After his win in Alpbach, the INEOS Grenadiers rider produced an encore performance in the Ritten Arena at the end of the second stage of the Tour of the Alps (165.2 km from Reith im Alpbachtal to Ritten/Renon). With today’s win, Tao Geoghegan Hart strengthens his lead ahead of the tough uphill finish in Brentonico San Valentino tomorrow, Wednesday, April 19
Now that he's got the hang of it, who's stopping him? Tao Geoghegan Hart's return to the Tour of the Alps is a love story that’s unfolding day-by-day and victory-by-victory. After yesterday’s success in Alpbach, the Team INEOS Grenadiers rider produced an encore performance at the open-air velodrome of the Ritten Arena in Ritten/Renon.
As predicted, Tuesday’s stage, April 18, 2023, from Reith im Alpbachtal to Ritten/Renon (165.2 km) continued to provide a show where the average race speed (more than 42 km/h) didn’t do justice to a course that had more than 2,800 meters of climbing.
Once again it was the INEOS Grenadiers who controlled the race and neutralized all the escapees on the last KOM toward Mittleberg/Monte di Mezzo. The team also responded to attacks by Santiago Buitrago (Bahrain Victorious) and Jefferson Cepeda (EF Education-Easypost) before entering the Ritten Arena.
Tao Geoghegan Hart approached the entrance to the famous speed skating arena in the lead, which he clung to without giving Jack Haig a chance to pass him in the final straight. Buitrago finished third.
Honoured onstage by Autonomous Province of Bolzano president, Arno Kompatscher, for his second victory, Tao Geoghehan Hart also strengthened his leadership in the general classification. Dressed in the Melinda green jersey, the Briton will start the challenging third stage from Ritten/Renon to Brentonico San Valentino with an 18" lead over Felix Gall (AG2R-Citroën) and 22" over compatriot, Hugh Carthy. After a stage raced at a white-hot pace, the final climb will hand down its verdict tomorrow.
A STAGE AT FULL SPEED: 42.300 KM/H AVERAGE
The day’s first break was launched almost from the start in Reith im Alpbachtal. At 5 km it was Simon Carr (EF Education-Easy Post) who broke free of the pack and was joined a few kilometres later by the Manila Grace Red Jersey worn by Moran Vermeulen (Austria). After being pursued for 30 kilometres, the two were joined by Sergio Samitier (Movistar Team), Txomin Juaristi Arrieta (Euskaltel-Euskadi), and Sebastian Schönberger (Austria).
In chase was Team INEOS Grenadiers at the reins of the peloton where the team kept the break in check with a maximum gap of 3'16" at one point. Once past Brixen/Bressanone, the breakaway gradually thinned out with Vermeulen, Juaristi Arrieta, and Schönberger losing contact from the Carr-Samitier duo.
On the climb to the Barbian/Barbiano KOM, Simon Carr finally decided to rid himself of Samitier's company, while the peloton pulled by the INEOS Grenadiers train with Laurens De Plus, Geraint Thomas, and Pavel Sivakov began to close the gap.
Having regrouped and heading into the day’s second KOM at Mittleberg/Monte di Mezzo, Santiago Buitrago attempted an escape, but the British team left the Bahrain Victorious rider no options. The same fate befell Jefferson Cepeda, whose attempt with one kilometre to go had no chance of succeeding.
At that point, Tao Geoghegan Hart took the lead in the nine-man group on the approach into the Ritten Arena with an aim to justify his teammates’ hard work. Behind him Jack Haig tried to launch off his wheel, but could do nothing against the Briton's speedy sprint. Santiago Buitrago finished third by overtaking Pavel Sivakov and Lorenzo Fortunato, who were also among the best on the day.
The top ten was rounded out by Hugh Carthy, Ivan Ramiro Sosa (Movistar Team), and Jefferson Cepeda, the new Maglia Azzurra Gruppo Cassa Centrale Best Climber. The second group over the line at 29” back included Aurélien Paret-Peintre (AG2R-Citroën) and Lennard Kämna. A sudden crash by Felix Gall (AG2R-Citroën) at the entrance to the Ritten Arena and inside the final kilometre, would have set his time back, had the jury not neutralized his delay.
The Tirolean racer remains in second place overall with a gap of just 18" down from the Melinda green jersey wearer, Tao Geoghegan Hart. In third place is Hugh Carthy at 22" behind the leader, with Pavel Sivakov and Ivan Ramiro Sosa completing the top five with a 28" gap. Geoghehan Hart is also the leader in the points standings, which earned him the Manila Grace red jersey, while the Würth White Jersey for the Best Young Rider will remain on the shoulders of Max Poole (Team DSM), who arrived at the finish in the second group.
GEOGHEGAN HART: "SAN VALENTINO WILL BE AN IMPORTANT TEST"
With today's victory, Geoghegan Hart has won four of the total seven stages he has ridden in the Tour of the Alps. "Today was another good day, the team proved once again that they are the strongest in the race. We rode intelligently and controlled the break before dictating the pace on the final climb. I'm looking forward to celebrating again with the whole team tonight."
"Even today the race was more challenging than I expected, but tomorrow's stage is certainly a different story. A final 15-kilometer climb will be a diverse and demanding test, and I'm sincerely looking forward to it. At Tirreno-Adriatico the neutralization on the uphill finish prevented me from really testing myself on a climb of this magnitude. I don't know the San Valentino climb, but I think it can give me some important answers."
"This race and these regions give me so much: I love the warmth of the fans, and I am amazed every time I stop and look at these extraordinary mountains – it’s such different scenery different from London, where I grew up. For me, who also has an Italian aunt from Pinzolo, thinking about cycling means thinking about Italy, a country that has also meant so much to my career."
The show at the finish in Ritten/Renon also thrilled Arno Kompatscher, president of the Autonomous Province of Bolzano. "We can be proud to host an event of this international stature in Südtirol/Alto Adige, with great champions who are also reaching peak form in advance of the Giro d'Italia.”
"The Tour of the Alps is an opportunity for us not only to present our region but to do so in a cycling and sustainability context. We’re also looking forward to the grand finale in Bolzano with great excitement.”
RITTEN/RENON TO BRENTONICO S. VALENTINO: THE CLIMBING CONTINUES
The challenge for the green jersey will continue tomorrow, Wednesday, April 19, 2023, with the stage circled in red by all the GC contenders. 162.5 kilometres from Ritten/Renon to Brentonico San Valentino where good legs will be needed above all else.
After starting from the Ritten Arena, a long descent will take the athletes to Bozen/Bolzano, where they will then take the Adige Valley to Trento, through apple orchards and vineyards. After 100 km, past the town of Aldeno they will face the day’s first climb to the GPM of Lago di Cei (Category 2 GPM of 9.7 km with a 7.7 percent grade). Once they’re over the climb, a fast descent will follow with another 25 km of almost flat terrain to reach Avio.
The finishing stretch is all uphill to the Passo San Valentino (Category 1 GPM). It lasts 15.5 km with an average grade of 7.5 percent; the racers will need good legs because it will be impossible to hide. Those who want to win the Tour of the Alps will have their chance to deliver the decisive blow tomorrow.
THE TOUR OF THE ALPS ON TV
Tomorrow, Wednesday, the Tour of the Alps will be live from 12:30 p.m. local time on RaiSport, Eurosport, and L'Equipe TV (France).