Youth In Revolt: The Climbers
Future Stars: In Part 2 of Sam Larner’s ‘Youth In Revolt’ series, the riders of the future, he compares the young climbers of the peloton. In Part 1 Sam had a more general look at the young hopefuls, now it’s the turn of the anti-gravity boys.
It’s tempting to look at the freakish athletes, who will be leading the Tour de France up the harshest grades the Alps and Pyrenees have to offer, and think they were created in a lab; the perfect blend of power and emaciated bodies that allow them to fly up the sinuous climbs. However, the modern climbers have served an apprenticeship on the Junior and U23 circuits. There are now an increasing number of youth races that take the riders up brutal gradients and onto the roads they will race once they’ve progressed to the senior level. This article once again looks at the riders aged between 18 and 21 to try and predict who will be the best climbers in the next five to ten years. The standard rules apply, no one under the age of 18 because it’s too unpredictable to judge their talent and no one over the age of 21 because predicting their talent isn’t hard enough.
Similar to: Andy Schleck, Leopold König, Rafa Majka
Why he’s here: Matvey has progressed through the youth rankings at a phenomenal speed and now finds himself settling into his first year at World Tour level.
What the Results say:
– 3rd 2015 Tour de l’Avenir: Matvey started the race with a 119th place in the opening prologue. But, it was non-stop success from there, as the route hit the high Alps he was in 16th place overall, he then managed a 6th and 1st on the final two stages to finish 3rd overall. He finished behind Marc Soler (Movistar) and Jack Haig (Orica-BikeExchange) who have both made the step up to the World Tour.
– 1st 2015 Giro Valle d’Aosta Mont Blanc Stage 3: Mamykin took an astonishing victory at Valtournenche, 2004m, by 3.24 over recent Giro d’Italia stage winner Giulio Ciccione. It flung him into the overall leader’s jersey but he was to lose it the next day. His climbing dominance was confirmed.
What he says: “I think I had a successful 2015 with some important results for me, especially at the Tour de l’Avenir. For that moment I already had a contact with Team KATUSHA and knew, I would have a chance to join the team as a trainee for few races. But, anyway, it was a big surprise and big honor to receive a proposal of professional contract from Team KATUSHA general manager Viacheslav Ekimov. So, it was a great step for me to move up to the World Tour level. It is my first year on this level, so I don’t have any pressure from the team.”
Climbing Tips: “You have to train a lot in mountains and to love mountains. You have to feel mountains, it has to be like a fresh air for you.”
Chances of Success: 9/10 – It’s hard to envisage a set of circumstances that would prevent Mamykin from succeeding at the highest level. Mamykin will be allowed the time to develop at Katusha and he should pick up some smaller results next year with the larger ones coming soon after.
Similar to: Bauke Mollema, Mathias Frank, Steven Kruijswijk
Why he’s here: A mold-breaking British climber who is building a very impressive palmarès from his 2016 results alone. He’s also well placed to move up to the World Tour level soon in the unofficial Team Sky feeder team.
What the results say:
– 8th 2015 Trofeo Piva: Knox was the youngest rider in the top 10 and he was part of a chasing group that finished just ten seconds down on the Austrian winner, Felix Grosschartner. What bodes well is that all but two of the riders who finished ahead of Knox have moved up to the senior level either in the World Tour or the Pro Continental level.
– 4th GC 2016 Ronde de l’Isard: Knox was the best of the three Wiggins’ riders who finished in the top 10 on GC. He was in 8th place overall after the first stage and he just continued to improve on that position throughout the race.
What he says: “My results haven’t changed much, my ambition was to get results in the hilly under 23 races and other UCIs we have on the calendar this year and I’ll be still aiming to do that for the rest of the year. Valle d’Aosta is a standout race to be in top shape for.”
Climbing Tips: “Get lean and train hard is unfortunately the best answer I can think of.”
Chances of Success: 7/10 – The Brit has bolted into the conversation with his performances at the backend of 2015 and so far this year. Something he credits his move to Girona, alongside teammate Dan Pearson, for. That seven will very quickly rise if he can continue his exquisite form for the rest of the season.
Team: Lotto Soudal U23
Similar to: Romain Bardet, Alejandro Valverde, Carlos Sastre
Why he’s here: If you wanted to play a drinking game, without getting drunk, I would encourage you to scour through Bjorg’s results for the last three years and drink every time he finished lower than tenth. He’s had consistency but in 2016 he’s added some incredible results at the highest youth level.
