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Cycling’s 24-year-old stars set for 2015 success

Whether pounding cobbles, battling in sprints, or winning mountain stages, these young riders will deliver excitement in the coming years

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MILAN (VN) — Cycling’s class of 1990 promises to lead the way in 2015 and beyond based on its progress and results so far. Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) dominates the headlines after his recent world championship win, but many other 24-year-olds are at his side.

Peter Sagan (Cannondale) won the green jersey at the Tour de France. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) took the Giro d’Italia overall victory, and Fabio Aru (Astana) won stages in the Giro and the Vuelta a España. Along with Kwiatkowski, they sit at the top of the list of talented millennials in the peloton.

Sagan and Kwiatkowski have a history that goes back to their days as juniors. Slovakia’s Sagan won one Nations’ Cup and Poland’s Kwiatkowski two in 2008. Sagan raced junior world mountain bike championships in Val di Sole, Italy that year, and won a rainbow jersey. Later that year, they both were unsuccessful in the junior world road race championships in Cape Town, South Africa, but Kwiatkowski turned it to win the junior world time trial. He finished eight seconds ahead of Taylor Phinney, also born in 1990.

Sagan then joined Liquigas/Cannondale and immediately tasted success. Kwiatkowski matured slower and this year, he finally out-performed his longtime rival. Both, however, have shown that they will dominate the classics to come. Sagan is favored on the cobbles against Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) and Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing), while Kwiatkowski will aim for the Ardennes Classics against Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing) and Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge).

In grand tours, Colombian Quintana sent a warning message to his older rivals at last year’s Tour de France. He placed second to Chris Froome (Sky), 29, and beat 31-year-old Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo). In the wake of his 2014 Giro victory, the 126-pound climber is targeting the Tour de France next season.

Italian Aru may be a step behind, but he promises just as much. He placed third to Quintana at the Giro and won the stage to Montecampione. At the Vuelta, he won two mountain stages, one in front of Froome and one over Alejandro Valverde (Movistar). Astana now wants Aru to lead its Giro team to victory in 2015.

The grand tours will include other cyclists from 1990. France’s Thibaut Pinot (FDJ.fr) and Romain Bardet (Ag2r-La Mondiale) showed their capabilities with a third and sixth place overall, respectively, at the Tour.

Esteban Chaves (Orica), another Colombian, finished third in the recent Tour of Beijing and won stages in the Tour de Suisse and the Amgen Tour of California this season. Orica said in a statement last week that Chavez exceeded expectations in the first week of the 2014 Vuelta, “showing plenty of promise for the future.”

When the roads are not so steep, Australian Michael Matthews (Orica) and Frenchman Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ.fr) will be fighting for victories. Matthews won one stage and held the pink jersey for six days in the Giro d’Italia. Bouhanni sprinted to three stage wins in the same race.

Phinney, Rohan Dennis (BMC), and Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Shimano) — all born in 1990 — are showing promise in time trials. Racing in the Netherlands’ orange colors, Dumoulin placed third behind greats Bradley Wiggins (Sky) and Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) at the worlds in Ponferrada, Spain. Australian Dennis was fifth.

Phinney, who missed half of 2014 recovering from a broken left leg suffered at the U.S. nationals in May, wants to return to win time trials and battle in the classics with Sagan. He told VeloNews, “If I can come back and do Paris-Roubaix, that would be the best thing, but the Tour is a massive goal for me, especially with the short, punchy prologue.”