Tobias Foss flew completely under the radar on the run into the UCI Road World Championships time trial. The Norwegian wasn’t featuring on lists of contenders and a number of his rivals expressed surprise when they heard he had won, but the most surprised person of all was perhaps Foss himself.
All of the 25-year-old’s previous elite victories had been at the Norwegian Championships, with two time trial titles and road race victory as well this year. But he showed his promise in 2019 with the overall victory at Tour de l'Avenir, a result that earned him a contract with Jumbo-Visma.
There was a hint of the time trial prowess he so spectacularly unveiled in Wollongong when he claimed third place in the Turin time trial at the Giro d’Italia last year. However, his building form ahead of this year’s World Championships had perhaps been hidden by the work he was doing toward the results of his Jumbo-Visma teammates.
“For sure it was unexpected I knew my shape was good coming from Canada, putting in some nice work,” said Foss, who rode the Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec and Grand Prix Cycliste de Montréal in support of Jumbo-Visma teammate Wout van Aert. “Training has gone well in the last one and a half to two months and then also, I was really eager to go deep today.
“It was good preparations, good execution and then in there, there was a gold. That's still unreal and also surprising to me, but I'll take it."
Adding to the element of surprise, and maybe also lulling his rivals into a false sense of security on course, was just how fast he finished. Foss delivered the fourth fastest result on the first intermediate timing point at the 7.2km mark, was second at the 24.5km mark and the fastest when it really counted, on the finish line. He raced under the tall trees lining Marine Drive and across the finish line for the final time three seconds ahead of Stefan Küng (Switzerland) and nine ahead of Vuelta a España winner Remco Evenepoel (Belgium), two names that were firmly on the contenders lists.
"I would say that the the game plan today was using the terrain well in the first lap and going hard in the hard part, but still trying to recover a bit where speed was high – especially in the downhills before the corners and then on the flat part," said Foss.
The 34.2km elite men's time trial on the opening day of competition at the UCI Road World Championships in Wollongong was run on a course that worked its way from central Wollongong, and into its surrounds via a corner-heavy route before swinging back into the coast to deliver a smoother run back toward the finish line of the two lap event.
"I was trying to hold a bit back to having a nice progression for the race," said Foss. "Then when I crossed the finish line the first time, it was all about leaving everything out there but also still have something left because the last six kilometres was was quite tough, also a bit mentally too, it was a long straight. So I think I just portioned my energy well and I managed to have something in in the end."
It was a dream finish to provide the ultimate lift in what hasn't been a particularly easy year for Foss.
"To be honest, it has been quite a challenging season mentally. I feel like I took some really good steps through the winter training," said the Norwegian who added that he felt like he was onto something good at his season starting race, Volta ao Algarve. "And then I had a crash in Coppi [e Bartali], hitting my head quite hard and I think that also messed up a bit my Giro."
Foss said after the Norwegian National Championships in June he gave his body and mind the rest it needed.
"Then I've been really fresh, especially mentally, to be able to put in the hard work that's necessary for this race," said the new world time trial champion. "This became a really big goal, so I'm really happy sitting here now."
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Simone joined the team as Production Editor based in Australia at the start of the 2021 season, having previously worked as Australian Editor at Ella CyclingTips and as a correspondent for Reuters and Bloomberg.