Tuesday, December 1, 2015

2015 Neo-Pros Lookback

As many websites dedicated to cycling do, I made a list of neo-pros to watch this past year. Instead of going for obvious picks such as Caleb Ewan, Tiesj Benoot Mike Teunissen and the like, I tried to be a bit more unconventional in my picks. The original article can be found here. The season has been long over and riders are getting ready for 2016 but let's take a look back at how the 5 riders that were Espoirs Central picks did this season.

The winner for the Best Mustache in the Peloton 2015, Rasmus Quaade had a fairly good year albeit with a slow start on the road due to Quaade's commitments on the track. Once a rider that could barely ride in the peloton, Quaade has gotten a bit better. He finally finished a stage race in May at the Tour of Yorkshire and then went top 20 overall in the Bayern Rundfahrt, where his teammates Gustav Larsson (9th) and Linus Gerdemann (19th) did the same thing. A month later, he got a crack at his specialty and was 5th in the inagural European Games TT, which was 2'12" off of winner Vasili Kiryienka (which was very similar to the deficit at World Championships, where he finished 21st).
Quaade hit form in the latter part of the season by finishing 5th in the Tour du Poitou Charentes behind the likes of Tony Martin, Adriano Malori, Jonathan Castroviejo and Sep Vanmarcke. He then proceeded to be the right-hand man for Rasmus Guldhammer in the Tour of Britain where Guldhammer finished 4th overall while Quaade was 13th.

Quaade has been busy with the Danish team pursuit squad having gone 3rd in the European Championships in Grechen. Currently, he spent 3 weeks in Australia in the buildup for the Cambridge, NZ World Cup. While it was a huge year in terms of results, I would expect to see more from Quaade after the Rio Olympics are over.

Carlos Barbero was probably the most successful on this list this year. Yes, he is one of the older riders on this list but with a big year under his belt, people will not be surprised in 2016. Barbero was a huge talent coming from Euskadi. He isn't a full out sprinter but he isn't a climber by any means. He excels on uphill sprint finishes that weed out the fastest finishers.
The start of his season was rubbish after crashing in Etoile de Besseges and fractured the head of his radius bone. After finishing Catalunya in late March, Barbero really kicked off with podium finishes and high placings in Vuelta a la Rioja, Klasika Primavera, Castilla y Leon, the Tour of Turkey where he nearly scalped Sacha Modolo and then his maiden win of the year at the Vuelta Comunidad de Madrid. In what is probably the perfect parcours for his style of riding, Barbero lit it up in the Philly Classic and left future World Tour riders Michael Woods and Toms Skujins in the dust to take the win, which would be follow up with two more stage wins at the Tour de Beauce.

 The result that showed true class was his win on the opening stage of the Vuelta a Burgos where Barbero pulled away with Dani Moreno, Jesus Herrada and Luis Leon Sanchez and took the win on the uphill finish on Romana de Clunia. Barbero dragged himself through the Vuelta a Espana finishing way down on the table but it was an important step for him in his development. If the road tilts upwards in the final couple of kilometers, Barbero should be on your radar.

After taking out frustation in 2014 by not being offered a pro-contract, Patrick Konrad had a fairly successful year with Bora-Argon 18. I described him as a climber that wasn't total shit on the flats and he certainly lived up to that designation. Konrad rode a good schedule and only DNFed in three later season Italian races, which are known to have high attrition rates. Konrad's biggest strength was in stage races that featured one really hard hilly stage. That description is a bit vague but hear me out.

Tour of Oman was Konrad's first big stage race and he made the decisive split on stage 2 and then was top 15 on Jabal Al Akhdhar to finish 10th overall. Same story with Criterium International, where he finished 13th overall. He was 7th on the queen stage of the Tour of Denmark and after a strong TT, he finished 5th overall. He had a steady week filled with top 10s at Tour de l'Ain and finished in a clump of riders that were just a few seconds away from one another between 4th and 10th overall. He was the team's best finisher at the Abu Dhabi Tour, where he finished 10th overall after a strong ride on the queen stage.

Konrad should find himself on a similar schedule with a steady diet of small stage races intermixed with some bigger tours. He hasn't shown himself in the big mountains yet but on smaller mountains, he is already top 10 potential. He will continue to pair with Dominik Nerz (hopefully he has a better season than last), Emanuel Buchmann and new signing Gregor Muhlberger.
After spending the majority of his U23 time in Belgium, Brit Dan McLay jumped to Bretagne-Seche Environment for 2015 and meshed well with his other sprinters Yauheni Hutarovich and Romain Feillu and had some promising results. With sprinters, it seems like the young ones either tend to be able to go up against the big guns right away or they take some time to get positioning down and build endurance, nipping at their heels for a couple years. McLay is a bit of the latter and his results show it as a lot of his results were in that 5th-10th place range when involved in the big bunch kicks.

I think that McLay can improve on this and start contending for podiums and wins next year but it will be dependent know, improvement. If he comes in and get hold that wheel at 3 km to go and not get bumped out; find the right team to follow; not wait too long to jump. There is so much speculation that can happen but I would rather wait to have the road sort it out.

McLay is staying with Fortuneo-Vital Concept (the next sponsors for the team) for 2016. Romain Feillu leaves and is replaced with a younger and faster Boris Vallee. They are more of a team of opportunists but with McLay, Hutarovich and Vallee, they have options in a sprint.
As I said back in March this year, Floris De Tier was a cyclocross rider but on the advice of Sven Nys himself, he made the switch to the road full time in 2013 and hasn't looked back. This year with Topsport Vlaanderen, he had a good season in terms of getting a lot of racing under his belt and even had a few promising rides. The Vuelta a Murcia was his best ride in terms of results (9th) but he also took on some big races that many neo-pros would shit their bibs over.

De Tier was the top neo-pro in Amstel Gold (43rd) and 2nd best neo-pro in Fleche Wallone (43rd), both of which are World Tour events. He was top 15 in both the GP Wallonie and the Giro dell'Emelia, which both feature some tough finishes. So he was a bit lacking in terms of big results but it is about building a foundation.

How far will these guys go in 2016? Well...who knows. There will be a new crop announced in the coming months for you to keep your eyes on so keep your eyes peeled.


  1. Hi Chris,

    Well done, I really enjoy espoirscentral and I use it a lot.
    This isn't exactly on-topic, but I didn't know where else to write it.
    However, the last week or so I haven't been able to use the "search" function, whenever I type something and hit enter, nothing appears. Don't know if it's a problem with my computer or it's something on your end, but if you could do anything I'd appreciate it.

    Thanks, keep up the good work:)

    1. It now works again. Thanks, if you did anything.