Tao Geoghegan Hart said it was a ‘massive honour’ to have the reigning British champion and a former world champion riding in support at the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana.
The British talent was among the best in the Spanish stage race, finishing third on the queen stage to secure a podium spot overall among some big names.
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While 21-year-old Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) secured the overall victory, Geoghegan Hart put in a phenomenal ride on stage four to move onto the podium and finish the race in third on general classification.
Speaking after the race, the 24-year-old said: “For me it was a massive honour to have Swifty [Ben Swift] there in the British champ’s jersey, Michał [Kwiatkowski] with the rainbow bands around his arms, and the whole team helping out.
“They took it on and gave me a lot of confidence to believe in myself to try and go for [stage four] and with that the GC.
“It didn’t quite happen but it wasn’t too far off either, so that’s a really nice start for the first race of the year.”
Geoghegan Hart declared himself as one of the front runners for the week-long stage race on stage two, finishing with the front group on the tough 2km Cullera climb.
But it was stage four to Altea when the Londoner secured his spot on the overall podium, finishing just six seconds behind stage winner Pogačar alongside the likes of Dan Martin (Israel Start-Up Nation) and Wout Poels (Bahrain-McLaren).
On Geoghegan Hart’s performance on stage four, Team Ineos sports director Nicolas Portal said: “It’s a huge result when you consider the parcours, with almost 4,000 metres of climbing, then you finish on this crazy monster of a climb.
“Also you have some top names in this race and it’s a really good result for Tao.
“It’s going to be a big boost to him. He’s quite far from his best condition as this race wasn’t a specific objective for him but that just confirms that he’s had a really good winter.”
His third place finish shows promise for 2020, after he won his first pro races last season – two stages of the Tour of the Alps, where he also finished second overall.
Geoghegan Hart is building his season around the Giro d’Italia, where he will ride alongside reigning champion Richard Carapaz and world time trial champion Rohan Dennis.