Küng placed fourth, 1:04 down on the dominant winner Primož Roglič (Slovenia), but the contest for the other two spots on the podium was a tight one.
Tom Dumoulin (Netherlands) finished 1:01 behind Roglič to take silver, while Rohan Dennis (Australia) pipped Küng to bronze. World time trial champion Filippo Ganna (Italy) had to settle for fifth, a second down on Küng.
“You give everything to the end. I gave everything, and when you give everything, you can’t give any more. When you give 100 per cent, you can’t give 110 per cent,” Küng said afterwards.
It was Küng’s second near-miss in recent weeks. He looked set to win the stage 5 time trial at the Tour de France only for Tadej Pogačar to dislodge him from the hot seat with a surprising display on the road to Laval.
As at the Tour, Küng wore his disappointment in Tokyo with good grace. Rather than agonise over the fractions of a second lost here, the 27-year-old preferred to focus on the improvements that could be made in the future.
“I did an almost perfect race. Technically and physically, I was top, and the material was too,” Küng said. “You could look for those four-tenths of a second everywhere, but there’s no need even to start, I think.
“Because you need to look further ahead and say, ‘OK, I’m going to keep improving and keep working.’ I haven’t been working like this for four-tenths of a second; I’m working to be the best. That’s how you advance.”
Küng won the European time trial title last August before placing third in the World Championships in Imola the following month. He hoped to match that podium finish in Tokyo and he saw an encouraging portent when compatriot Marlen Reusser took silver in the women’s time trial
“I watched it this morning. When I saw her finish second, I said it was a good omen because in Imola, when she was second, I finished third,” Küng said. “Unfortunately the same thing didn’t happen here.”
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