If riders really do improve season-on-season then 2019 is going to be some year for Team Sky’s young Londoner Tao Geoghegan Hart.
The 23-year-old not only scored some impressive final placings for himself in 2018, he was also instrumental in the success of others, leading Egan Bernal to the top step in California and Colombia and Geraint Thomas to the overall at the Dauphine just prior to the Welshman’s Tour de France victory.
He also tackled his first grand tour at the Vuelta a España in what was heralded as a breakout year by the team and press alike.
But rather than rest on his laurels, continued improvement is the aim for Geoghegan Hart, who got his season underway earlier today at a crash-affected first stage of the Volta ao Algarve, having spent the previous week training across the Atlantic in Colombia.
Speaking to Allez! Allez! CC, he said: “I was definitely happy with a lot of things last season. Mostly importantly I stepped up from 2017, progression is always the umbrella aim above all else, not necessarily in a linear fashion, but consistently striving for more and better is very important I think.Embed from Getty Images
“There were definitely some low points too, important (and not easy) to forget! But highlights wise I would say it’s fairly obvious for anyone who followed my season – Colombia, California and Dauphine.”
Geoghegan Hart admits he that whilst wasn’t entirely happy with the way his ride at the Vuelta had gone, there were plenty of positives to take.
“I was maybe a little too motivated before the race with my training, and even going back to earlier in the season didn’t rest enough after the Dauphine.
“That said, I learnt a great deal from racing 21 days almost non-stop and being around fantastic leaders like Kwiato (Michał Kwiatkowski), who obviously had a spell in the race lead in the first week of the race.”
It’s easy to forget that the 2018 season was only his second in the World Tour peloton, such was his influence out on the road.
He formed a strong partnership with Bernal, helping the young star to victory at both the Oro Y Paz race in the Colombian’s homeland and the Tour of California.Embed from Getty Images
So, having seen Bernal at close quarters, does he think his teammate has the potential to go on and win grand tours as many are predicting?
“Yes without doubt he does. He is a great leader. He always appreciates the work of those around him, both riders and staff, and makes sure to thank everyone,” he said.
“We had a lot of fun doing the races we did together, and although Catalunya and San Sebastian both ended quite nastily, he showed just how classy he is in how quickly he bounced back, and at the highest level, at Romandie and Lombardia.”
The pair look set to team up again at this year’s Giro d’Italia, with Bernal set to lead the Team Sky attack despite confusion over whether Thomas will ride or not.
But Geoghegan Hart admits his focus has yet switched to the season’s opening grand tour just yet.Embed from Getty Images
He said: “It is a long way off. I know there will be a lot of climbing, I know there is a fair amount of TT km’s. That is enough detail for now.
“I have about 21 days of racing before the Giro starts and that is all important also, so I will focus on that for the time being.
“That said, the arduous final week has been in my mind since the off-season and I’ll bear that in mind as the race gets closer.”
To the casual outsider, Team Sky can often seem to be obsessed with the Grand Tours and nothing else.
But in the last 18 months, the progression of Geoghegan Hart and the emergence of other young talent such as Bernal has perhaps shone a light on the team’s ability to develop young talent.
Geoghegan Hart certainly feels he’s improved since stepping up to the World Tour from Axel Merckx’s Hagens Berman Axeon team.Embed from Getty Images
“I’ve learnt a huge deal, both racing but also with my nutrition and recovery and in all aspects of being a pro athlete really.
“The main thing is progress and ensuring you have that, but also accepting that it won’t be linear month on month or year on year. That means having a holistic approach and looking at every area you can improve.
“Some years you might get worse in one area and better at another, then the next year improve a weakness and maintain a strength.
“In the end it’s a huge puzzle and the important thing is to keep learning what works for you as an individual and remembering that.
“Dave Brailsford has always pushed me to note things down, good and bad, and I try to do that, mostly in my online training diaries but also on paper or in my phone.”
In his early years, Geoghegan Hart found success in the junior Classics – with podiums in the Espoir versions of both Paris-Roubaix and Liege-Bastogne-Liege – but all ambitions on the senior stage on the cobbles are on the back burner for now.
But with that the case, which races on cycling’s vast calendar do feature on the list?Embed from Getty Images
“La Volta Catalunya is probably my favourite race. Also Liege, the World Championships, the Tour of Britain. There are many incredible races and also many more for me to experience and explore.
“I love the travelling with this job and seeing new cultures, and each race, country, city, has it’s own flavour, so it is a huge honour to keep tasting and visiting new places!
“As a fan of the sport, I would say the races I look forward to watching most (as I know I won’t be selected for them!) is Flanders and Paris-Roubaix. The support on the roads, the style of racing, how much it means to the riders, it makes for fascinating viewing.”
Geoghegan Hart finished today’s stage at Volta ao Algarve almost seven minutes down after a crash at the 7km-to-go point.
Main image courtesy of Georges Ménager with thanks.