Now the curtain has drawn on the 2022 road season, focus is already shifting to what next year might bring. Who’s destined for a career-defining victory? Who will emerge as the next big thing?
It’s impossible to keep an eye on everyone, so here are 10 of the most promising up-and-coming riders to watch in 2023.
You can’t help but get the feeling that something big is coming for Fred Wright. The Brit enjoyed his best season to date in 2022, but despite his plucky determination, a WorldTour win still eluded him.
Wright came agonisingly close to victories at the Tour de France and Vuelta a España this season, but both times had to settle for second behind Danish powerhouse and former world champion Mads Pedersen.
In the first half of 2023, Wright is likely to aim for the Monuments and his Bahrain Victorious teammate Matej Mohorič believes it’s only a matter of time before he wins one. After his valiant display in April’s Tour of Flanders, it’s hard not to think the same.
This September, Juan Ayuso became the first teenager to step onto a Grand Tour podium since 19-year-old Henri Cornet won the Tour de France almost 120 years ago.
Now 20 years old, Ayuso has already established himself as one of the peloton’s strongest climbers. The UAE Team Emirates rider’s performance at this year’s Vuelta a España proved he has what it takes to become a GC candidate, and with the likes of João Almeida, Brandon McNulty and Rafał Majka at his side, there’s no reason he can’t win one.
The Spaniard has said he’d like to test himself in the Ardennes next spring, before targeting the Vuelta once again. This time, he’ll be hoping to swap his third place for the top step.
Also impressing at this year’s Vuelta was Dutchman Thymen Arensman. Then riding in the colours of Team DSM, Arensman charged up the overall standings in the final week, with a win on the race’s queen stage atop Sierra Nevada. He eventually finished sixth on GC – his best ever three-week performance.
In 2023, Arensman will move to Ineos Grenadiers as a readymade Grand Tour rider, replacing the departing Richard Carapaz, who is off to EF Education-EasyPost. Though it’s uncertain if he’ll get the chance to lead the team, he certainly has the pedigree to challenge for a podium.
Joining Arensman at Ineos next season will be 18-year-old Josh Tarling. The teenager’s signing was announced back in August, and at the Road World Championships month later, he showcased exactly why he was such a sought after talent.
In Wollongong, Australia Tarling stormed to his first ever rainbow jersey, winning the junior men’s time trial by 19 seconds. He was then tipped for victory in the road race, but a nasty crash sadly forced him to abandon.
The Welshman won all four time trials he competed in in 2022, so keep an eye on him against the clock next season.
Zoe Bäckstedt is a once in a generation talent. At just 18 years old, she currently holds four junior world titles across four different disciplines and was crowned Cycling Weekly’s female rider of the year for 2022.
Bäckstedt started the year strongly, claiming her first cyclo-cross rainbow jersey in Fayetteville, North Carolina. She then travelled to Tel Aviv in the summer where she won gold on the track in the Madison with her partner Grace Lister.
Her crowning achievement, however, came in September when she did the double at the Road World Championships, taking the junior road and time trial titles. In fact, Bäckstedt’s winning margins in both events were the highest ever recorded in the junior ranks at the championships.
Next season, the teenager will join American team EF Education-TIBCO-SVB as she looks to find her feet on the WorldTour. She might not win as often as she’s used to, but she’s certain to try a few trademark long-range attacks.
21-year-old Sam Watson is the latest Brit to sign a WorldTour contract with French team Groupama FDJ, following in the footsteps of Jake Stewart and Lewis Askey.
This June, Watson earned himself the under-23 British road title at the National Championships in the south west of Scotland. Having broken away from the pack, the then 20-year-old almost took the elite men’s title, but couldn’t get round former world champion Mark Cavendish in a dash to the line.
Groupama FDJ don’t shy away from throwing their neo pros into big races, so don’t be surprised to see Watson’s punchy, aggressive style light up the Classics.
Alice Towers was another rider who burst onto the scene at the British National Championships, powering through blustery winds and torrential downpours to take the biggest win of her career.
Then just 19 years old, Towers launched a brave solo attack in the women’s elite road race and rode 40km on her own to the finish. On the podium, she swapped her sodden team jersey for a brand new national champion’s one.
Next season, Towers will step up to cycling’s highest level with Canyon-SRAM, a team that’s likely to allow her to race in her favoured offensive way. Donning her special red, white and blue jersey, she won’t be hard to spot in the bunch.
Arnaud de Lie
In what was a disappointing 2022 season for Lotto Soudal, young Belgian talent Arnaud De Lie provided a much-needed ray of hope. The 20-year-old sprinter managed eight victories in his debut season with the WorldTour squad, with all of them coming in important one-day races.
In fact, De Lie was so consistent this year that he finished the season sixth in the UCI points rankings, ahead of the likes of Mathieu van der Poel, Tom Pidcock and Julian Alaphilippe.
Though Lotto Soudal are set to be relegated to ProTeam level, De Lie will still get a lot of big opportunities on his programme for 2023. Could a first Grand Tour stage win be waiting for him?
Team SD Worx’s Niamh Fisher-Black is already maturing into one of the finest climbers in the women’s peloton. The diminutive New Zealander had her strongest season yet in 2022, winning the youth classifications at the Giro Donne and Itzulia Women, before going on to become the under-23 road world champion in Wollongong, Australia.
With team-mate Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio moving on to AG Insurance-NXTG for 2023, there’s space at SD Worx for a new GC talent to come to the fore, and the coaches won’t need to look far for a replacement. Fisher-Black’s results show that she’s the obvious fit.
Mattias Skjelmose Jensen
Danish cycling is booming at the moment, and Copenhagen-born Mattias Skjelmose Jensen is one of those riding the wave.
The 22-year-old Trek Segafredo rider completed his first Grand Tour in 2022, finishing a commendable 40th at the Giro d’Italia. The shorter stage races proved more fruitful for him, though, with victory in the Skoda Tour Luxembourg, as well as podiums at the Tour de la Provence, Tour de l’Ain and his native Tour of Denmark.
A Grand Tour podium might be a stretch too far for Skjelmose Jensen for now, but a top 10 could certainly be on the cards in 2023.