Filippo Ganna continues his transition from the track to the pro road peloton during Belgium's opening weekend, where the 21-year-old Italian will gain more valuable experience as an anchor of the 'youth brigade' on UAE Team Emirates' diverse roster for Saturday's Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Sunday's Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne.
Ganna will join Matteo Bono, Simone Consonni, Marco Marcato, Aleksandr Riabushenko, Ben Swift and Oliviero Troia in the Belgian races, making his first appearances in the events after missing them last year because of the track world championships.
"In 2017, my first year in the professional ranks, with the worlds on the track, I only had a small taste of the Belgian races, participating in Gent-Wevelgem and the BinckBank Tour," he said. "Regardless, they allowed me to breathe in the air of these particular and anticipated events loved by so many cyclists and fans."
Ganna scored a bronze in the Team Pursuit at the Track World Championships last year and a silver in the Individual Pursuit, the discipline in which he is the reigning European champion. Since then he has turned his attention to the road, where he has developed into a time trial specialist.
Ganna started the 2018 season at the Vuelta a San Juan, where he finished second in the stage 3 time trial and led the overall race for two days. He eventually lost the lead on the climb to Alto Colorado on stage 5, but he held on to take third overall and win the youth classification. From there he went to the Dubai Tour, where he finished 37th overall. He's hoping to carry his good form into the Belgian races.
"This year, I will have a chance to participate in more of these types of races, already in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and in Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne I will try to get my bearings and understand the dynamics of the race, all with the mindset of learning," he said. "I can count on expert teammates like Marcato, Bono and Swift."
Ganna will also have added firepower with teammate Consonni, the sprinter who grabbed three top-10 finishes at Tour Down Under in January and is also coming off the Dubai Tour, where he worked for Alexander Kristoff.
"I'm going to arrive in Belgium with good legs and the knowledge that I've reached good form from the first races of 2018 in Australia and Dubai," Consonni said. “In the last race in Dubai, I worked to support Kristoff, and I really learnt a lot.
"I'm going back north after gaining so much experience in 2017. In Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne I'm ready to play my cards, given the race is adapted to my characteristics."
UAE Team Emirates for Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne: Matteo Bono, Simone Consonni, Filippo Ganna, Marco Marcato, Aleksandr Riabushenko, Ben Swift, Oliviero Troia