Sometimes it’s a win, sometimes it’s something more subtle, but every top rider has a breakthrough result at some point in their career. Nick Bull delves deep into the results to pick eight great rides that seemingly signify some very bright futures.
Race: Tour de France stage eight
Previously best known for having studied Nietzsche for his Masters, the 24-year-old Parisian (pictured above) placed third at Station des Rousses a week into his debut Tour. In hindsight, it was one of the more predictable Grand Tour results this year: just months earlier he finished second atop the same ski resort in Tour du Jura Cycliste. The highly-rated Frenchman, who has previously been courted by Sky, went on to finish 23rd overall in La Grande Boucle. Martin is almost certainly not the next Hinault, but is clearly a promising talent nonetheless.
Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig
Race: Strade Bianche
Charismatic, passionate and talented: Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig is already on course to become one of the flag bearers for women’s cycling. She only turned 22 in August; before then she managed to finish 16th in the Giro, as well as claim top 10s in the Trofeo Binda, Liège, the Emakumeen Bira and the Women’s Tour. However, it was her ninth place in March’s Strade Bianche, her first World Tour race for Cervélo-Bigla, that set the tone for her year. Ludwig led the young rider classification in the series from start to finish, amassing more points than her three nearest challengers combined.
Race: Vuelta a Burgos stage three
This year’s edition of Burgos may have lacked both intrigue and a high quality field, but the Spaniard’s performances quickly became a highlight in a race that promptly turned into a Mikel Landa benefit event. Neo-pro Mas, 22, finished second overall, despite working for Quick Step team-mate David de la Cruz on the savagely tough Picon Blanco climb. No wonder Patrick Lefevere signed him on a three-year contract during 2016.
Race: Vuelta a Espana stage nine
Forget posting some horrifically clichéd “keep calm and carry on” picture on social media, the Canadian produced the perfect response to the financial crisis engulfing Cannondale-Drapac at the time. Less than 24 hours after riders found out about their team’s sponsorship woes, Woods finished third behind Chris Froome and Esteban Chaves atop Cumbre del Sol after a doggedly determined ride. Already 30 and admittedly a stage winner in the 2015 Tour of Utah, this performance (more than his subsequent final GC placing of seventh) was the first truly striking result of the former runner’s career.
Race: Criterium du Dauphine stage three
The babyfaced Dutchman (is he really 23?) claimed his first pro victory in the Isère following a successful break on a stage that looked tailor-made for sprinters. Breakthrough wins in the Dauphiné don’t always translate into fruitful careers – ask David Veilleux and Christophe Kern – but given his last Instagram upload was him posing with a herd of cows mid-training ride, we’re cool if he makes it big.
What will come first, we wonder: Gianni Moscon winning a Monument or him becoming the most unpopular rider in the World Tour peloton? It’s been a colourful and unsavoury yet successful season for the 23-year-old Italian. In between his misdemeanours (including a six week suspension for racially abusing Kevin Reza and disqualification from the world road race championship for taking a tow), he’s produced some staggeringly good results, the first being his fifth in Roubaix (in only his second start). For all of Sky’s obsession with the cobbled classics, only Ian Stannard (third in 2016) and Juan Antonio Flecha (third in 2010, fourth in 2012) have bettered his result in the Hell of the North.
Race: BeNe Ladies Tour stage one
Cycling history contains numerous examples of sibling pairings who shared looks but not an equal share of talent (hello Juraj, Nicolas and Prudencio!). But, having come through British Cycling’s mountain bike academy, the Drops rider took her first UCI-ranked road win in style in GB colours on 14 July, beating Marianne Vos in two-up sprint on day two of the five-stage Belgian race. With a blossoming palmarès and a move to Canyon SRAM for 2018, qualifying her name with a “sister of Hannah” line must now be superfluous.
Race: Amstel Gold
Think Cofidis are hopeless in the Tour de France? Trek’s record in the Ardennes isn’t much better. Not content with having a name that sounds like the internet’s leading search engine, 23-year-old Gogl’s eighth place in this year’s Amstel Gold saw him take the best of the rest crown (behind an elite lead group containing the likes of Gilbert, Kwiatkowski and, er, Jose Joaquin Rojas) as well as record his team’s best-ever result in the Dutch/Belge race trio since the bike manufacturer became title sponsor in 2014.