Filippo Ganna has hinted that he and Tao Geoghegan Hart will return to the Giro d’Italia in 2021, chasing a second overall victory for Ineos Grenadiers and further stage wins after their breakthrough success in 2020.
Ganna is also expected to ride the time trial, road race, and team pursuit at the Tokyo Olympic Games next summer in a 2021 season packed with major goals.
Ganna won four stages - all three time trials and a hilly stage to Camigliatello Silano - on his Grand Tour debut. They came a few weeks after winning the world time trial championships in Imola. His success confirmed him as one of the riding stars of the sport and especially in Italy after Vincenzo Nibali struggled in the Giro. It also earned him a place in the Cyclingnews 10 biggest breakthroughs of 2020 list.
The 24-year-old, from Verbania in the northwest of Italy, was forced to quarantine following the Giro d’Italia after coming down with COVID-19 before the European Track Championships. He lost his sense of taste and smell but had a few other symptoms and spent most of his off-season break at home with his family. He has since begun training after completing a host of medical checks.
"I only had a temperature for three days and I was more worried about parents, who also caught the virus," he told La Gazzetta dello Sport during an Instagram live chat.
"The thing that struck me the most was the loss of taste and smell. I 'live' to eat but I found myself eating to live. I often had plain pasta because I couldn’t taste anything."
According to La Gazzetta dello Sport, Ineos Grenadiers will soon announce three-year contract extensions for both Ganna and Geoghegan Hart, with the Italian describing the two young riders as the "new foundations" of the team.
Ganna turned professional with UAE Team Emirates in 2017 but never seemed to fit in with the squad as it evolved from its past as Lampre-Merida. He used a Pinarello track bike with the Italian national squad and the Italian brand were keen for him to develop under Ineos' control. Ganna is a gentle giant and quietly spoken but has thrived at Ineos, working closely with Anglo-Italian directeur sportif Dario Cioni.
When Geraint Thomas crashed out of the Giro d’Italia after hitting a bidon during the neutral zone of stage 3, Ganna was inspired by Dave Brailsford's team talk.
"The Giro changed everything," Ganna explained, referring to how Ineos changed strategy and went on to win a total of seven stages and the overall classification.
"The early loss of Geraint, our leader, forced us to change strategy. Dave is superb at that. He may seem a little cold on the outside but he’s a winner. He told us: 'Now we’re going to show who we are, let’s change the destiny of this Giro'. And so we started going on the attack whenever we could, without thinking about controlling the race as Sky always did. That’s how we won seven stages."
Top Ganna and Tao
Ganna won in Camigliatello Silano after attacking his breakaway companions on the last climb of the stage. Immediately after the finish he was congratulated by Geoghegan Hart, both in shock at what he had achieved. In Milan, as Ganna celebrated his fourth stage victory, he was also emotional about Geoghegan Hart’s overall victory. The two have clearly developed a strong friendship and mutual respect.
"Tao is special,” Ganna said of his teammate.
"He raced the Giro without any pressure and went on to win it. The only time I saw him nervous was the evening before the Milan time trial. I told him: 'why aren’t you smiling like in the last few days? You and Hindley start on the same time but you’re stronger'.
"His win was an emotional moment because we’d all worked so hard for 21 days for a big goal. We’ll soon start doing it all over again, with the first get together in the Canary Islands in January."
Ganna is likely to target the early time trials, the spring Classics and then focus on the Giro d’Italia, riding the Tour of the Alps as final preparation. Geoghegan Hart has hinted several times that he will also return to the Giro d’Italia to defend his Maglia Rosa.
The Giro should give Ganna the base to build towards the Olympics before the track World Championships in October. Any thoughts about an attempt at the UCI Hour Record will only come after that. Italian national coach Davide Cassani has already said he intends to select Ganna for the road race, the hilly time trial and the team pursuit, where he will anchor the quartet alongside Elia Viviani.
"I’ll perhaps start my season in Argentina at the Vuelta a San Juan (perhaps with the Italian national team). Then I’ll ride Tirreno-Adriatico, a race I’d like to try to win one day, then Milan-San Remo, Paris-Roubaix, the Tour of the Alps and the Giro to help Tao win again.
"Then there’s the European track championships (probably in late June and no longer in February) and then the Tokyo Olympics. The team pursuit has been a goal for five years now and I can’t wait to go for it."
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