Stefan Bissegger is one of the new wave of young riders not afraid to step up against the biggest names in the sport.
In previous generations, even the most talented young pros had to ride in support of their veteran team leaders, Bissegger said, while today's teams will take a chance on unproven riders if they believe in their abilities.
The 22-year-old Swiss pro told Cycling Weekly: “The philosophy of everything has changed because we start earlier training like pros, we start to live like pros. Also, the racing is different because the level of the under 23s is way higher than it used to be.
“The step is not so big anymore and also the teams let you race on your own. It's not like 10/20 years ago. when you were a new pro you always had to ride for the other guys but now when they see you're good they let you do whatever you can do and for getting results.”
He added: “Previous generations didn't have the chance to race on their own. They always had to race for their leaders, there was no chance that you as neo-pro could race for your own results. Even if you were the strongest you had to race for the old leader.”
Bissegger, racing his first full season at WorldTour level after joining EF part way through 2020, already has three professional wins to his name, including the Paris-Nice time trial earlier this year.
Data, according to Bissegger, is another factor in riders coming of age in their early 20s (and in some cases still in their teens).
Power meter data and heart-rate tracking devices like WHOOP, a sponsor of EF Education-Nippo that offers insight into sleep, recovery and physical effort, all contribute to the increased professionalism at under-23 ranks.
Bissegger said: “With the WHOOP and things like that you learn how your body reacts and you learn it when you're younger.
“Also is the power meter, this kind of stuff. You start to train in a professional way younger than you used to train.”
He is now chasing stage victory in his maiden Grand Tour, the Tour de France.
His first chance, the stage five time trial, victory was out of reach because he was one of the only riders who had to take on his run during heavy rain, eventually finishing 18th.
But on stage 20 the conditions are better suited to a strong performance for Bissegger, who is the provisional leader at the time of writing.
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