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Ganna left ‘sweating and scared’ as puncture threatened Giro d’Italia time trial victory

MILAN ITALY MAY 30 Filippo Ganna of Italy and Team INEOS Grenadiers at arrival during the 104th Giro dItalia 2021 Stage 21 a 303km Individual Time Trial stage from Senago to Milano ITT UCIworldtour girodiitalia Giro on May 30 2021 in Milan Italy Photo by Stuart FranklinGetty Images
Fillipo Ganna (Ineos Grenadiers) on his way to victory on the final stage of the 2021 Giro d'Italia despite a late flat (Image credit: Getty Images)

A seemingly assured victory became a lot less certain when world champion Filippo Ganna (Ineos Grenadiers) punctured in the final kilometres of the individual time trial of the 2021 Giro d’Italia

The flat tyre led to a bike change that’s speed resembled that of a formula one pit stop and then a long wait to understand if it had cost him the stage victory.

Setting off early in stage 21 – as just the 24th rider to roll down the start ramp for the 30.3 kilometre individual time trial – it was far from surprising when, as each intermediate check point passed by, Ganna kept undercutting the fastest time by bigger and bigger chunks and kept passing more of the riders who had set out before him.

It all looked like smooth sailing toward the expected outcome of another Ganna Giro d’Italia time trial victory – his fifth consecutive time trial – then less two kilometres from the line he motioned toward his back wheel, looking calm and controlled even though the incident left him feeling anything but. 

“I was sweating and scared. I could have lost the win after my puncture,” Ganna told Eurosport of his wait to see if anyone wold beat him.

Quickly pulling to the side of the road, casting aside his Pinarello Bolide with its metallic blue theme and rainbow stripes, Ganna immediately stepped back to take the black replacement bike his team mechanic. With a push off, a moment taken to clip in and then out of the saddle to get back up to speed, the Italian rider was again flying toward the finish line, trying to recapture as many of those lost seconds as he could.

“With the puncture, we spiced up the race! Thanks to the team though, I got a fast bike change,” said Ganna who likened the speed of the swap to a Formula One pit stop.

Despite the change, there was never any doubt that Ganna would be stepping into the hot seat, with a time of 33:48 and a 53.8 kilometre per hour ride, he was head and shoulders above the riders who had taken to the course so far, but would it stay that way?

“When I crossed the line I thought: 'OK, now we will wait for [Rémi] Cavagna,' because he's a really good rider and time trialist," said Ganna.

As the French Deceuninck-QuickStep rider approached the finish, it looked like Ganna’s puncture may indeed cost him the victory in Milan but then Cavagna misjudged a left hand corner, crashed and handed back the advantage he’d been given by Ganna’s puncture to, as Cavagna said, 'even things out'. 

Despite the crash Cavagna remained Ganna’s nearest rival –coming across the line 12 seconds slower – but the world champion’s position on the top step of the stage podium remained secure to the end, as did his teammate Egan Bernal’s grip on the overall victory.

“It’s the icing on the cake to bring this second time trial win at home along with Egan’s maglia rosa," said Ganna. 

"Three weeks of racing brings a lot of suffering but when your captain raises their arms up in the air on the last day, it already makes you look forward to 2022."

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