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Southlander Scully, who rides for EF Education-Nippo on the World Tour, finished 23rd from a 55-strong field over a flat 43.3km course that started at Knokke-Heist, beside the North Sea, and went to the medieval city of Bruges.
Scully clocked 50min 57.387sec for the time trial, averaging 51kmh in the event won by Italian Filippo Ganna, whose 47min 47.83sec was 5sec better than Belgian hope Wout van Aert.
Ganna was the rider who ended New Zealand’s hopes for the gold medal in an extraordinary team pursuit race at the Tokyo Olympics, where he came from behind on the final lap to pip the Kiwis by 0.07sec, both teams smashing the world record.
Ganna went on to anchor Italy’s gold medal effort in the final, before resetting to defend his rainbow jersey on the road in Belgium.
His dominance was such that third-placed Remco Evenpoel (Belgium) was 44sec back.
Scully produced a well-judged performance, 24th-fastest through the first time split at 14km and 25th at the 33km mark before a strong finish for 23rd overall.
"I am pretty content with how we approached it and how we executed," Scully said.
"It was pancake-flat out there and no wind so it was a lot about judging your pace.
"I was bang-on where my team trainers thought I would be. I came home with an empty tank and not much more that I could do.”
Scully said it was an old-fashioned flat course with few technical challenges.
“You had to get the pacing right — so not overreaching too early and blowing up or, conversely, being too conservative and coming home with something still in the tank.
“It’s my first senior elite road worlds so it was special to put your number on the New Zealand jersey," he said.
Scully said after some top-10 performances at the recent Tour de Suisse and Vuelta a Espana, his professional team was keen to see if he could stretch out his time trial prowess over the long distance.
He will rejoin the team today for a 200km race in northern France before returning to Belgium to prepare for Sunday’s road race.
Finn Fisher-Black and Logan Currie were set to be next up for the New Zealand squad overnight, racing in the under-23 time trial.
Lewis Bower and Jack Carswell will compete in the junior men’s time trial tomorrow before attention moves to the road races starting on Friday.