froome are my main competitor for the TT title. In the team time trial I noticed Rohan doing some big hard pulls and so he's on form. We'll have to see what happens," he said.
Dumoulin and Froome have not clashed since the 2016 Tour de France but Denis has been the Dutchman's nemesis this season.
"I haven't beaten him for about a year. Every TT I'm against him and he's winning. So it's going to be a difficult one," he predicted.