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BESSÈGES, France (VN) – Thanks to a recent list of winners that features Nairo Quintana, Esteban Chaves, Warren Barguil, Miguel Ángel López, Marc Soler, David Gaudu, Egan Bernal, and Tadej Pogačar, it’s always well worth keeping an eye on the winner of the Tour de l’Avenir.
The 2021 champion was Tobias Johannessen, a Norwegian whose twin brother Anders was seventh overall in a stage race that’s got a long history of highlighting future talent.
Members of Uno-X’s development team last season, the pair have stepped up to the Norwegian set-up’s ProTeam this year. Avenir winner Tobias has quickly made a mark on his stage race debut at the Étoile de Bessèges, finishing third behind Bryan Coquard (Cofidis) on the steep and punchy finish at Rousson on stage two, then taking third again behind Benjamin Thomas (Cofidis) and Alberto Bettiol (EF Education-Easy Post) on stage three after the trio had broken clear on the last descent.
Speaking to VeloNews just before the third stage started in Bessèges, Johannessen explained that his objective this season is straightforward – to learn as much as he can, about himself as well as about racing and races.
“I don’t know what kind of rider I am yet. That’s one of the things that I’m trying to figure out now. It’s just my second year as a road cyclist and all of the races are new to me so I’m just trying to enjoy it and do as best as I can in every race,” said the Norwegian, whose passion for racing began, like his twin, in cyclocross and mountain biking when he was a teenager.
“I don’t have any particular goals beyond testing myself in as many races as I can and going full gas when I do, then we’ll see,” he added.
Winner of two summit finishes in the Tour de l’Avenir and second overall at the Baby Giro to Spanish super-kid Juan Ayuso, who has signed a four-year contract with UAE Team Emirates, Johannessen looks destined for big things. But he’s unsure where this season is going to take him and his team race-wise because they are dependent on invitations to the WorldTour events. He adds, though, that wherever they ride, they are sure to put on a show.
“One of the team’s biggest goals is that in every race we try to do something, not just sit in the bunch. From that point of view, it’s a really great team to be part of and I really enjoy racing for them. We’ll go hard for the win today and we’ll go just as hard tomorrow,” he said, referring to Saturday’s “queen” stage at Bessèges, which finishes at the top of Mont Bouquet, which rises for 4km at an average of very close to 10 percent.
“Our program beyond this race depends on the invitations we get to some extent. I know that there are a couple of big races where we have got a place, the Ardennes Classics notably,” said the 22-year-old Norwegian. Uno-X has been given a wild card entry at Paris-Roubaix, and the team holds faint hopes that they might be able to snag one of the two remaining invitations for the Tour de France.
As for brother Anders, Tobias affirms that he’s just as talented and capable. “We’re really similar and I think if I can do it, he can do it. That’s the nice part of being a twin.”