Quick Step and Peter Sagan stole the headlines in the cobbled classics. Now the season continues but in a different gear as the sport progresses to hillier one day races and the summer season of stage races. But who else impressed? Here’s a look at the younger revelations in the spring classics.
Mads Pedersen went prime time in the Tour of Flanders. He’s been on the radar for some time, after all he’s wearing the Danish champion’s jersey, won the Tour of Denmark last summer which doubles as the unofficial Danish stage racing championships. To revive Antoine Blondin‘s saying of “tell me who you’ve beaten and I’ll tell you who you are” he also won the Tour du Poitou-Charentes by taking the 20km time trial stage almost half a minute quicker than short distance time trial specialist Jonathan Castroviejo, all aged 21. Young but he’s now in his fourth season as a pro and has several wins to his name. The son of a truck driver, he started in mountain biking and moved to the road, winning the junior Paris-Roubaix. He turned pro by accident, the result of the Danish Cult Energy team merging with the German Stölting team and so Pedersen was bumped up from a Continental-level development rider into a Pro Conti pro. A UCI label? Yes but it meant he could do races like the Three Days of De Panne one week and then the U23 Tour of Flanders next so by the time he won a prestigious stage of the Tour de l’Avenir to Arbois he’d banked a lot of high level racing in his legs.
Was Wout van Aert a revelation? After a world champion in cyclo-cross and he’s won races on the road already so we could view his success this spring as a confirmation. But it doesn’t take too much of a mental crowbar to work in the idea of a revelation, especially because he showed endurance, that he could cope in the long distance races over 250km. All the more impressive given he’s come off the back of a cyclo-cross season with its repeated high intensity efforts. It was impressive to see him in the Strade Bianche but logical given the slippery conditions and carrying form form his winter campaign. To see him feature in the top-10 at the Tour of Flanders or Gent-Wevelgem was more. So imagine what he could do if he started with more focus on the road? Several team managers are doing just this and he has a contract with Vérandas Willems-Crelan to the end of 2019 then it’s possible to buy him out. L’Equipe reports Groupama-FDJ are chasing him… but other teams are closer. Would he focus on the road only or want to keep up the cyclo-cross? After this spring he can probably set the conditions.
Rémi Cavagna was one of this blog’s neo-pros to watch for 2017 and popped up to win the Dwars door West-Vlaanderen although once again this was the textbook Quick Step win thanks to strength in numbers as Cavagna broke away with team mate Florian Sénéchal …who is promising too, still 24 after several seasons at Quick Step and he made Quick Step’s seven for the Tour of Flanders.
Fabio Jakobsen is one of this year’s neo-pros to watch and won the Scheldeprijs and Nokere Koerse. He’s a pure sprinter and very much in the mould of Dylan Groenewegen thanks to his explosive power. He seems bound to win more this season too.
Alvaro Hodeg has managed to get most people to say his name right by now. It’s “Hodge”, rhyming with “dodge” and he won the Handzame Classic in March. After Fernando Gaviria crashed out of Tirreno-Adriatico Hodeg seemed pop up as the new Colombian sprinter but they’re different, Gaviria is a lighter and more versatile rider while Hodeg is taller and heavier; a comparison would be to a young Marcel Kittel but that feels clumsy, and the Colombian’s hulk and bulk will make him a valuable lead out.
Cofidis put all their eggs in the basket marked Nacer Bouhanni and there’s now a gooey mess on the floor with team manager Cédric Vasseur declaring in this morning’s L’Equipe “I’m not even going to start him in a cyclosportive right now” given the doubts over his form and motivation. Whether this is the way to encourage Bouhanni back or whether there’s a total breakdown remains to be seen but Bouhanni’s absence has opened the door for Christophe Laporte. He was third on the opening stage of Paris-Nice with that long cobbled drag uphill, then fourth in Gent-Wevelgem and he could have been well into the top-10 in Sanremo were it not for tangling in the sprint and finding someone’s rear mech de-lacing his front wheel. The team will want to hang on to him but with his big build and lead-out experience he’s likely a target for other teams wanting a rider capable of being in the kopgroep.
There was a time when the Topsport Vlaanderen team had riders on a conveyor belt into the World Tour teams. Now it’s not so obvious. Amaury Capiot has had some good results, notably two top-10s and others have popped up in places.
Team Sky’s neo-pro Chris Lawless had a podium in the Scheldeprijs helped by the commissiares who eliminated many sprinters after they went through a level crossing. But he’d taken a sprint win in the Settimana Coppi e Bartali too and was a highlight for Sky in an otherwise forgettable cobbled classics campaign for them where Łukasz Wiśniowski made the podium in the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and then things went downhill.
19 years old, youngest finisher for over 50 years. Congratulations @tanguyturgis! 👏🎊
19 ans, plus jeune coureur à terminer Paris-Roubaix depuis plus de cinquante ans. Bravo, @tanguyturgis ! 🎊👏#ParisRoubaix pic.twitter.com/9JhJcv0Dqs
— Paris-Roubaix (@Paris_Roubaix) April 8, 2018
Finally Vital Concept have had a tough baptism but Parisian Tanguy Turgis got them some headlines as the youngest rider to finish the race in 50 years. A mere anecdote by itself but he’s the youngest of three brothers with Jimmy and Anthony racing for Cofidis and said to be the best of them having plenty of success in the U23 ranks including the U23 Omloop Het Nieuwsblad being just 18 years old. He was picked up by the BMC Development team and rode the U23 Giro as a teenager but the team folded and he jumped at a pro contract.
Any more promising rides and riders? Please share your ideas in the comments.