World champion Filippo Ganna had to settle for fifth place in the time trial at the Tokyo Olympics, but his quest for a medal at these Games will continue next week when he leads Italy’s quartet in the team pursuit.
Indeed, Ganna had not originally intended to participate in the time trial in Tokyo, but the postponement of the Olympics due to the coronavirus pandemic and his rainbow jersey in the discipline on home roads in Imola last September persuaded him to double up in Japan.
The hilly course through the foothills of Mount Fuji was always likely to favour lighter time triallists, and so it proved, with Primož Roglič (Slovenia) scorching to a dominant victory, 1:01 ahead of Tom Dumoulin (Netherlands).
The contest for the silver and bronze medals was a close one, with just five seconds separating second and fifth place, as Ganna came home 1:06 down on Roglič and just three seconds off bronze medallist Rohan Dennis (Australia).
"If we had arrived to this Olympics one year ago, I would have just done the team pursuit," Ganna said afterwards. "After the Worlds last year, I decided to ride also in the time trial and I can see the result is not bad. Now we’ll try to recover well for the track.
"I couldn’t have done any more today. Here I was up against people who know how to win stage races and who were at the Tour de France up until a few days ago. I played my hand and we finished up with four of us inside a few seconds of one another. Obviously, there’s a bit of regret about the placing, but I’d say it went well. If you think and look at the parcours closely, I shouldn’t even have finished in the top 10."
Ganna started strongly and he was third at the first time check after 15km, just over three seconds down on Roglič. He was still third at the midpoint, albeit eight seconds back, and the hilly nature of the route began to tell in the closing stages. He was still third at the final check with 7km remaining, but he was overhauled by both Dennis and Stefan Küng (Switzerland) at the finish.
"At the start I was good and I was gaining a lot on the downhills and the technical sections where I managed to ride the bike well. But obviously on the parts where we were climbing, my legs weren’t at the top level to be competitive with the climbers,” said Ganna.
"Maybe at the Paris Olympics, there will be a route better suited to my characteristics."
The Tokyo route featured some 800 metres of total climbing, and Ganna likened the course to the rolling fare he encountered at the Yorkshire Worlds two years ago, where he placed third.
"The only one like this was Yorkshire, and I still finished on the podium there," he said.
The qualifying round of the team pursuit takes place on Monday, with the semi-final and final to follow on the next two days. Italy took bronze in the discipline in the 2020 Track Worlds in Berlin. Ganna will be joined in the quartet by Francesco Lamon, Simone Consonni and Jonathan Milan.
"Today I’ve broken the ice and now we’ll look to go better on the track," he concluded.
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