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PEZ Preview: Elite Men World Championship TT
It’s difficult to see who can stop Switzerland’s Fabian Cancellara from making it a hat trick of world time trial titles on Thursday afternoon in Mendrisio. The Saxo Bank man is the finest chrono man of his generation and with the added bonus of home roads – barring disasters – it’s very hard to see him being beaten. The other podium spots are not so clear cut, however.

There’s little to say about the course, a 16.6 non technical loop to be covered three times with an elevation of only 120 metres; it’s one for the specialists – and no one is more special than the smiling Swiss Olympic time trial champion.

You'd be a silly prognosticator if you didn't give a tip of your hate to Fabian Cancellara, Emperor of the Time Trial.

My Swiss francs would have gone down on the bookies counter with a line that read; “double; Cancellara to win with David Millar second.” However, the tall Scot’s decision to forego a discipline where he has an outstanding track record means that my bet is off.

The in-form David Millar is gunning only for the road race.

With a cracking Vuelta time trial victory on Saturday, it’s a brave decision by Millar and one that says a lot about how he must view his road form – but don’t forget that he was right there in the finale of the Salzburg Worlds in 2006 with Bettini, Valverde and the rest.

The rider who picks up the baton for GB is the man that the British press never tire of talking about, and for whom Team Sky may still be the limit – Bradley Wiggins. (I can’t bear to use the nick name that it seems every sportsman must have – I’ll bet his mum doesn’t call him ‘Wiggo!’)

Bradley Wiggins is time trialing very nicely at the moment. Can he hold a candle to the Good Ship Cancellara?

It’s no secret anymore that a “Bert gets to leave Astana on account of the financial mess and goes to Garmin; then Brad goes to Sky; but a big cheque goes back from Sky to Garmin on account they have David Beckham's lawyer negotiating for them!” deal is still being thrashed out as I write this.

The most recent pointer to his form came in the recent Tour of Britain – which he quit early to focus on the Worlds – where on stage two the big Londoner’s chasing efforts wiped huge amounts of time from the break of the day’s advantage; those in his wake will testify that the power is there. Earlier in the month he took the British time trial championship with ease; putting two minutes into amateur Michael Hutchinson – a man who collects British time trial wins as he pleases. There’s no doubt that Wiggins has the form and if he gets his peaking right – which he is a master at, given his pursuit palmares – then he should stand on a road podium to go with all those velodrome ones he’s climbed the steps up to.

A man who has been riding very consistently throughout the year, from the Tour of California via the Tour’s Annecy chrono shoot-out – where he was fourth, among exalted company – to the recent Tour du Poitou Charentes, where he won the chrono and GC and finally the Tour of Missouri where only David Zabriskie could deny him the time trial and overall wins is Swede Gustav Larsson. Larsson has been winning time trials for a decade and his 2008 Olympic silver leaves few doubts that this is a man who knows how to get it right on the day.

Gustav Erik Larsson is a bad man on a time trial bike. Look for him on the podium.

Mention of David Zabriskie reminds us that he’s on the US entry list for these championships; it’s easy to forget that he was third last year, second in 2006, and just wrapped up his 4th consecutive US Pro TT title – but a lot depends on what’s going on inside the man from Salt Lake City’s head.

Another man who perhaps we should have mentioned sooner, is the reigning champion, Bert Grabsch. The bull-like German was second in the German elite TT champs as far back as 1997 - there’s not much you can tell him about chronos! Back in June in the Dauphine he beat Evans, Millar and Contador to take the 42 kilometre stage four test; later the same month he successfully defended his German title; the Tour time trials involved too much gravity for his tree-like torso but third in the rain in the Vuelta contrarreloj at Valencia proved that his internal metronome is working just fine – and he’ll be loathe to surrender that nice white jersey without a fight.

Bert Grabsch will be returning to defend his World Championship win from 2008.

Columbia team mate and countryman Tony Martin was one of the names being whispered before the Worlds, last year; 2009 sees him a year stronger and classier. German junior time trial champion in 2003, this year he beat Wiggins to take the short test in the Criterium International and Grabsch to the Bayern Rundfahrt TT, but Bert did get revenge in the German champs. It just remains to be seen if he’ll have had time to recover from dragging Cav round France and Boasson Hagen round Great Britain.

Tony Martin will be a young rider in with an outside chance.

If it’s a course for the Big Guys, then Canada’s Svein Tuft has to be considered; he was quiet for Garmin in the Vuelta but silver last year came from careful preparation to get it ‘right on the day.’

Svein Tuft had a hard first year on the ProTour, but he'll have a chance in Mendrisio at his favorite discipline.

And, of course, there will be a surprise, someone who rode the Vuelta, recovered well, and has the best bio-rhythms of his life.

Whoever he is, Pez will be right there to tell you all about it!


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