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10 neo-pros to watch in 2020

UCI Road World Championships
Junior world champion Quinn SImmons is among those stepping up to the WorldTour in 2020 (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

The end of every pro cycling season sees a transition from old to new, with a number riders leaving the sport for retirement while a swathe of new faces take the step up to turn professional.

At last count, 19 young riders are making the move to the WorldTour for 2020, coming from both the amateur and Continental ranks to turn professional. 

Technically, neo-pros are classifed as such for the first two years of their Pro Continental or WorldTour contracts, with two-year contracts mandatory for those riders. But for the purposes of this rundown, we've compiled our list from those riders taking the leap this winter.

As a further caveat, two riders on our list are technically already pro, having raced at Pro Continental level for Hagens Berman Axeon in 2019. But with both men riding a chunk of the season at U23 races, we've included them here.

So, without further ado, here's a look at Cyclingnews' top-10 neo-pros for the 2020 season.

Quinn Simmons (Trek-Segafredo), 18

Quinn Simmons dominated the Road World Championships U23 road race in Yorkshire

Quinn Simmons dominated the Road World Championships U23 road race in Yorkshire (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

A rarity in the peloton as a rider who will make the jump from the junior ranks straight to the pros, Simmons is the first man to skip the U23 ranks since... well, Remco Evenepoel last year. Still, it's a rare move to make, and a sign of the quality of the riders involved.

Simmons, who doesn't turn 19 until May, had a year to remember in his final year as a junior, turning in a series of dominant performances for Lux Strading p/b Specialized and the US national team. 

The early season saw a win and the points jersey at the Redlands Cycle Classic, as well as a win at Junior Gent-Wevelgem. Six more wins followed through the spring, including the overall at the Driedaagse van Axel stage race.

In June, he took the national junior time trial title, and then won two more stage races before heading to Yorkshire for the Road World Championships. Simmons finished fourth in the junior time trial and then three days later won the road race by 56 seconds after a stunning 33km solo effort. Hours later, Trek-Segafredo announced his signature for 2020.

"We've been on the lookout for young talents that we could develop within our ranks at the top level of cycling," said Trek-Segafredo general manager Luca Guercilena at the time. "Given his young age, we want to let him mature slowly and not rush things, or put too much stress on his shoulders, but we feel he can handle the one-day races at the top level."

Trek have certainly nurtured some exciting young talents in recent years, with 2019 road race world champion Mads Pedersen among them. Considering that, and their Classics pedigree, the American team looks like the right fit for a rider who has ambitions to one day win Paris-Roubaix.

Andrés Camilo Ardila (UAE Team Emirates), 20

Ardila with UAE manager Matxin Joxean after signing with the team

Ardila with UAE manager Matxin Joxean after signing with the team (Image credit: UAE Team Emirates)

A star turn at the U23 Giro d'Italia ensured Andrés Camilo Ardila's place on our list. The young Colombian dominated the race, winning two stages en route to a crushing 4:10 victory after 10 days of racing.

Ardila won summit finishes at Monte Amitata and Passo Maniva (by 1:08) at the mountain-heavy race, which saw the Colombians finish 1-2-3-4 on two stages. A month earlier, Ardila took third overall at the U23 Vuelta a Colombia, taking two stages along the way, including a 14km time trial, which he won by over a minute.

Should everything go to plan, the 20-year-old looks like the next in a long line of Colombian climbing phenomena to hit the WorldTour. He's under contract at UAE through to 2023 and should settle in quickly at the team, which features four other Colombians.

"I had a lot of offers from the World Tour category teams, but the plan UAE Team Emirates presented to me impressed me a lot," said Ardila after signing. "I think it’s the right choice because I will have the chance to grow gradually and adapt to the highest category.

"The dream is the Tour de France. One day I'd like to go to the Tour to try to win the most important race in the world. I am inspired by Nairo Quintana."

Tobias Foss (Jumbo-Visma), 22

Tobias Foss in action at the 2019 Road World Championships in Yorkshire

Tobias Foss in action at the 2019 Road World Championships in Yorkshire (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

The Tour de l'Avenir winner this year, Foss will be one of the most closely-watched neo-pros in 2020. With Tadej Pogačar, Egan Bernal, David Gaudu, Marc Soler and Miguel Ángel López as the last five winners of the race, big things will be expected of the Norwegian, who signed a two-year deal at Jumbo-Visma before his win in France.

Foss didn't take a stage victory at the race, but consistent riding in the moutains and a strong TTT from Norway saw him finish in the top 10 on all but two of the 10 stages.

The 22-year-old has also proven himself in the elite ranks to some extent, taking fourth overall at the early-season Volta ao Alentejo and winning the youth jersey while riding for Norwegian Continental team Uno-X.

As a stage racer, opportunities might be tough to come by at the stacked Jumbo-Visma team headed up by Primož Roglič, Tom Dumoulin and Steven Kruijswijk. But there's no doubt that the team will give him every chance to develop, with other youngsters Laurens De Plus, Sepp Kuss and the departing Neilson Powless flourishing in support roles recently.

