BESSÈGES, France: How do you follow up on a stellar season that featured an Olympic team pursuit gold medal, a second consecutive world time trial championship and two stage victories at the Giro d’Italia? That’s the question that Filippo Ganna and his Ineos Grenadiers are set to answer by targeting success in Paris-Roubaix and, if all goes smoothly, with a late-season attempt on the World Hour Record, with race debuts at Paris-Nice and the Tour de France on the Italian’s race program for good measure.
“In Italy, we’d say that I’ve got a lot of metal in the fire,” the super-chilled Italian told VeloNews minutes before the start of the third stage of the Étoile de Bessèges, his first race of the year.
The 25-year-old confirmed that he plans to spend a long spell of racing and training in France as he prepares for Paris-Roubaix, his first principal objective of the 2022 season. Outside the time limit when he first rode the Hell of the North in 2018 and a non-finisher a year later, his road to Roubaix is likely to feature just two cobbled races before that race as opposed to six in each of those previous seasons he tackled it.
“After this race, the plan is for me to have a long spell in France, racing Paris-Nice as part of that and then the Classics. We’ll do the recon for Roubaix and work out whether we’re on track or not, and then on the 17 April, we’ll go into Roubaix itself. It’s a big goal for us and I’ll try to go into it in good shape,” said Ganna.
Beyond that, he’s set for a Tour de France debut as part of his preparation for the Hour Record. “It’s a bit early to think about the Hour Record yet, but that is another big goal and we’ll think about that objective nearer the time. All I can say for now is that it will definitely be at sea level,” said the 25-year-old Italian.
Dario Cioni, Ganna’s coach at Ineos, put a little more flesh on the bones of that outlined program. “Roubaix is definitely part of his plan this season, but the Hour Record isn’t decided yet. We’re thinking about it and planning for it because it’s not something you can decide one day and do the next,” said Cioni.
“The backroom team is looking at new things. If it does turn out it can happen, we have a window when we think it should be, but it won’t be decided until later on in the season.”
Cioni offered more concrete details about Ganna’s push to win Roubaix. “He’ll only do a couple of the cobbled Classics as Roubaix is one week later this year. Some riders are good at doing the full Classics campaign, but with Filippo we wanted to try something a little bit different. So he’ll do some cobbles, do the recon, and then come in for Roubaix,” he said.
Cioni explained the change of approach from the previous seasons Ganna raced at Roubaix. “In his first year with the team when he did Roubaix, he had done all of the Classics campaign and as a result, he was probably in his worst condition for the one race where he wanted to be at his best. That’s why we’re looking at a different approach,” said the Italian coach.
Looking further down the line, Cioni indicated that Ganna opting for the Tour de France over the Giro d’Italia is essentially down to common sense. “We’ll look at where the best chances are to win and the Tour of Algarve has more time trialing than the Giro so… If you look at the routes of the Giro and the Tour, you get a good indication of what’s better for him,” he said. As well as the opening 14km time trial in Copenhagen for which Ganna would likely start as favorite, the opening days of the Tour feature a rolling stage into Calais and then one over the cobbles into Arenberg that would also suit him.
“I think rightly he’s the world time trial champion and he’s looking for the best chances to win stages. Yet although time trialing is one specialty where he excels, he still wants to have a career that’s not just based on TT wins, but also enables him to consider road stages or wins in the Monuments. We want to have a 360-degree perspective, and not simply look in one direction,” said Cioni.
Assuming Ganna comes out of the Tour in good shape, the likelihood is that his focus would then turn to the Hour. The Italian confirmed to VeloNews that any attempt will definitely take place at sea level. Cioni, meanwhile, said Manchester is under consideration for the Hour.
“He’s determined that it has to be done at sea level, which adds to the challenge, but it has to be done in a favorable place at sea level,” said Cioni. “London would have been his first choice. But we think the air pressure is too high in London in that part of the year to make London practical. We’re looking at velodromes with lower pressures. There’s no point in considering velodromes that have high pressure in that part of the year, it doesn’t make sense.”