Evenepoel, the greatest talent since the days of Hinault and Merckx?
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Richard Carapaz (Giro 2019, 26 years old), Egan Bernal (Tour 2019, 22 years old), Tao Geoghegan Hart (Giro 2020, 25 years old), Tadej Pogacar (Tour 2020 and 2021, 21 and 22 years old), Jai Hindley (Giro 2022 , 26 years old), Jonas Vingegaard (Tour 2022, 25 years old) and finally Remco Evenepoel (Vuelta 2022, 22 years old). So much for the list of winners in Italy, France and Spain for the under 26 three-year period. Note that none of these men had triumphed before and that none of those who had opened their first record have won since then.
Chris Froome, Geraint Thomas, Simon Yates, Tom Dumoulin, Nairo Quintana, Vincenzo Nibali, many names that have disappeared from the shelves. And Primoz Roglic, the oldest winner of the others and therefore an exception to the rule, came later in cycling. Enough has been said, quite written, that a new generation breaks the codes, it should also be noted that it does so by winning. If Mathieu van der Poel and Wout van Aert, from the height of their charisma, always register a little above the fray, in the three-week races, being over 26 is no longer a sine qua non for victory. . indeed even!
A podium of the historically young Vuelta
Take this Vuelta. Its podium, composed of Remco Evenepoel (22 years old), Enric Mas (27 years old) and Juan Ayuso (19 years old) shows a historical average age as you have to go back to … 1908 to find a similar one! At the Tour de France, the trio Petit-Breton, Faber and Passerieu showed 23 years and 148 days, just 15 more than in 2022. And in the Top 10 of this statistic, the closest “cousin” of the Vuelta 2022 is not it’s none other than the 1963 Giro! That is to say, if times change. Evenepoel, Ayuso, Almeida, Arensman, Rodriguez, O’Connor, Hindley, are seven of the top ten to be 26 or younger.
Remco Evenepoel, in the center, and on his left Enric Mas, on his right Juan Ayuso
Credit: Getty Images
It could be argued that the Tour of Spain, both the least difficult and the least prestigious of the three, is the one most likely to make young people shine. It’s true. Isn’t that where we met Tadej Pogacar? But the previously mentioned list of big tour winners from 2019 shows that young shooters are making their mark elsewhere as well. They no longer wait for the “old” to give them kindly space, they absorb all the light, without asking for their rest.
Merckx, Hinault or Ullrich were rare
It is not a question of forgetting that others before the Bernals, Pogacar and Evenepoel triumphed in the biggest races in the world at a very young age. Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault and Laurent Fignon or later Jan Ullrich and Alberto Contador also won at the beginning of cycling, but they were often if not isolated, at least rare cases. More than a wind of youth, Evenepoel, Bernal, Pogacar and the others offer youth care to the world group.
And the Belgian anthem played for Evenepoel
Will this last? By definition, today’s young people will be the old men of tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow for the lucky ones. Will they be pushed by other even younger riders? Juan Ayuso (19), Cian Uijtdebroeks (19), Lenny Martinez (19), Leo Hayter (21) or others? Possible. The extreme professionalization of the categories of young cyclists today allows these guys to land in the world of ready-made big names and thus be able to express their potential without waiting to take the bottle. Regardless of the names, cycling is in good hands.
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