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Reflections on the World Time Trial Championship 2009


Fabian Cancellara is a wonderful athlete, class personified.

He looks at one with the bike and he’s quite fearless; it’s hard not to gasp as he blasts along at his 60 kph average (take out the corners, roundabouts and the climb, and that’s the speed he’s sitting at), skiffing walls and flicking that Specialized through narrow village streets like a kermesse king – a pleasure to behold.

World Time Trial Championship 2009
Switzerland’s Fabian Cancellara.

He’s certainly the finest time trial rider of his day. But, the greatest ever? I heard David Harmon say that he agreed with Bjarne Riis’s assessment that Fabian is the best ever chrono man.

World Time Trial Championship 2009
Fausto Coppi.

Fausto Coppi was knocking out 47 kph average speed time trials some 50 years ago and has dazzling palmares against the watch.

Jacques Anquetil; no one ever looked more aero on a bike. I think it was nine Grand Prix des Nations that he won – not to mention time trial stages in every stage race which incorporated a race against the clock.

Eddy Merckx, not elegant but brutally effective and with a huge collection of victories against the watch – around 80 if you include TTT’s – it was big news if he didn’t win a time trial.

World Time Trial Championship 2009
Jacques Anquetil.

And remember that in the era of the riders I mention above, there were no Worlds or Olympic time tests – Anquetil and Merckx could have won ten Worlds each.

When I was previewing the TT for Pez (I had it as Cancellara, Wiggins, Larsson) I said that the British Press never tire of writing about Bradley Wiggins – and here I am, just about to do that very thing.

First of all, I agree with him that it should have been two minute intervals for the last ‘wave’ of riders – it always is for the top riders in the Tour, a minute isn’t much when Big Fab’s rampant.

I have no axe to grind against Wiggins but he makes me despair.

The man has God given talent; as a pursuit rider he is peerless and his fourth place in the Tour demands total respect. But maybe it’s because I grew up in the 70’s when Merckx, De Vlaeminck, Gimondi, Verbeeck and all the rest raced from February to October.

There we’re no ‘projects’ – just a job to be done; that of professional racing cyclist. It’s still like that for a big percentage of the peloton. But Greg Lemond changed everything for the big riders when he made the discovery that you can build a whole season on ’23 Days in July.’

The story is that when David Brailsford finally wriggles Wiggins lose from Garmin, the Londoner will be on £1.25 million per year and able to name his programme. He doesn’t need to worry about appearance money or coming up with the goods in anything but le Tour.

Tony Martin, who took bronze in Mendrisio, dragged Cav round le Tour and Boasson Hagen round Great Britain; yet Wiggins chucked the Tour of Britain to ‘prepare.’

World Time Trial Championship 2009
The time trial didn’t go Brad’s way.

Sean Kelly’s reaction was immediate when that beautiful Felt crashed to the ground, where it had been launched; “He shouldn’t be doing that!

As Harmon consoled Wiggin’s wife on air and told her not to be too upset, Kelly said nothing.

In the Guardian on Friday, William Fotheringham said;

“Not surprisingly, when Wiggins realised that the vehicle was not there, he realised that his race was over and threw his bike away in disgust.”

World Time Trial Championship 2009
Dave McCann.

I guess I have to be the one to point out that the Emperor is naked; the first thing that Wiggins should have done was to check if the car was there, if not, he should have stuck his hand in the air and waited until it was alongside, then changed bikes. And I suspect that Sean Kelly agrees with me.

As Colombo used to say; “just one more t’ing, sir!

Dave McCann broke Boardman’s British ’25’ record last Sunday with 45:54 – Cancellara beat him by 3:40 on Thursday. Looks like a 42:14 to me !

And – absolutely finally, under “Hold The Front Page!” I’ve just read what our boy Brad has been saying now;

“The Tour de France has changed everything, it’s like trying to win the Champions League – you need to be at Manchester United but I’m playing at Wigan at the moment, so I have to make that step up.”

If I was JV, I’d be saying to my hotshot lawyer; “stick another 100 K on that invoice, amigo!