Ganna survives Tirreno-Adriatico echelons but fears climb in Apennine mountains

 Filippo Ganna (Ineos Grenadiers) in blue at the start of stage 3 of Tirreno-Adriatico

Filippo Ganna (Ineos Grenadiers) in blue at the start of stage 3 of Tirreno-Adriatico

Filippo Ganna managed to fight his way up to the front echelon during the finale of stage 3 of Tirreno-Adriatico and so defend his leader’s blue jersey. However with the Italian race entering the Apennines on Thursday, with ever more climbing to come, the Ineos Grenadiers rider is unsure how long he can use his power to stay with the better climbers and his nearest overall rivals.

Ganna missed the front echelon when Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) and a number of other riders joined an attack after apparently taking the wrong line through a roundabout. However he used his power and pursuit skills to surge across the growing gap and join the move.

He looked set to gain time on some rivals but then a change in direction turned the sidewind into a headwind and the peloton compacted, leaving it to a sprint with Mathieu van der Poel and Jasper Philipsen teaming up to give Alpecin-Deceuninck their first win of 2023.

“I was in the wrong place and too far back,” Ganna admitted after pulling on the leader’s blue jersey for another day.

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“I feel good but I’m still struggling to work out distances in the peloton after my eye operation during the winter. When the split occurred, I made the mistake of being too far back and I went on the wrong side of a roundabout and lost my teammates.

“I was behind but managed to get back up to the front echelon. To be honest, I don’t know how I did it. I’m happy to still have the jersey.”

The Italian leads Lennard Kämna (Bora-Hansgrohe) by 28 seconds, with teammate Magnus Sheffield third at 30 seconds and Brandon McNulty (UAE Team Emirates) fourth at 34 seconds.

Ganna gained his advantage in Monday’s 11.5km time trial but fears he will come under attack on the four steep climbs and finishing circuits that fill the final 51 km of stage 4 to Tortoreto on Thursday.

He could limit his losses and keep the leader’s jersey but then faces the mountain finish to Sassotetto on Friday and the demanding ‘walls’ stage on the short climbs of Le Marche around Osimo on Saturday.

“You’ve got to be ready for anything but I’m hopeful,” Ganna said of Thursday’s stage.

“The climb will be harder than riding a pursuit match, that’s for sure. The circuits will be interesting to watch on television, they’ll be less enjoyable to race.”

Wout van Aert confirmed he will try to survive the four climbs to Tortoreto and try to win the stage but that did not inspire Ganna to think he can do the same or better.

“I don’t have Van Aert’’s legs,” he said modestly. “I’m living the race stage by stage. I don’t want to put pressure on myself or on the team. We’ll see what happens.”

“And the best scenario for Ganna?” a Flemish journalist asked.

“That we all take the climb really easy,” he joked, knowing that is not even a remote possibility.