I’m only just getting used to seeing Cavendish, Greipel and Farrar get the jump on Freire, Petacchi and McEwen. But several neo-pros have got off to a winning start already. You could say they are raring to go whilst big name sprinters are waiting for bigger objectives. But that doesn’t discount nor really explain their wins. There does seem to be a whole new wave of sprinting talent. Here are some names to look for this year.
His real name is Johan but everyone calls the HTC-Highroad rider John and given his size, I’d recommend you do too. He finished third in the 2008 U-23 World Championships, then second last year to Michael Matthews. A big build but apparently he’s versatile, more than a sprinter. But it’s common to see a rider dominate as an amateur, only to specialise when they turn pro. For example Tom Boonen was second in the 2001 U-23 Liège-Bastogne-Liège. He’s already won this season, beating Tyler Farrar in the Tour of the Algarve.
A winner of the U-23 Worlds in Australia, Matthews didn’t choke under pressure. He beat Degenkolb and like him he’s got a fast finish but is also versatile, see his third place in the Aussie TT nationals. Now he’s with Rabobank and like Degenkolb has already taken a win, this time getting the better of Matt Goss in a stage of the Tour Down Under. His biggest problem could be getting opportunities on a team that includes Theo Bos, Oscar Freire and Graeme Brown… but maybe that’s as much their problem too?
If Degenkolb and Matthews have the potential to become classics specialists, Guardini is already lining up as a pure sprinter. A compact position on the bike and impressive leg speed mean comparisons with Cavendish are inevitable and as I’ve said already, he even makes the comparison himself. Being on the modest Farnese Vini team is probably good for him, so long as the team don’t rely on him to deliver. They’ve signed him for three years.
Fourth place in Milan-San Remo last year was a stunning result for the neo-pro on Colnago-CSF Inox. The result came after some impressive sprinting in Tirreno-Adriatico. But if people started asking who is Modolo, they never got the complete answer since he didn’t win a race last year. We should find out more in 2011.
A sprinter? He’s certainly fast and has kilo titles on the track as well as his pursuit success. But the BMC rider is supposed to have the world at his feet, his ability to win anything from the 1000m to the U-23 Paris-Roubaix means this kid has options. The next Boonen, the new Cancellara or even a stage race specialist? We’ll see but in the meantime watch for a large red and black BMC jersey in the sprints.
A bit cheeky including him but it’s make or break time for the German rider. After time with T-Mobile, he moved to Milram to escape Cavendish and Greipel, only he never achieved what he is capable of. Now with Quick Step, he’s still just 24. Can he get past Boonen and Steegmans or will he settle into helping others win?
A neo pro in 2010 he took three wins in succession thanks to an impressive finish. A sprinter… or a future classics rider is again the question for Cofidis’s 22 year old. I featured him on The Inner Ring before, remarking how he’s a hard rider.
Omega Pharma – Lotto might count on André Greipel but his British team mate Adam Blythe was a revelation, winning several races late last year. A tough rider who – like Cavendish – was part of the British system but left to make his own way, he’s made a name for himself.
A surprise winner last year, he’s another from Australian track conveyor belt and took two wins last year. It’ll be interesting to see how often he gets his chance at HTC but he’s proved capable of taking it.
Maybe an unknown quantity but the Frenchman has already won this year, albeit in the modest Amissa Bongo race in Gabon. But he’s been up there in Oman and could deliver something for FDJ.
In the meantime note 35 year old Oscar Freire won today and that I don’t yet see Mark Cavendish losing too much sleep, especially as two of the riders named above are slated to work for him.
Anyone else I should add to the list? Let me know via the comments…