Vansevenant winning the 2021 GP Industria & Artigianato ahead of some big names.

The next big thing in Belgian cycling? Introducing Mauri Vansevenant

He's one of the most promising young riders in the bunch and already getting results at 21.

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It’s been nearly seven months now since Remco Evenepoel last pinned on a number. Thankfully for fans of up-and-coming Belgian stars, another youngster has stepped up for Deceuninck-QuickStep in the interim.

If you watched last year’s Fleche Wallonne you’ll already be familiar with the name Mauri Vansevenant. The same will be true if you’ve kept an eye on race results so far this season.

The 21-year-old finished eighth at Tour de la Provence in mid February then rode to third at Trofeo Laigueglia in the first weekend in March (behind Bauke Mollema and Egan Bernal, no less). This past weekend Vansevenant took his biggest result yet: victory at the Italian one-day race, GP Industria & Artigianato.

Based on his current trajectory, it seems we’ll be hearing a lot more about this talented young rider in the years to come. With that in mind, just who is Mauri Vansevenant?

If you’ve been following cycling for some time, you’ll probably recognise the Vansevenant name. Mauri’s father Wim raced as a pro from 1995 through to 2008 with teams such as Vlaanderen 2002-Eddy Merckx and Farm Frites, before closing out his career with six seasons at the team now known as Lotto-Soudal.

Wim Vansevenant (centre) during a Silence-Lotto training camp in 2008 – his final season. Other riders of note on the team that year: Cadel Evans (front left), Robbie McEwen (front right), Dries Devenyns, and Greg Van Avermaet.

Mauri Vansevenant doesn’t remember too much about his dad’s racing days (he was nine when his father retired), but Wim’s career clearly helped steer Mauri onto his current path.

“Cycling was always on the television in the house and I do remember it being really special when he came back from the Tour de France – there was always a party,” Mauri said in 2019. “For sure he has been a massive influence on me and gives me some good advice and the value of this experience.”

Such is the influence of cycling in the Vansevenant household that Mauri is actually named after a Spanish former professional cyclist: winner of the 1991 Vuelta a España, Melchor Mauri – a contemporary of Wim’s.

Mauri Vansevenant started racing cyclocross aged 12 but switched exclusively to the road a few years later. He banked some promising results in the 2017 and 2018 seasons – fourth at the UCI 1.1 GP Bob Jungels in 2017 and fifth at the U23 Il Lombardia the following season. But it was an impressive 2019 season in the U23 ranks that caught the eye of the top teams.

Headlining Vansevenant’s achievements that year was overall victory at the five-day Giro delle Valle d’Aosta, one of the top stage races for U23 men. Vansevenant won that race with a healthy buffer of 4:30 courtesy of three top-10 finishes.

Later that year Vansevenant finished sixth at the Tour de l’Avenir, the premier stage race for U23 riders. His best result there was second place on a medium mountain stage from a two-rider breakaway; a stage won by Colombian rider Harold Tejada, now of Astana-Premier Tech. Vansevenant earned a day in the yellow jersey as a result of his second place.

Vansevenant was in talks with a few WorldTour teams after his strong 2019. In the end he took up an offer from local powerhouse squad Deceuninck-QuickStep. Vansevenant signed a lengthy three-and-a-half year deal but only joined the squad in July 2020 at the conclusion of his Bachelors degree in Electromechanics.

“I wanted to finish school first”, he said at the time. “It’s not compatible with being a professional cyclist. I’m very happy to have my degree. For me it was a requirement. I’m comfortable now. It gives me certainty for the future. Sooner or later I’m going to need it.”

At the time of the signing, team CEO Patrick Lefevere spoke enthusiastically about welcoming Vansevenant into the fold.

“We have a big focus on developing young talent and he is one of the best,” Lefevere said. “Mauri’s results this season speak for themselves and we knew there would be competition for his signature, so we are delighted to get him. He has to work hard, which I am sure he will, and we will try to guide him through what looks to be a very promising career.”

While Vansevenant’s 2020 season was interrupted by COVID-19 – as was the case with all pro cyclists – he still managed to have an impact in his neo-pro year. In early September he was part of the Deceuninck-QuickStep squad that won the team time trial at the Italian UCI 2.1 race Coppi e Bartali. That ride helped set the team up for second and third overall, through Andrea Bagioli and Joao Almeida.

