The 12 Men’s Riders We Won’t Be Able to Stop Watching in 2024
We’re at the start of the 2024 men’s professional road season, with the year’s first WorldTour event, the Tour Down Under, set to begin on Tuesday, January 16th, 2024. Which means we’ll once again have a chance to get an early look at new riders, new kits, and new bikes–all in the heat of the Australian summer.
So with the 2024 season about to begin, here’s a look at the riders we expect to be at the centre of the biggest storylines in the men’s professional peloton in 2024.
Tadej Pogacar—UAE Team Emirates
When Slovenia’s Tadej Pogačar won the 2020 and 2021 Tours de France, we were ready to pencil him in as the winner of five to seven more. But it turns out the 25-year-old wants to be known as more than just a Tour-winner, which is great news for race organisers and fans. That’s one of the reasons why he’s the most exciting male rider in professional cycling and an all-rounder the likes of which we haven’t seen in decades.
For example, in 2022, he raced the Tour of Flanders–one of the sport’s hardest one-day races–in order to test himself on cobblestones like the ones he would find at the Tour de France later in the summer. And despite the fact that he was just “training,” he finished fourth (and could have won had he not botched his sprint at the finish line).
So last spring he returned–and won the event ahead of the sport’s best Classics riders, men like the Netherlands’ Mathieu van der Poel and Belgium’s Wout van Aert, riders who have spent years racing and winning on the jarring cobblestones of Belgium and Northern France. He then took his first-ever victories in two more spring Classics–the Amstel Gold Race and Fleche Wallonne–just for good measure.
Over the summer he “only” finished second at the Tour de France–for the second year in a row–but even in defeat he went down with guns blazing, winning the punchy penultimate stage just days after a bigtime collapse in the high Alps. He ended the year with his third win in Il Lombardia, the season’s fifth and final one-day Monument. If that’s not the mark of a diverse skill set, we don’t know what is.
This year Pog’s hoping to add two Italian events–Milan-San Remo, the season’s first Monument, and the Giro d’Italia, the season’s first grand tour–to his palmares. Then he’ll take a short break before heading back to the 2024 Tour de France in the hopes of becoming the first rider since 1998 to win both the Giro and the Tour in the same season.
Can he do it? Well, we don’t see anyone beating him at the Giro, but the Tour? That remains to be seen. No matter what happens, though, Pogačar will be a force to be reckoned with wherever he races.
Jonas Vingegaard—Visma-Lease a Bike
After defeating Pogačar to win the 2022 Tour de France, Denmark’s Jonas Vingegaard proved his victory was no fluke, crushing the Slovenian during the third week of last year’s Tour to defend his title.
The Dane then finished second at the 2023 Vuelta a España in September, just 17 seconds behind his American teammate, Sepp Kuss. (And if we’re being honest, had Vingegaard not been racing against his teammate, he probably would have won.) If there were any lingering doubts as to which rider is the sport’s best grand tour racer, Vingegaard put them squarely to rest.
This year the 27-year-old has his sights set on winning a third Tour de France, and we have little reason to bet against him. Not only is he one of the sport’s most talented stage racers, he also rides for the sport’s deepest, strongest, and best-trained teams.
That’s a lot of hyperbole, but consider this: last year Visma became the first squad to win all three grand tours in a single season, and the team completed its hat-trick by finishing 1-2-3 in the Vuelta a España, another never-before-seen achievement.
In 2024, Vingegaard will also benefit from a bit of addition by subtraction since Slovenia’s Primož Roglič–who won last year’s Giro d’Italia and finished third at the Vuelta a España–has left the team. Vingegaard and Roglič never seemed to hit it off, and the Slovenian’s departure now means Vingegaard can prepare to win his third Tour de France without worrying about his status within his own team. Even better: the team has replaced Roglič with some of the sport’s hottest young talents, riders with the legs to help Vingegaard win–but without the egos to match.
Mathieu van der Poel—Alpecin-Fenix
In taking his first victories in Milan-San Remo and Paris-Roubaix last spring–followed by his first rainbow jersey in the elite road race at the World Championships in Glasgow in August–the Netherlands’ Mathieu van der Poel established himself as the best male Classics rider in the sport.
Van der Poel reminds us of Belgium’s Roger de Vlaeminck, a legendary hardman of the 1970s and early-1980s who spent the winter dominating the cyclocross circuit and the spring crushing the Classics–especially cobbled ones like the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.
