Jasper Philipsen: Young riders like Tadej Pogacar are challenging the old guard - it's phenomenal

Each week a cyclist from UAE Team Emirates writes for The National, providing insight from the UCI World Tour and offering their thoughts on the season

Santos Tour Down Under 2019 - 5th Stage Glenelg - Strathalbyn 149,5 km - 19/01/2019 - Jasper Philipsen (BEL - UAE - Team Emirates) - photo Dario Belingheri/BettiniPhoto©2019
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As we move towards the end of the season – my first on the UCI WorldTour – I'd have to say that my one big observation from inside the pro peloton is that it's been a year for the young guns. As a rider that is only 20 years old, it gives me a lot of confidence to see my peers, teammates - and rivals - not only holding their own but outclassing so many of the older and more experienced guys in the bunch.

I have to take my hat off to Tadej Pogacar. He is having an absolutely unbelievable ride at the Vuelta. Everyone at UAE Team Emirates knew he was strong, but I’m not sure anyone expected him to be closing in on a second-place finish. Especially when he’s up against legends of the sport like Alejandro Valverde and Nairo Quintana.

But it’s a trend we’ve seen throughout the season; the new guys really are challenging the status quo.

Earlier this year Egan Bernal (Ineos) won the Tour de France. It's the biggest bike race in the world and he is only 22. Richard Carapaz (Movistar) was just turning 26 when he won the 2019 Giro d'Italia. Then you've got guys like Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) who is 25 and always up there. Right now he's having a really exciting duel with Tadej for the Youth Classification jersey in Spain, which is great for cycling and amazing for the fans to watch.

Outside of the Grand Tours you’ve got 21-year-old guys like Pavel Sivakov and Ivan Sosa (Ineos) as well as Sergio Higuita (EF Education First) who are winning or taking podium spots at really tough week-long stage races.

It's not just the future GC guys either; Remco Evenepoel, who I used to race against in the Belgian Junior and U23 ranks, has exploded onto the scene. Like me, it is his first season on the WorldTour, and he won the Clasica San Sebastian with Deceuninck Quick Step at 19. That's unheard of.

Then you have the young crossover riders like Wout van Aert (Jumbo Visma) and Mathieu van der Poel (Correnden Circus) who came from CycloCross and are now winning one day races and stages on the road. Both are only 24. Again, it's phenomenal.

As for me, I just came second in a really tough sprint finish at the GP Fourmies in France. I was beaten to the line by Pascal Ackermann (BORA Hansgrohe). He’s one of the best sprinters in the world, so just being there in the final with him is a good indicator of my form and also the great support I am getting from the team.

I can't speak for the other young riders in the peloton, but I put my fast track to the WorldTour down to a more open-minded approach that teams are taking these days – giving young riders more opportunities and not just making them fetch bottles because of their age. I was very lucky as I came up, getting amazing support with BMC's Development Team in 2017 and then again with Axel Merckx Hagens Berman Axeon development team in 2018. They really laid the foundations for me.

Binck Bank Tour 2019 - 15th Edition - 7th stage Sint-Pieters Leeuw - Geraardsbergen 178 km - 18/08/2019 - Jasper Philipsen (BEL - UAE - Team Emirates) - photo Davy Rietbergen/CV/BettiniPhoto©2019
Jasper Philipsen has a stage win at the Tour Down Under and 10 podium finishes since joining UAE Team Emirates this season. BettiniPhoto

When I moved to UAE Team Emirates this season, they promised me I would get opportunities to fulfil my own objectives and they have done that. If I look back over the past nine months, I think I can be proud of what I have achieved. I have a stage win from the Tour Down Under as well as 10 podium finishes, so I hope that my performances have repaid both the team and the fans.

Next up for me are the two Canadian races – GP de Quebec and Montreal. I go into them full of confidence and with a role of supporting Diego Ulissi but also taking chances for myself if the opportunity presents itself. I want to continue contributing to the team’s success this season and also do it for all the young riders out there who look to us as inspiration. That’s really important for me and for the sport.