LEVEL UP!

From help­ing Geraint Thomas to vic­tory in the Dauphiné to a Grand Tour de­but at the Vuelta and se­lec­tion for the Worlds, it’s been quite a sea­son for Sky’s Tao Geoghe­gan Hart

Cycling Weekly - - FEATURE -

One of the most fre­quent crit­i­cisms of Team Sky, un­til re­cently, was its in­abil­ity to bring through a new gen­er­a­tion of big hit­ters to re­place the likes of Bradley Wig­gins, Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas. But over the last two sea­sons, its young­sters have fea­tured reg­u­larly in the big­gest events on the cal­en­dar, giv­ing them the op­por­tu­nity to learn from the es­tab­lished stars at the races that re­ally mat­ter.

Colom­bian phe­nom­e­non Egan Ber­nal has been the most ob­vi­ous ex­am­ple of that ap­proach this sea­son, but Bri­tain’s Tao Geoghe­gan Hart has also been far more prom­i­nent than might have been the case two or three sea­sons ago. The 23-year-old Lon­doner’s suc­cess­ful cam­paign in­cluded fifth at the Tour of Cal­i­for­nia, 13th at the Critérium du Dauphiné — where he im­pressed as win­ner Thomas’s key moun­tain lieu­tenant — and a Grand Tour de­but at the Vuelta a Es­paña.

“Cal­i­for­nia was great. It was only be­cause of the time I lost get­ting stuck be­hind a crash on a sprint stage that I missed out on the GC podium, so that was dis­ap­point­ing, but with Egan up on the top step it wasn’t too bad,” Geoghe­gan Hart says, re­flect­ing on the sea­son’s high points. “The Dauphiné was also re­ally nice, as was the last stage at Colom­bia Oro y Paz when Se­bastián He­nao and me were in the break and we ended up drop­ping back in the last few kilo­me­tres to wait for Egan, who had at­tacked out of the bunch, and we ended up win­ning the GC.”

Geoghe­gan Hart and Colom­bian phe­nom­e­non Ber­nal have raced fre­quently to­gether, de­vel­op­ing a close friend­ship. But the Bri­ton in­sists there’s no com­pet­i­tive edge to it. “I wouldn’t de­scribe it as a friendly ri­valry,” he says. “There were only one or two rid­ers in the world who were bet­ter than him this year, so it’s pretty spe­cial to work for him at those big races when we won or did well. Equally, he’s al­ways sup­ported me when I’ve had op­por­tu­ni­ties to race for the win.” He adds that be­ing around Ber­nal and the team’s other Colom­bians and Span­ish through­out the sea­son has vastly im­proved his own grip of the lan­guage.

Lessons learned

By the time CW speaks to him, his long sea­son, stretch­ing from Fe­bru­ary to the very end of Septem­ber, has taken a toll. Though he’s al­ways ac­com­mo­dat­ing, he sounds tired. It’s just as well his big­gest joy of the year came on the way to his fi­nal races at the World Cham­pi­onships, when his girl­friend Han­nah Barnes and her sis­ter Alice were part of Canyon-sr AM’S World Cham­pi­onship team time trial win­ning squad. “I watched it on my phone in Barcelona air­port. I was feel­ing pretty tired that week, so it was pretty cool to watch that know­ing how much work they’d put into it,” he says.

He could use a pick-up at that time be­cause he wasn’t com­pletely happy with his Vuelta per­for­mance. “It wasn’t re­ally what I was look­ing for dur­ing the build-up to the race, what I had set my­self in terms of ex­pec­ta­tions or goals,” he says of fin­ish­ing 62nd on GC. “There were some big lessons to be had, mostly about how I ap­proach the build-up to Grand Tours. I can see now that I had is­sues with hy­dra­tion on those first few re­ally hot days, for ex­am­ple. It was prob­a­bly my big­gest goal of the sea­son and it didn’t go to plan, so that does leave a bit of a bit­ter taste in the mouth.

“I know I made some big er­rors around the train­ing blocks this sea­son — about when to rest, when to push on, and how to ap­proach these dif­fer­ent blocks through­out the year,” he con­tin­ues. “Ev­ery year you learn more about what works for you… You learn more about your body, about what you can deal with in terms of work­load.”

He’s back in Lon­don to catch up with his fam­ily and in­dulge in what his home city of­fers, not least in culi­nary op­tions. “It’s al­ways like a bit of a hol­i­day be­ing in Lon­don,” says Girona-based Geoghe­gan Hart, re­veal­ing he’s not one for seek­ing out off-sea­son sun and is happy to be back home af­ter a hec­tic sea­son of travel. “I think it’s im­por­tant to have that time away from air­ports,” he says.

Dur­ing this pe­riod back at home, he will also start to look at how he can main­tain his pro­gres­sion through the 2019 sea­son. “The most im­por­tant thing is sim­ply not mak­ing the same mis­takes again,” he says. “If you do try to keep on im­prov­ing bit by bit you can all of a sud­den find your­self at a much higher level when things all come to­gether at the same mo­ment. That’s what I’m ul­ti­mately hop­ing for.”

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