Can Taylor Knibb actually win in Paris?

Taylor Knibb is a professional cyclist and triathlete from America. She has recently qualified for the Olympics for triathlon, which most people expected, but then won the USA national TT championships to punch her ticket to Paris for the TT as well – which less people expected, including Knibb herself who said, “I’m in shock and so is my whole team. We just wanted to go out, give a good effort, and see — hopefully improving on last year. But it just all came together.” She beat a double world TT champion in order to win, so she wasn’t racing any Mickey Mouse field. This isn’t the first time a triathlete has dabbled in time trialing in recent years, with Canadian Paula Findlay racing in Stirling at the UCI World Championships in 2023. 

The nice thing about the USA National TT championships is all the riders take on the same course which means we have a larger pool of riders to pick from when calculating power numbers to figure out if Knibb can win in Paris. She also managed to top 20 the men’s race, which in a country as big as the USA, is quite impressive.

The course suited Knibb, a rider not known for her technical prowess, out and back along the river that runs through Charleston. The Paris Olympic TT is the polar opposite of this with many turns on a course that will be hard to recon (as Paris is a rather busy city). The technical aspects of the Paris time trial course will favor more skilled riders. However, a notable feature is the long, straight 5km stretch at the end, which will allow Knibb to make up any time lost in the corners. In this section, raw power and aerodynamics (watts/cda) will be crucial. 

Can Taylor Knibb actually win in Paris? Three Olympic time trial gold medals have been won by American women in the past – all of which were Kirsten Armstrong, and there’s been a few others winning silver and bronze along the way. There’s most definitely pedigree and it should tell us that USAC aren’t sending her as a publicity stunt. 

Figuring out whether Knibb can win in Paris is a question of working out how fast she could ride the course based on what she did at the USAC national championships then working out how fast the women’s winner of the Paris TT might go – a slightly more difficult task. 

Estimating Knibb’s numbers

Triathlete Taylor Knibb (Boulder, Colo.; Trek Factory Racing) secured the National Title in her second-ever Time Trial National Championship, finishing with a time of 41:54.69. Fixing this time, we’ve had a look at the various different combinations of power and cda required to achieve this time.

It’s likely that Taylor Knibb’s performance lies somewhere along (or close to) this orange line – exactly where is hard to say without access to her power meter but either way, her performance was very impressive.

Is it enough to win in Paris?

There’s likely gains to be found in Knibb’s set up when it comes to aerodynamics. Purely because she has not been time trialing long – she has great sponsors and a manager who understands what it takes to win an Olympic gold medal (her manager’s wife is Gwen Jorgenson, winner of the triathlon in Rio). The woman’s TT is likely to be around a 40 minute effort in Paris – not dissimilar from the USA national championships. There are around 15 corners in the TT route in Paris and Knibb will have to improve technically between now and then to be in with a chance of winning.