The Italian men’s pursuit team celebrated winning gold in the thrilling final against Denmark at the Olympic Games, revealing how their race strategy and riding formation was built around setting up Filippo Ganna to produce a blistering final kilometre in the hope of snatching victory from the Danes.
The riders executed the plan perfectly, winning in a new world record time of 3:42.032. Denmark set a time of 3:42.198 to take the silver medal.
Ganna rode the last three laps on the front for Italy, turning a 0.8 second deficit into a 0.166 winning advantage.
Italy has a long tradition of Olympic success in cycling, and on the track, but last won the men’s team pursuit Olympic title in Rome in 1960.
“We wanted to do something special. We knew the silver medal was a kind of parachute but we wanted more,” Ganna explained in the post-race press conference in the velodrome.
“We knew we could pull time back in the final kilometre but when you’re in the race you can’t clock watch the hundredths of a second, you just push as hard as you can.
“The other guys put me in an ideal position for me to do my bit, they launched me at the speed I wanted and I finished it all off. But I can assure you that the work of Francesco Lamon, Jonathan Milan and Simone Consonni is harder than mine.”
Lamon is the only rider of the quartet not to race at WorldTour level but he carries out the key role of taking the team up to speed in the opening laps.
20-year-old Milan is considered a future engine like Ganna and shares the workload during the early kilometres. Consonni is better known as Elia Viviani’s lead out man but uses his speed and bike skills to keep the final three riders together as Ganna accelerates on the front.
In the final, Italy started fast and matched the Danes in the opening two kilometres, keen to avoid giving them any psychological or slipstream advantage on the fast track.
“We knew we had to start strong, follow our strategy and then go after them in the final kilometre,” Ganna explained.
“This a special moment for the whole team to enjoy but I also want to congratulate our rivals for challenging us and pushing us to improve.”
“We’ve won World Cup events in the past but now we’ve got a gold medal around our necks, it’s amazing. We have to thank the team staff who looked after us and motivated us day after day.
Consonni remembered that Viviani and fifth rider Liam Bertazzo are also part of the Italian team pursuit squad but did not ride in any of the rounds and so were not awarded medals. Viviani will try to defend his Omnium Olympic title on Thursday and then ride the Madison with Consonni.
“It’s a huge honour for us to be part of this group,” Consonni said, still emotional after winning gold.
“We’ve all worked hard to aim high and do the best we could, we’ve all given up so much. Elia Viviani and Liam Bertazzo are also part of the team pursuit squad and are part of this success. It’s a team effort.”
“We are so happy for this gold medal. We are so happy for the world record,” Lamon said, revealing it is his father's birthday, with a gold medal his son’s special present.
“This is a big, big gift for all the group because it’s been five years that we started working for this, so we are so happy. We have a beautiful, beautiful team like a family, so, for me and for us, it's an honour to be part of this group.”
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