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First-year U23s: ten to watch in 2020

Ten first-year male British under-23s worth keeping an eye on this season, and more besides

This year we’ve seen a new wave of young male British talent move up to the pro ranks, including Ethan Hayter (Team Ineos), Fred Wright (Bahrain McLaren), Mark Donovan (Team Sunweb), Charlie Quarterman (Trek Segafredo), Gabriel Cullaigh (Movistar) and Ben Tulett (Alpecin-Fenix). Simon Carr, meanwhile, will join NIPPO DELKO One Provence on 1st August.

At the same time, a new crop of aspiring young riders has moved up to the under-23 ranks from the junior level. This post introduces ‘rookie’ under-23 riders: first-year under-23s who we’ll be keeping a keen eye on as they progress into the senior ranks. It was a tough job whittling things down to just ten riders, a sign of the strength-in-depth the UK has at this level. But here is our ten, with some honourable mentions added in for good measure.

2019 UCI Road World Championships – Men’s Junior Road Race – Harrogate, Yorkshire, England – Lewis Askey of Great Britain. Photo: Alex Broadway/SWpix.com

Lewis Askey first shot to our attention in 2018 when he won the junior Paris-Roubaix as a first-year junior. 2018 also saw him finish 5th in the Record Bank E3 Harelbeke Juniors (1.1), 2nd in the Junior CiCLE Classic, 2nd in the British junior road race championships, 1st in the prologue at the Junior Cycling Tour Assen and 2nd in the Philipe Gilbert Juniors. A very impressive debut in the junior ranks.

Last season he consolidated his position as one of the most exciting junior talents in the cycling world. He ‘only’ finished 8th in Paris-Roubaix and 2nd in Gent-Wevelgem. But in stage racing, he really excelled. He won the Sleepwell Hotels Isle of Man Junior Tour in May and then took victory the UK’s most prestigious junior road race at the end of August: the Junior Tour of Wales. He as 5th overall at the Keizer de Juniors (1.1) too.

This year he joins Jake Stewart at the Groupama-FDJ Continental team, one of the best development teams around. If he can continue the trajectory he had as a junior he promises to be one of brightest British talents around.

Melton Mowbray, 3rd June 2018: Tom Couzens of Central Region climbs Somerberg for the first time during the 2018 Junior CiCLE Classic in Melton Mowbray. Photo: David Partridge

A rider who rode plenty of cyclocross over the winter, Tom Couzens has moved up from the Zappi Junior team to ride for the Holdsworth-Zappi development team this season.

Couzens is a rider who impressed on a variety of terrains during his junior years. He won the Monmouthshire Junior Grand Prix at the end of June and took plenty of other noteworthy results. These included 5th overall at the Junior Tour of the Basque Country, 5th overall at the Aubel – Thimister – Stavelot Juniors (2.1), 5th at the Guido Reybrouck Classic (1.1) and a host of top tens in other races across the year. Flavio Zappi will no doubt be pleased that his brightest junior prospect last year chose to stay within the Zappi family again this season.

2019 UCI Road World Championships – Men’s Junior Road Race – Harrogate, Yorkshire, England – Alfie George of Great Britain. Photo: Charlie Forgham Bailey/SWPix.com

Alfie George turned heads as a junior on both the track and road. On the boards, the Scot grabbed the headlines last year when he bagged three national track titles in less than 24 hours in August.

On the road, he won the Junior CiCLE Classic in his first junior season. Last year, his highlights included 10th overall at the Junior Tour of Wales, 3rd in the Junior CiCLE Classic, 3rd in the EPZ Omloop van Borsele Juniors (1.1) and 5th at the junior Paris-Roubaix; a fine return for any junior rider. The cherry on the top though was 7th in the junior world road race championships in Harrogate, the top British finisher.

This season he has graduated to the Great Britain Cycling Team Senior Academy where once again he’ll combine road and track duties. A powerful rider, it might be the classics-style races where we see him blossom in due course.

