Germany’s Tony Martin came close to matching the speed of his six-man Omega-Pharma Quick Step team on his way to a third consecutive time trial title at the Road Cycling World Championships on Wednesday.
Britain’s Olympic champion Bradley Wiggins finished second, with Swiss former champion Fabian Cancellara claiming bronze.
Martin clocked a winning time of 1 hour, 5 minutes and 36 seconds on the mainly flat 57.8km course from Montecatini Terme to Florence to beat Wiggins by 46 seconds, with Cancellara finishing 48 seconds off the German’s pace.
At an average speed of 52.91kph, Martin came close to matching the 53.4kph set by his Omega Pharma team on their way to victory in the team event on an almost identical course at the weekend.
Martin led at every time check bar one and by the halfway point the 28-year-old from Cottbus looked well on his way to his third straight gold in the race against the clock.
“To win a world championship is always special. To win it a third time in a row is even more special,” Martin said. “To win it this way — I can’t imagine a better race for me. I always knew I was able to win, but to know, and to do it, is different.”
Wiggins, who had hoped to add a maiden world title in the event to a list of honors which includes last year’s Olympic time trial crown, was sitting in the bronze medal position for most of the race, but finished strongly to push Cancellara down a place.
Wiggins began trailing Cancellara by 15 seconds near the halfway point, but came fighting back in the final 20 minutes and pipped the Swiss for second place by just 2 seconds.
“I had no idea until I finished and collapsed in the tent as to where I was,” Wiggins said. “In the final 20 minutes I was pretty oblivious to everything and you are just trying to get home. I love the sport and it is nice and an honor to be on the podium with those two guys. It will be something to show the kids when I’m older.”
Cancellara had shown promise early on, but once Martin got into his stride on the long, straight roads leading into the city he was able to comfortably distance his rivals.
Despite missing out on the silver medal, Cancellara said: “I’m happy with my performance.”
The US’ Taylor Phinney, expected to be in the hunt for a podium finish, finished fifth, 2:08 adrift. Belarusian Vasil Kiryienka was fourth, 1:26 behind the winner.
The championships are to finish on Sunday when the main event, the men’s road race, is held with Belgium’s defending champion Philippe Gilbert hoping to defend his title.
No races were held yesterday because the candidates for the presidency of the International Cycling Union, incumbent Pat McQuaid and Britain’s Brian Cookson, were likely to be engaged in last-minute lobbying ahead of the election today.