Monday, August 26, 2013

The New Young Studs of Men's Road Cycling

[Tejay van Garderen following his win at the 2013 Tour of California]

Professional men's road cycling has been a sport stuck in its own rear-view mirror for the past several years as it deals with coordinated doping among its teams and its star riders, with disgraced American cyclist Lance Armstrong serving as its poster boy for cheating and narcissism.

As that generation recedes into memory (only a few of Lance's contemporaries are still riding), there are several bright young - and presumably clean - riders who are poised to become the sports new stars - Tejay van Garderen, Peter Sagan, Taylor Phinney, Nairo Quintana, Thibaut Pinot, Andrew Talansky, and many others.

Two of these young studs were in Colorado last week for the USA Pro Challenge.

Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing), who had placed third and second over the last two years, cemented his win with a tough individual time trial that ran uphill between Vail and the top of Vail Pass. Tejay rode the 16.1 km (10 mile) course in a new course record of 25 minutes and one second, edging fellow American Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp) by just four seconds.

Tejay also won the Amgen Tour of California this year, in addition to these top ten finishes in some of Europe's big races:

2nd, Overall, Tour de San Luis
3rd, Overall, Critérium International
1st, Jersey white.svg Young rider classification
4th, Overall, Paris–Nice
7th, Overall, Tour de Suisse

van Garderen is the brightest young star in American cycling right now, but Talansky and Phinney have been showing the talent and the drive to also excel at the international level.

The other young stud, and one of the more popular riders among the fans, was Peter Sagan, who won all four of the sprint stages at this year's USA Pro Challenge, adding to what has been a very impressive year so far. Sagan didn't just win the sprints, he dominated.

The wheelie is becoming his trademark celebration - he did this during a stage of the Tour de France as he passed a section of the road lined by his fellow Slovaks.

Among his other wins this year:

1st MaillotSlovakia.gif National Road Race Championships (Slovakia)
1st Gent–Wevelgem
1st Brabantse Pijl
1st Gran Premio Città di Camaiore
USA Pro Cycling Challenge
1st Jersey green.svg Sprints classification
1st Stages 1, 3, 6 & 7
Tour of California
1st Jersey green.svg Sprints classification
1st Stages 3 & 8
Tour of Oman
1st Stages 2 & 3
1st Stages 3 & 6
Tour de Suisse
1st Jersey polkadot.svg Points classification
1st Stages 3 & 8
Tour de France
1st Jersey green.svg Points classification
1st Stage 7
1st Stage 1 Three Days of De Panne
2nd Strade Bianche
2nd Milan – San Remo
2nd E3 Harelbeke
2nd Tour of Flanders

Sagan is young (23) and his body is not finished developing. Also, he is not a pure sprinter. It will be interesting to see how he develops over the next three to five years

Unless one of these young guys gets nailed for doping (and I would not ever suggest that cycling is "clean" all of a sudden), there are a lot of young talented riders to be excited about, and three of those young studs are American riders.

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