Ballarat 37.5km ITT
The 2022 Aussie Road Nats kick off with the time trial. The organisers have stuck with the Mount Helen campus route, one that contains a fair bit of climbing throughout.
We have 429m of climbing in a 37.6km route, which means the route is lumpy. With COVID still running wild, we have fewer world tour pros than normal competing this week. Some of them have chosen to remain in Europe over the winter, hoping to reduce the risk of isolation. This will open the door to the local riders, but not in the time trial, as we still have all three of the big hitters on the start list.
The main climb is only 700m long, but it does average 7.9%. The riders tackle this twice, the first time is just after the start and the second is halfway through the route. It’s a tough climb, but too short to really have a massive impact on the outcome of the title.
A very nice 27 degrees, the Scottish summer feels a long way away! The wind will be 10 – 15km/h, it should be relatively similar for all competitors.
Luke Plapp – the defending champion. His win in 2021 was a stunning result, he beat Luke Durbridge by a whopping 43 seconds. He’s now riding for Ineos, which means he’ll now be using the best equipment too. Plapp was meant to compete in the recent Bay Crits but had to withdraw due to being a close contact, so his preparation for this event hasn’t been ideal. Last year we saw him win silver in the under 23 world TT championship, just missing out on gold by 10 seconds. Plapp is an outrageous talent, a rider who’s not far off the very best, and he’s only just turned 21.
Rohan Dennis – he won this title in 2016, 2017 and 2018. Then he was 2nd in 2019 and 2020, before not competing in 2021. Dennis is world class, one of the best TT riders in the last 10 years. He’s just made the switch from Ineos to Jumbo-Visma, that means changing bikes, something that can take riders a little while to get used to. Dennis will have his goals already clear in his mind for 2022, will that include this race? If his main targets are in the middle of the season, he’ll start this race undercooked, making it hard to win the title. However, if he’s made this race a target, he’ll be a hard man to beat. Last year we saw him return to form in this discipline, he won the TT in Catalunya and the prologue in Romandie, before winning the bronze medal in Tokyo. An on-form Dennis is a rider few can beat.
Luke Durbridge – Turbo Durbo was a late addition to the start list, possibly waiting until the last minute to book his flight from Perth, I hear that’s how you get the cheap tickets! The big man who here in 2012, 2013, 2019 and 2020, then he was second to Plapp in 2021. Durbridge always seems to start the year in superb form, he’s not one of the guys who tries to hold his peak back for later in the year. Winning the title for the fifth time would equal the record set by Nathan O’Neill, that would be a special piece of history for Turbo Durbo.
At this point it’s still unclear if Luke Plapp will be taking to the start line, we’ll have to wait and see if he gets out of isolation. I even sent him a message on Twitter, but he never got back to me, clearly he doesn’t know who I am! If he starts, he’ll win, if he doesn’t start I think Rohan Dennis will take the jersey.