Picking the best starting XI football team from pro cycling's ranks

Cycling Weekly's writers go head to head over an imaginary football pitch

Remco Evenepoel at Anderlecht
(Image credit: Getty Images)

At the Lotto Park in Brussels last night, Remco Evenepoel was cheered onto the pitch before Anderlecht played West Ham in the Europa Conference League. The World Champion and Vuelta a España winner received a hero's welcome from the club he played for as a child. 

An Evening Standard journalist tweeted: "Cyclist Remco Evenepoel, who was once a youth player at Anderlecht, paraded in front of the home fans after his road race world title in Australia last month. Weirdly, they seem to have a series of Remco chants prepared."

It's not weird at all if you know Belgium, but there we are.

Remco's ceremony on the pitch got us here at Cycling Weekly thinking about what a good starting XI of male professional cyclists would look like. 

Now, we do not really know a lot about the technical ability of much of the WorldTour, but we thought it was worth thinking laterally and having a stab at it.

Therefore, we made two teams, one designed by Tom Davidson, and one by Adam Becket, and you can decide who would win. We are both Southampton fans, which judging by recent form, is a slightly ominous thing. 

Vote in the poll at the bottom of the page for the team you think would win.

Matej of the Day - Tom Davidson

Team A

(Image credit: buildlineup.com)

GK - Nils Politt

There are few sights more daunting in football than a German goalkeeper. Oliver Kahn, Jens Lehmann, Manuel Neuer. Now it’s time to add Nils Politt to the list.

CB - Stefan Küng

The time trial specialist has an engine like no other. When the opposition’s strikers start to tire, Küng will easily pick the ball off them and charge up the pitch.

CB - Max Walscheid

The two-metre tall Cofidis rider is my defensive anchor. He’ll win every aerial duel and he’s quick enough to sweep up any loose balls in behind. A real Rolls Royce of a centre back.

CB - Christophe Laporte

Did I just take all of my defenders from the UCI’s riders over 190cm list? Maybe. In any case, Laporte’s an all-rounder, who could even go up front if we need a last-minute winner.

RWB - Matej Mohorič

That’s right, I’ve gone for wing backs. I have no idea if Mohorič will be able to defend, but that’s not why I’ve chosen him. Fans will be on the edge of their seats when the Slovenian launches one of his trademark kamikaze dashes down the touchline.

CM - Thomas de Gendt (C)

Who else could run the midfield but Thomas de Gendt? A veteran of the pro peloton, who even in his mid-thirties still knows how to win. Think Sergio Busquets at Barcelona.

Tadej Poagacar wins Montreal GP 2022

(Image credit: Getty Images)

CM - Tadej Pogačar

Partnering the Belgian is two-time Tour de France champion Pogačar. He’ll make storming runs, shoot from distance and link up well in attacks. If he loses the ball, that’s fine, De Gendt will mop up.

LWB - Alexey Lutsenko

Don’t ask me why, but something about Lutsenko tells me he’s left-footed. I envisage the Kazakh rider as an industrious team player, who’ll bolt up and down the wing all afternoon.

LW - Michael Matthews

I like a bit of flair up front, so the rider commonly known as ‘Bling’ is the obvious choice. He’d probably turn up wearing fluorescent boots and play with a stud in his ear. Kids would pretend they’re the Aussie as they practice their stopovers in the garden.

Julian Alaphilippe

(Image credit: Getty Images)

RW - Julian Alaphilippe

Football commentators rarely use the word panache, but with Alaphilippe on the pitch, they’ll be given no choice. The Frenchman is a swash-buckling trickster, whose mazy dribbling skills will see him glide through any defence.

ST - Wout van Aert

Wout Van Aert is to cycling what Erling Haaland is to football. The Jumbo-Visma rider would hit the ball with such vim that goalkeepers are reduced to tears. You’d be a fool not to have him in your fantasy team. A dead-cert Ballon d’Or winner.

Mathieu van der Liverpool - Adam Becket

Team B

(Image credit: buildlineup.com)

GK - Roger Kluge

OK, to be honest, I have no idea if Roger Kluge is any good at football. However, the German is very tall, and pretty well built, as a track rider as well as a leadout man on the road. As Tom did above, I see him as the successor to Oliver Kahn and Manuel Neuer.

RB - Primož Roglič

Primož Roglič loves to run. The Slovenian is known to go for runs even during big races like the Tour de France, and so he should be able to shuttle up and down the right side of the pitch for me. He seems industrious, and shouldn't be afraid of getting stuck in.

CB - Ben Turner

In defence, I have turned to the Ineos Grenadiers duo of Ben Turner and Filippo Ganna. They both have the height required to nullify crosses into the box, and Turner is a proper workhorse as well. At the end of Paris-Roubaix this year he was doing a half decent impression of Terry Butcher, so this seems good.

CB - Filippo Ganna

What is there to say about Filippo Ganna? He is a monster, and should have the presence to command the defence. He might be mild mannered in real life, but I'm hoping he really turns it on on the pitch.

Greg Van Avermaet

(Image credit: Getty Images)

LB - Greg van Avermaet (C)

Hear me out here. Certified keen footballer Greg van Avermaet played in goal as a youth but I see him as a Philip Lahm-style utility player, who can fill in all over the pitch, a bit like James Milner too. He will put 110% into this match, and can move into spaces when my team goes rampaging forwards.

CM - Nathan van Hooydonck

Nathan van Hooydonck?! Yes. The Jumbo-Visma rider has the calm authority of a central defensive midfielder, shuttling about, shutting things down. I see him very much as a water carrier, allowing the fancier players to do their thing, just as he was during the Classics for Wout van Aert this year.

Remco Evenepoel riding for Belgium at UCI Road World Championships 2022

(Image credit: Getty Images)

CM - Remco Evenepoel

The man himself, the 22-year-old who this team is built around. His footballing ability was certainly top-level as a teenager, so let's hope that he still has it. He definitely has an engine on him, a real box-to-box midfielder.

RW and LW - Juan Pedro López and Sergio Higuita

Juan Pedro López and Sergio Higuita are my two nippy wingers, both with youth and pace on their side, and should be able to switch wings at will in my fluid 4-2-3-1. With Evenepoel spraying the ball around from the middle of the park, a Belgian Thiago Alcântara, these two should have plenty of supply. López is a huge Real Betis fan, so probably knows a bit about football, while something about Higuita tells me he's quick. I want them cutting inside, helping Bardet and Philipsen out. The Ribery and Robben of this team.

CAM - Romain Bardet

Initially, I had Romain Bardet down as a striker in the Dimitar Berbatov mould, languid and cultured. But then I had a masterstroke, and I think he is actually more of a Denis Bergkamp. As cerebral as the Dutchman, and hopefully as clever, Bardet is my fulcrum of creativity.

ST - Jasper Philipsen

At the front, banging them in, is Jasper Philipsen. Hopefully he should get chances galore from the three attackers behind him, and as with sprinting, when he gets a glimpse of line/goal, he should be able to slot it home.

If you think you can pick a better team than our writers, email it to us at cycling@futurenet.com

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