The Classics Revelations

In a spring classics campaign dominated by a couple of big stars, a few others made a name for themselves and caught the eye.

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If there was a draft system where teams could pick neo-pros after the classics then Laurence Pithie would probably be close to the top. The Groupama-FDJ is in his second year (so technically a neo-pro under the rules) and did well last year to win the GP Cholet, the day after finishing second in the Classic Loire Atlantique too.

This year he swapped Coupe de France racing for the World Tour and thrived. Perhaps a surprise winner of the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race, he backed this up with plenty more results, had a spell in yellow during Paris-Nice and was riding in the breakaway with Wout van Aert in Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, then with Mathieu van der Poel in Gent-Wegelgem. If he’d crack each time with the distance he looked the part, elegant on the bike and smooth over the cobbles, including on his way to a top-10 in his Paris-Roubaix debut. It’s an open secret he’s joining Bora-hansgrohe and it’ll be interesting to see what kind of rider he becomes because the choice is on him, there’s a range there to suggest a cobbled classics contender but also beyond for hilly finishes.

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Luca Mozzato probably became famous for finishing second in the Ronde van Vlaanderen but he did win the Koksijde Classic before that this spring, taking the sprint ahead of Dylan Groenewegen and Gerben Thijssen. He’s been quietly tipped here a few times in passing because he’s a crafty sprinter, able to cope with some climbing and has a good sense of positioning, this got him his first win in last year’s Tour du Limousin. When the B&B team folded he was one of the best riders to sign and Arkéa did well to get him as they need him for his ability to place in all kinds of one day races and score precious points. So far so good but how to progress is the challenge next, he’s not the fastest sprinter and the niche of being a sprinter who can manage a short climb or two is busy with the likes of Jasper Philipsen and Wout van Aert.

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Laurenz Rex (Intermarché-Wanty) won Le Samyn, an important win for his team as it’s their home event but with hindsight even more crucial given the squad have had a relatively discreet classics campaign, Thijssen and Biniam Girmay in the mix but not much more. Rex is a German speaker and just a big rider, when he collided with the sign in Paris-Roubaix they might have had to replace the metalwork. He looks made for Paris-Roubaix and if not a solid bodyguard for the flat.

Maxim Van Gils (Lotto-Dstny) has had a great spring, if we discount his crash in Catalunya his worst result was 20th in the Amstel. The rest of the time he’s been in the top-10 and often on the podium, think the Strade Bianche (pictured) and the Flèche Wallonne. Lotto-Dstny still crave a big classics win and he is now up there with Arnaud De Lie as capable of delivering it. Lennert Van Eetvelt gets a mention too, the UAE Tour winner also placed 11th in Strade Bianche, another “Dstny’s child” as he rolls off the Belgian team’s development conveyor belt.

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Matteo Jorgenson doesn’t count as a revelation because he was handy last year. But his rise this year saw Decathlon-Ag2r management getting some flak for not signing him when he was on their feeder team but instead hiring the likes of Paul Lapeira instead. Jorgenson wanted to turn pro right away but they wanted him to do another year in the U23s so he went to Movistar. Anyway Lapeira came good this spring. First he bettered Pithie’s second and first places in the Loire-Cholet weekend last year with two wins, then took a stage in the Tour of the Basque Country. A slender rider he packs a mean sprint and seeing him on the attack in the Amstel this year showed depth as well.

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It’s not been a spring to write home about for Visma-Lease a Bike, if they did it might be to ask for more bandages. Still they’ve had wins, we’re comparing results to expectations. Tim van Dijcke and Mick van Dijke both had a solid classics campaign. As twins they’re hard to differentiate, and if Mick emerged from the Arenberg forest in the company of Mathieu van der Poel and Mads Pedersen it was because he didn’t puncture while Tim did.

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Joseph Blackmore (IPT Development) gets a mention in passing for his ride in the Brabantse Pijl, promoted to the IPT team for a day he looked as strong as leader Dylan Teuns. The Londoner will join the main team next year, logical but also a surprise that other teams didn’t get there first as he’s been winning plenty outside of the classics, like the Tour of Rwanda

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19 year old Jan Christen had been on the the longest contracts at UAE until Isaac Del Toro signed a deal taking him to 2029. Famous for signing such a long deal straight out of the juniors and being the grandson of a Tour finisher and the son of two pros, Christen is now building a palmarès. He was second in Milan-Torino and fifth in the Trofeo Laigueglia and got his first win from a stage in the Giro d’Abruzzo. He was once asked if he’d like to win a classic, the worlds or the Tour de France and he replied “all of them”. Time will tell.

