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2008 Beijing Olympic Games - Report Card: Men’s Time Trial
 
By Staff
Date: 8/14/2008
2008 Beijing Olympic Games - Report Card: Men’s Time Trial
 

2008 Beijing Olympic Games - Report Card: Men’s Time Trial
The raging favourite wins but the race of truth is full of surprises.

By Tim Lee

Today’s 47 km test comprised two laps of the 23.5km circuit used in the road races on day one of the 29th Olympiad. After the first time check at 10.8km it looked like Alberto Contador was going to add yet another impressive victory to his rapidly growing palmares. The diminutive Spaniard has been steadily improving his skills against the clock and the fact that he was 17 seconds ahead of surprise packet Swede Larsson was evidence of this. Cancellara started conservatively and was third at 28 seconds, narrowly ahead of Leipheimer and Evans.

At the half way mark the second time check showed things were back on track and order was apparently restored. Cancellara was in the lead while Contador and Larsson began to slide backwards. Leipheimer and Evans were steady in fourth and fifth respectively.

Someone forgot to tell Larsson that this was the Olympics and not the Swedish national titles because by the 34.4 km time check he was now six seconds ahead of Cancellara and seriously threatening the Suisse cheese’s Olympic dreams. Contador had steadied his funky red and yellow ship in third while Leipheimer was seemingly starting to sink. Evans was now up into fourth and looking for redemption from the Tour de France’s final time trial.

With each time check changing like a game of musical chairs, the final podium was still up in the smog-riddled air. How would the day finish and who would end up taking the hardware home for the next four years? This report card cuts through the chitchat to deliver the ultimate guide to who was good, who was bad and who else made headlines in this year’s Olympic time trial.

A - Fabian “King Chrono” Cancellara (Switzerland) was the overwhelming favourite today. Even though he left this year’s Tour de France without a TT win, most pundits expected him to rise to the challenge in Beijing. Of course, being the favourite can turn out to be nothing but blind faith; but Cancellara is a solid performer at the big-time events and was always going to be there or thereabouts. But thereabouts is not in this guys vocabulary and he attacked the course with crazy amounts of speed. He handled his TT stead in some of the tighter sections of the course with amazing stability and agility and posted the fastest time at the halfway mark.

He was temporarily challenged by CSC-Saxo Bank trade teammate Larsson but by the finish the 27-year-old Suisse star had pile-driven his authority all over the field and finished 33 seconds ahead of second place. It is one thing to be the outright favourite but another altogether to deliver on the day. An awesome performance worthy of the Gold to go in the trophy cabinet alongside his Bronze from day one of what has been a hugely successful Olympics for Cancellara.

B - Gustav Erik “Spanner” Larsson (Sweden) very nearly put a certain chrome tool in the Cancellara works and pulled off the upset of all upsets today. Sure he was right in the mix during the first lap but when he posted the fastest time at the third and penultimate time check it looked like he was on track to do the unthinkable and beat the overwhelming favourite. Commentators were sent scrambling to their form guides to suss out just who this Larsson guy was, as he was ripping up the race and seemingly on target to create a huge surprise. A pro for seven years he counts a Swedish time trial title among his better victories but has never encountered anything close to an Olympic podium. Sure enough Cancellara came through with the golden goods but 27-year-old Larsson held solid for stunning Silver in a class field that boasted numerous highly credentialed time trialists. Yet another astonishing talent to come out of the CSC camp and definitely one to watch in the future.

C - Levi “Let me ride” Leipheimer (United States of America) has consistently shown that he is very much at the top of the sport in the events he has been allowed to start this year. Fortunately for him, the Olympics are not run by the self-righteous folk at ASO so he was able to ride until his heart was content in Beijing. After being outside the top three at all time checks in the course the American who has been training at altitude while other riders had been at le Tour finished mega strong to score a Bronze. The advantage of being so short he has to have his height measured before being allowed on some show rides is that he can get into a pretty insane tuck position on his Trek and be super aerodynamic. Right after the finish the 34-year-old Californian looked a bit gutted to not have won but really should be pretty pumped with his achievement.

D - Dave “Captain America” Zabriskie (United States of America) has been slowly coming back to form after having to pull out of the Giro with a fractured lumbar vertebrae the day after being part of the winning team time trial. He did not have an awesome road race but many thought the moustache-growing machine would be a big factor in the TT. It was not to be and the Zee man came home in 12th just over three minutes down on the Suisse express Cancellara. Lets hope he continues on the comeback trail and shows the world his impressive time trial skills in the Vuelta and worlds.

E - Stefan “Here today, gone the next” Schumacher (Germany) clearly is not the same man that blitzed the whole field in both time trials at this years Tour de France just a couple of weeks ago. He struggled in the road race on day one of the Olympics and today was looking for redemption. Germany dominated the Olympic time trial in Sydney with Ullrich and Klöden, then left Athens empty handed so dearly wanted to return to the podium this time around. Schumacher was seen as the most likely candidate to do this and accordingly started second last today so had the advantage of getting time checks on everyone but Cancellara. As it turned out he did not need those as he could see the current World and soon to be Olympic champion fly past him at the halfway mark. Now, at one point in time or another almost everyone has been passed by Cancellara in a time trial but for Schumacher it was that little bit more embarrassing given the fact that he beat the Suisse rider convincingly twice just a few weeks ago. The 27-year-old German was last seen leaving China with an oxygen cylinder, smog filter and air purifier kit.

Honourable mentions
Alberto Contador (Spain) is no longer an ace climber who can just hang tough in time trials. Little Alberto put on a show today and was in with a shout right up to the very end. Sporting a wicked new lid from helmet sponsor Giro, the Spaniard started like a bat out of hell but gradually faded to fourth by the finish. Still, if someone had’ve said three years ago that Contador would be at the pointy end of the Olympic time trial they would probably be diagnosed with excessive optimism and subject to a battery of crystal ball examinations.

Svein Tuft (Canada) was outside the top 20 after the first time check but just got better and better as he progressed through the race before pouring on the gas in the final part of the course to finish a very credible seventh. Currently riding for a UCI continental team, Tuft is a multiple national time trial champion and did that title proud today with his storming ride that saw him finish ahead of some super names on much higher salaries. Great effort!

Tool Award
No tools today. The organisers remain the most likely candidate for reasons discussed in the road race report but they have already collected this award. Refreshing when no one can be categorised as an idiot isn’t it?

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