Last year I nominated a dozen riders to watch in 2012, from promising neo-pros to Chris Froome and Vincenzo Nibali. Having looked at the six big names, now it’s time to review how the neo-pros got on in 2013.
Wilco Kelderman remains a real talent but 2013 seems to have been an educational year for him rather than a trophy haul. He won the Tour of Denmark and was a respectable fifth overall in the Tour de Romandie. Perhaps 2012 saw him surprise more with his emergence but these are solid results and Belkin have a good prospect for the future. The problem will be accommodating his plans alongside those of Bauke Mollema, Robert Gesink and Laurens Ten Dam.
Rohan Dennis is so good I thought twice about tipping him last year. This might sound perverse but the reasoning was simple: why add to the noise and hype? Only he delivered more than most expected. The year began with injury and he was chasing his shadow for a while. But he was third in the Tour of California’s time trial and then went better in the Dauphiné, finishing second to Tony Martin and ahead of Chris Froome. This was good enough to put him in yellow and then to get him a start in the Tour de France with a view to helping Garmin-Sharp in the team time trial stage. The success continued with a win in the Tour of Alberta. In modern times its hard to think of a better neo-pro debut, Peter Sagan in 2010 stands out. It’s now up to Dennis to keep on working, to find the improvements.
Reinardt Janse Van Rensburg had a great 2012 and racked up wins across many lesser races on the UCI Europe Tour. So it was always going to be interesting to see how he coped with the move up to a bigger team and bigger races. Things looked hot from the start with second place in the Classica Almeria in February but the results quickly cooled although he was racing plenty of big events like the Tour of Flanders and finished the Vuelta, his first grand tour. He saved the season with a win in Binche-Tournai-Binche and again it’ll be interesting to see how he copes in 2014 on a team with Marcel Kittel and John Degenkolb, as well as Luka Mezgec too.
At the risk of sounding mean Moreno Moser was probably the biggest disappointment of the year if only because he looks so complete but didn’t get the results you expect. The Italian won the Strade Bianche in style, outplaying Fabian Cancellara. But that was the stand-out result and apart from a second place in the GP Frankfurt-Rund um den Finanzplatz Eschborn, it’s been a surprisingly quiet year which ended with him being rested by his team after accumulating too many race days. He finished the Tour de France and took seventh in the Clasica San Sebastian. We’ll see what 2014 brings, hopefully some rest and he’s back upholding the family name again.
With Warren Barguil you are left to pick the adjectives and superlatives. An outstanding amateur in 2012, I wondered how he’d cope on a foreign team and the step up to the pro ranks. He set about learning English over the winter and that worked fine. On the bike he was helping the Argos-Shimano sprint train in the Presidential Tour of Turkey and was top-20 in the Dauphiné despite a back injury that stopped him putting out full power. But of course it is the Vuelta that stood out. A grand tour in your first year is always a big ask but he won two stages and in convincing style. His second win was by the smallest of margins but the coolest of styles, dispatching Rigoberto Uran for a mountain top finish in the Pyrenees. But he’s now a marked man, his rangy figure makes him easy to spot. However he’s not got to carry the burden of French expectations given the load is shared by Romain Bardet, Thibaut Pinot and others.
I picked Arnaud Démare and Nacer Bouhanni because it was hard to distinguish between the two. Both had a good year and are set for more wins in 2014. One question was whether FDJ’s sprint pair could go beyond the Coupe de France races and the answer is yes. Bouhanni won World Tour sprints and wore yellow in Paris-Nice until a crash took him out; he led the Tour of Beijing too. He was rode the Giro and Tour where did well but did not win; his abandon of the Tour de France was hard to watch as he struggled with illness, dropped and soldiering on alone. Démare is a year younger but not any slower. He too won big with a stage in the Tour de Suisse, led the Eneco Tour and won the Four Days of Dunkirk outright. Once again the cohabitation of these two riders is of interest but it’s a nice “problem” for Marc Madiot and by all accounts the two get on well. Bouhanni’s had bad eyesight all year but refused to wear glasses or contact lenses and sometimes he’s not been able to see the finish line properly, causing him to time his jump wrong. He’s had corrective surgery this winter so expect a sharper focus on the finish line.
Yesterday saw the six established pros under review: Riders To Watch for 2013 – What Happened? (Part I)