Tao Geoghegan Hart has shared a powerful message about improving the diversity and inclusivity of cycling, alongside a photo of him taking the knee, on his Instagram page.
The 25-year-old from London announced he will be sponsoring an U23 rider – presumably from a minority background although this part was not made explicit – to join his old development team, Hagens Berman Axeon, later this year.
“Cycling has a problem with diversity and inclusivity,” Geoghegan Hart said. “This is a fact. It is not unique within sport, but we must face it head on all the same. I feel cycling has not done enough during this past year. Furthermore, I have not done enough.”
In a typically impassioned and eloquent statement, Geoghegan Hart emphasised the importance of deeds, over words. He went on to explain the mechanics of this new sponsorship, which will effectively see the sponsored rider fulfilling the role of a stagiaire for Hagens Berman Axeon.
With this in mind, 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. I will work with [Axeon’s principal, 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. More details to follow.
In his statement, Geoghegan Hart referenced athletes like Lewis Hamilton and Billie Jean King as inspirations, particularly in the way they used their platforms to effect social change.
“Over the past year, through these tough times, many in sport have lead [sic] 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 closed his message by saying:
“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 [sic] to make that small influence as impactful as possible.”
Geoghegan Hart won the Giro d’Italia last year, a result that effectively catapulted him into the top tier of professional cycling celebrity, particularly at home in the UK. He has always been vocal about what he sees as the strengths and weaknesses of the sport, but until his maiden Grand Tour victory, he has not had a truly global platform from which to make himself heard.
It’s laudable that he has chosen to use his newfound celebrity in this way, and on the eve of his first race of the 2021 season, the Tour du Haut Var. It is worth remembering that taking the knee, as Geoghegan Hart has done in the photo he shared today, has not featured prominently within cycling at any time – despite its widespread use in virtually every other major sport.
When Geoghegan Hart says “cycling has not done enough during this past year”, it’s not too much of a leap to assume he is referring to the widely criticised ‘gesture’ before the final stage of the Tour de France, when some riders wore masks with anti-racist slogans written on them. It was criticised at the time as paying lip service to the wider Black Lives Matter movement, without actually making any sort of meaningful step towards a more diverse or welcoming culture.