Thomas Gloag, VC Londres wins Stage 2 of the 2019 Junior Tour of Wales – Abergavenny – The Rhigos / Pen y Cymoedd. Photo: David Partridge

Thomas Gloag is yet another rider from the long list of talented graduates from the VC Londres factory (which already includes Ethan and Leo Hayter, Fred Wright and Jacob Vaughan, to name but a few). When we asked our former journal-writer George Jary (also a VC Londres graduate) about him, he said, “Tom is pure passion on a bike. A style reminiscent of Dan Martin, not scared to go long and a hunger to race. Never phased by setbacks Tom gets on with it and gets stuck in.”

Last season he took a stage win and second overall at the Kingdom Junior Classic, third overall at the Sint-Martinusprijs Kontich Juniors stage race, as well as wins in the Spanish junior one-day races Zumarraga and Torneo Euskal Herria. A stage win in the Junior Tour of Wales was perhaps the highlight, however. He’ll ride for the new TRINITY Racing development team this season, a team that should provide him with an excellent platform to continue his progression.

Melton Mowbray, 3rd June 2018: Alex Haines of East Midland Region, crosses the line in 4th place ahead of last year’s winner William Tidball of PH-MAS / Paul Milnes Cycles at the end of the 2018 Junior CiCLE Classic in Melton Mowbray. Photo: David Partridge

A good all-rounder with a handy sprint finish, Alex Haines is one of several first-year under-23 talents that have chosen a foreign development path. Haines will ride for top-tier French elite team GSC Blagnac Velo Sport 31 and has already made a solid start to 2020 with 7th place at the early season Trophee de I’Essor.

Like Dylan Westley (see below), he rode for HMT Hospitals – Giant in 2019. He kicked off his season in fine style with victory in the Belgian junior ‘classic’ the Nokere Koerse Juniors (UCI 1.1). Whilst another win was elusive, more top results followed. These included 5th in the Junior CiCLE Classic, 5th in the junior national road race championships and top 10s in stages of the Junior Tour of Mendips, the Coupe President Juniors in Poland, the junior tour of the Basque Country, the Vuelta a Pamplona and the Junior Tour of Wales.

2019 UCI Road World Championships – Men’s Junior Road Race – Yorkshire, England – Leo Hayter. Photo: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com

So much more than ‘Ethan Hayter‘s younger brother’, Leo Hayter is an incredibly strong and talented rider in his own right. There are certainly many similarities between the two, though, beyond their shared surnames and genetic disposition to cycling very quickly. Like Tom Gloag, both are members of VC Londres, the South East London cycling club that seems to churn out an inordinate amount of cycling talent. And like his elder sibling, Leo also has precocious track talent (Ethan told us Leo was faster than him every year at the same age). 

He’ll ride for Team Sunweb’s development team this year, one of the best development teams around. It’s a move which likely means that (unlike his brother) he won’t be pursuing track dreams. He certainly has the talent to make it all the way to the top on the road though. Last year he was particularly strong in the Belgian and Dutch one-day races, picking up 4th at the junior Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne (1.1), before going on to get 2nd at the Record Bank E3 Harelbeke Juniors (1.1) and then win the EPZ Omloop van Borsele Juniors (1.1). He also won the Trofee van Vlaanderen Juniors (1.1) in July for good measure, and was 8th in the time trial at the junior world road race championships.

Domestically he was equally impressive. His consistency throughout the year earned him victory in the British Cycling Junior Men’s Road Series. An overall win in the Fenwick’s Junior Tour of the Mendip, two stage wins in the Sleepwell Hotels Isle of Man Junior Tour and 5th overall in the Junior Tour of Wales were just some of the results that propelled him to the series win.

Tosh Teare at Lotto Soudal U23’s winter training camp. Photo: Facepeeters Photography

Tosh Teare is another young Brit who has signed for one of the top foreign development teams. Teare has chosen Belgium for his first year at under-23 level, where he’ll ride for the Lotto Soudal U23 team. It’s a path well-known to other British riders: Jacob Vaughan, James Shaw, Alex Braybrooke and Dan McLay have all ridden for that team.

Riding for the Equiom Isle of Man Junior Cycling Team last season, Teare took wins at home and abroad. He opened his year with a win at the Hatherleigh Junior Men’s Road Race and then in July also took wins on stages 1 and 2 of the Sint-Martinusprijs Kontich Juniors (the first stage being a team time trial). Third overall in the Junior Tour of Mendips and a clutch of top ten placings in other races underlined his potential.

