Filippo Ganna became the first male Italian cyclist to win a World Championship time trial title, finishing 26 seconds ahead of Wout van Aert to claim the rainbow jersey on his home soil.
Ganna, who rides for Ineos Grenadiers, went into the race as one of the two favourites, alongside defending champion Rohan Dennis. But as Dennis faltered it was Ganna who set by far the fastest time at the intermediate split.
And Dennis, the last rider out on the road, didn’t even have the finish in sight as the clock dipped into the red, confirming Ganna as World Champion, with Van Aert in second and Stefan Kung in third.
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"It's a dream for me and I'm really happy," Ganna told the UCI after his win was confirmed. "At the finish I had really good support from the crowd, and I give my personal thank you to the whole team from Italy and my professional team Ineos Grenadiers.
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"I've won rainbow jerseys on the track, but this is my first in the time trial and I'm looking forward to celebrating with my family."
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The 24-year-old Ganna has won just six races on the road in his professional career, but all of those have been time trials, and the Italian will now be huge favourite to ride into the pink leader’s jersey while wearing the rainbow World Champion bands when the Giro d’Italia begins with a time trial in Palermo on Saturday 3 October.
Great Britain’s Geraint Thomas showed impressive form to lead the race for some time, raising hopes that there could be a British world champion. But Thomas eventually slipped to fourth, eight seconds off the podium.
Thomas will miss Sunday’s road race as he travels to join the Ineos ‘bubble’ ahead of the Giro d’Italia, but the Welshman will go into the Grand Tour full of confidence after a performance that underlined the form he showed in Tirreno-Adriatico.
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After the race speaking to reporters Thomas revealed that he was effectively riding blind.
"I felt pretty good out there," Thomas said.
"Only issue was that I had no Garmin. I obviously had the radio but I didn't have a clue about distance or power or time so I was riding completely blind so I'm pretty happy with how that was really, pace judgement seems pretty good considering.
"No excuses I wouldn't have won if I had a Garmin, I think it's just good signs for the Giro."
Although Ganna was the star of the day, Belgian wonderkid Van Aert underlined his extraordinary talent with his second place, finishing ahead of a host of time trial specialists as well as his Jumbo-Visma teammate Tom Dumoulin.
Time Trial Results
1 Filippo Ganna (Italy) 0:35:54
2 Wout van Aert (Belgium) + 0:00:27
3 Stefan Küng (Switzerland) + 0:00:30
4 Geraint Thomas (Great Britain) + 0:00:37
5 Rohan Dennis (Australia) + 0:00:40
6 Kasper Asgreen (Denmark) + 0:00:47
7 Rémi Cavagna (France) + 0:00:48
8 Victor Campenaerts (Belgium) + 0:00:53
9 Alex Dowsett (Great Britain) + 0:01:06
10 Tom Dumoulin (Netherlands) 0:01:14