By Gregor Brown
The 2019 season unveiled several winning stars, who are still only in their first year as a professional. From Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) winning Clásica San Sebastián to Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) taking three stages in the Vuelta a España.
Cycling Weekly takes a look at the top five WorldTour neo-pro riders of this last year.
Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck-Quick Step)
The Belgian was heavily watched after he blazed through the junior ranks and topped off 2018 with wins in both the Worlds time trial and road race. He became one of the rare few to make the jump from the junior ranks to the WorldTour level with star team Deceuninck-Quick-Step.
He not only dealt with the pressure, he shined in his neo-professional year. The team tried to keep him riding a low-key season, but that became impossible. He won the Clásica San Sebastián – the youngest rider to do so – the European time trial title and earned a coveted spot on the Belgian national team for the Worlds. In the time trial he took a silver medal behind Rohan Dennis (Bahrain-Merida) and in the road race, he helped the leaders. All this, and he's still 19 years old.
Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates)
Slovenian Tadej Pogačar , 21, is old compared to Evenepoel. He too went above and beyond in his first year racing at the top ranks. He already underlined his immense talent in February with a stage and the overall in the Volta ao Algarve, but then confirmed it with the queen stage in the Tour of California and the race overall.
UAE Team Emirates took him to his first Grand Tour, the Vuelta a España, with the idea to learn. Instead, Pogacar rode to three stage wins, the young riders jersey and a spot on the podium behind Slovenian winner Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) and world champion Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team).
Marc Hirschi (Sunweb)
While Evenepoel took all the attention becoming such a young Classics winner in the Clásica San Sebastián, most overlooked Swiss Marc Hirschi (Sunweb) standing on the podium in third spot behind Greg Van Avermaet (CCC Team).
The 21-year-old made a successful step, or jump, from the Sunweb development team to the WorldTour level in 2019. He rode with the consistency of a seasoned professional to earn 10th in the E3 BinckBank Classic, fifth in the Binck Bank Tour, sixth and best young rider in the Deutschland Tour – and of course the ride in San Sebastián. The results underlined that spark he showed when he won the Under 23 Worlds road race in Innsbruck, Austria, and signalled more to come.
Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma)
When Danish fans were cheering on Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) in the Critérium du Dauphiné and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, 22-year-old Jonas Vingegaard was emerging. He rode a big season that included WorldTour races like the Tour de Romandie and found space to show his talent early on into his neo-pro year.
In the Tour of Poland, another WorldTour race he rode ahead of Pavel Sivakov (Ineos) to win the Kościelisko stage and take the race lead. The next day, he lost ground but still managed seventh overall. He kept going, second overall at home in the Tour of Denmark and sixth overall in the Tour of Germany. He hopes to keep improving, with the big dream being a start in the 2021 Tour de France when it takes off from Copenhagen.
Matteo Moschetti (Trek-Segafredo)
The 23-year-old Italian did not win unlike the other four listed here, but Trek-Segafredo top brass will be pleased with his season. They took him to the Giro d'Italia where he placed third in the stage three sprint that saw Elia Viviani (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) relagated.
The result underscored his 2018 season, seven wins with Team Polartec-Kometa and as a trainee with Trek-Segafredo, a stage victory in the Vuelta a Burgos.
In other, albeit smaller, WorldTour races this 2019 season he scored points: second in a UAE Tour sprint and fifth in a Tour of Guangxi sprint. He can add a 10th place in the Scheldeprijs to his list of top placings for the 2019 season and have plenty of reason to celebrate this Christmas break.
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