By Julien Pretot
ANDORRA (Reuters) – Eight months aftertitle, Tao Geoghegan Hart started his first Tour de France with an ambitious Ineos Grenadiers team. Still, after only a few days, the script had to be torn up and thrown in the bin.
The 26-year-old was one of four protected riders, 2018 champion, Ecuador’s Richard Carapaz, and Australia’s Richie Porte. Still, after many crashes in the , only Carapaz was left competing for the title.
That was until holder Tadej Pogacar of Slovenia hammered his rivals in the first-timeto build a gap of over five minutes, leaving Carapaz fourth overall Geoghegan already reflecting on his maiden Tour experience.
A roadside spectator holding a cardboard banner had caused a massive pile-up during the. “The first big crash with the sign was seven of us together, and I was the seventh wheel,” Geoghegan Hart told reporters.
“The crash was coming across the road towards us, and the six guys in front of me got through, and I managed to stop as someone crashed in front of me, but then someone hit me from behind and broke my two-and-a-half-hour-old brand new lovely Pinarello (bike),” he added.
“That’s the reality of, I think, and we must accept that.” Geoghegan Hart was already out of contention. So was Porte before three, leaving Ineos Grenadiers’s four-pronged attack with only Carapaz to fight for the title.
“We openly discussed that for myself and Richie Porte, it was a, but you can’t protect four riders in the Tour; it’s never going to happen,” Geoghegan Hart explained. “If you look at the top 10 now, it’s one rider from each team, and that’s not by chance.”
Geoghegan Hart discovered that everything on the Tour is more significant than in the other two grand tours. “In my first, I acknowledged that (the stakes were higher than in other races) a little bit at the Vuelta, and then obviously the Giro was, and is, another step up from that and then on the Tour (de France) every rider has a little bit more incentive and motivation and pressure to be into that corner in the right position or start that stage,” he said.
“Also, the level is so high that stuff like positioning (to avoid being at the back of a crash) becomes more important. For example, two days ago on that flat start, the effort required to reach the front was large, considerable.” However, Geoghegan Hart is enjoying his first Tour, and even though things did not go according to plan, he still has something to give to Carapaz and take from the race.
“It’s not miserable. I enjoy racing; I enjoy doing my job and being here with the team,” he said. “It’s still a massive race every young cyclist dreams of being part of, and, at the end of the day, when you get to, there’s always the chance that you can turn it around and even if that does not produce 20 or 21 it could be in the future. It is also experience.
“It’s been far from ideal, but it’s the nature of the beast. And I think at the same time, we still got Richard in a good position, and if I was in his shoes, I would be looking around the bus looking for my teammates’ support, and it’s a big motivation for me to give him as much support as I can.” (Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Ken Ferris)