New names scoring a maiden win. Familiar names making a mark in their first Grand Tour or stepping up their game from their first. Whatever the reason, these are the young guns that have forced their way into the minds of the VeloVoices. Let us know if we haven’t included yours and VOTE NOW!
Previous winners: 2012 – Taylor Phinney; 2013 – Nairo Quintana; 2014 – Michal Kwiatkowski; 2015 – Esteban Chaves; 2016 – Adam Yates & Leah Kirchmann; 2017- Coryn Rivera
Sheree: Sepp Kuss (LottoNL-Jumbo) finished his first season in the WorldTour ranks on a high, looking ahead to a repeat or improved performance in 2019, after the young American won the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah, and enjoyed his maiden grand tour, the Vuelta a Espana. Kuss rode well in the Vuelta, working on many of the mountain stages for George Bennett and Steven Kruijswijk, the latter finishing fourth overall. Kuss clearly enjoyed the experience:
It was cool in my first grand tour to be riding for someone who was going to finish high up in the GC. Not only that but Stevie [Kruijswijk] is really experienced, to ride for him, someone who’s done so many grand tours, and he’s always at the front, that’s cool.
During the season, Kuss also lent his considerable talent to helping sprinter Dylan Groenewegen score stage wins, notably in the Volta ao Algave and Tour of Guangxi. After his cracking debut, the 24-year-old neo-pro will find it harder to stay under the radar next season.
Pascal AckermannEmbed from Getty Images
Midge: Guess which Bora-hansgrohe rider put their hands in the air the most in 2018? I’m willing to bet Pascal Ackermann is not the first name on everyone’s lips. And yet it is so. Of their 33 victories, the 24-year-old German sprinting hotshot is responsible for nine – two more than Sam Bennett and one ahead of Peter Sagan. His maiden professional win came at the Tour of Romandie in April, with his ninth at the Tour of Guangxi in October. Taking the national title in June gave him a huge boost of self belief – just think of the sprint power lined up in THAT race! He’s graced the top step at the Ride London Classic, the Tour of Poland and has been mixing it with the marquee fastmen all season long. All in all, I’d say that’s a cracker of season for a second year pro.
Sabrina StultiensEmbed from Getty Images
Lukas: There wasn’t one huge result (unless you count the Bira solo stage win), but Sabrina Stultiens was up there in just about every race she participated in – be it the Ardennes, the Bira, the Women’s Tour, or the Giro Rosa. In the latter, she confirmed last year’s good GC result on a far more mountainous course, proving that she is a force to be reckoned with in the future.
Enric MasEmbed from Getty Images
Euan: Quick-Step’s Enric Mas finished second at the Vuelta a Espana. The first Grand Tour podium is a breakthrough moment for any rider but consider what he had to overcome to get there and you’ll see how special this was.
He was on a team with divided loyalties as Elia Viviani went for the sprint wins. Every other top ten rider was on a team more-or-less devoted to their GC contender. Mas had only ridden one Grand Tour before this one, so his competitors were vastly more experienced (Valverde had ridden in 23 Grand Tours prior to the Vuelta).
And yet with a canny mix of calculation and combativity, Mas found himself on the second step of the podium. My lips are a-smacking about what the young Spaniard can do.
Name me another rider who’s announced this year that they’ll be a force to be reckoned with at Grand Tours for years. Enric Mas is the one. [I would say Egan Bernal would be another, Euan! – ed]
Egan BernalEmbed from Getty Images
Kathi: This was the Colombian’s first World Tour season, signed to Team Sky, and he came out of the blocks racing. The early season saw him win Best Young Rider in Tour Down Under and beat Nairo Quintana for the overall in the newly minted Colombia Oro y Paz. A very nasty crash in the Volta a Catalunya put him out of action until the Tour of Romandie, where he came second, before going one better by winning the Tour of California. The youngest competitor at this year’s Tour de France (21!!!), he was Sky’s super-domestique, shattering the peloton day after day in the mountains and, if not for having to work for an off-the-boil Chris Froome, could have made much more of those tough summit stages for himself. We’ve seen Sky’s future and it is Colombian.
Poll will be open until 11.59pm GMT 14 December – keep an eye out for the Awards podcast!