Filippo Ganna adds 4,000m track cycling world record to hour benchmark

The Italian cyclist Filippo Ganna has set a groundbreaking world record in the 4,000m individual pursuit, posting a time of 3min 59.636sec to win gold at the world track cycling championships in France.

Ganna is the first rider to break the four-minute barrier at sea level, with his feat at the Quentin-en-Yvelines Vélodrome coming just six days after he set an hour record in Switzerland. The 26-year-old covered 56.792km at the Tissot velodrome in Grenchen, breaking Dan Bigham’s previous record by 1.244km.

“It’s been an amazing week. I tried to do something special with the hour record, and I realised one of my dreams, and I tried to do the individual pursuit record too,” Ganna said at the venue outside Paris. “I do it and now we think it’s just [time] to celebrate and recover a little bit, because this has been a really intensive season.”

Ganna took nearly three-tenths of a second off the previous mark of 3:59.930, set at altitude in Mexico by the American Ashton Lambie in August 2021. His Italian compatriot Jonathan Milan took silver after finishing more than 4sec behind. Portugal’s Ivo Oliveira won bronze, with Bigham in fourth.

The five-time individual pursuit world champion believes his hour race helped his preparations. “I learned a lot from the position and the effort, and I think one of the secrets to this race was the preparations for this amazing hour record,” Ganna added.

Sir Chris Hoy, who was watching at trackside, told the BBC: “It’s the equivalent of of Roger Bannister’s four-minute mile. I think for many, many years people didn’t think this was possible. Incredible, quite incredible.”

It was a bittersweet achievement for Bigham, who has lost his hour record and missed out on a world championship medal in the same week. The British cyclist played his part in Ganna’s success, however – he is a performance engineer for the Ineos Grenadiers, the team both riders compete for.

The 31-year-old earned team pursuit gold for Great Britain on Thursday alongside Ollie Wood, Ethan Hayter and Ethan Vernon. The British team defeated an Italy quartet that included Ganna, but Bigham could not reach the podium on Friday.

“I really wanted to compete for that bronze, but I just didn’t have it today in that back end, said Bigham, who married fellow cyclist Joss Lowden last Friday. “I did what I could, and it’s still a good ride – a 4:09 is not slow. But it’s definitely not medal potential at the world championships.

“[The wedding] was a pretty epic day, and to play a part in Filippo achieving his dream and do something outrageous, that was pretty monumental as an engineer. Then to come here as a rider and be part of the team pursuit team and put the Italians, the reigning world and Olympic champions, to the sword in the final was just something else. It’s still an absolutely special week – probably the best of my life.”

The team pursuit gold was among five medals Team GB have claimed at the competition in total, but their only gold so far. In the women’s team pursuit, the British quartet of Neah Evans, Katie Archibald, Anna Morris and Josie Knight took silver after a final defeat to Italy.