The strength in depth in women’s cycling has never been better and that’s thanks in part to the huge number of young riders coming into the professional ranks.
Now, many of the best riders in the world are aged under 25, so here is a look at 10 of the hottest prospects in the peloton. Starting, and in no particular order, with a multi-discipline world champion…
Calling Pauline Ferrand-Prevot a ‘prospect’ sounds a bit weird, given that she’s been a world champion in three different disciplines and is still only 23 years old. Indeed, PFP is the only cyclist ever to hold the world road race title, world cross country title and world mountain bike title simultaneously.
Riding on the same Rabo-Liv team as Marianne Vos, Ferrand-Prevot risked being overshadowed by her fellow multi-discipline specialist, but the Frenchwoman has carved out quite a reputation for herself.
Her 2015 season was good, winning the French National Championships, a stage of the Giro d’Italia Feminile and a host of other top-10 finishes, but it paled in comparison to 2014.
Last year her palmares looked Vos-esque, with a Worlds road race win in tricky Ponferrada conditions, National Championship road race and time trial titles at both senior and U23 levels and a Flèche Wallonne win, to name but a few.
Ferrand-Prevot came close to defending her road race title in Richmond in September, but could not overcome Lizzie Armitstead on the line.
In many ways, Hannah Barnes’s progression through the cycling ranks has been benefitted by being based in the United States – out of the spotlight of the British media and surrounded by a thriving women’s scene.
Barnes has started her season well in both of the years that she’s ridden for UnitedHealtcare; in 2014 she won the first stage of the Tour de San Luis but crashed out of the race in the second stage. This year she won both of them and finished the race as the best young rider.
She picked up another stage win in her next race, the Silver City’s Tour of the Gila, in May and won the youth classification again at the Women’s Tour of California, thanks to third place on stage three.
Her strong form continued into June as she returned to home soil to ride the Aviva Women’s Tour, winning the final stage to Hemel Hempstead and claiming fifth overall. That race saw her claim her third young rider jersey of the year.
Prior to that defence, aged just 18, she was victorious in the elite women’s race at the Danish National Championships. Dideriksen signed with Armitstead’s team, Boel-Dolmans, for 2015 and was thrown straight in at the deep end at the Tour of Qatar in February.
Her new team were also receptive to her desire to ride on the track at the 2016 Rio Olympics – she went straight to the World Track Championships in Paris after Qatar. There she finished 12th in the omnium, but turned in strong performances in the scratch race (second) and elimination race (fifth).
Retaining her Danish champion’s jersey in 2015 was the start of a successful finish to her season as she took second overall in the Belgium Tour ahead of some of the biggest names in the women’s peloton.
Another member of the Rabo-Liv squad, Niewiadoma won the youth classification in the UCI Women’s World Cup series in 2015 and also excelled in stage racing this year.
First overall at the Euskal Emakumeen Bira was followed by fifth at the Giro Femminile and then fifth again at the Belgium Tour.
Seventh place in the Worlds road race proved she belongs in the high company she’s been keeping this year, and with the likes of Vos and Ferrand-Prevot to help her along, Niewiadoma looks set for a very bright future.
Her ride at Ghent-Wevelgem in March will go down as one of the best by any rider, male or female, in 2015 because of the ludicrous conditions in which the raced.
Faced with gale-force winds that knocked grown men off their bikes, 19-year-old Mackaij powered through to take the title.
Riding for Liv-Plantur – the women’s team affiliated with Giant-Alpecin – Mackaij defied her young age by taking stage wins at the GP Elsy Jacobs and the Belgium Tour, as well as a fifth-place finish on stage on of the Giro Femminile.
Starting her season at Rabo-Liv, Stultiens transferred to Liv-Plantur in March, hoping to continue her development at the Dutch team.
While not setting the world alight with her new team in 2015, Stultiens showed her promise with strong performances at Auensteiner- Radsporttage and the Aviva Women’s Tour, where she came fifth in the mountains classification.
Elena Cecchini has been one of the busiest riders in the women’s peloton in 2015, totalling 66 race days in a schedule that saw her race in every month between January and September.
She didn’t waste many of those days either, starting her year with a second-place finish to Barnes in San Luis. She took in the Classics season as well in April, finishing fifth in the Tour of Flanders in a group that finished behind solo winner Elisa Longo-Borghini.
An Italian National Championships title was followed by three top-five finishes in the Giro Femminile, and her Lotto-Soudal sponsors will have been pleased with her fourth-place finish at the Tour of Belgium at the end of her long season.
Longo-Borghini’s first season at Wiggle-Honda could barely have been better, dominating in both stage and one-day races.
Her Tour of Flanders win kick-started her World Cup season, following it up with second to Armitstead in the Philly Classic. Her consistency in the World Cup races through the season saw her claim fourth in the overall standings.
In the stage races, Longo-Borghini finished eighth at the Giro Femminile and then took the overall title at the Route de France, winning two stages in the process.
Her impressive season was rounded off with fourth place in the Worlds road race, behind Armitstead, Anna van der Breggen and Megan Guarnier.
Joining Longo-Borghini at Wiggle-Honda next season is Amy Pieters, who moves from Liv-Plantur with her teammate Lucy Garner.
Pieters racked up 22 top-ten stage finishes in her multi-day events this season, with 14 more coming in her one-day races. A remarkable stretch of form in March saw her notch up seven consecutive top-tens, including an impressive fifth at Ghent-Wevelgem.
For all her consistency, Pieters only won one race in 2015 – the prologue of La Route de France – but her ability is there for all to see.
Swiss mountain biker Jolanda Neff only raced four times on the road last season, but boy did she make it count.
She’s pretty used to winning, notching up three wins in the six MTB World Cup races in 2015, with two seconds and one fourth. She translated that form onto the road midway through her season, claiming the elite women’s road race title in Switzerland to win by nearly two minutes on the rest of the field.
Fast forward three months and she mixed it with the best riders in the world by finishing ninth in the World Championships in Richmond to prove her strong future on the road.