Tao Geoghegan Hart is one of the brightest young talents in cycling, and has just recently bagged his first professional victory, winning the first stage of the Tour of the Alps, in Kufstein, Austria. In this exclusive interview, Team Sky’s hot young thing talks to inGamba about joining the World Tour, the pressures of being at cycling’s biggest team, and his favorite thing about being a professional bike racer.
Tao is the great hope of British cycling. Born in Hackney, London, not far from Bradley Wiggins’ neck of the woods, he’s just turned 24, and yet it already feels like he’s been around forever. Those in the know have long been touting him as one to watch, and his name is appearing with increasing regularity whenever the next generation of grand tour talent is discussed. The future, it seems, is very bright. And yet, he’s not rushing into it.
Back in 2015, he rode as a stagiaire for Team Sky, but when a contract was offered, he politely declined, preferring to return to the US-based Continental team Axeon-Hagens Berman, reasoning that his development would be better served on the U23 scene for another 12 months.
It’s the kind of offer that most young riders dream of, but the Londoner was proved right in his choice, because after a successful 2016 season that included an U23 British National Road Race title, Sky once again came knocking, and this time, found the young rider ready and willing to answer. Since then, it’s been a steep learning curve, but not without results, and while Geoghegan Hart was mainly focused on settling into his new surroundings, it didn’t stop him bagging top-10 finishes at the Tour of California (in both 2017 and 2018), the Tour of Yorkshire and the Vuelta a Burgos before finally earning his maiden win in Austria.
We caught up to find out what it’s like being the new guy at pro cycling’s biggest team.
How would you rank your first year on the World Tour?
It has been a good year, I raced a lot, gaining experience of a wide variety of races and roles within the team and I was part of some big results and wins within the team. I really enjoyed racing for the team and discovering plenty of new races I had only previously watched on TV.
You described the 2017 Worlds TT as your “least well executed time trials of the year.” How important is it for a pro to be able to move on from disappointments, and is that something you find easy or hard?
I woke up the morning of the TT with a minor chest infection that has since taken me almost a month to shake. It was disappointing but these things happen, it is a long season and sometimes there is very little you can do. You can only focus on what you can control.
You could have moved up sooner, but chose to stay with Axeon-Hagens Berman. Why did you go that path, and do you think it was the right decision?
Well equally, I could have stayed with Axeon another year, so it just comes down to the timing and I felt like it was the right time to move up. My agents worked hard once we had decided that and in the end they orchestrated a move to Sky, the team I was most eager to join. I think the timing was spot-on, I am glad I took the third year (2016) to keep improving in the u23s, but equally I am glad I didn’t remain an u23 category rider a year longer.
What’s it like going from U23 to the biggest team on the World Tour?
It is a step up but I felt that it was manageable and I had been well prepared for it. A big part of Axeon was that we raced across two continents and I think that experience was also really helpful in adapting to the World Tour. Having the ability to soak up the travel, time changes and all, without letting it compromise your ability to race and perform.
Why Sky? Did you consider other teams?
Sky was the team I wanted to join for a number of reasons. From our early conversations I had a great deal of confidence in their ability to provide a good environment for me to grow in. They were eager to have me within the team and I was equally very keen to join so it was a good fit. I think as a rider with future GC ambitions it is a great team to join, with the chance to learn from some of the best GC riders in the world.
What were you most happy about so far in terms of your career?
My consistency throughout the year, from January through to late September.
What are your big goals now?
To step up within the team and when given the chance, start to prove myself as a leader.
If you could win one race, which one would it be, and why?
The World Championships Road race. It is iconic.
What are you favorite, and least favorite, things about being a pro bike racer, and why?
The travel. I love visiting new countries and meeting new people. And we are lucky to spend time in some amazing places. But sometimes it would be great to spend some more time with family and friends, to be there for the good times and the bad.
Tao is managed by Corso Sports Marketing, one of the leading agencies for young and exciting cycling talent that was created by inGamba founder João Correia and his partner Ken Sommer.