After Richard Carapaz's second place in the Giro d’Italia and Geraint Thomas' third in the Tour de France, Ineos Grenadiers will be aiming for another Grand Tour podium at the Vuelta a España, and perhaps even the missing step, with Carapaz heading the team's line-up again.
But just as it was at the Tour, where Ineos Grenadiers pushed for stage wins as well as the overall, the Vuelta will see other riders in the British team lineup exploring their own goals as well as backing the team leader's GC bid.
Or as Tao Geoghegan Hart, down to race his first Grand Tour this season at the Vuelta, put it in the team's pre-race press conference, "we definitely have a few good cards to play."
That goes beyond what the 2020 Giro d'Italia winner can contribute, of course, with the squad fielding both the Spanish National Champion Carlos Rodríguez and recent Vuelta a Burgos winner Pavel Sivakov. Geoghegan Hart certainly relates to that collective philosophy.
"The best races I've been part of is always when every rider has a valued role to play in the team," said the 27-year-old. "And here we have an exciting team, and we're looking forward to trying to make the most of the last Grand Tour of the year."
"Everyone is in a different place, but we definitely have a few good cards to play," he said. "The biggest favourites are outside our team, we have a really strong squad, too."
The Vuelta isn't exactly a plan B for the Briton, but having been sick with three viruses in two months after Itzulia Basque Country, Geoghegan Hart was never in a position to go for a return to the Giro d'Italia this May less than two years after his victory there. It was "unrealistic," he stated categorically on Wednesday.
And while his plans to perform well in lower profile events in top shape in the early summer were also scuppered by an upset stomach, he did well in Norway, taking fifth, and had a solid Critérium du Dauphiné, taking eighth.
However, it was hard to ignore the fact that the rider he vanquished in the 2020 Giro d'Italia, Jai Hindley (Bora-Hansgrohe) finally stood tallest in pink at the end of the final day of racing in Italy. It turns out that although Geoghegan Hart regretted Ineos Grenadiers' defeat by the Australian this May, he found himself also in the slightly contradictory position of being pleased that Hindley had won.
"It was really nice to see Jai win although of course if it was, of course, disappointing for our team. He rode a brilliant race from what I saw on TV," Geoghegan Hart said while admitting that he, too, had not ruled out further GC bids in the future.
"In 2020 and the race against Jai I grew through it, you can see that in the metrics that I improved through the three weeks. I've not had a chance to do that since, the Tour last year was pretty complicated," the British racer said before referring to how the back injuries as a result of crashes caused him to struggle and how he had not had an issue-free Grand Tour since the 2020 Giro.
On the plus side at the Vuelta, Geoghegan Hart said, he believed he "could come into the back half of the race with good shape, I know from my other Grand Tours that's where I've done the best.
"But obviously, there's a lot of tricky kilometres between now and then so we'll just have to see how it goes. And we have a lot of cards to play, so you just have to try and navigate the tricky days, have a good TTT, and take it day by day from there. That's boring but that's the reality of Grand Tours."
Rather than write off 2022 after his difficult start to the year, at the Vuelta, Geoghegan Hart will be looking to, as he put it, "getting stuck in and racing every day."
"Even in the spring, where there was one thing after the next, I put together a good block of training up until I was super super sick for a week before Norway. But after the Dauphine, I was still proud of myself for being up there in Norway and Dauphiné considering how it'd gone been the weeks and months before.
"It wasn't necessarily what I was after in terms of getting a result but when you go in accepting the situation and you try and make the most of it, it's good if you've improved yourself and feel that you're moving in the right direction. So I was pretty happy to be up there every day."
As for the Vuelta, he argues: "It's about riding into the race and seeing what happens. So I'm not looking forward to next year yet, there are still a lot of chances this season. And hopefully, I'll race a bit more after the Vuelta is done and try to make the most of it."
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