The Tour de France is the biggest stage in professional cycling, making every edition an opportunity for teams and riders to breakthrough in front of millions.
After the UCI reduced team sizes from nine to eight last season places in Tour de France squads are more coveted than ever, with teams less likely to take risks on younger and less experienced riders.
With even huge names like Mark Cavendish missing out on selection, Tour de France debutants find themselves with the weight of the world on their shoulders.
In 2019 there will be 33 riders making their first appearance in the French Grand Tour, including star names and young revelations.
Here are the debutants to looked out for in the 2019 Tour de France:
Caleb Ewan – Lotto-Soudal
You’d be forgiven for thinking Caleb Ewan was mistakenly included in this list, given his prominence amongst the top tier of sprinters in the professional peloton.
But at 24, the relative youngster will make his Tour de France debut this year after years of neglect from his former team Mitchelton-Scott.
At Mitchelton, Australian Ewan found himself in a team whose ambitions were not compatible with his own as they built a general classification team around the Yates twins and Esteban Chaves, leaving no room for the diminutive but monstrously powerful sprinter.
Having ridden his first Grand Tour in 2015 and since racking up wins in both the Vuelta a España and the Giro d’Italia, Ewan’s Tour debut is long overdue.
His 2019 season has been another step forward for Ewan with two stage wins at the Giro for Lotto-Soudal, but as he has never finished a Grand Tour he’s not a likely threat for the green jersey by the time we reach Paris.
Wout van Aert – Jumbo-Visma
Cyclocross superstar Wout van Aert has caused huge waves in his first year riding at WorldTour level, even if his Classics performances were overshadowed by great rival Mathieu van der Poel.
But Van Aert’s eventual breakthrough victories, while inevitable, came in surprising fashion.
The 24-year-old Belgian, a former three-time CX world champion, stunned fans and riders at the Critérium du Dauphiné by beating Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) to victory in the individual time trial.
To cement his position as a phenomenal talent, he then beat Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) to a bunch sprint victory the following day.
Van Aert will race his first Tour de France as Belgian time trial champion, after winning the national TT in late June, and while he is likely to place a key support role for Jumbo-Visma’s overall hope Steven Kruijswijk, Van Aert is still a rider to watch closely, particularly in the fight for the green jersey.
Michael Woods – EF Education First
Canadian Michael Woods is a late bloomer in the cycling world, but has risen to the top of the sport in an emphatic manner.
After starting his athletic career as a track runner Woods was forced to reconsider his dreams due to injury, and in 2012 turned his focus to cycling and after three years he stepped up to WorldTour level to join EF Education First (then Cannondale-Drapac).
Woods broke through last season, finishing second in Liège-Bastogne-Liège, winning a stage of the Vuelta a España and finishing third in the World Championships in Austria.
Now 32, he will join Rigoberto Urán and Tejay van Garderen in the EF Education First squad for the Tour de France and is a serious contender for stage victory in the mountains.
Pello Bilbao – Astana
In an Astana squad typically packed with climbing talent, Pello Bilbao is one to watch closely when the road turns skyward.
With nine Grand Tours to his name, the 29-year-old Spaniard is one of the more experienced three-week riders but is making his Tour debut this year.
Bilbao enters the race with two victories from the 2019 Giro d’Italia to his name, and even finished sixth overall in Italy last year.
With a mountain-heavy Tour de France this year, Bilbao should have plenty of opportunities to prove his talent on the biggest stage.
Giacomo Nizzolo – Dimension Data
The decision by Dimension Data management not to select Mark Cavendish for the Tour de France has caused a huge reaction in the cycling world.
With questions being raised about Cavendish’s hopes of breaking the record for stage wins and his future in the pro peloton, the Dimension Data sprinting mantle has now been passed to Italy’s Giacamo Nizzolo.
At 30 years old and with eight Grand Tours to his name, Nizzolo is an experienced if not superstar sprinter with 20 pro wins on his palmarés.
He has never won a Grand Tour stage and this year only managed fifth on stage three of the Giro d’Italia, but after his wins in the Tour of Oman and the Tour of Slovenia this season Dimension Data have opted to back Nizzolo for the flat finishes.
Enric Mas and Kasper Asgreen – Deceuninck – Quick-Step
Famed for nurturing young talent, Belgian squad Deceuninck – Quick-Step are taking two noteworthy debutants to the 2019 Tour, Kasper Asgreen and Enric Mas.
Spaniard Mas will be the sole general classification torch-bearer for Quick-Step, as the team has been designed around stage ambitions for sprinter Elia Viviani and all-rounder Julian Alaphilippe.
But Mas proved his ability to ride for the overall without the backing of a purpose-built squad, after he rode to an outstanding second place at the 2018 Vuelta a España.
While his 2019 results have been more modest thus far, at 24 Mas still qualifies for the youth classification at the Tour and is good bet for the white jersey.
Dane Kasper Asgreen has also been a strong young performer this season, finishing second in the Tour of Flanders before going on to take his first pro win on stage two of the Tour of California on the savage South Lake Tahoe, eventually finishing third overall.
The 24-year-old is also an emerging time trial star, with a second place on the ITT at the Tour de Suisse before victory in the Danish national TT championships last month.
While the Tour may be a tough occasion for these two rising talents to prove their worth, their continued development is one to watch.
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