In today’s cycling… until what age is a runner young?

At 21 years old, one day before turning 22, Tadej Pogacar had already won a Tour de France. 22 years old, Egan Bernal did the same in 2019, and at 24 he had also added the Giro to his record. Also at the age of 22, Remco Evenepoel won La Vuelta and later the World Cup. In fact, a statement of his this week at the Volta a Catalunya reopened a debate about the youth of the cyclists and the white jersey that distinguishes the first classified in this category.: “It’s a shame to win with the young jersey because in this way I can’t go with the world champion, but this is what it is”, said Remco after winning last Wednesday at the top of La Molina. It was the first time he had crossed a finish line in first position after winning the World Cup in Australia last year. Not his first victory, because he won the UAE Tour this season, but without stage wins.

With this precocity of successful talents, the classification of the best youngster at ages such as Under-26 is becoming obsolete, and in fact in many races that age is already being reduced. For example, in La Vuelta this year (2023)this classification will be disputed among those born on or after January 1, 1998 (25 years). The Volta a Catalunya went one step further: this year the age of this classification for U-23 riders was lowered. Despite this, Remco still wears the white jersey, because he is still within that scale, since he turned 23 this past January. The UCI regulations state that, in a mandatory manner, the jersey of the individual general classification by times will be mandatory to be worn by the person who occupies said position. In other classifications, the decision of the organizer also comes into play so that the runner ‘has’ to wear said distinctive jersey, among other reasons, for reasons of sponsorship of the race.

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Differences with the past

In 2005, with 25 years, Alejandro Valverde He beat Lance Armstrong in a one-on-one in the Tour de France, in Courchuvel. At that age, Alberto Contador won the Tour de France, while Miguel Indurain won the first of his five Tour de France at the age of 27. They were cycling from other times, when a runner took between two and three years to settle into professionalism. Today, every cyclist who rises to this category is practically fighting to win from the beginning, and even in some cases they skip the Under-23 category. In the last Vuelta, Juan Ayuso was on the podium at the age of 19. That’s why, The trend in racing is to lower the age in the youth classification and adapt it to current times.

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