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Australia’s defending champion Rohan Dennis faces a host of top ranked time-triallists for the 2019 men’s World Championships title on a treacherous 54km race against the clock around Yorkshire on Wednesday.
Former Slovenian ski jumper Primoz Roglic, who won the Vuelta a Espana earlier this month, Belgian whizzkid and European champion Remco Evenepoel, and world hour record holder Victor Campenaerts are just three in a long list of potential winners in an open field.
“My target is to at least equal the bronze I got last year,” said Campenaerts, who set a track world 60-minute record at altitude in Mexico this year. “But Remco (Evenepoel) is the super favorite.”
Due to the World Championships’ end of season scheduling on the calendar there are many names missing due to injury or lack of fitness. But after the Tour de France passed through Yorkshire to great public acclaim in 2014, the destination has also attracted many top riders.
Four-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome, however, is injured and his Ineos teammate Geraint Thomas says he is not fit enough to take part, while Dutch powerhouse Tom Dumoulin, runner up last season, is out with a knee problem.
Dennis pulverized the pre-race favorite and the then defending champion Dumoulin last season at the Innsbruck worlds, but has had a disrupted build up to the event.
The 29-year-old from Adelaide has won stages on all three Grand Tours, but controversially threw in the towel at the start of a classic climb on the Tour de France’s 12th stage in July. It was reported he was deeply unhappy with his bike for the then upcoming time trial, his behavior stunned his team, Bahrain Merida, who pulled him from the Vuelta at the last minute in a second rift.
Dennis will likely perform on a bike provided by the Australian federation and is upbeat despite feeling isolated.
“Physically I’m still as good as I was last year and my power profile test was the best numbers I’ve ever done,” said Dennis. “Mentally I have days where it’s hard but I believe I can still win (in Yorkshire).”
The course itself embarks from Northallerton and there is, apart from one early fast section, barely a flat kilometer in the 54km route.
The 14km final loop has been labelled by some competitors as treacherous and during Sunday’s mixed gender event riders were clearly wry on the rain-hampered, technical route. Vuelta champion Roglic will thrive especially if it is wet, with the forecast suggesting showers for some of the riders and his superior pedal power will show if the expected crosswinds play a part.
The women’s race takes place on Tuesday over 32km from Ripon to Harrogate with two-time defending champion Annemiek van Vlueten last down the ramp wearing her rainbow jersey. The bubbly 36-year-old shows no sign of weakening and won the Dutch national time-trial, the Giro Rosa, the Strade Bianchi and Liege-Bastogne-Liege this season as well as coming runner-up in three other classics.
Her closest rival once again appears to be her compatriot Anna van der Breggen, who won the road race last year.