The Hagens Berman Axeon Cycling Team earned another victory this season with Leo Hayter’s win on the second stage at the 2022 Giro d’Italia Giovani U23 after a decisive attack. For his effort, Leo takes the lead in the general classification and will start stage 3 on Monday in the Suziki Italia Maglia Rosa (leader’s) jersey.
“To be honest I had a rough start of the year,” said Leo reflecting back. “I struggled with covid and small injuries for many months. I’ve been training well since May, but I can’t say I expected this. I mean, a month ago I was getting dropped at the Tour de Bretagne and today I won a stage of the Baby Giro solo. That’s bike racing!”
Leo completed camp with his new Axeon teammates in Italy back in February and showed early season form at the Tour du Rwanda with three top 10 stage finishes while racing for his home country of Great Britain. Thereafter, the struggle with recovering from covid19 and small injuries began.
But he remained focused and showed his determination finishing 2nd at Trofeo Città di Meldola one week ago and appeared back to his old self.
“We didn’t plan to make a move today, but there was an increase in pace on the last GPM of the day and I saw an opportunity to go,” he said. “I kept a good rhythm in the valley and could see I was coming close to the two guys from the early break. I rode with them for a bit before going solo to the finish. Another great day for the team, but there’s no time to celebrate, the queen stage is tomorrow and we’re here to fight.”
“I’m very excited and very happy with the win today,” said team owner and director Axel Merckx. “It was an impressive victory for Leo when he attacked with almost 30 km to go, bridged to the leaders, dropped them toward the finish, and held the peloton back. It was a pretty hard day, but we got the stage win and tomorrow Leo will wear the leader’s jersey.”
Leo leads the GC by 43” over 2nd place’s Francesco Busatto (General Store Essegibi F.lli Curia). Darren Rafferty, Ivan Romeo, and Matthew Riccitello finished in the main group, 49” back.
“Tomorrow will be a hard day, but we came here to race and for a stage win and we got that already,” said Merckx. “After Kasper’s effort yesterday finishing in 3rd place, it’s been an unbelievable start to the Giro here. I’m super proud of the guys; they ride really well together as a team and I’m looking forward to what we can accomplish in the remaining days.”
Leo Hayter photo via Giro d’Italia Giovanni U23