What the results say:
– 1st GC 2016 Ronde de l’Isard: Lambrecht won the first stage of the four-stage race and took the leader’s jersey. He didn’t relinquish that lead for the rest of the race and ended up with the points jersey, mountains jersey, best young rider jersey and his team won the team classification. It’s not an overstatement to say the young Belgian’s performance was Merckxian.
– 2nd GC 2015 Oberosterreich Juniorenrundfahrt: Bjorg didn’t finish lower than fifth on any stage and ended up second overall, third in the points category and leading the mountains jersey.
What he says: “The base of my Ronde de l’Isard victory was in the first stage where I won. In the other stages I got much help from my team. The third day it was very tough, There was a group who had more than 5 minutes, so we really had to race very hard to be able to hold the yellow jersey. The last day, the weather was terrible, it was very cold and rainy, on the last climb I was alone from my team so I had to counter all the attacks of the other riders, it was very hard. I had to take a lot of risks in the descent but I finally made it.”
Climbing tips: “If you are still young , it is important that you have a lot of pleasure on your bike and when you are a little bit older than you have to train more in the hills. The most important thing is that you love climbing because it is a very hard part of cycling.”
Chances of Success: 10/10 – I can’t quite envisage a set of circumstances that would stop Lambrecht from reaching the top. The Lotto-Soudal U23 team is the perfect place for him to develop and there will be no pressure on him to move up a level until at least two years time.
Similar to: Sergio Henao, Steven Kruijswijk, Vincenzo Nibali
Why he’s here: It’s tempting to look at any young Colombian who can climb and tag them as the next Quintana or Chaves. However, Reyes might well be the next Colombian wunderkind. He didn’t produce great results in 2015 but his 2014 was a breakthrough and 2016 might have been his best year so far.
What the results say:
– 1st Best Young rider 2014 Vuelta a Colombia: He took the young rider’s jersey by 7.05 from the second placed Steven Giraldo. He may have finished 13 minutes down on overall winner Oscar Sevilla after eleven stages but he did manage two top 10s and a fifth place with his team in the opening team time trial. All this whilst he was still just 19.
– 2nd Stage 4 2016 Ronde de l’Isard: After a disappointing 2015 it was imperative that Reyes started 2016 strongly. He took some mediocre results in senior races at the start of the year and then had an excellent showing at the U23 race. A fifth place overall was built on strong showings in the first and final stage.
What he says: “My objectives for the rest of the season are to do a great Vuelta a Colombia, Giro Valle d’Aosta and Tour de l’Avenir and to give joy to my team”.
Climbing tips: “I can tell readers that the first thing is to enjoy the bike.”
Chances of Success: 8/10 – Aldemar has made it into the Colombian national team for U23 races and this will help him significantly to catch the eye of bigger teams. His performance in the Isere region of France should propel him towards another great season.
Team: Axeon Hagens Berman
Similar to: Nairo Quintana, Chris Froome, Alberto Contador
Why he’s here: A 2014/2015 season which suggested mid-table mediocrity rather than outright brilliance has given way to a 2016 season which could be a predictor of future dominance. He’s raced four senior stage races so far this season and failed to finish in the top 15 just once. His successes have been built on dynamic climbing brilliance and solid time trialing, two skills which bode well for the future.
What the results say:
– 1st GC 2016 Joe Martin Stage Race: Let’s be honest, this overall victory in a stage race around Arkansas will most likely be forgotten once Neilson turns pro but it was his first ever GC victory. It was built on a fourth place in the opening time trial then got a 20th, 3rd and 2nd in the remaining three stages to take the yellow, green and white jerseys.
– 5th Stage 3 2016 Tour of California: The Queen Stage of the Race, finishing on the 12km at 8% Gibraltar Road climb. Powless went early on the climb and was only caught inside the last kilometer by eventual stage winner Julian Alaphilippe. Alaphilippe might be considered as one of the rising stars of the peloton but he is a full five years older than Powless. He was due to finish 5th on GC but some final stage time loss dropped him to 9th, still good enough for the white jersey.
What he says: “I will always look back on Gibraltar road as a day where I truly found my abilities as a rider. Racing against World Tour riders was intimidating, but I tried my best to put it aside and think of it as just another bike race. We all pinned numbers on our backs, and everyone is there with a goal in mind. My goal on Gibraltar was to test my strength as a climber, I wasn’t sure what to expect at that level, as I’ve never really seen myself as a pure climber, but I had good legs and the confidence of racing in my back yard so to speak.”
