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by Sonia Blair
June 18, 2019
Photography by Kristof Ramon and Cor Vos
The depth of talent in the men’s and women’s professional pelotons continues to grow with each season’s new signings. From junior world champions, to multi-discipline riders, to multiple-time national champions to childhood prodigies — all the riders below are worthy of your attention. These are the riders we expect to be dominating the sport in the years to come.
Some of them you will have certainly heard about; others you might not. Here are the 15 men’s and women’s riders we think you need to know about.
Is there anything the Dutch wonderkid cannot do? Cyclocross, MTB, road – at 24 years old, he already has a CV that’s the envy of rival riders. After being the junior road race world champion in 2013, he followed it up with the senior cyclocross world title in 2015. In 2018, a silver medal in the European championships road race, a win at the Ronde van Limburg and the Dutch road title only further cemented him as a rider to watch over the coming years.
At this season’s Spring Classics, the Corendon-Circus rider rode his way to victory on home turf in the Dutch champion’s jersey at Amstel Gold, he won Dwars door Vlaanderen, and he placed top five at both the Tour of Flanders and Gent-Wevelgem. In 2019, he’s also won a second cyclocross world title and a MTB World Cup, showing his ability to take on any challenge with open arms. It will be interesting to see how he progresses from here, not at least at the Road World Championships later this year.
The former three-time cyclocross world champion is the name on everyone’s lips after wins at the Criterium du Dauphine. With one coming in a time trial and the other in a bunch sprint, Wout van Aert continues to impress on the world stage.
In 2018, in his first proper road season, Van Aert finished top 20 at Paris Roubaix, ninth at the Tour of Flanders and third at Strade Bianche. This year, after stepping up to the WorldTour, he took second place at E3 Binckbank Classic, third again at Strade Bianche and top 10 at Milan San Remo.
These aren’t the type of consistent placings that come from luck — it’s pure, ridiculous talent. A classics victory in 2020 seems very likely if he continues on the same path.
Egan Bernal is one of the most decorated up-and-comers of the sport who has already proven his abilities to fellow athletes, teams and spectators globally. In 2018 he quickly became a household name with an overall GC win at the Tour of California, the youth jersey at the Tour of Romandie and the Tour Down Under, and victory in the Colombian national time trial championships. Then at the Tour de France, he played super-domestique for Geraint Thomas and Chris Froome and placed 15th on the GC himself.
In 2019, the 22-year-old’s formidable form has continued with GC and youth jersey wins at Paris-Nice and third at the Volta a Catalunya. He now goes into the Tour de France as probably the back-up leader of Team Ineos.
At just 19, Remco Evenepoel is one of the biggest talents we’ve seen in a long time. He’s the reigning junior world champion in both the time trial and road race, the Belgian and European junior road race champion, and he already has a throng of stage race victories to his name.
Just this week, Evenepoel became the youngest ever overall winner at the Tour of Belgium, which he won along with the points classification and an individual stage. In 2019 he has helped his Deceuninck-QuickStep team to overall victory at Hammer Limburg and finished top five on GC at the Tour of Turkey.
Evenepoel’s terrific season is all the more impressive when you consider its his first at WorldTour level. When he signed for Deceuninck-QuickStep, at 18, he was the youngest ever rider to sign to the WorldTour. A 2018 victory at the junior Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne might suggest a tilt at the classics in future, but Evenepoel seems to be able to do it all — time trial, climb and sprint, depending on the stage placed before him.
A stage win at the 2018 Tour de l’Avenir, plus a stunning three stage race victories in the lead-up, put the now-21-year-old on many people’s radar. He signed for Sky/Ineos for the 2019 season and has been very impressive already.
At the Tour Colombia he won the mountain and youth classifications, placed second on the GC and went top three in two stages. He then finished an admirable eighth place on the GC at Paris-Nice, a race where his priority was to ensure victory for team leader Egan Bernal. Sosa is tapping on the door of a future big result.
Tadej Pogacar is a rider to watch after catching people’s attention with his 2018 GC victory at the Tour de l’Avenir. His stage win and overall victory at the Tour of California earlier this year were confirmation of his immense talent.
This comes in the same season where he has already won the Slovenian time trial championship and ridden into a top 20 finish at Liege-Bastogne-Liege. Major success looks to be just around the corner for Slovenia’s latest cycling champion, who’s in good company among compatriots like Jan Polanc and Primoz Roglic.
