Features Insight Riders

2019 review: what happened to our 2019 U23 riders to watch?

We picked ten U23 riders to watch in 2019. How did they fare?

At the beginning of the year, we highlighted 10 young British riders to look out for in 2019. How did they get on?

2019 UCI Road World Championships – Men’s Under 23 Road Race – Yorkshire, England – Stuart Balfour of Great Britain. Photo: Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com

Stuart Balfour was the Dave Rayner Fund‘s rider of the year in 2018. In 2019 he didn’t perhaps achieve the eye-catching results he’d picked up in the previous season. But this year was nonetheless an important one for his progression. He established himself as a key member of the U23 Great Britain squad in Nations Cup races, impressing enough to get selected for both the Baby Giro and the Tour de L’Avenir. He put in a strong ride in the breakaway at the U23 world championships road race to help set up Tom Pidcock’s bid for gold. And narrowly missed out on repeating his 2018 Grand Prix de Plouay Elite Open win, this time finishing second. He’ll once again be based in France next season, this time riding for top-level elite team Bourg-en-Bresse Ain Cyclisme. No longer an U23 next year, 2020 will be an important year for Balfour.

-2019 UCI Road World Championships – Men’s Under 23 Road Race – Yorkshire, England – Jake Stewart of Great Britain. Photo: Pauline Ballet/SWpix.com

Second-year U23 Jake Stewart had an impressive year, his first riding for the Groupama-FDJ Continental team. Supported by the Dave Rayner Fund, Stewart scored an early-season win in the French elite race the GP du Pays d’Aix, and followed that with a string of top UCI race performances. These included 3 podiums and 5th overall at Le Triptyque des Monts et Châteaux (2.2U), 3rd at the U23 Tour of Flanders, 3rd at the U23 Eschborn-Frankfurt race and 8th at the U23 Paris-Roubaix. He also bagged a solid 18th in U23 world championships road race. He told us in September he will be in Groupama-FDJ Continental colours again next year, with the aim of stepping up to the World Tour in 2021.

Hopefully next year I can win some races and then after next year, we’re looking at stepping up to the World Tour

Jake Stewart, interview with The British Continental
Adam Hartley, second from left, on the podium at the Giro Valle d’Aosta. Photo: SEG Racing

Adam Hartley joined the SEG Racing Academy in 2019, a development set-up that has a prolific record in providing a pathway to the World Tour for its riders. He will return to SEG in 2020 and will hope to build on a solid first year with the team. Illness meant he failed to finish both the Ronde de L’Isard and the Baby Giro. But he recovered to achieve his standout result: 2nd place overall in the fearsome Giro Valle d’Aosta, a performance we discussed when we interviewed him in July. He followed that up with 12th overall in the Tour Alsace. A fine platform to build from next season.

Mark Donovan wins stage 2 of the Giro Ciclistico della Valle d’Aosta 2018
Photo: Team Wiggins

Mark Donovan went into 2019 on the back of an outstanding 2018, his first season in the U23 ranks (4th overall in the Baby Giro a stage in the Giro Valle d’Aosta, 11th overall in the Tour de L’Avenir and a stagiaire spot at Team Sky). 2019 was a much more difficult for the Team Wiggins Le Col rider, however, hampered as it was by injury and illness. He ended it with a solid ride at the Tour of Britain though (33rd overall). And perhaps more importantly for Donovan, Team Sunweb still had enough belief in him to offer him a World Tour contract.

2019 OVO Energy Tour of Britain Stage 8 – Altrincham to Manchester, Britain – Rob Scott and Mark Donovan ride to sign on. Photo: Zac Williams/SWpix.com

Donovan’s Team Wiggins Le Col teammate this year, Rob Scott, was another of our U23 riders to watch. He started the year as the U23 national road race champion and had high hopes for the U23 classics. He admitted recently that the season didn’t go as well as he’d hoped – perhaps a case of over-thinking things. Nonetheless, he posted some strong results, including 4th in the U23 Gent-Wevelgem, 9th overall in the Le Triptyque des Monts et Châteaux, 10th in the Lancaster GP and 2nd in the South Coast Classic. He moves to Canyon dhb p/b Soreen next season and he should find their diet of Belgian and Dutch racing to his liking. His final season as an U23 rider, it will be a big year for him.

