Tao Geoghegan Hart signs to new-money Lidl-Trek

Can he be the GC contender the team hopes for?

Caley Fretz
by Caley Fretz 10.08.2023 Photography by
Cor Vos
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Giro d’Italia winner Tao Geoghegan Hart has ended his long run as an Ineos Grenadier and signed with a Lidl-Trek on a three-year deal.

Geoghegan Hart, Giro winner in 2020, has been sidelined with injury since a crash in this year’s edition that left him with a fractured femur, requiring surgery and a long rehab period. He is not expected to race again in 2023 and will kick off 2024 with his new team.

The team formerly known as Trek-Segafredo has seen a rise in its fortunes since the coffee supplier was swapped out for Europe’s largest grocery chain. The team has gone from “bottom third in terms of funding to upper third,” a team representative told Escape Collective in early July. Teams like Ineos and UAE remain far richer, but Trek’s spending power is now quite a bit higher than it was this time last year.

Shifting priorities

More cash to play with means Trek can expand its focus. The team hasn’t made a concerted effort at grand tour GC success since it had Vincenzo Nibali in its ranks, though Giulio Ciccone has tried a few times since. General manager Luca Guercilena instead built a squad primarily focused on classics and stage hunting, utilizing the versatility of Mads Pedersen to lap up high-profile wins, including at this year’s Tour de France.

“The team has big goals and partners who are willing and able to support those ambitions,” Geoghegan Hart said. The latter half of that sentence tends to be more important than the first.

The rise of Mattias Skjelmose this season has added another option for the team. The 22-year-old won the Tour de Suisse and entered the Tour de France with some touting him as an outside contender, but he quickly transitioned into stage hunting. Lidl-Trek still lacked a rider with a genuine general classification pedigree, which is exactly what they get in 28-year-old Geoghegan Hart.

The team also recently signed sprinter Jonathan Milan on a deal that runs through 2026. Milan is a Giro stage winner and took home the Ciclamino (points) jersey in the Italian grand tour this year. Still just 22, he provides a strong option for the type of fast finishes that don’t suit Pedersen’s style.

Can Geoghegan Hart win another Grand Tour?

This is the bet Guercilena is making. Every team with GC ambitions right now has two problems: Tadej Pogačar and Jonas Vingegaard. There aren’t many other GC contenders considered to be in the same league, barring perhaps Remco Evenepoel, hence the expensive scramble to pry him away from Patrick Lefevere’s Soudal Quick-Step. Trek may have more money than before, but they don’t have Remco money.

Yet as long as Vingegaard and Pogačar keep hitting each other at the Tour de France there will be opportunities elsewhere.

Geoghegan Hart’s injury in May was a serious one, but the team doesn’t believe it will hamper his long-term progress. Prior to that Giro crash, which came on stage 11, he was sitting in third place overall, five seconds off his teammate Geraint Thomas and three seconds off eventual winner Primoz Roglič. “I believe I still have plenty of growth as an athlete and showed in 2023, up until the injury, what I can do as a leader,” Geoghegan Hart said in the press release announcing his Trek signing. “First and foremost it would be amiss not to simply aim to be back to my best physically, in terms of the numbers and level I know I can attain.”

At the moment, nobody knows what that recovery will look like. Trek is hoping he’s right.

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