The Generation Next series is a review of the next big things in cycling. These are the heirs apparent to the throne of the current kings of cycling. Through these articles we will see some on the cusp of greatness, some up and comers and finally some who will be stars in a very specific role. Look for the members of Generation Next to dominate pro cycling for years to come.
Must be 25 or Younger at the start of the 2020 season.
Must be only one from each world nation.
Must have at least one big name race win to their name.
Talk about coming out of nowhere to take one the biggest races in all of cycling. Tao Geoghegan Hart did just that at this years Giro D’Italia. He arrived at the race as one of Geraint Thomas’s mountain domestiques. A protector in the hills of Italy alongside the time trialists ready to race with Team Ineos Grenadiers at the front. After a rouge bottle was left in the road on stage three forcing Thomas to abandon the race, the focus slowly, then all at once shone brighter upon Hart.
Ever since arriving at what was then Team Sky and what is now Ineos Grenadiers, Hart has been in the service of his team. He has competed for champions of Grand Tours such as Richard Carapaz, however he has always been seen as one for the future. At 25 years old, and with the set up that Ineos runs, surely his time was running out.
Previously his highest ever finish was in the Criterium du Dauphine placed 13th in 2018, which is of course an achievement. The shine however is taken off of this when the realisation comes in that Geraint Thomas won this race, meaning Hart was likely up so high as he had been in protection of his teammate. He had placed 20th in the 2019 at the Vuelta a Espana as joint leader, showing that he was on the rise, however no one could have predicted 2020.
With Thomas on the place home from Italy with a broken pelvis, it fell to Hart to salvage something for Ineos, and as the days went by, he only got stronger. The team filled with time trialists was key here with Filippo Ganna, Rohan Dennis and Jonathan Castroviejo setting a relentless pace that few could hope to keep up with. Tao rose to the occasion, and rather than knocking on the door of the generation next, he broke the door down.
Team Sky/Ineos have a model and it works, they have dominated professional cycling in recent years, having won at least one of the Grand Tours every year since 2014 with wins as far back as 2011. During this time 30 Grand Tours have taken place, Team Sky and now Ineos Grenadiers have won 11 of them. Having won over a third of the hardest races possible since 2011, how does this success just keep coming?
It is due to their use of super domestiques and the way these races are run, and this has benefits Grand Tour winners such as Hart and Thomas immensely. Hart like his predecessors is a workhorse, never complaining about his own success, knowing team success is more important. Ineos does not race as a group of individuals it races as a well-oiled machine.
Tao Geoghegan Hart is the latest beneficiary of this method, having taken up the reigns after his team leader crashed out. Geraint Thomas, Egan Bernal and now Hart have all won Grand Tours by this method, there is never not a leader in the team. This means of course that Hart will play second fiddle in future again, helping another to win the biggest prize in cycling, but he has shown he can out ride the big boys and therefore expect him to defend his Giro crown.
Hart of a champion
After 9 years and becoming one of the most successful cyclists in all of cycling, Chris Froome is leaving Team Ineos Grenadiers. The 7-time Grand Tour winner leaves an enormous hole for the team as he led from the front for all those years. Geraint Thomas is injury prone; the returning Richie Porte is ready for life as a domestique and Egan Bernal had one of the more spectacular collapses in recent cycling memory in his ill-fated defence of his 2019 Tour de France crown.
The team is replacing the out-going rider with a young and hungry duo of Grand Tour riders in Adam Yates and Daniel Martinez, however of all the riders to take this team forward, Hart is in the best position. Hart has shown he can fight back from adversity, he has shown he is a leader and can take up that mantle mid race and he is the current reigning Giro D’Italia champion, he will definitely get the first shot.
The way that Ineos ride, he will be given his opportunity, but he knows he has to lead from the front, because if he does crack, someone will be there to take up the mantle. Hart has been with the team long enough to know his time is now. Does he have what it takes to lead this team into the future and into more success, absolutely.
What is next for Tao Geoghegan Hart?
It feels like his career is just beginning; however, he is actually coming into his prime. Possibly the best pure climber so far of the Generation next series, he will challenge anybody in the mountains. To truly become a force though he will need to round out his game and turn into a stage racer.
His team is filled with Time Trialists which means he is learning from the best about how to attack the flat stages of these races. With the pedigree of climbers in his stable too he has all the tools at his disposal to win big and win often.
Tao Geoghegan Hart has all the potential to take over this team and I believe he will be a multi-time Grand Tour winner, his calm under pressure during the final weeks of the Giro showed that he is a champion, but his resolve is something you cannot teach.