Cancellara vs. Contador, CSC vs. Astana, CSC vs. CSC, Astana vs. Astana. It was an up and down time trial that constantly redrew the lines of battle. The riders went off in three groups, with Canadian Svein Tuft the best of the first two groups, but it was the third group that really brought the fireworks.
Early on it was Contador scaling the Great Wall uphill, Cancellara tearing down that wall on the descents. Contador set the fastest time at the first time check on the uphill climb; Cancellara took back the lead at the second time check after the descent. Woe to any rider caught anywhere near the two as the passing of 90-second riders was fast and furious. Cancellara even got post-Tour-de-France revenge on Schumacher, who got to watch Cancellara power past at the start of the second lap.
Cancellara and Contador may have been eating up the time checks, but the man who was setting top times before them wasn't fading. Cancellara's CSC teammate Gustav Larsson had set the best times at the first and second checks before Cancellara and Contador rolled through. At first it looked like a battle between Larsson and Leipheimer, but Leipheimer slowly drifted further and further behind. CSC 1, Astana 0.
Big hopes were on Contador as he started his second lap. The uphill climb, which favored him so heavily the first lap, instead seemed to weigh heavily on his legs the second time around. Larsson, on the other hand, only improved on his position: this time when he set the fastest time at the third check, it stuck. CSC 2, Astana 0. Even Cancellara had to bow to Larsson's time.
With Leipheimer and Contador defeated, teammate was now turned against teammate. Contador now as battling Leipheimer for podium and It was up to Cancellara to prove his World Champion stripes by hunting Larsson down for gold.
It wasn't a fair battle. The time trial course was identical to the road race course. That final stretch into the finish is the same stretch that Cancellara screamed across to bridge two gaps and take bronze. They should rename that stretch in his honor because he tore it up again, taking the gold medal by almost half a minute. Larsson took silver and in the battle for bronze, Leipheimer held off both Contador and a late charge from Cadel Evans. On top of Kristin Armstrong's gold medal, USA cycling can be very proud.
As expected, the uphill course didn't suit Zabriskie's style and he wasn't able to best Svein Tuft's early best time. It seemed the course didn't really suit anyone, in fact. Plenty of riders in both the men's and women's time trial immediately dismounted and laid out on the ground just pass the finish. Even Cancellara had to take a seat and pour water of his head repeatedly.