Ineos Grenadiers have made another young signing for 2023, with Canadian teenager Michael Leonard the latest recruit in the rejuvenation of the British squad.
The 18-year-old, who hails from Toronto, will skip the U23 ranks to turn professional at WorldTour level in 2023, signing a three-year contract.
With a track background and ability across climbing and time trialling, Leonard is seen as a Grand Tour prospect, joining a team that has won 12 Grand Tours since starting out in 2010.
"It's really exciting for me to have this opportunity and I’m pretty proud of it because it suggests that people at the Ineos Grenadiers, who know a lot about cycling and GC riders, think I have the potential to do that in the future," Leonard said.
"I'm excited for the opportunity to learn in what I think is the very best team both in terms of riders and staff. The Grenadiers have a lot of experience in winning big races so I’ll get to learn from the best, which will be fantastic."
Leonard joins Josh Tarling, who this week won the junior world time trial title, as the second rider to skip the U23 ranks to turn pro with Ineos in 2023, following in the 2020 footsteps of Carlos Rodríguez, who recently placed 7th at the Vuelta a España.
"As a youngster I watched Chris Froome and in the current team I look up to Carlos Rodriguez. He’s followed a similar pathway to what I see as the dream for myself and this year he’s really broken out," Leonard added. "To follow in his footsteps would be fantastic."
Leonard currently rides for the Franco Ballerini junior team in Italy, with eight victories so far this year, including the Tour du Leman, Memorial Paolo Batignani, Gran Premio Bermac Gara, and Trofeo Sopegu.
"Michael’s profile is certainly one that is really interesting, and he looks to have real potential. He’s very mature for his age, and the fact that he’s already spent so much time racing in Europe is really important," said Ineos' deputy team principal, Rod Ellingworth.
"It’s also great that he has clearly been following our team closely, and the fact that he looks up to someone like Carlos bodes really well for us. We look forward to working with him and further unlocking his obvious potential. He’ll be joining a young but very exciting group of riders and has the potential to play a big part in our future."
Leonard is the sixth new signing for Ineos Grenadiers and the third neo-pro along with Tarling and U23 Giro champion Leo Hayter. Also joining are 22-year-old Thymen Arenseman from DSM and 26-year-old Connor Swift from Arkea-Samsic.
The British team have recruited young riders almost exclusively in the past three years, with the likes of Rodriguez, Tom Pidcock, Luke Plapp, Magnus Sheffield, and the Hayter brothers seen as the future of the team. Some big names are leaving in 2023, with Richard Carapaz going to EF Education-EasyPost, Adam Yates to UAE Team Emirates, Dylan van Baarle to Jumbo-Visma, and Richie Porte into retirement.
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Patrick is an NCTJ-trained journalist, and former deputy editor of Cyclingnews, who has seven years’ experience covering professional cycling. He has a modern languages degree from Durham University and has been able to put it to some use in what is a multi-lingual sport, with a particular focus on French and Spanish-speaking riders. Away from cycling, Patrick spends most of his time playing or watching other forms of sport - football, tennis, trail running, darts, to name a few, but he draws the line at rugby.