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David L. Stanley

2024 Pro Racing Season: A Spring Preview

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David Stanley is an experienced cycling writer. His work has appeared in Velo, Velo-news.com, Road, Peloton, and the late, lamented Bicycle Guide (my favorite all-time cycling magazine). Here's his Facebook page. He is also a highly regarded voice artist with many audiobooks to his credit, including McGann Publishing's The Story of the Tour de France and Cycling Heroes.

David L. Stanley


Melanoma: It Started with a Freckle

David L. Stanley's masterful telling of his bout with skin cancer Melanoma: It Started with a Freckle is available in print, Kindle eBook and audiobook versions, just click on the Amazon link on the right.

David L. Stanley writes:

These are the Good Old Days for the US of A
It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. As cycling fans, we’ve seen the worst of times. From 1991-2010, we saw the worst. It was not an easy time to be a fan of the sport. But here, in early 2024, we’ve got nothing but joy, sheer giddiness, and a healthy set of expectations for the season that promises to unspool like the 260 km of tarmac and cobbles that line the route from Compiègne to Roubaix on April 7, 2024. It is with no small amount of exhilaration, I welcome you to the USAian men who will carry our hopes, prayers, and dreams throughout this road season.

Why are hopes so high?
There have been times in World Tour pro cycling with more US-based riders. Never has the quality been higher. The website ProCyclingStats (PCS) has a well-regarded points system. The number of PCS points per US rider went up notably in 2023. That is the only metric among US riders that hasn’t decreased since 2008. For 2023, there was an average of 423 PCS points per rider. That’s nearly double the great US year of 2018, when US riders had 217 PCS points per rider and won twice as many races in the top two echelons of pro cycling, 15 vs 7. 1

Why I’m excited.
There is no doubt we live in another golden age of cycling. Pogačar. Van Aert. Van der Poel. Vingegaard. The actual list of superb riders could be three times longer. Yet for the first time in recent memory, the list is populated with riders raised here in the USA. Here are the riders, listed by age, then alphabetically, who will thrill us this season.

Or as Emerson, Lake, and Palmer said, “Welcome back my friend, to the show that never ends, we’re so glad you could attend, step inside, step inside.”

Meet the Players:

1) A.J. August (Ineos Grenadiers) Age 18. August is a product of Toby Stanton’s Hot Tubes program and a good friend of Magnus Sheffield. Hot Tubes counts among its alumni Lawson Craddock, Matteo Jorgenson, Ben King, and Sheffield. Last summer, Stanton spoke to GCN and said “I’ve been running this team for 32 years and AJ is the most talented rider I’ve ever had. Ever. We do testing on this climb called Brasstown Bald and Magnus was a minute faster than everyone when he did it. AJ went up there after 45 miles of training and rode 13:51, a minute faster than Magnus. AJ, at 127 pounds, averaged 398 watts. That’s 6.9 watts/kilo.

“A.J. went and did an Ineos training camp in Mallorca this January and they did some testing on him and on the Vo2 test he was 92. They said that they didn't have anyone that could do what he could do. He is Remco, but probably with more power.” 
I don’t know about you folks, but I’m inclined to keep my eyes on A.J. this year.

2)Luke Lamperti (Soudal Quick-Step) Age 21. I’ve been touting Luke to any and all since he won the US Senior Criterium Championships at age 18 in 2021. Winning a top criterium takes huge power output, race savvy, and guts. Moreover, he won it again in ’22, and in ’23. His 7th place in Kurne–Brussels–Kurne on Feb 25, 2024, with a 4th place in the bunch sprint behind the winning trio shows that the young man can go the Classics distances and still have enough to contest for the top placing. He took 3rd in 2023’s Tour de Bretagne which shows the young man can get over the lumpy stuff. You want an outsider with a chance in Tour of Flanders? Put a few down on Luke.

Luke Lamperti

3) Matthew Riccitello (Isreal-Premier Tech) Age 22. The young man is an exceptional climber and attacker with a massive heart. Go and re-read race reports from the last day of last year’s Tour de L’Avenir when he battled great-to-be Isaac Del Toro (UAE) age 20. Del Toro won the overall, the points, the mountains and the young rider at the race. Yet, there was Matthew, going toe-to-toe like Mike Tyson vs. Pinklon Thomas, the man Iron Mike named as his toughest opponent.

