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Filippo Ganna extends run of time trial success but opts out of cobbled Classics

MILANO ITALY OCTOBER 25 Filippo Ganna of Italy and Team INEOS Grenadiers during the 103rd Giro dItalia 2020 Stage 21 a 157km Individual time trial from Cernusco sul Naviglio to Milano ITT girodiitalia Giro on October 25 2020 in Milano Italy Photo by Tim de WaeleGetty Images
(Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Filippo Ganna extended his run of time trial victories at the Étoile de Bèsseges, taking a seventh consecutive win and confirming himself as the firm favourite for the time trial at the Tokyo Olympic Games.

The Ineos Grenadiers rider has not lost a time trial since taking the Italian national championships last August. He has since won the final time trial at Tirreno-Adriatico, the world title in Imola, the opening time trial at the Giro d’Italia in Palermo and the other two Giro time trials in Valdobbiadene and Milan. Ganna last lost a time trial at the 2020 Vuelta a San Juan when he was beaten by Remco Evenepoel. However, the 15.5km time trial was contested on normal road race bikes rather than time trial bikes.

The 24-year-old Ganna started his 2021 season with a road race victory on stage 4 of the Étoile de Bèsseges and 24 hours later blasted to a dominant victory in the final time trial around Ales, despite a climb up to the finish. 

“I was due to ride the Valenciana but after it was cancelled we quickly switched to here. It went pretty well….” Ganna told La Gazzetta dello Sport as he headed home to Italy after the French stage race.

“To be honest I’m quite a ways off my best form, I sense that I’m still behind with my fitness and that I’ve got room to improve. That makes me hopeful for the next goals.”

Ganna was struck by the COVID-19 virus after winning four stages at the Giro d’Italia and helping Tao Geoghegan Hart win the maglia rosa. However, he recovered quickly and spent much of the winter training in Gran Canaria with fellow Italians Gianni Moscon and Leonardo Basso.

“I’m not a robot and I make mistakes too. I do specific time trial training like every specialist and train on my time trial bike if it's not too cold. That’s what I did in Gran Canaria this winter and that perhaps helped me in France.”   

Ganna, now dubbed ‘Top Ganna’ by the Italian media in a play on words of the fighter pilot movie that starred Tom Cruise, will next ride the UAE Tour (February 21-27), which includes a 13km time trial, then Tirreno-Adriatico and Milan-San Remo (March 20). He will also return to the Giro d'Italia with the opening stage around Turin giving him another great chance of taking the first maglia rosa.  

Ganna reminds many people of Fabian Cancellara in the way he dominates time trials and then wins road races with solo attacks. In Italy, he has also been compared to Miguel Indurain and Bradley Wiggins in their hope he could also eventually target stage races and Grand Tours.   

Ganna won the Under 23 Paris-Roubaix in 2016 but will not target the cobbled Classics in 2021, preferring to focus on the Giro d’Italia and the Tokyo Olympics. An eventual attempt at the Hour Record on the track has also not been ruled out, with Ganna widely expected to become the first rider to break the four-minute barrier in the individual pursuit.

Italian track coach Marco Villa considers Ganna the anchor and engine of the Italian team pursuit squad after winning the individual pursuit world title four times. He will also ride the individual time trial in Tokyo, with Italian national coach Davide Cassani convinced he can handle the hilly nature of the time trial course near Mount Fuji.   

“He’s always been super strong but had a problem: he struggled to manage his efforts. He’s always been willing to work hard and is a nice guy. Now he’s as strong on the road as he is on the track,” Villa told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

Villa is happy Ganna will focus on the track this spring and summer but warned he will eventually target the cobbled Classics and ride aggressively just as he did at the Étoile de Bèsseges, where he attacked solo from the breakaway with nine kilometres to go and held off the chasers and the peloton.

“Yes, he can win the Classics. I can imagine him attacking in the final kilometres and if they let him get 20 metres, they’ll never catch him.” 

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