While a number of riders have headed off into retirement and the futures of some others are still uncertain going into 2022, what has been certain for some time is the signature of the next swathe of talented youngsters who make the step up to the top tiers of pro cycling.
We've taken a look through all the riders – in both the men's and women's ranks – who are moving up to the WorldTour and Women's WorldTour for 2022 and picked out who we think are the cream of the crop.
These riders have all come up from the Continental level or turned pro from the U23 – or even junior – ranks, and all will be in their first full season of their professional contracts next year.
In the past two years, we've picked out the likes of Tom Pidcock, Tobias Foss, Anna Shackley, Juan Ayuso and Ethan Hayter. Now, we look ahead to next year and Cyclingnews' top 10 neo-pros to watch in 2022.
Cian Uijtdebroeks (Bora-Hansgrohe), 18
In the junior ranks, the Belgian has stunned onlookers with a series of rides reminiscent of Remco Evenepoel during his final seasons before turning pro. He has already been dubbed 'the next Remco'.
Just this year he's won the GP West Bohemia by 3:41, the Classique des Alpes Juniors by 4:46, and Aubel-Thimister-Stavelot stage race by 1:20 but it wasn't those performances that secured him the contract as by then he was already signed up by Bora-Hansgrohe having committed to the team over a year ago.
This autumn, the stage was set for glory during his final racing week before turning pro – at the World Championships on home ground. Only a knee injury sustained confronting a burglar the week before saw him stutter to sixth in the time trial before early crashes put him out of contention in the road race.
It was a disappointing end to a season which also saw him win the Belgian junior time trial title and stages at the Ain Bugey Valromey Tour and the Course de la Paix, but Uijtdebroeks will arguably be the neo-pro to watch next year given the hype already built up around him.
Filippo Baroncini (Trek-Segafredo), 21
It's easy to pick the highlight of the Italian rider's career so far as it's hard to top winning the U23 world title in Leuven after a late solo attack.
The win, which came after a time trial victory at the Baby Giro, a national U23 title, and U23 road race silver at the European Championships, crowned an impressive season for Baroncini which also saw him take fourth at the Coppa Sabatini as a Trek stagiaire – his first high-level pro race.
He moves up from the Colpack team in 2022, having spent a season at the squad which has developed Giulio Ciccone, Mark Padun, Juan Ayuso, Fausto Masnada, and Andrea Bagioli in recent years.
It's a strong lineage to follow, and what is clear from his results so far is that Baroncini is a powerful and punchy rider who can excel on a variety of terrain. Could the Classics be next? Who better to ask than Milan-San Remo champion and his future teammate, Jasper Stuyven.
"Baroncini, as the U23 world champion, who can be surprising in some of the races which will be interesting to see, and I'm excited to see him with us," said the Belgian.
Blanka Kata Vas (SD Worx), 20
The Hungarian has already spent some time in the Women's WorldTour with SD Worx, having signed for the Dutch squad back in June, but with only four race days in team colours under her belt so far, we think it's fair to include her in our 2022 list.
Having left Doltcini-Van Eyck in March, Vas took both national road race and time trial titles while also competing in the mountain bike World Cups at U23 level in the lead-up to the Olympic Games in Tokyo, where she finished a fantastic fourth place against far more experienced riders.
Vas was back on the road in September and again impressed, taking sixth and fourth places at the Ceratizit Challenge en route to ninth overall, the best finisher on her team. She was also the youngest rider in the lead group at her first elite Worlds road race, finishing just shy of a bronze medal in Leuven.
Weeks later, she switched to cyclo-cross – yes, she is another one of those mega-talented young all-rounders – and has since taken her first elite World Cup victory.
In 2021, Vas has enjoyed several days racing amongst seasoned pros across three disciplines and she has looked very much at home doing so. Next year she looks set to be one of the most watched riders in the women's peloton.
Luke Plapp (Ineos Grenadiers), 20
Another multi-disciplinarian, and another who tasted Olympic success this year, Plapp burst onto the radar of top teams with his riding in the Santos Festival of Cycling at the start of the year. He won a stage and then raced to the top of Willunga Hill with Richie Porte at the Australia-only replacement for the Tour Down Under.
He went on to the take the elite national time trial title – beating Luke Durbridge – the next month and from then on it seemed like it would only be a matter of time before he had a professional contract. That move came in late July when Ineos announced his signature on a three-year deal.
Part of Australia's High Performance Podium Potential Academy, Plapp went to Tokyo in August and took bronze as part of the country's Team Pursuit squad, though back on the road afterwards a crash and elbow fracture saw him leave the Tour de l'Avenir after just two days.
Before joining up with Ineos at the end of the year, he headed to Belgium for the Worlds, where he scored a silver in the U23 time trial, which was another impressive ride to add to the list for a rider who could well be Australia's next cycling star.
Kaia Schmid (Human Powered Health), 18
Like Plapp, Schmid is also a star of both track and road. This year, the teenager racked up silver medals at the junior road races at both the US National Championships and the World Championship.
On the track, where she started racing at the age of nine, she's already a world champion, having taken Elimination Race gold back in September, as well as Omnium silver and Points Race bronze.
Now, three years after quitting skiing and starting road racing, she's set to step up to the Women's WorldTour with the team formerly known as Rally, while also continuing her studies in film production, business and marketing at the University of Colorado.
She'll continue to mix road and track going forward and hopes that riding with a US-based squad can ease the big transition from the junior ranks to the WWT.
"That will be crucial. Having success in my junior career gives me confidence, too. I know it will be a big jump but I think I picked the right team to make that jump with. I'm stoked about it," she told Cyclingnews last month.
