The INEOS Grenadiers rider didn’t fail to make good on pre-race predictions by winning the first stage (127.5 km from Rattenberg to Alpbach) and controlling local favorites Felix Gall and Hugh Carthy in the last metres. "I'm not here to prepare for the Giro; I will give it my all in this fantastic race."
The 2019 edition of the Tour of the Alps revealed the talent of a young Briton who claimed his first pro win at the finish of the first stage in Kufstein, and then repeated victory three days later in Cles. So much has happened in the past four years for Tao Geoghegan Hart, starting with winning the 2020 Giro d'Italia. Now, upon returning to the roads that first launched him into the stratosphere among the stars of cycling, he’s come back to savour victory once again in Tirol, at the finish line in Alpbach.
The INEOS Grenadiers athlete was rumoured to be among the favourites in the 2023 Tour of the Alps’ first stage on Monday, April 17, 127.5 kilometres from Rattenberg to Alpbach, but he prevailed only in the last metres of the tightly contested stage in which many of the most anticipated athletes had already proven their intentions.
Only in the final metres, with all the riders trying to outpower each other on the uphill finish in Alpbach, did Geoghegan Hart manage to narrow his focus and overtake Hugh Carthy (EF Education-Easypost), who tried to shuck his rivals but could do nothing against the brilliance of the Briton and of Felix Gall (AG2R-Citroën), the darling of the hometown crowd. Behind them, Ivan Ramiro Sosa (Team Movistar) and Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora-hansgrohe) were also in good form and rounded out the top-five, which is a preview to the level of challenge we can expect for the entire race week.
Jack Haig's (Bahrain Victorious) attempt to get ahead of the competition on the Kerschbaumer Sattel in the company of Jefferson Cepeda (EF Education - Easypost) was to no avail. Both were caught on the climb to Alpbach thanks to the work done by the INEOS Grenadiers, who were determined to deliver Geoghegan Hart to the foot of the tough last kilometre in the best possible position.
The Tour of the Alps also confirmed its knack for entertainment with a suspenseful first stage until the final metres. Tyrol warmly welcomed the Euro-regional stage race, with fans thoroughly enjoying a special day both on and off the course. And that's just the beginning.
HOW IT UNFOLDED
Just 11 kms after the start in Rattenberg, the first breakaway of the Tour of the Alps got underway. Andrea Garosio and Alex Martín Gutierrez (Eolo-Kometa), Sergio Samitier (Movistar), Valentin Paret-Peintre (AG2R-Citroën), Hailemichael Mulu Kinfe (Caja Rural - SegurosRGA), and Moran Vermeulen (Austria) stretched their lead to three minutes, but it was the group pulled by INEOS Grenadiers that always seemed in control of the situation.
With 15 kms to go, the race favourites emerged on the front at the foot of the Kerschbaumer Sattel, the second and hardest climb of the day with an average grade of 10.1 percent. After rejoining the break, Jack Haig (Bahrain Victorious) succeeded in busting up the stalemate along with Ecuadorean racer, Jefferson Cepeda (EF Education-Easypost), who joined shortly thereafter. The South American racer was on fire on the final uphill sections, but the Australian extinguished his lead and attempted to smoke him with a solo action on the final Alpbach climb.
The cards were shuffled again in the final kilometres with an attack by Hugh Carthy (EF Education-EasyPost), who was able to take the lead in the last kilometre, but who lacked the wattage to hold off Tao Geoghegan Hart (INEOS-Grenadiers). The British racer was able to overtake his compatriot in the last 200 meters and win with his arms raised. His victory puts him in the first Melinda Green Jersey for tomorrow’s stage. Behind him was Felix Gall, at two seconds down, and Carthy at six.
Geoghegan Hart also claimed the Manila Grace Red Jersey for the Points Standings, while Jefferson Cepeda will pull on the Gruppo Cassa Centrale Blue Jersey of Best Climber. Finally, the Würth White Jersey for the Best Young Rider went to Britain's Max Poole of Team DSM.
In addition to Sosa and Vlasov, Lorenzo Fortunato (Eolo-Kometa) finished in an excellent seventh place, while Pavel Sivakov (INEOS Grenadiers) and Lennard Kämna (Bora-hansgrohe) were also among the upper ranks. Paying 1:38 to the winner, Geraint Thomas (INEOS Grenadiers) was clearly serving his teammates today. Further back was Domenico Pozzovivo (Israel - PremierTech) while the fourth INEOS spearhead, Thymen Arensman, crossed the finish eight minutes behind his teammate.
GEOGHEGAN HART: "I'M NOT HERE IN PREPARATION: THE TOTA IS A GREAT RACE"
"It was a beautiful stage," said Tao Geoghegan Hart at the end of the race. "We reviewed the course yesterday, and we knew it would be wide open until the end. I'm especially happy to be back here and winning."
"I’m not here in preparation for the Giro d'Italia, because that wouldn’t do justice to this fantastic race. Each race is a story in itself, and I try to honour it as such: I never show up at the start of one event in preparation for another; I'm here to give it my all."
"To return to success on these roads is nice – four years later is certainly a different experience. Among many things, my training method has changed: now there is much more clarity and balance to my program, perhaps in the past I tended to train too much."
"Winning today has tastes even sweeter because yesterday was my father's birthday. With my job we don't get to spend much time together, even less on special days – I wanted to dedicate today's win to him, and I'm glad I was able to do that."
"We’re in a similar situation as in 2019, with me in the leader's jersey and Pavel Sivakov fully in the race. Back then we were able to take advantage of the situation and win the race with Pavel, this year it's hard to predict how the race may evolve, but we certainly have a strong team, and we won't stand idly by."
TOTA SETS COURSE FOR SÜDTIROL/ALTO ADIGE FINISH IN RITTEN/RENON
The first challenge to Geoghegan Hart's green jersey will come tomorrow, Tuesday, April 18, on the road between Reith im Alpbachtal in Tirol and Ritten/Renon in Südtirol/Alto Adige (165.2 km).
The stage’s first 30 km will be completely flat before the climb to Lans. Once past the town of Patsch, racers will join the "old" Brenner Pass road until heading down to Brixen/Bressanone for 45 kms on a wide, smooth road. Once there at the site of the 2021 Tour of the Alps start, a whole different race begins.
An initial short climb will take the peloton to Feldthurns/Velturno, where it will be followed by the more challenging Barbian/Barbiano climb (Category 3 GPM of 4.5 km at 8 percent average grade). With only 18 km until the finish, most of it will be uphill with the second GPM of the day at Mittelberg/Monte di Mezzo (Category 2 climb lasting 3.9 kms with an 8.5 percent average grade) just 4 km from the finish. The finish stretch is a continuous up and down to the Ritten Arena, the speed skating rink that’s been transformed into an open-air velodrome for the finish of the second stage.
THE TOUR OF THE ALPS ON TV
Tomorrow, Tuesday, the Tour of the Alps will be live from 1:30 p.m. local time on RaiSport, Eurosport 1 and L'Equipe TV (France).