Next generation: Here are the Women’s WorldTour neo-pros to watch in 2022
There's a bunch of great young riders coming through the ranks in 2022.
There's a bunch of great young riders coming through the ranks in 2022.
While the women’s side of the sport still lacks a structured development pathway, and while there is still a huge wage disparity between the WorldTour and Continental level, the increasing professionalisation of the women’s peloton has had a direct impact on the number of young riders who are able to make a career in cycling.
Junior and U23 riders have made waves in women’s WorldTour racing in recent years. In the past two seasons, the likes of prolific sprinter Lorena Wiebes and Giro Rosa stage winner and French national champion Evita Muzic – both 22 years old – have already stamped their mark on the top level of racing. In their wake is a groundswell of more young talent.
So, who are some names to watch for the 2022 season and beyond?
The 2022 European road season is yet to begin, but we do have an insight into the form of those who have been racing cyclocross over the winter, and riders who come from Southern Hemisphere countries where racing is in full swing. With race days already on their 2022 tally, these women have a stellar season ahead if their early form is anything to go by.
Shirin van Anrooij is not technically a neo pro as the former junior European ITT champion signed with Trek-Segafredo last year after a stint as a stagiare in 2020. At 19, however, she is still the youngest rider on her team.
The Dutchwoman had a consistent 2021 albeit one devoid of any wins, although that is not the case with her 2021/22 cyclocross season which has seen her win the U23 European title and take three UCI wins along with multiple top-10 results in World Cups. If Van Anrooij takes her ‘cross form into the road season she will be an invaluable addition to a star-studded roster that includes the current elite world champion, Elisa Balsamo.
Unless you follow the Australian domestic scene closely, chances are that before January 2022 you hadn’t heard of Ruby Roseman-Gannon. However, as race-starved fans tuned into the Bay Crits and Australian National Championships, the 23-year-old became hard to ignore – snapping up two wins and the overall at the Bay Crits, and the national criterium title, before riding to fourth in the Nationals road race. She then went on to win a stage and the overall at the Santos Festival of Cycling – a domestic-level replacement for the COVID-affected Tour Down Under.
Roseman-Gannon signed a two-year deal with BikeExchange-Jayco at the end of 2021 and if her form Down Under translates to the European racing she will certainly be a rider to watch.
Dutch-registered development team NXTG Racing has seen two riders progress into the WorldTour this season. Twenty-one-year-old Belgian, Shari Bossuyt, signed a two-year deal with Canyon-SRAM after a season which saw her win the U23 national ITT title and ride to a fourth place at the elite national road race. Bossuyt also raced the inaugural Paris-Roubaix Femmes and, while 37th position isn’t particularly a result to write home about, having finished that race in the brutal conditions on the day is no mean feat.
A Classics rider in the making, the young Belgian is due to start at Flanders and the second edition of Paris-Roubaix Femmes for her new squad this spring.
Team DSM has fortified its sprinting power over the off-season, signing 22-year-old Dutchwoman Charlotte Kool from NXTG Racing to bolster the train of the seemingly unstoppable (and still only 22-year-old) Lorena Wiebes. Last season, Kool outsprinted current world champion Elisa Balsamo to win both stage 2a of the Baloise Ladies Tour and the one-day Grand Prix International d’Isbergues – Pas de Calais Féminin before the Italian went on to beat Marianne Vos in Leuven.
The French squad only took on two new riders for the 2022 season: Australian Grace Brown, and 21-year-old Italian, Vittoria Guazzini. The latter joins the squad from Italian Continental team Valcar Travel & Service which has seen myriad talented riders graduate from its ranks into the WorldTour in recent years, including current world champion Elisa Balsamo and BikeExchange rider Teniel Campbell.
Guazzini is a former junior world champion on the track and was part of the Italian team pursuit squad at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. She ended her 2021 season after a crash at Paris-Roubaix Femmes left her with a double ankle fracture but had been enjoying a strong season until that point which saw her take the European U23 time trial title. Once she has recovered from her injury Guazzini is sure to become an invaluable teammate to the likes of Brown, Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig, and her former teammate Marta Cavalli.
In its first season as a WorldTour squad, the team of Marianne Vos has taken on two new promising youngsters: 18-year-old German, Linda Riedmann, and 20-year-old Swiss rider Noemi Rüegg. A first-year under-23, Riedmann impressed at the Tour du Gévaudan Occitanie last season taking both stages plus the overall as well as a stage win and third overall at the Watersley Ladies Challenge. She also claimed the junior European road race title and was third at the Junior World Championships.
Rüegg, meanwhile, has yet to achieve a breakthrough result but shows promise in fast-finishes and will no doubt benefit from her new teammates, Vos, and fellow new signing, Coryn Labecki.
Human Powered Health has taken on a number of exciting young talents in its new incarnation as a WorldTeam. Young Americans Kaia Schmid, 19 – a junior world champion on the track who rode to second place at the Junior Road Worlds – and US junior national champion Makayla Macpherson, 18, are both brimming with promise.
Meanwhile 19-year-old Kiwi climber Henrietta Christie has joined the team after a stint on Italian-registered Continental squad Bepink. The U23 national time trial champion rode a consistent Tour Cycliste Féminin International de l’Ardèche which saw her take home the youth classification.
Dutch Continental team Parkhotel Valkenburg has turned out huge talents in the past few years, not least Demi Vollering and Lorena Wiebes. The latest rider to graduate from the programme into the WorldTour is 22-year-old fast-finishing all-rounder Amber van der Hulst who has signed a two-year deal with Liv Racing Xstra. Although she didn’t manage a win, the young Dutch woman had a solid 2021 season which saw her animate races and net multiple top-10s in second- and third-tier one-day classics as well as consistent performances in stage races.
Outside of the WorldTour, there are plenty of young riders on Continental squads who look set to punch above their stature this season. The Italian scene continues to produce talent with Bepink’s Silvia Zanardi and Valcar’s 22-year-old up-and-coming sprinter, Chiara Consonni. Meanwhile, UK-registered Continental squad Le Col Wahoo is going back to its roots in developing young British talent in the form of 18-year-old Flora Perkins, and 19-year-olds Alice Towers and Eluned King.
Elsewhere, two riders who have been dominating the cyclocross scene but are yet to unveil any road racing plans are Fem van Empel and junior road world champion Zoë Backstedt.
Any mention of young riders to look out for would not be complete without Kata Blanka Vas. Still only 20 years old but already established as a future all-rounder megastar, the young Hungarian rode to fourth in the elite world championships road race after a stagiare stint with SD Worx in 2021. She has since achieved amazing cross results and will stay with the team this season where she is set to race the Ardennes.