Espoir loosely translates as hope. Dilettanti as amateur. For all the riders who feature on these pages, the aim of their years in the espoir ranks is to graduate to the WorldTour or Pro-Continental team.
The number of true “neo-pro”, or new professional, riders in the WorldTour and ProConti teams are becoming increasingly limited. Development teams such as Dimension Data Continental, Axeon Hagens Berman and Rusvelo Under 23 are all professional squads riding the Continental Tour race circuits and putting their riders in the best position to move up to the global stage. Here at Espoirs World, the term “neo pro” includes riders joining from all development teams, whether UCI-registered or not.
We took a late season look at ten new WorldTour and ProConti signings for 2018 and hope they take their chances when they come along.
- Benoit Cosnefroy – AG2R La Mondiale. The new world U23 champion moves up from Chambery Cyclisme to parent squad AG2R. No alarms and no surprises; his signing was confirmed long before he took the rainbow stripes in Bergen.
- Pavel Sivakov – Team Sky. His jumping ship from BMC Development Team to Team Sky was cited in all but name as the reason for BMC ending its development team. In no way his fault – word is that Sky simply offered better terms than BMC – this classy stage racer can time trial and climb high mountains. Spoken kindly of by his rivals this season.
- Patrick Muller – Vital Concept. Two good seasons in the development team weren’t enough to land a place at BMC ‘proper’ despite a stagiare ride in 2017. A ride at Pro-Conti level might prove better than getting lost in the WorldTour.
- Bjorg Lambrecht – Lotto Soudal. Rarely finished outside the top ten in his 2017 races. Had it not been for Sivakov this Belgian rider would have been the outstanding stage racer of the season. One for the high mountains, he’ll be hoping to get rides in the southern colony of the squad.
- James Knox – Quickstep Floors (above, left). Second at U23 Liege and 8th on GC at l’Avenir, Knox flew under the radar but had solid results in one day and stage races. A neo-pro could sink without trace in a squad with the depth of talent which Quickstep enjoys so he’ll need to kick on hard.
- Scott Davies – Dimension Data. A late addition to the WorldTour, Davies should get more chances at Dimension Data than he would at the more common British route nationale of Team Sky.
- Logan Owen – EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale. It takes as long to write his new team’s name as it did for his signature to be announced to Jonathan Vaughters’ new/continuing team. May struggle with the longer races in the WorldTour but the former ‘cross champion should be allowed to show his head in the lower tier races.
- Neilson Powless (above) – Lotto Jumbo-NL. Linked to Cannondale for over a year before searching elsewhere when the American team hit choppy waters. Lotto-JumboNL was a left field choice, but he’ll get his chances in the 2.1s and HCs, as well as the Tour of California.
- Jonahtan Narvaez – Quickstep Floors. The most distinctive climbing style since Fernando Escartin, he has a career of misspelled names in race programmes to look forward to. Unusually, he can ride a prologue as well as a mountain. A talent.
- Lucas Hamilton – Orica-Scott. Flying during the early European season one-dayers, 2nd overall at the Baby Giro and 4th overall at l’Avenir. Hamilton’s signature for Orica-Scott will have softened the blow of losing fellow Mitchelton-Scott riders Jai Hindley and Michael Storer to Team Sunweb.
- Nickolas Dlamini – Dimension Data. King of the Mountains at the Baby Giro, the barrel-chested South African is one for the breakaways rather than the high mountains.