Key Takeaways: What We Learned During the World Time Trial Championships
Breaking down how Tobias Foss stunned the favorites to win the World Time Trial Championships and what it tells us about the upcoming road race
At the recent Men’s World Time Trial Championships in picturesque Wollongong, Australia, the relatively unknown young Norwegian Tobias Foss stunned the favorites to win the event ahead of Stefan Küng and Remco Evenepoel. The event was surprisingly exciting, with the top three all finishing within 9-seconds of each other, and Ethan Hayter, the only other rider able to match the firepower of the top three, finishing just 40-seconds off the pace despite suffering a mid-race dropped/jammed chain that cost him a shot at the victory.
As a standalone event, the World’s best time trialists riding around a beautiful coastal Australian town might not be incredibly interesting to most, but this particular event, due to its surprising and tight final result along with standout performances from up-and-coming young riders, taught us a few lessons about what to expect during this coming weekend’s World Championship road race, and beyond.
Individual Time Trial World Championship Top 10
1) Tobias Foss +0
2) Stefan Küng +3
3) Remco Evenepoel +9
4) Ethan Hayter +40
5) Stefen Bissegger +47
6) Tadej Pogačar +48
7) Filippo Ganna +56
8) Nelson Oliveira +59
9) Yves Lampaert +1’09
10) Bruno Armirail +1’10
Intermediate Check #2: The young Norwegian came through the 2nd intermediate time check a blazing 32-seconds ahead of Magnus Sheffield, and most importantly, looking incredibly strong on the bike.
Finish: He powers over the finish line 47-seconds ahead of Stefan Bissegger to set the fastest time of the day so far, but with the major heavy-hitters starting later, it seems almost certain he won’t be able to hold it.
Intermediate Time Check #1: The 24-year-old British rider comes through the first time check half a second up on Foss and shows he is on a great ride.
18.6km-to-go: Hayter stays on pace to challenge Foss’ time, but roughly halfway through the course, he drops his chain and once it becomes stuck between his chainring and frame, he is forced to get off and wait for a new machine.
He gets a new bike 30-seconds later, but he is extremely slow to get his shoes clipped into the pedals and lacks urgency due to the emotional letdown of likely losing the race.
Finish: Despite the mid-race hiccup, he comes over the finish line just 40-seconds behind Hayter, which is likely just about equal to the delay of slowing down, waiting for a new bike, and getting back up to speed again.
Intermediate Check #2: The big Swiss rider rips through the 2nd time check a stunning 12-seconds ahead of Foss and appears en route to a winning ride.
Finish: However, by the finish line, Kung has surrendered 15-seconds to Foss on the final 3rd of the course and comes in 3-seconds behind.
Finish: We don’t see much of Evenepoel on course, but the Vuelta champion, after a strong opening time check, has lost small chunks of time to both Foss and Kung throughout the rest of the course and comes in 3rd at 9-seconds back.
1) Tobias Foss won this race due to perfect pacing
The 25-year-old Norwegian shocked the world by making a world title his first professional (national championships don’t count) win.
Perhaps the lack of expectations and pressure was key to this win since when we look at Foss’ Strava file for his effort, we see that he had an incredibly well-paced effort, in which he averaged 415 watts through 39.5-minutes and actually increased his output throughout the course, while high-profile contenders, like Filippo Ganna and Stefan Küng, went out extremely fast, only to fade in the final 3rd.
By breaking down the course into thirds, we see that Foss started relatively ‘easy’ and picked up his pace through each section.
1/3: 410 average watts
2/3: 416 average watts
3/3: 421 average watts
2) Attention to detail, not just raw power, is key in modern time trials
These power numbers might appear inconceivably large for an average rider, but interestingly, they didn’t actually separate him from the pack in this race.
For example, while most riders don’t publish their power numbers, Canadian Derek Gee, who finished two minutes back in 19th place, produced a higher average power than Foss, 421 watts, at roughly the same weight. I would also suspect that the other contenders like Evenepoel and Küng produced similar, if not even better, power-to-weight ratios than Foss.
The fact that Foss could beat riders while putting out equal, or perhaps even less, power tells us that he gained an advantage by saving time via smooth cornering, pacing, and more aerodynamic equipment and positioning on the bike.
