Tao Geoghegan Hart should use his unexpected triumph in the Giro d’Italia as a springboard towards becoming Britain’s next cycling sensation, according to Sir Bradley Wiggins.
Geoghegan Hart follows 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.
He started the Giro aiming to support Thomas before the Welshman’s race-ending crash on stage three and Wiggins is concerned Geoghegan Hart will happily defer to his more established team-mates at Ineos Grenadiers in future.
“He’s just the nicest guy. He’s never once said he’s going to do this. He just wanted to be a professional cyclist and emulate his heroes,” said Wiggins, speaking on Eurosport’s ‘The Breakaway’.
“In some ways, he’ll think he’s not worthy of it and doesn’t really deserve it. He won’t change from this, this will do him. He’ll retire happy now if he wanted to. That’s my worry.
“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 happy to be submissive and he’ll ride for Geraint Thomas next year, Adam Yates and Egan Bernal but 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.”
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 featured 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.
“It’s bizarre, to be honest,” said Geoghegan Hart. “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.”
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.
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,” said Geoghegan Hart. “We’ll see what happens. We won’t be breaking any protocols.”