Cycling isn’t short of young sensations right now, and there’s a new one about to enter the WorldTour peloton: Juan Ayuso.
The Spanish 18-year-old has been in imperious form during the 2021 season in his first year in the U23 ranks, winning five UCI races including the recent Baby Giro in which he claimed three stages.
In dominating the event, he became the youngest ever winner of the famous race and became the first Spanish rider to do so.
Ayuso has been riding for Colpack Ballan since the start of the season, the U23 development team of UAE Team Emirates.
He signed a five-year contract with UAE Team Emirates last year (although, given his age, it was his father who actually penned the deal) with an agreement that he would join the team of Tadej Pogačar in August.
However, following his Baby Giro victory, that has been advanced and he officially joined the team on June 13.
Who is he and why are the Spanish so excited?
His rise has captured the attention of the Spanish cycling public throughout the season, with the press in his home country obsessed by his talent and potential.
As well as daily national sports publications such as Marca and AS repeatedly writing articles on him in the past few months, Spain’s biggest newspaper El País has also been profiling him. Marca recently declared that “the future of Spanish cycling is here now.”
Joxean Fernández Matxin, manager of UAE Team Emirates, told AS: “In the lower categories, he was winning with so much ease. He was attacking 60 kilometres from the finish line and arriving alone.
“Why does a team like UAE sign a contract that is so long? Well, because he has class, ambition, a winning personality and character. He is a pure talent and this you can’t buy.”
Ayuso shares the same coach, Íñigo San Millán, as reigning Tour de France champion Pogačar, himself only 22.
San Millán revealed to Marca that Ayuso “has the conditions of Tadej: he produces 6.2 watts/kg. He goes well in the mountains, on the flats, in time trials, although Pogačar is calmer than him.”
Ayuso, who calls Alberto Contador his hero, is a climber who remains seated, but with a tall figure of 1.83m and a weight of 65kg, he has also been likened to Mathieu van der Poel.
Comparisons between him and his new team-mate Pogačar have already started, but Matxin dismissed them. “He must learn how to live with the interest that he has created. When comparisons are made, it does annoy him. What we want is that this is the only Juan Ayuso.”
He will start racing for his new team soon and will be given a predominantly Spanish calendar, which could include Clásica San Sebastián. It is not expected that he will ride the Vuelta a España, though.
Ayuso, who was born in Barcelona but grew up in Atlanta in the United States until he was eight before spending the rest of his childhood in Jávea in Alicante, possesses not only obvious talent but commitment that has shocked even his coach.
San Millán told Marca: “If you tell him to do four hours, he will do four hours and one minute in case he had to brake at a traffic light.
“He is the most professional rider I have seen in my life, but you have to stop him because he does not want to stop.”
In a separate interview with El País, his coach added that “Juan wants to know everything in detail. He has a great appetite to know and understand the physiological, performance and training details. He is intelligent, applied, disciplined and methodical to the point of boredom.”
It is a description that Ayuso has not denied, telling the same newspaper: “It is not just me who has this new scientific and technological vision of cycling. The fashion was started by Remco Evenepoel three years ago.
“Those of us born in 2001 and 2002 are from a very good generation. In three or four years we will all be at the top.”
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