VeloVoices Awards 2019: Breakthrough Rider

The cycling season really spoiled us this year with great races, great stories and a great new crop of riders. So who was the breakthrough rider of the year? Egan Bernal was last year’s winner in this category and look what happened to him this season!

Voting ends on 14 December 2019 at 11.59PM, GMT. If you think there’s someone who should be on the list, there’s a write-in option on the poll at the bottom of the post! 

Remco Evenepoel

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Sheree: Deceuninck-QuickStep’s Remco Evenepoel exceeded everyone’s expectations when the first year neo pro won his maiden WorldTour event, the Clasica San Sebastian, one of my favourite races. The 19-year-old Belgian became the race’s youngest ever winner, the youngest winner of a WorldTour race and the third youngest winner of any big one-day Classic. Attacking with panache 20km from the finish and easily keeping the entire peloton at bay, he managed to maintain a 40-second lead on the flat run in. His ability to time-trial also garnered him the European Championship and a silver in the World Championships in Yorkshire. The boy’s going to be a helluva classics rider. His rivals had better watch out! But don’t just take my word for it. When asked if Remco could follow in his footsteps, the great Eddy Merckx said:

Maybe he will even be better. Remco has all the qualities to make it happen.

Sergio Higuita

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Luke: While he didn’t receive the spotlight that Evenepoel and Pogacar ultimately did, EF’s Sergio Higuita had a breakthrough year deserving of praise. After making an early season move to EF-Too-Many-Words from Euskadi in April, Higuita’s talent shined bright from the start. Largely salvaging the team’s season, Higuita rode to an impressive 2nd overall at the Tour of California and 4th overall at the Tour of Poland. All this before a spectacular victory on Stage 18 of La Vuelta in route to 14th place overall in this rookie’s debut Grand Tour.

Tadej Pogacar

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Midge: Hands up now. Did anyone expect the winner of the 2018 Tour de L’Avenir to burst onto the cycling scene with such bravado? The 20-year-old Slovenian neo-pro finished his first World Tour season with a suitcase of best young rider jerseys, five stage wins, two titles (Volta ao Algarve and the Tour of California), a national Time Trial title and most brilliantly of all third step of the Vuelta podium in his first Grand Tour. His three stage victories at the Vuelta –  Cortals in a storm, Los Machucos on a double Slovenian raid and his solo audacity on Plataforma de Gredos – had us glued to the TV. Serious climbing talent? YES! But it’s coolness under pressure and willingness to attack that has us yelling HELL YEAH!

Mathieu van der Poel

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Euan: I could list his achievements this year – Amstel, Tour of Britain, etc etc. BUT towards the end of the year this was a rider being mentioned as a favourite which ever race he was starting. When was the last time a rider had an impact like that? And he’s on a pro conti team? He was even many people’s tip for the Worlds… I mean come on … show me a bigger breakthrough than that…

Demi Vollering

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Lukas: At the start of the season, I didn’t take much notice of this (then) 22-year-old new signing to Parkhotel Valkenburg. It was her first season on a UCI team – I later learnt that she had focused on speedskating earlier, only cycling a bit during the summer and entering local Dutch races. Her 2018 results were decent enough, but when she was leading solo on the final lap of the Trofeo Binda, Vollering was still relatively unknown. Then she won the (non-UCI) Volta Limburg Classic with yours truly in attendance, and five weeks after turning heads at the Trofeo Binda, she had placed 7th in the Amstel Gold Race, 5th up the Mur de Huy, and finally third in Liège-Bastogne-Liège – this was the real deal!

Second overall in the Festival Elsy Jacobs, 5th overall in the Women’s Tour, 13th in the Giro Rosa, 11th in La Course, 5th in the GP Plouay showed that Vollering was not only a puncheur, but also a good climber and even a decent sprinter. In the Worlds road race, she set the pace on the first climb to thin the peloton, setting up Van Vleuten’s attack on the next climb. And a week later, Vollering won the Giro dell’Emilia to finish a season that catapulted her onto the biggest stage in women’s cycling with several bangs.

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