'After three days as a pro, I won - I didn't believe it': Belgium's latest teenage sensation Arnaud De Lie can't stop winning

The 19-year-old has already beaten a number of storied pros

Arnaud De Lie
(Image credit: Getty)

If cycling teams did probationary periods to assess whether a new recruit was indeed exactly what they needed, Arnaud De Lie would have already been given a pass just six weeks into his start at Lotto-Soudal.

At just 19 - he doesn't turn 20 until mid-March - De Lie was promoted to the WorldTour team's squad from its club outfit in the winter with the specific task of developing as a rider through experience.

To win, something he did four times last year in U23 races, was never really a realistic plan, until he did so - and then did so again a month later.

In just his third race as a professional rider, De Lie won Trofeo Playa de Palma, a one-day race part of Challenge Mallorca, beating riders such as former Tour de France green jersey winner Michael Matthews and victor of 82 professional wins, Alexander Kristoff. 

That was already impressive, but then last weekend he scored his second pro success at the Grote Prijs Jean-Pierre Monseré, even sitting up 10 metres before the line to celebrate such was his absolute belief that he was not to be beaten.

He now sits in an exclusive club of just six sprinters to have won at least twice in 2022, the others being Caleb Ewan, Fabio Jakobsen, Jasper Philipsen, Dylan Groenewegen and Mark Cavendish. 

It has been a fairytale start to the young Belgian's career. "It's a dream for me [to be a pro]," he tells Cycling Weekly. "You want to become a pro, but it's very difficult because you are very young. You look at the professionals on the TV and it's just a dream. It wasn't a real goal of my life to be a pro rider - just a dream."

To win, then, takes the dream into another stratosphere. "That day in Mallorca was incredible," he remembers. "After the win, when I passed the finish line, I seen the staff and they didn't believe my victory. It was only my third race!

"I don't think my team was preparing for that and then I won. It was very crazy. After just three days as a professional, I won - I didn't believe it.

"After the race we went to the bar with the team and we shared a bottle of champagne. I have very good memories and all the team was very happy with the victory, and I was because I had my first win on my palmarés."

Softly-spoken, De Lie was anxious before this interview about his English proficiency. The truth is, while not perfect, it's good enough for him to be able to express himself, the Wallonia-born rider clearly emanating an aura of a kid who can't quite believe the start he is enjoying.

There's also the small matter of riding alongside his icon. "Philippe Gilbert, of course!" he answers when asked who his cycling hero is. "I am from Wallonia like him so it's obvious he is my idol.

"Gilbert gives me advice, he is a good man. I have a lot of respect for these riders and and it's a very good feeling with Philippe, being part of the same team as him. It's also his last year, so it's very big to be in Philippe's last season."

Arnaud De Lie

De Lie comfortably beats the rest of the field for his first pro victory 

(Image credit: Getty)

As one career comes to an end, another is beginning. De Lie has an initial two-year deal with Lotto-Soudal, but if he is to continue this rich vein of form, his employers will be pressured into extending that and fending off interest from rival outfits.

Just days before his win at the GP Monseré, De Lie was bullishly confident about his chances of winning again. "I think it’s possible, but also for another victory I will need luck and a good day. It’s not impossible to take another victory, but it’s not my main goal. When I am in a race, and I can race for victory, I will try, but if I am in the top-10, top-5 or even the top-100 it’s also good for the team and I."

In retrospect, his words were a neat summary of the freedom and weightlessness he is enjoying right now. There really is zero pressure on him - he's just a teenager riding his bike against professionals and happening to be very good at it.

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Describing his latest win as feeling "amazing to be able to succeed" and ranking it even higher than Mallorca because "a victory in Belgium is always a bit more special", he pondered the future. "What will the following races bring? Without stress and by committing fully to racing, if I am able to get any more victories this year - even better."

He states on five separation occasions to this publication that "my first goal is to learn," but leaves no ambiguity over his personal ambitions in the coming months. "I am a competition rider - I like to be there for the victory."

Belgium's found yet another cycling diamond. Remember the name: Arnaud De Lie.

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