Almost no one expected Tobias Foss to win the World Championships’ time-trial, but huge upsets in sports sometimes happen – particularly after long travel to the other side of the world. Sunday was the performance of Foss’ career delivering an evenly paced ride with a huge final sector to shatter Stefan Küng’s rainbow dreams.
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The World Championships’ time trial for both men and women took place on a 34.2km course around Wollongong, featuring two repetitions of a virtually identical 17km circuit. The speed of the course was not expected to be blazing fast like the point to point flat time trial in Alicante in the Vuelta a few weeks ago or indeed the flat course in Leuven last year. With just under 10 metres of altitude gain per kilometre and numerous corners, pacing would be crucial for setting a fast time.
Foss’ pacing strategy was perfect. He did 413 watts in the first lap and 417 watts in the second lap. Sometimes riders in long hilly time-trials like today pace the first lap too hard, which happened in Filippo Ganna’s case. The Italian started too hard and blew up. The French champion Bruno Armirail for example did 18 watts more in the first lap than in the second.
Küng was faster than Foss by 2 seconds to the first checkpoint (T1) and 9 seconds faster from T1 to T2. With a 11 second advantage it seemed that Küng would finally win a big time-trial in his career ahead of Ganna and Evenepoel after multiple close calls but unfortunately for FDJ’s big Swiss, he faded in the last 10 minutes (like he did in Leuven last year), finishing second by just 3 seconds.
From the second checkpoint to the finish Küng lost 14 seconds to Foss in less than 10 kilometres. Foss did an amazing last quarter but it was also Küng who underperformed (unless this was part of his pacing plan), being by only fifth fastest in this section, while he was the fastest in T1 and from T1 to T2.
Foss did save some huge watts for the final part. In the final 4.3 kilometres he produced 446 watts, his best 5 minute power in the race.
To emphasise how big an upset this result from Foss was, it is arguable that Foss was Jumbo-Visma’s 7th best time-trialist on their roster before the weekend (Van Aert, Roglič, Dumoulin, Vingegaard, Laporte, Dennis all with better time trial results in 2022). Before the race, Foss’ trade teammate Affini was an even bigger favourite according to the bookies. Foss’ odds before the race ranged from 101 to 200, according to various bookmakers. His father was one of the rare people to believe (partially) in him. He placed a small bet of 50 Norwegian Krones (5 Euros) on his son to win and won 5000 NOK (500 euros) in the end.
Despite Wout van Aert’s absence in the race, Jumbo-Visma now has a world champion in the time trial after Van Aert’ second place finishes in the 2020 and 2021 editions. Van Aert would have been a big favourite to win the race, alongside Filippo Ganna and Remco Evenepoel, but the Belgian chose not to participate so he could concentrate solely on the road race. Would have Van Aert won today if he was riding? No one knows, but the course certainly suited him. Evenepoel after the race admitted in an interview with Sporza that it was one of his best time-trials ever, according to his power data. This increases the merits of Foss’ performance who evidently won because of his world class level on Sunday rather than his competitors underperforming.
However on a pure watts basis, Foss’ 415 watts for 40 minutes does not seem that impressive considering his weight of over 70kg – at least not impressive enough to win a World Championships. His time-trial setup and cornering skills must have given a huge boost to him on this technical course. Canadian champion Derek Gee finished 19th, losing +1:59 to Foss whilst averaging 419 watts – 4 more than the Norwegian. According to procyclingstats.com Foss is 184cm, 74kg, while Gee is 189cm, 76kg. The Israel Cycling Academy rider is only a little bit bigger and heavier than Foss, with weight not being as important on a course such as this compared to a hillier course like in the Toyko Olympics.
Of course, power meters usually have 1-2% accuracy so perhaps Foss’ power meter is under-reading, but it is clear that aerodynamics, set-up and position on the bike are so much more important than simply doing the most watts. It would be interesting to see the results of Gee and Foss with switched equipment and resources. Gee this season was largely riding for the Israel continental development team and will ride for Israel Premier-Tech in 2023. Unless there are substantial changes in the team’s expertise and equipment, it is unlikely that Gee will be able to achieve his potential in the time trial there.
This was the first pro victory outside of the Norwegian Championships for Foss. He had shown some good performances in the Giro d’Italia and Basque Country but nothing of this caliber, considering the elevated competition.
Foss’ time-trial results since 2020
In Volta ao Algarve 2022 there was a similar 32.2 km hilly time-trial. Evenepoel destroyed everyone, with Foss losing more than a minute on the similar course to the Belgian with Küng and Hayter finishing a bit closer. All of these four riders finished in the Top 4 in these world championships, with Hayter dropping his chain which cost him many seconds. Evenepoel in the Algarve time-trial did 392 watts. If his words are true, then he did similar watts today and yet lost 9 seconds to Foss.
If Foss can repeat this level in 2023 then he will be a persistent contender in WorldTour level time trials, however it remains to be seen how he can balance general classification ambitions with the shape required for such a performance. On the right parcours (such as the Vuelta 2022), Foss’ time trial should be a big weapon for good results in GC including at races like Volta ao Algarve. For now though, he will enjoy the fresh rainbow bands after pulling off one of 2022’s biggest sporting upsets.
Does Jumbo/Foss use the Dura-ace Power meter?
Yes, they do! Either the R9100 or the R9200 Power meter. In this TT Foss used the R9100 Power meter.
“one of 2022’s biggest sporting upsets” not for T. Foss
If I remember from when they were released back in the day that specific PM reads quite low, just something to keep in mind
Foss said in an interview that he did not have his own custom skinsuit with the national team and had to borrow a two year old skinsuit from Andreas Leknessund for this race.
I know it’s a bit pedantic but Dumo hasn’t been on the JV roster since mid August