When they call Swiss time trial specialist Fabian Cancellara 'Spartacus', it really hits the mark.
The 27-year-old battled uphill to a well deserved Olympic bronze in the road race on Saturday, and he’s ready to fight off the specialist climbers to stand two steps higher on the podium of the time trial this Wednesday.
"I've been building towards the Games for a long time and I've showed with this bronze medal that I'm on great form," says Cancellara.
On the day the Games saw its first positive doping case in the sport of cycling, it’s worth remembering that the men's time trial gold was won in controversial fashion in Athens (2004). A post-race doping control on a blood sample from American Tyler Hamilton was declared negative, though it was deemed "suspicious" for blood doping by the World Anti Doping Agency's Athens laboratory. He was allowed to keep his medal, but tested positive for blood doping on the Tour of Spain a month later.
Cancellara, a former Paris-Roubaix winner, the reigning Milan-San Remo champion and a two-time world time trial champion, is one of those cyclists who get tested a lot.
He was tested eight times at the Tour de France, where he was beaten in the race's two time trials by German Stefan Schumacher on relatively flat courses, and in Beijing he’s already been tested twice. Although a favourite for Olympic gold, he will be scouring a potentially long list of rivals. Spaniard Alberto Contador, Levi Leipheimer of the United States, Australian Michael Rogers and Russian Denis Menchov will all have to be beaten if he is to strike gold.
Yet the Swiss insists he has the tools for the job in the 47.6 km race, which is held over two laps of the hilly 23.8km circuit used for the road race.
"I've got a slightly more imposing build and a more solid engine than my rivals," he says with a smile.
Spain-based Menchov comes into the Games still with the form that took him to a fourth place finish at the Tour de France and plenty of confidence.
"I think I can do well in the time trial. It will be hard but the course suits me," said Mechov, who came into the Olympics as a late replacement for Vladimir Gusev.
Evans' participation in the time trial, following a post-Tour knee injury, was confirmed on Sunday. However, despite being a former Commonwealth champion and the 31-year-old winning the pre-Olympics Good Luck event in December 2007, the Aussies are looking more towards Rogers to grab a medal.
Rogers is a former three-time world champion who, having missed three months out this season through glandular fever, just missed out on the medals in the men's road race. His sixth place finish on what proved to be a tough race of attrition between most of the world's best cyclists has lifted his mood, and that of top Australia coach Shayne Bannan.
"After today’s (Saturday’s) performance, I would say that Mick would have in his mind that he's a chance for a medal," said Bannan.
© BikeRadar & AFP 2008