Every season brings at least one. That singular rider, or two, who surpass expectations and deliver stunning performances earlier than anyone could have hoped for.
Who will it be in 2022?
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Sometimes it can be a rider who’s already been knocking around for a few years and finally hit their stride. Or on a few occasions, a rookie can explode in their first pedal strokes, like Tadej Pogačar in 2019 or Peter Sagan a decade before.
Here are some names our European editors expect to have breakout seasons in 2022:
Juan Ayuso and Cian Uijtdebroeks: Double potential
Jim Cotton: They’re both being bigged up so much I’m nominating two young stars.
Uijtdebroeks, 18, joins Bora-Hansgrohe on a three-year deal this season and has already become Remco’s replacement in the expectations of Belgian fans and media.
He hit the world’s eye in a stellar 2020, going solo at Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne and harvesting a string of junior stage races. It was a season so good that Uijtdebroeks was said to have received offers from up to six WorldTour squads in the months that followed.
Also read: Juan Ayuso tapped for greatness
Uijtdebroeks is likely to have a low-key start to 2022 as Bora-Hansgrohe gently warms him to life in the WorldTour, but don’t be surprised to see this kid do big things sometime very soon.
And Ayuso? Some say he’s on par with his teammate Tadej Pogačar. That says it all.
The Spanish phenom is booked in with UAE Team Emirates through 2025, and has so much ambition he’s been pushing Pogačar to the limit in early season climbing tests. Ayuso blazed through the junior ranks, and judging by his Strava stats and his seemingly insatiable thirst for success, this 19-year-old will be tearing up the WorldTour before you know it.
Sarah Gigante poised for a breakout season
Sadhbh O’Shea: Sarah Gigante has been a real rising star in the women’s peloton over the last two years, but 2022 feels like the one where we might get to see her full potential.
Gigante broke into the wider consciousness with her Australian national road title back in 2019 and she has since won two time trial titles. Her performances earned her a spot on the EF Education Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank squad and a chance to race in Europe.
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She showed some promising performances during her time on the team but she was hampered by the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 and then a serious injury in 2021.
Despite her disrupted racing, her abilities caught the attention of the Movistar squad and she signed with them on a three-year deal. Her climbing and time trialing abilities make her a similar rider to Annemiek van Vleuten and riding alongside the formidable Dutch woman should help her develop.
I’m really excited to see what she can do in 2022.
Iván Sosa: Nothing to stop him now
Iván Sosa already lives with the hype of being the “next big thing” in Colombian cycling.
A high-profile move to Movistar and the WorldTour in 2019 perhaps didn’t deliver the big results that many had initially expected from the climbing sensation.
It’s crowded at the top at Ineos Grenadiers and Sosa didn’t get many chances to spread his grand tour wings. In fact, the 2020 Vuelta a España was the last grand tour he started. He’s quietly picked up 13 wins already in his career, including six of them in the Vuelta a Burgos in Spain.
A move to Movistar on a two-year contract will see him move straight up the team hierarchy, and he’s already penciled in to lead at the Giro d’Italia.
Will he be winning the pink jersey this year? Almost certainly not, but he could be knocking on the door for the podium. At 24, he’s still young, and a solid Giro could solidify his future as a grand tour rider.
And for grand tour contenders, it’s often baby steps and steady progress that counts. Not everyone can be like Pogačar.