New faces in the peloton to look out for in 2022
Cycling Weekly's guide to those riders stepping up to the WorldTour for the first time next year
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It is always confusing to work out who is racing for which team in the new year, and even harder to spot the fresh faces in amongst the peloton. There are obviously a whole host of young talents joining professional teams in 2022, but here is a list of some you might want to especially look out for.
These are all riders who have broken onto the WorldTour scene for the first time; well the first time proper, with some serving apprenticeships with teams at the end of 2021.
Juan Ayuso is probably the standout rider of his under-23 generation, and has been tied to a four-year contract with UAE-Team Emirates as a result. The names on this list are all slightly more unknown that the Spanish wonder-kid.
There will surely be others that shock beyond this, names that are not familiar at all yet. These riders below have all had notable results in their junior or under-23 careers so far, however.
Henri Vandenabeele (Team DSM)
The Team DSM climber has been quite the name on the under-23 scene over the past couple of years, and has already raced quite a few times for the senior squad. In 2022 he will be graduating from DSM's development team after finishing second at both the Baby Giro and the Ronde de l'Isard in 2020, and third at the Baby Giro in 2021.
Vandenabeele raced Coppi e Bartali, Brabantse Pijl, Tour of the Alps, and the Tour de l’Ain at senior level, giving him a taste of what he will experience full-time next season. Speaking to Procycling magazine earlier this year, he said: "I was planning to do a few more under 23 races, but loads of races were cancelled, so I had an opportunity to do a lot of races with the WorldTour team, so I had some nice experiences with them."
He is suited to long climbs, but the Belgian also wants to have a go at some of the classics in his homeland. Vandenabeele seems to fit in at DSM despite stories about some riders not suiting the team, and has signed a contract until 2023.
Ben Healy (EF-Education Nippo)
Not many riders have already won their country's national championships before going professional, but that's what Ben Healy did in 2020, aged just 20. He has spent a couple of years with Trinity Racing, riding alongside Tom Pidcock among others.
The Irishman won a stage of the Baby Giro this year, one of the few that wasn't claimed by Juan Ayuso, and won a lumpy stage of the Tour de l'Avenir back in 2019. He is one of a few younger rides making a break with EF next year, with Sean Quinn and Marijn van den Berg also heading to the American squad.
Healy seems to have everything in his locker apart from a sprint, so it will be interesting to see how he develops during his first years at WorldTour level.
Luke Plapp (Ineos Grenadiers)
Australian rouleur Luke Plapp took advantage of the lack of a WorldTour Tour Down Under last year to make his mark. The 20-year old won a stage and then raced to the top of Willunga Hill with Richie Porte at the Santos Festival of Cycling back in January. He then went on to win the elite national time trial title weeks later.
It seemed inevitable that the multi-talented Plapp would secure a WorldTour ride for 2022, with rumours spreading just after his impressive rides back at the start of the year. Ineos Grenadiers ended up signing the strong man, before he went to the Tokyo Olympics and won bronze in the team pursuit.
He gained some experience at the Italian Spring classics at the end of the season with Ineos, and also grabbed himself a silver medal at the World Championships in the under-23 time trial.
Kata Blanka Vas
Successful riders from Hungary are a bit of a rarity, with Attila Valter the only notable Magyar in the men's professional peloton. At just 20, Kata Blanka Vas therefore carries the weight of her nation's expectations on her small shoulders.
After just one and a bit years with Doltcini-Van Eyck Sport, Vas has stepped up to the SD-Worx senior team, and 2022 will be her first full year with the Dutch super squad. In her half-year as a stagiaire, she managed two top-six finishes at the Ceratizit Challenge, and ended up ninth overall, ahead of some luminaries of the women's peloton.
Weeks later, Vas impressed again, coming second in the European under-23 road race championships, before her best result yet on the road, fourth in the elite women's road race at the World Championships.
The Hungarian is also excellent at cyclo-cross, which may put her in good stead for the classics. She won her first UCI World Cup event back in November at Overijse, and it would not be a surprise to see her perform with the best at the World Championships next month.
Daan Hoole (Trek-Segafredo)
Another rider who has already tested himself at WorldTour level as a stagiaire, 2022 will see Daan Hoole join Trek-Segafredo on a permanent contract. The tall Dutchman is expected to fit seamlessly into the team's classics squad, working alongside riders like Mads Pedersen and Jasper Stuyven.
He bookended his year with impressive results in elite races, finishing 18th at Le Samyn back in March riding for the SEG Racing Academy, before he managed eight at Binche-Chimay-Binche in October.