Matthew Riccitello riding stage 20 of the 2023 Giro d'Italia. Sirotti photo

4) Magnus Sheffield (Ineos Grenadiers) Age 22. If you know cycling, you know the name “Magnus.” A winner of Brabantse Pijl in ’22, he also took 2nd overall in the grueling Tour of Norway. A tough, attacking rider, he’s promised to get his chances this season after several years of team work with the Grenadiers. Especially if the weather turns lousy, look for him to shine in a Spring Classic.

Mafnus Sheffield winning the Brabantse Pijl in 2022.

5) Quinn Simmons (Lidl-Trek) Age 22. Quinn lives by the mantra, he who dares, wins. In July, 2021, Simmons took his first professional victory on Stage 3 of the Tour de Wallonie. That same year, he was in several major breakaways in the Vuelta. He was the 2022 Tour de Suisse Mountains champ as well as the category victor in the Tirreno-Adriatico. A 7th in Strade Bianche cemented his position as an aggressive rider.

Quinn Simmons racing stage 6 of the 2023 Tour de France. Sirotti photo

6) Sean Quinn (EF Education-EasyPost) Age 23. Sean is a product of the Hagens-Berman-Axeon program run by Axel Merckx. Sean rides a fine time trial. In 2021, he won the Classica da Arrabida and the best young rider at the Volta ao Algarve.

7) Kevin Vermaerke (dsm-firmenich-PostNL) Age 23. Another Hagens product, Kevin is forging a career as a tough as nails worker who is not afraid to take his chances. At 23, we’ll see his capabilities this year and next. As the winner of the 2019 Liege Espoirs race, we know he can climb and has the necessary explosiveness. So far this season, he’s claimed 6th places in Tour des Alpes-Maritimes, the Faun-Ardèche Classic and 8th in the Classic Var. Those are top-shelf results. He’s primed to show his stuff.

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8) Matteo Jorgenson (Visma-Lease a Bike) Age 24. He is the first American since Floyd Landis, 2006, to stand on the top step in Paris–Nice. What does that mean? He can climb. He can TT. He rides with his head in the flatter stages. Sean Kelly won P–N 7 times. Jalabert. Rominger. Wiggo. The honors list is a who’s who of cycling. Check out the winners here. His results in 2023 were excellent. Matteo won the overall, the points, the young rider, and stage 3 at the hilly, gritty Tour of Oman. 2nd in the Tour de Romandie and 2nd in the young rider. 4th in E3 Saxo Bank. 9th in Flanders. The progression is clear. Don’t be shocked in he takes a one-day Classic or Monument; Liege suits him down to the ground.

Matteo Jorgenson climbing Puy de Dome in the 2023 Tour de France. Sirotti photo

9) Brandon McNulty (UAE Team Emirates) Age 25. Just the other day, he held the lead in Paris-Nice until Matteo and Remco went on the joint attack on the last day. Even with that onslaught, Brandon hung in there for third place on GC. That alone was the best placing by a USAian since Andrew Talansky’s 2nd place in 2013. McNulty is a fine all-rounder, a winner in time trials (including a World Jr. Championship) and the winner of Faun-Ardèche Classic and Trofeo Calvià, plus 2nd place overall in Volta ao Algarve, all in 2022. In 2023, he took 2nd in Tour de Luxembourg and this season, he won the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana. He is a little handicapped, if that is the word, that he rides for UAE. With UAE, his role in the biggest races is to support the finest all-rounder in the world, Tadej Pogačar. It’s a demanding job, and one that doesn’t lend itself to personal heroics. Yet, Tadej is a fair bloke, and so, Brandon is given freedom in the (slightly) less prestigious events.

Brandon McNulty in yellow after stage 6 of the 2024 Paris-Nice. Sirotti photo

10) Neilson Powless (EF Education-EasyPost) Age 27. Neilson can win any one-day race he enters. Yes, any one-day race. Full stop. Yes, even if those other guys, the Galacticos, are on the start line. He has victories in the Clásica de San Sebastián (2021), the Japan Cup (2022), the 2023 Étoile de Bessèges stage race and the single-day Grand Prix La Marseillaise. He continued the fine form with 3rd places in Tour des Alpes, Dwars door Vlaanderen, a 4th in Clasica San Sebastian, 5th in Ronde van Vlaanderen, 6th in Paris–Nice, and 7th in Milano–San Remo. Plus, don’t forget his 11-day stint in the climber’s jersey in the Tour de France where he ultimately ended up in 4th place in that competition. This will be the year Neilson snags another Classic, and perhaps his first Monument.


