It is sometimes easy to forget that Tao Geoghegan Hart is still only 26 years old. Whether it is the fact that he is already a grand tour winner, having triumphed in that extraordinary Giro d’Italia last autumn, or the way in which he speaks – mature, considered, unafraid to tackle politically-sensitive subjects – the Londoner seems older than his years.
The truth is, Geoghegan Hart is still relatively inexperienced. At least in grand tour terms. The upcoming Tour de France, which begins in Brest this coming Saturday, will be Geoghegan Hart’s first crack at cycling’s biggest race and only the fifth grand tour of his career. No wonder he admits to feeling a frisson of youthful excitement at the prospect of ticking what is a dream for any young rider off the bucket list.
“It’s pretty exciting,” he says. “There’s not many things you really, really look forward to in your career but this is definitely one of them. And I think I just read earlier this afternoon, that between the rest of the guys they’ve got 46 Tours between them, which is insane. So yeah, what a privilege to be amongst that much experience.”
The exact role Geoghegan Hart will play in the Ineos Grenadiers line-up is unclear. The British team were a little coy in their press release on Friday when confirming the line-up, with team principal Sir Dave Brailsford saying only that he wanted his team to continue to deploy the more “open and aggressive” style of racing they have adopted this season and warning fans to “expect the unexpected”.
Most observers feel the team will be led by Geraint Thomas and Richard Carapaz, though, with Geoghegan Hart and Richie Porte the next two cabs off the rank, riding in support but also trying to stay up there on general classification so as to offer more cards to play.
Geoghegan Hart does not argue with that analysis. “I think definitely, if you look at how Geraint and Richard have been riding in the past month, I think that’s a fair assumption to make,” he says. “I wouldn’t disagree with that.” The truth is, though, anything could happen. You only need to look at last autumn’s Giro when Geoghegan Hart was not among the top 30 favourites but suddenly found himself leading the team after Thomas’s crash and proceeded to take full advantage. The fact is Ineos Grenadiers have three grand tour winners in their team, plus the winner of the recent Critérium du Dauphiné in Richie Porte. Any of them could in theory find themselves in a position to do something, especially if the team live up to Brailsford’s promise to “take the initiative” and to “seize every opportunity” that comes their way.
“You can make all the plans you want, but I think we all know that plans go out of the window once the racing starts,” Geoghegan Hart says. “We just have to see how each situation develops and take it step by step, phase by phase. The first few days will be mentally tricky. There’s going to be a lot of carnage no doubt. Probably even a bit more than usual being Brittany and the type of racing that you get there.
“Then obviously you’ve got the TT [time trial] and after that there’ll no doubt be quite a few GC [general classification] guys already out of the running and the Tour hasn’t even really got going yet. That’s just grand tour racing isn’t it?”
Geoghegan Hart – who cites usual suspects Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) and Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) as Ineos Grenadiers’s main rivals, while nominating Jack Haig (Bahrain Victorious) and Miguel Ángel López (Movistar) as dark horses – will hope to stay safe and upright throughout. As if the prospect of his first Tour is not exciting enough, he has the not inconsiderable prize of a ticket to Tokyo and a trip to his first Olympic Games waiting for him at the finish.
Understandably, Geoghegan Hart does not wish to get ahead of himself – one thing at a time – but it promises to be quite a summer, even if he is not sure exactly where his form is, having taken a couple of weeks off post-Ardennes to keep himself fresh for the latter part of the summer.
“I wouldn’t say I felt in my best ever shape at the Dauphiné,” he says. “But hopefully I’ve timed it right. We’ll see how it goes. I’m looking forward to racing with the boys anyway.
“I just want to get up there now, I’m sure it will be a bonkers few days before the race kicks off. I just need to keep my head down and stay nice and relaxed and look forward to everything that comes with the biggest race in the world.”