World U23 Road Race: a good indicator of talent?

The World Championships is always based around the blue riband events – the Men’s Time Trial and Road races. Whilst it’s unfortunate that the Women don’t have the same standing, it is the other events that I’d like to look at in the mean time – the ‘minor’ events, and that’s ‘minor’ in terms of age – the Junior (U18) and U23 races.

The Tour de l’Avenir, otherwise known as the amateur Tour de France, is oft cited as the best race to see who the future talent of cycling will be, given its a rugged course ridden by national teams, and has Tour de France champions on its Alumi list. But in reality, in its 48 editions, it has so far prduced only five Tour champions: Felice Gimondi, Joop Zoetemelk, Miguel Indurain, Greg Lemond and Laurent Fignon. Now, the U23 World Road races have produced no Tour champions from their 17 podiums, but they and their cousin the Time Trial have produced plenty more rounded talent – indeed, here is a list of what…

The U23 Road Race Medalists have won in their professional careers:

Tour de France Stages: 9

Giro d’Italia Stages: 17

Vuelta d’Espana Stages: 17

National Championships: 18

Milan San-Remo: 3

Paris-Roubaix: 1

Liege-Bastonge-Liege: 1

Giro di Lombardia: 1

Tour de France Green Jerseys: 1

Tirreno-Adriatico: 2

Giro d’Italia: 3

Days in Malliot Jaune: 9


So who are these men? Let’s take a look.

1996 Lugano

1st. Giuliano Figueras (ITA) – won the inaugral race, and 14 professional victories, but none of any real note: GP di Lugano probably being the best.

2nd. Roberto Sgambelluri (ITA) – managed 4th in a stage of the 1999 Giro, but again, nothing special.

3rd. Luca Sironi (ITA) – rode as a domestique.


1997 San Sebastian

Winning a Giro Stage here, not the U23 worlds.

1st. Kurt Asle-Arverson (NOR) – The powerful Norwegian vanguard for Thor won stages of all three Grand Tours (The Vuelta one being a TT) and won national championships 5 times, + E3 Prijs Vlaanderen.

2nd. Oscar Freire (SPA) – The only man to win the Worlds proper – 3 times. Plus a green jersey, multiple Grand Tour stages, three Milan San-Remos, Ghent Whevelgem…the most successful medalist probably.

3rd. Gerrit Glomser (AUT) – won the Tour of Austria twice, and placed 8th in the Tour de Suisse, plus an Austrian National Championships.


1998 Valkenburg

1st. Ivan Basso (ITA) – Won the Giro twice (well, once) and despite his ban has become a great stage racing force.

2nd. Rinaldo Nocentini (ITA) – main claim to fame was the 8 days he held the yellow jersey in the Tour de France, albeit overshadowed by the Armstrong/Contador psychological warfare in 2009.

3rd. Danilo Di Luca (ITA) – a controversial figure on a classy podium, he won the Giro only to test positive for CERA in later events. Won Amstel, Liege, Fleche and the Giro di Lombardia.


1999 Verona

1st. Leonardo Giordani (ITA) – scored 9th in the Brixia Tour in his best year, 2003.

2nd. Luca Paolini (ITA) – Became a stalwart of the Italian National team, taking a stage of the Vuelta, 7th in Flanders and 3rd in Milan San-Remo. He still rides for Katusha.

3rd. Matthias Kessler (GER) – won a stage of the 2006 Tour but later tested positive, worryingly the trail on him goes dry after he suffered severe head injuries in a training crash in 2010.


2000 Plouay

1st. Evgeni Petrov (RUS) – Thrown out of the 2005 Tour for a high haemocrit, he won stage of the Giro in 2010.

2nd. Yaroslav Popovych (UKR) – seen as the new Merckx in his amateur days, he had high GT finishes but never the same as his early days. Won an individual stage of the Tour and two in TTTs.

3rd. Lorenzo Bernucci (ITA) – Fired from T-Mobile for doping, he still won a stage of the 2005 Tour.


2001 Lisbon

1st. Yaroslav Popovych (UKR) – see 2000

2nd. Giampaolo Caruso (ITA) – implicated but cleared in Puerto, his best result is stage of the Tour down Under.

3rd. Ruslan Gryschenko (UKR) – won the youth Giro di Lombardia, but nothing else.


2002 Zolder

1st. Francescco Chicchi (ITA) – despite being employed as a leadout man for a myriad of sprinters, has still taken 29 career wins, but still missed that elusive Grand Tour stage.

