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WORLDS’21 TT BREAKDOWN: Takeaways for the Road Race

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Ten Takeaways for the Worlds: Sunday’s time trial World championships was a nail-biting battle between Filippo Ganna and Wout van Aert, well ahead of third placed Remco Evenepoel. Spencer Martin looks ahead to the road race with ‘Ten Takeaways’ from the TT.

– This article is an excerpt from the Beyond the Peloton newsletter. Sign up here for full access. –

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Stunning Ganna

In a duel of the most exciting time trialists in the sport, Filippo Ganna beat Wout van Aert at the World Time Trial Championships on Sunday in Bruges, Belgium. The statuesque Italian looked unhurried on the course and fell behind to Van Aert through the early time checks, but his ability to churn a massive gear over the flat, straight roads allowed him to overcome his deficit and handed Van Aert a devastating defeat on his home roads by a mere six seconds. The two titans of the clock were heads-and-shoulders above the rest, and the fight for the final podium was all that remained for Remco Evenepoel, who put in a great performance to finish two seconds ahead of Kasper Asgreen.

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A close battle

Ten Takeaways:

1) Filippo Ganna was incredible and yet again shows he knows exactly how to peak at just the right time. Just last week, everyone was writing him off after he was beaten by Stefan Küng at the European TT championships, but he came back with an all-time performance to prove he is one of the most impressive time trialists of all time.

  • This mirrors the week prior to this year’s Giro d’Italia when he underperformed in the time trial at the Tour de Romandie, only to come back and sweep the time trials at the Italian grand tour.
  • My guess is that this signals he has dialed in a training regime that prioritizes training through events prior to big goals at the expense of performances at lesser events.
  • One of the most impressive parts of Ganna’s win was the complete lack of urgency in his body language. The big Italian seemed to meander through the corners and came through the first two time checks behind Van Aert. But his pitch-perfect pacing meant he was able to storm through the final section seven seconds quicker than Van Aert, which is an incredible amount of time to make up over such a relatively short amount of time against one of the best time trialists in the world, to win by six seconds.

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Van Aert disappointed

2) Wout van Aert suffered a crushing defeat on his home Flemish roads and got his fourth silver medal in international road competitions.

  • This means that all of Van Aert’s three World Championship medals are silver, which must be incredibly frustrating for the Belgian star. He will certainly be motivated to correct this record in next Sunday’s road race.
  • Even in defeat, this has to be considered a massive success for Van Aert. He finished a close second to a generational TT talent on a course that didn’t particularly suit him, and continues to display an absurd versatility and wide range of talents on the bike.

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Evenepoel – Third, but the best of the rest

3) Remco Evenepoel gets third place against two absurd talents and also should feel great about his performance.

  • Despite losing his water bottle to a rough patch of road early in the race, he grabs the final podium place by just two seconds. His raw power might not be equal to the others, but his aerodynamic position on the time trial is perhaps the most optimal position in the sport at the moment.
  • But, at 44-seconds behind Ganna and 38-seconds behind Van Aert, he was clearly a step below both riders.
  • At 21-years-old, he just got his 2nd World Championship time trial medal, which is incredibly impressive.
  • Still, it is worth noting that this is a step back for Evenepoel, who finished 2nd at the 2019 World TT Championships, 46-seconds ahead of Ganna.
  • This slight regression makes Evenepoel’s career incredibly difficult to judge. While he is an undeniable talent, it is hard to completely ignore this backsliding trend.
  • While everyone assumes progression is linear, this certainly isn’t the case and young riders who don’t continue to improve can quickly find themselves passed over by others who continue to make leaps in their performance.

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Third for Asgreen

4) Kasper Asgreen, the winner of Tour of Flanders earlier this season, finishes in fourth place, two seconds behind his Deceuninck – Quick-Step teammate Evenepoel.

  • This is somewhat devastating for Asgreen, for whom a world championship medal would have been massive.
  • But, on the flip side, this is still a great result for a Monument winner who is by no means just a time trialist specialist.
  • The fact that he was able to finish in such elite company on a course designed for pure time trialists is impressive, shows he is in great shape and could certainly contend for the win at Sunday’s road race.

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No medal for Stefan Küng

5) The average speeds of Ganna and Van Aert, both of whom averaged over 54km/h for close to an hour, were staggering and show just how far the form has advanced in recent years.

  • This is a testament to both the talent of these riders and the increasing advances in technological advances of the bike’s front-ends, many of which are custom-made to match the ergonomics of the riders.
  • But amazingly, even with these extremely high speeds, the gaps between the top four riders were competitive, which stands in contrast to the blowouts we tend to see in top time trialing competitions.

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Ganna – King of the TT

6) On that note, both the depth and versatility of the talent we are seeing in the modern time trial is re-shaping the event. Every rider on the podium has won a non-time trial world tour mass-start road race in the last two seasons.

  • This emergence of road racers who can time trial at a world-class level means the days of the time trial specialist could be over.

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The last ITT for Tony Martin – Congratulations from Tom Dumoulin

7) Tony Martin, once the purest of time trial specialists, finished 6th with the exact same average speed, 52.9kp/h, which won him the event back in 2013.

  • While speeds will vary on different courses, this is part of an undeniable trend of significantly increasing speeds in time trials in recent years.

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Great ride from Ethan Hayter

8) Ethan Hayter, the 23-year-old Ineos rider, who had a breakout performance at the recent Tour of Britain, finished a surprising 8th place, which is by far his best career time trial result.

  • This is great news for Ineos, who have both seemingly found an extremely versatile budding star buried on their own roster and have struggled to replace their aging core of homegrown British stars.
  • Hayter’s breakout performance could affect how the team approaches their conversations with Geraint Thomas, who has yet to agree to a new contract with the British squad.

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Belgium has the top cards – Evenepoel and Van Aert

9) The time trial confirms that Wout van Aert is extremely fit and should be considered the favorite for the upcoming road race.

  • It also tells us that his Belgian teammate Remco Evenepoel is also in great form.
  • However, Kasper Asgreen’s performance should tell us that he could very well win the road race and that his stacked Danish team could rival, if not surpass, the collective strength of the Belgian team.

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Sénéchal won the Primus Classic at the weekend

10) Away from the World Championships, Saturday’s Primus Classic saw France’s Florian Sénéchal win ahead of stars like Julian Alaphilippe and Mathieu van der Poel.

  • The story of the day was Deceuninck – Quick-Step completely controlling the front end of the race, finishing with five riders in the top ten and using their collective strength to ride Van der Poel out of the race.
  • This potentially shows us the blueprint for how teams will approach for how teams will aim to race against favorites like Van Aert and Van der Poel at Sunday’s World Championships.
  • It also tells us that the French team could be a slightly underrated force with Alaphilippe in great form and a rider like Sénéchal to play joker.
  • Also, Mikkel Frølich Honoré, the breakout Danish rider, finished in 4th place after making the front group, which gives another example of the embarrassment of riches available to the Danish team.

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A Danish world champion? Maybe Kasper Asgreen


# Spencer Martin is the author of the cycling-analysis newsletter Beyond the Peloton that breaks down the nuances of each race and answers big picture questions surrounding team and rider performance. Sign up now to get full access to all the available content and race breakdowns. #

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