A three-time (and counting) Danish national time trial champion, Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig is definitely one to keep your eye on. Multiple youth jersey wins in 2017, including at the Giro Rosa and Giro Toscana, caught the attention of many. In 2018, she finished seventh and 18th in the road race and individual time trial respectively at the world championships, alongside a top 10 placing at the Giro Rosa.
An impressive third place at the 2019 Tour of Flanders only further validated the hype surrounding this rider, and her top 10 finish at this year’s Amstel Gold added to this. Not only does the 23-year-old have plenty of potential, she’s also one of the most likeable and charismatic personalities in the sport.
Now in his second year with Sky/Ineos, Sivakov has already amassed impressive results with the outfit. In 2018 he took a top-20 placing at the Tour de Suisse and top five at the Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali. In 2019 he has taken another big step up, winning the overall at the Tour of the Alps after an individual stage victory, and finishing an impressive ninth overall at the Giro d’Italia.
Winner of the Baby Giro and other mountainous races in his final U23 season, 21-year-old Sivakov is clearly a rider with great potential.
In his first WorldTour race, Higuita was second overall at the Tour of California. That result thrust the 21-year-old into the spotlight and proved his ability to compete at the highest level. With podium finishes in a reduced bunch sprint and on a summit finish, the flyweight Colombian showed himself to be very versatile.
Higuita came to the WorldTour after impressive results at an array of Spanish races, including the Ruta del Sol, and top three at the GP Miguel Indurain. Who knows what he’s capable of from here?
Team Ineos’ group of potential future champions grew even larger with the inclusion of Tao Geoghegan Hart. The British rider placed in the top 20 at the Criterium du Dauphine in 2018 and an impressive fifth at the Tour of California. In 2019, two stage wins and a second overall at the Tour of the Alps — behind teammate Sivakov — saw the Brit show off his strengths and prove why he is a rider we’ll likely be hearing plenty about in the years to come.
At just 20, Dutch sprinter Lorena Wiebes already has a brood of enviable results to her name. Her 2019 has been nothing short of spectacular. She won every stage of the Women’s WorldTour Tour of Chongming Island and claimed the overall plus the points and youth jerseys. At the Tour de Yorkshire, Wiebes rode her way to victory on stage 1, outsprinting former world champions in the process.
Just this week, she sprinted to victory at the Flanders Diamond Tour ahead of Lotte Kopecky and Elisa Balsamo. We can expect to see a lot more victories coming the way of this young Dutchwoman. She’s currently signed to Parkhotel Valkenburg until the end of 2021 — might we see a bigger team buy out her contract before then?
Belgium’s Lotte Kopecky is one of the most consistent riders in the women’s peloton, with solid placings in a variety of races. The former Belgian U23 national time trial champion placed third overall at the Tour of Chongming Island this year and went top 10 at Gent-Wevelgem.
At the 2018 Lotto Belgium Tour, a home race, Kopecky took a stage win and the points jersey plus third on GC. At 23, she still has plenty of time to improve. Expect to see her become a significant force in the Classics in the years to come.
The Italian one-day and sprint specialist only seems to be getting better as this season goes on. Just this June, she raced her way to a victory at the Dwars door de Westhoek race off the back of a stage win at the Tour of California. In 2018, Blasamo won the Omloop van Borsele and finished third in the Ride London classic held in the British capital, placing higher than well-regarded sprinters Chloe Hosking and Coryn Rivera.
Balsamo is a junior world champion on the track and on the road. Her 2016 Road Worlds win came in a sprint, showing that’s she got great potential in the fast finishes. At 21, she’s now starting to realise that potential in a big way.
One of Italy’s fastest exports, 19-year-old Letizia Paternoster is another junior track world champion who’s showing great signs on the road. While riding for the Astana Women’s Team in 2018, she won the GP Elsy Jacobs (a stage and the overall), GP della Liberazione Pink, took a bronze medal in the U23 European road race championship, and placed 10th at Gent Wevelgem.
Her 2019, now in Trek-Segafredo colours, has included a stage win at the Tour Down Under and a top-three placing at Gent Wevelgem. A big talent.
The now-22-year-old signed with Lotto-Soudal in 2018 and has had his contract extended until the end of the 2021 season. There must be something special about the Belgian. After winning a stage and finishing second on GC at the Tour de Fjords in 2018, his 2019 season has been even bigger.
He was the best young rider and 12th overall at the Criterium du Dauphine and was top 10 at both La Fleche Wallone and Amstel Gold Race. These results suggest a strong climber who is very capable of big wins in the future.
Who have we missed? Which other youngsters are you most excited to keep an eye on?