8 cycling stars of the future

A closer look at the Tour de l'Avenir's stage winners, potentially the next contenders in the WorldTour

The Tour de l'Avenir, or the Tour of the Future, is a good place to look when trying to spot the next big names on the professional circuit. The race's illustrious list of former winners includes Vuelta a Espana leader Nairo Quintana and former Tour de France winners Miguel Indurain and Greg LeMond. The 2016 Tour de l'Avenir was fought out over eight days of tough racing, with Frenchman David Gaudu becoming the latest victor.

Cyclingnews takes a look at Gaudu and the seven others that added a stage win at the Tour de l'Avenir to their palmares.  

Name: Vincenzo Albanese

Age: 19
Nationality: Italian
Team for 2017: Bardiani-CSF
Type of rider: Sprinter
What is special: The last Italian yellow jersey at the Tour de l'Avenir was a certain Filippo Pozzato in 2002. Vincenzo Albanese broke the ice on the first stage of the 2016 edition when he outsprinted his breakaway companions, all top class riders in their category, Norway's Amund Jansen (see below), Belgium's Nathan Van Hooydonck, the Classics rider polished by BMC Development team, and Tao Geoghegan Hart, Team Sky's neo-professional in 2017. Albanese was the fastest of them when he launched his sprint with 200m to the finish line. "I am very happy to win, it was not a difficult sprint for me," he said afterwards. The day after he lost his yellow jersey as his national team didn't want to control the peloton and lose energy, aware that Albanese, a poor climber, was going to lose his “maglia” sooner or later. He looked very disappointed at the end of stage 2 though and then fought for the points jersey – he won it with an advantage of zero point to Jansen, but his ranking at the stages made the difference, as he was more consistent than the Norwegian. A newcomer to Bardiani-CSF in 2017, Albanese could be on the podium of the U23 World Championships next October.

Italian Vincenzo Albanese wears the leader's jersey of the Tour de l'Avenir

Name: Amund Grøndahl Jansen

Age: 22
Nationality: Norwegian
Team for 2017: TBC
Type of rider: Rouleur/Classics
What is special: Amund Jansen could have easily been awarded "le super combatif" rider at the 2016 Tour de l'Avenir. The Norwegian was so disappointed to have lost the sprint after his breakaway on stage 1 that he tried again the day after, went solo first and then with two other riders which he beat at the end – out-sprinting Britain's Jon Dibben, the point's race World Champion, means you have a real burst of sprint. This success allowed him to wear the yellow jersey for two days. "But this victory is not my biggest performance at the race," Jansen says. The Norwegian riders kept fighting indeed at the following stages, despite him suffering stomach problems and with the relatively heavy weight of rouleur – you struggle more in the Alps when you are 81 kilos like Jansen compared to 54 kilos like French David Gaudu. On stage 6, Jansen was dropped in the first climb, lost one minute to the gruppetto but fought in the downhill to come back and avoid time elimination. His ride the day after was even more impressive as he blew up right from the start on the Col de l'Iseran (he had only eaten five yogurts before this demanding stage). Jansen's suffering during the last three hilly stages was a lesson in fighting that team managers will perhaps reward by offering him a pro contract in 2017.

Amund Grøndahl Jansen missed out on stage 1 but made up for it with win on day 2

Name: Kristoffer Halvorsen

Age: 20
Nationality: Norwegian
Team for 2017: TBC
Type of rider: Sprinter
What is special: An unexpected stage winner at the Tour de l'Avenir, Kristoffer Halvorsen is now one of the favourites for the u23 road race at the 2016 World Championships that will take place in Qatar next month. His clean victory was done in a bunch sprint on a slightly up-hill finish, in Autun, Burgundy. With hindsight, this success – by far the strongest on his career – gives some weight to his previous results. Halvorsen finish 7th at the junior Paris-Roubaix in 2013 and took this year a stage at the ZLM Tour, the Dutch event in the U23 Nations' Cup famous for its long lines or tricky twists along Zeeland coast, its numerous echelons and crashes. Riding for Team Joker-Byygtorget, the Norwegian Continental team that has a long expertise on developing talents, he also claimed bronze-medal in the National Championships behind Edvald Boason Hagen (Dimension Data) and Alexander Kristoff (Katusha). A shy rider in the post-races interviews, Halvorsen is a young man to follow in the Classics and bunch sprints.

Kristoffer Halvorsen is a promising young sprinter

Name: Adrien Costa

Age: 19
Nationality: American
Team for 2017: Axeon Hagens Berman
Type of rider: GC rider
What is special: Is Adrien Costa the new Greg LeMond? "He has certainly the potential to do well at great races in the future but it will be completely irresponsible from to put any label on Adrien", warns his sports director Mike Sayers. The U23 team from the US wants to protect its raising star in light of some previous young riders who were highly praised and then collapsed. "I take the race day by day", Costa says. His stage victory and third place overall at his first Tour de l'Avenir provided him with some satisfaction.

