- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 22, 2015

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Germany’s Tony Martin is far too modest to label himself the odds-on favorite to regain his time trial world championship when the men take to the course on Wednesday.

Leave that to Rohan Dennis and everybody else.

“He is the favorite. I can’t really take that away,” said his Australian rival, turning to Martin seated a few feet away. “You’ve been the top for what, the last five years, mate?”

Martin won three straight world championships before finishing second to Britain’s Bradley Wiggins a year ago in Spain. But now that Wiggins has more or less retired from road racing, Martin arrived in Virginia this week with the spotlight on him.

Dennis figures to give him a challenge. So does Dutch rider Tom Dumoulin, the bronze medalist a year ago fresh off an impressive performance at the Vuelta a Espana. Taylor Phinney of the U.S., Jonathan Castroviejo of Spain and Italy’s Adriano Malori are also in the hunt.

“It’s important for me, after the Tour de France, the individual time trial,” Martin said after helping his Ettix-QuickStep team to silver in the men’s team time trial on Sunday.

“Our goal was to get gold there. It’s not so nice for the morale for Wednesday,” he said, “but at the end, it was also a condition check and I think my ride was fine, so I’m quite optimistic for Wednesday. I’m looking forward to it now.”

The 30-year-old Martin has long been considered the best in the world in this event, but he proved how versatile a rider he’s become in July, when he took the yellow jersey in the Tour de France. He gamely defended it until crashing out on Stage 6 with a broken collarbone.

Martin returned to racing a month later, winning the Tour du Poitou-Charentes.

Dennis is one of the few riders to beat Martin in a race against the clock. The former world hour record holder beat him by 5 seconds in the opening stage of the Tour, though that time trial course amounted to a 9-mile sprint. The world championships course covers 33 miles from the Kings Dominion amusement park to downtown Richmond.

“I’m not getting too far ahead of myself,” said Dennis, part of the gold medal-winning BMC Racing Team that upstaged Martin’s trade team on Sunday. “But my goal is to win every time I line up. The team time trial showed I have good form.”

Also part of the BMC squad was Phinney, who hopes he is far enough along in his comeback from last year’s career-threatening crash that he can post a strong time on Wednesday.

Phinney, a former junior and under-23 world champion, was reticent to list himself among the favorites given his wild-card form. But he also said a top-10 finish is well within reach, and that would be enough to qualify the U.S. a spot at next year’s Rio Olympics.

“The biggest goal on my horizon is the Olympics. That’s what I’ve been looking forward to this whole time,” Phinney said. “Being in Richmond, it’s a huge bonus, a huge plus. It’s not something I was expecting. So trying to hang out here and enjoy the energy and the vibe.”

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