2nd. Francisco Guttierez (SPA) – little of note

3rd. David Loosli (SWI) – won three races, but the U23 worlds remained his best result.


2003 Hamilton

1st. Sergey Lagutin (UZB) – Lagutin is Uzbekistan’s premier cyclist, winning their Nationals 9 times, and placing 5th in the 2012 Olympic Road Race.

2nd. Johan Van Summeren (BEL) – won Paris-Roubaix in 2011, as well as the Tour of Poland in a career marked out as a supreme domestique.

3rd. Thomas Dekker (NED) – won Tirreno Adriatico and the Tour of Romandy, but was done for doping after being cited as a future Tour winner. Let back in in controversial circumstances by Garmin as its women’s team folded.


2004 Verona

1st. Kanstanstin Siustou (BLR) – Three GT TTTs and a Giro win for the improving Belarussian, who has a 9th at the Giro on his palmares. Towes Team Sky around these days.

2nd. Thomas Dekker (NED) – see 2003.

3rd. Mads Christensen (DEN) – Ended up as a track cyclist, now on Saxo-Tinkoff.


2005 Madrid

1st. Dmitri Grabrovskiy (UKR) – promising career went off the road when he won the Worlds, getting a contract with Quick-Step but sucumming to various pitfalls.

2nd. William Walker (AUS) – was the first of the Rabobank Australians, but left for Fuji-Servetto, before falling ill. Back riding at a lower level now.

3rd. Yevgeni Popov (RUS) – embarrassingly I can find no record of Popov…


2006 Salzburg

1st. Gerald Ciolek (GER) – the German sprinter won this national championships at 18, and has now moved to an African squad after years at Milram and OPQS, where he did at least win a Vuelta stage.

2nd. Romain Feillu (FRA) – the erratic sprinter took the Malliot Jaune for a day in 2008, but persistent allergies have blighted his career.

3rd. Alexander Khauntsev (RUS) – Russian road race champ 2006 and GP Moscow are career highlights.


2007 Stuttgart

1st. Peter Velits (SVK) – 3rd in the 2010 Vuelta, or 2nd now that Mosquerra has been banned, the same race he won the TT.

2nd. Wesley Sulzberger (AUS) – like his brother, has done well on domestic circuits but not internationally.

3rd. Jonathan Bellis (GBR) – the Brit had a promising careers until a scooter crash that put him in a coma, he now rides in the UK


2008 Varese

1st. Fabio Duarte (COL) – 5th in the Tour of California 2012

2nd. Simone Ponzi (ITA) – won a stage of the Tour of Slovenia in 2012

3rd. John Deglenkob (GER) – the powerful German took 5 stages of the Vuelta in 2012, as well as 2 stages of the Dauphine in 2011


2009 Mendrisio

1st. Romain Sicard (FRA) – the Frenchman is now on Euskatel, and is seen as a future Tour winner, but has been in trouble with the law and had injuries.

2nd. Carlos Betancur (COL) – won the Giro’Emillia 2011

3rd. Egor Silin (RUS) – won a stage of the Herald Sun Tour 2011.


2010 Geelong

1st. Michael Matthews (AUS) – seems to think he is a rival to Peter Sagan, despite nothing on his palmares bar a stage of the Tour of Utah. Not exactly up there with Sagan…

2nd. John Deglenkob (GER) – see 2008.

3rd. Guillaume Boivin (CAN), Taylor Phinney (USA) Yes, they tied for 3rd, and Phinney nips ahead due to his World Pursuit titles, 4th in both 2012 road Olympic events, and Giro stage win. Boivin has done little so far.


2011 Copenhagen

1st. Arnaud Demare (FRA) – leading the line of new French sprinters, although Bouhanni is better by looks of things. Rides for FDJ, and took a huge number of scalps with a win at Vattenfall Cyclassics.

2nd. Adrien Petit (FRA) – riding as a stagiarre for Cofidis.

3rd. Andrew Fenn (GBR) – won two stages of the Trofea Mallorca for OPQS


2012 Limburg

1st. Alexey Lutsenko (KAZ)

2nd. Bryan Coquard (FRA)

3rd. Tom Van Asbroeck (BEL)

One thought on “World U23 Road Race: a good indicator of talent?

  1. Really enjoyed reading this – a nice resource and I didn’t know (until today) about the story of the 1996 winner almost admitting to doping straight off the podium (according to Daniel Friebe & Inner Ring on twitter today). “Something has to be done. Someone’s going to die here”

    One point of note – Robbie McEwen was at Rabobank 5 years before Will Walker – who may have a future in the media: He is really good on this and makes some good points.

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