Tao Geoghegan Hart had been trying to win his first professional race for two-and-a-half years, and so he savoured every moment of his stage victory at the Tour of the Alps and the subsequent podium ceremony, where he pulled on the cyclamen-coloured race leader’s jersey.
Geoghegan Hart was part of the Team Sky squad that won the first-ever Hammer series event in Limburg in 2017 and was in the line-up that won the team time trial at last year’s Critérium du Dauphiné. However, a first road race win was a breakthrough moment for the 24-year-old from London.
“I’m just so happy to take the win,” Geoghegan Hart explained after the stage. “I’ve been trying for two-and-a-half years as a pro, so it’s nice to take the opportunity today. I’m happy but already thinking of next stages and about making the most of this week.
“I jumped a moment or two early, but I have a good kick and wanted to be first into the finishing straight, so I anticipated things. We passed through the finish three times, so it was a nice stage to make a specific plan.”
Thanks to time bonuses, Geoghegan Hart leads Alex Aranburu (Caja Rural) by six seconds, with the lead group of 20 riders who sprinted for victory all still within a minute. However, the short, rolling stages in this year’s Tour of the Alps and the lack of a real mountain finish or time trial should cause a close and aggressive race. Team Sky will try to defend Geoghegan Hart’s leader’s jersey but have different options with Pavel Sivakov, Chris Froome and Kenny Elissonde.
“It’s going to be aggressive racing every day and similar to today: attacks and then coming back. That’s perfect racing for lots of different riders,” he said.
“We plan to make an open race. We have three or four guys for the final and two to support us. Leonardo Basso did a great ride to control the break all day. We wanted to go into the last climb and anticipate things, to take it on. Then it was a case of seeing how it went. Four of us away but could easily have been Chris and Kenny in that situation.
“We have a few leaders and that’s our game for the next few days. On this parcours the GC can change every day.”
Geoghegan Hart is considered part of the next generation of talented British riders that will eventually replace Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas. He is not well known in Italy despite victories at the prestigious Giro della Lunigiana junior stage race and the under-23 Trofeo Piva but plans to change that at this year’s Giro d’Italia, where he will be part of the Team Ineos squad that will back Egan Bernal’s attempt to win the Corsa Rosa.
“The Giro is my big objective of the season. This is one of my final races for that,” he said.
Geoghegan Hart speaks Spanish and is considered the bridge between the English core of the team and the growing Colombian unit built around Bernal. If Bernal goes on to win the Giro, Geoghegan Hart will no doubt a key role and learn a lot about his own Grand Tour potential along the way.
In defence of Team Sky’s spring campaign
Geoghegan Hart recently helped Bernal win Paris-Nice and pushed back suggestions that there is more pressure to perform as Team Sky have been less successful than usual so far in 2019.
“The atmosphere in the team is exactly the same. There’s no extra expectation on me, it’s only from myself to come up to that level and start winning races,” he said.
“People have said we haven’t had a good start to season, but I really don’t feel that. In Algarve we dominated the race and had someone on podium, and I was unlucky not to contest the win because of a big crash on day 1. At Paris-Nice, we were head and shoulders above the opposition, in in my opinion, and we were also on the podium at Milan-San Remo.
“Every race I’ve done we did podium at worst; if that’s our worst, then it’s not that bad. The Belgian races are tricky because just one or two things can cost you your big goal. I’m sure we will keep winning and add to them. This is our last opportunity to win in the Sky jersey, so I’m glad to take at least one.”