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11) Will Barta (Movistar) Age 28. Will is the working man’s pro. An excellent time trialist, as a gregario with Movistar, his job to keep the team rolling down the road. While he is rarely allowed his head in races, watch for him doing a lot of the grunt work throughout the day. And here’s hoping that in a major race this season, one of those échappées tôt le matin in which Will often finds himself will pay off and he gets on the podium.

12) Sepp Kuss (Visma-Lease a Bike) Age 29. Our Sepp. The man who managed to stay above the fray and theatrics staged by his teammates at La Vuelta to take the overall winner’s jersey anyway. A true champion, he is solid, riding at Vingegaard’s shoulder, covering the attacks, and riding the time trial to assure his own place in the team hierarchy. While there is little doubt that Jonas is the finest stage race rider in the world right now, there is no doubt that Sepp’s Labors of Hercules made the victories of Vingegaard possible.

Sepp Kuss after winning the 2023 Vuelta a España. Sirotti photo

13) Lawson Craddock (Jayco-Alula) Age 32. There is no racer tougher than Lawson. You might recall he crashed in the first stage of the 2018 TdF and broke his scapula. He announced that he’d donate $100 for every stage he subsequently finished to Houston’s Alkek Velodrome, badly damaged by Hurricane Harvey. The track is where Lawson fell in love with the bike. A GoFundMe was set up, Lawson finished the Tour as the Lanterne Rouge, and over $250,000 was raised via the account for the track. For this season, Lawson has moved on to the Aussie-based Jayco-Alula squad where the intelligent racer will be road captain and a vital part of the Jayco Engine Room.

Lawson Craddock riding the men's time trial at the 2021 world championships. Sirotti photo


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14) Larry Warbasse (Decathlon-Ag2r-La Mondiale) Age 33. Larry, much like Will Barta and Lawson Craddock, is a team motor. These guys, you put them at the front and they will keep things under control for the climbers like Felix Gall and wind things up for the sprinters like Sam Bennett. He can do the work. The Traverse City, MI native is also a Wolverine, a graduate of the University of Michigan.

Larry Warbasse wins stage 4 of the 2017 Tour of Switzerland. Sirotti photo

What’s the takeaway? What many fans thought—while there may not be as many US-based pro cyclists as in the past, the quality is at an all-time high. 2
It’s Glory Days for all the English speakers in the pro peloton, too. Here’s a quick look at the Anglophones in the peloton with quick mentions for riders of note for each nation.

Australia. 26 World Tour level riders. Jai Hindley (Bora-RedBull), winner of the 2022 Giro, can only benefit from the addition of Primož Roglič to the squad. While Roglič is not noted for his generosity and collegiality amongst his team-mates (see La Vuelta, 2023), having a rider of his quality at the front can only work to Hindley’s benefit as that is one more top-shelf guy for other teams to keep watch upon.

Canada. The Land of the Great White North sends 5 riders to Europe this season. Look for Derek Gee (Israel-Premier Tech) TT’er extraordinaire, and winner of the 2023 Giro Combativity prize, to snare an exploit this year.

Great Britain. Can you believe it? 33 riders are at or near the World Tour level. The most celebrated? Tom Pidcock (Ineos) 2020 Olympic MTB-XC gold medalist; 2022 World CX champion; 2023: 1st in Strade Bianche, 2nd in Liege, 3rd in Amstel. He fears no one, no race, no weather. And Josh Tarling (Ineos) is only 20!  He’s the 2023 European TT champ and winner of the Chrono des Nations. He’s just getting started.

Ireland. The Auld Sod sends 8 to the Big Leagues. I love Ben Healy (EF Education -EasyPost), an explosive risk-taker who specializes in the breakaway. 2023: 2nd Amstel, 2nd Brabantse Pilj, 4th Liege. We’d all love to see him replace either the 2 or the 4 with a 1.

It’s already a great season, what with that Paris–Nice victory and podium. Did any of us ever think we’d see two USAians battling for the top step in a race with the history of Paris–Nice? Is this the year a US-based rider wins a Monument (sorry, Tyler)? Another Grand Tour? A World Championship? Glory days, indeed.

Have you been watching some young guy with a lot of potential?
Spill the goods with me on Threads, @Dstan_58

1,2. Beyond the Peloton, the State of the 2024 Cycling Union

David Stanley, like nearly all of us, has spent his life working and playing outdoors. He got a case of Melanoma as a result. Here's his telling of his beating that disease. And when you go out, please put on sunscreen.

 

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