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On the day that Team Sky was launched in 2010, a young Tao Geoghegan Hart joined the celebrations after winning a competition to ride around London alongside Bradley Wiggins and co.
The then 14-year-old was both a fan and a driven young athlete, determined to find a way to join his heroes on a more permanent basis.
Within a few years he would be working his weekends at Condor Cycles in Holborn, racing for Hackney Cycling Club, and forcing his way into the British Cycling academy.
January 2010. Team Sky launch, London. A 14y/o boy asks for a photo and tells me he had just won a competition. He is so proud to be able to join Team Sky on a ride through the center of London. October 2020. The same boy has become a 25y/o man and wins the @giroditalia.
— Serge Pauwels (@sergepauwels) October 25, 2020
Then came a move abroad with Axel Merckx’s famed development team, before he got another call from Team Sky in 2015 – this time offering him a spell as a stagiaire – a trainee rider.
Sir Dave Brailsford was sufficiently impressed to offer him professional terms but Geoghegan Hart said no. He did not feel he had won enough at under-23 level and wanted to stay with Axeon-Hagens Berman to continue his development with the aid of the Dave Rayner Fund.
It was a bold call, but one that speaks to his quiet self-confidence. And it paid off.
By 2017 he was back in Team Sky colours and ready to make his debut on the WorldTour.
It was not long before significant results followed. In 2018 he finished fifth overall at both the Tour of California and the Vuelta a Burgos, both races featuring strong fields before making his Grand Tour debut at that year’s Vuelta.
— Brad Wiggins (@SirWiggo) October 25, 2020
After an injury to Egan Bernal ruled the Colombian out of the 2019 Giro d’Italia, Geoghegan Hart was handed an unexpected leadership opportunity alongside Pavel Sivakov, only to crash out on stage 13.
But he bounced back with two podium finishes in stages of that year’s Vuelta and started this season strongly before the pandemic struck.
Even so, in a team that has four Grand Tour winners on the books in Bernal, Geraint Thomas, Chris Froome and Richard Carapaz, Geoghegan Hart never expected a leadership opportunity this year, and never complained about the lack of one either.
He just wanted to ride his bike.
His fortunes changed in the freak moment that a bidon rolled under Thomas’ wheels on stage three of the Giro a little under three weeks ago – sending the Welshman home and completely reframing Ineos’ approach to the race
Mirroring his own steady rise through the ranks from youth levels, Geoghegan Hart’s move up the general classification was gradual, but his stage 15 victory on Piancavallo confirmed his status as a contender.
The stars had aligned in many ways to create a unique opportunity, and one Geoghegan Hart was determined not to pass up.
Throughout his rise, Geoghegan Hart has remained close to his roots, with family and personal relationships prized.
On the morning of the time trial which would change his life, he was reminiscing on Twitter about weekends spent “playing football on the marshes and going to Brick Lane market with my old man & brother”.
Sunday’s for me will always be playing football on the marshes and going to Brick Lane market with my old man & brother. Today is just another Sunday. I haven’t seen my family in 10months, but they are always with me ⭕️. pic.twitter.com/XmkmY2n2up
— Tao Geoghegan Hart (@taogeoghegan) October 25, 2020
“Today is just another Sunday,” he wrote.
Within a few hours, it was anything but as the celebrations began in front of the Duomo di Milano.
With Adam Yates arriving at Ineos next year to add to the scramble for leadership opportunities, Brailsford will be spoilt for choice.
It is unclear when or where Geoghegan Hart’s next Grand Tour opportunity might come from.
“I don’t know and I don’t care,” he said in Milan. “I’m just going to enjoy this. It’s incredible.
“I’m going to stay the same person, and be as professional as I believe I’ve always been, dedicated.
“I wake up every day looking forward to riding my bike, loving my life and being grateful to the honour and amazing privilege of being in this position,” he said.
As celebrations began back in Hackney, Geoghegan Hart also spoke of inspiring a new generation of young British riders.
A decade after following Wiggins around the capital, nobody could know better just how powerful that might be.