Tao Geoghegan Hart often comes across as much older than his 21 years. The neo-pro is thoughtful when answering questions, and the same can be said when he's making decisions about the future of his career.
At the end of 2015, an opportunity to step up to the WorldTour ranks came knocking when he earned a spot as a stagiaire for Team Sky. Geoghegan Hart, though, had the presence of mind to decline the chance to turn professional and delay his move for a season. With a win at the Trofeo Piva and a stage win at the Tour de Savoie Mont Blanc, plus strong results at the Tour of the Gila, the Tour of California and the Tour of Utah, his decision seemed vindicated.
"There was strong interest from the team, but I was pretty certain that I wanted to do another year of development. I didn't win a race in 2015 and I felt like that was something I needed to do before going professional," said Geoghegan Hart.
"I felt like I had more to gain from my time as an under-23 whereas this season, by about July, I felt I had got everything I could. So it felt like it was time to take the step to take."
Geoghegan Hart's path to signing professionally for Team Sky began seven years ago when the team officially launched with a fan ride on the Mall, London, in 2010. Geoghegan Hart was one of the select group that joined the team on that cold January morning as they rode through the centre of London.
"I know Fran's [Millar] eyes lit up when I told her that I was on the launch on the Mall when they team started. That was so inspiring for me as a 14-year-old riding behind those guys," Geoghegan Hart.
As a wide-eyed 14-year-old who had only recently gotten into racing, it was a rare opportunity to get up close and personal with his heroes, some of whom he will race alongside this season. Back then, as a cycling fan, Geoghegan Hart was a curiosity in the UK. The sport's popularity has risen inexorably since then with record numbers signing up for British Cycling membership, and more professional races have cropped up throughout the season.
"Now if you go to a 14-year-old, they will take it for granted that cycling is a big sport, and it's in the press, and there are races where they can go and get Wiggins' signature, and they can see Cav up close.
"For me, there was that one prologue in London and the Tour of Britain stage when Roger Hammond gave me his gloves over some barrier, and that was it. That was the only time I ever saw anything to do with cycling as a sport."
Geoghegan Hart's Team Sky career will officially get underway at the Mallorca Challenge next week. The four-day event should be a comparatively gentle breaking into his WorldTour career, but that will not last. Geoghegan Hart's decision to delay his debut showed that he is a person with a strong sense of self and he admits that he can sometimes forget to listen to others. However, he knows that it will be vital for him if he is to hit the ground running with his new team.
"I'll definitely try to focus on keeping my head down a bit, being respectful, listening rather than talking because there's so much to learn from so many bike riders here. That's important, and I'm not always great at that," he explained. "My first roommate here was Christian Knees and, he wouldn't like me saying this but, he's not far off double my age. That's amazing.
"To have that amount of experience sat next to you is incredible, but at the same time I've always enjoyed fighting for more and being at the bottom of the pecking order is motivating. I'm the type of person who likes having a point to prove. It's motivating to think they don't think that I'm good enough to do that race but f*ck I'm going to show them that I am."
Geoghegan Hart's inclusion in the team comes at a time when they are under intense scrutiny after the revelations that followed the Fancy Bears hack of TUE data last year. Just moments before Geoghegan Hart and his teammate Jon Dibben joined the press at the team's Mallorca hotel, his new team boss Dave Brailsford had spent the past 30 minutes fending off questions about mystery packages. The added attention has not put Geoghegan Hart off as he begins this new stage in his fledgeling career.
"I think there is focus on it for you guys, but for us it goes 10:30 every day, and I'm going out on my bike to do five or six hours, intervals, five climbs, whatever it is, I'm focused on me. I have to take the reins for my career."
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