Olympic Men's Time Trial Favorites:
Men's and Women's Time Trial
By Rabun Kosar
For any ordinary rider, one full year (2003) without any success would mean
serious problems. But make no mistake; Santiago Botero is not a normal rider, he is a rider
that has 3 top 10 finishes in Tour, the same rider that ended Lance's time trial
dominance on the roads of Lorient, polka-dot jersey winner, world time-trial
champion, multiple stage winner in the tour, sportsman of the year in his native
country Colombia. He is currently at the peak years of his cycling career.
Botero at the Tour de France this year. Photo by
Anita van Crey.
But... he is the most inconsistent rider of the peloton. A climber like him
bonked on the slopes of Ventoux (2002 tour, stage 14), losing nearly 15 minutes
to the stage winner (Virenque, in case you wonder) and yet two days later
returned with a vengeance on the stage to the Twin Alps, displaying his awesome
power and stamina. He has two of the strongest legs in the peloton, which is
acknowledged by the other riders. And he is a fighter; he is a stubborn rider
and never gives up on the bike. These two are the essence of a champion, but
(again) when he has a bad day, he really has a bad day. Other riders like the
famous Texan know the way to get over with their weaknesses without too much
loss (remember Joux Plane), but this special Colombian has that feature missing.
As a rider he is different; he is a fan's favorite and it is really impressive
to see this guy on the bike powering along. He is a gift to cycling. He has
no problem with suffering but he needs a really good mentor to teach him to
limit his losses. It seems that there is something missing about the way he
trains. He has a problem with the way he peaks, other riders progress slowly to
their limits (form) and try to stay there as long as possible. He is unlike
others, he can hit the top of his form in incredibly short time and do this
multiple times during the year, but the period is really short. He just can not
stay there; otherwise he would surely be wearing the yellow jersey on Champs-Elysees
more than once.
But it is not still late for him. He started cycling after he was 18, which
means he has more in his reserves compared to the other riders with more years
on the bike. And Athens may just light the way. He is one of the best time
trialists available, he is alpha class. Never mind the way he handles the bike,
he has the power to move it to the finish faster then the others anyway. Time-trialling
is an art, that is for sure. You have to calculate the starting power, lower your
body to decrease the frontal area (and the resistance you experience), ride
smoothly to optimize your unnecessary power loss, position your arms and legs in
the best way you can. The list is long but the overall aim is simple, put as
much power as possible as to the pedals.
Botero may miss many of the features
listed above, but he has just the thing, power. He rides strongly; really
strongly. And any given day he can ride faster than anyone you name; just only
he feels himself good. If that happens on the summer day in Athens, he will
repeat what he has done in Canada two years ago, demolish the field. The parcours is irrelevant. His only problem is his internal physical state. Let's
hope all goes well and that day marks the beginning of an impressive string of
wins for that "blue-eye" Colombian. Like eurosport commentator Duffield says
often, “You might not want to buy a second-hand bike from him”, but you will
want to see him smiling on top of the podium.
[Note: Botero had earlier announced that he would not be competing in the
Individual Time Trial, but on 14 August was notified that a spot was available,
and so as of that date had decided to take part in the contest and is on the start list.]
Peter Van Petegem
PVP comes from a cycling-crazed nation. And he is a well beloved son. This
cunning Belgian took the hearts of many cycling fans with his extraordinary
performance in last years Spring Classics. He won the most prestigious duo of
them, Ronde Van Vlaanderen and Paris-Roubaix, back-to-back in 8 days. Those two
races are mostly famous for their unique property; no one can win those races by
chance. You cannot just wake one morning, feel yourself good and go on and win
one of them, let alone both. They present always worthy winners.
PVP at the Ronde van Vlaanderen. Courtesy Lotto-Domo.
This particular rider is no exception, last year he ate the roads to Meerbeke
and Roubaix. He is a classy cyclist, talented and clever. He sees cycling as a
chess game, making his moves one by one till he places one final and decisive
blow. His fierce accelerations, whether on Flanders hills or over the Northern
France's paved roads, are no act of chance, just well timed and powerful.
