Featured image courtesy of Stuart Franklin/Getty Images
Few could possibly have predicted the outcome of the 103rd Giro before the third week; let’s examine the events that led to the Ineos Grenadiers winning their 11th Grand Tour since their inception as Team Sky in 2010.
Tao Geoghegen Hart Wins First Grand TourEmbed from Getty Images
When Geraint Thomas abandoned the Giro after only stage three, it looked like the Ineos Grenadiers were in for a torrid Giro. Little did they know that Geoghegen Hart would be on the top step of the podium in Milan.
For the first time in Grand Tour history, the top two riders on the General Classification were tied on time going into the final stage, with Australian Jai Hindley (Sunweb) just ahead by a mere few hundredths of a second.
Geoghegan Hart was able to capitalise on his superior time trialling ability on the flat 15.7km course, topping Hindley by 39 seconds.
Geoghegan Hart set the foundations for victory on stage 15 to Piancavallo, taking the victory and catapulting him from 11th to fourth overall. He followed this through on the Passo di Stelvio on stage 18, where only Hindley and teammate Rohan Dennis could match his strength.
His second stage win to Sestriere on Saturday was enough to put him level on time with Hindley, the Australian failing to drop him after several successive attacks.
Geoghegan Hart becomes the fifth Briton to win a Grand Tour, after Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome, Geraint Thomas, and Simon Yates.
Ineos Grenadiers’ Best-Ever Grand TourEmbed from Getty Images
With seven stage wins, the overall victory, the Best Young Rider victory, and taking the Team Classification, this is the most successful Grand Tour for the British outfit since their inception in 2010.
Filippo Ganna dominated all three time trials, as well as taking a medium-mountain stage win, in what has been a breakthrough year on the road for the Italian.
Geoghegan Hart himself took two stage wins to only further legitimise his overall victory and cement his status as the strongest rider in the race.
Jhonatan Narvaez took a breakaway victory on stage 12, highlighting the Ineos Grenadiers’ ability to animate the race at every juncture.
Rohan Dennis single-handedly changed the nature of the race in the final week, spending a ludicrous amount of time pacing Geoghegan Hart up the Stelvio and Sestriere, taking the Cima Coppi prize in the process.
Jonathan Castroviejo and Salvatore Puccio took a second place each, whilst Ben Swift managed to achieve 18th on GC, displaying some of the strongest climbing of his career.
We’re used to seeing Ineos ride as a train on the front all day, so the fact they took so many stage wins and the overall whilst riding in a far more animated style, displays their versatility and strength in depth.
So Close for Sunweb
Coming into the third week, Sunweb seemed poised to take their first Grand Tour victory since the 2017 Giro, courtesy of Wilco Kelderman.Embed from Getty Images
With a buffer of nearly three minutes over teammate Hindley and Geoghegan Hart, Kelderman was expected to stay in touch in the mountains and then use his time trialling prowess to seal victory.
This changed on stage 18 however, as Kelderman was unable to match the pace of Dennis, Geoghegan Hart and Hindley on the Stelvio.
An inability to don a jacket on the freezing descent only slowed Kelderman down further, and despite managing to limit his losses, he finished over two minutes behind Hindley, who took the stage.
Carrying a slender 12 second lead into stage 20, Kelderman ultimately lost pink after being dropped on the second of three ascents of the Sestriere.
This left Hindley in pink, however he was never going to have a chance of defending it in a time trial against Geoghegan Hart.
Nonetheless, two podium positions and a career-best third place for Kelderman still makes this a successful Giro for Sunweb.
It has been a breakthrough performance from Hindley, who looks set to become Australia’s next Grand Tour contender.
Stage 18 Finally Animates the GC Battle
If you missed the entire first two weeks of the Giro, there’s not a lot you would have missed in terms of GC excitement, with most of the top-ten still fairly close on time.
It was a huge relief that stage 18 went ahead as planned, after fears of snow in the preceding weeks cast doubt over the inclusion of the Stelvio, the highest ascent and most difficult climb in the race.
It did not disappoint, and it indeed proved to be the definitive climb in the GC battle, ending several riders’ bids for victory.Embed from Getty Images
The rider of the day was Rohan Dennis, who set a ferocious pace to distance Geoghegan Hart’s rivals and cement their defeat. He continued on the descent to set up a two-way battle between Hindley and Geoghegan Hart on the final climb of Torri di Fraele.
Vinceno Nibali (Trek-Segafredo) and Joao Almeida (Deceuninck Quick Step) were the biggest losers on the day, with the latter finally relinquishing his lead that he had held since stage three.
Domeninco Pozzovivo (NTT) lost eight minutes, cementing a miserable Giro for the Italians in which they failed to finish in the top-five overall for the first time in Giro history.
Better performers were Pello Bilbao (Bahrain-McLaren) and Jakob Fuglsang (Astana). Bilbao finished third and helped achieve a career-best fifth-place overall. Fuglsang finished fourth on the stage, sending him from 12th to sixth overall, although nearly four minutes down on Bilbao.
Démare and Guerreiro take Points and Mountains Classifications
Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ) and Ruben Guerreiro (EF Pro Cycling) wrapped up the other two major classifications in the Giro, with the former taking the Points Classification and the latter the Mountains.Embed from Getty Images
Démare was in a class of his own in the sprints, comfortably taking the four stages that ended in bunch finishes to win the purple jersey by 49 points from Peter Sagan (Bora Hansgrohe).
Stage 19 was expected to finish in another sprint, however a rider protest saw the stage shortened to ‘just’ 124km. An unmotivated peloton let the breakaway go and thus Démare effectively sealed victory in the Points Classification.
No one came close to Guerreiro in challenging for the blue KOM jersey, which he took by 77 points over second-placed Geoghegan Hart. He was able to enter various breakaways to take KOM points, and was also aided by his victory on stage nine’s summit finish to Roccarosso.
As mentioned, the Ineos Grenadiers rightfully won the Teams Classification by 20 minutes over Deceuninck Quick Step.
As for the minor classifications, Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec took their only prizes of the Giro home courtesy of Simon Pellaud in the Intermediate Sprint Classification, and Mattia Bais with the Fuga prize (most kilometres spent in a breakaway).
Thomas de Gendt (Lotto Soudal) unsurprisingly took the Combativity Award, and Groupama-FDJ won the Fair Play Award, having not accrued a single point for ‘bad behaviour’ (such as fines or a positive doping test).