2010 Review: Newcomers of the Year
In our third review of 2010 we look at the best young riders who made a splash in this year's peloton over the past 12 months.
Granted, it is a situation principally brought about by Alberto Contador's eating habits and the swift departures of the Schleck brothers and Fabian Cancellara, but that doesn't disguise the fact that Porte is a rider of enormous ability who has already proven his worth quite admirably.
The 25-year-old Tasmanian former triathlete was snapped up by Saxo at the beginning of 2010 after some impressive performances as a junior – but no one would have predicted that come May, Porte would be wearing the Maglia Rosa as the leader of the Giro d'Italia.
The Australian led the race for three days and finished his debut Grand Tour in seventh place, netting the white jersey as best young rider on the way. Months later, Porte narrowly missed out on a World Championships medal, finishing the ITT in Geelong in fourth.
A fourth overall in the Tour of Britain and an ITT scalp in the Tour of Romandie showed that Riis had pulled another one out of the bag – and with Contador's Saxo future in doubt, the doors are all open for Porte to make a massive impact in 2011.
Peter Sagan has always been a bit special. When he was a rookie, the Slovakian made a name for himself riding in trainers and T-shirts, eschewing energy drinks for pure water (something he would have to rethink years later when Red Bull came knocking with an advertising contract).
The youngest of four, as an amateur Sagan once made the mistake of selling his bike ahead of a big race before the new one from his sponsor had been delivered. Forced to borrow the humble supermarket-brand bike of his sister – which boasted a few gears and some shoddy breaks – Sagan still managed to win the Slovak Cup.
Known by his team-mates as Terminator, Sagan astounded Liquigas doctors on joining the team as a former mountain biker in 2009. Rumour has it that no one in the Liquigas set-up had seen a 19-year-old as physically strong and able.
This year proved a real breakthrough year for Sagan, now 20. Although not initially selected for Paris-Nice, Sagan was drafted in to the Liquigas squad after a team-mate broke his collarbone and ended up winning the first two Pro Tour stages of his career – the first in the hills and a second after a gutsy solo attack. Sagan also showed his sprinting prowess with overall victory in the points classification – as well as a second- and third-place finish in the week-long race.
Sagan proved his class again in the Tour of California, winning back-to-back stages as well as both the points classification and youth jersey. The stellar Slovak's season may have been brought short owing to illness, but there's every indication that Sagan should go from strength to strength in 2011.
It would be misleading to label Sagan's team-mate Vincenzo Nibali as a 'newcomer' given the fact he finished 19th in his debut Giro back in 2007. But this year the Italian 26-year-old was a new addition to the roads in Spain, and managed to win the Vuelta at his first attempt.
A third Liquigas rider, Daniel Oss, showed remarkable potential in his second year as a professional – and his true breakthrough year may come sooner rather than later. The same can be said for Britain's Adam Blythe, who impressed at Lotto after being taken on in 2009 as a trainee.
Twenty-four-year-old Slovenian Simon Spilak (Lampre) had a good year, winning a stage and the white jersey at the Tour of Romandie before being awarded the overall victory after Alejandro Valverde's retrospective ban.
Despite perhaps having the most unfortunate surname in cycling, Alex Rasmussen enjoyed a solid second year as a professional, winning his first road race stages in Dunkirk and Andalusia, as well as netting the GP Herning.
The multiple Scratch and Track national and world champion didn't set the world alight, but the evidence is there that the 26-year-old Danish powerhouse could be a pivotal part of Riis's plans at Saxo Bank next year.
Ben Swift did enough to justify his messy departure from Katusha to Sky with overall victory in the Tour of Picardie. There will be high hopes for the 23-year-old Brit next year.
We all knew about Garmin's Dan Martin before the start of the season, but 2010 was the Irish youngster's first year since turning professional in 2008 where the results started rolling in. Overall victories in the Tre Valli Varesine, the Tour of Poland and the Japan Cup, plus a runners-up spot to Robert Gesink in the Giro dell'Emilia was a good return for Stephen Roche's 24-year-old nephew.
And finally, a mention must go not to two riders but to two new additions to the racing calendar. The Canadian legs of the Pro Tour proved a success while the diabolically steep Bola del Mundo climb was introduced to the Vuelta to devastating effect.