Ineos Grenadiers have turned to youth once again, signing unknown 18-year-old Canadian Michael Leonard on a three-year deal.
The British squad have made a habit of signing young riders, with Leonard the second 18-year-old joining the squad this year, after Josh Tarling. With 21-year-old Leo Hayter and 22-year-old Thymen Arensman also joining the team, Connor Swift, aged 26, seems a practically ancient rider to bring in.
With Richie Porte retiring, and Adam Yates, Richard Carapaz and Dylan van Baarle moving teams, the youth revolution has continued apace at Ineos.
Leonard has raced for the Team Franco Ballerini in Italy this year, where he has scored a number of impressive results in junior races, including the Trofeo Madonna del Cavatore in early August as well as the Gran Premio Bermac Gara in May. He has not done any racing at under-23 level.
“It's really exciting for me to have this opportunity and I’m pretty proud of it because it suggests that people at the Ineos Grenadiers, who know a lot about cycling and GC riders, think I have the potential to do that in the future," Leonard said.
"I’m excited for the opportunity to learn in what I think is the very best team both in terms of riders and staff. The Grenadiers have a lot of experience in winning big races so I’ll get to learn from the best, which will be fantastic.”
It is believed that the young Canadian impressed the Ineos hierarchy during testing. Next year, the squad will have 14 riders aged 25 or under.
“Michael’s profile is certainly one that is really interesting, and he looks to have real potential," Rod Ellingworth, the team's deputy principal, said.
"He’s very mature for his age, and the fact that he’s already spent so much time racing in Europe is really important," he added. "It’s also great that he has clearly been following our team closely, and the fact that he looks up to someone like Carlos bodes really well for us.
"We look forward to working with him and further unlocking his obvious potential. He’ll be joining a young but very exciting group of riders and has the potential to play a big part in our future.”
Leonard said that the team's former and current riders played a role in him joining the team. “As a youngster I watched Chris Froome and in the current team I look up to Carlos Rodriguez," the 18-year-old explained. "He’s followed a similar pathway to what I see as the dream for myself and this year he’s really broken out. To follow in his footsteps would be fantastic.
“Obviously for me the future goal is Grand Tours but outside of that a race I’d love to tackle is Il Lombardia which is probably the biggest race that a rider with my characteristics has a really good shot in. It would be a dream to be competitive in that one day as well.”
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