Tao Geoghegan Hart has a number of goals for the remaining months of the season but the young British rider has decided to put plans of turning professional on hold as he aims to develop in the U23 ranks for one more season.
The 20-year-old will compete in the Tour of Britain as part of a Great Britain U23 team before turning his attention to the World Championships in Richmond, where the national team have a realistic chance of picking up a medal in the road race.
Although the remainder of his racing programme has yet to be announced Geoghegan Hart will also race as stagiaire for Team Sky during the final weeks of the season. Despite interest and offers to turn professional in 2016, the London-based athlete will stick with the American Axeon squad for the coming campaign, a decision he arrived at after consulting a number of members his close knit circle.
“I think it was just a personal decision and one that I came to with the help of the people that are closest to me including my team manager Axel Merckx, my friends and family and including some who aren’t directly in cycling but were able to give me a more holistic view on life and not really look at the physical side,” he told Cyclingnews.
The prospect of turning professional early on is an appealing one to U23 riders who are keen to move up the ranks as swiftly as possible. The offers can be lucrative, and the race programmes exciting, but Geoghegan Hart believes that his long-term aspirations and future will be best served with another year learning the ropes.
This year Axeon have created a varied programme for him with races in the US, like the Tour of California and Tour of Utah, as well as campaigns in Europe, with a sprinkling of one-day classics and stage races. It has provided Geoghegan Hart with the environment to develop at his own pace and, at only 20, time is certainly on his side.
“For me it’s just about taking another year to learn and develop," he said. "Also I want to target some wins. I’ve not won a race in almost two years so it’s about continuing to learn but also becoming stronger and not trying to be in a rush with my life and my career. Turning pro is a big step and for now I want to get stuck in at the U23 ranks, continue to learn and tick a few things off.
"I know development and learning is a bit of a tired line but with the programme that I have now and with the team’s additional new sponsors for next year 2016 is going to be even better. We have a great blend of racing in Europe and US so there’s a really wide variety with one day and stage races.”
Come this time next year Geoghegan Hart will be in more comfortable and perhaps wiser position when it comes to deciding his future. Perhaps it will be with Team Sky, but for now, the main certainty is that he will turn professional when he is ready.
“Turning pro isn’t something that I’d take for granted so learning with Axel and British Cycling is still the main aim. Then this time next year, that’s when I can look towards securing a pro contract.”
Tour of Britain
Geoghegan Hart’s short term ambitions, however, start with the Tour of Britain, a race that begins this weekend and takes in a variety of terrain over an eight-day block. In many ways the race is the perfect scenario for a young rider to mix it with the best of the best from WorldTour teams as well as learn and develop without too much pressure.
Great Britain’s U23 teams comes into the race with a highly ambitions squad and Geoghegan Hart is one of their riders who could make an impact.
“We have a super strong team. It’s really dynamic with sprinters and lots of options. We can get stuck in during the sprints, the smaller groups and then we have another four guys who can all climb well. It’s sometimes hard with U23 teams as there’s often no clear hierarchy or leader. A lot of it is decided out on the road and I think that’s a great way to race," he said.
“The Tour of Britain is a really hard race and it’s so hard to control and I actually think that the impact of racing on the UK roads can’t be understated due to the heaviness of the tarmac. We’ll go in with a super dynamic team and we have a lot of options.”
Once the Tour of Britain has concluded, Geoghegan Hart will have a firmer idea of his schedule with Team Sky for the rest of the season. The chance to ride with Britain’s number one team is a huge opportunity, but once again it forms just one part of Geoghegan Hart’s long-term development strategy.
“It’s something that I m really looking forward to, riding with really experienced riders and teammates. I’m really grateful to Team Sky to give me that chance and for their faith in young British riders.”