Mathieu van der Poel's impressive victory at Amstel Gold Race resonated around the cycling world, even catching the attention of Chris Froome and many other riders in Austria for the start of the Tour of the Alps.
Froome and fellow overall contender Vincenzo Nibali were busy with the pre-race press conference on Sunday afternoon, but they both took time to watch the final kilometres of the race and were impressed how van der Poel chased down Julian Alaphilippe and Jakob Fuglsang and then sprinted from distance to overtake them and win.
Van der Poel has already confirmed his road racing talents this spring but his Amstel Gold Race victory, and especially the way he dominated the final kilometre, appeared to mark a moment in cycling history.
The Briton has been focused on his own training and fitness in recent weeks, as he tries to get back to his best after falling ill after training and racing in Colombia in February. He added the Tour of the Alps to his race programme and recently spent time at Mount Teide for a block of altitude training.
"I watched the finish briefly after the press conference yesterday, van der Poel was very impressive," Froome told Cyclingnews at the start of stage 1 of the Tour of the Alps as he signed autographs at the Team Sky bus.
"I haven't raced against him much and I don't know him much to be honest but he's clearly talented."
Froome has witnessed first-hand how teammate Egan Bernal has blossomed in the last 18 months after joining Team Sky. The 22-year-old Colombian and the 24-year-old van der Poel seem set to lead the next generation of riders that will soon take over from 33-year-old Froome and Peter Sagan.
"There's a lot of youngsters coming up," Froome suggested, rebuffing any suggestion that van der Poel perhaps makes him feel old with a firm 'no' and a smile.
A generation change is underway
Giovanni Visconti was a little more expansive, remembering when he was considered the next great thing in Italy after winning the under-23 Italian title in 2003 and the professional title four years later. He is now team leader at Neri Sottoli.
"I was in the spotlight when I was younger, a decade or so ago, but back then everything was a lot less stressful and perhaps easier. I think it's a lot harder for riders of the current generation to break through like van der Poel and Van Aert have done this spring and then have a long and successful career beyond their thirties," Visconti told Cyclingnews.
"Look at Peter Sagan. He's had a bad spring and he's already being questioned and criticized. Cycling reflects life; everything is used and consumed so much quicker. That can bring on new talents but can quickly end other riders' careers."
Visconti is convinced the results of this spring signal a generational change.
"A change of generations is definitely underway and van der Poel and Wout van Aert are the two biggest future talents for the Classics. They've already shown their ability but will surely go on to symbolise a generation in the next decade. I think they can dominate," Visconti pointed out.
"You can see he's something special. In races he seems to enjoy himself as he rides on the peloton, he's not always focused on the race or obsessed about tactics or power.
"Van der Poel is far from the finished article and he made mistakes even in Amstel Gold Race but he won because he's so strong. He's going to have a week off now but then he’s riding the mountain bike World Cup, then on the road and then cyclo-cross season.
"I like him because he's also humble. Some parts of the peloton are envious of the big-name riders because they get all the attention, all the opportunities to win and earn the big money but van der Poel is humble and friendly. That means he's a special talent and has the genes and the potential to become a real 'campione' as we say in Italy."
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