How generation Z are taking over the cycling world

How are fresh-faced riders barely out of their teens managing to win at the highest level? Aspiring pro Joe Laverick has a personal investment in finding out

(Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP via Getty Images)

(Image credit: AFP via Getty Images)

Generation Z  – riders born in the late-1990s and early-2000s – are taking over the cycling world. Tadej Pogačar, Remco Evenepoel, Egan Bernal, Marc Hirschi, the list goes on. When Bernal, aged 22 years and 196 days, crossed the line in the maillot jaune last July, he was the youngest winner of the Tour de France for over a century. A little over a year later, Pogačar trumped the Colombian by clinching victory a day before his 22nd birthday. How are riders who’ve barely started shaving managing to win the biggest bike races in the world? And do we need to tear up what we thought we understood about youth training and development?  

To put this into context, the average age of a Tour de France winner is 28.5 years old. As a 19-year-old aspiring professional cyclist, that seems about right to me: I’d like to think I’m going to carry on improving for at least another five or six years. How could I be expected to be approaching my peak already? Even away from endurance sports, performance tends to peak in the mid to late-20s – just consider the football maxim, “You can’t win anything with kids”. Until recently, this was true in cycling. But riders are no longer entering the pro peloton as bottle boys and working their way up; instead they’re entering the pro peloton as Grand Tour contenders. What’s changed all of a sudden? 

Thank you for reading 20 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1