Olympic Individual Time Trial Preview: Route, Predictions and Contenders

Rouleur previews both the men's and women's Individual Time Trial at the Tokyo Olympics

The Tokyo Olympic Games will host the Individual Time Trial on the 28th July for men and women. In both events, the best riders in the world at the discipline will be present, meaning the medals are going to be hotly contested.

While there are no big climbs in the course, the entire route is undulating which is going to make for a tough race, especially in Japan’s summer heat. It’s a route which is suited to riders who can produce short efforts on punchy climbs, but the technical descents and long, flatter sections mean that bike-handling skills and good pacing will also be paramount. 

Men's Olympic Road Race preview

Women's Olympic Road Race preview

The Route

The Men’s Individual Time Trial route at the Tokyo Olympics is 44.2km long, starting in the Fuji International Speedway. The men will complete two laps of an identical course, amounting to a total elevation gain of 846m. 

Map of the course, credit: UCI

While the Women’s Individual Time Trial follows the same route as the men, they will only complete the lap once, meaning the total distance is 22.1km with an elevation gain of 423m. 

Women's route profile, credit: UCI

The lap begins with a high speed downhill section which will likely challenge the technical abilities of the riders. Power won’t be a factor in this section. Instead, it will be about picking the fastest lines on each corner and being as aerodynamic as possible. Those who have been training in their time-trial positions will likely excel in this section: they will be well-drilled and comfortable. 

Men's route profile, credit: UCI

The first climb comes 5km into the course and has an average gradient of 4.5%. Although it isn’t particularly steep, it is a relatively long drag, lasting for 5km. The riders will then re-enter the Speedway after another descent which leads into a second climb of a similar gradient. As the riders pass the pit lane area, the road becomes flat for a short section. For the last 2km towards the finish line, the road undulates. There are some short, punchy climbs which will likely suit those with the ability to produce an explosive kick. Male riders will complete the exact same lap for the second time.

Pacing is going to be a key factor, there are no hugely steep climbs but the course is tough and attritional. On the rolling terrain towards the finish line, it will be extremely challenging to maintain speed if riders have expended too much energy earlier in the course.

Women’s Individual Time Trial Contenders

Dutch National Champion in the discipline Anna van der Breggen is the big favourite for the Women’s Individual Time Trial. At the recent Giro d’Italia Donne, the 31-year-old put over 1 minute into her nearest rivals in the ITT, proving her great form. The punchy climbs will suit the Dutch rider.

Image: Sean Hardy

Van der Breggen’s closest competitor could, in fact, be her compatriot Annemiek van Vleuten. She’s a two time ITT World Champion and has been vocal about how this event will be a big target for her, skipping the Giro Donne to spend time at altitude in preparation.

Chloe Dygert from the USA could spoil the party for the Netherlands, though. She won the ITT World Championships in 2019 and looked to be in with a shot of winning again in 2020 until she crashed during the event. Dygert hasn’t raced on the road since then, apart from in the US National ITT championships a few weeks ago (which she won), so her form is relatively unknown against a WorldTour level field.

Image: Alex Whitehead/SWpix

Lisa Brennauer is another contender for Germany, as is Marlen Reusser for Switzerland. Reusser finished 2nd in the World Championships last year, proving she is well-suited to the time trial discipline. Emma Norsgaard of Denmark, Ashleigh Moolman Pasio of South Africa, Elisa Longo Borghini of Italy and the Australian duo of Sarah Gigante and Grace Brown are also among the favourites for a medal.

Men’s Individual Time Trial Contenders

After a supreme display of strength in the Individual Time Trial at this year’s Tour de France, Wout van Aert is likely to contest the podium in the Olympic Men’s ITT. His teammate Remco Evenepoel is also a big favourite, but his form is relatively unknown following his long break from racing after a crash last season. 

Filippo Ganna of Italy will be another one to watch. Ganna won the ITT World Championships in 2020 and looked largely unbeatable in the Giro d’Italia earlier this year. He did, however, finish 4th in his National Championships, so he will hope to have found his form by the Olympics. 

Primoz Roglic will be suited to the undulating course and could likely be in good form following his early retirement from the Tour de France. Rohan Dennis of Australia is a two-time ITT World Champion and has skipped the Olympic Road Race specifically to target this event.

Image: Simon Wilkinson/SWpix

Joao Almeida of Portugal is another big contender, finishing well in both ITT stages at the Giro this year. Great Britain’s Geraint Thomas performs well in time trials and will be well equipped to tackle the rolling terrain in Tokyo, as will Germany’s Max Schachmann. After coming second in the final ITT at the Tour de France, Danish National Champion Kasper Asgreen is also a contender.

Tom Dumoulin has been selected for the Netherlands and is a big talent, but he has done very little racing so far this year after taking a break before the Classics. Remi Cavagna is another favourite, representing France. Norway’s Tobias Foss, USA’s Brandon McNulty, Switzerland's Stefan Kung are also riders with a shot at a medal.

Prediction

Our pick for the Olympic Men’s Individual Time Trial gold medal is Rohan Dennis. The Australian rider has been vocal about having ambitions for Tokyo, and has proven that he knows how to peak at the correct times for big events. The climbs on the course will go in favour of riders with high power, and none are too steep to challenge Dennis. After his mechanical issue in Rio 2016 caused him to finish 5th when he was on track for a medal, Dennis will be keen to make amends five years later. After missing selection for the Tour de France, the Australian rider’s entire season has been focussed on the Olympic Individual Time Trial.

We expect Anna van der Breggen to take the gold in the Olympic Women’s Individual Time Trial. She has shown superb form throughout this season and will be hoping to go out with a bang in what will be her last Olympics before retirement.

She will be well-suited to the punchy climbs but can also produce the power on the flat. Her position is particularly aerodynamic, offering an advantage on the fast downhill and flat sections, while she also has the technical ability to ride quickly down the difficult descents, an area where some of her main contenders, such as Chloe Dygert, may lose time.

Cover image: Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com