Journal

  • Local Riders Q&A with Tao Geoghegan Hart

    My favourite poem is by Charles Bukowski. ‘Roll the dice’ it’s called, and if you don’t know it you should go and read it. It may not change your life, but it could certainly make you think about it. 

    The opening lines are a doozy.  

    ‘If you’re gonna try, 

    go all the way, 

    otherwise don’t even start.’ 

    When I think of Tao Geogheghen Hart, a guy I first met as an ambitious 15 year-old, and have seen develop into one of the best U23 riders on the planet, I often think of that line.

    Tao is a kid who I’ve seen work towards his goal of becoming a top professional bike rider, and I have no doubt that he is prepared to go all the way, and that he will, with a dose of good fortune, do just that. 

    A young bike rider needs a lot of things to succeed, the aforementioned luck, support, physical talent, but more than anything in my mind they have to have the right mental attitude. Cycling takes and takes and takes; it takes your time, it takes you away from the security of your home and your family, it takes away some of the freedoms of youth, and it can keep on taking all the way through your life. 

    It is not a bad thing because I have seen (and experienced) cycling giving back much more than it has taken. But, for me, a rider has to be prepared to lose before he can win. And more than anything Tao has always had that: he has been prepared to go all in.

    ‘All the way

    all the way

    you will ride life to perfect laughter.

    It’s the only good fight there is.’

     

    As a racing cyclist, which results are you most proud of and why?

    One part of Charly Wegelius book has always stayed in my mind. Charly tells how Eddy Merckx had said in the press that if Axel (his son, my boss) had had a teammate like Charly, he would have won that day. I'd like to have something like that myself, respect from a real great, one day. Still chasing it.

    For now, I'm not really sure to be perfectly honest. I think it is more about looking forward, as cliche as that sounds.

    Which are your favourite stretches of road to ride on locally and what is it that you like about them?

    I love the first little lump up to the roundabout in Epping forest and then left from there up to High Beech in the forest. That's home roads for me. It's fairly busy on the weekends with a biker cafe and further up lots of cyclists and a busy pub. It's the first time you are really out of the city, a gateway to the countryside. When I started that was about the furthest I rode, now it is just the start. I guess the fact the Tour passed by a matter of months ago adds to it all a little more now too.

    The same question for roads anywhere in the world?

    Anything along the coast. I grew up in the city but have always loved the sea. Similarly any mountain pass or road, the more isolated the better. Both are very foreign and different to the surroundings I grew up in in London.

    What is your most memorable moment on the bike or involved with cycling?

    Riding in to the Roubaix velodrome at the front of the race in the Juniors last year was a little special. That's a pro race I have always watched intensely, it's an iconic finish. I remember the last few seconds of my few big wins and the ten or so exhausted seconds after crossing the line with real clarity too. I guess that's when the emotion comes. And often the relief.

    Away from races my team training camp this year lingers in the memory. It was my first proper team camp and we had a really great group this year. It was a lot of fun both on and off the bike and a I would regard quite a few of those guys as life long friends now. Mind you that is something you will hear teammates say a lot, true or otherwise. This evokes great memories - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_e5q-Lj5KSE&list=UUw4MuKOhQ-pqHMB1D7avDow

    Has racing affected your relationship with the bike? If so, how?

    Without a doubt. Loosely, it is my job. I make somewhat of a living from it. But equally it is still a huge passion of mine and that overrides anything else. Both are just as important.

    Do you agree with Mickey Goldmill's advice to Rocky that 'women weaken legs'?

    Maybe the mind, for some guys. My girlfriend makes me a better person and in that, a better bike rider.

    All cyclists, whether they race or not, seem to obsess over the weight of their bikes. Why do you think this is?

    Most people are keen to look for short cuts, it's human nature right? Ironically, sometimes naively, I love cycling for it's lack of shortcuts to the top.

    Do you approach riding, or ride your bike, differently now to when you first got into cycling?

    Yeah it's pretty numbers and science now. But looking back I always liked that anyway - chasing average speeds or something. It's all just a little more complex now.

