This year is the 20 year anniversary of Andrea Collinelli winning the gold medal in the individual pursuit in the Atlanta Olympics by riding a 4'20" in the superman position to beat out Philippe Ermenault to take the biggest win ever in Italian track cyling in the modern era before or since. Until this year that is.
Earlier this year, Filippo Ganna put a ripple through the track cycling world when he came into the World Championships this year in the London veldrome and in the individual pursuit, he went better than traditional nations such as Great Britain, New Zealand and Switzerland to set up a gold medal ride with Dominic Weinstein of Germany. What happened next? Well, you can see that below.
Ganna had ridden the pursuit as a junior but his first 4km pursuit in competition wasn't until 2015 European Championshps, where he rode a good time of 4'27" but nowhere near the medals. So what did he do? What your coaches tell you to do throughout your formative years...practice, practice, practice. Ganna obviously had the power from his road exploits but channeling that effort into a very regimented pursuit is the rub. He went from a 4'27" time in the European Championships to a 4'16" in the both the qualifications and finals (a mere tenth off one another) in the World Championships in less than a year. He had been riding with the Italian Team Pursuit team, which certainly helped matters but how far can he go?
We got a taste of it in Montichiari after Ganna blew the doors and roof off of the velodrome by riding a 4'14"746 in the qualifications to make the finals. Ivo Oliveira rode a very fast 4'18"671, which would have just been shy of a medal in the Worlds this year, but when you are 4 seconds slower than the top qualifier? It puts things in perspective. Ganna's time was the fastest in competition 4k pursuit since Stefan Küng's 4'14"992 in the European Championship finals and at that point, Ganna's time was the 6th best time ever in competition. He couldn't go any better, right?
Well Ivo Oliveira ran a 4'17"448 in the finals, which is just shy of 56 kilometers per hour. That was a very impressive ride. Too bad his opponent rode a 4'14"165. Knocking six tenths of a second off his qualifying time, Ganna put in the 5th fastest time in history (to my knowledge) and if you discount Boardman's Superman position times, it would be the 3rd best time ever. Ever. Yes technology has come a long way along with training while track conditions play a big part but Ganna is just 19 years old.
Yet due to some wonderful timing, literally no one besides a couple of die hards will actually give a rat's ass about this incredible performance because of the god almighty Tour de France. Add in the fact that some imbeciles took the individual pursuit out of the Olympics and we get a perfect formula for the English speaking media to not write a single thing about Ganna and his achievement. When he leads Italy to a surprise result in Rio in the Team Pursuit, everyone will be going ga-ga over him just like they did at Worlds when they had no idea who he was even though if they did a little bit of digging, they would have known the immense talent was there and on the cusp all along.
Question on my mind is if he could break Bobridge's record of 4'10"534 if given time to train, the appropriate conditions and some incentive. Given his meteoric rise, I would say that he has a better shot than anyone currently riding now to do it.