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CyclingQuotes takes a look at 12 young talents that are destined to do big things in 2015

Photo: Sirotti

DAVIDE FORMOLO

RIDER PROFILE
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NEWS

ESTEBAN CHAVES

RIDER PROFILE
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NEWS

JULIAN ALAPHILIPPE

RIDER PROFILE
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NEWS

LOUIS VERVAEKE

RIDER PROFILE
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NEWS

SILVAN DILLIER

RIDER PROFILE
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NEWS

TIESJ BENOOT

RIDER PROFILE
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NEWS
09.01.2015 @ 12:30 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

The 2015 season is about to kick off. While it will provide lots of great battles between the established stars, it will also allow young talents to prove their potential and show that they are destined for big things in the future. CyclingQuotes.com has taken a short look at 12 riders who are likely to get a breakthrough in 2015.

 

Every year lots of new riders join the professional peloton from the neo-pro ranks. Some of them make an impact on the racing right from the beginning while others take a few years to get accustomed to the racing before they start to shine.

 

In 2015, a lot of exciting talent will join the pro ranks and the field is loaded with neo-pros that will make big things in the future. In addition to the newcomers, there are several young riders who are destined to take a massive step up in the new season.

 

CyclingQuotes have selected 12 riders that are destined for big things in 2015. Some of them are neo-pros while others already have one or more years under their belt. All of them, however, are destined for big things in the future and have made it onto our list because we expect them to make a big step forward and have a big impact on the racing in 2015.

 

Davide Formolo

When asked by Cyclingnews to select the biggest talent of the many riders that had joined his team from the former Cannondale team, Cannondale-Garmin manager Jonathan Vaughters didn’t hesitate to point to Davide Formolo. The American definitely has all the right reasons to highlight the young Italian. Other riders may have achieved better results than the lanky climber but by many standard, he was probably the best neo-pro in 2014.

 

Already in the early Italian one-day race, he caught lots of attention by his exceptional climbing but those races were too easy to suit a pure climber. Unfortunately, he was set back by a bout of chickenpox which hampered his spring season but when he was back at full strength, he was deeply impressive. He kicked it off with a fourth place in the Tour of Turkey and finished seventh in his first WorldTour race, the Tour de Suisse.

 

However, it was his performance at the Italian national championships that attracted most attention. Vincenzo Nibali who went on to dominate the Tour de France just one week later, was able to drop all his rivals bar one. Formolo clung to the wheel of the Astana star and was only beaten in an exciting sprint.

 

Formolo failed to hit his best condition in the second part of the year but he was rewarded for his excellent performances by getting selected for the Italian world championships team. Even though he didn’t get to ride in the end, it speaks volumes about the confidence that national coach Davide Cassani has in this exciting talent.

 

Next year Formolo should get lots of room to excel at Cannondale-Garmin. The team is known for its commitment to young riders and there is little doubt that he will be given his own opportunities. Formolo is set for a grand tour debut in the Giro or the Vuelta and it would be no surprise to see him line up alongside Ryder Hesjedal at the Italian race. Despite his status as a pure climber, he time trials decently as he proved in the Tour de Suisse and there seems to be no limit to the potential of this future grand tour star.

 

Dylan Teuns

Most stagiaries have a hard time coping with the higher level of the bigger teams but occasionally there are a few riders who manage to achieve great results during their apprenticeship. One of those is Dylan Teuns who rode for the BMC Racing Team in the second half of the 2014 season.

 

Teuns climbed solidly in the Tour of Utah, his first race with the WorldTour team, to finished 18th overall but it was his performances when he returned from a brief spell – and a stage win – back at U23 level at the Tour de l’Avenir that really caught the attention of lots of cycling observers. The young Belgian got the chance to lead one of cycling’s biggest teams in the Tour of Britain where he distanced riders like Bradley Wiggins and Leopold König on the climbs and went into the final time trial with a podium spot within reach. A poor performance in the race against the clock saw him drop to 10th but when he finished 6th in the GP Wallonie despite working for Greg Van Avermaet, he underlined that he is extremely gifted in hilly terrain.

 

In 2015, Teuns will be riding his first professional season as a BMC rider and his performances in the autumn suggest that we have lots of reasons to have great expectations. At the World Championships, he told CyclingQuotes that he aims to focus on the Ardennes classics and he hopes to learn a lot from Philipe Gilbert and Van Avermaet in his first year with the team.

 

There is a chance that Teuns will be selected for some of the biggest classics already in his first year but in those events he will of course be riding in support of his captains. With the loss of big stars like Cadel Evans, Thor Hushovd and Samuel Sanchez, however, there seems to be more opportunities for the young riders in the 2015 BMC team. Teuns will be keen to grab them with both hands and it would be no surprise to see him take a maiden pro win already in his first year. In any case, he will build the foundations for a career that could see him become one of the leading contenders for hilly classics and shorter stage races without too much time trialling.

