Velo Awards: Yates, Kwiatkowski are U23 Rider of the Year, Most Improved

The pair wins U23 Rider of the Year, Most Improved Awards for 2013

U23 Rider of the Year: Simon Yates

The season’s best rookie isn’t even a pro yet. But that’s set to change for Simon Yates in 2014 when he’ll join Orica- GreenEdge alongside twin brother Adam.

In 2013, the Yates brothers, 21, lit up the under-23 race scene, with Simon scoring big wins on both the track and road.

Yates won a gold medal in the points race in the world championships before hitting the pavement with the British national team. He won two stages at the Tour de l’Avenir en route to 10th overall, a promising result that bodes well for the future. Even more impressive, however, was his ride on home roads in front of huge crowds at the Tour of Britain, where he won a stage, the best young rider’s jersey, and secured third overall, sharing the podium with his childhood hero, overall winner Bradley Wiggins.

Whether Yates (no relation to former pro Sean Yates) ever comes close to the heights reached by Wiggins remains to be seen. But the brothers’ successes are yet more evidence that the British national cycling team is as strong as ever.

Most Improved Rider: Michal Kwiatkowski

After a few seasons of steadily improving results, Michal Kwiatkowski enjoyed a breakout season in his second full year at Omega Pharma-Quick Step.

The 23-year-old confirmed his reputation as a budding all-rounder, with solid results in both one-day races and week-long stage races — including victory in the Polish national road race championship, fourth at Amstel Gold Race, and fifth at Flèche Wallonne, as well as second overall at the Volta ao Algarve and fourth overall at Tirreno-Adriatico.

But it was his outstanding ride at the Tour de France, finishing 11th overall after a solid battle with Nairo Quintana for the white jersey, that had tongues wagging.

“We don’t know how far Michal can go, but we are sure he will go places,” said Omega Pharma sport director Brian Holm. “We have to wait to see how he develops. Now he can do it all. Now he will focus on shorter stage races and classics. Maybe someday he can ride for a grand tour.”

Kwiatkowski packs a lot of firepower into his 5-foot-9 frame; his authoritative finish line punch reminds some of Peter Sagan. He also has tenacity and a never-say-die attitude that will score him greater wins in the coming years.

Editor’s Note: Read about all of our award winners in the December 2013 issue of Velo, out now.