For some top riders the feeling after taking their first win in nearly three years could be close to relief that such a lengthy gap between victories is finally over. But after Tao Geoghegan Hart (Ineos Grenadiers) crossed the line with his arms in the air at the summit of stage 4 of the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana, his take on his first triumph since the overall of the 2020 Giro d’Italia was markedly different.
“No, I don’t think so,” the Londoner told a small group of journalists behind the Valenciana winner’s podium truck when asked about whether relief came into his mental equation following his victory, “it’s just an honour and a pleasure.”
“Like I just said, it’s a really hard sport to have success so I’m just really happy to have paid off the teammates, specially today. They did an amazing job on the second stage, and it was just one of those where I didn’t get it quite right,” Geoghegan Hart said, referring to two days ago when he was subsequently relegated from second to last at Valenciana’s first summit finish for an irregular sprint.
“I could have had a bit more confidence in some respects. But Rome wasn’t built in a day and after last year, it’s just about creating momentum and taking it day by day and all those other boring cliches.”
After what he defined as “difficult moments” in the last two years, where major misfortunes like the crash in the first week of the 2022 Vuelta a España have pushed the Briton out the running just when he seemed to be getting back into the swing of things, Geoghegan Hart was markedly chary about overstating his short-term goals even for stage 5 of Valenciana.
Rather than reveal any thoughts about the prospect of challenging for the overall, despite the time bonus for the stage 4 win leaving him just four seconds down on race leader Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo), for now, he said, he was focussed on enjoying what he had achieved on the fourth stage. That, and how, after an incident-free winter of training, he had got there.
Scoring wins in a season like 2023 when his contract is up for renewal could be seen as having added value. But again rather than agree with a reporter who called contract seasons ‘big years’, Geoghegan answered simply “It’s always a big season in cycling, mate”.
“Every season I’ve had in my entire career is a big season, that’s the way I look at it. I love training, I love this sport, cycling. It doesn’t make any difference if you’re in a contract year or not, or if I trained harder and more hours and more everything in the last two years than this winter. It’s not something different. It’s just the big thing is staying healthy and staying upright and that’s easier said than done.”
Coming back to the here and now and regarding his sixth win of this career, and his first outside Italy, the Briton put it simply: “It means the world to me. It’s really hard to win in cycling, this isn’t meant to be a WorldTour race, but in my opinion the level is really high, like it has been at the start of the last two three seasons.
“You just have to be grateful for every small thing and, you know, being sick and having crashes in the last couple of years reminds you of that even more. I’m a bit disappointed because my brother told me to do a good celebration this morning, but it wasn’t really a good finish for that, so…next time.
“The other day [stage 2] was strange, it was the first time in my 10-year career I was in a situation like that,” the Briton said in an earlier TV interview. “I was just happy to have done a good performance today to control what I could control.”
Geoghegan Hart also took advantage of winning again to send a “lot of love to my friends and family who know how much bad luck I’ve had in last couple of years, and difficult moments. I’m really happy”.
Already third in a Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana back in 2020 just before the pandemic kicked in, and at the starting point of by far his most successful season to date, Geoghegan Hart did not specify though what his race programme would be. Instead, when asked, he emphasized again that he was “just happy and grateful to have a really uninterrupted winter, three months of consistent training.”
“I know when I have a good block the condition comes, that’s never been an issue. In the last couple of years it was just a case of a lot of setbacks whenever I was getting to the place where I wanted to be.”
But at Valenciana, at least and at long last, for Geoghegan Hart those setbacks could be forgotten – and whatever came next , it seemed, could take care of itself.