Tobias Halland Johannessen (Uno-X), 22
This list wouldn't be complete without the winner of one of the most prestigious U23 races in the world, and so here is Tobias Halland Johannessen, Tour de l'Avenir champion.
The Norwegian rode to a nail-biting victory in the Alps in August, hanging on to a 2:18 lead by just seven seconds as Ineos pro Carlos Rodriguez went solo on the Col du Petit Saint-Bernard.
That seven seconds was all Johannessen needed to beat not only Rodriguez but also two other current pros in Filippo Zana and Gijs Leemreize across the nine days in France, having taken two stage wins along the way.
That result came a month after finishing second at the Baby Giro, and a couple of weeks after taking second at the Sazka Tour behind Zana. In September, a third place at Liège-Bastogne-Liège U23 showed that he's not just a stage racing demon.
He steps up to the ProTeam Uno-X next season, the Norwegian squad having sent several riders up to the WorldTour in recent years (Tobias Foss, Andreas Leknessund, Markus Hoelgaard, Johan Price-Pejtersen) while now harbouring top-level ambitions of their own for 2023.
He'll be joined there by his twin Anders, who was eighth at the Baby Giro, seventh and a stage winner at Avenir – even while burying himself for Tobias on that final stage – as well as scoring an impressive ninth place at the Tour of Turkey.
Both men are well worth keeping track of next year.
Linda Riedmann (Jumbo-Visma), 18
Jumbo-Visma make the step up to the Women's WorldTour next year, and with them comes the talented German teenager Riedmann.
In the season just gone, her last at junior level, she has only impressed. Back in May she took both stages and the overall at the Tour du Gévaudan Occitanie, grabbed a stage and third overall at the Watersley Ladies Challenge, became junior European champion from a reduced group sprint in Trento, and then took bronze at the Worlds road race to round out her season.
Her rides in Trento and Leuven showed her capabilities and style on the bike, with her hill-climbing ability and sprint among her top strengths. With riders of the calibre of Marianne Vos and Coryn Labecki among her teammates next year, she looks to be in an ideal environment to hone those skills.
Henri Vandenabeele (Team DSM), 21
Belgium climber Vandenabeele moves up from the DSM development team to the youth-focused WorldTour squad next year, and he brings with him a strong reputation as one of the premier stage racers of the U23 ranks.
In a curtailed 2020 season, he managed to cram in second places at the Baby Giro and Ronde de l'Isard, taking a stage win and both the points and mountain jersey at the latter before grabbing the youth jersey at the Giro della Regione Friuli Venezia Giulia.
This year he got his first tastes of racing with the pros at the likes of the Brabantse Pijl, Tour de l'Ain, and Tour of the Alps, even taking 11th place on the tough final stage at the latter. At U23 level, he returned to the Baby Giro and took another podium, finishing third behind Ayuso and Johannessen.
He looks well poised to head to the WorldTour next season, and – despite some riders not meshing well in the structured environment there – is in one of the best teams around for rider development, having brought through stars like Marc Hirschi, John Degenkolb, Warren Barguil, and Tom Dumoulin over the years.
Makayla Macpherson (Human Powered Health), 18
As they move to the Women's WorldTour for 2022, Human Powered Health have brought along not one but two young talents as Macpherson joins Schmid at the squad.
Back in June, she beat Schmid to the US junior road title, days after taking second in the time trial. In September she was second at the Watersley Ladies Challenge, and finished fifth at the Worlds junior road race, too. During the summer she raced 22 criteriums in the US, racking up 18 podiums along the way.
Like Schmid, she started out on the track, where she's already an elite national champion, and like Schmid she makes the step up from premier Californian junior development squad Lux.
Next season she'll head back to Europe to race, having already had her first taste of it with Lux. She already has big ambitions, too.
"I cannot stop thinking about racing the women's Tour de France Femmes," she told Cyclingnews recently. "I'm hoping that the Tour is on my schedule, we'll see. That would be amazing."
Marijn van den Berg (EF Education-Nippo), 22
The Dutchman spent his final year at U23 level with Groupama-FDJ's development team but as he steps up is making the switch to American squad EF Education-Nippo.
The sprinter took eight victories in 2021, including the GP Adria Mobil, both stage and the overall at the Orlen Nations Grand Prix, and the crowning glory – three stages and the points jersey at the Tour de l'Avenir.
He has some pro experience under his belt, too, having taken part at Brabantse Pijl and the Volta ao Algarve during the spring. He'll be taking on races like that on a full-time basis from next year and should have plenty of opportunities to succeed at EF, a team without a designated top sprinter, though also a team which doesn't have a real history of focusing on sprints either.
- Lewis Askey (Groupama-FDJ), 20
- Mick van Dijke (Jumbo-Visma), 21
- Valentin Paret-Peintre (AG2R Citroën), 20
- Magnus Sheffield (Ineos Grenadiers), 19
- Ethan Vernon (Deceuninck-QuickStep), 21
- Elise Uijen (Team DSM), 18
- Alena Ivanchenko (UAE Team ADQ), 18
- Shari Bossuyt (Canyon-SRAM), 21
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Daniel Ostanek has been a staff writer at Cyclingnews since August 2019, having joined in 2017 as a freelance contributor and later part-time production editor. Before Cyclingnews, he was published in numerous publications around the cycling world, including Procycling, CyclingWeekly, CyclingTips, Cyclist, and Rouleur, among others. As well as reporting and writing news and features, Daniel runs the 'How to watch' content throughout the season.
Daniel has reported from the world's top races, including the Tour de France, and has interviewed a number of the sport's biggest stars, including Egan Bernal, Wout van Aert, Remco Evenepoel, Mark Cavendish, and Anna van der Breggen. Daniel rides a 2002 Landbouwkrediet Colnago C40 and his favourite races are Strade Bianche and the Vuelta a España.
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