Briton Tao Geoghegan Hart said he was approaching the final day of the Giro d’Italia as if it was “just another Sunday” when he would play football before heading to London’s Brick Lane market with his dad and brother.
But after a superb time trial performance that secured his maiden victory in a Grand Tour, it was anything but a regular weekend day for the 25-year-old.
Geoghegan Hart had started the Giro d’Italia and as a support rider to Ineos Grenadiers’ Geraint Thomas, only for his teammate — the pre-race favorite — to crash out in the third stage.
Level with Team Sunweb’s Jai Hindley ahead of Sunday’s individual time trial — the first time in Grand Tour history that two riders had been tied going into the last stage — the Briton finished 39 seconds ahead of Hindley over the 15.7km course into Milan to capture the pink jersey.
“It’s incredible. It was impossible for me to even think about winning the Giro when we started in Sicily,” Geoghegan Hart said after the race.
Along with the Tour de France and the Vuelta a España, the Giro is one of cycling’s most prestigious events.
“All of my career I have dreamt of being top 10 or top five in a race like this. During the ITT (individual time trial) my DS (directeur sportif) told me I was faster than Jai Hindley,” added Geoghegan Hart.
“When my DS told me not to take risks in the final part I understood I was close to the victory.”
There was more joy for Ineos as Filippo Ganna won the final stage in a time of 17:16, the Italian’s fourth stage victory of the campaign and the team’s seventh.
Australian Hindley finished second in the overall standings ahead of teammate Wilco Kelderman.
‘The real deal’
Raised in Hackney, East London, Geoghegan Hart enjoyed football and swimming growing up and in 2008 was part of a six-person team to swim across the English Channel before switching his focus to cycling.
He was part of the British Cycling development program and in 2014 signed for Axeon Hagens Berman, an American Continental team of Under-23 riders managed by former professional cyclist Axel Merckx.
“Tao is someone who touches a lot of people in his life and that’s the main thing you have to remember about him. He’s the real deal,” Merckx, writing in The Guardian, said after Geoghegan Hart’s victory in the Giro.
“When he rode for us, he rallied the troops, he encouraged his teammates, and he also told us when it wasn’t good enough — not in an angry or negative way, but in a kind and encouraging manner.”
He joined Ineos, then known as Team Sky, in 2017, supporting the likes of Thomas, Chris Froome and Egan Bernal, all former Grand Tour champions.
Now Geoghegan Hart can enjoy his time in the limelight as the fifth British man to win a Grand Tour race and the second after Froome to win the Giro.
“He’s hardworking and a really, really nice guy, basically,” Ineos general manager Dave Brailsford told BBC Radio 4’s The Today Programme on Monday, adding that Geoghegan Hart had bunked off school as a teenager to join Team Sky on a ride through London.
“He works very, very hard, he loves his cycling, he’s a great connoisseur of the sport and he deserves very, very much what he’s just achieved.”