In a thrilling dénouement Filippo Ganna (Italy) defended his rainbow jersey in the men’s elite time-trial at the UCI Road World Championships, beating Wout van Aert (Belgium) by just five seconds, and breaking Belgian hearts as their hopes for a victory in their home world championships faded into second and third place at the finish.
Though van Aert had set the fastest time at both intermediate time checks, it was Ganna who measured his effort to perfection. The duo proved to be a notch or two above the rest of the field, as an enormous 40 seconds populated the gap between Van Aert and his compatriot Remco Evenepoel (Belgium), who completed the podium in third.
“In one week, my condition has improved a lot after a short camp at altitude,” Ganna said at the finish. “I did the European Championships but my legs didn’t feel very good and I didn’t know if I could arrive at the Worlds in good shape. But today when I woke up I had good feeling in the legs and to defend this jersey for me is very important. I hope to honour it again for another year.”
Ganna also heaped praise upon his Belgian rivals Van Aert and Evenepoel, saying that “we are all good guys and in the end we have good respect. Winning in your home country is amazing but sorry, today I woke up with a dream to win and when I started my race I wanted to win and it's fantastic to keep this jersey again. Thank you to the guys for motivating me to improve and I’m really happy.”
How it unfolded
On the start line of the men’s elite time trial in the 2021 UCI Road World Championships, four riders were billed to contend for the title: the European time-trial champion Stefan Küng (Switzerland), the defending world champion Filippo Ganna (Italy), and home favourites Remco Evenepoel (Belgium) and Wout van Aert (Belgium).
But four cannot fit onto the three-stepped podium and a flat 43.3km course on an unusually still day, beginning along the seafront of Knokke-Heist and travelling inland to central Bruges, would decide their configuration.
Matteo Sobrero (Italy), wearing the jersey of the Italian national time trial champion having beaten his compatriot Ganna earlier in the year, was the second rider to start and first to finish, automatically setting the first best time of 50:53.23. His benchmark would be short-lived for by the time Sobrero had finished the course, multiple riders had recorded faster times than him at the first checkpoint.
Dan Bigham (Great Britain) was the first to surpass Sobrero’s time at the finish, completing the course 55 seconds faster than the Italian, before Max Walscheid (Germany) shaved another 17 seconds off the fastest time.
Showing the time gains available on the latter parts of the course, Stefan Bisseger, who had completed the first 13.8km 1.5 seconds slower than Walscheid, set a new best time at the finish by a full 28 seconds.
Bisseger’s effort was obliterated by Remco Evenepoel (Belgium) who arrived in Bruges just under a minute later, having completed the course 42 seconds faster than Bisseger, setting a new best time of 48:31.17.
The fallibility of Evenepoel’s time was first indicated by Kasper Asgreen (Denmark) who passed through the first checkpoint 6.98 seconds faster than the Belgian. In a breathless start to each of their time-trials, Kung beat Asgreen’s time by 4 seconds, then van Aert went 17 seconds faster than Kung, while Ganna slotted in between the two, 6 seconds behind van Aert.
As the favourites flew towards the second time check, the contours of the race became clearer. Asgreen and Kung both faded on the course’s middle third, falling behind Evenepoel’s pace, while van Aert seemingly began to assert his authority over the field, arriving at the second time check 30 seconds faster than his younger compatriot. Only Ganna was able to maintain van Aert’s pace, stopping the clock at the second time check less than a second slower than the Belgian.
With the race balanced on a knife edge, the Belgian fans on the roadside attempted to influence its outcome, imploring van Aert to pedal a little faster while playfully urging Ganna to slow down.
