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Tao Geoghegan Hart: “Riding for Bissell will be a huge challenge”

One of the most brightest talents that will race next season in the U23 ranks, Tao Geoghegan Hart had an impressive series of results in 2013. His adventure started in the Junior Paris-Roubaix and ended a couple of months later, in Firenze, where he raced the Road Race at the World Championships. In just half of year, he won two stage races (Tour of Istria and Giro della Lunigiana) and made sure of showing his potential, thus convincing Axel Merckx to offer him a contract at Bissell (ex-Bontrager).

His 2013 season might be over, but Tao Geoghegan Hart already strated preparing for next year, when he wants to make another important step on the road he hopes will get him in the pro peloton. What are his thoughts after his last season as a Junior and what objectives he has for the future? Find out from the following interview.

– Tao, first things first: why cycling?

At first, cycling was just a great way to get out of the city. To be able to go into the countryside and explore everyday was and still is pretty special. Once I started to delve into the sport the history and culture also really appealed to me, there are so many extraordinary people to meet and stories to be told. However, mostly cycling simply serves as a great way to test myself day in day out, to push myself and find new limits, even if that is an overused cliche – because it is a good one I guess!

– Was there a person who inspired you in the beginning?

I started aged fourteen after playing football and swimming, however cycling was a completely different sport and I really loved that. Since I was young, regardless of the sport, my parents have inspired me. They work so hard and have always allowed me to do my own thing without any pressure, whilst intentionally or not, quietly setting an example of how to lead your life. Neither of them have any sporting background whatsoever, but I think they could have been great athletes, they have drive and determination by the bucketload, I see that every single day.

– How where your first years in the sport?

Well, I came last (maybe it was second from last?! I need to look it up before I tell this story any more times!) in my first race! I was lucky that after only a year of racing I was taken into the British Cycling system aged fifteen, that brought me on more than I can really express in words. I went from never having ridden the track to riding the European Championships and then later World Championships within a few years. Their programmes are without a doubt some of the best in the world, so to be a part of the Talent Team (under sixteen) and Olympic Development Programme (under eighteen) was really an amazing experience. I won’t ever forget the lessons I learnt and the great working relationships I had with my two coaches, Stuart Blunt and Matthew Winston. But before the help from British Cycling, in my first proper year racing, I simply threw myself in the deep end. I raced under sixteen races out in Belgium having never really done any high level racing before, that was a new experience at the time! I have the late Alan Rosner and another great mentor of mine, John Barclay, to thank for all the advice and racing they gave me throughout my career thus far. I would like to think the results I have gained so far have been a few years in the making, a reflection of all the different help I have had. But I am far from done!

– 2013 was a great season, with many wins and good results. Are you satisfied with how things went?

When I am satisfied I think it will be time to hang up my wheels. I met almost all of my goals for the season, however it wasn’t all that great. Personally I felt I under performed at the World Track Championships and that was really gutting. We think I was a little ill at the time, but regardless, I was really disappointed that all the hard work I put in in the months prior to the Worlds didn’t really show, or at least I felt like I didn’t show. Fourth in the Team Pursuit just wasn’t what we wanted. In general, I don’t really like to dwell on good results, I am really hungry to show myself again next year in the U23’s and seniors – that is the main thing. You are only as good as your last race, as they say.

– How important was the win in Giro della Lunigiana, a race won in the past by riders like Gilberto Simoni, Damiano Cunego or Vincenzo Nibali?

If I am honest, at the time it wasn’t really that important. We were using the race as preparation for the World Championships so the result was a little less crucial, the concentration on getting the hard work in and attempting to perfect the processes, as a team, that we had been putting in place all year. I really respect the heritage and history of the race and it was a great event to be a part of, however in the grand scheme of things it was just another step toward my dreams and ambitions. However, yes, to win another stage race after my victory in the Tour Of Istria in April, that was pretty cool. I had a great team around me, I enjoyed winning it with them more than anything else, especially as it was just before we all headed our separate ways and into the U23’s.

– Do you have any regrets after what happened at the World Championships in Firenze?

I do and I don’t. I had really big goals for the race, however there was nothing I could have done. To snap a chain that was less than a week old and had been checked and rechecked again and again, that is simply a part of the crazy sport of cycling. Afterwards I told myself, as a fan of the sport, it is the millions of things that can happen in a race that make it so exciting, it is that uncertainty that makes me love the sport. It was true then and it is still true now, I just have to accept that these things happen and move on, which I have done. It will certainly add fuel to my fire this winter.

– A couple of days ago, your transfer to Bissell was announced. What made you accept that offer?

I spoke with Axel a couple of times a few months ago and from those conversations forward my mind was set, I really wanted to be a part of his programme. At the beginning of the year I had a small dream to join the team and it ended up coming true which is pretty cool. My good friend Alex Dowsett also rode for the team, he gave me a lot of advice and that made me a lot less nervous for what is a pretty big life-change! It also helps that Nathan Van Hooydonck, another really close friend of mine, is riding for the team – I can’t wait to race alongside him. Ultimately, though it was my own decision, there were quite a few different exciting options, but I am really looking forward to working under Axel and racing for the team. I think it will be a huge challenge, but I am really excited to give it my all.

– What will your objectives be for next season?

Personally I want to contribute as much as possible to the team, to learn about the races and try and show the teammate I can be as much as possible. If I can gain experience, improve as a bike rider and help out some of my older teammates, I think it will be a successful season. I am always ready to grasp any opportunity, so I will wait and see what happens!

– And speaking on long-term, what races do you dream of winning? 

I dream of becoming a professional bike rider. The races that really appeal to me are Grand Tours and the hilly classics, although Paris-Roubaix is also super cool. Past that I think I will have to wait and see what comes my way!

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