Team Sky won their last stage race, the Tour of the Alps, but Tao Geoghegan Hart admits that there were moments when he thought it would slip away.
Chris Froome and Geoghegan Hart helped Pavel Sivakov win the ciclamino jersey despite coming under fire from Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida). Sivakov, who won so much as an amateur, won his first race with stage two on Tuesday and his first overall win in the professional ranks. But it was a fight.
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“It was fine but never ideal when you are working in the moments when you’d normally be recovering on the flat parts and stuff,” Geoghegan Hart said. “It was the job and we did it perfectly. We stayed more or less together, I kind of knew that when Nibali went that if I went at my rhythm it wouldn’t be an issue. That’s the luxury of having two guys.
“Hats off to [sports director] Nico Portal in the car, there were a few moments there when I thought we wouldn’t catch them but he’s always so calm and it’s incredible.”
Stage five winner Fausto Masnada (Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec) escaped in a group and gained enough time to threaten Sky’s week-long grip on the lead. He gained more than the 3-37 minutes Sivakov had on him at the start and moved into the virtual lead.
Froome drove the pace on the last climb and when Nibali forced away a small group with Sivakov and Geoghegan Hart, the latter went to work to save the lead.
“We had all of the time gaps [over the race radio]. Then they took almost like five minutes in five or six kilometres, and we were doing a good pace, so they must have been going really fast. It’s always good because you know that they are going to suffer because everyone is human but at the same time when you see seven minutes with one climb left to go, and it’s a strong break, then it’s not ideal. You start to wonder,” he continued.
“We saw really good Froomey today which is no surprise because he gets better and better every day and he was key, a key man. Everyone did a great job and then it was up to me and Pavel to close the last three or four minutes. And the last eight kilometres, we could slow down and did not panic.”
Sivakov won the overall for Sky in their last stage race, while Geoghegan Hart came away with two stage wins, and second overall.
“At the end of the day it was my job, if I was in the same situation then I’m sure he would’ve done the same. I know he would’ve done the same,” he said of Sivakov. “We are both in this team and he’ll probably pay me back in the weeks ahead let alone the years ahead. Let’s keep doing this, it’s a lot of fun.”
“I think Pavel and Tao have shown a lot of class this week,” Froome added. “Even though this is not a WorldTour race, it’s a very intense race and very high level. They’ve shown their true colours this week and they are definitely ready for the Giro d’Italia.”
Froome completed his last race for Team Sky, ending a 10-year run. On May 1, Ineos chemical company takes over the sponsorship.
“It’s quite emotional in some ways,” added Froome. “We couldn’t have asked for more. To end on a note like that, especially with our young guys getting ready for the Giro d’Italia, it’s great to seem then in such brilliant shape.”