Does Kévin Vauquelin (Arkéa-B&B Hotels) count as a revelation? He certainly progressed this spring as in the action. Likewise Oier Lazkano is literally the Spanish champion but was on the rampage in the cobbled classics, his challenge is to convert visibility and presence during the final hour into a result but he’s been a rare light for Movistar. 23 year old Kevin Vermaerke (DSM Firmenich-PostNL) didn’t get any breakthrough results but he’s been consistent right into long races, he was in the group sprinting for third in Liège and is his team’s third scorer of UCI points after Romain Bardet and Oscar Onley.

He didn’t win a classic but Paul Magnier (Soudal-Quickstep) won a round of the Majorca races and is notable because in training he was beating Tim Merlier, this got him the leadership, the leadout and the win. Similarly others like Vito Braet (Intermarché-Wanty), Pierre Gautherat (Decathlon-Ag2r La Mondiale) were visible in tough races. Jonathan Milan (Lidl-Trek) needs no introduction but he was impressive in Gent-Wevelgem precisely because he wasn’t a sprinter but because he was bossing the Kemmelberg.

Any more picks? Share some suggestions in the comments please.

23 thoughts on “The Classics Revelations”

      • Always enjoy that post. Gives me a a nice list of riders to keep an eye on as “dark horses” throughout the course of the season. It has rapidly become a favorite activity of mine given the recent propensity for races to be dominated by the outright favorite.

  1. That’s a great summary, thanks. Two other riders maybe worth mentioning: I don’t want to do Toms Skujins a disservice and label him a revelation, given that he is an established and well-respected pro, but I started looking out for him after his Strade result, and he certainly was at the sharp end of quite a few big races. I found him really impressive this year. Also, does anybody know about Emilien Jeannière? I had never heard of him, but he survived several fairly selective races and ended up in the top-10. It’s maybe not what can be called a breakthrough season, but he certainly looks like a new rider who can hold his own in big races.

    • True but less a revelation in the spring classics. Was wondering whether to include Romain Grégoire here as he’s done well too this spring but he was top-10 in Strade Bianche last year, so building on things.

      • Granted….my bad maybe I’m just over excited but 8th in Strade Bianche and beat Ayuso, Hirschi, lapierre, Bettiol, Gregoire, in Laigueglia. perhaps the only reason he didn’t show in the monuments was he didn’t ride them, what might he have done? three other one day race wins. The more I look at it the better it seems.

  2. Love the theme of MVP lurking in the background in many of these photos. Well done! And related to the change in season – cannot wait for the Giro. Find myself hitting /giro in vain hope already. Keep it up Inner Ring!

    • Ha, thanks for and info the /giro page is almost ready to go but the Giro announced a new “intergiro” points competition a few days ago which means all their published stage profiles need to be redrawn and published to show the new sprint point as it’s not just for a side competition but has 3-2-1 bonus seconds… although with Pogačar this could quickly become anecdotal of course. The new versions for the first week with the “i” sprint have gone online today but not the rest, hopefully soon.

      • That does sound very Giro. Interesting. I found these type of bonuses to be very successful at creating (artificial) suspense in the first week of the Tour in years past, but that was with a fairly flat start. As you say, probably different with Pogačar, Maddalena and Oropa in the first two days.

  3. You mentioned Arnaud De Lie in the text and he seems to be a bit missing so far this year.
    Given in past results i was expecting a bit from him during the classics season but maybe i expected to much he is only 22.

      • He’s back to racing soon. He’s been lucky in a way because he gets monitored so closely and the disease – a bacteria – was picked up early so it could be treated because if not the problem can linger and get worse.

        Lotto looked reliant on him but they’ve coped very well without so far, although he’d have been a force in the cobbled classics. There was a moment in the Samyn where he crashed and was shouting at his team and it seemed like a different De Lie as he’s normally calm and stoic.

  4. Lovely write up and riders to watch. For reasons I don’t really know I have a soft spot for the lotto team so nice to see some riders coming through highlighted. Very much enjoyed “Dstny’s child” line.

  5. Shout out to Matyas Kopecky, no relation of Lotte – 44th in Brabantse might seem modest but two top 5s in Turkey so far make for a great start to the season for him and TNN. A revelation to any diabetic who has proudly watched TNN’s valiant struggles.

  6. I’ll mention Davide De Pretto: he still had no great results this spring, but showed himself as a punchy rider and quite a fast finisher.

  7. – Tim Torn Teutenberg could be next year’s Laurence Pithie if he keeps it up. That name also really rolls of the tongue.
    – Vincent Junior Lecerf is one of the few bright spots at Soudal
    – Dutch men’s cycling doesn’t have a large talent pool at the moment, so it is good to see Huub Artz have a bit of a breakthrough season

  8. Really cool announcement that Demi Vollering signed a personal sponsorship deal with Nike.

    Does that make her the most globally marketable cyclist? I don’t know, this is hard to determine, but, either way, this is a great sign of how strong the women’s side of the sport is. Plus, it’s great for the sport as a whole!

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