"For my kind of rider, Team Jumbo-Visma is the perfect team to develop further," said Foss upon signing for the Dutch squad.  "Of all the WorldTour teams, this team has the best talent development. My ambition for the coming years is to help the team and the leaders to get good results, and for me to grow and take steps as a rider and as a person."

Mikkel Bjerg (UAE Team Emirates), 21

Bjerg wearing the rainbow stripes at the 2019 European Championships U23 time trial

Bjerg wearing the rainbow stripes at the 2019 European Championships U23 time trial (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

A three-time U23 world time trial champion, it's no secret what races Bjerg specialises in. The Dane is another promising youngster to get snapped up by UAE Team Emirates as the squad gets a refresh with a number of under-23 riders.

In 2019, he already got a taste of pro life, racing at the Tours of Yorkshire, California and Denmark with Hagens Berman Axeon. Those races were a taster of things to come, but he managed an impressive sixth overall in Denmark.

Earlier in the year, Bjerg won Le Triptyque des Monts et Châteaux, a stage race that counts Tom Dumoulin, Bob Jungels, Lilian Calmejane and future teammate Jasper Philipsen among past winners. Three TT wins rounded out his season, culminating in the Yorkshire ride where he blew the field away by 27 seconds over a 30km course.

"It’s really exciting to be part of a World Tour team characterised by a base of experienced riders along with some of the best talents of the new generation, including Philipsen, Pogačar, McNulty and Ardila," said Bjerg as he joined UAE. 

"In my current team, Hagens Berman Axeon, young riders work together and motivate each other, and I think it will be interesting to do it next season with UAE."

Ethan Hayter (Team Ineos), 21

Ethan Hayter at the 2018 European Track Championships

Ethan Hayter at the 2018 European Track Championships (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Hayter becomes part of the ever-growing youth movement at Team Ineos next season, joining 12 other riders all at the age of 25 or under at the British squad. It won't be the Brit's first time at the team, either, having raced there as a stagiaire in late 2018.

While at the team, then known as Team Sky, Hayter impressed with a clutch of top-10 placings at the Tour of Britain, eventually taking second in the points classification. This year, he's been even more successful, winning two stages and the points classification at the U23 Giro d'Italia.

There was also a stage victory at the Tour de l'Avenir ahead of Great Britain teammate Tom Pidcock, before he crashed out of the race the next day.

Questions have lingered in the past about how effective Team Ineos are at developing young riders and giving them enough time leading a team. Now the likes of Tao Geoghegan Hart, Iván Sosa, Egan Bernal and Pavel Sivakov have broken through, however, surely that has been put to bed.

Hayter is also set apart from the remainder of Ineos' youth movement by virtue of being a sprinter. On a team that doesn't really have a dedicated sprinter – the versatile Chris Lawless and Ben Swift aside – Hayter should have chances to impress from the get-go.

Ian Garrison (Deceuninck-QuickStep), 21

Ian Garrison in action at the 2019 Tour of California

Ian Garrison in action at the 2019 Tour of California (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

The second rider on our list to head to the WorldTour from American-based talent factory Hagens Berman Axeon, Garrison is the next rider to join a long and successful list of graduates from the team.

The American has impressed at all levels in 2019, becoming US time trial champion at U23 level in June before repeating the feat in the elite race a week later. Earlier in the year, he took second overall at Le Triptyque des Monts et Châteaux behind Bjerg, while at the end of the season he took silver at the Worlds U23 time trial, also behind the Dane.

Next year he'll move to Deceuninck-QuickStep – the top team in the sport with a unparalleled reputation for developing young riders. Expectations will be high, then, especially given he's already beaten the pros at the US Nationals.

It'll take time to fully get used to the pace in the pro ranks, though, even though he’s already raced at WorldTour level at the Tour of California this season. Still, given QuickStep's reputation for rider development, it wouldn't be a shock to see him getting results sooner rather than later.

"I am still young at 21, and I want to have a long career, and seeing the progress that Deceuninck-QuickStep have helped other young riders make is a big part of my decision, and trusting in that they can get the best from me," said Garrison upon signing for the team.

Clément Champoussin (AG2R La Mondiale), 21

Clément Champoussin rode as a stagiaire with AG2R in 2019, finishing ninth at Gran Piemonte

Clément Champoussin rode as a stagiaire with AG2R in 2019, finishing ninth at Gran Piemonte (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Champoussin is the latest talent to make his way up the AG2R La Mondiale ranks, moving up from the team's feeder squad, Chambéry Cyclisme Formation, for 2020. His debut will be delayed, though, with the Frenchman sticking with CCF until April.

He's achieved some great results with the feeder team in 2019, finishing fourth at the Tour de l'Avenir, third at the Course de la Paix (Peace Race), and winning the Giro della Regione Friuli Venezia Giulia, before rounding out the season with second at Il Piccolo Lombardia.

A strong climber by trade, Champoussin has already done two stagiaire stints at AG2R La Mondiale. In 2019, he impressed among the pros with ninth place at Gran Piemonte. Next season, he'll step up full-time, following Romain Bardet, Silvan Dillier, Pierre Latour and 14 other riders in the move from Chambéry to the pro team.

