At the beginning of November, many experienced riders were still in the dark about their future. They cannot find a team, because the young talents are given priority. “But if you want to train young talents, you need experienced riders,” says Aike Visbeek (performance manager Intermarché-Circus-Wanty) in a new episode of Sporza Daily.
Jelle Wallays (34), Jens Keukeleire (35) and Jens Debusschere (33) hung up their bikes this season. Lawrence Naesen (31) also does not have a new contract yet.
“We give priority to young riders,” they were often told during their search.
A trend that can no longer be stopped thanks to the feats of Remco Evenepoel and Tadej Pogacar.
“The youth are ready to deliver top performances more quickly. They are becoming professionals at an increasingly younger age. But that of course has consequences on the other side of the line,” says Jens Debusschere. “You can’t remain a professional until you’re 38 or 40.”
Debusschere rode as a teamless rider this year and is not against the trend of transferring young riders to the pros more quickly. “These young men are delivering fantastic performances, it is a pleasure to watch.”
Jelle Wallays stopped his search for a new team, because youth takes priority.
Young riders in servant roles
Aike Visbeek is involved in recruitment at Intermarché-Circus-Wanty and confirms that teams are hunting for young talents more than ever.
“It is true that young people are given the opportunity to become professionals more quickly. The search for top talents starts earlier and earlier,” says the Dutchman.
“Our team has also been rejuvenated in recent years. But we still have 9 riders who are over 30 years old. If you want to train young talents, you also need experienced riders.”
“It is a dangerous trend,” says Visbeek about the fact that riders are becoming professionals at an increasingly younger age.
“Talented riders with a big engine are very desirable. But with large teams they quickly find themselves in a servant role.”
That is not the case with Visbeek’s Intermarché-Circus-Wanty team. “Top talents see that they get more out of their first professional years with us than they do as a servant for one of the 5 best teams in the world.”
Talented riders with a big engine are highly sought after. But with large teams they quickly find themselves in a servant role.
For experienced riders who cannot find a team, Visbeek has 1 tip: “Ride for a Belgian, Dutch, French or German continental team.”
“Those teams are running a great programme. If you continue to achieve results in those races, you will remain current.”
It would not be the first time that a rider has secured a professional contract in this way in the spring.
“There can always be a spot available in professional teams in March or April because they are struggling with long-term injuries,” Visbeek knows from experience.
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