Ten neo-pros were picked at the start of the year as new names to watch. Once upon a time you’d have to look for a seventh place in a small race or spot them making the breakaway in a race over 200km as clues to their future but these days teams are happy to back young riders for the win on the right day so newcomers can jump on the podium in their first year. Plenty did just that…
Groupama-FDJ’s decision to sign seven riders from its development team led the way with Romain Grégoire and Lenny Martinez the two top picks among them. To paraphrase Marc Madiot, he’s got the leaders to replace Thibaut Pinot but they’re on their way rather than the finished item. Still Romain Grégoire had such a good season that if the 20 year old can repeat it in 2024 then he’s on track. He won two stage races with the Four Days of Dunkerque and the Tour du Limousin, at the former he said he was struggling to sleep as he was so nervous about being able to deliver the win; by the latter he seemed much more relaxed. Eighth in the Strade Bianche was solid, likewise second in the La Laguna Negra stage of the Vuelta where he was in the company of many experienced veterans.
Lenny Martinez made headlines thanks to winning atop Mont Ventoux, showing patience to time his sprint to overhaul Michael Woods but he made a big splash by leading the Vuelta a España for two days. He’s an exciting rider but very much a pure climber, although he says he’s working hard on his time trial bike and enjoys this side too.
Groupama-FDJ’s pipeline was gushing so much that they couldn’t sign everyone. So Jensen Plowright went to Alpecin-Deceuninck but there’s less to write home about, no stunning debut but it’ll be interesting to see if he can apply lessons learned going into next year.
Gleb Syritsa was an unusual pick, an outsider rather than a talent tip. He’d made it to the World Tour from the amateur ranks, even if he was part of the Russian programme rather than some random club cyclist. Still, help or not it was a big leap. Despite his hulking size had been handy in uphill finishes too. A stage win in the Tour of Langkawi last year was repeated again this year but that was the only win but he was in the mix at other times and probably learned plenty, including alas via rough crash in the Four Days of Dunkerque, a race which is becoming the new Three Days of De Panne as the crash-fest of the calendar. It’ll be interesting to see where he fits into Astana’s sprint plans and his size makes him a handy wheel to sit on.
Jan Christen was a neo-pro, only just as he turned pro in August. Teams see rising talents and get the fear of missing out. One way to secure their services is to give them a pro contract and weeks after he turned 19 he joined UAE. Still we should be measuring his results as a teenager and a win in the U23 Giro and a strong ride in the Tour de l’Avenir shows he can match the best in his category. The challenge is to keep this up.
Thibaut Nys is not just the son-of-Sven. He’s running a twin road and cyclo-cross program. He had a great summer, taking a stage win in the Tour of Norway in May, an uphill sprint to the line and similar in the GP Kantons Aargau. These uphill wins scream classics contender for the coming years, he can float up the bergs and win sprints but it’ll be interesting to see how he fits into this slot, for example team mate Mads Pedersen is the example to follow but also the boss to work for; compatriot Arnaud De Lie is another leader in this niche but likely to be an arch rival too. Do this and he’ll really make a name for himself.
Glance at the results and Ivan Romeo didn’t have a sizzling season. But this is too reductive. He was often visible on the attack and did plenty of work for Movistar too and only turned 20 mid-season. He took a stage of the Tour de l’Avenir in the Alpine foothills and while we can question those who have turned pro and then drop back down to ride U23 races, there’s no doubting the win as he barged clear and held off the field with Jan Christen finishing second.
Josh Tarling was billed as Ganna 2.0, he’s taller and heavier than the Italian. He had an exceptional season. To the point where you wonder if Ganna could be surplus to requirements at Ineos, although this depends on how Tarling can do outside of time trials, is he going to be Paris-Roubaix contender who can also shred the field in a grand tour? Plenty of questions but only because we’re asking what comes next as he’s comprehensively settled questions about his time trial performances, skip the Tour of Norway prologue up Mount Fløyen and he finished no worse than third in any time trial this year and aged 19, opted not to ride the U23 event at the Euro championships but rode and won the senior title instead. There’s talent but also aided by work and research at Ineos, he’s had access to resources few get. Look to him in more time trials and the spring classics too.
Oscar Onley didn’t grab the headlines this year but he and his team can be satisfied with the season. Without a breakthrough performance – still a Vuelta stage win thanks to the team time trial and the rain – he rode a heavier World Tour calendar and was up with the best in the Tour de Pologne. The Vuelta win was great but he crashed out the next day on the Montjuic circuit on a day which should have suited him and he missed the chance to bank a grand tour in the legs. He came back quickly though and attacked in Lombardia among other things. Upstaged in a way by team mate Max Poole – one of the revelations of 2023 – he’ll be able to pass on tips to Poole about building on initial success and handling World Tour racing. Onley’s best result was second overall in the Alpes Isère Tour where he dropped down to ride for DSM’s development team and confirmed what he can do.