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Stage 21: The journey is over, the friends disperse.

25/10/2020

When Jai Hindley passed the 10.1 km split, he was 22 seconds slower than Tao Geoghegan Hart. But, even before then, what was happening was clear. Like Nairo Quintana in 2017, Jai still had 450m to go when his time ran out and his rival knew that he had won the Giro. In effect, he rode into someone else’s party. At 39 seconds, it was only the tenth closest margin of victory in Giro records, eclipsed, for instance, by Dumoulin’s 31 second win over Quintana in 2017. When it was over, Jai said, “I did everything I could, I laid it all out there on the road. I asked to receive the time checks and I knew what was happening but there was nothing I could do. The result? It is what it is, I accept that and I regret nothing.”

And Tao? “It’s bizarre, to be honest. Not in my wildest dreams did I imagine that this would be possible when we started almost a month ago in Sicily. All my career I’ve dreamed of trying to be top 5, top 10, maybe, in a race like this. It’s going to take a long time to sink in.”

Meanwhile, having ridden the fastest time trial in Giro history in Palermo (58.831 kmph), Filippo Ganna rode the second fastest in Milan with 54.556 kmph. He was the first rider to win three time trials in the same Giro since Tony Rominger in 1995 and the first Italian to do so since Moser in 1984: and he had done it wearing the rainbow jersey, and he won a road stage – a mountain stage – to boot. On the day Richard Carapaz took the leader’s jersey at the Vuelta, a season that looked like a wash out of Ineos Grenadiers suddenly looked very good indeed.

Wilco Kelderman, who lost 1’28” in the opening time trial, finished 3rd in the Giro at 1’29”, while Almeida, 15 days the Maglia Rosa, finished 4th on the day – his 11th top ten finish of the race – and leapfrogged Bilbao into 4th place overall. Not a bad performance from a 22 year old riding his first Grand Tour.

In 2015 and 2016, the Maglia Rosa, Tao Geoghegan Hart, and the Maglia Azzurra, Ruben Guerreiro, rode together at the Axeon Cycling Team, later Axeon Hagens Berman. João Almeida spent 2018 and 2019 there. Behind the podium in Milan, Ruben remembered those days: “I raced before with Tao and he was happy for me when I won my stage. I told him, ‘You’re going to have your moment. In the third week, you’re going to have strong, and he was. I would also have liked to see João on the podium, but you can’t have everything. My friends had a really nice race and I’m proud of them.”

Which, in these strange and dangerous times, seems a good place to stop.

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