Tao Geoghegan Hart: On the peloton’s style and nuanced etiquette

25 Jun 2021

Tao Geoghegan Hart: On the peloton’s style and nuanced etiquette

Related riders

Ahead of his first Tour de France, consideration for his colleagues is paramount.

Whether it’s grimpeurs riding up mountains, jerseys unzipped, gold chain and pendant swinging side-to-side in rhythm with the power being exerted by their legs, propelling their bike and body up eye-watering gradients. Or the smooth, circular motion of a rouleur appearing to float gracefully over jutting cobblestones. Many professional cyclists grow up watching their predecessors and are drawn to the pro peloton with the desire to emulate their heroes. 

Style and etiquette are synonymous with cycling, albeit with buckets full of nuance. Tao Geoghegan Hart tells us who he looked up to when he started his career, and the rules he lives by within the peloton, ahead of racing his first Tour de France.     

When you first started out in your cycling career, who was the one rider that really impressed you? 

I guess for me, Brad (Wiggins) was always the smoothest rider when you think about style and how he was on a bike, and the way he was physically. As young riders that’s who everyone was looking towards, obviously he was the best, but also the way that he did it, for me he was quite cool. 

The first pro race I rode he won it, and I was in the grupetto most of the days, but still, it was pretty cool to race so close against one of your heroes. 

I remember one day in the Tour of Britain I was behind him and the bunch was completely lined out, and there he was just sitting on his bike looking so smooth, and in control.

He definitely has a kind of swagger about him. What is in that that comes across?

I think it’s more about the way he is on a bike, the way that he pedals. When he was a pro he just looked like he was born to sit on a bike, and the way that he produced power, it just looked so effortless. I think that there are very, very few professionals that have the ability to do that, and even less that combine that with going faster than anyone else. 

So I guess that was it for me, when I saw him on the telly, then when I started racing against him he always looked so smooth, he never really looked like he was even in trouble. Maybe a little bit sometimes, his elbows would drop down a bit more, and his head, but he still pedalled as smooth as ever. I think pretty much any pro would give quite a lot to look that classy and at ease on a bike when going flat out. And in his case, going faster than anyone else could at that time. 

A part of riding within the peloton involves knowing about the “unwritten” rules, there is a lot of emphasis around etiquette. What are the things you think about when riding alongside others? 

I think that’s something that’s fading to be honest, but for me, it’s just about respecting your colleagues, and treating everyone as you want to be treated, and trying to be as safe as possible. Any time you can give someone space or help them, whether it’s something as simple as taking a bottle from their teammate to pass to them. The more that everyone treats others the way they want to be treated it’s always a good thing in any walk of life, and most definitely in bike racing. 

It’s about being respectful to people and knowing that everyone has a job to do, so whenever you can make someone’s life a bit easier, it’s probably only going to come back to help you in the future, or certainly not harm you. At the end of the day you just try to be respectful and polite to everyone, maybe that’s not something that everyone sees, but it can go a long way. It should just be about not making anyone’s job in the bunch harder than it needs to be. 

In racing there’s a lot of these unwritten rules around etiquette, did you find that something quite hard to learn? Were there any moments where you did something “wrong” and thought to yourself, damn, I hadn’t realised that? 

I remember in my first ever pro race, me and a teammate turned across the road to stop for a pee, and there were two pretty well respected older riders, a Dutch guy and an Aussie, and they got upset because we hadn’t looked over our shoulders before moving across. You especially remember little things like that when you’re 18. At the end of the day you’re always learning, adapting and adjusting with everything in life, and this is no different because it’s so nuanced, there’s so much going on in the peloton.  

Of the riders now who you race against, who would you say has the most interesting racing style to watch?

I’ve always liked riders who can do a bit of everything, like Michał (Kwiatkowski) or (Mathieu) Van der Poel, people like that, it’s always impressive when you see someone like Kwiato or even Wout Van Aert up there on so many different types of terrain and different races. The versatile riders, seeing them is always pretty cool.