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World Championships Time Trial course preview: Final climb 'is technical and can easily be underestimated'

Jack Elton-Walters
20 Sep 2017

World Championships organiser backs Dumoulin or Froome for ITT win, but predicts close podium

At this year's UCI World Championships, the Men's Individual Time Trial route will take on a unique finish when it shoots upwards to the peak of Mount Fløyen which overlooks host city Bergen. The junior races and Elite Women's event will all end in the city centre, leaving only the men to conquer the summit finish.

'Mount Fløyen will offer a spectacular climb that bears resemblance to Alpe d’Huez,' Erik Halvorsen, Communications Director of the organising committee, told me from his office in the shadow of the climb.

At the time, Halvorsen told me he 'hopes Chris Froome comes as it's the perfect course for him.' That wish has been granted after Froome was named on the squad for Team GB.

Favourite for the title will be Tom Dumoulin, who was unstoppable at the Giro d'Italia and skipped the Vuelta a Espana to concentrate on the Worlds.

The Dutchman will enter the race fresher than Froome and is the stronger pure-time triallist.

With Dumoulin's improved climbing and more dedicated race schedule/training schedule in the lead up, Froome will have his work cut out to complete his desired Tour-Vuelta-Worlds TT treble.

Halvorsen's prediction for the race is that it will be 'an epic duel between the winners of the Grand Tours this year: Dumoulin vs Froome.'

However, hinting at having seen a few riders in Norway's second city for some course reconnaissance he added that 'several riders have targeted this as their chance.

'So I expect that this will be more tight than many believe.'

Climbing Mount Fløyen. Photo: Patrik Lundin

I met the Comms chief when I was in Norway for a Big Ride feature for a future issue of the magazine, and couldn't pass up the chance to see what all the fuss was about when it came to this time trial summit finish.

The climb starts with a steep cobbled section that takes you away from the main road. As soon as they start heading up those riders who skipped a dedicated recon of the climb may soon be caught out.

'Will the riders go for a bike change?!' Halvorsen wondered with a smile, and it's a fair question.

The 27.5km that precedes the climb will be best tackled on a full time trial bike with only the final wheel choice to be decided on the day depending on the wind.

However, dragging a TT bike up the slopes of Fløyen could be far more of a hindrance than a help. A quick change before turning onto the start of the climb, if done well, might be the difference between rainbow stripes and disappointment.

A lightweight climbing bike, perhaps with clip-on TT bars, would be my choice for the ascent after riding up on a lightweight Focus Izalco Max disc brake road bike.

This might be about as far as fans will get before the road narrows too much. Photo: Patrik Lundin

'The climb is technical and can easily be underestimated,' Halvorsen said when describing the last 4.5km of the ITT, clearly excited about the fireworks we could see.

Lined for much of the lower slopes by houses, the climb is wide enough for team cars but some of the upper sections combine steep gradients with narrow roads - essentially footpaths - that mean any late assistance will need to be provided by standing soigneurs or motos.

Riders won't be able to rely on team car assistance in the closing kilometres. Photo: Patrik Lundin

The climb will loom large in the minds of the riders for the whole time they're out on the road, and will be in sight for almost all the way round the course.

The rest of the route is a two-lap circuit, with the first lap running across the foot of the mountain before heading out to the coast and looping back for the second lap.

Depending on how the course route is divided on the day, the later starters will also be able to see their earlier rivals turning onto the slopes as they head round for lap two.

The climb averages 9.1% with a maximum reported slope of 10.2%. It felt and looked like much steeper in the hairpins and the lull down to 7.6% about halfway up could see riders easing up too much and losing time.

Riders like four-time winner Tony Martin will need to go full on the circuits to gain the necessary time before the climb, but still hold enough back to not blow-up before the finish line. A difficult balance.

The rolling route with the climb to finish really does point the clever money towards Froome and Dumoulin, but keep an eye on people like Primoz Roglic and Michal Kwiatkowski for that third step of the podium, or better.

Most of all, the organising committee want to make the whole schedule of men's and women's time trials and road races appealing for fans from home and abroad.

'The 2017 UCI Road World Championships Bergen will be spectacular, accessible for the fans and popular,' Halvorsen asserted.