Grand Tour delight for Tao Geoghegan Hart with stunning Giro d’Italia success

Tao Geoghegan Hart has become the fifth Briton to win a Grand Tour with victory in the Giro d’Italia, but his will go down as the most remarkable entry on the list to date.

The 25-year-old Londoner pulled on the pink jersey for the first time on the final podium in Milan after a dramatic closing weekend of the race, which saw two riders not considered contenders at the outset starting the last stage level on time – unprecedented in a Grand Tour.

Team Sunweb’s Jai Hindley had taken pink as Geoghegan Hart won stage 20 on Saturday, but got to wear it for only 18 minutes in the race as Geoghegan Hart beat the Australian by 39 seconds over the closing 15.7 kilometre time trial.

Geoghegan Hart’s Ineos Grenadiers team-mate Filippo Ganna took the stage win with a time of 17 minutes 16.55 seconds, some 32 seconds faster than second-placed Victor Campernaerts.

That secured the Italian’s fourth stage win of the race and a seventh for the team – making this the most successful Grand Tour in the history of what was Team Sky and then Team Ineos.

Geoghegan Hart follows Sir Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome, Geraint Thomas and Simon Yates in winning one of the big three stage races on the calendar, delivering Britain’s 11th Grand Tour victory since Wiggins won the Tour de France in 2012, and second in the Giro after Froome won in 2018.

But he joined that club despite having started this Giro aiming to support Thomas before the Welshman’s race-ending crash on stage three.

“It’s bizarre, to be honest,” Geoghegan Hart said. “Not in my wildest dreams did I imagine that this would be possible when we started nearly a month ago in Sicily.

“All of my career I’ve dreamt of trying to be in the top five, top 10 maybe in a race of this stature so this is something completely and utterly different. I think this is going to take a long time to sink in.”

But the stars had aligned for Geoghegan Hart, with this the latest unexpected result in this strangest of seasons.

The race also lost fellow contenders Simon Yates and Steven Kruijswijk following positive tests for coronavirus, while more established names like Vincenzo Nibali and Jakob Fuglsang came up short – experience perhaps counting for little when nothing is as it has been before.

An outstanding final week in the mountains propelled Geoghegan Hart up the standings, with his victory on Saturday’s stage 20 setting up the unprecedented scenario of the top two in a Grand Tour being level on time at the start of the final day.

Italy Giro Cycling
Italy Giro Cycling

That it came down to a time trial resembling an old-fashioned British 10-mile effort seemed fitting, with Wiggins and Thomas among those sending messages of support and tactical advice to Geoghegan Hart.

It did the trick as he was up on every time check along the way, so much so he was being told to ease off towards the end.

“You know you’re in a pretty good situation when they’re screaming at you not to take any risks in the last kilometre,” he said. “It’s not often your directeur sportif tells you to slow down in a 15km time trial but I knew the work had been done up to that point.”

Like Geoghegan Hart, Hindley began in a domestique role, but saw team-mate Wilco Kelderman fade over the final weekend as he took a step forward.

“Of course it’s super disappointing to lose the jersey on the last day like that,” the 24-year-old said.

A faultless final stage by @taogeoghegan sees him win the #Giro overall by 39 seconds.

He will pull on the famous, mythical, maglia rosa, in addition to the white young rider jersey ❤️🤍

— INEOS Grenadiers (@INEOSGrenadiers) October 25, 2020

“It’s pretty hard to take at the moment but I think when I look back I’ll be super proud of the way the team and I rode over the weeks. It’s a massive step forward in my career.”

Kelderman finished third, 89 seconds down overall, while Joao Almeida was fourth after his 15 days in pink.

Nibali took seventh place, leaving Italy without a rider in the top five for the first time in Giro history.

As Geoghegan Hart was met by his partner – former British champion Hannah Barnes – at the finish, the celebrations all belonged to Ineos, a scenario hard to imagine when Thomas suffered his crash on the road to Mount Etna.

“I think there’s a curfew at 11pm,” Geoghegan Hart. “We’ll see what happens. We won’t be breaking any protocols.”