Simon Geschke: The most under the radar rider of the year?

The German Cofidis rider came third at the Tour de Romandie and almost won the mountains jersey at the Tour de France

Simon Geschke
(Image credit: Getty Images)

It is all too easy to focus on the serial winners and the top of the rankings when looking back over a cycling season, your mind immediately casts back to moments like Tom Pidcock on Alpe d'Huez, or Elisa Longo Borghini on the cobbles of Roubaix.

As a result, one often ends up overlooking those who have had genuinely great years, possibly overachieved or reached their best, but just didn't pass the threshold of what we deem as the true elite.

For every Tadej Pogačar, there's a Simon Geschke.

The German rider, who is in the second year of his contract with Cofidis, is known largely for having a great beard, being a vegan, and liking rock music, but also had a stellar 2022.

He kicked it off slowly, being a loyal domestique to his starrier teammates like Ion Izagirre and Guillaume Martin, supporting the former to second at Itzulia Basque Country, before seizing his chance at the Tour de Romandie at the end of April, finishing third overall on general classification. His season almost got one step better at the Tour de France, where he was the man with the King of the Mountains jersey for the longest, and the final challenger to Jonas Vingegaard, the eventual winner.

"It was a very good year for me, especially the season up until the Tour," the 36-year-old modestly says. "There are always up and downs, but I was really happy with my shape from Pais Vasco to the Tour of Romandie, where I was supposed to be a helper but I could do a job there. At Romandie I got a result myself, which was really good for me and the team. 

"We were chasing WorldTour points all year, so that was good. At the Tour I was in the same shape again, and it was fantastic for me. I didn't win anything, but the Tour I rode was so good. I was disappointed to not win the mountains classification, but in the end I went home and I was satisfied with that."

Simon Geschke

(Image credit: Getty Images)

One supposes this is the life of a professional rider, having to be satisfied with a near miss which could be the biggest event of a career. Still, the visibility in the polka dots was important for Geschke, as was the confidence he gained from the performance.

"I had been eyeing the mountains jersey for a long time because to be honest it is the most realistic goal, for me to do something at the Tour," he explains. "Sure, stage wins are a possibility out of breakaways, but this is the next goal. Things like that or the combativity award.

"I don't go in breakaways just for TV exposure, I wanted to do something at the biggest race in the world. Anything you can win there is a good thing. The mountains jersey would have been as good as a stage win. We wanted to keep the jersey as long as possible, but I wasn't expecting to keep it for that long. It worked out almost perfectly, but it wasn't enough."

Smaller teams risk being criticised by fans if they are not being aggressive enough, what purpose do they serve if not to animate the race with only slim hopes of success?  Geschke was a rebuttal to that critique at the Tour, trying to win a competition, putting himself up the road and challenging.

It doesn't hurt that ASO in an effort to spice up the KOM contest has made moves to enable Geschke to contest it.

"It used to be double points for mountain top finished, but they changed it," he explains. "They shifted the focus to the average climber again like me. I missed only one climb, and that's what decided it. 

"Next year maybe more guys will try, and I'm sure the Tour also wants the mountains jersey to have a higher value again. It was really exciting, at least that's what I heard. In other years it seemed like a last week thing, but maybe I inspired a few riders to go for it right from in the beginning."

Simon Geschke

(Image credit: Getty Images)

As for Romandie, it was Geschke's highest profile general classification placing ever, all the more impressive given his age. It is seven years since he won a stage of the Tour de France while riding for Sunweb, probably the result of his career.

"Romandie doesn't happen very often," he admits. "I was third at Tour Down Under two years ago, but before that I don't know if I was ever top 10 in a WorldTour stage race, but I was never really a GC rider. Romandie, and also the TDU, I had a chance and I was in good shape. It can happen, when you are strong. I am not often the sole leader of a team, and in both races I was the plan B. 

"At Romandie, we went for Ion Izagirre because of the two time trials, but he crashed on the first day, and then we saw what was possible, and I came out third."

However, given the opportunity, he seized it.

"For me it was good, because I didn't have the pressure and I just tried to hang on." Geschke says. "The day before was quite a hard mountain stage and I finished top 10 so I was already happy. I wasn't there for a podium result, if I was I would have been more nervous. Even if you have a lot of experience you can get nervous. That week, I was already happy and then I went into the TT quite relaxed and finished second, which was a bigger surprise than the GC. 

"It gives me confidence for sure, but at Cofidis we still have guys like Guillaume Martin and Izagirre who are normally stronger than me when everything falls into place. This week it was the other way round, when we changed the plan."

It might not happen again, or it might not, but Geschke is a reminder that there is a vibrant life below the top, of riders achieving their best results and succeeding, even if they rarely get the column inches for it.

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