Filippo Ganna confirmed his status as the world's top time triallist with a second World Championships victory in Flanders on Sunday, holding off Belgium's home favourites Wout van Aert and Remco Evenepoel to repeat his victory of a year ago in Imola.
The 25-year-old, who has now won 11 of his last 16 time trials dating back to the 2020 season restart in August, said after the race that the result meant he had now met the lofty goals he had set himself for 2021, having also taken Olympic Games gold as part of Italy's world record-breaking Team Pursuit squad in Tokyo.
"This year when I started out, I wrote my goals on paper and they were the Olympics and then World Championships," Ganna said in the post-race press conference. "To get two medals in these two big goals is really fantastic for me. I think that this jersey confirms in my head that I can arrive in the first part of the podium. It has not been easy to confirm that."
Ganna described his Imola victory as coming as a surprise, despite his success in the discipline leading up to the race. Having dethroned two-time World Champion Rohan Dennis last year, he said that there was more pressure this time around, especially with two Belgians racing in front of home crowds breathing down his neck.
Evenepoel was the early pacesetter of the day, having raced in the first half of starters. His time stood until Van Aert blitzed through the two checkpoints and finish an hour later, with even Ganna struggling to match his pace. From seven seconds down at the first checkpoint, the Italian closed to under a second after 33 kilometres of the 43-kilometre course and ended up taking victory by a slim six-second margin.
"I think last year when I won the first rainbow jersey in the time trial it arrived in a strange mode. Because of the Covid, it was after what was not a normal year. It came like a surprise," Ganna said.
"When I woke up, I wanted to get this result, but I knew it wasn't going to be easy. Last week in the European Championships I had good shape in the legs, and I tried to stay calm and stay focussed for today. I knew in front of me I had two big riders like Remco and Wout and to get this result is really important.
"I think that everyone has a pressure for the race because for me it was to confirm the jersey and for the riders to my left and right it's to win the jersey. When I crossed the line, I realised my goals. It's not easy and we have to use the same mentality race by race with the same goals and same focus for the future."
Ganna was quick to compliment his rivals, both of whom are among a number of stars in the current peloton who are among the best in the sport on varied terrain. While Ganna is not purely a time triallist himself – see his stage 5 victory in the Giro d'Italia last year – he said that there was a definite difference between himself and the two Belgians, adding that in modern cycling, time trials can be won or lost in just a corner or two.
"I would say that we have a little difference," Ganna said jokingly, referring to Van Aert and Evenepoel. "These guys win the sprint, the climb, everywhere. I think they are among the most strong riders in the last two or three years.
"I think now you can win or lose a time trial in just one corner because if you take the corner just two kilometres per hour faster or slower you can win or lose the race. Today, in 44 kilometres, we had just six seconds difference and we rode the same race with the same effort.
"In the end I won with the head and with the heart and I knew my goal was to win. I want to say chapeau to both guys and every rider today because everyone did their best performance for the race."
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Daniel Ostanek has been a staff writer at Cyclingnews since August 2019, having joined in 2017 as a freelance contributor and later part-time production editor. Before Cyclingnews, he was published in numerous publications around the cycling world, including Procycling, CyclingWeekly, CyclingTips, Cyclist, and Rouleur, among others. As well as reporting and writing news, Daniel runs the 'How to watch' content on Cyclingnews and takes on live race text coverage throughout the season.
Daniel has reported from the world's top races, including the Tour de France, and has interviewed a number of the sport's biggest stars, including Egan Bernal, Wout van Aert, Remco Evenepoel, Mark Cavendish, and Anna van der Breggen. Daniel rides a 2002 Landbouwkrediet Colnago C40 and his favourite races are Tro-Bro Léon, Strade Bianche, and the Vuelta a España.
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