Immediately after crossing the line first on stage four of the Volta a Valenciana to win his first bike race in more than two years, Tao Geoghegan Hart pressed his radio and began a long, deafening and impassioned victory scream that lasted the best part of five seconds.
The reaction said everything about the significance of the victory for the Londoner, the Ineos Grenadiers rider’s last visit to the top step of a podium being all the way back in October 2020 when he won the Giro d’Italia.
In between has been two barren years, 28 months of frustrations, numerous setbacks, illnesses, injuries, and a dearth of consistency. It was little wonder he was so overjoyed at winning atop Alto de la Cueva Santa.
“This is a really tricky sport,” he told the press afterwards. “I’m just bloody happy to win. I am super happy with that.”
Although the 27-year-old didn’t want to define his triumph as a relief, he was keen to reflect on the previous two seasons to compare his emotions. “It’s an honour and a pleasure to win,” he continued.
“It’s a really hard sport to do well in, to have success in, so I am just really happy to have paid off my teammates. They did an amazing job on the second stage [when Geoghegan Hart finished ninth] and it was one of those days where I didn’t get it right - I could have had more confidence in some respects.
“But Rome wasn’t built in a day and after the last few years it’s all about taking momentum, taking it day by day, and all those other boring cliches.”
He went on: “I’m just happy and grateful that I have had an uninterrupted winter without any problems and consistent training.
“I know that when I have a good block the condition comes, that’s never been an issue. The last couple of years it was just a case of a lot of setbacks whenever I felt like I was getting to the place I wanted to be.”
The victory, his first outside of Italy, is well-timed, for 2023 also acts as a contract year for Geoghegan Hart. Not that he is buying into the narrative of it being more important than other seasons though.
“It’s always a big season in cycling,” he deadpanned. “Every season I’ve had in my entire career has been a big season.
“I love this sport and it doesn’t make any difference if it’s a contract year or not. [Regardless] if you’re training harder, [doing] more hours, or [doing] more everything in the last two winters than this winter, it’s not [been] something different [to return to form], it’s just the big things of staying healthy and staying upright. But it's easier said than done.”
Geoghegan Hart sits just four seconds off the race leader Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo) going into the fifth and final stage, but a flat final 30km means that it’s unlikely the Italian will be disposed of his leader’s jersey. “I’m just happy to have won today - I don’t need to think about that right now,” Geoghegan Hart said.
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