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Vuelta a Espana

Vuelta a España: Tao Geoghegan Hart taking the long view

Spanish grand tour rookie Carlos Rodríguez is leading the powerful Ineos Grenadiers lineup after a week of racing.

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GRADO, Spain (VN) — Tao Geoghegan Hart started this Vuelta a España as one of the few grand tour winners in the bunch.

This Vuelta is packed with six former winners, but of those, only Primož Roglič and Simon Yates are still in their prime. Geoghegan Hart won the 2020 Giro d’Italia, and he’s quietly banging around in the top-5 so far in this Vuelta.

“I would prefer a stage like this 100 times than the first five or six stages,” Geoghegan Hart said at the line Saturday.

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Now 27, Geoghegan Hart is no longer the spring chicken inside the Ineos Grenadiers bus.

Yet he is a grand tour winner, and after some setbacks and frustrations over the past few seasons, he’s looking back in top condition.

A strong ride at the Vuelta a Burgos confirmed he’s on form ahead of the Vuelta.

On Saturday, he limited the losses to Remco Evenepoel and crossed the line 11th to climb into fifth overall at 1:54 back. Ineos teammate Carlos Rodríguez is also right there, now fourth at 1:47 behind.

Saturday’s stage also saw Pavel Sivakov and Richard Carapaz slip out of the top-10 and top-20, respectively.

Geoghegan Hart: ‘We need to be patient, and use the team well’

Ineos Grenadiers packs two riders into the top-5 so far at the Vuelta. (Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

For Geoghegan Hart, this Vuelta is all about being patient and playing the long game.

“We had to find a balance between being patient, and using the team well, and not wasting them,” he said. “We don’t have the best riders, we don’t have to impose ourselves. We need to be smart.”

Rodríguez also continues to surpass expectations across the first week in the Vuelta a España.

The 19-year-old is already christened by Spanish media as one of Spain’s “next big things,” but the Ineos Grenadiers rider rocketed up the leaderboard this week across northern Spain.

Rodríguez bounced into fourth overall, giving Ineos Grenadiers two in the top-5.

“It was a good day for Carlos,” Geoghegan Hart said. “We hope to keep getting better as the race goes on.”

Despite finishing eighth at the Critérium du Dauphiné in June, Geoghegan Hart was overlooked for Tour de France selection. The team won the team classification prize and Geraint Thomas hit third on the final podium.

Ineos Grenadiers came into this Vuelta with hopes of at least hitting the podium, if not winning with Carapaz. The Ecuadorian, however, is struggling in what will be his final grand tour in Ineos colors before moving to EF Education-EasyPost for 2023.

Rodríguez and Geoghegan Hart will try to stay close to the front in Sunday’s equally steep finale, and carry momentum into the back half of the Vuelta.

Tuesday’s individual time trial should help settle the GC picture even more.

“Stay healthy, and stay out of trouble,” Geoghegan Hart said on the keys for success in the Vuelta. “For me, if I am healthy, with my experience from the grand tours I’ve done … my level doesn’t change.

“That’s what I have to aim for, to stay healthy and just keep being smart to use the energy when it matters, and save your legs while you can.”

Grand tours are often decided in the waning days of any race. He learned that much from his stunning Giro win in 2020, when he won the penultimate stage and then snatched the pink jersey in the closing time trial.