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.
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.
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.
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.