 

Caleb Ewan

Ever since he won two stages and finished second overall at the 2012 Mitchelton Bay Cycling classics – beating some of the best sprinters in the world at just 17 years of age – Caleb Ewan has been seen as one of the biggest sprinting talents in the world. By dominating the criterium series for a few more years and going on to shine in European U23 races, Ewan has proved that his results were no fluke and it came as no surprise that Orica-GreenEDGE were quick to sign one of the most exciting Australian riders at a pretty young age.

 

Ewan already rode for the team in last year’s RideLondon Classic before he made his WorldTour debut with the team at the Tour of Beijing. In the Chinese race and the Tour Down Under which he rode with the national team, he showed that he can already mix it up with the WorldTour sprinters, finishing second in the opening stage in Beijing and third in the Down Under Classic.

 

Ewan already has the speed to win races at the highest level and there is no reason to believe that he won’t take a number of victories already in his debut season. Orica-GreenEDGE know that it is important to keep his confidence high and so have put together a race schedule that will allow him to do lots of smaller races where he has a real chance to win. The strategy is underlined by the fact that he is not set to do the Tour Down Under but will make a low-key UCI debut with the team at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Race and the Herald Sun Tour before he heads to the sprinters’ paradise at the Tour de Langkawi. Furthermore, the team has clearly shown that they are ready to back him fully and he should be the designated sprinter for almost all races on his schedule.

 

Ewan is mostly known as a sprinter but at the two most recent editions of the U23 World Championships and the RideLondon Classic, he proved that he is also able to overcome pretty tough climbing. In September, he told CyclingQuotes that he aims at becoming a pure bunch sprinter but his potential is bigger than that. Ewan has the skills to become the dominant sprinter of his generation and may go on to play a role in some of the classics too.

 

Silvan Dillier

It is rare for a rider to win a race during his time as a stagiaire but sometimes the trend is broken. Dillier managed to do in late 2013 when he took a surprise win in BMC colours on stage 2 of the Tour of Alberta. It was no surprise to see the American team sign the Swiss talent who had already won the Tour de Normandie earlier in the year, for the 2014 season and he has had an amazing first year at the pro level.

 

Dillier rode strongly right from the beginning of the year and played a key support role for his captains in the early cobbled races. It speaks volumes of his talent that he was selected for the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix after just three months of professional racing which is no mean feat in a team stacked with classics talent like BMC.

 

His performances allowed him to get more personal freedom and he got close to a first win in June at the GP Kanton Aargau where he finished second behind Simon Geschke. He went on to finish third overall in the Tour de Wallonie, was 9th in the Vattenfall Cyclassics and capped an amazing season by being part of the winning team at the TTT Worlds in Ponferrada.

 

Dillier is a very good time triallist with a fast sprint and he climbs pretty well in classics terrain. The Swiss has the potential to become one of the best riders for the cobbled classics and it would be a good idea to keep an eye on him in the first big races in Belgium and Northern France. It is still too early for him to feature in the finales of the cobbled monuments but no one should be surprised to see him play a key role in some of the smaller pave races while also playing a key support role for Van Avermaet in the biggest events. Races like the Three Days of de Panne and the Tour of Belgium are perfectly suited to his characteristics and while his team is unlikely to line up in the former, he could be a strong contender in the latter.

 

Johan Esteban Chaves

As he already has a stage win in the Tour de Suisse on his palmares, one may claim that Johan Esteban Chaves has already had his big breakthrough. However, the potential of this young Colombian climber is unlimited and he is destined for greatness in 2015.

 

When he hasn’t had better results at this point in his career, it is mostly due to his horrific crash in the 2013 Trofeo Laigueglia that saw him miss the rest of the 2013 season and use most of 2014 to get back into racing. With the win in Switzerland and a stage win in the Tour of California, however, he proved that he is already one of the best climbers in the world and with a year of racing and a first grand tour under his belt, we can expect him to make huge progress in 2015.

 

Chaves made his grand tour debut in the Vuelta a Espana and in the first part of the race, he proved that he is already able to match the grand tour stars on the climbs. He faded in the second half and clearly lacks a bit of consistency but his top level means that he should be one of the leading contenders in mountaintop finishes in the new season. He ended his season by finishing on the podium in the Tour of Beijing, his first podium result in a WorldTour race.

 

By giving him the leadership role in the Vuelta, Orica-GreenEDGE have already proved that they have big plans with their young Colombian who is the key rider in their plans to become a GC team for the grand tours. His race schedule is still unclear but 2015 could see him return to Vuelta or make his Giro debut. It may still be too early to target the Tour but he could be climbing well enough to finish in the top 5 of one of the two minor grand tours. In addition to shining in WorldTour stage race without too much time trialling, he only needs a bit more consistency to become the Fabio Aru of 2015.

