Filippo Ganna refused to get too emotional about becoming the first Italian to win the elite men's time trial title at the UCI Road World Championships and promised to stay in his protective Ineos team bubble, knowing he has an opportunity to use his time trialling form to win next Saturday's opening stage of the Giro d'Italia to Palermo and so pull a pink jersey to his world champion's rainbow jersey.
Ganna is still only 24 and has often struggled under the weight of Italian expectations. He has won the under-23 edition of Paris-Roubaix and four individual pursuit world titles on the track but his power and physique on the bike hide his sensitive nature.
He built his rescheduled 2020 season around the Worlds time trial and his Grand Tour debut at the Giro d'Italia with Ineos Grenadiers, which features three time trials. In 2021, he will prioritize the team pursuit on the track with Italy at the Tokyo Olympics, with the time trial a secondary objective.
"To be the first Italian to win the time trial world title is special and it will be special to wear the jersey, too. I've often felt the pressure but this time I've managed to keep the pressure under control," Ganna explained after celebrating his win with the Italian team staff and then his family.
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"After riding Tirreno-Adriatico I went up to altitude, luckily there the wifi only worked after dinner, so I didn't spend a lot of time on social media looking at comments and feeling the pressure. That was the best preparation for me.
"Of course I wanted to do well at a home Worlds. Yesterday I sent a message to [Italian national coach] Cassani saying I wanted to win and he promised to back me. We've pulled it off and so we can celebrate a little. But we've also got to recover and think ahead to the Giro, without compromising the bubble that protects us."
Ganna has a chance at pink at the corsa rosa, with the race's opening day in Palermo a 15.1km time trial featuring a long downhill run and flat section to the finish.
"If I get my chance in the opening time trial in Palermo. I'll grab it with both hands. It'll be amazing to ride the opening time trial in this rainbow jersey.
"It's a dream come true but I then expect a lot of suffering and hard work because the Giro won't be easy. Our goal is to look after Geraint Thomas for 21 days and do as well as we can."
In his main lead-up race to the Worlds and Giro, Tirreno-Adriatico, Ganna smashed the record for the closing 10km time trial along the San Benedetto del Tronto coast, setting a time of 10:42. The previous best record was set by Fabian Cancellara, a full 26 seconds slower.
He carried that form into the World Championships and powered his way to victory by focussing on the opening half of the ride, a largely uphill run into a headwind. He set a fastest intermediate time split of 18:05, some 46 seconds faster than eventual silver medalist Wout van Aert (Belgium) and 42 seconds better than third-placed Stefan Küng (Switzerland).
Ganna then combined his 58 chainring and smallest sprocket for the tailwind race to the finish. He lost some time on the rolling roads in the final five kilometres but had an ample winning margin of 26 seconds.
"The weather wasn't the best possible today, there was a strong wind, especially at the start and so I tried to keep my aero position as much as possible," he explained.
"I was cheered on from the team car and along the road. We got a good gap in the first half and so managed it on the way back when it was difficult to gain or lose time.
"There were some great riders with me on the podium and so I'm flattered to be world champion. There was Wout van Aert who smashed up the Tour de France but I do not feel superior to them today. I did my ride and got my result. They put up a great fight.
"It's actually still difficult to take in that I'm world champion, I'm still dreaming. Few riders have worn this jersey and now I'm one of them. Wow!"
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