Five talking points from stage 21 of the Giro d’Italia 2020

Britain has another Grand Tour victor as Filippo Ganna once again dominates the time trial

Tao Geoghegan Hart wins pink

Tao Geoghegan Hart wins the Giro d’Italia 2020 (Luca Bettini/AFP via Getty Images)

Tao Geoghegan Hart has won the Giro d’Italia. Even in the many unpredictable no-one-could-write-this events of 2020, that sentence seems barely believable. This was not supposed to happen. But it has – and how gloriously wonderful it is.

The Londoner becomes the fifth Briton to win a Grand Tour and just the second, after his Ineos Grenadiers team-mate Chris Froome, to win the Giro d’Italia.

It is a story that was not expected to be written three weeks ago when he set off in Sicily as a super domestique to Geraint Thomas, but an early crash and injury to Thomas meant that the 25-year-old was promoted to team leader.

But even then, he was not afforded protection like Thomas was meant to have. His team-mates were allowed to go off in pursuit of their own glory, winning a quite remarkable seven stages.

It was only in the final week that Tao – as he is affectionally known rather than his surname that has caused pronunciation problems for many new admirers in the past week – was given the assistance that he richly deserved, principally by Rohan Dennis in the mountains.

The story of the ascension from a super domestique who wasn’t expected to challenge for Grand Tour glory for another few years to a winner of the sport’s most beautiful three-week race will be retold multiple times in the coming days and years, and rightly so.

How does it feel? “Bizzare,” he smiled when asked. “All of my career I have dreamt of being top five or top 10 in a race of this stature.” Well, Tao, you’re now a Grand Tour champion. Congratulations.

Ineos’ best ever Grand Tour

British champion Ben Swift is normally contending for sprints – but at this year’s Giro he finished 18th (Photo by Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

When Thomas retired through injury before stage four, the upbeat comments coming from Ineos were all about resetting their objectives. It felt like a PR nicety. Of course they’d say that.

But over the past two-and-a-half weeks the British super-team has gone on to have, statistically, their best ever Grand Tour. They’ve recorded seven stage wins – their previous high was six – and claimed the general classification.

It wasn’t how they expected their Italian adventure to go, but it’s ended up being their most fun and successful.

Rarely do we see their colours in breakaways, their army of super-domestiques allowed to have their own enjoyment and go for their own glory. Permitted, they prove just why they are a member of cycling’s richest and deepest squad.

Chris Froome’s seven Grand Tours, Bradley Wiggins’ 2012 Tour victory, Thomas’ own success in France, and Egan Bernal’s 2019 Tour win have all been memorable for their own reasons. But no three-week race has ever been so prolific for the British team. Who would have guessed?

Commiserations for Hindley

Hindley only wore pink for 18 minutes. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images,)

The man Geoghegan Hart had to beat to win pink was Jai Hindley, and while attention will rightfully be on the victorious Briton, it would be cruel to forget the Australian.

Just 24, to finish second at the Giro is as much an achievement as Geoghegan Hart’s triumph. He is now not just a rider with potential and expectation around him, but a genuine Grand Tour star. He is also Australia’s best rider across three weeks.

Hindley, like Geoghegan Hart, started the race in a support role for Wilco Kelderman, but when the race hit the high mountains he emerged as Sunweb’s best climber and subsequently their best bet in the general classification.

He took a stage win, wore pink (albeit for only 18 minutes) and rode himself into the history books.

Curiously, with Ineos Grenadier’s squad of superstars, Geoghegan Hart may not get many opportunities to ride for GC in a Grand Tour again. But Hindley, you feel, has many more opportunities waiting for him. This October was just the start for the Western Australian.

Filippo Ganna’s coronation as the new king of time trial has lasted a month

Ganna is unstoppable against the clock (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images,)

From winning at the World Championships in Imola on September 25, the ensuing month has been somewhat of a dream for the Italian.

He has won a quite staggering four stages, three of which came in time trials, the last accrued today. He is without question the dominant time trialist.

Not since Tony Martin and Fabian Cancellara has the sport seen someone with such a superiority against the clock. When he rolls off the ramp, he oozes a dominant aura. You just know the 24-year-old is going to win.

Today, in Milan, he did so by 32 seconds. Easy? Of course not. But in a class of his own? Absolutely.

Sport is at its most fascinating is when competition is so tight – just look at the general classification race! – but equally, it’s hard not to appreciate and admire the dominance of Ganna.

Can he go on and win stage races? You would assume so, but for now, let’s just enjoy just how quick and consistent he is when the clock is ticking.

End of a topsy turvy Giro d’Italia

The final podium of the 2020 Giro d’Italia (Photo by Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

The opening two weeks of the Giro lacked excitement. Not drama, there was plenty of that, but it all centred on non-racing events: Thomas’ withdrawal; Simon Yates’ coronavirus positive; Steven Kruijswijk also testing positive a few days later; EF Pro Cycling requesting that the race be suspended due to Covid-19 concerns. The racing had a rating of 1/5.

But in the final week – arguably by design given the parcours – the Italian Grand Tour has been thrilling. The mountain stages in the Dolomites were full of intrigue, suspense, and wonder. Big names such as Vincenzo Nibali continued to slip away, as the young and unfancied – a story familiar with cycling in the past two seasons – marched inexorably towards glory.

Come the final day time trial in Milan, Hindley and Geoghegan Hart were tied for the lead. Never in the history of cycling’s three weeks races has that happened.

>>> The final standings of the Giro d’Italia 2020

The opening fortnight will surely be forgotten very quickly, but the final week action and drama reminded us all why there is barely anything in sport quite like a Grand Tour. Perhaps only Test cricket can rival the tension borne out of a slow burner, but even then, that lasts five days and not cycling’s 21.

When a Grand Tour is failing to ignite excitement, just remember that tomorrow it could all change. Just look at this year’s Giro for proof.