A strong time-triallist, Hoole finished second at this year's Flanders Tomorrow Tour, a testing ground for under-23 riders, and finished third and sixth in the individual time trial events at the European and World Championships respectively.
Mick van Dijke
One more Dutchman to look out for next year, Mick van Dijke will be joining Jumbo-Visma's senior team after graduating from their development squad.
In his two years with Jumbo-Visma Development, he has impressed across a range of disciplines, proving a handy GC option at under-23 level, but also winning or coming close on punchy stages.
Van Dijke won the Flanders Tomorrow Tour that Daan Hoole came second in, dominating the race. He won two stages, came third on the other two, and won the points classification as well as the overall.
At Cro Race in October, one of his first senior appearance, Van Dijke finished in the top five on three stages, and won the youth classification. The Dutchman also finished in the top four of three stages at the Tour de l'Avenir, finishing second in the points classification at the historic development race.
Ethan Vernon benefited from the enforced postponement of the Tokyo Olympics to join the team pursuit squad, and steps up to the WorldTour, in fact his first road team proper with Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team in 2022.
While Team GB might have had a disappointing time of it in the men's team pursuit at the Olympics, Vernon went on to win bronze at the World Championships in the same event back in October.
The 21-year old won a sprint stage of the Tour de l'Avenir this year, which made him hot property for road teams. He came in just ahead of teammate Lewis Askey, who is also joining the WorldTour in 2022 with FDJ.
Vernon has a good time-trial as well as his sprint, as you would expect from an endurance track athlete, and it will be interesting to see how he develops at Patrick Lefevere's team.
Kaia Schmid (Human Powered Health)
Young American Kaia Schmid came agonisingly close to winning the women's junior road race at the World Championships, missing out to Zoe Bäckstedt by millimetres. However, she has beaten her competitor to signing a pro contract, joining Human Powered Health (formerly known as Rally) in 2022.
She has been hugely succesful on the track as well, winning a world title in the elimination race and three other medals at the junior Track World Championships in 2021.
After starting out skiing, Schmid took up cycling as well, and decided to focus on the latter from the end of high school. It seems like the right decision, with the diminutive American racking up results on the track and road in the junior scene.
She told Cyclingnews last month: "I will combine road and track. Signing with Rally meant that I could put the main focus on the road but when I have an opportunity to race on the track, I can do that too."
Tobias Halland Johannesen (Uno-X)
The only rider on this list to not be joining a WorldTour team next season, Tobias Halland Johannessen is incredibly promising, however, due to his status as current Tour de l'Avenir champion.
The Norwegian won two Alpine stages at the top under-23 event, clinging on to victory in the general classification by just seven seconds from Ineos Grenadiers pro Carlos Rodriguez in the end.
Along with his brother Anders, also a stage winner at the Tour de l'Avenir, he has decided to stick with Uno-X, where they were both on the development team. With contracts until 2024, the team will be hoping they can help push it into the WorldTour, its ultimate ambition.
Johannessen was also second at the Baby Giro in 2021, finishing only behind the next-level Juan Ayuso, and second at the pro-level Sazka Tour. Proving his all-round abilities, he placed third at the under-23 Liège-Bastogne-Liège in September.
This last rider needs little introduction if you were paying attention at the World Championships, as Filippo Baroncini won the men's under-23 race.
The Italian from Emilia-Romagna took the win after storming away on the final circuit in Leuven. While not always a signifier of certain talent, winners in recent years of the race have included Marc Hirschi, Benoît Cosnefroy and Matej Mohorič.
Along with his Worlds win, Baroncini won the individual time trial stage at the Baby Giro and is Italy's current under-23 ITT champion too. He will be joining Trek-Segafredo, where a lot is expected of him in the classics, just like Daan Hoole above.
In his first elite level race, Coppa Sabatini, Baroncini came fourth ahead of some big names in the men's peloton, proving he can already do it on the bigger stages. One can't guarantee success, but the Italian looks like a good bet.
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Adam is Cycling Weekly’s senior news and feature writer – his greatest love is road racing but as long as he is cycling on tarmac, he's happy. Before joining Cycling Weekly he spent two years writing for Procycling, where he interviewed riders and wrote about racing, speaking to people as varied as Demi Vollering to Philippe Gilbert. Before cycling took over his professional life, he covered ecclesiastical matters at the world’s largest Anglican newspaper and politics at Business Insider. Don't ask how that is related to cycling.
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