'If you’re good enough, you’re old enough': Cycling's golden generation are turning perceived wisdom on its head

You can’t win anything with kids…

Remco Evenepoel (Photo by Bas Czerwinski/Getty Images)

(Image credit: Getty Images)

It appears that cycling is going through its Alan Hansen moment. On the opening day of the 1995/96 Premier League football season, the Scottish TV pundit and former Liverpool footballer summarised Manchester United’s defeat at Aston Villa by declaring, “You can’t win anything with kids.” Having sold three of their most experienced players at the end of the previous season and replaced them with youngsters including David Beckham and Paul Scholes who had come up through their youth ranks, United proved that age was no hindrance to success as they went on to win a league and cup double that season.

Twenty-five years on, professional cycling is witnessing the arrival of an astonishingly precocious generation of riders. Leading the way is Egan Bernal, not only Colombia’s first Tour de France winner but also the youngest in the last century and the third youngest of all time. Two months after Bernal’s 2019 Tour coup, 20-year-old Tadej Pogačar delivered one of his own, finishing third at the Vuelta a España and winning three mountain stages on the way. Coming up very fast behind this pair is 20-year-old Belgian Remco Evenepoel, runner-up in the World Championships time trial last year and winner of both of the stage races he’s started this season, the Vuelta a San Juan and the Volta ao Algarve.

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Peter Cossins has been writing about professional cycling since 1993, with his reporting appearing in numerous publications and websites including Cycling WeeklyCycle Sport and Procycling - which he edited from 2006 to 2009. Peter is the author of several books on cycling - The Monuments, his history of cycling's five greatest one-day Classic races, was published in 2014, followed in 2015 by Alpe d’Huez, an appraisal of cycling’s greatest climb. Yellow Jersey - his celebration of the iconic Tour de France winner's jersey won the 2020 Telegraph Sports Book Awards Cycling Book of the Year Award.