British duo ready for time trial blitz
After Mark Cavendish missed out on the gold medal he was craving in the road race, Britain is now looking for a 1-2 in the men's Olympic time trial, the final road cycling event to be held in London.
Britain's racing tactics were put to the sword by a breakaway last weekend, as veteran Alexander Vinokourov of Kazakhstan won the Olympic title and left Cavendish to sprint for nothing but pride on the Mall.
Wednesday's time trial outcome is likely to be different as the race against the clock rarely produces a surprise champion.
Bradley Wiggins is entering the 44-kilometre event as the man to beat in the aftermath of a phenomenal season. The 32-year-old cyclist from Kilburn, in north-west London, has been in stellar form over the past six months and raced one of the best time trials of his career less than two weeks ago on his way to becoming the first Briton to win the Tour de France.
"Brad against the world when they're all on their own, he can wrap that up," Wiggins' teammate David Millar said. "He's got such incredible form and he's in such good spirits. I think we'll get our gold medal there."
While defending champion Fabian Cancellara is hampered by a right shoulder injury and Cadel Evans of Australia is out of the race because of exhaustion, the British team has another trump card in the shape of Tour runner-up Christopher Froome.
Froome played a key role during the three-week race by protecting Wiggins in the mountains. Despite all the hard work for his leader, he claimed a place on the podium thanks to his solid performances in the race against the clock.
In France, Wiggins won both time trials ahead of his 27-year-old Sky teammate.
"All I can do really is go in there and give it my best shot. Brad I think is in the perfect stead for that and the course suits him really well," said Froome, who is looking for his first Olympic medal.
Wiggins, a former track specialist, already has six Olympic medals to his name. He won his three Olympic titles in Athens and Beijing, in individual and team pursuit. If he finishes on the podium, he will hold one more medal than British former rowing great Steve Redgrave, who has five golds and a bronze.
The race will start and finish at Hampton Court Palace, a former royal residence on the banks of the river Thames. The course features some technical sections and is tailor-made for specialists like Cancellara and reining world champion Tony Martin of Germany.
Cancellara, who dropped out of the Tour early to attend the birth of his second child, will defend his Olympic title despite the right shoulder injury he picked up in a crash during the road race.
The four-time world champion was in the lead group Saturday when he misjudged a late turn and crashed into a barrier. He resumed training on Monday and the Swiss team said he should be able to ride without pain.
Cancellara broke his right collarbone in the Tour of Flanders earlier this year, causing him to miss two months or racing, and thought he may have done so again.
"I am lucky it is not broken, but it feels like it is," he said.
Martin did not finish the road race but looked at ease at the front of the bunch before pulling out. The powerful German athlete withdrew from the Tour early after breaking his wrist in a crash.
Wiggins said he is concentrating on his own race, not his opponents.
"I'll go out there and do the performance I have done so well all year in time trials and see if it is good enough on the day," he said. "What I can't predict is what they're going to do."
Taylor Phinney of the United States is confident he can follow up his fourth-place finish in the road race by challenging for a podium finish in the time trial. Phinney carries some massive expectations as the son of Olympic gold medalist Connie Carpenter-Phinney and bronze medalist Davis Phinney, two of the stars of the 1984 Los Angeles Games.
The charismatic young rider also would have been favored in the individual pursuit, but his signature track event was dropped from the program after the Beijing Games, forcing him to shift his focus to the road race and time trial.
"I know that if I have a really good ride I can be up there and I am hungry from the road race," he said of his fourth-place finish. "That's extra motivation."
Cancellara wasn't the only defending time trial gold medalist to crash over the weekend. Kristin Armstrong, who came out of retirement two years ago after giving birth to her son Lucas, hit the tarmac in the road race but escaped with only a few bruises and is expected to ride the 29-kilometre women's race on Wednesday.
Armstrong will be pushed by one of the deepest fields ever to contest the time trial. Judith Arndt of Germany is the reigning world champ, and the only rider who beat Armstrong at the Tour of Flanders. Olympic silver medalist Emma Pooley of Britain will be trying to build on the silver medal that teammate Elizabeth Armitstead won in the road race.
Then there's Linda Villumsen, the world silver medalist, who was born in Denmark and competed for her native country until 2009, when she gained citizenship in New Zealand.
"It's a different experience, but I'm proud to be here," the soft-spoken Villumsen said this week. "I'm proud to represent the country, and I hope I can do well."