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It takes something to find a breakout new rider that makes Remco Evenepoel look old. However, 17-year-old Juan Ayuso is able to tick that box and may well be the next hotshot everyone will be speaking about for the next decade and more.
Team manager Joxean Fernandez Matxín has brought many youngsters through the ranks in the past, most recently WorldTour rookie Brandon McNulty, 21, and grand tour talent Tadej Pogačar, 21. Matxín will be giving Ayuso plenty of space to spread his wings in his initial years at UAE-Team Emirates.
“Matxín gave me a lot of confidence because he insisted that the team would let me grow in silence,” Ayuso told Direct Velo. “He told me about his past experiences with many other young people like me and that necessarily gave me confidence. This signature was made progressively after long discussions.
“I will race on a continental team during the first part of the 2021 season, always with the aim of progressing step by step, then it will be time to discover my first WorldTour races in the summer of 2021. Everything will be done gradually. In 2021, I will really want to get results, of course.”
Ayuso will be part of a recent trend of riders jumping straight from the junior ranks to senior racing. Evenepoel, Carlos Rodríguez (Team Ineos), American junior world champion Quinn Simmons (Trek-Segafredo), and last week, Marco Brenner (Sunweb) have all recently made the leap. Ayuso cited ever-developing knowledge of physiology and training techniques as being essential to the recent youth boom.
“Training, our way of doing work, from juniors, is not the same as before, and the only thing we really miss is the experience, of course,” Ayuso said. “The experience that comes from the accumulation of racing days, competing seasons … but otherwise, I think it has been scientifically proven that at our age you can already be part of the professional world. We have the physical skills to do it.”
Spain has been crying out for a new GC star since the likes of Alberto Contador and Carlos Sastre hung up their wheels. The nation is currently pinning its hopes on Movistar leaders Enric Mas, 25, and Marc Soler, 26. It could be Ayuso, who feels he may develop as a man for the mountains, coming up to lead the generation behind them. Having won the junior national road championships and dominated the domestic ranks, the Spanish nation may pile expectations on Ayuso. However, for now, the 17-year-old is tranquilo, saying “the only pressure I feel is the pressure I put on myself.”
It could be some years yet, but for now, remember the name. You may well be hearing about Juan Ayuso for some years to come.