The American rider, born in California to French parents, aged 19, had succeed in the general classification of the Tour de Bretagne and been second overall at the Tour of Utah earlier this year, but he wanted to play a bit in the Alpine climbs. He first won the individual time trial at the "Avenir" and the launched a few attacks in the mountains. Over the last three days, he struggled a little bit to keep his own rhythm after his powerful accelerations and lost a few seconds to his French rival David Gaudu. However Costa said he "had fun". He also showed he was not too tired after a long season, his first in the U23 category. The trainee at Etixx-Quick Step wants to take his time and, thus, will ride one more year at Axeon under the management of Axel Merckx.

Adrien Costa rides to victory in the Tour de l'Avenir time trial

Name: John Rodriguez

Age: 19
Nationality: Colombian
Team for 2017: TBC
Type of rider: Climber
What is special: John Anderson Rodriguez failed to achieve the Colombian dream on the Tour de l'Avenir. The radio commentators from his home country were expecting him to retain the lead after he won stage 5 on the top of les Carroz-d'Arâche, following a medium-mountain stage, more in a puncheur than a climber style. Rodriguez looked strong and his team, comprising Egan Bernal - the new national treasure coveted by Gianni Savio himself during the Tour de l'Avenir - was very consistent. The day after his stage victory Colombians launched attacks right from the first of the four ascents and it seemed they were crushing the race. But they didn't work well, with too many to chase the polka-dot jersey and, though Rodriguez took the yellow jersey in Tignes, he had lost too much energy. He lost overall lead the following day on the penultimate stage. This "failure" gives some positive signs, though. The EPM Continental rider has had a very few top results so far in Colombia and none in Europe, apart from two bronze medals at the Pan-American Championships this year. With his next team is still unknown, Rodriguez could be one of the few, or many, young Colombian riders to watch in 2017.

There was a lot of expectation on John Rodriguez after his stage win but he would lose the lead

Name: David Gaudu

Age: 19
Nationality: French
Team for 2017: FDJ
Type of rider: Climber
What is special: When Bernard Hinault gave the Tour de l'Avenir's yellow jersey to his fellow Breton, it was enough to raise the symbolic image of passing the torch. Is David Gaudu the next French champion? For now he has put on an impressive ride in the Alps. He took the maillot jaune on stage 6 to Tignes, by attacking three kilometres to the finish and then saved it, digging even a few more seconds on the new altitude finishes. His dominating style, his charismatic personality among the U23 National French squad, his sparkling and funny mood and his safe family background are a few positive assets, alongside, of course, his "pocket-climber" build. French coach Pierre-Yves Chatelon wants to make it clear that Gaudu is "as good as Bardet and Pinot at their ages" but underlines "everyone is different". The Breton climber once beat Pinot's time on the Planches des Belles Filles in 2014 as a junior but he recalls himself "it was during a training session". "I have time, says the 2016 Tour de l'Avenir victor. "First I need to learn and I would be glad to support Thibaut Pinot for my first pro season," he says.

David Gaudu went on the win overall after his stage win

Name: Nick Schultz

Age: 21
Nationality: Australian
Team for 2017: TBC
Type of rider: All-rounder
What is special: Part of a very impressive Australian squad, Nick Schultz had the role of road captain. His countrymen are mostly 19 or 20 while he has the experience of four seasons at under 23 level. They are all made from the Cycling Australia's mould, the under-23 Academy essentially, while he had to make himself in Europe, first through the French amateur club CR4C Roanne and now at the Continental team of SEG Racing. His personal background and his "fighting spirit" definitely helped Schultz to win penultimate stage from Val d'Isère to Valmeinier in a break away. He had already won a stage at the Tour of Bretagne this year or taken 2nd overall at the Oberöstereichrundfahrt, but the Tour de l'Avenir brings an extra flavour to his palmarès, considering the very high level of racing this year. A trainee with Orica-BikeExchange this Summer, Schultz is not only a gap-stop but a valuable team-mate and he obviously combines experience and talent.

Nick Schultz celebrates his win on stage 7 of the Tour de l'Avenir

Name: Neilson Powless

Age: 19
Nationality: American
Team for 2017: Axeon Hagens Berman
Type of rider: GC rider
What special: Powless won an epic final stage on the top of the Col de la Croix-de-Fer with the big contenders sitting just behind him. "One kilometre to go I stopped riding because of cramps but I was able to restart," explained the rider who crossed the line by a margin of nine seconds. Powless had a mission: he wanted to show himself on European stage after a consistent season in North America. The rider from Sacramento, California, nearly 20, had previously gone 9th overall at the Tour of California and won the time trial at the Tour de Beauce, putting some interesting records on stage races but kept low profile by European standards. That explains why spectators were a bit surprised when he took the best time at the Tour de l'Avenir's individual time trial before his teammate Adrien Costa did better. Four days later, Powless succeed in the Alpine passes. These performances show all his skills of a GC rider. A former triathlete (since he was 8) and then mountain biker, Powless wants to compete a full season on the road in Europe next year among the under 23s.

Nielson Powless made it two stage wins for the USA at the Tour de l'Avenir

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