Tao Geoghegan Hart kept trying, for two and a half years, to achieve his first professional victory. He did so on Monday with the help of Sky team-mate Chris Froome in the Tour of the Alps, stage one in Kufstein, Austria.
Geoghegan Hart followed an attack by Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) with team-mate Pavel Sivakov and Rafał Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe). Once they were caught, he stayed at the front and sprinted ahead of his rivals.
“As amateur always, I won in small groups like today,” he explained. “There are not so many races where you can win alone, so there’s always a possibility, you’ve got to try every time. I’ve been trying two and a half years as a pro, so nice to take the win today.”
He turned professional in 2017 with Sky and stepped up last year to help Geraint Thomas to victory in the Critérium du Dauphiné. Team Sky then gave him his chance to race a first Grand Tour at the 2018 Vuelta a España.
Geoghegan Hart is helping in Sky’s last race before the team switches to sponsor Ineos. They came here with a few leaders, including Froome, Sivakov and Kenny Elissonde. He now could try to keep the purple jersey all the way through the Alps, the remaining four days from Austria to Italy.
“It’s a really open week, no mountain top finishes per se, so we’ll see how it goes. It’s going to be aggressive racing every day and similar to today: attacks and coming back. It’s a perfect race for lots of different riders,” he continued.
“We have three or four guys for final and two to support. Basso did great ride to control break all day. It was case to see how it went. The four of us went away, but could easily been Chris and Kenny in that situation, we’ve got a strong team.”
Geoghegan Hart trained at altitude in Tenerife with Froome before coming to the Tour of the Alps, which Geraint Thomas won in 2017.
“That was good fun racing, it felt like under 23 racing at some points, just uncontrolled and no one wanted to take responsibility,” Chris Froome added. “But we used our numbers in the final both with Tao and Pavel, both in that move with Nibali and Majka over the top of that last climb.
“Unfortunately that didn’t stick and came back together, but it meant that our guys were at the front coming into the final few kilometres and we were able to cover all the moves, and Tao just edged the sprint and managed to hold on to it.
“Happy for Tao? Very, even though this isn’t a WorldTour race, it’s still tough racing and not easy by any means.”
Froome added the Tour of the Alps to his schedule at the last minute. It is usually a preparation race for the Giro d’Italia, but he needed the miles heading towards the Tour de France.
“I rolled over in [sixth] place today. I think and that’s all right straight after a big block of altitude,” Froome said. “It’s good to be back racing. Sounds like my throat is closed up after an intense final but it’s good to be back racing.”
If it goes well, Geoghegan Hart will compete in the 2019 Giro d’Italia next month for the first time alongside team leader Egan Bernal.
“I like racing in Italy, even if this win is here in Austria,” Geoghegan Hart said. “The Giro d’Italia is the big objective of the season for me and this is one of my final races for that.”