The tifosi all around Italy can rejoice: their hero Filippo Ganna (Ineos Grenadiers) is ready to race again in his homeland, where he claimed many successes – including the rainbow stripes – last year. Wearing the jersey he earned in Imola as the individual time trial (ITT) 2020 UCI World Champion, “Top Ganna”, who also dominated the ITT at his National Championships and wore the Maglia Rosa at the Giro d’Italia, will be one of the main attractions of Tirreno-Adriatico (March 10-16) as the peloton gets ready to ride from the Italian west coast to the east.
From Lido di Camaiore, where the race will begin this Wednesday on the Tyrrhenian shore, all the way to San Benedetto del Tronto, welcoming the final stage the following Tuesday on the Adriatic coast, Filippo Ganna will find many opportunities to display his growing repertoire of strengths.
The young star from Piedmont is much more than a TT specialist making the most on the road of the raw power he developed on the track. Nevertheless, the final time trial (10.1km) is where he is widely expected to shine, in line with his recent performances and with his massive ambitions for 2021.
10 victories since August: “It’s not easy to win”
A dose of Covid-19 slowed him down in the off-season – “I felt like a Ferrari stuck in the Milan traffic”, he wrote on social media – but he’s off to a flying start to the year. Ganna has already participated in two road events, the Étoile de Bessèges - Tour du Gard and the UAE Tour, and claimed three victories: a time trial at each stage race and a solo ride to Saint-Siffret on stage 4 of the French event.
Ganna has now accumulated 10 wins since he claimed the tricolore (green-white-red) jersey in the Italian National Championships at the end of August. Only the French sprinter Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ) has claimed as many successes over that span. Primož Roglič (Team Jumbo-Visma), leader of the Men Elite Individual UCI World Ranking, follows with seven victories.
Among these 10 victories, Ganna counts eight individual time trials, following his first three professional wins on the road in 2019. “It’s not easy to win,” Ganna said after his most recent masterclass on the UAE Tour. But the last rider to have defeated him in a time trial is Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck - Quick-Step), in January 2020 during the Vuelta a San Juan Internacional.
Ganna also took two road race stages, at the Étoile de Bessèges and previously on the roads of the Giro d’Italia, where he’s due to return, full of ambition from the start, with a 9km time trial in Turin: “I’m really happy that the 104th edition of the Giro will start from Turin and my home region, Piemonte. I’m looking to start the Giro on the right foot and replicate what I did last year, trying to wear the first Maglia Rosa.”
“To be in perfect form for Tokyo”
His budding love affair with the Italian Grand Tour captivated the tifosi, struck by the power and elegance of the freshly crowned ITT UCI World Champion. They now dream of seeing him defend the Maglia Rosa in the mountains and challenging for the overall victory but Ganna, although he has already performed well on demanding terrain, hinted at Bessèges that he would aim for “more flat” routes.
His victory in the 2016 Under 23 Paris-Roubaix and his profile similar to Fabian Cancellara’s also suggest he could do very well in the cobbled Classics but Ganna has another dream for 2021: he yearns for Olympic success, on the road and on the track, to add to his rainbow victories.
“I hope to have another season like 2020, to have the Giro d’Italia in my legs and so be in perfect form for Tokyo, the real peak of my season,” Ganna told la Gazzetta dello Sport as he highlighted his ambition to keep riding on the track and on the road for “as long as possible”. At the Olympics, he’s expected to ride the individual time trial and maybe the road race, as well as the team pursuit on the track. And Italy will be united in cheering for him.