With one of the hardest routes of recent years, the 2013 Tour de l'Avenir was a good opportunity for Under-23 riders and especially future climbers and Grand Tour riders to show their potential and talent. If the final podium was completely unexpected, several riders confirmed their potential.
After the race ended in the French Alps, Cyclingnews picks out six names to follow in the pro peloton in the coming years.
Name: Rubén Fernández Andújar (Spain)
Team: Caja Rural-Seguros RGA (UCI Pro Continental)
Tour de l'Avenir final position: winner
Race performance: Nobody was worried when Fernández launched an attack in the Col de la Madeleine with 7km to go. However the Spaniard won the fourth stage and took the overall lead with a gap over 1:30 on the main favourites. On the major climbs on the following two stages he controlled his rivals - Adam Yates in particular -, while the latter never had the legs to surprise him. By the end of the race it was clear that Fernández was the strongest and the smartest rider in the race.
Prediction for the future: It’s unsure whether Fernández will be a serious Grand Tour contender. The Tour de l'Avenir is by far his biggest victory as he has only won a few Under 23 races and two medals in the track national championships. A neo-pro this year, he broke his collarbone in June and the Volta a Portugal was both his comeback race and preparation for the Tour de l'Avenir. Spain's national squad supported him well and now claims his victory was expected. He hoped for a top 10 overall and says he "can't believe" he won. According to his contract, Fernández will stay with Caja Rural in 2014 but he could be ready for bigger and better things, and a place in next year’s Vuelta beckons.
Name: Adam Yates (Great Britain)
Team: CC Etupes (Under 23)
Tour de l'Avenir final position: 2nd
Tour de l'Avenir performance: Second overall (55 seconds behind Fernández), three times in the top three in stages, second in the points and mountains classifications, Adam Yates was another revelation of the race. His 2013 results as an Under 23 rider for a good French team have been consistent though and he’s probably missed opportunities to showcase his talent in more international events. The boy from Manchester was the biggest threat for Fernández and the only one rider who managed to drop him in the mountains, when he launched an attack on the last stage.
Prediction for the future: The best Briton in the Tour de l'Avenir since Robert Millar in 1982 is still looking for a pro contract. The rumours of a transfer to FDJ.fr, a team linked to his current club, are as premature as the one about his twin brother Simon allegedly close with Team Sky (Simon is double stage winner in the Tour de l'Avenir and 10th overall). Consistent, tactical sharp and with real climbing ability, Adam Yates has the potential for stage races and one-day events like Liège-Bastogne-Liège, his favourite classic in which he took 9th in the U23 version.
Name: Patrick Konrad (Austria)
Team: Etixx-iHNed (UCI Continental)
Tour de l'Avenir final position: 3rd
Tour de l'Avenir performance: Konrad finished 1:07 behind Fernández. Second on the Col de la Madeleine, he lost second place the day after because of Yates brothers' breakaway. He tried to respond on stage 6 with an attack with 5km to the finish but he couldn’t quite do enough to move up in the overall. However he secured his podium on stage 7 by out-sprinting Kazakhstan's Bakhtiyar Kozhatayev.
Prediction for the future: The Austrian climber hasn’t had the best of results this year given his team, Omega Pharma-Quick Step's feeder group, concentrated on races for puncheurs or cobbles specialists. For most of 2013 he has been a teammate for riders like Julian Alaphilippe (see below). His Tour de l'Avenir's performance proves he's strong and clever in the mountains and he could do well on pro stage races, all the more so as he has a very decent time trial (11th in U23 Euros). However Konrad has no contract in sight with a WorldTour team… yet.
Name: Davide Formolo (Italy)
Team: Petroli Firenze Wega (amateur)
Tour de l'Avenir final position: 6th
Tour de l'Avenir performance: After his training camp at the top of the Stelvio, Formolo was expecting a podium spot. In the decisive stage to the Col de la Madeleine he probably could have done better and chased Fernández if he hadn't lost too much energy through a number of nervous attacks.
Prediction for the future: Formolo has signed a contract with Cannondale for 2014 and 2015. The team is nurturing a number of Italian talents for the future and wants to develop new leaders for stage races. Alongside another one of Cannondale's neo-pros, Davide Villella, who beat him in the Giro della Valle d'Aosta, Formolo is currently the best U23 Italian climber. He has solid skills for the long passes but not a massive punch for the short and steep ascents. Often ranked in top-tens, he rarely wins. Cannodale have a serious talent on their hands though.
Name: Julian Alaphilippe (France)
Team: Etixx-iHNed (UCI Continental)
Tour de l'Avenir final position: 18th
Tour de l'Avenir performance: The final, queen stage, went to the French courtesy of Alaphilippe. He attacked on the descent of the Col du Salève and started the final climb (9km at 7%) with three minutes on the favourites. By the top he had kept half of his advantage and claimed his first big mountain stage. He had tried the same tactics on the Madeleine stage but was caught on the last ascent. He finished 18th overall and took the points jersey thanks to his third places in various other stages (prologue and bunch sprints).
Prediction for the future: Is Alaphilippe the next big French talent for Classics? A neo-professional for Omega Pharma-Quick Step in 2014, the U23 cyclo-cross World Champion medallist looks like a slender Peter Sagan. He can perhaps target Milan-San Remo and Amstel Gold Race more than cobbled events. He's fast on short climbs, sprints and prologues, he likes breakaways and impressed his Tour de l'Avenir's contenders on the descents. The U23 French team coach thinks he also can do well in high mountains if he's confident, but Alaphilippe says he "will concentrate on the classics". It will be interesting to see how Quick Step will use him in those races.
Name: Heiner Rodrigo Parra Bustamente (Colombia)
Team: 4-72 Colombia (UCI Continental)
Tour de l'Avenir final position: 7th
Tour de l'Avenir performance: Colombia were hoping for another overall win after 2010 (Nairo Quintana) and 2011 (Esteban Chaves). They unfortunately lost Juan Ernesto Chamorro - second in 2012 – due to a crash. However over the following days Heiner Parra went from the status of "domestique de luxe" to become the team’s impromptu leader. He took 4th in the Col de la Madeleine's stage and temporary took the polka-dot jersey but he lost 1:25 to his rivals on the final stage and went 7th in GC with 3:03 to the winner.
Prediction for the future: With his 52 kilos body frame and his very aggressive style, Parra perfectly suits the archetype of the Colombian pure climbers. His future is not clear yet. He could stay with his current development team although he will be 23 next season, unless an American or European squad picks him up Colombia's climbers are very popular again. 5th in the Tour Alsace and stage winner in the Ronde de l'Isard (both 2.2 events), he needs to improve his time trial skills, his recovery, and endurance to perform in long races or long mountain stages. But he is always well positioned in the peloton and strong on the toughest and longest climbs.