World Championships: Kiryienka's jump to ITT gold was four years in the making

Vasil Kiryienka has been plotting his rise to the top step of the World Championship time trial podium since he first realised he could excel in the discipline in 2012 when he was still riding with the Movistar team.

Since then the 34-year-old Team Sky domestique from Belarus has been focusing on the discipline with laser-like precision, keeping a spare time trial bike at home so he could train on it, and relying on support from Team Sky, where he moved in 2013, to finally reach the pinnacle.

“In 2012 I realised I could be a good rider in the time trial and I started training for that discipline,” he said Wednesday after out-pacing Adriano Malori (Italy) and Jerome Coppel (France) to take his first rainbow jersey.

“I took my first podium with the bronze medal that year, and I realised this was really something that I could do well in. So from that time I kept a time trial bike at home, and I trained specifically for that discipline.”

Since earning that bronze in 2012, Kiryienka has twice missed the podium by one spot. But every domestique has his day, and Kiryienka’s came Wednesday in Richmond.

“For sure Tony Martin and Tom Dumoulin were the favourites, but I had a very good day today,” he said. “But Adriano was also very close to me, in fact, so it was also a very good day for him. But today was really my day, and I was feeling very well.”

Kiryienka said his move to Sky in 2013 was a big factor in his progression from bronze to gold, because the British team emphasizes the discipline and encouraged him along the way.

“Now with Team Sky it’s great and good for me, because for them the time trial is something that is very important,” he said. “They helped me in my preparation, and they support me for that.

“This year at the Vuelta they gave me the opportunity not to work a lot for my leaders but to think about myself, thinking about today’s World Championships because they told me this year could be my year, and there was a feeling that I had the opportunity to win. I’m very happy to be here this year at this table, the same place where [fomer Sky teammate] Bradley Wiggins was last year.”

Kiryienka, and in fact all of the riders on the podium, took exception to the idea that missing riders like Wiggins and Fabian Cancellara made this year’s podium easier to reach.

“Today I knew it was a good race for me because it was a course I liked and that suited me,” Kiryienka said. “Of course Cancellara was not here and Wiggins already stopped with that, but all the other great time trial riders were here today, so I think that the level was very high. So of course it’s great to win.”

Given Wednesday’s effort took just over an hour, questions naturally arose as to whether Kiryienka would consider a shot at the UCI Hour Record, currently held by Bradley Wiggins at more than 54.5km.

“The Hour Record now belongs to Bradley Wiggins,” he said. “And it’s something that many of the riders who were here today, like Rohan Dennis did, but what Wiggins did after was something from another level. I don’t know if we can compare that with a road time trial like today, something completely different.”

Although the Hour Record may not be on Kiryienka’s agenda, he indicated there are other goals down the road that he would like to target, next year’s Olympics in Rio likely being among them.

“I podiumed for the first time in the World Championships when I was 31,” he said. “Now I’m 34 and I have the gold medal. I remember Viatcheslav Ekimov, he had his first medal in the Olympic Games when he was 35 years old and another medal when he was 39 years. So I don’t know how long I can be at the top level, but we will see.”

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Growing up in Missoula, Montana, Pat competed in his first bike race in 1985 at Flathead Lake. He studied English and journalism at the University of Oregon and has covered North American cycling extensively since 2009, as well as racing and teams in Europe and South America. Pat currently lives in the US outside of Portland, Oregon, with his imaginary dog Rusty.