2019 OVO Energy Tour of Britain – Stage 5: Birkenhead Park to Birkenhead Park, England – Matt Walls of Great Britain Cycling Team. Photo: Simon Wilkinson/SWpix.com

Matt Walls built on his successful 2018 with another very strong year. The sprinter took a stage win in the Baby Giro, a stage win and 2nd overall in Paris-Arras, 2nd in the Arno Wallaard Memorial and 3rd in the Brenne & Montmorillonnais. His performances earned him a stagiaire spot with EF Education First. Most impressive of all, however, was his bunch sprint performances against Dylan Groenewegen and co in the Tour of Britain. 11th on stage 1, he got better and better, taking 7th on stage 3 before coming close to taking the win on stage 5, eventually finishing 2nd. He has no road team confirmed yet for next season, but with Tokyo in his sights, his focus will be very much on the track.

2019 UCI Road World Championships – Harrogate – Yorkshire, England – Fred Wright. Photo: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com

The second of our U23 riders to watch with a World Tour contract for 2020, Fred Wright has had a stellar year. Opening the year with four kermesse wins in Belgium, Wright then really caught the eye with an accomplished breakaway stage win in the Baby Giro. He went on to show his win was no fluke as he repeated the trick at the Tour de l’Avenir. A stagiaire spot with the CCC team earned the VC Londres graduate some valuable World Tour experience. And next season he’ll continue his World Tour journey with Rod Ellingworth’s new Bahrain McLaren project.

Jacon Vaughan wins the 2019 Perfs Pedal. Photo: Hugh McManus / Canyon dhb p/b Bloor Homes

Another alumnus of the VC Londres club, Jacob Vaughan‘s fortunes were more mixed this year. When we interviewed him at the beginning of the season, he explained that he’d had a tough year in Belgium in 2018 with the Lotto Soudal development team. He had hoped a season racing domestically with Canyon dhb p/b Bloor Homes might be better for him, both on and off the bike. He certainly started the season well, winning the traditional opener to the British road racing season, the Perfs Pedal. Things didn’t seem to click for him after that though, so it’s perhaps no surprise that he’s moving team again in 2020 with a move back to Belgium, this time with Indulek-Doltcini-Derito. Hopefully, the move will enable the 2017 Guido Reybrouck Classic Junior race winner to refind his mojo.

HSBC UK National Road Series – Cycle 360 Manx International Stage 2 – Joe Laverick of Madison Genesis. Photo: Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com

First-year U23 Joe Laverick also chose the domestic path this year, racing for Madison Genesis. Focusing on his A-levels meant his road racing opportunities were relatively limited. But he also showed a lot of promise nonetheless. He passed the first test, getting round his first pro race, the Volta Limburg Classic. And he was a regular for the team in the National Road Series before capping off his road season with 9th in the Bourne CiCLE Classic. He’s talented enough that AG2R La Mondiale’s development team have signed him for 2020. He’ll be keeping a rider journal for us throughout 2020, so we look forward to following his progress.

2019 HSBC UK National Time Trial Championships U23 Men – Sandringham ,Norfolk Charlie Quarterman Zappi Racing Team wins. Photo: Simon Wilkinson/SWpix.com

Last, but certainly not least, Charlie Quarterman had a dream year in many ways. Riding for the elite development team Holdsworth-Zappi, I don’t think many could have predicted what a successful year he might have had. His first big result was 3rd in the prologue at the Baby Giro, swiftly followed by 4th on stage 10 with a daring move to join the break. The best was yet to come though. Later that month he won the U23 time trial at the National Road Championships, beating Ethan Hayter and a host of top talent. These performances helped to convince Trek-Segafredo that Quarterman had the ability to succeed at the very highest level. It will be fascinating to see how he adapts.