Introducing Oscar Onley, the 19-year-old who almost beat Jonas Vingegaard twice

The DSM rider from Scotland finished third overall at CRO Race, and second on two stages

Oscar Onley of Team DSM
(Image credit: Getty Images)

There was a lot of attention on Jonas Vingegaard last week, as the Tour de France champion won the 11th and 12th races of his career, stages of the CRO Race, his first wins since his golden July.

Unlike at the Tour, though, it was not Tadej Pogačar pushing him all the way, but an even younger adversary, 19-year-old Oscar Onley of DSM, the latest British talent to burst onto the professional cycling scene.

The rider from Kelso finished second behind Vingegaard on his two stage wins, and ended finishing ten seconds behind him overall in third, thanks to bonus seconds more than anything else, as Matej Mohorič pipped the pair of them to victory in Croatia.

At the time, Onley did not even realise how big a deal it would turn out to be, he just saw a yellow jersey - a Jumbo-Visma issued one this time - and wanted to beat him.

"I didn't realise how big it wasn't until I went to my phone after that first time I got second," he explains to Cycling Weekly, the day after the race ended. "Then I realised that yeah, it was quite a big deal. In the moment it's just another bike race and another rider, you don't really click who it is, and what kind of race it is until afterwards, I guess.

"It was a bit surreal to be to be racing against him [Vingegaard], and especially the last couple of days make when in the team meeting making a plan against Jonas, thank you go. Yeah, it's a bit different to the races have been doing so far."

The third place overall marks his best general classification finish of his nascent career, but it fits naturally in a year where he has continued to impress as a young rider, and make a bit of a name for himself among WorldTour professionals like Vingegaard and Mohorič, too.

"I wanted some results from this race, this week," Onley says. "I didn't know how well the parcours would suit me. Normally, I prefer a bit harder, longer climbs. So I wasn't sure how well I could go this week. But in the end, I think I could show myself quite well, on the courses that suited me."

Oscar Onley of Team DSM

(Image credit: Getty Images)

However, despite sharing the podium with two of the riders of the year - do not forget Mohorič's impressive win at Milan-San Remo earlier this year - Onley or his team are not getting carried away. This is his second year of three with DSM's development squad, a programme that has brought through riders like Marc Hirschi, Nils Eekhoff and Leo Hayter before him, and he is sticking with his programme.

Being on a development team linked to a WorldTour squad like DSM allows the riders to swap in for some races, a practice employed by a few top level squads, notably Groupama-FDJ as well. It has given Onley the chance to ride at the step below the WorldTour this year at races like the Tour of Britain and CRO Race, with some of the team's professionals.

"Development wise, it's really good," he explains. "I think it narrows that step to the WorldTour. Even the races where I have been with the World Tour team, it's not like I'm getting bottles the whole race. This week, I've had the whole team working for me. That's quite special. Being a development rider and having the WorldTour guys working for me , I really appreciate it. Thanks to the team for giving me the opportunity."

Onley was a rider who stood out at the truncated Tour of Britain, being lively in what would turn out to be the decisive stage to Robin Hoods Bay.

"It was a strange end. But again, it was a really nice week," he says. "I didn't really get to show what I could do in that race. Parcours wise, it didn't suit me so well with each day just coming down to reduced sprint, it wasn't the best situation for myself. I felt really good, I had good legs. 

"After that race, I made another step up just from for how I felt in training after."

Oscar Onley of Team DSM

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Like many riders, Onley got into cycling through his local club, in Kelso, and settled on the sport after trying many out when he was younger "In the end cycling was the one that stuck," he says. "I think, to be honest, it was more the training than the racing. I just really enjoyed riding my bike."

Away from the bike, he's into coffee, as many riders are, although he hasn't quite taken the plunge fully yet, despite fulfilling his goal by winning a stage of the important under-23 race the Giro Ciclistico della Valle d'Aosta - Mont Blanc.

"Yeah, I've got quite into coffee in the last year or so," he explains. "I actually told myself that when I went to race, then I was gonna buy myself a coffee machine. Like a proper espresso machine, but I've I've not done it yet. So maybe in winter, that would be something I invest in."

He is still trying to work out what kind of rider he is, with the results in Britain and Croatia adding some questions over whether he can add punchier climbs to his roster. However, "from my side and from the team's side in the future, we'd like to go down the GC path and try and develop that".

Like all 19-year-olds who are good climbers, Onley's dream is the Tour de France, although he adds that his favourite race is actually Liège-Bastogne-Liège, so watch out for him there.

2022 has been successful, that is without a doubt. "I made a big step up from last year," he says. "I was obviously hoping to make a step up from last year, but I wasn't expecting to be competing for pro wins. I wasn't expecting that in the beginning of the year, so I'm really satisfied with this year."

Despite his win, and being up there with Vingegaard, there is no rush. He is content to wait his time and follow the DSM path. He is definitely one to watch now though, if he wasn't before.

"I think we'll be sticking with the plan, with myself and the team," Onley concludes. "One more year development. There's still some things I need to learn and gain some more experiences in like, racing for the win in different situations. I think I can really benefit from another year at this level, learning how to win."

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