New year, new you, and new possibilities.
The 2022 season is fast approaching and riders have been donning their new kits for the first time in recent days. Among them are some promising new stars that are ready to set the cycling world alight.
With young talent dominating the road peloton at the moment, finding the next bright star is of huge importance for teams. A growing amount of developing talents are securing serious long-term deals with the top squads as they seek the next Tadej Pogačar or Demi Vollering.
Who are the young crop seeking to make their mark in 2022?
VeloNews takes a look at six riders making their full-season debut in the WorldTour this year.
Team: Human Powered Health
Kaia Schmid: remember that name because we could be hearing it a lot over the coming years. The 18-year-old (who turns 19 later this week) was the runner-up in the junior women’s road race at the worlds last year, beaten in the final sprint to the line by the multi-talented Zoe Bäckstedt. Diminutive in stature, Schmid is a good climber and she has a decent finishing kick in her, too.
Schmid also has a good pedigree on the track, where she won a junior world title in the elimination race last season as well as silver and bronze in the Omnium and points races respectively.
She was, unsurprisingly, snapped up for a pro contract for 2022 with the rebranded Human Powered Health team. Schmid will be joined by fellow American Makayla MacPherson, who finished fifth in Flanders, on the squad.
Cian Uijtdebroeks is already being referred to by some as the next Remco Evenepoel.
Though it remains to be seen what Remco Evenepoel can do in his career, given that he’s only 21 himself, it gives you an idea about the esteem that the young Uijtdebroeks is already held in his native Belgium.
His name is actually Irish (pronounced with a hard C rather than an S — Kee-an) but he told Sporza last year that he doesn’t have any Irish ancestry.
The Belgian rider showed his talents as a time trialist and stage racer in 2021, though he missed out on any big results at worlds, in his home country, after injuring himself chasing a burglar from his home days before the event.
Signed up by Bora-Hansgrohe for 2022, he will have room to develop away from the pressure cooker environment that would likely have occurred had he joined Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl.
Team: SD Worx
Kata Blanka Vas was signed up to SD Worx midway through last season, but she only hit the road for the team in September.
In her brief spell on the road, she took in some promising results, including a fourth place in the women’s world championship road race to go with her Olympic mountain bike fourth place.
She has been working with DS Lars Boom over the winter on her cyclocross skills and he’ll no doubt have been imparting his other racing knowledge on the promising young rider.
This year will see her take on a much larger road campaign, with potential starts at some of the spring classics on her horizon. The road is the discipline where she is least experienced and she has plenty of room for growth, which is very exciting given the performances she’s already given us.
Team: UAE Team Emirates
In an almost unprecedented move, Juan Ayuso was signed right out of the junior ranks at the age of 17 on a five-year contract.
Most young riders can only dream of a big deal like that, but it became a reality for the Spaniard in 2020. He did not immediately jump up to the WorldTour squad but spent half a year riding for the Colpack Ballan Continental team, and won the Baby Giro, before getting his top-level debut with UAE at the Villafranca de Ordizia in July.
Ayuso handled himself well in his debut and finished second to Luis Leon Sanchez in the one-day race.
The latter part of his season was marked slightly by crashes and injuries at the Tour de l’Avenir and the world championships, but 2022 is a clean slate with plenty of possibilities for success. It’s unlikely to be long before we see Ayuso claiming his first pro win.
Team: UAE Team ADQ
Having only just turned 18 last November, Alena Ivanchenko is the youngest on this list.
The young Russian rose to prominence this year with her junior time trial victories at the world championships and European champs last year in pretty commanding style. Prior to her big wins on the European and world stage, she notched up a stack of wins in February and March in Turkey.
Also read: Alena Ivanchenko beats back Zoe Bäckstedt
As well as her talents on the road, she has some good form on the track, and she helped the Russian team to fifth in the team pursuit at the European championships.
She jumps straight into the WorldTour next season with the newly rebranded UAE squad — formerly Alé BTC Ljubljana. Her big skill is in the time trial but we are yet to see her properly tested in bigger stage races.
Biniam Girmay made history last year as the first Eritrean to win a medal at the road world championships when he finished second in the U23 road race.
The 21-year-old launched an almighty sprint to fend off some strong competition for the silver medal. Girmay is part of a big surge of talent from Eritrea that has finally been recognized by the WorldTour peloton in the last decade, and he could be the country’s biggest talent so far.
Like some on this list, Girmay made the switch to the WorldTour midway through last year but the 2022 season will be his first full year at the top.
He already has his first pro win under his belt at the Classic Grand Besançon Doubs but there’s no doubt much more to come in 2022, including possibly his grand tour debut.