Tao Geoghegan Hart's victory atop Piancavallo, the Giro d'Italia's first Dolomitic stage, on Sunday was number five in Italy for Ineos Grenadiers. It has been a stunning turnaround since losing team leader Geraint Thomas after stage 3 to Mount Etna, but there's no sign of the British squad letting up as the race heads into its final week.
While they may have a stronger team than most in the race, what they've achieved since hitting the mainland 12 days ago has still been an impressive feat, courtesy of Filippo Ganna, Jhonathan Narváez, and now Geoghegan Hart.
They've held every jersey at some point, thanks to Ganna's exploits, and currently lead the teaem classification. Geoghegan Hart's win – the biggest of his career so far to go with two at the Tour of the Alps last season – is just the latest success story on what has been a race of salvation for the team.
"It's the last race of [our] season, so I want to make the most of it," he said after the stage. "There's a lot of lads on the team who think the same. With how crazy this year has been – for everyone, not just cycling – we really owe the sponsors, staff and ourselves to make the most of this last week and definitely not rest on our laurels.
"We have to keep pushing, keep racing. We've been having so much fun doing that there's no reason to stop now. We'll keep getting stuck in, being aggressive and keep going what we've done because there's no reason to stop doing that, I think."
The 25-year-old was the strongest man atop Piancavallo, following in the wheeltracks of Marco Pantani and Mikel Landa as winners atop the climb.
He hung in with Sunweb's Jai Hindley and Wilco Kelderman as the duo set off on a mission to take the pink jersey from Deceuninck-QuickStep's João Almeida, waiting for the perfect moment to strike on the run to the line. As he celebrated victory, he pointed to the sky in tribute to former directeur sportif Nicolas Portal, who passed away earlier this year.
"Consistently through this Giro I've felt better, and today again was no different," Geoghegan Hart said. "On the climb, I felt good. It was a pretty long climb, so it was just about being super patient and then it was about following wheels, biding my time, and waiting for the last hundred metres. It was pretty cool in hindsight really.
"It's definitely my biggest win. Nothing really comes close, I'd say. When it was just the three of us and I started to believe I was in with a good shout I just tried to focus on the job in hand. I was def thinking about everyone on the team, my teammates, [Ineos directeurs sportifs] Matteo Tosatto and Ollie Cookson in the car behind, and also a little bit about Nico Portal in the last five kilometres.
"I've been dreaming all of this strange second half of the 2020 season to dedicate a victory to him and that was some added motivation to me. I've been thinking about that a lot these last couple of months.
"To see all the staff is something really special and the way we've approached this Giro – especially since the disappointment – the way everyone has pulled together and just reset, I think we can say that we've done a great job so far and we still have 6 stages to go, so we'll stay hungry and keep pushing."
It's clear the team will keep battling on, trying to add to their stage win tally, but what of Geoghegan Hart's own ambitions to do what Thomas came here for? That is, to wear the maglia rosa in Milan. He now lies 2:57 down on Almeida in fourth overall with three summit finishes and a time trial to go.
Astana directeur sportif Giuseppe Martinelli – a man who has directed six Giro victories – is one of the believers, telling La Gazzetta dello Sport that "If I had to pick a winner of this race, I'd pick the guy who won today," but thoughts of a Giro win aren't occupying Geoghegan Hart mind at the moment.
"It's not something I care to think about at all right now," Geoghegan Hart said in the post-race press conference. "I'd just like to see my teammates and celebrate with them this evening because it's a very special day for me.
"Nothing has changed. We're here to race. We came here to finish the Giro with a very clear plan of what we wanted to do. Obviously, that didn't go how we'd envisaged, and it was a really tough day in Sicily, especially the nature of Geraint's crash in the neutralised zone. So, we had to reset.
"We tried to make the most of this race. It's been a crazy year and to be honest, we've had incredible responses and support all year, so if we didn't take every day at the maximum we can and then push to achieve as much as possible it'd be completely unjust. We have one week left of a crazy 2020 season and I know that all the boys and all the staff want to do the best we can."
Daniel joined Cyclingnews as staff writer in August 2019 after working as a freelance journalist for seven years, including time spent working for Cyclingnews and sister magazine, Procycling.
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