Climbing tip: “What I think about when I’m climbing is just keeping my cadence up and holding my upper body as still as possible, aside from that I think the best way to get better at climbing is to just do it more.”
Chances of Success: 10/10 – One of the pitfalls of predicting future success is to just find a very young rider and envisage huge future success whilst ignoring the equally likely future failures. When a young rider delivers the kind of results Powless has done it makes a future collapse look much less likely. Scarily, he still has six years of Tour de France white jersey eligibility left.
Tao Geoghegan Hart
Team: Axeon Hagens Berman
Similar to: Vincenzo Nibali, Bauke Mollema, Tom Dumoulin
Why he’s here: Tao could’ve been on this list for the past three years, such has been the level of his dominance. He’s built most of his success on a strong individual time trial and great climbing performances on the toughest days. His best season to date was 2013 when he won two GC titles and got a podium in the Junior Paris-Roubaix.
What the results say:
– 7th GC USA Pro Challenge 2015: Tao took the young rider jersey and a top 10 position on the overall thanks to a very capable performance in the Queen stage and the individual time trial. Until this year’s 2016 Tour of the Gila 7th was Hart’s highest position on GC in a senior race, there will be a step up when he starts racing more in Europe.
– 2nd GC Tour de Savoie Mont Blanc 2016: One of the few senior races that Tao has raced in Europe led to a podium place overall and a stage victory. Once again it was a case of finishing high up in the time trial and then going hard on the mountain stage. Only 52 riders finished the final stage and there was more than six minutes between Tao and Mark O’Brien in tenth.
What he says: “I have a bit of a break now before I resume my training in Spain for the Tour of Utah, which is in early August. Utah is a spectacular place to race a bike and I have really enjoyed the past two editions. I am also hopeful that I will be selected to ride the Tour de l’Avenir, which is a race where I can wear my national champion jersey, or the Tour of Britain again.”
Climbing tip: “Keep at it. Long climbs especially, are as much a mental game as anything else. Having the belief and perseverance to keep plugging away is probably the most important single factor when it comes to improving your success in climbing.”
Chances of Success: 9/10 – Tao has been spoken about as the next best thing in British cycling for so long that it’s hard to believe that the pressure won’t have some effect in his career. It’s also the case that he’s likely to join Team Sky, which hasn’t always been the best environment for young riders to develop in. Either way, his natural talent will almost certainly shine through and lead to a very promising career.
Team: Avanti IsoWhey Sport
Similar to: Joaquin Rodriguez, Domenico Pozzovivo, Carlos Sastre
Why he’s here: An Australian rider who has consistently performed strongly in Asian and Oceania races. He’s put in his best performances on the climbs but he’s not a liability on the flat either and his good GC efforts should attract attention from Pro Continental or even World Tour teams in the very near future. He’s lost some development time due to a serious crash earlier this year but he seems to have come back stronger since and now has a clear path to success.
What the results say:
– 4th Stage 4 Herald Sun Tour 2016: Hamilton was one of very few people who could hang with Chris Froome on the Queen stage of the Herald Sun Tour. There were three ascents of Arthur’s Seat, similar in statue to Willunga Hill, which Hamilton handled with aplomb and will have done his future career no harm at all.
– 14th GC Tour Down Under 2016: Hamilton built his 14th place overall on a high placing in the Queen stage to Willunga Hill. He was the only non-World Tour rider in the top 25 and he was only just behind Diego Ulissi and ahead of Louis Meintjes in the overall.
What he says: “Yes I was hit by a car exactly 2 months ago as I write this. I cracked a few ribs, punctured lung and fractured 2 bones in my wrist. It was hard to know what the recovery was going to be like but in the end I only missed out on one of my scheduled races, The Grafton to Inverell which was part of the National Road series. But so far things have gone pretty smoothly, I got more ergos thrown at me than I want to think about and did all the recovery necessary and I’ve made it to Tour Of Japan, so happy days.”
Climbing tip: “I’ve always found using the front of the saddle helps a lot. I have my seat almost as far forward as the rails allow. I did it because my mountain bike has a pretty short reach in comparison to a road bike, so it’s just something I have always done to keep the position similar in training. And a high cadence of course!”
Chances of Success: 7/10 – The Australian to European pipeline has been well trodden in recent years so there’s no concerns about that. Hamilton has made the most of his chances when racing against World Tour opposition and if he continues to back these results up with regional successes in the Asian races he’s likely to get a shot at the World Tour in the next year or two. Once he’s there there’s no limit to where his talent could take him.
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