Tokyo 2020: Women’s time trial 2021: Can USA make it four from four or will Dutch bounce back?
With huge surprises already produced in the women's road race, it is now the turn of the testers to see if they too can overturn more than a decade of American dominance in the women's individual time trial. Chloe Dygert replaces Kristin Armstrong as the USA's gold medal hope, but she is no less formidable than her compatriot who won three golds in a row between 2008 and 2016.
Chloe Dygert carries US hopes of a gold medal in the Olympic time trial
Taking place on Wednesday 28 July, the Olympic women’s time trial is set to be one of the most hotly contested races of the Games.
With the American rider Kristin Armstrong dominating the previous three editions, her retirement prompts the question – will another nation be able to end the US stranglehold on this event? Or, will her replacement – the awe-inspiring Chloé Dygert – be able to make it four golds from four Games?
You may recall watching in horror at the 2020 World Championships in Imola as Dygert – who was almost certainly set to retain the rainbow skinsuit – lost control of her bike and fell over the guardrail, slicing her leg open and rendering her unable to finish. With such severe injuries, it seemed a daunting task for her to regain enough fitness to be primed for Tokyo, yet her recent national championship win would suggest she's back on form.
Watch: Dygert’s horror crash at World Championships
There are a couple of riders that could challenge Dygert this year, including both Dutch riders in the event, Anna van der Breggen and Annemiek van Vleuten. Van der Breggen was the eventual victor of the World Championships in 2020 after Dygert's crash, and she also won bronze in the TT at Rio 2016. These will be her last Games, so to win gold would be a nice addition to an already bulging trophy cabinet. Van Vleuten has never podiumed at the Olympics but has won the World Championships twice. Despite enjoying some early-season success the Movistar rider hasn't been able to replicate her stellar performances of 2020, but she certainly shouldn't be discounted. Of course, after that brutal disappointment of believing she had won the road race, only to discover that Anna Kiesenhofer had held on until the finish line, van Vleuten will have yet more fire in her belly for this ITT.
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As the Austrian’s daring solo win in the road race underscored, nothing in cycling is a ‘sure thing’. We could see another shock victor here on the Tokyo TT course and – as the route is quite hilly – it may suit some of the stronger climbers. Elisa Longo-Borghini, Italy's national champion, will be looking to improve upon her last Olympic performance after finishing fifth in Rio. A disappointing Giro Donne won't have served as the best preparation for Longo-Borghini but her bronze medal in the road race a few days ago shows she is certainly still capable of a good result. Lisa Brennauer of Germany could also be a surprise performer. She finished fourth in last year's Worlds, although granted, the route was certainly a lot flatter and perhaps more suited to her skillset.
Marlen Reusser of Switzerland shouldn't be discounted after finishing second in last year's Worlds and winning the Swiss national road and time trial championships this year. Australia's Grace Brown continues to impress with her meteoric rise to stardom, and after her stellar third place in the mountain time trial at this year's Giro Donne, could we see an Australian win an Olympic women's TT medal for the first time?
The British team will be looking to Anna Shackley for their medal hopes. The 20-year-old has enjoyed a great start to her WorldTour career with SD Worx, but this Olympics will be her first Games and as she isn't a time trial specialist, it's difficult to see her competing for a medal in this event.
Although the Dutch have had the road race sewn-up for the previous two Olympic Games, the time trial gold medal is something that has eluded them since Athens 2004 when Leontien van Moorsel secured her second medal in the discipline. Although other countries have had a look-in over the past couple of Games, including Great Britain with Emma Pooley and Russia with Olga Zabelinskaya, the two dominant nations for over a decade have been the United States and the Netherlands. And with previous winner Kristin Armstrong now coaching a dominant Dygert, it looks to be a hard task for anyone to loosen the Americans’ stranglehold on the event.
It is important to note that Dygert won’t only be riding the road events this year, she is part of the United States track squad where she will be looking to better her previous silver medal in the team pursuit. With the pressure on her to succeed in so many events, could this be an ask too many for the American, who hasn’t really (bar the national time trial) raced since her crash at Imola? Only time will tell.
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What is the route?
The route follows the same course as the men's, just a lap shorter. It's 22.2km in length and takes in 423 metres of climbing over the lap. The route begins and ends at Fuji Speedway, from which there is a descent followed by a long climb. From there, they re-enter the speedway and climb once more before the finish. The route will be overlooked by the landscape of Mount Fuji, promising to provide an exceptional backdrop and plenty of photo opportunities reminiscent of Imola last year.
Where can I watch it?
The event kicks off at 3:30 BST UK time on Wednesday 28 July. Watch every unmissable moment live from Tokyo 2020 across Eurosport, Eurosport app and discovery+. Download the Eurosport app for iOS and Android now.