Road World Championships elite men's time trial: Who are the favourites?

A look at who could contend for the rainbow jersey in the elite men's time trial in Wollongong

The 2022 Road World Championships kick off this weekend in Wollongong, Australia with the women's and men's individual time trial on Sunday. The women's race will be completed first, before the men take to the 34.2km course in the afternoon.

The course in downtown Wollongong should provide a fast race, with just one significant climb on the 16.8km circuit which is take on twice, so will appeal to a wide variety of time triallists. It's a technical route however with a number of tight turns, so as well as a test of all out speed it'll be a test of bike handling as well for the riders. Full information on the courses is available here.

The favourites for the time trial have become more discernible as they've raced in the build-up to the Worlds, and there's an elite selection of the very best riders against the clock set to line-up Down Under.

Read more: Road World Championships women’s individual time trial preview - who are the favourites?

Road World Championships elite men's time trial favourites

Filippo Ganna - Italy

Defending world champion Filippo Ganna may not have been at his uncompromising best this year in the time trials, but he's still been prolific enough to be considered a strong favourite to make it three rainbow jerseys in a row.

The Italian has perhaps missed out on the biggest stages this year, falling short in both time trials at the Tour de France and taking third at the European Championships. Nevertheless, he's still won six of the 10 time trials he's raced this year, and hasn't finished below fifth in the rest. The 26-year-old's wins include prestigious stages in Tirreno-Adriatico and the Critérium du Dauphiné, while he also became Italian national champion for the fifth time.

Ganna is the favourite to defend his world title (Photo: James Startt)

This year's course may not be quite as favourable as the past two courses in Imola 2020 and Flanders 2021 for Ganna with Wollongong's circa 1km climb featuring on each lap, but it shouldn't be hard enough to pose much trouble for him. 

Remco Evenepoel - Belgium

Evenepoel made his World Championships time trial debut just three years ago at the Yorkshire Worlds and immediately staked a claim as a race favourite for the following year. While he missed the 2020 Worlds due to his horror crash at Il Lombardia, he backed up his debut result with a third place in 2021. Since then the Belgian has been potentially the most consistent time triallist in the world and has not finished lower than second in any of the six time trials he's raced this year, winning four of them.

Remco Evenepoel goes into the Worlds in the form of his life after the Vuelta (Photo: Charly Lopez/Unipublic)

Having just won the Vuelta a España, Evenepoel is in red hot form and should certainly be considered one of the clear favourites for this year's rainbow bands alongside Ganna. The biggest question is how well he can maintain his form and manage his fatigue after three gruelling weeks of racing in Spain, but should he keep his current level the 22-year-old could become the youngest ever winner of the time trial world title.

Stefan Küng - Switzerland

A five-time Swiss champion, Stefan Küng really began to break into the top tier of WorldTour time triallists in 2020, finishing third at the World Championships and winning his first of two European titles. This year has seen him focus further on his Classics racing, but he'll still be in with one of his best chances yet of winning in this field.

Stefan Küng will be hoping to better last year's podium finish (Photo: Dario Belingheri/Getty Images)

Like Ganna, he's perhaps missed out on the biggest stages this year and was unable to be in the mix in the Tour's two time trials. His second place behind compatriot Stefan Bissegger at the European Championships showed he's building back to somewhere near his best form though. Expect him to certainly be in with a shout of a podium place, but a win still looks like an outside shot.

Tadej Pogačar - Slovenia

Unlike his compatriot and Olympic champion Primož Roglič, Tadej Pogačar hasn't quite managed to replicate his stage race time trial form at individual events. The world's number one rider has thrived against the clock at Grand Tours, and hasn't finished outside of the top-10 in a stage race time trial since the Vuelta a España in 2019. 

Despite being such a prolific winner, Pogačar will be an outsider favourite for the Worlds time trial (Photo: James Startt)

Outside of his National Championships, Pogačar has finished 12th and 10th in the two standalone time trials he's ridden since graduating from under-23 level - the European and World Championships respectively in 2021. The evidence about how competitive he can be at a race like the Worlds is therefore thin, so the two-time Tour champion is a bit of a wildcard in this weekend's race. His powers of recovery seem to elevate him to a time trial contender in the Grand Tours, but whether he can match the pure time trial powerhouses on a course with little difficulty in the way of climbing remains to be seen.

Still, Pogačar has constantly shown us he's a rider who can deliver the unexpected so it's best to never underestimate him. 

Stefan Bissegger - Switzerland

If Pogačar thrives at Grand Tour time trials and not in one-off races, then Stefan Bissegger looks to be the polar opposite. At just 24, the Swiss rider has already made a name for himself as one of the strongest time triallists in the men's peloton and has consistently been in the mix since winning his first senior national title in 2020.

Outside of the Tour de France (where he's cracked the top-10 in a time trial just once in four attempts), Bissegger has remained a persistent challenger to Ganna and his compatriot Küng. He kicked off his season with a victory in the UAE Tour time trial in February, but raced just three time trials (one in Paris-Nice, two at the Tour) between then and his biggest career win to date at the European Championships in August. There he beat Küng by just a single second, while he put nine seconds into Ganna over the 24km course.

Stefan Bissegger became European Champion for the first time in August (A.S.O./Alex Broadway)

The technical nature of the Wollongong route may not play to Bissegger's strengths, but he has the capabilities to put himself in line for a podium if everything goes his way. With a seventh place on his senior Worlds debut last year, a top-five here would seem like a more realistic prospect and a signal that Bissegger is improving enough to battle it out for the gold medal in the coming years.

Ethan Hayter - Great Britain

At just 23 and racing in his second full season on the WorldTour (after a curtailed 2020), Ethan Hayter has already established himself as one of the best up and coming all-rounders in the sport. While his sprint and climbing ability has helped deliver some of his biggest individual stage victories, it's his time trialling that has propelled him into a position to contest for overall victories. He did just that at the Tour of Poland in August, winning the general classification to take his first WorldTour-level stage race victory.

Hayter is Britain's best prospect for its first medal since 2017 (A.S.O./Alex Broadway)

Hayter made his World Championships debut last year in Flanders, finishing eighth, albeit 1-27 behind Ganna. He's regularly raced higher level time trials this year compared to previous years, but his results have remained just as consistent. In his eight time trials this year he's finished outside the top-five just twice, with the worst of them coming in the unsuited uphill mountain time trial at the Tour de Romandie.

It seems like a long-shot to say Hayter could win the world title in Wollongong on Sunday, but the two-time national champion could be Britain's best chance of a medal at the Worlds since Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas were at their best.

Other contenders

Rémi Cavagna (France) is an outside shot at a podium but he lacks the consistency of results shown by the mentioned riders above. Bauke Mollema seems to have found a new lease of life against the clock this year and the new Dutch national champion is his nation's best chance of a top-10 now Tom Dumoulin has retired. Tour de France time trial winner Yves Lampaert (Belgium) will hope for a better result than in his only Worlds appearance in 2018 (48th), while Mikkel Bjerg (Denmark), Luke Plapp (Australia), and Edoardo Affini (Italy) could all be in contention for a respectable top-10 result.