Sir Dave Brailsford claimed Tao Geoghegan Hart’s stunning victory at the Giro d’Italia was the “the stuff of comic books”.
The 25 year-old from Hackney in east London, who rides for Ineos Grenadiers, finished 13th in the final day time trial in Milan.
Crucially, he was 39 seconds faster than Jai Hindley, his Australian rival from Sunweb with whom Geoghegan Hart began the day level on time. It was the first time in grand tour history that the top two riders were tied on time heading into the final day.
Geoghegan Hart’s victory completed a stunning turnaround for the team and the rider. Geoghegan Hart, who never wore the pink leader’s jersey until after Sunday’s final stage, finished 126th in the opening day time trial in Sicily back on Oct 3 when he was still riding in support of 2018 Tour de France champion Geraint Thomas.
The Welshman’s crash on stage three meant Geoghegan Hart assumed team leadership and he rose steadily from then on, winning two individual stages in what was an enthralling final week.
Geoghegan Hart becomes only the second British rider to win the Giro after Chris Froome in 2018, and only the fifth British rider to win a grand tour - the name given to cycling’s three biggest stage races - after Froome, who has won seven in total, and Bradley Wiggins, Geraint Thomas and Simon Yates, who have all won one each.
Afterwards, an emotional Wiggins called for Ineos to give his fellow Londoner a crack at the Tour de France as he was unlikely to blow his own trumpet.
“My worry is that Tao will naturally play second fiddle to [the more established Ineos riders],” Wiggins said. “He will always see a job for Geraint [Thomas] or [Richard] Carapaz as more important because that’s the modesty he carries with him. He will naturally not see himself as worthy of this, that it’s been given to him, and that is a contradiction to the confidence that he rode with [in the race].
“I hope he kicks on from this and gets the opportunity to do it in the Tour de France and we can talk about him for the next 10 years. He’s a worthy, worthy champion and everything this country needs as a role model in sport. Much like Geraint Thomas and Chris Froome, but this guy is young. I hope Tao gets his reward and his standing in this sport.”
Ineos principal Sir Dave Brailsford - whose team won seven stages in total as well as the overall, making it their most successful grand tour ever - recalled how his latest winner bunked off school to attend the Team Sky launch a decade ago.
“It’s the stuff of comic books really,” Brailsford said. “I would say for Tao there was a moment in this race when he switched from being ‘maybe, maybe, maybe’ to ‘I can do this’. He’s a geezer at the end of the day. Him and Bradley Wiggins, London has something about it.”