"Clement comes from mountain biking, and he doesn't have a big handicap on the road," said AG2R team boss Vincent Lavenu. "In any case, he has already accomplished some very beautiful things, especially in the mountains. He still has things to learn, but also has great potential."

Andrea Bagioli (Deceuninck-QuickStep), 20

Andrea Bagioli (right), here with brother Nicola, was a stagiaire at UAE Team Emirates in 2018

Andrea Bagioli (right), here with brother Nicola, was a stagiaire at UAE Team Emirates in 2018 (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

The second of three riders on our list to make the move to Deceuninck-QuickStep, Bagioli has enjoyed one of the more impressive seasons in the U23 ranks this year. He had four victories with Team Colpack in 2019, but they were big ones.

After winning Italian one-day race the Trofeo Città di San Vendemiano in March, Bagioli headed to France for the important U23 proving ground, the Ronde de l'Isard. He won there, too, following in the wheel-tracks of Pavel Sivakov, Bjorg Lambrecht and Kenny Elissonde in doing so.

Bagioli won two stages there, also taking the Cervinia summit finish at July's Giro della Valle d'Aosta. He then rounded out the season with victory at Il Piccolo Lombardia, reinforcing his reputation as a strong climber; he was runner-up there and at Liège-Bastogne-Liège in 2018.

"When we spot a rider whose innate qualities and mentality catch our eye, we do everything that we can to sign him," said Deceuninck-QuickStep boss Patrick Lefevere upon signing Bagioli.

"This was the case also with Andrea, who we have been monitoring for some time now and whose results – especially on the climbs, where he has excelled – we’ve found to be extremely impressive."

Stefan Bissegger (EF Education First), 21

Stefan Bissegger took silver in the U23 road race at the Yorkshire Worlds

Stefan Bissegger took silver in the U23 road race at the Yorkshire Worlds (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

We'll have to wait a while to see Swiss youngster Bissegger in the pro ranks next year – his debut with EF Education First is delayed until August, with the 21-year-old focused on the team pursuit at the Tokyo Olympics before then.

Bissegger has combined road and track throughout his career so far, becoming junior world champion in the individual pursuit in 2016. He's currently racing in the UCI Track World Cup with Switzerland, with qualification for the Olympics relying on results there.

On the road, Bissegger has had a successful 2019 campaign, taking six wins. Highlights were plentiful, and included a stage and second overall at the Course de la Paix, the U23 Swiss time trial title, a stage win at the Tour de l'Avenir, time-trial bronze at the U23 European Championships and then silver in the Worlds U23 road race.

As a Swiss rider with a strong time trial, it's no surprise that some have drawn comparisons to Fabian Cancellara. Bissegger himself admits that his compatriot is his idol, and that aiming for the spring Classics and time trials is his goal as a pro. There's a long way to go if he's ever to reach that level, but he's on the right track to begin with.

Mauri Vansevenant (Deceuninck-QuickStep), 20

Following in the footsteps of his ex-pro father Wim, who rode for Lotto for several years towards the end of his career, 20-year-old Mauri Vansevenant steps up to the best team in the world in 2020.

Like Bissegger, his move will be delayed to the middle of the year, with Vansevenant completing his university degree before joining Deceuninck-QuickStep in July. 

In 2019, Mauri Vansevenant – named after 1991 Vuelta a España winner Melchor Mauri – scored a big win at the Giro della Valle d'Aosta, riding consistently in the mountains to take the overall title by 4:30 after six days of racing.

He's in good company, too, with Fabio Aru, Thibaut Pinot and Pavel Sivakov all winning the race before turning pro. And there's little doubt he's heading to the right team – Deceuninck-QuickStep are unrivalled in the WorldTour for their young-rider development.

Just in the past handful of years, the Belgian squad have brought through the likes of Álvaro Hodeg, Rémi Cavagna, Fabio Jakobsen, Kasper Asgreen and Max Schachmann. It wouldn't be a big surprise if Vansevenant was the next on that list to taste success in the big time.

Honourable mentions

Einer Rubio (Movistar), 21: Finished second overall at the U23 Giro d'Italia, taking a stage on the way.

Samuele Battistella (NTT Pro Cycling), 21: Won the controversial World Championships U23 road race.

Kaden Groves (Mitchelton-Scott), 20: Stages at the Ronde de l'Isard and Le Triptyque des Monts et Chateaux count among his five wins this year.

Alessandro Covi (UAE Team Emirates), 21: Took fourth at the U23 Giro, the best non-Colombian.

Nils Eekhoff (Team Sunweb), 21: Three wins to his name in 2019, including the Course de la Paix prologue.

Ilan Van Wilder (Lotto-Soudal), 19: Took a stage win at the Course de la Paix and third at the Tour de l'Avenir.

Barnabás Peak (Mitchelton-Scott), 21: Was Hungarian elite road race and time trial champion in 2018, won a stage at the Tour de Normandie this year

Juan Pedro López (Trek-Segafredo), 22: Won the Vuelta a Bidasoa in 2018 and a summit finish at this season's Giro della Valle d'Aosta.

Alberto Dainese (Team Sunweb), 19: Sprinted to victory at the European Championships U23 road race, one of seven wins in 2019.