Giro d’Italia champion Tao Geoghegan Hart is putting his money where his mouth is.
Geogeghan Hart, 25, revealed on his social media accounts on Thursday that he plans to personally sponsor a rider on the Hagens Berman Axeon under-23 team in 2021 in an effort to increase diversity in pro cycling. Details of the sponsorship were not divulged in the social media post, yet Geoghegan Hart said the athlete chosen would work with team owner Axel Merckx to prepare to race in the summer.
“I hope this can be the beginning of a joint effort to increase racial diversity within the amazing sport of cycling,” Geoghegan Hart said. “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 1.”
Merckx said his squad has the opportunity to create change since it is a development team whose mission is to mentor talented athletes into pro riders.
“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,” Merckx said. “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.”
Merckx helped oversee Geoghegan Hart’s development on the team, and the Brit raced on the U.S. squad from 2014-2016.
The program is in line with Geoghegan Hart’s public comments on the diversity challenges that cycling faces. Geoghegan Hart has spoken publicly about pro cycling’s lack of diversity, and the barriers to entry that people of color face with the sport. In our January issue of VeloNews magazine, Geoghegan Hart said he hoped to someday contribute to efforts to bring more people of color into the sport.
“It’s not something we can change overnight, but it’s something I have thought a lot about and how I can have an impact on it,” Geoghegan Hart said. “There are big barriers to entry into cycling, even if it’s just coming from a non-cycling background. I realized from a very young age that there were many levels lacking diversity in cycling, not only on a racing level, which I think has started to be recognized this year. But it still has a long way to go.”