The current peloton is an interesting mix of seasoned heroes and talented young blood. We’re seeing more and more examples where the most experienced competitors are simply not strong enough to win races against the younger riders, and these young riders are encroaching in all disciplines: climbing, time trialing and sprinting.
The older climbers
We’ve already witnessed the retirement of names like Contador and Rodriguez, which made us all feel old. They were riders who have been competing for years against men like Alejandro Valverde, Nairo Quintana and Vincenzo Nibali. Although these last three are still riding in the peloton (and Valverde was crowned world champion 2018) we nevertheless see them falling behind the youth.
Quintana’s performances were mediocre last year, and each year he seems to get less impressive. Nibali had bad luck during the Tour de France 2018 but was already starting to fall behind before that. And even though Valverde rode two strong tours this year, and is reigning world champion 2018, he is no longer a certainty when competing in the Classics.
The twenty-something climbers
There are even more young riders coming up to vie for the podium: Froome, Yates, Dumoulin, Thomas, Kruijswijk and Landa are the current big names to watch. But there is a completely new generation creeping up on them, eager to prove themselves and grab the spotlight—Pierre Latour, for example, was recognised as a fierce competitor in the Tour de France this year.
Sam Oomen only gets better with every race. Miguel Angel Lopez finished third in the last Vuelta a España and is only 24 years old. Egan Bernal is 21, but has already won the Tour of California and finished second in the Tour de Romandie. The next few years are set to be more interesting than ever!
The race against the clock
Tom Dumoulin and Rohan Dennis (Dennis won the men’s time trial at the World Championships in 2018) have been sharing the spotlight over the last few years, with Victor Campenaerts popping in and out to take a few wins. And of course, Tony Martin is a four time-world champion.
But they are all are starting to feel the strain of years of racing, as well as other priorities (such as overall GC victories in Dumoulin’s case), and their time trial (TT) performances are now less prolific. The former world champion Vasil Kiryjenka realises he no longer measures up. And even riders like Jonathan Castroviejo, who is only 31, may no longer be a threat, since he hasn’t been fit since 2016.
The new generation in the TT
Besides the three big names mentioned above, there is a decent gap between the established riders and the up-and-coming-younger competitors. It’s too soon to tell who will shine and take over the champions. One rider to consider is Stefan Kung, who at 24 years of age placed 12th at the UCI World Championships in 2018.
Enric Mas is mainly known as a strong GC rider but can often ride in the top ten in the TTs. One final name to watch is Laurens de Plus: he often pulls off a top ten result in the time trial but during the last World Championships he completely blew it. He did, however, manage to pull off becoming the world champion with his team Quick Step in the team time trial.
The older sprinters
The changing of the peloton guard is most obvious when you evaluate the sprinters. In the past two years we have clearly seen new names popping up and the established order is having more and more difficulty winning. Mark Cavendish is a prime example of this phenomenon. This top rider managed to win no less than 30 stages in the Tour de France and is now a living legend. Last year he only won one stage in the Dubai Tour, however, and in the Tour de France he didn’t place higher than eighth in any of the sprints.
With only three years difference in age, André Greipel, 36, can no longer win stages in the Tour. He still takes some victories in smaller races, though, such as the Tour of Britain and the Tour Down Under. And lastly, you have Marcel Kittel, who has had a very disappointing year. However, he is still only 30 years old and there’s still hope he can do better in the future.
Sprinters: the new generation
But who will be the one leading the pack? Dylan Groenewegen broke through last year at the age of 24, and is now on a roll: in the last Tour he won two stages and might have won more if he had had fewer crashes. We anticipate seeing him get stronger and stronger over the next few years.
He will have to contend with Fernando Gaviria and Elia Viviani, however, who are both slightly older than Groenewegen, but Gaviria has already won four stages in the Giro d’Italia. And finally, we have Fabio Jakobsen. The Dutchman rides for the Quick Step team next to the other big sprinters. This year he won the Scheldeprijs and a podium spot in the Binck Bank Tour. And at only 22 years of age, a big future awaits him.