 

Adam Yates

Chaves is not the only Orica-GreenEDGE talent that is destined for big things in 2015. 2014 was already an amazing year for the Yates brothers and it was probably only the beginning for the talented British twins. During their youth careers, Simon was regarded as the most talented of the pair and Adam even had to follow a different career path as he was not part of the British talent program. At the pro level, however, Adam has taken the position in the spotlight and even though Simon’s less stellar results were partly due to a broken collarbone, Adam may turn out to be the star.

 

It all started with a solid showing in the Tour de San Luis but it was his stage win and overall victory in the Tour of Turkey that really marked him out as a rider for the future. He rode solidly to a top 10 in the Tour of California before he finished among the ten best in the Criterium du Dauphiné, arguably the hardest week-long stage race on the WorldTour.

 

In the Clasica San Sebastian, he proved that he can already mix it up with the best in the hilly classics too when he made the key selection with Alejandro Valverde, Joaquim Rodriguez, Bauke Mollema and Mikel Nieve, leaving many of the Tour de France stars behind him. A bad crash denied him the chance to turn the performance into a great result and unfortunately he never found his best form for the rest of the season.

 

There is so much for to come from Yates though who has the skills to shine in one-week stage races and one-day classics. It remains to be seen whether he can turn into a grand tour contender but his punchy climbing style makes him perfectly suited to the hilly classics and races like Paris-Nice. Riding under the tutelage of Simon Gerrans, he will have the perfect conditions to grow into an Ardennes contenders and he should get lots of chances to lead the team at major races already in 2015.

 

Nicola Ruffoni

In his first year at the pro level, Nicola Ruffoni may not have gained an awful lot of attention but that is set to change. He already caught our attention when he finished third on a stage at the Tour of Oman and his performances earned him selection for the Giro d’Italia. He struggled a bit with the positioning aspect and had a hard time in the Italian grand tour but towards the end of the year he proved that he has the speed to become one of the best sprinters in the world.

 

At the Tour du Poitou-Charentes, he beat Mark Cavendish to take his first prove win but it was at the Tour of Britain that he really showed what he was capable of. In the big sprint stages in Liverpool and London, he went up against Marcel Kittel and Cavendish and after having been narrowly beaten by Kittel in the former – where he again beat Cavendish – he was agonizingly close to a win in the British capital when he finished a close third behind the two sprinting giants.

 

Ruffoni still has a lot to learn when it comes to positioning and as he won’t be supported by a big lead-out train at Bardiani, he may be performing pretty inconsistently. When he gets everything right, however, there is a very good reason to watch out as he has the speed to challenge even the best sprinters in the world. In Britain, he even proved that he climbs pretty well too and so he has the skills to become much more than a pure sprinter. It may be a good idea for the big sprinters to keep an eye on this young Italian in the 2015 Giro d’Italia.

 

Edoardo Zardini

Bardiani has a mission of developing young talents and Ruffoni is not the only future star in the Italian team. With Francesco Manuel Bongiorno and Edoardo Zardini, the team has a pair of strong climbers on its roster too. While the former may have gained most of the attention in the early part of their careers, it was the latter who caught the attention in 2014.

 

Zardini showed his class in the Giro del Trentino when he won a big mountain stage. Having attacked very early on the final climb, he proved to be impossible to catch for the in-form Giro contenders and he took an impressive solo victory that allowed him to spend a day in the leader’s jersey. After a slightly disappointing Giro, he was back in the spotlight at the Tour of Britain where he won the queen stage by distancing Nicolas Roche and Michal Kwiatkowski on the climb of The Tumble, just weeks before the latter went on to win the World Championships.

 

Those performances and a great showing in the Italian one-day races earned him a spot on Italian Worlds roster and even though he never got to ride, the selection was another testament to his great talent. At his best, Zardini is already able to match the best climbers in world but he clearly lacks the consistency that will allow him to turn into a true stage race specialist. 2015 will reveal whether he can add that extra dimension to his riding or if he will have to settle for a role as an excellent stage hunter in the mountains. In any case, he is set to deliver another few extraordinary showing in 2015 and the Giro d’Italia would be no bad scene to do so.

 

Julian Alaphilippe

Based on his performances in his final year at the U23 level, expectations for Julian Alaphilippe were big in his first year at the pro level. However, the Omega Pharma-Quick Step rider had a pretty slow start and apart from a few solid sprint results in the Volta a Catalunya, he didn’t achieve a lot in the first part of the year.

