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Tao Geoghegan Hart back racing … virtually, and on Boxing Day (best lay off the turkey then)

Giro d'Italia champ to feature in virtual challenge put on by Bkool and organisers of Italian Grand Tour ...

Giro d’Italia champion Tao Geoghegan Hart may have to lay off the turkey next Friday, with the news that he’ll be back racing from Boxing Day in a virtual challenge laid on by the owners of the Italian Grand Tour, RCS Sport.

It will be the second edition of an event called ‘The Challenge of the Stars’ laid on by the Italian organiser, which belongs to the same group as the Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper, in this coronivarus-disrupted year, with the debut event taking place in May.

Held in association with Bkool, there are two separate editions – one for climbers, one for sprinters – each comprising a knockout format with eight riders competing in each across terrains including the Stelvio or the Tuscan countryside.

Besides Ineos Grenadiers rider Geoghegan Hart, the competition for climbers will feature Vuelta champion Primoz Roglic of Jumbo-Visma, as well as Trek-Segafredo’s Giulio Ciccone, winner of the first edition in May.

“The Challenge of the Stars was an intriguing experience, an innovative challenge,” Ciccone said. “It was a winning format in a time during a complicated year which, we all hope, will soon be behind us.

“It was my first virtual victory and, together with the Everest Challenge, I remember it with satisfaction.

“I’ll tackle it with pleasure, and despite being in a different condition compared to May, I’ll look to honour this challenge as it deserves.”

The sprinters’ side of the challenge, meanwhile, will involve riders including Tour de France points jersey winner Sam Bennett of Deceuninck-Quick Step and Lotto-Soudal’s Caleb Ewan, as well as Ben Swift of Ineos Grenadiers.

“I can’t wait to take part in The Challenge of the Stars, Bennett said. “An event like this, in which specialist sprinters like me challenge each other, is a great idea.

“Even though I haven’t raced for a while, it will be a great test for my form and my sprinting qualities, as well as a great way to end the year.”

The challenge begins on Boxing Day and will be broadcast live on the Giro d’Italia’s Facebook channel, with the sprinters racing from 1600 hours GMT and the climbers one hour later.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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