2019 UCI Road World Championships – Men’s Junior Road Race – Harrogate, Yorkshire, England – Max Walker of Great Britain. Photo: Alex Broadway/SWpix.com

Another Manxman and member of the Equiom Isle of Man Junior Cycling Team, Max Walker flourished last season. Like Tom Gloag, Walker is another rider we will see riding for the TRINITY Racing team this year.

A rider with a fast finish, Walker started the season off with 2nd in the Belgian Guido Reybrouck Classic Junior race (behind GB teammate Sam Watson). Other notable results include a stage win in the Dutch stage race Acht van Bladelin June, 2nd overall at the Sint-Martinusprijs Kontich Juniors (2.1) stage race in July and 2nd in the British junior road race championships. His consistency throughout the domestic road season also earned him 2nd in the British Cycling Junior Men’s Road Series.

2019 UCI Road World Championships – Men’s Junior Road Race – Yorkshire, England – Sam Watson. Photo: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com

From Roundhay, Yorkshire, Sam Watson rode for Tom Pidcock’s former junior team, Fenshaw Howes -MAS Design, last season. This year he starts is his under-23 apprenticeship with the Great Britain Cycling Team Senior Academy where he’ll mix road with track.

His 2019 season started with a bang. He won the UCI Guido Reybrouck Classic race (won by Jacob Vaughan in 2017) in March, quickly followed by 3rd in the junior Gent – Wevelgem. He continued to rack up results since, including a win in the junior CiCLE Classic, a stage victory in the Junior Tour of Wales and third overall last week in the UCI stage race, Keizer der Juniors. 

Things weren’t all plain sailing. He crashed out of two big targets: the junior Paris-Roubaix and the junior national road race championships. But even so, his results were strong enough for First Cycling to rank him 8th in the world in their junior rankings last year.

Dylan Westley. Photo: Equipo Lizarte

Dylan Westley is another HMT Hospitals – Giant alumnus. Spain was a happy hunting ground for the young climber as a junior, so it’s fitting that his new team is the famous Basque team, Lizarte. The team has a reputation for developing some of the world’s finest riders, including Joseba Beloki, Andrey Amador, Marc Soler, Dayer Quintana and Richard Carapaz. The latter is a rider Westley himself admires greatly. It’s an exciting move for the Yorkshireman; he’s the first Brit to ride for the team in its 28-year history. And as the only foreign rider on the team, he’ll have a strong incentive to develop his Spanish language skills. Fast.

He won a stage and finished 5th overall in the Vuelta a Pamplona last year, a race in which he was also 7th on GC in 2018. Indeed, it was his performance in this race that turned heads at Lizarte. Other notable results last season included 2nd in the Clayton Velo Spring Classic handicap race and top 10s in stages at the Kingdom Junior Classic, Valromey Juniors and the Junior Tour of Wales.

Honourable mentions

There were plenty of riders we considered for this list but didn’t quite make it. These included Angus Hawkins (Spirit Tifosi), Oliver Knight (AVC Aix-en-Provence), George Mills-Keeling (Ribble Weldtite Pro Cycling), Isaac Peatfield (Crimson Performance Orientation Marketing), Tom Portsmouth (Urbano CT), Ollie Rees (TRINITY Racing) and Max Rushby (Great Britain Cycling Team Senior Academy).

Then there is Ben Tulett (Corendon-Circus), who has gone straight into the pro ranks in his first senior year. He’s started his year with a flyer, finishing 5th overall at the Tour of Antalya (2.1).

And last but not least there is a host of talented female riders that join the senior ranks in 2020. One of the top juniors in the world last season, it is no surprise that Elynor Backstedt (Trek-Segafredo Women) has gone straight to the Women’s WorldTour this year. Other first-year senior females to watch out for include Amelia Sharpe (Great Britain Cycling Team Senior Academy), Anna Shackley (Great Britain Cycling Team Senior Academy), Ella Barnwell (Great Britain Cycling Team Senior Academy) and Amy Monkhouse (Bizkaia – Durango).

Featured photo: Simon Wilkinson/SWpix.com. 2019 UCI Road World Championships – Men Junior Individual Time Trial – Yorkshire, England – Leo Hayter of Great Britain.