Procycling

ACCELERATED DEVELOPMENT

At 21 years and 364 days, Tadej Pogacar became the youngest winner of the Tour de France in 116 years when he won the 2020 edition of the race. Egan Bernal’s 2019 victory came at 22 years and 196 days, making him the fourth youngest ever. Then we have the likes of Flèche Wallonne champion Marc Hirschi, who is 22, and multiple stage race winner Remco Evenepoel, who has just turned 21. These riders make Giro d’Italia winner Tao Geoghegan Hart, who is 25, and 26-year-old Flanders winner Mathieu van der Poel look positively prehistoric, even though in previous eras they would have still been considered young riders. However, all five of these riders are still well under the average age of a Tour winner’s 28.5 years. So what’s going on? How are champions barely out of adolescence becoming the norm rather than the exception?

TRAIN LIKE A PRO

Digging deep into this youthful revolution required speaking to an old hand, Inigo San Millan PhD. The Spaniard is assistant professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. His areas of interest include exercise metabolism, nutrition, overtraining and peak sports performance, which is clearly paying off in his ‘other’ role as head coach at UAE Emirates.

“It’s clear that riders are training and living more professionally from an early age,” San Millan says from the team’s January training camp in the UAE. “I remember when I rode competitively, I didn’t follow a structured plan until I was around 19. Now, especially with European riders, they’re following

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