Van Dijk and Kiryjenka among time trial favourites

Baku, June 18, AZERTAC

Ellen van Dijk of the Netherlands will have her sights set on winning the first European Games time trial gold when she starts the 25.8km individual ride against the clock at Bilgah Beach today. Hanna Solovey of Ukraine and Belgium's Ann-Sophie Duyck are two of the leading riders at Baku 2015 who will not make it easy on her.

Van Dijk won the world time trial title in 2013 and Dutch cycling technical director Thorwald Veneberg named her as backbone for both the time trial and the road race, which is scheduled for Saturday, 20 June at Freedom Square in the city centre of the Azerbaijan capital.

"Ellen van Dijk is the motor of our team," Veneberg said.

The 28-year-old Dutchwoman has been one of the better time triallists in recent years, and her main European rivals mostly come from Germany. With German cyclists absent from the European Games, van Dijk will face fierce competition from elsewhere in Baku.

Hanna Solovey will be a force to be reckoned with. The 23-year-old took a silver medal at the 2014 world championships in which van Dijk set a disappointing seventh-best time.

The only other European rival to finish ahead of van Dijk at the 2014 world championships was Ann-Sophie Duyck. The 27-year-old Belgian finished fifth and she also had set her sights on the Baku time trial.

Some of the biggest names in men's time trialling have opted to prioritise stage races in Switzerland in their preparations for the Tour de France, which will start on 4 July in Utrecht, Netherlands.

Great Britain is also not fielding any riders, but other specialists may take their Giro d'Italia form into the Baku ride against the clock.

Vasil Kiryjenka of Belarus won the 59.4km Giro d'Italia individual time trial on 23 May when he beat multiple Spanish national time trial champion Luis Leon Sanchez by 12 seconds. The 33-year-old was selected for the Baku time trial by the Belarusian federation. Sanchez had also earmarked Baku 2015.

Former Italian national time trial champion Dario Cataldo will defend the Azzurri honour together with 28-year-old Manuele Boaro in Baku. Cataldo finished 38th in the Giro d' Italia time trial.

Dutchman Stef Clement is another former time trial national champion who will line up to tackle the 51.6km men's course on 18 June. He was 14th in the Giro d'Italia time trial.

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