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Tao Geoghegan Hart to sponsor spot on Axeon team to boost racial diversity

Tao Geoghegan Hart
Geoghegan Hart takes the knee on the Hackney Marshes (Image credit: Timo Spurr / @timoespurio)

Tao Geoghegan Hart will sponsor a rider to join his old Hagens Berman Axeon team later this year, in a bid to help increase racial diversity in professional cycling. 

Details are still to be confirmed but the Giro d'Italia champion announced the plan on Thursday, noting that it is "a fact" that "cycling has a problem with diversity and inclusivity". 

The 25-year-old cited Marcus Rashford and Billie Jean King as inspiration to use his platform to try and bring about positive change in the sport. 

"I will be taking action with Hagens Berman Axeon by sponsoring an under-23 rider to race with the team this summer. I hope this can be the beginning of a joint effort to increase racial diversity within the amazing sport of Cycling," he wrote on social media. 

"I will work with Axel Merckx and his team in the coming months to identify, coach and mentor the person, and athlete, to join the team on August 1st."

Geoghegan Hart rode for Axel Merckx's development squad from 2014 to 2016 before turning professional with Ineos Grenadiers. He is one of a long line of riders to graduate to the WorldTour, and will now enable another rider to have a similar opportunity.

"We are so proud to partner with Tao on this new program," said Merckx. "The issue of diversity and inclusion in cycling is not something that we take lightly. It’s something that we whole-heartedly believe in as a program and want to help build within the sport. I think we all have a responsibility to be better. 

"As a development team we have the opportunity to create change at the entry level of the sport and it’s something that we hope to grow to a bigger footprint in the future. We are so thankful to have people like Tao who have come through the program and understand how important this is for the future of the sport."

Geoghegan Hart was pictured on the Hackney Marshes in his native corner of East London, taking the knee in the gesture associated with the Black Lives Matter movement. 

He described it as "an expression of my desire to be part of change. Part of the future."

Geoghegan spoke about the accessibility of cycling in a recent interview with Procycling magazine and on Thursday he acknowledged that he, like the sport as a whole, had not done enough over the past year.

Referring to the likes of Rashford, who has forced the UK government into numerous policy changes in his battle to end child hunger, Geoghegan Hart vowed to back up 'words' with 'action'. 

"Over the past year, through these tough times, many in sport have lead by example; encouraging their audiences to keep dreaming, to fight for equality, or to simply keep on keeping on. They have used their platforms to draw light to the many pressing issues we face in society," he said.

"Cycling has a problem with diversity and inclusivity. This is a fact. It is not unique within sport, but we must face it headon all the same. I feel Cycling has not done enough during this past year. Furthermore, I have not done enough.

"I don’t have all the answers but I do know that I want to live in a world that fights for social justice. A world that shares all the good that we have.

"In the meantime, I'll always look to you out there for inspiration, advice and ideas on how I can try to contribute to moving this incredible sport forward. Ultimately I can only control my own actions, but I’ll do my upmost to make that small influence as impactful as possible."

As Features Editor, Patrick is responsible for Cyclingnews' long-form and in-depth output. Patrick joined Cyclingnews in 2015 as a staff writer after a work experience stint that included making tea and being sent to the Tour de Langkawi. Prior to that, he studied French and Spanish at university and went on to train as a journalist. Rides his bike to work but more comfortable on a football pitch.