After crashing out in Paris-Nice last month, Tao Geoghegan Hart has been back in action at Itzulia this week as he begins his journey back to full racing fitness.
The British Giro d’Italia champion will not be defending his maglia rosa this May and instead has his sights firmly set on Le Tour in July.
Geoghegan Hart’s crash in Paris-Nice left him with an injured knee and a concussion.
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Geoghegan Hart’s results in Itzulia have not been eye-catching, he is 72nd on GC and has been visible – but only while helping his team leader Adam Yates – but that’s no cause for concern he says. Indeed, he told Cycling News that he did not spend much time on the bike in the run-up to the Basque race.
"I only really did one full week of training before this so it's been a hard first few days, we're at the height of the season here with guys coming off of Tirreno and Paris-Nice but that's how it goes.”
'He's come in a bit hot' - Tao Geoghegan Hart crashes out
His reasons for staying off the bike for a little longer than he'd like were based on the longer-term impacts of his crash.
My knee was bad, too, and then I had fatigue from the concussion and a number of different factors. I didn't feel good for two weeks.
"It's just a shame, I had been feeling good and had worked hard all winter. So here I'll just try and do my best for Adam [Yates] and the rest of the guys. I need the racing so that's the reason I'm here.
Geoghegan Hart also sounded a pessimistic note about Tokyo 2020 selection in light of this setback.
"Of course it's not nice to be pretty far from the form I wanted to have right now, it's not ideal for the summer in terms of momentum and even selection for the Olympics is going to be pretty tough now. But I'll just try and get through each day and see how it goes."
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If Geoghegan Hart is to help Geraint Thomas overcome the formidable pairing of Tadej Pogačar and Primož Roglič in Le Tour this year he must be at the very peak of his powers. Chucking himself right back into the swing of WorldTour racing is certainly one way to get fit quick, particularly at a race as brutal as Itzulia with all its jagged climbs and the punchy, attacking racing style.
Some ardent Tao fans might have been secretly hoping that Geoghegan Hart would emerge as the leader on the road for Ineos this summer in France, in much the same way Geraint Thomas did when he won his own Tour title. Now, unfortunately for the romantics, that seems only a remote possibility. Particularly as, while Geoghegan Hart’s preparation has taken a hit, Thomas’ seems to be firing on all cylinders with a strong ride at Volta a Catalunya.
On Eurosport’s The Bradley Wiggins Show, Wiggins recently discussed Thomas’ form.
"G needed a performance and he showed that. It wasn't about winning for him, it was about the Tour de France.
He looked every bit the G, even without winning, that he did a few years ago when he won the Tour and he will be a real threat this year.
"That performance from Geraint has cemented his leadership for the Tour, because he has shared out the spoils and everything is on track."
Thomas did not win Catalunya, of course, that was Adam Yates – also of Ineos – and so the British team is once again dealing with an embarrassment of riches. Geoghegan Hart’s role at Le Tour may yet not be defined by his crash at Paris-Nice, but rather how Ineos decides to utilise Yates’ current impressive form. Will they be tempted to throw him into the Giro, despite initially naming the Lancastrian as their designated leader for La Vuelta and Egan Bernal for Il Giro? Will they try to keep Yates sharp enough to be a valuable mountain domestique at Le Tour? And if it is the latter, what will that mean for Geoghegan Hart’s place in the pecking order? While these questions will prompt some head scratching at Ineos HQ, there are at least ten teams in the WorldTour that would kill to be faced with the same sort of dilemma.
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