After spending five days in the maglia rosa leader’s jersey, the Hagens Berman Axeon Cycling Team’s Leo Hayter cemented his name in the history books as only the second British rider ever to win the Giro d'Italia Giovanni U23. Leo also becomes the second Axeon rider in team history to win the “Baby Giro” after Joe Dombrowsk’s win back in 2012.
“I don’t have many words to be honest, it’s amazing,” said Leo smiling. “I didn’t expect it [the win]. I was actually a reserve rider and I was hoping to win a stage. I did that and exceeded my expectations, so I’m really pleased. It was a privilege to wear and keep the maglia rosa.”
On the second stage, Leo crossed the line in Pinzolo first after a late solo attack and claimed the maglia rosa. Starting the following day, he had a 43” advantage in the general classification. It was Leo’s performance that day on the third stage, winning by almost five minutes that took his competitors and admittedly, teammates and sport directors, by surprise.
“We had a couple of races in Italy before the Giro and the riders have grown as a team, already before the start of the Giro,” said sport director Koos Moerenhout. “I expected us to do well. We would remain open minded and take it day by day. Leo’s first win was a good success for the team, but his second stage win made us believe we could actually win it.”
Leo would never relinquish the jersey for the rest of the race. His lead in the GC was somewhat diminished on stage 6, where he lost 2’52” of his advantage to the stage winner, Lennert Van Eetvelt [Lotto Soudal U23]. With only one stage remaining, his lead of 2’55” proved to be enough to claim the overall victory by over two minutes.
“Leo maintained a high level and the team supported him on the roads towards Pinerolo,” said Moerenhout. “We had been put under pressure mostly by FDJ and Lotto Soudal, but in the end we could secure the maglia rosa. A perfect result for the team and some valuable experiences gained for all involved.”
The Hagens Berman Axeon Cycling Team continues its season with Giro del Medio Brenta on July 3rd.
Leo Hayter photo via Foto Zannoni