Tao Geoghegan Hart digs in for the Tour de France long haul
Stage 1 crash forces Giro d'Italia winner to switch to support role
Tao Geoghegan Hart was hoping for a very different first week of his first Tour de France.
He was nominated as one of Ineos Grenadiers' four protected riders after winning the 2020 Giro d'Italia, but the first mass crash on stage 1 cost him 5:33 and massively changed his debut Tour and his role in the team.
On the stage 2 finish atop of Mûr-de-Bretagne, the 26-year-old Londoner played an early role in protecting Geraint Thomas and Richard Carapaz and lost a further 3:38. He subsequently avoided any risk in the Laval time trial and has since saved his legs, slipping to over 37 minutes down as the Alps loom on the horizon.
"We had a clear structure in the team and for me personally it was a case of seeing if I could stay out of trouble in those first couple of days. But I just got unlucky in that first big crash," Geoghagan said as the Tour de France headed into the Alps.
"I didn't go down but someone hit me from behind and broke my bike. We chased for 25 kilometres to get back on but then the second crash happened and so that was it. At the end of the day, it was just one of those things."
Geegheghan Hart has been lying low in the peloton and out of the media spotlight as he comes to terms with the pain and disappointment of the Tour. He is still physically and mentally strong and appeared ready to dig in for the long haul ride to Paris.
"It's easier to accept when there's nothing more you can do," he said.
"In most race scenarios you're kidding yourself if you think there's nothing you can do to avoid crashes but I was with the boys, we were all together. I was the last of six or seven of us right up front but then someone hit me from behind."
Ineos are still in the fight for overall victory with Thomas and Carapaz, but the stage 1 crash totally changed Geogheghan Hart's Tour, moving him from third leader in the hierarchy to a pure mountain domestique role, one he takes into the Alps.
There is no silver lining to Geoghegan Hart's misfortunes and no freedom to go for a stage victory unless both Thomas and Carapaz drop out of contention. For now, Ineos and Geoghegan Hart are still riding with the goal of overall victory in Paris.
"We 100 per cent believe. We always believe. Why not?" he asked
"There are chances the race will flip again, especially when all of the peloton or the race has a similar outlook, except for one team (UAE Team Emirates). It's a long way from over, we haven't done a proper mountain climb yet in the Tour.
Geogheghan's Hart's disappointment was clear to see has he talks about how his Tour ambitions have changed.
He is a Grand Tour winner and naturally expected more on his Tour debut. But he is wise beyond his years and knows exactly how hard, how painful and how cruel Grand Tour racing can be.
"It's going as expected to be honest, not as I unexpected," he suggested.
"Yeah, it's my first Tour but I've seen plenty of it on TV and I know how it is. It's the biggest race of the year, so you know what territory it comes with."
There may be a sense of disappointment but definitely not one of surrender.
"If you're the type of person that finds it difficult to keep going in the Tour, then you wouldn't be in this sport and in this race," he rightly pointed out.
"Every rider in the peloton has been through more tough days than good days."
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Stephen is the most experienced member of the Cyclingnews team, having reported on professional cycling since 1994. He has been Head of News at Cyclingnews since 2022, before which he held the position of European editor since 2012 and previously worked for Reuters, Shift Active Media, and CyclingWeekly, among other publications.