By Martyn Herman IZU, Japan (Reuters) -Italy produced an electrifying finish to beat favourites Denmark for gold in a thrilling finish to a see-sawing men’s team pursuit final at the Izu Velodrome on Wednesday. The Azzurri trailed late on in the four-km duel but lead man Filippo Ganna powered them back in the closing laps […]
Olympics-Cycling-Italy beat Denmark in thrilling team pursuit final
By Martyn Herman
IZU, Japan (Reuters) -Italy produced an electrifying finish to beat favourites Denmark for gold in a thrilling finish to a see-sawing men’s team pursuit final at the Izu Velodrome on Wednesday.
The Azzurri trailed late on in the four-km duel but lead man Filippo Ganna powered them back in the closing laps and they crossed the line in 3:42.032 to lower the world record they set in Tuesday’s heats, with the Danes an agonising 0.166 slower.
Italy’s quartet of Ganna, Simone Consonni, Francesco Lamon and Jonathan Milan celebrated wildly at the finish, thumping their fists into their chests, after ending their country’s long wait for an Olympic gold medal in the event since their record seventh in 1960.
The blue-clad Italian train led for the first half of the 16 laps around the 250-metre wooden oval, but Denmark piled on the pressure to take the lead and then turned the screw.
Denmark opened up what looked like being a decisive lead of almost a second but Italy were not done.
Ganna poured on the power and his team began eating into the deficit and took gold on the last lap.
Australia won the ride-off for bronze after New Zealand suffered a crash. Britain, who had bossed the event since 2008 but were thrashed by the Danes in controversial circumstances on Tuesday, had to settle for seventh.
“It was Ganna who brought it home, the secret weapon and the ingredient they needed,” former Olympic track gold medallist Chris Boardman told the BBC.
Denmark had ripped up the team pursuit blueprint when they smashed the world record to win gold at the 2020 world championships in Berlin and headed to Tokyo looking set to win the team pursuit for the first time since 1968.
However, they became mired in controversy on Tuesday after complaints from other teams, notably Britain, that they had used illegal taping on their shins to gain an advantage in Monday’s qualifying rounds.
In Tuesday’s ride against Britain they outclassed the defending champions and actually caught them but the heat ended controversially when Frederick Madsen ploughed into the back of Charlie Tanfield, leading to more objections from the British.
There was no controversy on Wednesday, however, as Italy produced the ride of their lives with Ganna making up for his failure to win a medal in the road time trial.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; editing by Clare Fallon)