Despite their best efforts, Ganna proved too strong and completed the course five seconds faster than van Aert, punching the air as he crossed the finish line.
|Pos.||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Filippo Ganna (Italy)||0:47:47|
|2||Wout van Aert (Belgium)||0:00:06|
|3||Remco Evenepoel (Belgium)||0:00:44|
|4||Kasper Asgreen (Denmark)||0:00:46|
|5||Stefan Küng (Switzerland)||0:01:07|
|6||Tony Martin (Germany)||0:01:18|
|7||Stefan Bissegger (Switzerland)||0:01:26|
|8||Ethan Hayter (Great Britain)||0:01:27|
|9||Edoardo Affini (Italy)||0:01:49|
|10||Tadej Pogačar (Slovenia)||0:01:53|
|11||Max Walscheid (Germany)||0:01:54|
|12||Jos van Emden (Netherlands)|
|13||Nelson Oliveira (Portugal)||0:01:55|
|14||Rémi Cavagna (France)||0:01:59|
|15||Jan Tratnik (Slovenia)||0:02:04|
|16||Daniel Bigham (Great Britain)||0:02:11|
|17||Mikkel Bjerg (Denmark)||0:02:16|
|18||Lawson Craddock (United States)||0:02:37|
|19||Ryan Gibbons (South Africa)|
|20||Hugo Houle (Canada)||0:03:03|
|21||Matteo Sobrero (Italy)||0:03:06|
|22||Brandon Mcnulty (United States)||0:03:09|
|23||Tom Scully (New Zealand)||0:03:10|
|24||Michał Kwiatkowski (Poland)|
|25||Carlos Rodriguez (Spain)||0:03:24|
|26||Andreas Leknessund (Norway)||0:03:27|
|27||Benjamin Thomas (France)||0:03:28|
|28||Andreas Miltiadis (Cyprus)||0:03:30|
|29||Barnabás Peák (Hungary)||0:03:33|
|30||Rafael Reis (Portugal)||0:03:35|
|31||Dmitriy Gruzdev (Kazakhstan)||0:03:59|
|32||Josef Černý (Czech Republic)||0:04:00|
|33||Ryan Mullen (Ireland)||0:04:12|
|34||Rigoberto Urán (Colombia)||0:04:18|
|35||Ognjen Ilić (Serbia)||0:04:19|
|36||Daniil Fominykh (Kazakhstan)||0:05:02|
|37||Felix Ritzinger (Austria)||0:05:08|
|38||Petr Rikunov (Russia)||0:05:10|
|39||Marcus Christie (Ireland)||0:05:20|
|40||Mykhaylo Kononenko (Ukraine)||0:05:47|
|41||Christofer Robín Jurado (Panama)||0:06:10|
|42||Venantas Lašinis (Lithuania)||0:06:25|
|43||Muradjan Halmuratov (Uzbekistan)||0:06:29|
|44||Franklin Archibold (Panama)||0:06:48|
|45||Ronald Kuba (Slovakia)||0:07:53|
|46||Rúnar örn Ágústsson (Iceland)||0:08:08|
|47||Nazir Jaser (Syria)||0:08:20|
|48||Sarawut Sirironnachai (Thailand)||0:08:35|
|49||Spas Gyurov (Bulgaria)||0:09:12|
|50||Akramjon Sunnatov (Uzbekistan)||0:10:43|
|51||Fadhel Alkhater (Qatar)||0:10:57|
|52||Ali Jawaid (Pakistan)||0:11:06|
|53||Lotfi Tchambaz (Algeria)||0:11:43|
|54||Khalil Amjad (Pakistan)||0:13:20|
|55||Christopher Symonds (Ghana)||0:18:09|
|DNS||Tsgabu Grmay (Ethiopia)|
|DNS||Hailemelekot Hailu (Ethiopia)|
|DNS||Stefan de Bod (South Africa)|
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Issy Ronald has just graduated from the London School of Economics where she studied for an undergraduate and masters degree in History and International Relations. Since doing an internship at Procycling magazine, she has written reports for races like the Tour of Britain, Bretagne Classic and World Championships, as well as news items, recaps of the general classification at the Grand Tours and some features for Cyclingnews. Away from cycling, she enjoys reading, attempting to bake, going to the theatre and watching a probably unhealthy amount of live sport.
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