Season review: Tao Geoghegan Hart

02 Nov 2017

Season review: Tao Geoghegan Hart

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In the first of a season-ending series, Tao Geoghegan Hart reflects on his 2017 campaign.

The young Brit has enjoyed a strong maiden year as a pro here at Team Sky, earning impressive personal results at the Tour de Yorkshire, Tour of California and Tour de Suisse, as well as riding consistently well in support of others across a wide range of races.

Just 22, Tao looks set for an even better 2018.
Best moment of the season

Crossing the line at Strade Bianche to discover that Kwiato had won. It was my first WorldTour race so I was pretty nervous before it and didn’t know what to expect - especially with that race. That was pretty cool.

But on the whole I enjoyed a lot of new races - the whole season really. My aim with [coach] Dario [Cioni] was to be able to do my job throughout the year while being ready for any opportunities that might arise through the year - you never know when that could be. I wasn’t down to do the Tour de Suisse and ended up doing that, and had an opportunity to race a bit there alongside Mikel Nieve. It was similar with the Tour of California. It was about being ready to grasp those opportunities when they came, while doing my job across the year. That was my primary role. 

Also there was winning the Hammer Series. We were all a little sceptical about it going in but it was enjoyable. There was a great energy about it once we got stuck in and got over the fact it was something new and different. I guess it’s always weird with a new race - it doesn’t have the same prestige as a race that’s been around for a long time. I know a lot of people watched it as well - there was a lot of people who don’t usually watch racing, if at all, and they watched Hammer because it was live on Facebook, so that was interesting.

Most enjoyable 

We had a good group at the Tour of California. We were relaxed and really motivated to get good results for Elia [Viviani] and [Ian] Boswell. I had an opportunity too [Tao finished eighth overall]. That was a really nice race to be at.
Tao Geoghegan Hart

Tao Geoghegan Hart

It was eye-opening there for me just how hard it was to control the race.
Hardest race 

Racing wise, the Tour of the Basque Country [Pais Vasco] was my hardest of the year. On quite a few of the days my role was to do the first part of the race before the break went and there were two or three days in a row where it took over an hour and a half for the break to go. That’s part of the race no one sees. It’s a cliche you hear a lot in cycling: ‘Oh it’s dead hard and aggressive’, but it was eye-opening there for me just how hard it was to control the race and make sure we got the scenario we needed in terms of no big team getting up the road. And that was pretty much my job done, two hours in.

Looking back at some of my numbers afterwards I was like, ‘Wow’. It surprised me how hard you can go in those first two hours. Then towards the end of the season I started to get sick around the worlds and I couldn’t really shake it. I was disappointed in that. I still ended the season alright - I think the legs were there, but I couldn’t get it out of my lungs. It was frustrating because I knew I had good form, but the sickness trickled in a bit. That happens. It’s good to have those experiences though, because you still have to deliver.
Best teammate

I learnt a lot racing the Tour of the Basque Country and the Ardennes with [Michal] Golas and Kwiato, just seeing how they work together. I did a big block with those guys - about 12 race days on the trot, all in the space of three weeks. They’re big races - maybe the most important block of the year for Kwiato - so it was cool to see that. He’d already won Strade Bianche and Milan-San Remo, so he was really on the money. There’s a bit of pressure on to try and help, but it’s also really exciting to know that he’s going to get a result if the stars align.

Biggest change

The size of everything. For example the camps, with all the staff there, and learning all of the new staff and riders. There’s so much more in everything. The attention to detail. I remember in Mallorca, at December camp, I was amazed at all of the small things that had been thought of. You think, ‘Oh I need this’ and somebody has already thought of it, or it’s already there. There’s always an infrastructure around these small things that make it easy as a bike rider. Then there’s things like having the chefs at the big races, the choice of equipment and clothing that we have… It’s something that my old team [Axeon Hagens Berman] was trying to do on a smaller scale, but this is the next chapter and the next level.

That’s also how it should be I think. My old team, with [team director] Axel [Merckx], we never had a bus because he wanted there to be some progression and something to look forward to - for you to appreciate the step up a bit more when you got there. I’m grateful for having those big areas of quite clear improvement. With a dedicated nutritionist for example, I knew that was an easy way for me to improve by a few percent. You only need a few percent every year and you step up a lot. That gives you the confidence to know there are those big steps forward to make.
Goal for 2018

I’d like to ride a Grand Tour. We will see when race programmes are decided, but I’d like to aim for the Giro. It’s still quite an aspirational goal, and the feeling I get is whenever it’s your first one, it’s difficult to get in just because you are such an unknown quantity after 10 days. But one of my goals this year was to show I can consistently deliver, not have bad days, and that’s also a part of being a GC rider. Obviously I don’t have the experience of riding a Grand Tour, but one of the great things about this year is I did almost every other kind of race: a Monument, a 10-day race in the Tour de Suisse, and I got to experience all different types of races - even a race like the BinckBank Tour, racing in Belgium again for the first time since I was an Under 23.

I think it’s important to do that - look at the Tour next year. It’s the second time in four years where there’s been cobbles on the route. When I did Roubaix as a junior I loved it, I did it twice, and obviously that’s completely different - I’ve no doubt in my mind that in the pros I’d be completely out of my depth! - but the principle of wanting to improve in all areas and be as rounded as possible is important to me. In fact, that last day in BinckBank on the Muur van Geraardsbergen, I dropped my chain on the cobbles at a bad moment. It was just tough luck - someone touched my wheel and it jumped off, but I was really wanting to get stuck in that day. Doing different styles of racing keeps you on your toes.
Tao finished an impressive 14th overall at the Tour de Suisse

Tao finished an impressive 14th overall at the Tour de Suisse

Best advice

It was at the Tour de Yorkshire, with [Luke] Rowe and [Ian] Stannard. I was going into Yorkshire as the only climber there, so on the last day all those guys were supporting me. They said it how it is - if I made a mistake during the stage they just told me. At one point I casually stopped for a nature break and Luke said, ‘Come on, say you’re going to do it, we’re going to support you 100%’, and as a young guy four months into my first season, it was hard for me to get my head round them working for me. They said it how it was and you need that sometimes to make that step forward. Plus, you remember it when someone says it straight up. Perhaps if people were a bit softer you’d do it 10 times before you rectified the mistake. 

It’s been a pleasure riding with guys like that this year and I’m excited for 2018.

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