Cycling’s New Blood

I guess we all know that ‘old’ riders like Philippe Gilbert (38), Alejandro Valverde (40) and Vincenzo Nibali (35) are on their way to pasture soon, but I never thought last year that I’d be thinking the same thing about guys like Peter Sagan (30).

Suddenly though, it’s all about the new generation that has been knocking on the ceiling of the kids room downstairs for some time. This year they’ve busted a hole in older boys’ floor. Here are the most obvious.

Remco Evenepoel

Winner of everything he starts, Remco blasted onto the scene late last season with a spectacular win in the Clasica de San Sebastian. So far this year he’s won 4 stage races (4!), including 2 days ago when he took the Tour de Pologne with a 50 km solo breakaway in the 3rd stage.

Evenepoel won the Junior UCI Worlds on the road and in the ITT in 2018. He’s Belgian and the latest in a long line of ‘next Eddy Merckxes’. Remco just says that he’s the ‘next me’. He’s 20.

Wout van Aert

One of a couple of ‘cyclocross men’ on my list, as the French like to call them, Wout van Aert is a 3-time World Champion in the event. He made the move to Road a couple of years ago and has been quietly piling up a nice palmares.

He’s already won 2 stages of the TDF (2019) before crashing out heavily in the ITT. In fact, the crash was so bad that he thought it would end his career. After a long recovery Wout came back this season and proceeded to win Strade Bianche and then a week later, out-sprinted Julian Alaphilippe to win Milan Sanremo, his first monument.

Oh, he’s Belgian, too. 25 years old.

Mathieu van der Poel

Chouchou of the French, even though he’s Dutch, van der Poel has the best genes in pro cycling. His father, Adri, is an ex pro who won all sorts of classics and came very close to winning several Monuments; while his grandfather is the ‘eternal second’, Raymond Poulidor (why the French love this kid).

Well, van der Poel is not content with 2nd, that’s pretty apparent. If my math is right he’s already won 6 World Championships in cyclocross and road (Junior) and last year’s freaky comeback win in the Amstel Gold Race tops everyone’s list of most incredible finishes of 2019.

Look for him whenever the Belgian Classics begin this fall. He’s 25.

Quinn Simmons

And here’s one you may not have heard of. The only teenager in the crowd and the youngest guy riding in the pro peloton right now, American Quinn Simmons doesn’t have any wins as a pro yet, but he is the reigning Junior World Champion. He also has an impressive beard for a guy who isn’t even old enough to vote yet.

He’s 19.

(Photo by Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

I’m personally not ready to turn the Sagan page yet and hope he’s still got many great wins ahead of him, but there’s no shortage of exciting riders coming up from behind, so I’m not too worried.

13 thoughts on “Cycling’s New Blood

  1. You’re going to be writing a lot about these guys so let’s spell their names correctly. They’re Dutch so the van is with a small “v” as in Wout van Aert and Mathieu van der Poel.

  2. Gerry: No worries about the “v” or “V”: that’s actually a defining separation between the Belgians/Flemish (like me) and the Dutch. In Holland, yes, they spell all lower case v. (like “de” in French)
    But in Belgium, lower case v signifies nobility. So it would be preposterous for me to write my name as Jan van Mieghem.
    That being said, Wout writes himself: Wout van Aert. So I don’t know what the story is there :). Unless the new generation finally lets go of the nobility stuff…

    Last: Remco (lives only 7km from where I grew up) is only 20. His birthday is in January 🙂
    Yes, after a long while, the best cycling TV commentator (Michel Wuyts) said: “we may be looking at a great decennium for Flanders”. I hope so… Belgium is an artificially-constructed country (to buffer France and Germany) and there are few nationalists; but it always is special to see “one of your own” racing. It’s been great fun this last week (needed during this dreadful corona time)

    • I feel vindicated with the Big V Little V thing now, thanks, Jan! Maybe Wout spells his name with a small ‘v’ because he plans on being cycling royalty someday. It’s not inconceivable 😉

      As a Belgian (and Flandrian) you have plenty to be proud of, Jan, even without this new generation. You picked the right sport to be a fan of. I hope you feel for us Canadians…I can probably count the number of pros riding in Europe on two hands!

      How’s your trip going, btw? Are you quarantining?

  3. Well, WVA (the van be dammed, haha) hasn’t made the move to the road, but rather expanded his repertoire to include it in his year-round racing program. He’s still on for CX although he may be racing for 2nd place.
    Four races for Remco, you say – well Annemiek van Vleuten (note, one lower and one upper case v) has won every single race she’s started this year, and that’s five (5!!). But she’s 37 and doesn’t fit that narrative. So, who in the women’s peloton would slot into your list?
    Oh, and since we’re nitpicking letters – in the last line, “there’s *no* shortage”.

    • Boy, everyone’s a critic today! Spelling mistake fixed, thanks.

      Yeah, I knew that about WVA. Isn’t MVDP also still doing CX?

      As for women, I’m not knowledgeable enough, I’m afraid. You could tell me who’s on your list if you want.

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