hris Froome will cross the Vuelta finish in Madrid on Sunday some three hours behind the race winner, Geraint Thomas is at home nursing a fractured hip while last month Mark Cavendish tearfully suggested Gent-Wevelgem might be his last bike race.
Cavendish has since reneged on that threat but, with both he and Froome now 35 and Thomas just a year behind, that trio are in the twilight of their racing days.
But rather than indicating the beginning of the end of a period of British road cycling dominance, there are signs of a new breed emerging, many of whom are relatively unknown to the wider British public.
Tao Geoghegan Hart has long been talked up as a future talent and, when Thomas was brought down by a discarded water bottle, the Londoner proved an admirable plan B for Ineos Grenadiers to win the Giro d’Italia.
Whether Geoghegan Hart now gets the chance to follow up on that Giro success remains to be seen. Egan Bernal is still Ineos Grenadiers’ apparent chosen one but the scoliosis which derailed his Tour de France defence is not apparently a quick fix which might allow Geoghegan Hart yet more opportunities as team leader next season.
But there is also Thomas to contend with, the Welshman adamant he has unfinished business at the Tour, and another British threat from Adam Yates, who joins the team at the end of this year. At 25, Geoghegan Hart is still a way off his peak as a Grand Tour rider, which makes his Giro success all the more impressive. Meanwhile, Yates and twin Simon, the 2018 Vuelta winner, are now in their prime years at 28.
And Geoghegan Hart understandably wants more British success. He told Standard Sport: “The British group of 26/27/28 is really strong and I really hope that we push each other on. We race against each other a lot and it will help when working together at things like the World Championships and Olympics.”
He has made no secret of his preferred bet at the Vuelta, going with countryman in Hugh Carthy over teammate Ricard Carapaz in battling for overall glory.
In Carthy, a genuine Grand Tour talent has emerged outside the Sky/Ineos bubble with the Lancastrian winning clear on the prestigious Angliru climb.
And Geoghegan Hart believes there is yet more to come. “I cheer Hugh on 100% as he’s such an underrated rider,” he said of the previously unheralded Carthy. “That will change in the next few years as he’s a real character, an amazing guy to be around.”
But British hopes extend beyond the Yates brothers, Geoghegan Hart and Carthy in the years to come. Fred Wright emerged in fourth place on Thursday’s Vuelta stage.
Wright, like Geoghegan Hart, hails from London, so too Ethan Hayter, also with Ineos and a winner of the junior Giro. In addition is Tom Pidcock, the unofficial leader of the British team at the recent World Championships despite being just 21.
While the mid to late 20s Brits are currently emerging with aplomb, the suggestion from Geoghegan Hart is the level below might be even better.
“The group coming in from the age of 19, 20, 21, is again really strong and you hope they push each other on,” he said.
Following in the footsteps of Froome’s seven Grand Tour wins, Thomas’ Tour de France and Olympic success, or Cavendish’s 48 Grand Tour stage victories will be no mean feat. But the next generation look up to the challenge.