3) Jumbo-Visma further cements itself as the sport’s TT powerhouse
The most shocking thing about Foss’ World Championship victory is that when we look at the roster of Jumbo-Visma, he is a thoroughly middle-class time trialist within his own team, with Wout Van Aert, Primož Roglič, Tom Dumoulin, Jonas Vingegaard, and Rohan Dennis all consistently outperforming Foss in recent years up until this win.
Jumbo’s embarrassment of riches in the discipline becomes even more clear when we look at just how dominant they have been in the sport’s major set-piece time trials (which I consider to be the Worlds, Olympics, and Tour de France) over the last 14 months.
Top Jumbo TT Results 2021-2022:
2021 Tour de France ITT:
Stage 5: 3rd (Vingegaard)
Stage 20: 1st (Van Aert), 3rd (Vingegaard)
2021 Olympic TT: 1st (Roglic), 2nd (Dumoulin), 3rd (Dennis)
2021 World Championship TT: 2nd (Van Aert)
2022 Tour de France ITT:
Stage 1: 2nd (Van Aert)
Stage 20: 1st (Van Aert), 2nd (Vingegaard)
2022 World Championship TT: 1st (Foss)
Looking at these results and knowing that the power generated by Foss wasn’t higher than his competition, it is very possible that Jumbo’s dominance isn’t just due to the talent within their ranks, but also their mastery of the margins of the time trial discipline like equipment choices, cornering, pacing and riders’ aerodynamic position.
4) Jumbo has potentially found yet another previously unknown grand tour talent
While a stand-alone World Time Trial Championship, especially for a rider without a professional win, is nothing to scoff at, the major takeaway for me was that Foss showed he has what it takes to become a great stage racer.
The most surprising and intriguing part about his World’s win is that instead of just being a time trial specialist, Foss’ greatest strength lies in his stage racing ability. In fact, he has already put in promising GC results, finishing 9th overall at the 2021 Giro d’Italia.
And his presence on the Jumbo team, which has already found and developed grand tour winners like Primož Roglič and Jonas Vingegaard, means that if he wants to, Foss has the institutional tools around him to advance his career and become Jumbo’s latest budding GC talent.
5) Ethan Hayter proved he has the engine to become Ineos’ next British GC contender
The 24-year-old might have left extremely disappointed that his ill-timed dropped chain cost him roughly the entirety of his 40-second deficit to Foss, but during his ride, Hayter showed he is continuing to develop from a talented youngster to a potential GC star.
His impressive ride proved without a doubt that he has the world-class sustained power engine to conquer long, alpine climbs if he has the ambition to alter his diet and lifestyle to match the monk-like riders who dominate modern grand tours.
In addition to time trials, his sharp finishing punch will help him rack up significant time bonuses and means that he can deploy the highly efficient ‘Roglic formula’ of racking up an advantage in reduced finishes and time trials and simply defending in the mountains.
6) Remco Evenepoel is still on top form and will almost certainly shake up the upcoming road race
I had a few doubts about how the recent Vuelta a España champion would perform after wrapping up an impressive three-week victory at the Vuelta before turning around to race in Australia just a week later, but Evenepoel’s strong ride, where he claims to have put out some career-best power numbers, tells us he has been able to retain his incredible Vuelta-winning form.
With even more time to adjust to the new time zone and recover from his Vuelta efforts between now and the road race on Sunday, Evenepoel will certainly be a force on the difficult course and should be considered a contender for the win.
7) Tadej Pogačar might not be on top form, but he proved he is strong enough to take the road race World Title
The two-time Tour de France champion rode to a fairly anonymous 6th place in the TT, finishing 48-seconds behind Foss and 39-seconds behind Evenepoel. This might have been disappointing to some casual viewers, but, this is actually a good ride for a GC contender at a highly-specialized event.
Outside of Evenepoel, Pogačar was the only other rider to have finished on a grand tour podium in the event, and it is extremely unusual for riders to compete for grand tours and stand-alone time trial titles in the same season (this makes Evenepoel’s 3rd place ride and Roglic’s Olympic TT win in 2021 seem even more impressive).
And, as he showed en route to winning the recent GP Montreal, Pogačar doesn’t have to be at his absolute fittest to win major one-day races since he packs enough of a finishing punch to sit in the group and follow wheels before winning out of reduced, and extremely fatigued, group with a sprint finish.