Bradley Wiggins read an open letter to Tao Geoghegan Hart ahead of the Ineos Grenadiers rider’s showdown at the Giro d’Italia, telling him "you are now the superstar".
Geoghegan Hart is the favourite to win a shock title in Italy after his second win on Stage 20 moved him level on time with Jai Hindley (Team Sunweb) in the maglia rosa.
The 25-year-old will be the penultimate rider to set off on the 16.5km route between Cernusco di Naviglio and Milan, with Hindley following to wrap up one of the most dramatic Grand Tours in history.
And Wiggins, speaking on the latest episode of his Eurosport podcast, urged him to "just empty it" as he reflected on his own time trial triumph that led to him becoming the first Brit to win the Tour de France in 2012.
Bradley Wiggins' open letter to Tao Geoghegan Hart
Tao Geoghegan Hart – born March 1995 – 25 years of age from Holloway, London. 65 kilos.
Tao, apparently I was your hero which we will always find hard to believe that someone would think that much of you. But I guess we would because like you I’ve had my heroes, Sean Yates, Chris Boardman, just to name but a few. All British of course.
In 2012 I won the Tour de France, you were a young boy. I remember seeing you at the Tour of California two years later in 2014. We were both acting a bit too cool for school. I was aware of you, knew you were a talent and you were in a break on Stage 1. I remember we caught you in the peloton in the cross-wind section and I patted you on the back just to let you know I noticed what you were doing.
Last year, you asked me for one of those yellow jerseys from the Tour of California which blew me away a bit. I’ll still never give you one but it affected me a lot in the sense that, for no reflective glory or anything, but more that I’d resonated with someone who had the same passion and love for the sport as I did, and the same modesty and respect as the people who went before as I did.
Wiggins: 'I love you, Tao'
You sent me a message the other day and said, “thanks for being an inspiration, if it wasn’t for you I wouldn’t be here.” I think that’s too generous. We’ve all got a part to play. Without Sean Yates, there’s be no Bradley Wiggins. Without Barry Hoban and Tommy Simpson there’d be no Sean Yates. It’s part of a trail, it’s part of a line of British stars that go and try and take on the European scene.
You’re now one of them. You’re on the verge of greatness. You’re already great, you’ve come of age, you’ve proved your talent. You’re about to win the Giro d’Italia mate, just f***ing think about that for a minute. The Giro d’Italia. You’ve surpassed me in so many ways. In some ways you’re a better version of everything that I wanted to be.
You’re better looking! You conduct yourself as I wanted to. You’re modest, you don’t swear, you look good on the bike, you’re pleasant, and I’m so proud of you and you deserve everything that you get.
Just think about what you’re about to do tomorrow. Just empty it. Think about all the people during that ride that got you to where you are today. Your parents, your brother, everyone. People you met along the way, team mates, Axel Merckx [who he worked under], and the pain won’t hurt. I thought about that in the last time trial at Chatres [which Wiggins won to clinch the Tour de France in 2012]. It suddenly struck me in the last 5km, everyone that had played a part in getting me to that point. You’ll think the same tomorrow and you won’t think of the pain. And you’ll cross that line and you’ll be the winner of the f***ing Giro d’Italia, mate.
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You’ll be the first British rider… well, I can’t say that. Chris Froome of course, the greatest Tour rider of our generation.
Go tomorrow and be great, think about what you’re doing, think about the people you’re inspiring. You are now the superstar.
My son’s 15 – he looks up to you. You’re now his hero. You’ve made it mate, you’re on top of the world. Enjoy every f***ing minute and hopefully one day you’ll still be as down to earth and as modest as you are. Remember your old mate Brad and buy him a beer!
Love you, Tao. I’m proud of you. Goodbye.