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Filippo Ganna upset the home fans by beating Wout van Aert and Remco Evenepoel to the top step of the podium in Bruges, while pre-race contenders such as Stefan Küng and Kasper Asgreen were left disappointed in a race of fine margins.
Ganna takes home the rainbow jersey for another 12 months, while van Aert will have another season to look at his silver medal wondering “what if.”
Here’s what they said after Sunday’s race into Bruges:
Filippo Ganna (Italy): World champion
Filippo Ganna was last down the start ramp and top of the podium Sunday.
Ganna booked himself in for a second season in the rainbow jersey with a perfectly executed TT that saw him start fast and finish faster. The race all boiled down to a neck-and-neck tile between Ganna and Wout van Aert when the two reached the second time check almost dead level on time. However, the Italian brought his TT experience and huge engine to play through the final, covering the last third of the race seven seconds faster than the Belgian to win by six seconds.
Despite missing out at the Olympic TT in July and finishing second at the European race earlier this month, Ganna said he found inspiration when it mattered most, pushing the home stars van Aert and Remco Evenepoel to the lower steps of the podium
“In one week, my condition came up really well. After the camp at altitude I did the European championships but the legs didn’t spin very well. I didn’t know if I could arrive at the worlds with good sensations, good shape but today when I woke up, I had a good feeling in my legs and in my head I just dreamed to win again today. For me defending this jersey is very important and I hope to honor it in the next year.”
“Van Aert, Evenepoel and me are good guys and in the end we have good respect. I think, winning in the host country is amazing but sorry, today I woke up with a dream to win. Thank you to the guys, they motivated me to improve and get this result.”
Wout van Aert (Belgium): Second
Second in the 2020 world championships TT in Italy, second in the Imola road race, second in the Olympic road race and now … second best at the 2021 worlds TT in front of a home crowd.
Wout van Aert was again left with silver Sunday, finishing just six seconds slower than the blazing ride from Filippo Ganna. Van Aert was up against it on a pure specialist’s course against heavyweights like Ganna and Küng but had the fastest time through the first half of the course, only to lose ground as Ganna turned on the afterburners.
Van Aert will be hoping for something other than silver in the road race next weekend.
“I don’t feel very happy … I rode a good time trial. But this is too much silver. I have nothing to blame myself for. I was beaten by Ganna, who is a super good time trialist. He’s more of a specialist than I am. So rationally I should be happy with the silver, but it still feels different.”
Remco Evenepoel (Belgium): Third
Finishing as strong as he started @EvenepoelRemco has a healthy lead.
— UCI (@UCI_cycling) September 19, 2021
Remco Evenepoel set the time to beat early in the race and held his own against a field of TT specialists to finish with a bronze medal. The 21-year-old gave fans something to cheer for early in the day as he blazed through the course to set the provisional fastest time, and his mark stuck through until the arrival of heavy hitters Wout van Aert and Filippo Ganna.
Evenepoel has had a rollercoaster season so far this year. He returned to racing after a long layoff due to his terrible crash at last year’s Il Lombardia before riding high and then crumbling out of the Giro d’Italia. Evenepoel looked to be coming back to his best through the summer before twice finishing on the podium at the European championships earlier in this month.
Evenepoel will now use his return to form to support countryman van Aert in the road race next weekend.
“This bronze medal feels like a small victory. Against riders like Wout and Filippo, it is no shame to be third on this course. This was one of my best performances of the year. I am happy with what I have achieved.”
“It was surprising when I lost my bidon. I didn’t realize it myself, I thought I hit a rock, and 200 meters later I wanted to drink, but I couldn’t see my water bottle anymore. Before the first intermediate point I had already had a drink, then I noticed that my water bottle was too loose in the holder. Although that didn’t make the difference in the end.”
Stefan Küng (Switzerland): Fifth
— King Küng Freunde (@KingKungFreunde) September 18, 2021
Stefan Küng was disconsolate at the finish. After beating Ganna and Evenepoel at the European championships earlier this month, many touted the Swiss as a top favorite for the race. Küng was right on pace at the start of the time trial, going faster than Evenepoel at the first time split. However, as the race wore on Küng began to fall back, eventually finishing fifth at 1:07.
“I feel a bit of frustration right now, I had different goals today, but the other riders were better today so congratulations to them. I don’t know what I was missing. I was feeling good and I had the impression I was on pace, but suddenly I started losing time. I don’t know exactly, I was pushing on and feeling good and I tried to finish strongly but the others were better today.”