Like Pogačar, van der Poel is only limited by the simple fact that it’s not humanly possible for him to win every race on the calendar–even if it sometimes seems as if he could. Last spring he showed how much he’s matured as a tactician: he once raced as if he were still a junior, attacking races a long way from the finish, a strategy that worked sometimes, but often backfired. Now that he’s learned to measure out his efforts–and ride a bit more strategically–he’s been even more unstoppable.
This year he’s hoping to win another gold medal at the cyclocross World Championships in February, followed by another romp through his beloved spring Classics, where he’ll try to win as many races as he can.
A third victory in the Tour of Flanders (he won the race in 2020 and 2022) would tie him with six other riders for the most in the event’s history, putting him on target to smash one of the sport’s oldest and hardest to break records.
After that, he’ll shoot for the Olympics, where he’s hoping to win the road race and–wait for it–the mountain bike event. (When he wants to be, Van der Poel just so happens to be one of the sport’s best mountain bikers.) He’s already called the Olympics the “north star” of his season, and if he arrives to those events as well prepared as he was for last year’s spring Classics and World Championships, he’ll be hard to beat.
Remco Evenepoel—Soudal-Quick Step
After winning the 2022 Vuelta a España, Belgium’s Remco Evenepoel took the next logical step in his development and targeted the 2023 Giro d’Italia. But that dream came to an end after the Belgian–who had won two stages and was leading the race overall at the time–was forced to head home on the eve of the Giro’s first rest day after testing positive for Covid-19.
That disappointment–coupled with his inability to defend his title at the Vuelta a España in September (although even in defeat he still won three stages and the the King of the Mountains prize)–overshadowed his second victory in Liège–Bastogne–Liège, a win in Belgium’s road race championship, and his first elite world time trial championship.
Despite not winning the Giro, Evenepowl will still be riding his first Tour de France in 2024, joining Pogačar, Vingegaard, and Roglič at the French grand tour. If we were Quick-Step, we’d be happy with a podium finish. The Tour is much harder to win than the Vuelta a España, and a top-3 finish in his first participation (against such competition) would be an impressive result–especially for a rider with the weight of one of cycling’s most passionate national fanbases on his shoulders.
You have to wonder how much of an impact not winning the 2020 Tour de France has had on the career of Slovenia’s Primož Roglič. Wearing the yellow jersey heading into the Tour’s final time trial, Roglič lost the Tour to Pogačar on the Tour’s penultimate day, setting off a chain of events that included two Tour wins for his teammate, Vingegaard, a bit of a falling out with Visma, and a subsequent to BORA-hansgrohe during this past off-season.
After sharing (and often relinquishing) team leadership duties with Vingegaard (and Kuss) at Visma, Roglič will now have the full support of a talented team at BORA-hansgrohe, an underrated squad that will do everything it can to add the one grand tour missing from Roglič’s resume.
And this year’s Tour de France course is perfect for the 34-year-old: it’s mountainous and punchy right from the start, and should favor an aggressive rider who’s not afraid to take a risk or two. In other words, it’s the best chance Roglič has had to win the Tour since 2020–when he came up short just one day before Paris.
Wout van Aert—Visma-Lease a Bike
Visma’s grand tour dominance last year overshadowed the fact that Belgium’s Wout Van Aert had a bit of a down year–by his own standards at least. He won just five races, and most glaringly, none of the races he’s dying to win the most: the Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix, and a world championship in either the individual time trial or the road race.
In fact, his most memorable 2023 performance might have been in the event he didn’t win: Ghent-Wevelgem. After breaking away late in the race with his teammate Christophe Laporte, van Aert gifted the win to the Frenchman. And then didn’t win another race for himself until late-June. Awkward!
His focus in 2024 will be no different than his focus in 2023 (and 2022, and 2021, and 2020…): winning a cobbled Monument (the Tour of Flanders or Paris-Roubaix), a World Championship, or an Olympic Gold Medal. To help him reach his goals, his team has made a few changes to his program.
First, while he’s still competing in some cyclocross races this winter, he’s clearly not racing at his top level of fitness–and he won’t extend his season through the World Championships in early February. Instead, he’ll end his ‘cross season earlier than he has in the past and focus his training on the spring Classics.
From there he’s heading to the Giro d’Italia, where it remains to be seen whether or not he will try and ride for the General Classification. Folks have been wondering for years whether or not van Aert has the chops to contend in grand tours, and this might be our chance to see if he does. Along with Pogačar, van Aert’s participation makes this year’s Giro one of the most interesting on the calendar.
Then he’ll skip the Tour, for the first time in five years, and focus all of his efforts on the Olympic Games, where he’ll shoot for medals in both the road race and the individual time trial. He’ll end his season with another shot at winning a world championship, but he’s certainly hoping that he’s already hit one of his pre-season targets by that point in time.
