10 breakthrough stars of the men’s peloton in 2022
From Magnus Sheffield to Biniam Girmay and more, 10 riders that have enjoyed a breakthrough on the road in 2022.
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The 2022 season was another year for young riders with the likes of Tadej Pogačar and Remco Evenepoel dominating the victory standings.
While Pogačar and Evenepoel were already firm fixtures at the front of races and the top step of the podium, there were others that enjoyed a run of success for the first time in the pro ranks.
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Several of those riders were doing it in just their first season as a professional while others have been working their way toward a breakthrough for several years.
In this list, VeloNews breaks down some of the breakthrough stars of 2022.
Magnus Sheffield (Ineos Grenadiers)
Sheffield’s debut with Ineos Grenadiers ahead of this season was hotly anticipated, and rightly so. The then 19-year-old American didn’t take long to deliver on expectations with his first pro win coming less than a month into his WorldTour tenure after he claimed a stage of the Vuelta a Andalucía. He went on to cap-off a strong spring campaign an impressive solo victory at Brabantse Pijl.
In the latter half of the season, he racked up a TT win and second overall at the Tour of Denmark and top 10 at the curtailed Tour of Britain. His season ended on a slightly sour note after a crash in the worlds TT stopped any chance he had of getting a medal.
Arnaud De Lie (Lotto Soudal)
While his team will ultimately be relegated from the WorldTour, it wasn’t for want of trying on behalf of De Lie. With Caleb Ewan underperforming, the 20-year-old first-year pro was far and away Lotto Soudal’s biggest points scorer in 2023. For large portions of the season, he was the team’s only hope of staying in the WorldTour, though relying on just one rider was always going to make it difficult.
Starting with the Trofeo Palma in January, De Lie racked up nine victories over the course of the season. His performances see him ranked sixth in the world standings and the second U23 rider, just behind Remco Evenepoel. Though many of his wins came at smaller races, it was an outstanding season for De Lie, and we can hopefully expect more of the same in 2023.
Juan Ayuso (UAE Team Emirates)
Snapped up out of the junior ranks in at the end of 2020, and switching to the WorldTour midway through last year, there was plenty of expectation on the young shoulders of Ayuso. He got off to a strong start with his team in August 2021, but this year would be a sterner test for the Spaniard. Ayuso was quick to make an impression with fifth place overall at the Volta a Catalunya among some very strong opposition.
That form pushed on well into the late spring with fourth overall at the Tour de Romandie. However, his biggest performance came at his debut grand tour, the Vuelta a España. Still just 19 — he would turn 20 a few days after the race finished — Ayuso held his own and beat some of the world’s best stage races to finish on the final podium. Backing it up in 2023 will be a tough prospect but he has the talent to do it.
Biniam Girmay (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert)
Girmay stepped up into the WorldTour late in 2021 with Intermarché and had already shown some big promise by getting in an early victory. His second place in the U23 race at the Flanders worlds announced him as a very promising prospect, but few could have imagined just how much of an impact he’d have in 2022.
Despite never riding them before, Girmay was quick to slot into the pointy end of the peloton at the classics. His fifth place at the E3 Saxo Bank Classic had plenty of people talking about what he was capable of, including his rivals, and he backed that up with a historic victory at Gent-Wevelgem. He then went on to win a stage of the Giro d’Italia, but his time at the race was cut short after an unfortunate incident with a premature uncorking of a prosecco bottle.
Matteo Jorgenson (Movistar)
After two years in the WorldTour peloton, Jorgenson seemed to hit his cadence in 2022. This year didn’t go quite to plan for the American, but that may have been a good thing. Jorgenson was supposed to ride the Giro d’Italia in May and looked to be well on track to hit it in good form with a strong fourth place at the Tour de Provence. However, he tore his hamstring at Paris-Nice and would have to sit out the Italian grand tour.
When one door closes, another often opens and the missed opportunity at the Giro provided a chance for Jorgenson at the Tour de France. He notched up a solid 13th place at the Criterium du Dauphine before it and went on to take 21st at the Tour, coming close on three occasions to claiming a stage win. It seems only a matter of time before that win does come.
Carlos Rodriguez (Ineos Grenadiers)
Having made his professional debut aged just 19, Rodriguez has been gradually improving with each passing year and this season saw him take a big step forward in his progression. Starting the season on his 21st birthday, Rodriguez got off to a strong start with third in Valencia. He carried that form right through the opening half of the season with a top-five performance at the Ruta del Sol and a stage win at Itzulia Basque Country.
He went into his summer break with a big win by taking the Spanish national title. In the second half of the season, he was part of the big Spanish revival at the Vuelta a España, which was his first grand tour, as his more experienced teammates faltered. Rodriguez put in an aggressive performance and showed himself to be an exciting future talent.
Thymen Arensman (Team DSM)
Arensman is another rider that has been gradually building his performances since turning professional very young. Unlike many on this list, he went into this year with two grand tours already under his belt and seemed set to take another major step forward in his progression. Sixth overall at Tirreno-Adriatico was an early sign that he was on the right path and he followed that with third overall at the Tour of the Alps.
After starting the Giro d’Italia as a support rider for Romain Bardet, he put in some strong performances in the final week and came close to winning a couple of stages. Following those close calls in Italy, he finally got the grand tour stage win at the Vuelta a España and rode home to sixth overall. With a move to Ineos Grenadiers for next year on the cards, it will be interesting to see how he slots into that setup and if he’ll be afforded the same opportunities.
Olav Kooij (Jumbo-Visma)
Having shown some serious potential in his first year as a professional, Kooij really blew the doors off his 2022 season. The 21-year-old Dutch rider scored 12 wins this season, putting him fourth on the victory tally from 2022, just behind riders like Tadej Pogačar, Remco Evenepoel, and Fabio Jakobsen.
Though most of his wins have come at some smaller races, he’s taken some serious scalps this season, including having the better of riders like Mads Pedersen, Elia Viviani, and Jasper Philipsen. At 21, he’s still got a lot of room for improvement and it feels like it won’t be long before he lays claim to his first WorldTour victory.
Valentin Madouas (Groupama-FDJ)
At 26, Madouas is a little bit older than some of the other riders on this list, but there is still space in cycling for riders to develop at a slightly slower race. Madouas turned professional with Groupama-FDJ back in 2018 and showed early potential with wins at the Tour de Haut Var and Paris-Bourges. His results have been getting better each year, but this season saw him make a serious breakthrough.
Madouas came to everyone’s attention during the classics where he took a top-10 at the E3 Saxo Bank Classic before catapulting himself to third a week later at the Tour of Flanders. He went on to then take 11th at the Tour de France as he proved to be a vital teammate for David Gaudu. Madouas then finished the season with a flurry of wins, setting himself up for a good off-season.
Mattias Skjelmose (Trek-Segafredo)
Skjelmose turned professional with Trek-Segafredo at the start of last year and showed plenty of potential with second place in the youth classification at the Tour de Romandie and victory in the same classification at the Tour of Norway. He came into this year with strong form, finishing third behind Nairo Quintana and Julian Alaphilippe at the Tour de Provence.
The Dane would go on to have a strong second half of the season that would see him finish second to Guillaume Martin at the Tour de l’Ain and then take the overall classification at the Tour of Luxembourg. His performances were enough that Trek-Segafredo made sure to add another two years to his contract with the team.