 

In the second half of the year, however, he finally proved the full extent of his potential. After a great performance in the RideLondon Classic, he went on to win a stage in the Tour de l’Ain and finished fourth overall in the mountainous French race. Just a few weeks later, he got close to a big WorldTour win when he made the 7-rider selection in the final of the GP Plouay and took a very impressive fifth place.

 

Alaphilippe is fast and excels in hilly terrain which makes him the perfect classics contender. Etixx-QuickStep is loaded with strong riders for the cobbled one-day races but is less star-studded when it comes to the Ardennes. Of course Michal Kwiatkowski is the clear leader for the team in the hilly races but if he can find the legs he had in August, Alaphilippe could be a prominent figure in those events too. His development in 2014 was impressive and if the trend continues in 2015, the future classics star will be one to watch in the coming season.

 

Tiesj Benoot

Belgium has always been loaded with good riders for the classics and the next big one-day rider from the country could be making his debut in 2015. Tiesj Benoot got the chance to ride as a stagiaire with Lotto Belisol in the second half of the year and the talented Belgian did a lot to prove his potential.

 

After a strong start to the season that included a third place in the hard Ronde de l’Isard, he showed that he is ready to challenge the elite riders. He finished third in the queen stage of the Tour of Denmark and finished the race in 10th after having lost too much time in the time trial. He went on to take 6th in the Binche-Chimay-Binche but the real evidence of his talent was given in Paris-Tours where he made the key selection in the tough finale of the French classic. Just a few weeks earlier, he had been close to a maiden rainbow jersey when he finished fourth at the U23 race in Ponferrada.

 

Those performances underline his skills in classics terrain and already in his first year, he is set to get a taste of some of the biggest one-day race. He will mainly be taking in the experience while providing support for riders like Jürgen Roelandts, Jelle Vanendert, Tony Gallopin and Tim Wellens but in some of the smaller races, he may take his own chance as part of a Lotto Soudal team that usually leaves a lot of room for their young riders. As he is also pretty fast in a sprint, he has the skills to achieve notable results in his debut season.

 

Miguel Angel Lopez

Everyone knows what an impact Colombia has had on cycling in the last few years and there seems to be no end to the host of talents that arrive in Europe from the South American country. 2014 marked the breakthrough of another great climbing talent as Miguel Angel Lopez took an impressive overall victory in the Tour de l’Avenir.

 

The last two Colombians to have won the French race are Nairo Quintana and Johan Esteban Chaves and they have both gone on to become major players on the international scene. There is no reason to suggest that it will be anything different with Lopez who has already earned a contract with Astana.

 

Lopez has barely done any racing in Europe and he will probably need some time to adjust to the higher level and the strains of elite racing. Furthermore, he is part of an Astana team that is stacked with stage racing talent and for the Colombian youngster, there won’t be many opportunities to chase personal success. For him, it will be mainly about gaining experience while working for his captains but he could prove to be a very valuable team member on the climbs for some of the biggest riders in the world. Furthermore, he will be ready to grab his own chances whenever they occur and a first one could come already at the Tour de Langkawi in March. 2015 may not be the year when he adds hosts of great results to his palmares but it could be the year when he shows the world that a new great Colombian climber has been born.

 

Louis Vervaeke

One rider that beat Lopez on a big mountain stage in the Tour de l’Avenir was Louis Vervaeke. The Belgian climber won the stage to La Toussuire to confirm his status as a leading U23 rider after he had won some of the hardest espoir races,  Ronde de l’Isard and Tour des Pays de Savoie earlier in the race.

 

Being a climber, Vervaeke is not the typical Belgian rider but he may be the potential grand tour winner that Belgium have been searching for for decades. He already joined Lotto Belisol on July 1 and even though he failed to make much of an impact, he showed signs of his class at the WorldTour level when he was a key protagonist in the GP Montreal.

 

Lotto Soudal is not known as a GC team and this means that there should be lots of opportunities for Vervaeke to take his own chances in some of the one-week stage races. 2014 showed that he still needs time to adjust to the higher level but there seems to be no limit to his potential. It would be a surprise if he doesn’t turn out to be a leading contender in a few stage races in 2015 and in a few hard WorldTour races, we may also get the chance to see whether Belgium really has a new big climber in the making.

 

This year there are lots of exciting talents in the peloton. We didn’t have room for everyone but there are definitely more riders that will make an impression in 2015. In addition to those already mentioned, it would be a good idea to watch out for Pierre-Roger Latour, Magnus Cort Nielsen, Merhawi Kudus, Carlos Barbero, Mike Teunissen, Gianfranco Zilioli, Stefan Küng, Serghei Tvetcov, Ruben Zepuntke and U23 world champion Sven-Erik Bystrøm who could all do great things in 2015.

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