Next year each of the peloton’s elder statesmen will welcome several new riders to their teams, including a gaggle of baby-faced neo-pros. Indeed some have ridden nearly 30 Grand Tours before their younger team-mates even signed a professional contract.
Cycling Weekly examines some of those age differences in five 2017 WorldTour teams.
Mads Pedersen (20) and Haimar Zubeldia (39) (Trek-Segafredo)
19 years difference
Dane Mads Pedersen was still two when Basque Haimar Zubeldia began his first year as a professional in 1998 with Euskaltel-Euskadi. The 39-year-old has now completed an amazing 28 Grand Tours, including twice placing fifth in the Tour de France.
Pedersen, this year with professional continental team Stölting Service Group, has yet to ride a Grand Tour. His first hope, though, will be to develop in the classics alongside the Trek-Segafredo’s new signing John Degenkolb. Pedersen, 21 next month, won the 2013 Junior Paris-Roubaix and this year the Under 23 Ghent-Wevelgem.
Robert Power and Svein Tuft (Orica-BikeExchange)
18 years difference
If we are to believe the legends, Canadian Svein Tuft had already skinned 10 wolves and won 12 cage fights when his new team-mate Robert Power was born in Perth.
The 39-year-old says that most of those stories are wrong, but he tells a good one about being stuck 23 pitches up a rock face on a rainy night without ropes. The tales should help 21-year-old Power pass the time on the team bus between races.
Power, who suffered a knee injury playing rugby, only took up cycling around the same time when Tuft made his Grand Tour debut in the 2009 Vuelta a España. Tuft now counts 10 grand tours. In the 2013 Tour, he helped Orica power to its time trail win – the fastest ever in the Tour.
That year, Power began to build his amateur palmarès with a start in the Florence world championships. In 2015, he won one of the top amateur stage races Giro della Valle d’Aosta.
James Shaw (20) and Lars Bak (36) (Lotto-Soudal)
16 years difference
Danish cyclist Lars Bak, now 36, began his first of four years with amateur team Silkeborg CR in 1996, the same year James Shaw, 20, was born.
Bak won the Tour de l’Avenir in 2005 thanks to an escape in stage one and defence throughout. Shaw, still in primary school, started riding with his first clubs in Derbyshire.
Shaw may have tuned into Bak’s first Grand Tour, the 2003 Giro d’Italia. Bak made it through the first nine stages. In 2011, Bak would have caught Shaw’s attention leading out Mark Cavendish to five Tour stage wins with team HTC-Highroad.
After winning, the junior versions of the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne in 2014, Shaw joined the Lotto development team. In 2017, he debuts in the professional team officially with Bak, who now counts 16 grand tours.
Laurens De Plus (21) and Tom Boonen (36) (Quick-Step)
15 years difference
De Plus was only six years old and just starting to ride around Ninove when Tom Boonen raced into town to finish 24th in the 2002 Tour of Flanders. A week later, he took over from fallen team-mate George Hincapie in Paris-Roubaix and placed third.
Boonen celebrated one of his best seasons in 2005 with the Flanders, Roubaix and Worlds triple, when De Plus was still in primary school. He is now Quick-Step’s statesman possibly facing his final round of classics next spring.
Quick-Step gave De Plus a taste of the classics this year in Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège. They suit him better because, unlike Boonen, he wants to aim for the general classification in stage races. Already as an amateur, he placed second to Robert Power in the Giro delle Valle d’Aosta.
Tao Geoghegan Hart (21) and Christian Knees (35) (Team Sky)
14 years difference
Sky does not have such a wide age range, especially since 39-year-old Xabier Zandio retired this year. German Christian Knees, 35, became the most experienced cyclist in the team – 14 years older than Tao Geoghegan Hart.
The Londoner was only nine when Knees won the youth classification of the Peace Race across the Eastern Bloc states. He began swimming as Knees joined team Milram and raced his first grand tour in 2006. Knees’s experience of 16 Grand Tours, including helping Bradley Wiggins win the 2012 Tour, should come in handy for Sky’s new classification cyclist.