Gazing into the crystal ball: What we learned from Tour de l’Avenir
Odd TTTs and impressive climbing from the sport's future stars.
Odd TTTs and impressive climbing from the sport's future stars.
The Tour de l’Avenir, literally translating to “The Tour of the Future,” came to a close this past weekend. The race has long served as a crystal ball to see who will be lighting up our screens for the next decade with previous year’s results basically being a “who’s who” of the modern World Tour.
So consider this your primer on the top riders of 2025 or so.
It was a dream race for the Belgian, who became the youngest ever winner of the race. The 19-year-old proved that he was right to skip the U23 ranks and go straight to Bora-Hansgrohe by taking the yellow jersey, youth and mountains classification as well as two stages along the way.
Entering as the pre-race favourite, his Belgian team set him up perfectly with an excellent TTT and he followed it up by winning the first summit finish by over a minute. From there, it was plain sailing for Uijtdebroeks. Scarily, he could still be competing in this race for another three years, but don’t be surprised if he moves onto bigger and better things, as other young talents like Tadej Pogačar and Egan Bernal did long before they aged out.
We’ll have a feature on Uijtdebroecks coming on CyclingTips soon.
Romain Grégoire is going to win a lot of bike races in his career. I want to compare him to Alaphilippe but also avoid any potential “the next” arguments. Grégoire isn’t afraid to go on long range mountain heists, he’s a super punchy climber and has a rapid sprint too. The most important thing: he rides with the all important emotion and flair that will capture French hearts.
He will be turning pro with Groupama-FDJ next season, and has the perfect range of characteristics to become a serial winner. His Stage 6 win also happened to be his sixth UCI win of the season. He’s a big, big talent.
Giving credit to CyclingTips’ own Ronan McLaughlin who called this after our pre-mountains preview, his fellow Irishman had one hell of a ride. Archie has had a rough couple of years, riddled by injury and illness but it has truly started to ‘click’ in 2022.
Fourth on GC is impressive for the rider from the Jumbo-Visma Development team. He was consistent in the mountains and finished second to eventual winner Uijtdebroeks on Stage 8 up to La Toussuire. While he has signed for another year with the development squad, this past week has certainly put him on the WorldTour radar.
Taking two stage wins (including the opening TTT prologue) and the green jersey, for some reason Casper van Uden’s Tour de L’Avenir flew under the radar for many. The Dutch sprinter has already proved himself as a talent for the future taking four individual wins this year, and more impressively finishing fourth at Scheldeprijs, perhaps the hardest race of his 2022 season.
Van Uden turned pro with DSM from August 1st this year, and it’s safe to say we’re going to see him popping up in sprint finishes.
There are a few other storylines worth digging into. Here’s what caught my eye.
Overall, the race had a good format with an easier first week for the sprinters, some breakaway days and a mountain-packed final few days to decide the GC. There were two very random stages, the opening TTT prologue and the Stage 5 TTT. Why the organisers decided to start with a sub-4km team time trial prologue (where GC times were neutralised, may I add), is beyond me. Even crazier was the Stage 5 TTT.
For starters, long TTTs have no place in a U23 stage race where there will be a big gap between equipment across the national teams. Having an individual time trial would be fine, but it’s unfair to have a TTT when it is raced by national teams. Secondly, by having the TTT on Stage 5, over halfway through the race, is a sure-fire way of ensuring that teams will be weighted unfairly with riders crashing out. For example, Ecuador started with just three riders after losing half of their team earlier in the race.
Barring the silly TTTs, the race had a perfect balance of mountain, sprint and breakaway opportunities. We were only missing an individual TT, so we could find out who might win the 2025 world’s time trial in Rwanda.
The Tour de L’Avenir is unique in the way that it is a stage race raced by national teams, rather than trade teams. This is something that we never see with the pros, with national teams only ever competing in one-day championship events.
This often causes more unpredictable racing with riders not being used to riding with each other, and also riders left off the start list altogether. Just on the British front, two of the biggest climbing talents in the U23 ranks, Oscar Onley and Finlay Pickering, didn’t make the selection due to GB already having a packed squad.
Interestingly, the Jumbo-Visma development team placed 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 9th on GC, but with each rider racing for a separate country. If the young Jumbo bees were all racing for the same team, rather than split up across different nations, would we see a different GC winner?
This year’s edition of L’Avenir was unfortunately plagued by DNFs with only 75 out of 162 starters finishing the race. There was some COVID as well as a virus going around the peloton which caused a lot of the issues, but the sheer number of crashes played a big part too.
Crashes are always going to play a part in the biggest race of the year. We see it in the pro version of the Tour de France, and there is no way around it with the nerves of the peloton always causing issues. Add into it being a U23 race, and you’ll inevitably see even more crashes. There aren’t the same respect levels as in the pros, and a result at L’Avenir could make or break a career.
We lost the GC battle we all craved for with the full Baby Giro podium, Leo Hayter, Lennart van Eetvelt and Lenny Martinez, all having issues. Hayter took a pretty big hit in a bizarre finish line crash which required stitches to his chest and van Eetvelt had a throat infection. Lenny Martinez finished 8th overall but an early crash saw him lose time.
Overall, it was a decent Tour de L’Avenir. I’m sure, like every year, we’ll be able to look back and go down the results list and see a whole host of now famous names. Make no doubt about it, the guys who lit up L’Avenir will be the guys that are lighting up your TV screens very soon.