Men's Individual Time Trial: Fuji International Speedway
Five years on from Fabian Cancellara's triumph in Rio de Janeiro, the cream of the crop of the time trialling world reconvene to battle it out for gold once again, this time at the Tokyo Olympic Games.
Wednesday will see the quickest time triallists in men's cycling take on a 44.2km course around the Fuji International Speedway. Six of those riders who finished in the top 10 in 2016 will be back this time, though the main favourites are set to make their Olympic time trial debut.
Italy's Filippo Ganna, who has swept – almost – all before him in the past two seasons is the main favourite but faces stern competition from the Belgian duo of Wout van Aert and Remco Evenepoel, while Dutchman Tom Dumoulin will be looking to upgrade on his Rio silver.
Those contenders, plus many more, will tackle two laps of a hilly 22.1-kilometre loop with the start and finish on the motor racing circuit. There are six distinct hills set along the route, bringing an elevation gain of 846 metres in total – it's by no means a flat, power time trial for the purists.
Riders to watch
Filippo Ganna is the favourite of the riders who will be racing on Wednesday, the Italian having won 10 of 13 time trials since racing restarted after lockdown last season. He's not infallible, though – see Tirreno-Adriatico and the Tour de Romandie this season, for example.
Belgians Wout van Aert and Remco Evenepoel look to be his main rivals for gold. Van Aert is in top form having taken silver at the road race at the weekend, and he also won the Tour de France's final time trial. Last year, he finished second behind Ganna at the Imola Worlds and will be hoping to avoid another double-silver week.
Evenepoel, meanwhile, hasn't taken on a long, big-race time trial since the 2019 Worlds in Harrogate, where he finished second behind Rohan Dennis, but ahead of Ganna. His last outing saw him miss out on the Belgian national title to Yves Lampaert.
Dennis is a two-time world TT champion but has been relegated to the number two position since Ganna's emergence. This year he has won a time trial at the Volta a Catalunya and the prologue at the Tour de Romandie. Can he reclaim top spot?
Rio silver medallist Dumoulin is the other former world champion competing. He returned to racing at the Tour de Suisse after taking time away and has since won the Dutch TT title. He was 44th at the road race, but it's hard to really gauge his form going into the time trial.
Slovenia's Primož Roglič is another big contender, though it remains to be seen how his form is with only the road race (28th) to go on since his Tour de France exit. France's Rémi Cavagna (second to Ganna in the Giro's closing time trial) and Denmark's Kasper Asgreen (second in the closing Tour time trial) are other major names to watch.
Along with Dumoulin and Roglič, four other riders who finished in the top 10 in Rio will line up at the start. Geraint Thomas (Great Britain), Maciej Bodnar (Poland), Nelson Oliveira (Portugal), and Ion Izagirre (Spain) will all be looking to repeat their strong performances.
That's far from the end of the list of contenders, too, with Stefan Küng (Switzerland), the US duo of Brandon McNulty and Lawson Craddock, João Almeida (Portugal), Patrick Bevin (New Zealand), Richie Porte (Australia), and Alexey Lutsenko (Kazakhstan) all taking part. Not everyone is a medal contender, of course, but it's a stacked start list for the biggest time trial of the year.
A total of 38 riders will tackle a challenging, hilly course centred around the Fuji International Speedway, which has hosted four Formula One races in the 1970s and 2000s.
After setting off from the start-finish straight of the track, riders will head on a downhill run for the first four kilometres of their ride before beginning a five-kilometre climb to the highest point of the course south of the circuit.
The long loop to the south on the 151 road takes the riders past two golf courses and back downhill again – a five-kilometre descent – to the entrance of the motor racing circuit. The riders will then tackle another, smaller climb back to the start-finish straight before heading out on a full lap of the circuit.
There, the rolling roads include another climb, though gentler than the previous two tests, back to the start of the lap. After that, it's time for one more lap of the 22.1-kilometre circuit before finishing their effort.
There are few flat sections which riders can use to put the power down for a sustained period, though the circuit's long start-finish straight does provide one opportunity, even for just 1.48 kilometres.
Daniel joined Cyclingnews as staff writer in 2019 after working freelance at pretty much everywhere in cycling media for seven years.
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