Vuelta a Espana 2019: Five under-25s who could dazzle on Grand Tour stage

By Sports Desk August 23, 2019
Tao Geoghegan Hart in action. Tao Geoghegan Hart in action.

Egan Bernal set a high bar for cycling's new generation when the 22-year-old Colombian stormed to victory at the Tour de France.

His triumph last month gave Bernal a first Grand Tour general classification title and raised the question of which fellow young riders will be able to rival him.

The biggest teams continue to be broadly dominated by riders blessed with many years of experience.

But here is a look at five competitors, each under 25 years old, who will be aiming to make a big impression over the gruelling course of La Vuelta.

 

Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates, 20 years old, Slovenia)

A truly exciting prospect who could go on to great things, Pogacar is fancied to make a big impact over the coming weeks. He has patiently waited for a first Grand Tour outing, and victories this year at the Tour of California and Volta ao Algarve showed his credentials. Expect him to be around for many years to come, vying for podiums, with Pogacar saying he is "really excited" by the prospect of taking this next step in his career at La Vuelta.

"I will be in Spain with the aim of learning as much as possible," Pogacar said, "understanding how to move in the bunch in such an important race and how to manage it over the three weeks. It’s the only way I can start building something good for the next few years."

Quote me on it - Emirates team manager Joxean Matxin: "The choice was made that the talented Tadej Pogacar will make his debut after proving this year that he is not only a contender for the future but for the present also."

 

Tao Geoghegan Hart (Team INEOS, 24 years old, Great Britain)

Geoghegan Hart swam the Channel as part of a relay team as a 13-year-old, and later worked a Saturday job in a London bike shop, where he fuelled his cycling ambitions. Now he is a co-leader of the Team INEOS assault on the Vuelta, alongside Wout Poels, and that illustrates how far he has progressed. Geoghegan Hart made his Grand Tour debut at last year's Vuelta, picking up priceless experience, and will relish his shot at the general classification this time. He fractured his collarbone just eight weeks ago, but is raring to race.

The youngest member of the INEOS line-up wrote on Twitter: "Here we go again. Looking forward to this & seeing what is possible. Hopefully see some of you out there on the roads & mountainsides of Spain coming up."

Quote me on it - INEOS lead sport director Nicolas Portal: "The opportunity for Tao to learn from Wout as they lead our team is a special one and we have faith that both of them can leave their mark on this Vuelta."

 

Sergio Higuita (EF Education First, 22, Colombia)

"I want my name to be known in world cycling as Rene Higuita was in football," Sergio Higuita told Spanish newspaper AS in May. He is not believed to be related to his Colombian namesake, who became famous for his sweeper-keeper daring and then near-immortal for his scorpion-kick save against England at Wembley. Sergio could go on to achieve more at a global level than Rene ever managed, but he has a long way to go. A successful short spell at Euskadi resulted in Higuita being fast-tracked into the EF Education First ranks and he says the Vuelta opportunity is "a childhood dream come true".

"There have been many years of longing and sweating just so one day I would arrive at this point and be able to race this race," Higuita said. "I just want to enjoy it, right up to the finish line of the 21st stage. I want to spend the race fighting for my team and learning with them."

Quote me on it - EF sporting director Juanma Garate: "Obviously it's going to be his first big tour, but I'm pretty sure he will surprise people. He is really fast, and in a Vuelta like the one we have this year he is going to have plenty of good opportunities."

 

Dani Martinez (EF Education First, 23, Colombia)

Higuita is not the only star youngster in the EF ranks. Nor the only star Colombian youngster. Because Martinez is rather good too, and has been with the squad since last year, finishing 36th at the 2018 Tour de France. He won a stage in this year's Paris-Nice - the race won by Bernal - and finished second in the points classification. He took third place in the high-quality Tour Colombia in February too, a place ahead of Bernal on that occasion. But Martinez also broke both hands in a training crash in June and was forced out of Le Tour. He says his debut Vuelta will be "emotional" after recovering from that injury setback.

"I feel a bit nervous because I haven't raced that much going into it, but I think we're well prepared," Martinez said.

Quote me on it - EF sporting director Juanma Garate: "Dani is going to be an integral part of the support for Rigo [Rigoberto Uran], he can be his shadow until the real final of the stages. It’s good to have him as another card to play too, almost like another leader."

 

James Knox (Deceuninck-Quickstep, 23, Great Britain)

Knox hails from Cumbria in north-west England, and the former Team Wiggins prospect self-deprecatingly declared this month in a Cycling News interview that he has "never been a rider with outstanding talent". Deceuninck-Quickstep bosses thought enough of him to put him on their Giro d'Italia squad, however, and despite having to withdraw before the finish due to injury he retains his place for La Vuelta. Knox is ready to graft to prove his worth, taking another big step in his developing career.

Knox wrote on Twitter: "Real blokes start two 2 Grand Tours a year. Heading out to @lavuelta for another stab at getting round 3 weeks, a little extra luck this time around would be lovely."

Quote me on it - Deceuninck-Quickstep sports director Wilfried Peeters: "James will take it day by day and see what he can do in the mountains."

Related items

  • Froome: Tour de France route is 'brutal' Froome: Tour de France route is 'brutal'

    Chris Froome has described next year's Tour de France route as "brutal" after organisers revealed details of the race on Tuesday.