Great Britain’s Mark Cavendish wasn’t supposed to be on this year’s list for the simple fact that he announced his retirement last May. But a crash on Stage 8 ruined his chance to break the record for the most stage victories in Tour de France history (he’s currently tied with Belgian legend Eddy Merckx at 34), so after months of speculation the Manx Missile announced that he’d be back for one more season.
And the team is going all-in on the 38-year-old’s last chance to get the win he needs to make the record his own, most importantly the team signed two of the people most responsible for the success Cav enjoyed during his last stint at Quick-Step (when he won four stages and the green jersey at the 2021 Tour): Denmark’s Michael Mørkøv, perhaps the sport’s best lead-out man, and Greece’s Vasilis Anastopoulos, the coach who was the mastermind behind Cav’s training program leading into that year’s Tour.
These two will be charged with leading an all-star line-up of sprinters and fastmen that–if all goes to plan–will get Cav his magic 35th stage win at the Tour this summer.
Sepp Kuss—Visma-Lease a Bike
In winning last year’s Vuelta a España, Colorado’s Sepp Kuss became the first American to win one of cycling’s three grand tours since Chris Horner won the same race back in 2013. Kuss’s victory–coupled with Roglič’s departure–means the 29-year-old heads into the 2024 season as his team’s second-best grand tour rider. That makes Kuss at least an outside contender for the 2024 Tour de France–and a major one should Vingegaard be unable to start.
And even if Vingegaard enters the race as the top favourite, remember that the team placed three riders on the podium in Spain last September, so putting two on the podium at the Tour is certainly well within the team’s reach.
Neilson Powless—EF Education-Cannondale
American Neilson Powless had a fantastic season in 2023, highlighted by two early season victories in France and then top-10 finishes in Paris-Nice, Milan-Sanremo, and the Tour of Flanders.
The dude oozes panache: unafraid to attack, he’s one of the more aggressive riders in the peloton. But that sometimes works against him, as his moves often set the stage for race-winning attacks from other riders. Assuming the 27-year-old has learned a few things from last year’s near-misses, he’s poised to take an even bigger win this year, perhaps at the Tour of Flanders, a race which no American male rider has ever won.
Belgium’s Jasper Philipsen took last year’s Tour de France by storm, winning four stages and the green jersey as the winner of the Tour’s Points Classification. But this year he has his eye on his biggest near-miss: Paris-Roubaix.
You might remember Philipsen gutsy second-place ride in last year’s Hell of the North, basically spending all day off the front or driving the break on behalf of Van der Poel, who escaped late in the race to take the win. Even after all his hard work, Philipsen still had enough left to sprint for second.
He’s considered a sprinter nowadays, but as a junior and U23 rider he was known as a Classics rider, so Roubaix is right up his alley. His team dreams of Van der Poel winning another Flanders and Philipsen following-up with a win at Roubaix a week later, two goals well within their reach of these talented riders.
Matteo Jorgenson—Visma-Lease a Bike
Jorgenson had a 2023 season similar to Powless: riding for Movistar, he won the Tour of Oman in February and then scored two impressive top-10 finishes in the cobbled Classics (at the E3 Saxo Classic and the Tour of Flanders).
Next he was the runner-up at the Tour of Romandie in May before building himself back into shape for the Tour de France, where he came close to winning the stage that marked the Tour’s return to the famous climb of the Puy de Dôme.
By then the 24-year-old had clearly caught everyone’s eye, because rumours quickly began swirling that he had signed a contract with Visma, rumours that were confirmed later in the summer. Now he jumps to arguably the sport’s best team, where he’ll have the support of some of the sport’s best coaches.
Visma likely views him as a long-term project, a rider that will make an immediate impact as a support rider in the cobbled Classics and the Tour de France, while learning and developing the knowledge and skills he needs to one day be a contender himself–perhaps in both Classics and grand tours.
Juan Ayuso—UAE Team Emirates
Still just 21-years-old, Spain’s Juan Ayuso has already recorded third- and fourth-place finishes in the last two editions of the Vuelta a España. On any other team, that would make him a marquee rider, but on UAE Team Emirates he’s “just” an up-and-comer.
This year he’ll make his Tour de France debut, where–on paper at least–he’ll be riding to support Pogačar. But here’s the thing: with Pog racing the Giro, there’s a chance he runs out of gas by the end of the Tour, which means Ayuso could end up being his team’s best GC rider. And even if Pog proves to be up to the Giro-Tour challenge, Ayuso could still ride his way onto the podium while supporting the Slovenian.