    Who has been your favourite pro riders over the years and why?

    Too many.

    Two easy ones are Sir Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish. Together they changed the sport, specifically road cycling, unrecognisably in the UK. I think that is most recognisable in day to day dealings with people, there is a far better understanding of what Cycling as a sport is. For that alone I think the next British generations of riders, mine and those to come, owe them and their success a lot.

    I like Lachlan Morton, who has featured on here, and his approach to the sport away from the bike. It's a little different and he brings a creative perspective to professional sport that is often completely absent.

    I've been lucky enough to make a few friends already in the pro's and there are a great deal of guys I look up too. 

    What was you favourite era of professional bike racing?

    Every era you look back a little with envy. Seeing the different kits, the cotton caps, the bikes, and most importantly the characters.

    Mudguards, mudguards and mudflaps or racing bike with clip on guards through winter?

    None. Girona is normally pretty kind to the soul. And when it's not, it's only for a day or two. That is why I am based there.

    Do you enjoy a cafe stop or do you prefer to ride straight round?

    Last winter I had a long discussion with David Millar about how you can step in to a cafe or bar one man and exit with a completely different outlook on the days training. I'm all about a good coffee.

    Assos, Rapha or neither?

    Rapha. They are a brand that I hold a great affinity with and who have supported me for what feels like a long time.

    What is your favorite piece of cycling kit (either something you currently own or have in the past)?

    I think kit is to be used and worn out. I love my current Bontrager shoes for instance, they really stand out, but you can't get too attached because two race days later some asshole will have torn the side off them...

    Do you prefer to get your head down on the A6, keep a good tempo going on the B roads or get onto the back wacks? What about the rough stuff on your road bike?

    They all have their uses. I like tiny little lanes. But equally when you are dead to the world and absolutely spent, there is nothing better than getting straight home on the quickest road you can find.

    What do you think about Strava?

    Each to their own. If it gets people out the front door...

    What do you think about Sportive rides?

    See above.

    Do you have any cycling pet hates?

    Recently, those who evidently care a lot about how cool they look on the bike, but don't have the decency to return a friendly wave. There is definitely a loose correlation between the two.

    Are there any cycling traditions that you think have been, or are being, lost as a result of changing attitudes and behaviour? And are we better off or worse off as a consequence?

    I couldn't comment. I'm a product of my time. Whilst I would like to think I'm a bit of a student of the sports past, I wouldnt really know about those often hidden traditions.

    I guess there doesn't seem to be such a 'patron' of the peloton these days though? I couldn't say if that was for the better or worse.

    Cotton cap or helmet?

    I'd love to a lot more but unfortunately it's rarely just a cap on my head.

    The benefits of spinning a low gear compared to mashing a high gear is often discussed. Putting aside the serious, physiological and mechanical aspects, what cadence you think looks right?

    Whatever is natural and not a strain to maintain, to a degree.

    White, black or coloured socks?

    White. Black on occasion and when the weather is bad.

    Frame pump or mini pump?

    I like my frame pump, it's always there, until it falls out of my frame and in to my wheel. And then I take a pocket one out the next day...

    Did you used to listen to music before a race? If so, did you have a favourite tune or playlist?

    No particular repeat favorites.

    When were/are you most happy?

    With good friends.

    Who would be your guests at your perfect dinner party (dead or alive)?

    Neil Amstrong. To ask if he actually went and then what it was like.

    If you could go back in time, where would you go?

    London and specifically Hackney in the 60s and 70s would be very high on my list. I think post-war Britain would have been incredibly interesting too. There aren't many people left to recall what that time was like.

    When was the last time you cried?

    I trapped a nerve in May and cried almost every day for two weeks from the pain.

    When did you laugh the hardest?

    On holiday.

    Are you the type of person who likes to have a plan? Or do you prefer to wing it?

    Both.

    If you could edit your past, what would you change?

    Not much.

    What single thing would improve the quality of your life?

    A round the world road trip with my best mate.

     

     

    Words: Tom Southam // Images provided by Tao. 

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