Tokyo 2020 - ‘Star quality, that’s team pursuit excellence!’: Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish laud Filippo Ganna
“Ganna has just won the Italians that, it’s a four-man race yes, but Ganna! I think it was a two-and-a-quarter lap turn he did at the end there, bringing it down by a tenth every half lap split. He did it himself." You want it? We have it. Stream every Olympic event live on discovery+.
'Absolutely remarkable' - Italy celebrate team pursuit golden glory
“It’s Ganna. The Italians went out fast and the Danes came back, but I think they were always relying on Ganna,” Cavendish said.
“He was just edging back, every time check. It’s a quarter of a second a lap he was pulling back on his own. And it was just for the others to hold on – it’s not as easy as that, just holding on, the guys are some of the strongest bike riders in the world.
“Both of those teams were ridiculously fast times, but to get a record like that is special.”
'Wow, Italy steal it!' - Watch the thrilling finish to team pursuit final
Two-time Olympic team pursuit champion Wiggins was similarly stunned by Ganna’s ride, reporting from track-side that it was the 25-year-old who won it.
“What a final that was,” Wiggins said. “Ganna has just won the Italians that, it’s a four-man race yes, but Ganna! I think it was a two-and-a-quarter lap turn he did at the end there, bringing it down by a tenth every half lap split. He did it himself.
I know it’s a four-man race, but it was evenly matched throughout, and Ganna’s last turn is team pursuit excellence and individual excellence.
"It is a team race, but somehow you need someone with some star quality to pull it home like that. Brilliant to see the Italians back on top.”
Ganna spoke to Wiggins after the celebrations died down at the Izu velodrome, saying that the gold is a result of five years of planning.
“For us it’s a dream,” he said. “In Rio we arrived last minute like a tourist, but now after five years we’ve worked together with one goal to catch this fantastic result, a gold medal.
“Last night before we went to sleep I said to these guys, tomorrow we have the most important five minutes of our lives.
“We know that in the last kilometre we have rockets in the leg. We had a good feeling on the track – we are happy, the team is happy.”
Filippo Ganna of Team Italy lifts his bike to celebrates winning a gold medal after setting a new World record during the Men's team pursuit finals
Image credit: Getty Images
Italy’s victory is their first Olympic gold in the men’s team pursuit since 1960.
And Cavendish says that their stunning performance in Tokyo is an example of the changing landscape in track cycling.
“While I’ve been alive Great Britain and Australia have been the dominant teams – it’s a lot down to training and money, a lot of teams didn’t even have an indoor velodrome.
“A lot of the culture in Italy is to grow up and want to be a road rider. So a lot of the riders they don’t come back to the track.
Now there’s an infrastructure in place in a lot more countries than just Australia and Great Britain to put time and effort into track cycling.
"That’s why we’re seeing such good times and such spectacular racing.”
But it certainly helps to have a rider of the quality of Ganna, who Cavendish says has a ‘special mentality’.
“He’s world time trial champion, he can win from breakaways, he can climb mountains,” he said. “And then to come back and ride the track like this, getting in with a group that’s been working together for four-five years and slot in like that, it’s a special mentality.
“Everyone expected Denmark to be the ones to aim to beat. But Italy have come in and been spectacular.
“Ganna rode the road time trial remember. It didn’t quite go how he wanted it to, but he’s come straight off the road to ride the track – it’s two different sports.
Okay, they’re both wheels and pedals and a saddle, but fair play to Ganna, he’s doing full kilometres on the front and still lifting the pace. It’s an absolute joy.
“In 2016 I rode the Tour de France but had to stop half way because I wouldn’t have had enough of time to adapt to the track, and then I flew to Rio. Even that was on the limit.
“Viviani, who’s riding here, he beat me in the omnium, he got gold and I got silver. And he stopped his road season in May to prepare, so three months before. Brad had stopped a year and a half before, that’s what you usually need for team pursuit.”
“I think this was the main goal for him (Ganna) and he just threw the road time trial in to see if he could get something from that.”
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