Ineos’ Filippo Ganna – King of the 4K World!
Rider Feature: Filippo Ganna stunned the cycling world with his four kilometre individual pursuit ride in Minsk with a finishing time of 4:02, and he put the under four minute pursuit record on the horizon. Ed Hood has taken an in-depth look at the young Italian’s ascent to the fastest 4K on the globe.
Filippo Ganna suits the rainbow stripes
A gentleman took me to task on social media (where else?) the other day regarding an article I wrote about the devaluation of the individual pursuit as a World Championship discipline. Filippo Ganna had just won the world title for the first time when I wrote the piece, his victory was a little ‘out of the blue,’ it seemed to me.
Pursuit World record in Minsk
My critic reckoned I hadn’t paid attention to the fact that Filippo Ganna had just broken the world four kilometre individual pursuit record with a stunning 4:02 ride at the first round of the World Cup in Minsk. What my detractor hadn’t realised was that I’d actually written the piece in 2016 after Ganna’s first title win. But it got me to thinking, I had been hard on the Italian, putting in print that perhaps he would never rank among the all-time ‘Gallacticos’ of pursuiting like Faggin, Porter, Orsted. . .
But the big Italian is proving me wrong, with three golds and a silver in the Worlds at the discipline, not to mention an ever-growing stash of individual European medals and team medals at Euro and world level at the age of just 23 years. I thought I’d go back and look at the man’s career from day one to where he is now; that’s one of the best chrono men and THE best pursuit rider on the planet.
Junior Worlds 2013
Hailing from beautiful Verbania in Piedmont on the shores of Lake Maggiore, in the fashion of the best athletes – like Taylor Phinney and Pavel Sivakov – he chose his parents well with dad Marco an Olympic rower for Italy. He first appears on the palmarès radar in 2012 as Italian National Novices TT Champion. A year later he’d moved on the podium of the Italian Junior TT Championships with a bronze medal. By 2014 he’d swapped bronze for gold in the Italian Junior TT Champs and taken the national junior pursuit title to boot. In addition he won the junior Chrono des Nations and placed fourth in the European and world junior TT races.
Stagieire with Lampre
The 2015 season saw him in the colours of Viris Maserati for whom he won the prestigious, late season Chrono Champenois. He was also given a stagiaire ride with WorldTour team, Lampre but the 2016 season saw him in the colours of top Italian u23 and development team, Colpack. This was the big breakthrough season.
Worlds’15 U23 TT
On the road he won the u23 Paris-Roubaix, the national u23 time trial championship and was u23 European individual time trial championship silver medallist. On the track there were silver medals in the Elite European individual and u23 and Elite European team pursuit championships.
And gold in the world pursuit championship. I should have done more homework on Sen. Ganna before I’d reckoned he may be a ‘flash in the pan.’
Worlds’16 London with Davide Cassani
Another title in London
Filippo Ganna European Championships Men U23 ITT
The 2017 season saw him sign with World Tour UAE and take the European Elite individual pursuit title, silver in the European team pursuit champs and bronze in the Worlds at the same discipline. But he abdicated his world individual title to Aussie fast man Jordan Kerby, coming away with silver. As an aside, Kerby’s services were subsequently dispensed with by Australian management and he’s now riding in the colours of New Zealand, courtesy his mother’s Kiwi nationality. Aussie loss was Kiwi gain with Kerby leading a young NZ squad to a 3:50 ride.
With UAE Team Emirates in 2018
San Juan’18 stage 3 TT
Het Nieuwsblad 2018
Still with UAE for 2018 Ganna opened his season strongly with second on GC in the Vuelta a San Juan stage race in Argentina. He regained his world title and lead his Azzuri to a Worlds bronze and European gold in the team pursuit. Meanwhile, against the watch, future team mate at Sky/Ineos, Gianni Moscon denied him the Italian TT title by a scant two seconds.
Worlds in 2018
Euro Champs in Glasgow 2018
This season he was snapped up by the mighty Sky – soon to become Ineos – machine. His time trial abilities have developed even further – aided no doubt by the British team’s meticulous attention to detail – with wins in his national TT championship, the prologue in La Provence and the TT in the Benelux Tour not to mention bronze in the Worlds at Harrogate and runner-up spot in the Chrono des Nations.
Ganna and another trackman Iljo Keisse in the BinckBank Tour stage 7
A top five in the Coppa Sabatini bodes well for future road performances, whilst on the track he’s been on fire. He retained his world title, lead Italy to silver in the European Team Pursuit Championships and delivered that stunning 4:02 ride in Minsk with the formerly unthinkable prospect of a sub-four minute individual pursuit now seemingly inevitable.
Chrono de Nations ITT
His third title puts him on a par with Pursuit Royalty: Guido Messina (Italy), Roger Riviere (France), Leandro Faggin (Italy) who was on the podium nine times over 11 years, Hans Henrik Orsted (Denmark) eight years straight on the podium, Robert Bartko (Germany) and Bradley Wiggins (Great Britain) who are all on three titles each. Only the specialist’s specialist, Great Britain’s Hugh Porter has taken four titles – and was on the podium for seven consecutive years.
Campione del Mondo
But the cycling landscape has changed; apart from the personal satisfaction of being the best in the world – and being allowed to wear the rainbow jersey in criterium and road events in the absence of the world road race champion – the rainbow bands meant strong contract fees for the big open air track meets and six day races of the time. But with neither arena anywhere near as strong as they used to be the financial value of being world pursuit champion is debatable.
Ganna’s Worlds TT bike
Warm-up at the 2019 Worlds TT
The value to the big pro teams of the pursuit rainbow jersey is questionable – Patrick Lefevere allows Iljo Keisse to ride the Gent Six Day and Michael Mørkøv to ride in Copenhagen because he knows it means a lot to them. But one of the reasons the Belgian Svengali has let Elia Viviani go – apart from not matching the monster cheque from Cofidis – is that the Italian star wants six weeks to prepare for his Olympic Omnium defence. Lefevere is simply not interested.
Don’t forget the team pursuit
However Ineos, knowing how keen UK viewers are on the Olympics – ‘the couple of weeks every four years when the British Public pretend they’re interested in bike racing’ – and having deeper pockets than Lefevere may be more amenable to Ganna preparing for Tokyo. But before that, the Italian can join ‘King Hughie of Wolverhampton’ if he takes a fourth title in Berlin come late February.
Hugh Porter in 1972
Can HUUB boys John Archibald an Ashton Lambie narrow the gap, or even overtake him by then?
It’s an interesting prospect.
But the bottom line is, ‘sorry Filippo’ I take it back, you’re one terrific pursuit rider, sir!
Another podium for Filippo
It was November 2005 when Ed Hood first penned a piece for PEZ, on US legend Mike Neel. Since then he’s covered all of the Grand Tours and Monuments for PEZ and has an article count in excess of 1,800 in the archive. He was a Scottish champion cyclist himself – many years and kilograms ago – and still owns a Klein Attitude, Dura Ace carbon Giant and a Fixie. He and fellow Scot and PEZ contributor Martin Williamson run the Scottish site www.veloveritas.co.uk where more of his musings on our sport can be found.