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With Omloop het Nieuwblad kicking off the UCI season in Europe this weekend, and a successful Summer of Cycling completed in Australia, the 2017 road season is officially here!
For the young riders in the peloton this means new opportunities to take a step forward in their careers, maybe have a breakout performance, possibly even win a race or two. Looking at the season ahead, we think these 10 young riders will likely make their mark in 2017.
Two names you’ll miss here are Amalie Dideriksen (Boels-Dolmans) and Kasia Niewiadoma (WM3 Pro Cycling), because they were already featured in our “Top 10 female riders to watch for in 2017” article.
10 young female pros to watch this season:
Despite being the youngest participant in the event, Belgian’s Lotte Kopecky (Lotto-Soudal) was the first rider to launch a successful attack in the Rio Olympic road race, and impressed with her long solo attack on a hot and hilly circuit. Kopecky combines her road career with track cycling, where she is the current European champion in the madison, together with Jolien D’Hoore.
In 2016, Kopecky won the Trofee Maarten Wynants, took the youngster jersey in the Lotto Belgium Tour and won two silver medals at the Belgian championships, earning the U23 national titles along the way. After D’Hoore left Lotto-Soudal in 2015, and Claudia Lichtenberg and Sofie De Vuyst have joined a different team this year, Kopecky is set the task of leading the team in 2017 together with Jessie Daams. We’re pretty sure we will be seeing much of her this year, so keep an eye out for this youngster.
2. Elisa Balsamo (Valcar-PBM)
While she won the junior World Road Race Championships in Qatar, we won’t be seeing Elisa Balsamo (Valcar-PBM) in the rainbow stripes, as she’ll be entering the U23 category this year. Valcar-PBM, the amateur team she raced for previously, has gotten its UCI licence in 2017, so Balsamo stays with her team but still takes that step to becoming a UCI rider. She will lead the completely Italian team in its first year at the UCI level.
At only 20 years old, Jip van den Bos already has two years worth of experience in a UCI team, having been part of the Dutch Parkhotel Valkenburg team for two years. She was picked up by Boels-Dolmans late last year after a stellar 2016 season. She won the young rider classification in both the Tour of Chongming Island, a sprinter’s race, and in the Spanish stage race Emakumeen Bira, surprising herself when it comes to mountainous stage races. It has given her a confidence boost and she will most definitely develop even further in years to come.
Van den Bos gets a chance to learn from big name riders like Lizzie Deignan, Megan Guarnier and of course compatriots Anna van der Breggen and Chantal Blaak with Boels-Dolmans, and will go for many more youngster classifications. And who knows, after coming eighth in Tour of Chongming Island stage 2 and a top ten finish in the Omloop het Hageland-Tielt Winge last year, she may even win a bike race this season.
After winning both the junior world title in the road race and the individual time trial in 2015, we haven’t seen too much of Dygert Owen on the road as she’s been focusing on the track. She won the Amgen women’s Tour of California team time trial with Team Twenty16-RideBiker, and took the young rider jersey in the overall. At the Rio Olympics, Dygert was part of the US team pursuit on the track and took silver together with Sarah Hammer, Kelly Catlin and Jennifer Valentine.
Renamed to Sho-Air Twenty20, her team participated in the Santos women’s Tour Down Under last month, in which Dygert Owen came away with three top 10 finishes. She added another ninth place in the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race some 10 days later.
The younger sister of Canyon-SRAM rider Hannah Barnes, Alice Barnes is the British U23 road race champion. During the race, both Alice and Hannah won national titles after coming first and second, taking out both the elite and U23 titles.
Barnes has also started her season in Australia this year and finished top 10 in three stages of the Santos women’s Tour Down Under, only nearly missing out on the podium in stage 2. Her ninth place in the GC must be giving her a boost for the rest of the season. She was the second best youngster in the Thüringen Rundfahrt and the Tour de Feminin – O cenu Ceskeho Svycarska, probably going after some jersey to take home this year.
6. Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (Cervélo-Bigla)
One of the three rider Denmark squad for the World Road Championships in Qatar, Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (Cervélo-Bigla) was instrumental in getting Amalie Dideriksen (Boels-Dolmans) the world championship title. Riding for BMS Birn in 2016, Uttrup Ludwig interned with Cervélo-Bigla at the end of the season. She signed with the Swiss team for 2017, where she will be joined by former team mate and compatriot Marie Villman.
Her most prominent results of 2016 include the Danish national ITT title, the mountain classification in the Gracia Orlova and the overall in the Tour de Feminin – O cenu Ceskeho Svycarska. It shows her diverse qualities, which she’ll show in 2017 again no doubt.
Skylar Schneider is on the roster of the new American UCI team Team Illuminate this year, where she joins up with older sister Samantha Schneider. As our Ella’s Faces of the Future article of November points out, both sisters are crit crushing cyclists. But Skylar Schneider has many more qualities, which her results as a junior show.
After a history in BMX racing, cyclocross and track cycling, Schneider now focuses on road racing mainly. Last year, she sprinted to second place in the World Road Championships in Qatar, coming fourth in the ITT. She also participated in several UCI stage races even though still being a junior. Her podium spot in stage 4 of the Joe Martin stage race p/b Nature Valley and her seventh place finishes in the Tour de Feminin – O cenu Ceskeho Svycarska and BeNe Ladies Tour are most noteworthy. If she can do that at only 17 years of age, we’re very curious to see how she’ll develop.
Team Sunweb’s Floortje Mackaij is not new to the scene, winning Gent-Wevelgem and a stage in the Festival Elsy Jacobs in 2015, finishing on the podium in the women’s Tour of Yorkshire in 2016 and taking the very first Women’s WorldTour young rider jersey home last year. You’d almost forget that she is only 21 years old. She should therefore not be omitted in a list like this.
Although she has acquired a certain status within the team, some things will change with Ellen van Dijk, Lucinda Brand and Coryn Rivera joining Team Sunweb this year. They are all strong riders who Mackaij will share team leadership with. But it’s probably a good thing, the pressure being taken off a little bit and Mackaij getting the opportunity to also learn from those experienced riders. But you can bet to see Mackaij at the front of the race and in some leader’s jersey again this year.
9. Ariana Fidanza
In 2017 Ariana Fidanza will be riding with the Italian-Kazakh Astana Women’s Team for a second year. Although her name might not ring a bell with you, that’s definitely not due to a lack of results. In 2016, she finished third in the Giro della Liberazione PINK, took a fourth place finish in the GP Bruno Beghelli behind Chloe Hosking (Alé Cipollini), Marianne Vos (WM3 Pro Cycling) and Barbara Guarischi (Canyon-SRAM) and she won the first stage in the Tour of Zhoushan Island.
In addition, she set some great results in lesser known races, like the Vuelta Feminil Internacional where she finished second in the GC. She also briefly wore the World Cup young rider jersey in 2015, showing a consistency in her strong form. The Astana Women’s Team is once again part of the top 20 UCI teams and will therefore get automatic invites to one day Women’s WorldTour races. If Astana accepts these invites, watch out for this young Italian in light blue.
After one year with Podium Ambition, Grace Garner joined her older sister in the team of DS Rochelle Gilmore, Wiggle-High5. It was her bunch sprint win in stage 1 of the Tour de Bretagne Feminin (getting her to sixth place) and the top 25 finish in the Prudential RideLondon that got her noticed by other teams.
That she’s worth her spot in the team showed her top 5 finish in the final stage of this year’s Santos women’s Tour Down Under. At only 19 years old, Garner is ready to fight for her place in the pro peloton.