    With five mountain ranges and only one time trial - on the penultimate stage - the course would seem to suit climbers such as French riders Thibaut Pinot and Julian Alaphilippe, as well as Egan Bernal, Froome's Team INEOS colleague and the reigning champion.

    Froome, who missed the 2019 Tour having suffered fractures to his femur, elbow and ribs in June, noted how tough the 21-stage course was for 2020 while admitting it should suit most of the challengers for the yellow jersey.

    "It's a brutal, brutal course, but good," said four-time Tour de France champion Froome.

    "I think it's going to be a really explosive race and very much in favour of the [best climbers of] mountains. But I think that's great, it gives a lot of opportunities for the general classification to be played out.

    "That's what everyone wants to see, everyone wants to see a big battle between the rivals.

    "For the riders as well, I think it's great because it gives a lot of opportunities to try to make the race and to try to win."

    In Froome's absence last year, defending champion Geraint Thomas was expected to be INEOS' lead rider, but it was Bernal who surprisingly emerged to claim a first title.

    The team could have three Tour champions on the line at the Grand Depart in Nice next June, yet Froome is more concerned with focusing on his fitness before considering his leadership credentials.

    "We've got an amazing line-up, an amazing roster of riders to select from, but nothing is decided yet," Froome said.

    "I have obviously to get myself back to that level before even discussing leadership or anything like that.

    "At least for now everything is going in the right direction, I'm optimistic."

  • Mountains dominate 2020 Tour de France route Mountains dominate 2020 Tour de France route

    Cycling's top climbers appeared to receive a major lift after a mountainous route for the 2020 Tour de France was revealed on Tuesday.

    Riders will be go through the five mountain ranges of the Alps, Pyrenees, Vosges, Jura and Massif Central after the Grand Depart in Nice on June 27.

    They will visit three of France's mountain ranges in the first eight days and will be climbing from as early as day two, with the only time trial coming on the last competitive stage from Lure to La Planche des Belles Filles before the ceremonial ride into Paris.

    There will be no return to the Alpe d'Huez or Mont Ventoux, but the Col de la Madeleine and the Grand Colombier will be tackled.

    The route should suit Thibaut Pinot and Julian Alaphilippe when they attempt to end a long wait for a French rider to win the most prestigious Grand Tour race, which was won by Egan Bernal this year.

    Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme said: "There are 29 mountains, it will be physically challenging throughout.

    "Even the so-called flat stages will be very tough for the pure sprinters. There are traps everywhere along the route."

     

    Route for the 2020 Tour de France

    June 27 - Stage 1: Nice - Nice (156km)

    June 28 - Stage 2: Nice - Nice (187km)

    June 29 - Stage 3: Nice - Sisteron (198km)

    June 30 - Stage 4: Sisteron - Orcieres-Merlette (157km)

    July 1 - Stage 5: Gap - Privas (183km)

    July 2 - Stage 6: Le Teil - Mont Aigoual (191km)

    July 3 - Stage 7: Millau - Lavaur (168km)

    July 4 - Stage 8: Cazeres-sur-Garonne - Loudenvielle (140km)

    July 5 - Stage 9: Pau - Laruns (154km)

    July 6 - Rest day in Charente-Maritime

    July 7 - Stage 10: Ile d'Oleron - Ile de Re (170km)

    July 8 - Stage 11: Chatelaillon-Plage - Poitiers (167km)

    July 9 - Stage 12: Chauvigny - Sarran (218km)

    July 10 - Stage 13: Chatel-Guyon - Puy Mary (191km)

    July 11 - Stage 14: Clermont-Ferrand - Lyon (197km)

    July 12 - Stage 15: Lyon - Grand Colombier (175km)

    July 13 - Rest day in Isere

    July 14 - Stage 16: La Tour-du-Pin - Villard-de-Lans (164km)

    July 15 - Stage 17: Grenoble - Meribel (168km)

    July 16 - Stage 18: Meribel - La Roche-sur-Foron (168km)

    July 17 - Stage 19: Bourg-en-Bresse - Champagnole (160km)

    July 18 - Stage 20: Lure - La Planche des Belles Filles (36km individual time trial)

    July 19 - Stage 21: Mantes-la-Jolie - Paris (122km)

  • There is light at the end of the tunnel! - Froome steps up return, tipped for Tour de France There is light at the end of the tunnel! - Froome steps up return, tipped for Tour de France

    Chris Froome can see "light at the end of the tunnel" as he prepares for a return to competitive cycling, while a former team-mate has tipped him to win the Tour de France again in 2020.

    Team INEOS rider Froome is back in the saddle again after sustaining fractures to his right femur, elbow and ribs during a high-speed crash in June at the Criterium du Dauphine. 

    The 34-year-old, a four-time winner of the Tour de France, has posted training pictures on Twitter, including a black-and-white shot on Monday that was taken by Team INEOS colleague Michal Kwiatkowski.

    "There is light at the end of the tunnel," wrote Froome, who is scheduled to make his racing comeback at the Saitama Criterium exhibition event in October.

    A record-equalling fifth Tour de France title is the long-term target, as confirmed in a video interview released in August by Team INEOS.

    And Bradley Wiggins is confident Froome can draw level with Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain at the top of the list by triumphing in Le Tour next year.

    "Nothing would surprise me with him," he said on 'The Bradley Wiggins Show' podcast. "I think he will win the Tour next year.

    "He is an amazing athlete and the drive he has got, I think he almost needed something like this to drive him and push him on."

© 2018 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.