Two years ago Tao Geoghegan Hart turned down an offer to turn pro with Team Sky, preferring instead to spend another 12 months at under-23 level before making the leap to the WorldTour. The 22-year-old Briton has been touted as a future star for what seems like an age now and, with a solid first season at Sky under now his belt, his has been a measured rather than a spectacular rise.
“Maybe you sacrifice a few of the high highs if you want to be consistent throughout the whole year, and maybe you don’t reach your top level. But, I think in the first couple of years, at the stage I’m at in my career now, it’s better to really show the team what I can do over the whole year and be consistent,” Geoghegan Hart told Cyclingnews in Colombia, where he’s kicking off his second season as a professional.
His neo-pro campaign saw him race 80 days, half of which were at WorldTour level. He helped Michal Kwiatkowski and Mikel Landa to victories at Strade Bianche and the Vuelta a Burgos, respectively, and was able to test the water for himself at the short stage races, finishing eighth at the Tour of California and Tour de Yorkshire, along with gaining his first taste of all three Ardennes Classics.
“I was really happy with the season. I got to do some really nice races – the kind of races I can see myself doing for the next decade or more of my career, or however long I’m lucky enough to keep doing this job,” said Geoghegan Hart.
“That’s kind of the key thing, really, to start experiencing those big races, like the week-long stage races and the big one-days, and then, year on year, going deeper and deeper and hopefully progressing into a bigger and bigger role.”
Exploring his capabilities
Geoghegan Hart is keen to explore his capabilities as a general classification rider, and this year he will look to build on the foundations he built in 2017 with a sharpened focus on week-long stage races such as the Abu Dhabi Tour, Volta a Catalunya, and the Vuelta al País Vasco. He considers ‘robustness’ as his biggest asset and he’s also hoping for a first Grand Tour.
Reflecting on his own development, it’s clear that Geoghegan Hart can already talk the Team Sky talk fluently, noting that he needs to “look for that three to five per cent every year”.
“I think I’ve kind of known this for a few years, but the thing I keep seeing is that you have to really control your own destiny. There are all these people with a lot of knowledge but you’re in charge of where you go with how you develop, and you have to take ownership of it,” he said.
“If you own your development and you seek out to improve your nutrition or to work better with your coach or analyse more, or plan more, then maybe that’s how you can make those steps forward year-on-year.
“The most important part of that is your development as a whole, so a holistic approach, I guess, looking at every aspect of the sport – not just climbing or time trialling. I’ve done some good little tweaks this winter with changes in my position and it’s just a case of keeping learning year on year.”
As for Team Sky, there have been question marks over their commitment to bringing through young talent, and specifically young British talent. In a team where many of the domestiques could be leaders elsewhere, some have struggled to carve out a proper role, with the likes of Ben Swift, Ian Boswell and Peter Kennaugh moving on recently to enhance their opportunities.
Geoghegan Hart, though, who signed on an initial two-year deal, has no reservations.
“I feel like, in the end, it’s a big team and maybe that’s where the perception comes from is that young riders can get lost in a big team but I think the team for me certainly has gone out their way to make sure the transition was smooth,” he said.
“The signings they’ve made speaks for itself [Egan Bernal, Pavel Sivakov, Kristoffer Halvorsen and Chris Lawless -ed] – four of the best young riders in the world. They’ve put their trust in the team and I’d like to think they saw my first season a bit maybe and thought ‘yeah he had some chances and had a good year’.”
Going back to the three to five per cent, Geoghegan Hart says it’s a curve he’s managed to stay on throughout his career so far.
“I’m well aware at some stage it will get harder and harder to keep moving forward, but I’ll keep fighting for that, and then keep pushing when I do get there.”