However this year Lady Luck did not visit him, he experienced mechanical
problems during the important moments. However, his unbelievable chase of the
leaders during the Paris-Roubaix showed what he was able, if he could have just
stayed near the front. He is not a well-known time trialist, but do not assume
that he will be affected by what people think of him. He could have liked it
more if the road included some short steep climbs or at least a long section of
pave. But if he can produce some riding like he did in April, he may not need
them at all. His powerful riding style will allow him to cruise easily on the
seaside of Athens. And he can perform well in the windy races, thanks to his
strong body. A windy day might turn the day sour for small build riders like
Leipheimer, but will play into hands of PVP.
Knowing that this might be his only chance for a medal in the Olympics, Van
Petegem might deliver a surprise to his Belgian fans on August 18th.
This rider is a walking wonder, he is, at the age of 38. He retired from
cycling to come back again, he rode the spring classics, he rode a brilliant and
sacrificial TdF to carry the Texan to the top for the 6th time and yet he is
still on the start list of the Olympics cycling time trial race as the
defending champion. Four years ago Armstrong and Ullrich were trying to settle
their score on the race of the truth, which saw this speedy Russian to rise and
steal the show from arguably the best two time triallists of the peloton. His
love for cycling is evident from the fact that he has raced 14 of the last 15
TdF races (his team was not in the race in 1999) and finished them all. His
particular talent for riding against the clock was one of the key points taking
his team to the top in the last two Tour De France TTT stages. Lance Armstrong
once described him as one of his bodyguards in the peloton together with
Hincapie. He is fast and strong, able to mark any escapes on the peloton easily,
when needed. He has some talent.
Viatcheslav Ekimov. Photo by
But here come some things that people may not like; he acted like a
"bodyguard of a night club in Turkey" (a local joke) when he chased Simeoni on
the 18th stage of TdF, he made some unsportsmanlike gestures to the Italian
rider, which in fact meant bullying him. This being the Olympics, the very
special event that declares peace, friendship and ethics for the whole world
will not suit such acts of intolerance (as we saw with Judith Arndt's fine). And especially for a rider that is carrying
the title of "Olympic Champion".
During this year’s TdF he was still the defending Olympic champion and acted
in a way that actually stained his glory gained on the roads of Sydney. Whatever
his excuse, it was just unacceptable and will not be easily forgotten. In case
he wins a medal and gets that special wreath on his head, will he be a deserving
carrier? The wreath symbolizes some traditional properties of the ancient
Olympics, like friendship, tolerance, peace, sportsmanship; not some raw muscle
power. Will he be a suitable wearer? With such acts, to me it is just impossible.
[Note: Apologies for such a personal and subjective view, however some acts
just don't suit the spirit of Olympics, and they should be mentioned, one way or
This 23 year old Swiss is no stranger for wins, especially in TT races. He
has two world championships already from Junior World TT Championships (in
Valkenburg and Treviso). He is no stranger to the Greek soil, he is a two-time
winner of the race of the Greek island of Rhodes. He won the GP Eddy Merckx (a
dual-men's TT race) together with Lazslo Bodrogi in 2002. This year he produced
some brilliant results with finishing 4th in the Hell of the North and winning
the TdF prologue. He lacks some strong climbing skills and may need time and
work in the mountains to be a grand tour contender. The 2004 Olympics TT race is
no grand tour and he storms the field in a race of truth like the particular
race the will be run on the Athens streets. The Olympic route is suitable for
him, without hardly any climbs. He should know the Mediterranean climate from
his racing days on Rhodes Island.
All the facts that are listed above make this young Swiss a candidate to pull
a surprise for the TT race. He will surely want to repeat what his countryman
young ski-jumper Simon Ammann did in the winter games in Salt Lake: "Teach the
old guys a "young boy" lesson."
Fabian Cancellara. Photo by
Anita van Crey.
Given his talents (or lack thereof) on the rising roads, he performed well
above the expectations in his home Tour, finishing 3rd on the last stage which
was a hard TT run on an undulating course. Only Ullrich and Bodrogi bested him
on that day. On short courses he is fast. But will he be able to turn the tables
on them on this long course? We'll see. If he cannot do it this time, still he
has the time on his side. At least he will taste the particular ambience of the