Evenepoel, the greatest talent since 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 three years under 26. Note that none of these men had triumphed before and that none of those who had opened their record before won since.
Chris Froome, Geraint Thomas, Simon Yates, Tom Dumoulin, Nairo Quintana, Vincenzo Nibali, so many names that have disappeared from the shelves. And even Primoz Roglic, an older winner than the others and therefore an exception to the rule, arrived later in cycling. It has been said enough, written enough, 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. to victory. On the contrary even!
A historically young Vuelta podium
Take this Vuelta. His podium, made up of Remco Evenepoel (22 years old), Enric Mas (27 years old) and Juan Ayuso (19 years old) displays a historic average age since you had to go back to…1908 to find a similar one! On the Tour de France, the trio Petit-Breton, Faber and Passerieu displayed 23 years and 148 days, only 15 more than that of 2022. And in the Top 10 of this statistic, the closest “cousin” of the Vuelta 2022 is none other than the 1963 Giro! That is to say, if times change. Evenepoel, Ayuso, Almeida, Arensman, Rodriguez, O’Connor, Hindley, they are seven among the first ten to be 26 years old or less.
Remco Evenepoel, in the center, and on his left Enric Mas, on his right Juan Ayuso
Credit: Getty Images
One could argue that the Tour of Spain, both the least difficult and the least prestigious of the three, is the most likely to make young people shine. It’s true. Isn’t that where we met Tadej Pogacar? But the previously cited list of grand tour winners since 2019 proves that young shooters are also making their mark elsewhere. They no longer wait for the “old people” to kindly give them space, they take in all the light, without asking for their rest.
Merckx, Hinault or Ullrich were rare
There is no question here of forgetting that others before the Bernals, Pogacar and Evenepoel have triumphed in the biggest races in the world as very young adults. Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault and Laurent Fignon or later Jan Ullrich and Alberto Contador also won early in cycling, but they were often if not isolated cases, at least rare. More than a wind of youth, Evenepoel, Bernal, Pogacar and the others offer a youth cure to the world peloton.
And the Belgian anthem sounded for Evenepoel
Will this one last? By definition, the young people of today will be the old people of tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow for the luckiest among them. Will they be pushed by other even younger runners? The Juan Ayuso (19 years old), Cian Uijtdebroeks (19 years old), Lenny Martinez (19 years old), Leo Hayter (21 years old) or others? Possible. The extreme professionalization of the categories of young people in cycling today allows these kids to arrive in the world of the big ones already ready and thus to be able to express their potential without waiting to take the bottle. No matter the names, cycling is in good hands.
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