London-born cyclist Tao Geoghegan Hart was crowned the winner of the Giro d’Italia in October, in a feat that shocked the world.
The 25-year-old was thrust in to lead the Ineos Grenadier squad after star rider Geraint Thomas crashed out on stage three of the Grand Tour with a broken pelvis, giving Geoghegan Hart the chance to seize the biggest win of his life ahead of Australian Jai Hindley in the final stage of the gruelling three-week Italian race.
But Geoghegan Hart had humble beginnings, dreaming of riding in the World Tour circuit when he worked as a teenager at Condor Cycles in Holborn to earn “pin money” at the weekends.
Chairman of the bike shop Grant Young reminisced on how he mentored the teenage rider, just as the founder of Condor Cycles, Monty Young, did for a young Bradley Wiggins.
Young said: “We are all so proud of Tao. It has been an honour to be part of his journey. I can’t explain what it means to us to see him on the podium.
“I first met Tao through his mother. She came to the store asking about a Saturday job as he was enjoying cycling. I immediately said yes.
“He was a very small, quiet boy with a great respect for others. With so much enthusiasm, we all warmed to him very quickly.
“He got more involved in cycle racing through Cycling Club Hackney and their hardworking coaches and volunteers. We provided Tao with bicycles, wheels, and kit.”
Geoghegan Hart went on to be selected for the Great Britain junior academy at 16 years old, before being offered a place on Axel Merckx’s American squad, Bissell Development Team.
In 2017, he signed with Team Sky – who later became Team Ineos permanently to make his Grand Tour debut at the 2018 Vuelta a Espana.
Young said: “He stopped working on Saturday’s to focus on his racing and we continued to provide bikes to him until he was 18/19 when he signed for an American team and was obligated to use their sponsorship equipment.
“I’ve watched him ride with British Cycling development teams on our bikes, achieving more and more.
“He has always remained focused on his dream to be a professional cyclist, whatever was thrown at him. Never have we met such a dedicated, professional, and courteous young man.
“My late father believed in supporting young talent, and I am thrilled to have been able to follow in his footsteps.”
Geoghegan Hart also trained at Herne Hill Velodrome and Crystal Palace Park as a youngster and continues to inspire the next generation of cyclists in south west London.
Herne Hill Velodrome’s Cycling Manager Iain Cook said: “We’re all incredibly happy for Tao and what he’s done.
“I think from the first time he came to the track he gained a reputation of being super hard-working but was always polite and friendly to everyone in a way that stood out as a teenager. He raced mostly as a youth on the track as an under-16.
“He also regularly raced at Crystal Palace Crits in the youth races they run there on a Tuesday night. I think that was especially formative for him and a big part of his development.
“I think what he’s done will help to inspire more people.
“There’s a lot of riders recently who have progressed to the World Tour who started at Herne Hill Velodrome like Ethan Hayter and Fred Wright who are both in their first-year racing riders like Tao.
“It’s incredible to see someone from London go and win a Grand Tour.”
Featured Image Credit: Flickr Graham C99