Tao Geoghegan Hart puts himself in pole position for maglia rosa
Over the next 24 hours, people will pore over past time trial performances of both Tao Geoghegan Hart and Jai Hindley, but why would you even bother trying to predict what could possibly happen next?
Not only did the last time trial set to decide the final GC of a Grand Tour see Tadej Pogačar put in one of the most unexpected performances ever seen as he obliterated Primož Roglič to take the Tour de France’s yellow jersey, but more unexpectedly, Geoghegan Hart and Hindley find themselves battling it out for the maglia rosa.
Three weeks ago in Sicily, both arrived at the Giro to support their team leaders, Geraint Thomas (Ineos) and Wilco Kelderman (Sunweb), and could hardly have imagined they’d be competing for their own overall victory in the final time trial.
Geoghegan Hart has taken his opportunity well, still flanked by a stellar group of domestiques drafted in to originally support Thomas, and over the final two mountain days has ridden with an experience befitting a potential Grand Tour winner, marking his main rival while dispensing with all other challengers.
While he lost the finish line sprint against Hindley on the Stelvio he powered past the Australian up the Sestriere, having ominously shipped a single bonus second to the Sunweb man at the bottom of the final climb at the intermediate sprint.
This gave the impression Hindley was going much better than Geoghegan Hart, but the Brit hung on to every attack and dig, clearly happy to take it to the time trial (where he is supposedly superior) while Hindley would have ideally liked to take more of a buffer than just a few fractions of a second.
Geoghegan Hart timed his sprint well to take four bonus seconds back on the line and draw level in the general classification, making history, as this is the first time the top two riders are equal heading into a final Grand Tour stage, but also giving him an amazing chance of taking a rather unexpected Grand Tour victory.
Jai Hindley moves into race lead as Kelderman falters
As much as Tao Geoghegan Hart’s performance has been unexpected, what about Jai Hindley?!
The 24-year-old Australian is even less well known than his British rival yet has dispensed with Grand Tour greats such as Vincenzo Nibali, as well as the champion-elect heading into the last week – who is awkwardly also his team leader – Wilco Kelderman.
After the stage 14 time trial, Kelderman was only 56 seconds behind then-race leader João Almeida (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) and had more than a minute buffer to the other overall contenders. It looked like his race to lose.
However, the Stelvio and Sestriere stages left nowhere to hide and Kelderman was found out, being detached on both mountain days and out of contention almost as soon as he found himself in the driving seat.
Sunweb’s racing at both the Tour de France and Giro d’Italia has impressed, and they should end up with at least one rider on the final podium in Milan for their efforts. Jai Hindley will be hoping he can put in the time trial performance of his life and not only make that podium, but also the top step.
Rohan Dennis the key main to reviving Ineos’ Giro GC ambitions
Should Tao Geoghegan Hart beat Jai Hindley tomorrow it will be his name that adorns the history books, but those who were around to witness it will know it wouldn’t have happened without his team-mate Rohan Dennis.
The Australian has been formidable this final week, single-handedly dumping Kelderman out of the maglia rosa on the Stelvio and Sestriere stages, leaving Tao Geoghegan Hart with only Jai Hindley standing between himself and the overall victory.
Having passed over the Stelvio first, the highest summit in the race, Rohan Dennis has his spot on the podium in Milan, which is richly deserved acknowledgement given his efforts this week, but his stage 20 ride was possibly even more impressive.
Having dragged Geoghegan Hart and Hindley away from the rest of the field, the Australian rode back up to the younger pair on more than occasion after Hindley had attacked and dropped him. The psychological blow this must have dealt Hindley cannot be underestimated, and although he eventually fell away, by that time Geoghegan Hart was close enough to the finish line for it not to put the Brit under too much pressure.
Dennis may not have taken any of Ineos’ six stage victories this Giro, or be the rider finishing on the final GC podium, but his ride has been crucial to the team’s success at this Italian Grand Tour.
João Almeida fights to the end
After more than two weeks in the maglia rosa, a 22-year-old rider in his debut Grand Tour might finally give up, knowing he’s shown his talents and done more than would ever have been expected of him at the start.
Not João Almeida, though, who attacked up the final ascent of the Sestriere, the Portuguese rider still hungry and the scent of a potential podium place filling his nostrils.
Team-mate James Knox first upped the pace in the maglia rosa group, dropping Vincenzo Nibali (Trek-Segafredo), another indication that a changing of the guard is afoot, before Almeida attacked off the front.
Soon, he had caught up to another team-mate, Pieter Serry, who had been part of the breakaway, before continuing to power to the line alone.
Almeida eventually crossed the line in fourth place, having taken back 34 seconds on the two riders in third and fourth on GC, Wilco Kelderman and Pello Bilbao (Bahrain-McLaren).
He now goes in to the final time trial 25 seconds behind Bilbao and just over a minute and a half back on Kelderman. That third spot may be too big a challenge but you wouldn’t put it past Almeida to pull it off, and he no doubt deserves it for his dogged determination over the past three weeks.
A final time trial showdown to decide the winner
Thank goodness the Giro doesn’t have a processional Champs-Élysées stage!
Would Tao Geoghegan Hart have been expected to not attack and try to take just one second back across the finish line in Paris? Really, it’s a blessing we don’t have to think about that eventuality.
Instead, a mere 15.7km individual time trial in Milan will decide whether Tao Geoghegan Hart or Jai Hindley’s life changes beyond recognition. After the Tour de France’s final race against the clock, nothing is a given, maybe Kelderman will blast through and take back a minute and a half?! Surely even that is too disconbobulating a scenario for this 2020 season to throw up.
Geoghegan Hart is supposedly the stronger TTer on paper, but Hindley beat Geoghegan Hart by 49 seconds in the Sicilian stage one opener, before the Brit finshed 1-15 quicker on the stage 14 ITT. Both will be hindered by wearing race TT skinsuits rather than their trade team offerings, with Hindley in pink and Tao in white. The only certainty is that all is still to play for.
Are the days of Grand Tours decided by minutes gone? How long will this streak of electric endings to Grand Tours last? For once, let’s stop asking questions and just enjoy the spectacle being put on for us.