Filippo Ganna was one of the breakout stars of the COVID19-affected 2020 season and heads into 2021 with more expectations on his head than ever before, not least on the road and track at the delayed Tokyo Olympics in August.
But his national team coach, Davide Cassani, has said that preparing for a double-pronged attack in Tokyo will be a "complicated" process, with the world time trial and Individual Pursuit champion looking to balance preparation for the time trial and Team Pursuit, as well as domestique duty in the road race.
Speaking to Het Nieuwsblad, Cassani said that Ganna made massive progress in 2020, a year which saw him establish himself as the top triallist in the world.
As well as taking the world time trial title with a dominant ride on home soil in Imola, he set a course record in the Tirreno-Adriatico time trial and won four stages of the Giro d'Italia, including three comprehensive TT wins.
Earlier in the year he took the Individual Pursuit rainbow jersey, smashing his own world record in the process, while he and teammates Michele Scartezzini, Simone Consonni and Francesco Lamon took bronze at the Worlds Team Pursuit.
"Filippo has made a huge leap forward," Cassani told Het Nieuwsblad. "To such an extent that next summer in Tokyo he will also be a medal candidate in the individual time trial.
"[Targeting the Team Pursuit] is still the case. Filippo is part of a project started four years ago by Marco Villa, coach of the track team. That project will not be abandoned because Filippo suddenly has the chance as a time trial rider.
"These guys have made tremendous progress over the past four years, took bronze at the World Championships three years in a row, and now also want Olympic honours. That's what Filippo wants. He doesn't want to abandon his teammates."
While Ganna is the top individual pursuiter on the planet, setting his sights on the four-minute record in future, he'll be limited to the team pursuit in Tokyo, with the individual event having been out of the Olympics since 2008.
He'll still have plenty to focus on, though, with the team event starting five days after the road time trial, and participants in the TT also required to start the road race four days earlier.
"It gets complicated. Not so much in Tokyo itself, but in the preparation," Cassani said. "The Team Pursuit is a discipline that requires necessary training to become 'automatic'. You can't race on the road for a whole season and then suddenly switch to the Team Pursuit.
"In the last month before Tokyo you'll have to train on the track, so it won't be easy to create a good programme towards Tokyo. We'll talk to Ineos about it soon.
"[Riding the road race] is not a problem. In the Giro d'Italia, Filippo proved he's a rider with substance who can compete in the mid-moutains. Moreover, he is allowed to limit himself to a domestique role in the road race."
Cassani said he was more worried about the time trial course. The 44-kilometre race will take in two laps of a circuit based around the Fuji International Speedway, with each lap taking in three climbs and 423 metres of climbing.
On paper, the route looks significantly tougher than the time trials Ganna excelled on in 2020 and would theoretically be more suited to a lighter rider than Ganna, who is 1.93 metres tall and weighs in at over 80kg.
"What worries me more is the course of the time trial," Cassani said. "It's a lot harder than the Giro's hilly TT to Valdobiaddene.
"A gold for Evenepoel and silver for Ganna? Sorry, but if we go, we go for gold."
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