Four days have passed at the Tour of the Alps, and barring a major mishap on the final day, Tao Geoghegan Hart (Ineos Grenadiers) should wrap up overall victory in Brunico tomorrow.
Stage four was a day for the breakaway, with victory coming from Movistar’s Gregor Mühlberger. What made it more meaningful for the Austrian was the fact he had not taken a victory for 1,000 days.
Geoghegan Hart, the man in the green leaders jersey, had gone 832 days without a victory between his 2020 Giro d'Italia victory and his victory at Valenciana in February this year. Should he wrap up Tour of the Alps win on Friday, it will break a 908-day dry spell between GC crowns.
On Thursday, Geoghegan Hart finished safely in the main field, retaining his overall lead by 22 seconds over Hugh Carthy (EF Education-EasyPost).
Throughout the race, Geoghegan Hart has been a picture of calmness during the race - apart from his frustration at the stage finish on Tuesday - and has looked in control of proceedings throughout, winning two stages along the way. All things considered, the Londoner has evidently entered a rich vein of form ahead of the Giro d’Italia.
Speaking to the media post-stage, the race leader explained that ultimately any potential leader will need to "have the legs" to lead his team Ineos Grenadiers in the weeks and races to come.
“I’ve seen many different types and kinds of leaders in this sport. Some have all the tools in their toolbox and others don’t," he said. "If you have the legs then you have the legs, and if you don’t, you don’t. Maybe some victories teammates enjoy it more… every situation is different, but definitely in a Grand Tour having a good feeling goes a long way.
“In the last week, every rider in the peloton starts to be very tired, and having the motivation to really push yourself makes a huge difference.”
“Every Grand Tour that I've watched since I’ve been a professional and also been a part of, you see the teammates of the leaders jersey step up to levels that you often don’t see from them in the rest of the year,” Geoghegan Hart added. “A lot of that is the extra motivation to push that extra bit when you have something to dig so deep for.”
“For sure, if you have a good relationship with the guy you're working for, then I think that can also be a great help, but finally the leader has to have the legs.”
At the Tour of the Alps, Ineos has been testing out what’s widely expected to be the team’s Giro d’Italia line up, something which DS Matteo Tosatto explained as the race got underway. Throughout the race, Geoghegan Hart has referenced the togetherness and unity within the Ineos camp, and explained that it’s noticeable when other teams don’t possess that same ethos.
“I think in the end, you certainly notice when a team is more divided or has different agendas… the closer you are and the more you understand each other, it’s only going to help,” he said.
With the Giro just weeks away, the Londoner recalled the positivity surrounding his 2020 victory, particularly as it came in a season heavily disrupted by the global pandemic.
“I’ve never seen a reaction to a victory like that to be honest,” Geoghegan Hart explained. “Not just the GC, but the race as a whole. In my time in the sport, that really stands out, not just for my success in the maglia rosa. Something resonated with the timing of that race, coming out of a very difficult 2020, but still into a very tricky 2021 winter with further lockdowns.
“You have to be proud that you inspire people, and that they really feel emotion from watching the television or occasionally being on the side of the road at a bike race. Ultimately that’s our responsibility to inspire people and to give them joy. I know I feel that when I watch the sports that I’m a huge fan of as well.”
Ahead of the race's final tough stage in the mountains, Geoghegan Hart explained that the plan would remain the same in order to bring home the title.
“We just need to stick together, and pass the final day well… I think just stay calm and relaxed, and enjoy another stage at the Tour of the Alps.”
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