The problem with dominance in any sphere is that the extraordinary eventually comes to be seen as routine. By now, Filippo Ganna knows the drill and he’s reluctantly made his peace with it.
Victory in the opening time trial of the Giro d’Italia in Ortona on Saturday will be greeted as something of an inevitability given his 5-0 record against the watch from his first two outings in the Corsa Rosa. Defeat, on the other hand, will lead to extensive inquests and the dusting down of old debates over whether Italian cycling’s new leading man is spreading himself too thinly across disciplines.
The margin between success and failure is tight at this level, and there is rarely much space for nuance in the commentary afterwards.
“Up until the World Championships last year, that was a frustration,” Ganna tells Cyclingnews. Seventh place in the time trial in Wollongong, it seems, heightened his resolve to ignore the outside noise.
“After the Worlds, I realised that I didn’t care any more about what people were saying. If I lose and they say there’s a ‘caso Ganna,’ that’s fine. I’ll just keep doing my Giro, it’s not like I’ll pull out over it or something. And if I win and they say, ‘beh, it’s normal that he wins,’ well, that’s fine too. I’ll have won and their opinion won’t change anything.
“If this were a computer game or something, with no outside factors, then fine, you could say it’s ‘normal’ that I win given what I’ve done in past time trials. But nothing is ‘normal.’ You can’t take anything for granted in this world.”
Ganna set himself a high bar by living up to his billing on the opening day of his two previous Giro appearances, claiming crushing victories in the opening time trials in Palermo in 2020 and in Turin the following May. This time out, even without the rainbow skinsuit on his shoulders, he is the favourite to claim the opening maglia rosa, though both the opposition and the course mean that it’s no foregone conclusion.
Remco Evenepoel, Stefan Küng, and Primož Roglič are among the men in the mix on the 19.6km run down along the Adriatic coast, while the uphill finale in Ortona is clearly an element Ganna could have done without.
It would be the hardest earned maglia rosa of his career to date.
“I’ve looked at the course with my coach Dario Cioni on Veloviewer. Obviously, I would have been a bit happier without that final climb, but I’ll just have to adapt. I’ll have to try to make more of a difference earlier and then hold that advantage in the…
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