But it was later that month that Vansevenant truly announced himself on the world stage. At the rescheduled Fleche Wallonne – his first one-day WorldTour race – Vansevenant got in the early break of four and went on to be the last man standing. He attacked from the crumbling breakaway with 20 km to go and, with 7.5 km to go, still held a 35-second advantage over the bunch.

But then, with 4 km to go, disaster struck. While descending off the Côte de Chemin de Gueuses, Vansevenant entered a corner with too much speed and, in his own words, “crashed immediately”.

Vansevenant was back on his bike quickly, but his time out front was soon over. “It’s a pity,” he said later, “because I am confident that without that incident, I could have fought for a good result on the Mur de Huy.”

Not how Vansevenant planned for his Fleche Wallonne to go. Great photo though.

Untimely crash aside, Vansevenant’s ride at Fleche Wallonne spoke of a very talented young rider who wasn’t afraid to take it to the biggest names in the sport. He’s continued in the same vein in 2021.

Eighth place on Mont Ventoux at the Tour de la Provence netted him the same overall placing by tour’s end. And when February became March, the 21-year-old took another step up.

At Trofeo Laigueglia, a second-tier one-day race in the Liguria region of north-west Italy, Vansevenant was part of a chasing group that sprinted for podium places behind solo winner Bauke Mollema. In taking third Vansevenant was in esteemed company on the podium: beside him were Grand Tour stage and Monument winner Mollema, plus Tour de France winner Egan Bernal.

And then came Vansevenant’s best performance yet. The GP Industria & Artigianato is another second-tier Italian one-day race, this one held in Tuscany. It’s defined by four ascents of the San Baronto climb: an 8.6 km ascent that averages 3.6% but nears 10% at its steepest.

On the fourth and final time up the climb Vansevenant was the only rider able to respond when multiple-time Grand Tour winner Nairo Quintana attacked. The pair got a gap, Vansevenant bobbing and weaving behind Quintana, before Mollema and Mikel Landa (Bahrain-Victorious) came across (see from 1:10 in the video below).

On approach to the finish line Ide Schelling (Bora-Hansgrohe) punched across the gap to the four leaders then continued on to lead out the sprint. Showing wisdom beyond his years, Vansevenant bided his time before launching his sprint with 200 metres to go. He was first across the line, beating some of the biggest names in the sport.

Back home in Belgium, Vansevenant’s sister Steffi was filming her and her family’s reaction to the end of the race for TikTok. The result is one beautifully heartwarming video.

It was Vansevenant’s first professional victory. He took home a giant trophy for his troubles, plus a little something extra.

“I got a sausage weighing 14 kilograms,” he laughed. “It will last me for a year. I think I’ll hand some of it out.”

So what sort of rider is Vansevenant? He can clearly climb, and he’s obviously got a good sprint at the end of a hard, hilly day. As an U23 it was at hilly stage races that he thrived, but since joining the pro ranks it’s been one-dayers that have netted his best performances.

Some in the Belgian press are talking about him as a future stage-race contender. He seems to be open to the idea, but knows it will take time. “I still have a lot to grow, but I hope that I can make my plan in the mountain stages,” he says. “I still have a lot to learn, then it will be all right.”

Given he’s good uphill and has a good sprint, and given he was impressive at Fleche Wallonne last year, might we see him feature at the Ardennes Classics? He doesn’t think so, at least not now.

“The Ardennes are still a bit too explosive for me,” he told Sporza in 2020. Instead he’s more interested in one-day races with longer climbs of about 10 km. Something like the GP Industria and Artigianato, say. He’s set to do the Tour de Romandie and Tour de Suisse later in the season. Perhaps we’ll see him feature in the mountains there?

Whatever type of rider Vansevenant turns out to be, the past six months suggest he has a big future ahead him. And when he’s had enough of bike racing, he’s always got his Electromechanics degree to fall back on – not something a lot of professional male cyclists can say.

And if that doesn’t work out for him, well, his dad could always use a hand with the lambs back on the family farm …

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