Road Worlds 2012: Vorobyev victorious in U23 time trial

Australia's Dennis, Howson complete podium

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Anton Vorobyev (Russia) upset the odds by storming to victory in the under-23 time trial at the world championships in Valkenburg, beating pre-race favourite Rohan Dennis (Australia) by a mammoth 44 seconds over the 36km course, while another Australian, Damien Howson, took bronze.

The geography of the Limburg area naturally makes for exacting time trial courses, but Vorobyev made light work of the rolling roads to post an average speed of some 48.9kph. If his dominance wasn’t already highlighted by the emphatic way he zoomed through the finish area, it was confirmed by a cursory glance at his split times.

The day’s major obstacles – the two-kilometre climb of the Sibbegrubbe and then the haul up the Cauberg in the finale – came at the back end of the course, and that was precisely where Vorobyev stretched out his winning margin. 4 seconds ahead of Dennis after 13km and 16 seconds up after 26.5km, Vorobyev was the only rider whose rhythm seemed wholly undisturbed by the sting in the tail as he bounded up the Cauberg to claim the spoils.

Vorobyev said afterwards that he had made no special concessions to the difficulty of the course. "No, I just worked hard from the first metres," he said. "I was sure of myself and I hoped that I could win."

Fourth place in the under-23 time trial in Copenhagen last year, Vorobyev also fell just shy of the podium at the European championships in August, but the Itera-Katusha rider said that the Worlds had always been his primary objective for the 2012 campaign.

In the lead-in to the race, Vorobyev locked horns with both Dennis and Howson at the Memorial Fardelli and finished 3rd behind the Australians, and he said that Dennis had been the outstanding favourite to triumph in Valkenburg.

"I’ve had some races with him and he’s had good results," Vorobyev said. "He won two good races just before coming here [Fardelli and the Chrono Champenois – ed.], and it was evident that he was the favourite."

For his part, Dennis acknowledged that he had entered the race with the tag of favourite, but said that it had not impacted on his preparation for the Worlds. "It is a little bit of added pressure to be the favourite coming into a race and especially when it’s the world championships," he said. "It is a little bit difficult, but at the same time, you just put that behind you and look towards the next race."

Dennis has returned to the road in recent weeks after a season focused on the track, as he built towards the London 2012 Olympics, where he won silver in the team pursuit. "I transitioned well," he said. "I think I did what I could with the preparation and the time that I had."

Another medal winner from London – Lasse Norman Hansen (Denmark), who took gold in the omnium – had set the quickest time before the final wave of riders approached the finish. The Dane struggled over the rugged closing kilometres, however, and this was where Damien Howson managed to overhaul him and clock the best time with just five more finishers to come.

With reigning champion and final starter Rasmus Quaade (Denmark) struggling to find his rhythm out on the course (he would eventually finish fifth), it soon became apparent that only Vorobyev and Dennis would better Howson’s time.

When Vorobyev duly scorched home 51 seconds quicker, all eyes turned to Dennis to see if he had managed pick up time over the final ten kilometres. It was not to be for the Australian. Not for the last time this week, the Cauberg delivered its verdict, and Vorobyev was world champion.

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