While the cycling season is packed with big wins and stirring performances by the established superstars of the peloton – think Demi Vollering, Mathieu van der Poel, Lotte Kopecky, Tadej Pogačar and so on – they all had to start somewhere.
Once upon a time, in some cases not too long ago, these big names were finding their way in the cycling world, showing their promise here and there and scoring key wins that signposted their potential.
Every year we see a new crop of such riders doing the same across the calendar – less familiar names bursting onto the scene for the first time. Breakthrough performances like these give us an idea of these rider’s potential and signpost who we should watch out for in future years.
We’ve looked back over the 2023 season to pick out those riders who have made a leap this year. They might have scored a big win somewhere along the way, maybe their first in a Grand Tour or at the top level, or they might have just taken that next step up in level. In either case, they’ve broken through.
Here are our 10 breakthrough riders of 2023.
Women’s sprinting has been somewhat of a foregone conclusion for the past few seasons with Lorena Wiebes (SD Worx) the dominant force when it came to any flat finish. That status quo was challenged in 2023 as Wiebes’ former teammate and leadout rider, Charlotte Kool, stepped up and showed that she was far from unbeatable.
If we head back to February, Kool made an immediate impact at the UAE Tour, beating Wiebes in the first showdown of the season on stage 1 and ending the Emirati race with two wins to Wiebes’ one. This was the first of 13 wins in 2023 for the 24-year-old whose career is still in relative infancy with many more sprint battles to come.
Kool was prolific at the RideLondon Classique and Baloise Ladies Tour, with other highlight wins coming at La Vuelta Femenina and the Simac Ladies Tour. Kool joins the exclusive club, alongside Elisa Balsamo and Marianne Vos of riders able to compete with Wiebes in a bunch finish, and at only 24 she still has room to develop that top-end speed.
Alongside Pfeiffer Georgi, Franziska Koch and Megan Jastrab, who are key parts of Kool’s lead-out, DSM-Firmenich have a great core of young riders all signed on until at least 2025, who have stepped up in 2023 and should only continue to improve as a train. They will, however, be desperate for a Tour de…