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Wiggins: 'I think Tao can get a top 10 at the Giro'

Joseph Delves
13 May 2019

Head of a band of young hopefuls, how far can Tao Geoghegan Hart go at the Giro?

A squad not previously known for giving its young riders much free rein, Team Ineos had intended to send a precocious yet relatively green set of riders to this year’s Giro d'Italia. Based around supporting superstar Egan Bernal in the General Classification, this plan was wrecked when the 22-year-old Colombian was forced out just before the race courtesy of a broken collarbone.

Instead, British rider Tao Geoghegan Hart and Russain Pavel Sivakov now find themselves carrying the team’s hopes in Italy. Aged 24 and 21 respectively, both riders’ sole experience of riding a Grand Tour came at last year’s Vuelta a Espana.

Backed by a similarly youthful team, including Edward Dunbar (age 22), Jhonatan Narvaez (age 22), and Ivan Sosa (age 21), despite having to reconfigure their plans at the last minute, it seems Team Ineos will continue to chase the overall. And in doing so it will potentially provide fans with one of this Giro’s great storylines.

Wiggins: 'Let's see how far he can go'

Commenting on the race, ex-Team Sky rider Sir Bradley Wiggins certainly seems to think so. 'It’s great for us watching... I think everyone is keen for Tao to do well,' the 2012 Tour de France winner explained on his eponymous Eurosport Show.

'Are we putting too much pressure on him? I don’t know, but let’s take the shackles off and see how far he can go.'

Taking second place ahead of rival Vincenzo Nibali at the recent Tour of the Alps, Geoghegan Hart has certainly looked good in the early season. Now thrust into an unexpected leadership role, he’ll be determined to take advantage.

Into the top 10 on Stage 1

Arrived in Italy, Geoghegan Hart proved as much with a strong seventh-place finish in the race's first stage. Giving away just 35-seconds to overall favourite and stage winner Primoz Roglic, despite this he seemed less than pleased with his performance.

Now established in the top 10, keeping both him and Sivakov near to the front of the race will remain the team’s main aim. However, with great mountain riders in the shape of Sosa and Narváez, both these twin GC prospects will need to continually prove their longevity.

With the alternative of chasing individual wins from further back in the rankings providing more of a pull should either slip back, Wiggins is confident in the ability of Geoghegan Hart to deliver under pressure.

'I think Tao can get a top 10,' he explained. 'That would be an amazing result for him. I messaged and said, "man for man, on each day, you are in the ballpark with the likes of Nibali and that, but you might have a bad day over the next three weeks, you might have a few bad days".

'But those are the days you learn more about yourself, and we’ve seen over the past few years that this race can be turned on its head in the last few stages.'

The Dave Brailsford treatment

Not always the most complimentary about his former boss, Wiggins reckons Team Ineos principal Sir Dave Brailsford is perfectly matched to the challenge of steering Geoghegan Hart through the coming weeks.

'Dave Brailsford will be the one simmering Tao down,' Wiggins explained. 'He won’t be putting pressure on him, he’ll be telling him: "enjoy the experience, try and enjoy each day, but at the same time, try and not see all the support we’re putting around you at the bus each morning as pressure, that’s just us giving you the best opportunity, just give your best."

'I know I criticise and take the p*ss out of Dave, but man-management, one-on-one, he is superb in those situations. That’s where he shines, he lives every stage with those riders, he will pull someone to the back of the bus and give them a little pep talk, he’s very, very good at that.'

Finding yourself unexpectedly at the head of a team at a Grand Tour is a rare event, and an even rarer one at Team Ineos.

Whatever happens, it’ll provide a supercharged apprenticeship in GC leadership for Geoghegan Hart, and watching how the Londoner deals with the pressure of the coming weeks will be fascinating.

Now with both Wiggins and the bookies favouring Geoghegan Hart to secure a top 10, who knows how far the boy from Hackney might go?