In the past, riders younger than 23 were considered to be future prospects and the term ‘espoir’, which means hope, defined the age bracket of developing riders. In the past few years, however, young riders have become a dominant force in professional cycling and a growing contingent is graduating from the junior ranks into the WorldTour.
The class of 2023 is following the trend, especially in the Women’s WorldTour where at least six 18-year-olds have signed with teams. Two juniors have moved into the WorldTour, with American AJ August the youngest, singing to Ineos Grenadiers on a three-year contract.
Other riders have bided their time and spent a few seasons in under-23/development teams but are now ready to break through at the highest level.
A neo-pro is a rider in the first year of a professional contract above the Continental level, and we’ve selected 10 of the most exciting WorldTour debutants to keep an eye on in the coming season.
AJ August (Ineos Grenadiers through 2026)
Andrew “AJ” August just turned 18 on October 12, 2023, but he already had a three-year contract to race with the Ineos Grenadiers in hand. Hailing from Pittsford, New York, a small town outside Rochester, August raced with the prominent junior team Hot Tubes and first caught the attention of European fans when he won the Koppenbergcross junior cyclocross race last year.
That result had followed a summer where August dipped his toe into European racing and came away with top 10s in the Internationale Juniordriedaagse in the Netherlands, the Junioren Rundfahrt in Austria, a stage win in the Watersley Junior Challenge and second overall at the Ronde des Vallées in 2022.
With a base of success already building, he went on this year to win a stage of the Redlands Bicycle Classic and take second overall in the elites, second overall in the Course de la Paix Juniors Nations Cup, the US junior time trial title, and then two stages of the Ain Bugey Valromey Tour – both on mountaintop finishes – and the overall classification.
Ineos have such confidence in this young American they’ve given him a contract through 2026, one year longer than the usual neo-pro deal.
Izzy Sharp (Lidl-Trek through 2026)
Another rider who just turned 18 and signed a three-year WorldTour contract is British multi-discipline…