down for long.
It was only a few weeks ago after the tour de France that everyone was writing off Team Ineos and British grand tour cycling and then Tao Geoghegan Hart produced the ride of his life.
For only the second time since 2012 Sky/Ineos didn’t win the Tour de France, their highest rider was 13th overall, all they had to show for it was one stage win and a couple of days in the KoM jersey.
And with their mainstays of the previous decade of Tour domination, Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas not chosen not the race squad, they went in with just one British rider, who wasn’t going to challenge, So with With Adam Yates finishing the highest Brit on GC in 9th and the next rider being Carthy in the 30s there followed talk of the end of the British road cycling.
G and Froome weren’t ready for the Tour. Froomey is showing that in the Vuelta but G was back for the Giro and looking in top form, after those extra weeks. His fourth place in the World Time Trial, while flying blind without his Garmin, was followed up by another fourth spot in the opening giro time trail and he looked every part the pre-race favourite. Saying he felt even better than during his Tour victory.
But by three stages in it was over. Another G incident. A rogue bidon falling out of a cage on a fast bumpy southern Italian road and Thomas was taken out. He rode the rest of the stage with a fracture in his pelvis, falling well behind as they climbed Etna and didn’t take the start for stage 4.
Simon Yates the other British pre-race favourite also faltered on the climb where he took the leader’s jersey two years earlier. He would leave a few stages later having tested positive for Covid.
One pre-race favourite was doing well. Ineos rider Filippo Ganna had won the world TT title and went in as hot fav for the opening TT and duly won it in impressive style as he would all three TTs on this year’s Giro. He worse pink for stage two and three, losing it to João Almeida on that stage 3 climb up Etna.
Two days later Ganna won his first road race picking up a great win on stage 5. With Narváez picking up a victory on stage 12, it wasn’t all bad for Ineos.
And in the wings there was someone just staying out of the limelight. In the race as a domestique for Thomas, Tao Geoghegan Hart had taken that opening TT easy, finishing in 126th place, over 2 minutes down. At the end of the Etna stage he’d moved up into the top 25 but had dropped over three minutes behind the race lead.
Though there and there abouts with the team leaders who you were expecting to compete for the title two weeks in and he’s moved up to 11th but had dropped even more time, now nearly 4 minutes down.
Then it all changed with stage 15. Another Ineos stage win as Hart took his maiden GT stage victory and moved himself up to fourth in GC, though still nearly 3 minutes behind the pink jersey. The head of the race had its four title contenders.
It stayed like that until the Queen stage. The Stelvio. A powerhouse display from Rohan Dennis destroyed the field. The pink jersey, Almeida, was the first to be left behind then Sunweb’s one-two punch was nullified as their team leader, Keldermann, who had been sitting second was distanced. It was down to two domestiques, Hart and Jai Hindley. With Dennis driving them over the top of the Stelvio to the base of the final climb. Hart had to ride away from the others, so Hindley could just stay on his wheel and do none of the work, which told at the end as the Australian took the stage win, with those extra bonus seconds.
Keldermann did take the pink jersey but the top three were now separated by just 15 seconds. The closest top three at this stage of any grand tour.
Two stages later and the penultimate stage was the chance to win the title – the previous day seeing the riders revolt and the stage dramatically cut by half, in protest at a number of very long stages in a row, with the addition of terrible weather. Three times up Sestriere, instead of the excursion into France, again Rohan Dennis put in one hell of a shift. Again it worked a treat, this time though an even better one as Hart was able to ride Hindley to the top of the final climb.
Hindley tried but Hart just rode up beside him, took a look and said “nah”. Coming into the final few yards Hart went past him for the stage win. He started the stage three seconds behind, Hindley took the intermediate sprint for three seconds, hart took second for two. Four seconds behind meant that with the time bonuses on the line of 10 and 6, they were now level, just separated by the fractions of a second calculated from the two time trials.
The first time in a GT that the top two were level on time going into the final stage. But for the second grand tour running the final TT would determine the outcome with the man going off second last beating the race leader to take the leader’s jersey for the only time in the race.
Tao Geoghegan Hart was the favourite to take the title. Up Sestriere one commentator said Hart had nothing in his legs because he didn’t counter after catching Hindley’s attack but at the end of the stage it was Hindley who sounded defeated, claiming he had nothing in his legs to distance Hart, while the Brit sounded very confident and stated he was feeling rally good up the climb.
It wasn’t long into the 15km TT final stage that the clocked showed Hart was ahead by the only official time check hew as sufficiently ahead that it would take a crash, mechanical etc to prevent victory. by the time he was coming round the final corners and his DS told him to take it calm he knew he’d won it.
Finishing 13th, 58 seconds behind the stage winner, teammate Ganna, he was 25 places and 39 seconds ahead of Hindley.
Hart had joined Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome, Geraint Thomas and Simon Yates in becoming a British grand tour winner.No winner for over a hundred years, now 5 with 11 titles since 2012.
So British cycling isn’t quite dead yet – Alex Dowsett also won a road stage – and with Ganna’s victory it meant they’d taken seven stage wins and the overall GC which meant it was their most successful GT, overtaking the 2012 TdF. The team’s 11th GT victory – on the same day that Carapaz took the leaders jersey in the Vuelta.
A great ride by Geoghegan Hart, a great victory for the rider that bunked off school to go to the launching of Team Sky in 2010. Just a shame he didn’t have a full crowd and his family there to cheer him on, and with it not like the TdF not getting to ride around teh capitol in the pink jersey for a day. For once a Sky/Ineos plan B really worked. Any more calls for Dave Brailsford to be sacked…