They will race together next month in the Giro d’Italia, the first grand tour for the team with its new owner and sponsor Ineos.
“Without a doubt,” Londoner Geoghegan Hart said of his teammate’s ability to win the Giro d’Italia.
“If you look at the season he had this spring and even more so, how consistent he was last year through the year, in my opinion, he was one of the best riders in the world already in his ‘neo-pro year.'”
Bernal signed on with Sky just before his 21st birthday in the winter before the 2018 season. He debuted in the Tour de France last year — his first grand tour — and helped Geraint Thomas to the eventual win. That surprise entry followed Bernal’s victory in the Tour of California.
This year, despite some bad luck, he won Paris-Nice, a major milestone for the young climber. Ineos now gives him the right to lead its grand tour team in the Giro with Thomas and Froome focused on the Tour in July.
“A few things for me really stand out, if you look at the crash he had in Catalunya [last year], it was hard for us as a team because we worked so hard all week,” he continued.
“In one of the last corners of the race, he crashed and he lost his second on GC. I think for a lot of guys, that would take a long time to come back from. It would’ve been a breakout result, but he was back very shortly after. If you blink your eyes, he was already back in the Tour de Romandie and winning his first WorldTour victory in the TT.
“I think he showed a lot of grinta in that moment, and again in San Sebastián, it was one of the most difficult moments of my career to see him crash, it was terrible to see. I’m happy there wasn’t any close-up image on TV because it was really awful, and again, he came back fast.
“He can face adversity, which he will have in the Giro d’Italia, but we are going in with an open mind and seeing each day as it comes. It’s his first attempt and we’ll take a lot from it if it’s good or bad.”
Bernal will lead a young team in the Giro. The selection is still to be confirmed but it should include Geoghegan Hart, 24, Pavel Sivakov, 21, who won the Tour of the Alps, 21-year-old Ivan Sosa, Salvatore Puccio, and Gianni Moscon.
Geoghegan Hart helped Sivakov win the Tour of the Alps this month, taking two stages himself and placing second overall. After Chris Froome did his work, he fought off attacks from top stars like Vincenzo Nibali, to guide Sivakov to victory. He showed much experience when he would ease off at times when the attacks became too much and pace himself back.
He learned the craft while riding for Axel Merckx’s Axeon’s team in the U.S. He joined Sky in 2017 and last week, won his first professional race.
“I seem to improve as the race goes on, especially in WorldTour races, sometimes I suffer more in the first two days than in the last three because the level starts high and slowly starts to peter off and I stay a bit more consistent,” he continued.
“So I’d like to target the grand tours in the future. It’s almost important to do races like Liège-Bastogne-Liège because it’s not very often you can ride one-day races of 250-plus kilometers. Two of my medium-term goals are the world championships at the end of the season and the Olympics.”
Last year, he rode his first grand tour at the Vuelta a España. The team says that the Giro d’Italia will be his next step to becoming a grand tour podium contender within the next three seasons.
“I’m really excited. I love racing in Italy. It’s a great place to race,” he said.
“The tifosi are super. I enjoy to hear how the fans say, ‘Dai Chris, Dai Chris!’ Then ‘Dai Vincenzo! Dai Vincenzo!’ For me that’s perfect, that’s what makes cycling special, you don’t have to have one team, you can support everyone.
“I really enjoy racing in Italy, and 21 days more of that with a super strong team and a young team. I’m looking forward to it and hoping to make some big memories. That’s my biggest goal of the year and I’m looking forward to it.”
The Giro d’Italia starts on May 11 in Bologna and includes star riders like Vincenzo Nibali, a two time champion, 2017 winner Tom Dumoulin, and Simon Yates.