The 2017 Tour de France starts with a short 13km TT around the streets of Dusseldorf. It will give big Tony Martin a great opportunity to win a stage and pull on the yellow jersey in his home nation and you'd have to think he'll be basing his entire season around the 16 minutes or so that it will take him to complete the 13km course.
An almost totally flat stage that spends nearly 10kms of the 13km distance on the banks of the Rhine, or on bridges crossing it.. The only bumps on the profile below are where the road rises slightly to cross the two bridges. They start out from the Messe Dusseldorf and head along the banks on the northern side of the river for 4kms, then curve up and over the bridge to the south bank.
They head south and quickly cross back over the Rhinekniebrucke bridge, on to the Haroldstrasse where they turn sharply left and pass the intermediate time check with 8.1kms gone. A few lefts and rights and they are back on the Rotterdamer Strasse for the last 4kms on a flat, and flat out run to the line.
Contenders and Favourites
Starting with the German champion on German soil.. Tony Martin is the four-time World Time Trial Champion, three-time winner of the Chrono des Nations, Five-times-in-a-row winner of the German Nationals, three-time winner of TTs in the TDF. His results this year have been ok, but hadn't won a TT this year up until the German nationals, and he only just won that by 15" from Jasha Sutterlin.
Second in the 18km TT in the Algarve to Jonathan Castroviejo, an understandable 21st in the hilly TT in Paris-Nice, 2nd in the Belgium Tour TT to Matthias Brandle and 2nd to Richie Porte in the Dauphiné TT, but I don't think he's too bothered about the results this year to date though, this is the one that matters.
Martin knows what it takes to win a TT like this and will be going flat out to take the yellow here. He shouldn't have any problems with this course. It's dead flat, and actually doesn't have too many bends, with lots of long, straight stretches - the first 4kms and last 4kms along the river are where he will crush it.
LottoNL Jumbo have two strong contenders here too in Primoz Roglic and Jos Van Emden. Primus Roglic has shown what he is capable of already this year, winning the TT in Pais Vasco (over 27.7kms), Romandie (18.3kms) and the prologue in SterZM (7.5kms). He continues to progress as a rider at a rapid rate and the former ski-jumper can rightly be found at the top end of the betting for a TT like this now, he's almost joint favourite with Martin, at 5/2. I have a feeling though that this course isn't perfectly suited to him, he'd prefer it a little hillier I think, but he is sure to put in a big showing.
Jos Van Emden on the other hand is a lot more suited to this sort of course, he prefers them flat and without hills. He finished 2nd in that Tirreno TT, just 3" behind Rohan Dennis and 8" ahead of Roglic. He also did brilliantly in the final TT in the Giro in Milan, beating Dumoulin by 15" to win the stage, he was 8th in the other, longer TT on stage 10, that one didn't suit him so much.
He doesn't win often, but he is pretty consistent over shorter distances (2nd in last year's Eneco TT over 10kms) and 2nd in last years TT in Qatar (over 11kms) so he could be right up there again in this, and I'd honestly rather be on him each-way at 6/1 than Roglic at 5/2.
Another big rival will probably be the man who beat Martin by 4" in that TT in the Algarve, Movistar's Spanish TT champion Jonathan Castroviejo. JC took that win in the Algarve, then finished 2nd to his team-mate Dowsett in the TT in the Circuit Cycliste Sarthe. Now three-times Spanish TT champion, European Champion last year, 3rd and 4th in the Worlds. He is one of the best TT'ers here over a distance like this and on a flat course. He crushed the opposition in the Spanish nationals just last week, showing how strong he is, he is sure to be in the top 6, maybe the top 3 and on a really, really good day, could take Martin again like he did in the Algarve. At 22/1 he's a good bet.
Stefan Kung is in superb form at the moment, having just taken the Swiss TT championships, winning it by 57" from Silvan Dillier. Before that he finished 2nd in both the TTs of the Tour de Suisse. In the first 6km flat TT he finished just 8" behind Dennis and in the second, longer 28.6km, hillier TT he finished 29" behind his team-mate. But 6/1 is a lot shorter than I was expecting, was hoping for 10/1 or bigger.. I think that's just a little too short, but he is sure to go close.
Michal Kwiatkowski absolutely hammered some decent time triallists in Marcin Bialblocki and Maciej Bodnar (winners in the previous two years) in the Polish TT championships a few weeks back, winning by 1'15".. He regained his title he last won in 2014, but he also finished 2nd in 2013 and 2012. Kwiat was in excellent form in the spring, winning Strade Bianche, Milan San Remo and finishing 2nd in Amstel Gold Race and 3rd in LBL. He has good legs, but I'm not sure he'll be going full gas here, I'm not interested in him at just 22/1.
Chris Froome of course knows that the race is not won or lost in this short TT right at the start of the race, but he'll be going all out to land a blow against his rivals. He is effective over short and long distances, but he hasn't really shone this year so far in his TTs, and didn't look great in the Dauphiné just gone. 9th in the 18km TT in Romandie, 38" behind Porte and 46" behind Roglic, 8th in the Dauphiné, 37" behind Porte and 25" behind Martin. Hard to know what sort of Froome turns up here, but I'm not backing him and am tempted to lay him for a top 3 place too, I think a few will be too fast for him.
Former World Champion Vasil Kiryienka still commands respect, despite only winning one TT since the Chrono des Nations in October 2015, and that was the Chrono Des Nations in 2016, beating his only serious rival there, Castroviejo by just 5". He finished 2nd in the World's last year, but other than that, a lot of his TTs have been pretty mediocre and some were downright disgraceful as he pottered around courses seemingly not giving a damn, saving himself for the Skytrain.
Richie Porte is going so well at the moment he might go close to a top 3 position in this too. He is in the form of his life as far as I can see and he is going to be fighting for every second in this race, right from the start I think. There is no more Mr. Nice Guy hopefully from Porte and he needs to put in a big ride in this I think to lay down a marker early on. He should come close to a podium and 25/1 looks tempting.
Over a shorter distance like this you could see some surprises too, with some of the sprinters like Michael Matthews or Marcel Kittel posting good times, they will be going hard to try to finish as close to the winner as possible, as they could take the yellow jersey with bonus seconds in the stages that follow. Matthews in particular could be eyeing up the jersey, he is capable of an excellent TT. He finished 6th in the TT in Pais Vasco, 4th in the 6km first TT in TDS and 16th in the 28.6km TT at the end. Watch out for a big ride from him.
And you also have Nelson Oliveira, Ion Izagirre, Maciej Bodnar, New Belgian TT champ Yves Lampaert, Geraint Thomas, Fabio Felline, Double British Champion Steve Cummings, Runner-up Alex Dowsett and Luke Durbridge who could all go well too, but I think they will struggle to break the top 6.
Tony Martin looks a solid bet at 2/1to send the home fans in to raptures on Saturday afternoon, with a stage win and the first yellow jersey of the race. Jos Van Emden can run him close though at an ok price each-way.Recommendations:1pt e/w on Jos Van Emden at 5/12pts win on Tony Martin at 2/1Best Lines Offered: at Paddy Power