British riders have enjoyed enormous success at the very top levels of the sport in recent years. But who are the riders that might follow in their footsteps in the years to come?
This post introduces ten U23 riders who we are excited about watching this season. It highlights some of the biggest British prospects, as well as some less familiar names that nonetheless have plenty of promise. This list isn’t exhaustive of course, and many readers will have no doubt have very different ‘top tens’. So feel free to add your own lists in the comments section.
First of all, let’s take a look at three young Brits who will be riding abroad this season…
Scot Stuart Balfour was the Dave Rayner Fund‘s rider of the year in 2018 and it’s not hard to see why. His most eye-catching result was winning the prestigious U23 race, the Grand Prix de Plouay Elite Open (the U23 version of the Bretagne Classic Ouest France World Tour race). He also picked up wins in amateur races the Ronde Briochine and the GP Saint-Laurent Espoirs. The 21 year-old will ride for top division French amateur team Côtes d’Armor-Marie Morin-Véranda Rideau again in 2019, his third season with the team. The team are linked with the Israel Cycling Academy, which could provide a route up to the professional ranks in due course.
At 19 years of age, Jake Stewart has only spent one season at U23 level but has already shown a lot of promise on the road. He took 5th in the junior world championships in 2017. And then, riding for the GB senior academy programme last season, he took second place in Katterkoers-Iper (the U23 Gent-Wevelgem) behind Ziga German (who will be his teammate in 2019) and third a week later in the Italian one-day race Trofeo Piva. A crash in the Tour de Yorkshire interrupted his season somewhat, but he recovered to complete the Tour de L’Avenir, helping Matt Gibson to a stage win. He joins the new Groupama-FDJ continental development team this season, which look looks like it will be one of the best organised and most talented development squads around. Read our interview with Jake here.
Adam Hartley is another young rider leaving the GB academy programme this season. The 20-year-old climber joins the SEG Racing Academy, the continental development team that new Bahrain-Merida neo-pro Stevie Williams rode for so impressively last year. Adam impressed in the Tour de Alsace last season, finishing 8th on the queen stage and 8th overall. He has ambitions to become a GC rider, and the switch to SEG should provide him with a racing programme that will enable him to showcase his abilities more than the track-focused GB academy could. Read our interview with Adam here.
Next up, seven riders who will based in the UK this season. An obvious starting place for home-based talent is Britain’s only Continental-level development team, Team Wiggins Le Col. We don’t know the full roster yet, but we can expect the team to be packed with young talent. Tom Pidcock is an obvious pick, but let’s focus on two slightly lesser-known riders. First up is Mark Donovan…
19 year-old Mark Donovan had an astonishing 2018, his first season in the U23 ranks. He took a notable 6th place overall in the early-season Volta ao Alentejo and things got even better from there. He took a very impressive 4th overall in the Baby Giro and even led the race for a stage, took a stage in the notoriously tough Giro Ciclistico della Valle d’Aosta Mont Blanc stage race, 7th overall in the Tour d’Alsace and then 11th overall in the Tour de L’Avenir. If those results weren’t impressive enough for a first-year U23, he then went on to become a stagiaire for Team Sky, performing very strongly as a domestique in a string of Italian stage races. Can he get even better this season?
Mark Donovan’s teammate Robert Scott is another Team Wiggins Le Col rider with a seemingly very bright future. A punchy, explosive rider with a fast finish, Scott’s standout result last year was undoubtedly his 4th place in the British road race championships, a result that also earned him the U23 national road jersey. From there he picked up second places in the Leicester Castle Classic and a stage of the Kreiz Breizh Elites race. He’s targetting the big U23 classics in 2019 and it will be fascinating to see how the 20-year-old fares.
Another UK talent factory is British Cycling’s senior academy programme. It would be easy to include all of its riders in this list, but two riders we will be watching particularly closely are Matt Walls and Fred Wright.
Matt Walls, 20, took a giant leap forward in his development in 2018, on both track and road. The powerful sprinter took three wins on the road: two stages of the Flèche du Sud and a stage of the A Travers Les Hauts De France – Trophee Paris-Arras Tour. And he was also one of the sensations of the recent Track World Cup in London, winning gold in the omnium (beating Elia Viviani amongst others), silver in the madison and bronze in the team pursuit. He’ll stay with the GB senior academy in 2019 and will continue to juggle both his track and road ambitions. Read our interview with Matt here.
Fred Wright is another Olympic hopeful in the GB academy that we might also see shining on the road this season. Longer-term, I think he’ll eventually become a very strong GC rider, once he fully focuses on the road. He’s a former Junior Tour of Wales winner (previous winners also include Tom Pidcock, Eddie Dunbar, Scott Davies, Hugh Carthy and Dan Martin to name but a few). And last season took a well-executed breakaway win in the Ronde de l’Oise stage race.
Canyon dhb p/b Bloor Homes have a very exciting crop of U23 riders this season. And they have enough youngsters that we might see them competing in U23 races too this season.
Jacob Vaughan is one of the team’s 6 U23 riders. He returns to the UK scene in 2019, having spent his first year as an U23 rider with the Lotto Soudal development team. As a junior, he won the Guido Reybrouck Classic, came 5th in the E3 Harelbeke junior race, and picked up podiums in top elite races in the UK (2nd in the Perfs Pedal and 3rd in the Jock Wadley Memorial). Canyon dhb p/b Bloor Homes have successfully helped young talents to develop in past seasons (such as Harry Tanfield and Max Stedman), and with a strong Belgian-focused race programme that should suit him, it will be fascinating to see if he can also thrive under Tim Elverson’s leadership.
The youngest rider on this list, 18-year-old Joe Laverick, is a first year U23 this season and newly signed to the Madison Genesis team. Still at college, he’ll be balancing racing with studying for much of the year. That juggling act didn’t stop him impressing with his time trialling ability at junior level though. Last season he won the time trial stage in the Ronde des Vallées Juniors stage race, and then took a very respectable 8th world championships junior time trial in Innsbruck. No doubt 2019 will be a learning curve for him on the bike and at college. Hopefully he’ll get a chance to shine on the TT bike from time to time too.
Charlie Quarterman moves to the Holdsworth-Zappi development team in 2019, having spent two years at the continental-level development team Leopard Pro Cycling. The 20-year-old will be looking to get things back on track after a season frustrated with health issues last year. Despite these issues, he still came second in the U23 national time trial championships, just 27 seconds behind Charlie Tanfield, which shows that on his day he is one of the best British riders in the U23 ranks. With the right races and a run of good health, we could be seeing this type of form more often in 2019.
As ever with lists of this nature, these are just a few names among scores of U23 British riders. Two obvious omissions are young superstars Ethan Hayter and Tom Pidcock, as they will be appearing in a future ‘riders to watch’ post. If you’re keen to monitor the progress of some of the other young British riders around, there are plenty of places to go. As a starter for ten, keep an eye on the stable of U23 riders at Canyon dhb p/b Bloor Homes, Joe Holt and others at Vitus Pro Cycling p/b Brother, the Holdsworth-Zappi team, the Team Wiggins Le Col riders (once their full roster is announced) and the riders supported by the Dave Rayner Fund.