Who are the 17 British cyclists racing in the UCI WorldTour in 2017?
Mark Cavendish and Chris Froome lead the Brits flying the flag in cycling's top tier for the new season
The Tour Down Under marks the start of the 2017 UCI WorldTour season, with an expanded calendar now packing in 37 races from January 17 until October’s Tour of Guangxi.
That will offer plenty of opportunity for the Brits racing in cycling’s top tier to show themselves over the course of the season – and for you to see them in action. With Alex Peter leaving Team Sky, there are now 17 British riders in the WorldTour, from established stars like Mark Cavendish and Chris Froome to neo-pros such as James Shaw.
So who will be flying the British flag in 2017, and what can we expect of them this season? We’ve taken a closer look at all 17 British cyclists riding for UCI WorldTour teams in 2017.
Former Rapha-Condor rider Carthy, 22, made his Grand Tour debut at last year’s Vuelta a Espana and the Preston-born climber will be keen to further a burgeoning career which last year saw him crowned best young rider at the Volta a Catalunya and win the Vuelta Asturias.
Carthy’s rise to the top has been unconventional compared to some of the other British riders stepping up to the WorldTour in 2017, in that he did not come through the British Cycling academy, instead forging his own path.
And his new team, which boasts an array of exciting young riders, including Joe Dombrowski and Davide Formolo, are excited to see what he’s really made of.
Directeur sportif Charly Wegelius told RCUK last year: “We know any support we can give him will have a benefit. He’s a tough nut and that’s one of the most important qualities.”
Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data)
This man needs no introduction. Having juggled his road and track commitments in 2016, Mark Cavendish will renew his focus on the former for 2017 and look to build on a hugely successful first season with Dimension Data.
The move to ‘Africa’s Team’ reignited Cavendish’s career, just as some critics were beginning to sound the death knell for one of the best sprinters – if not the best sprinter – road cycling has ever seen.
Cavendish, 31, starts the season just two wins short of 50 Grand Tour stage victories, and if he can recapture the form he showed in 2017 you would not bet against him quickly achieving that milestone.
Steve Cummings (Dimension Data)
Another Brit to have enjoyed a resurgence in form since joining ‘Africa’s Team’, Steve Cummings has taken full advantage of the freedom riding for Dimension Data has offered.
The 35-year-old Birkenhead-born ace also won stages at Tirenno-Adriatico, the Tour of the Basque Country, Criterium du Dauphine and, most notably, the Tour de France, escaping with gusto to claim a solo victory on stage seven.
Cumming’s penchant for attacking has been rewarded at Dimension Data, where he has had the freedom to do exactly that, with half of his 14 professional victories coming in the last two seasons.
Scott Thwaites (Dimension Data)
Dimension Data start the season with three Brits on board, with Cavendish and Cummings joined by former Bora-Argon 18 rider Scott Thwaites.
The Yorkshireman, 26, steps up to WorldTour level for the first time after four years in the second tier with Bora-Argon 18 and its NetApp-Endura precursor.
Opportunities have been limited with the German team for Thwaites, but a runners-up spot at Le Samyn and a Grand Tour debut at last year’s Vuelta a Espana showed enough to convince Dimension Data he was ready for cycling’s top tier.
The level-headed 20-year-old is set to make his WorldTour debut at the Tour Down Under but it is the Classics where he has already forged a name for himself.
Winner of the Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne junior race in 2014, and a top-five finisher at last year’s Liege-Bastogne-Liege under-23 race, Shaw is another rider to have reached the top away from the British Cycling Academy.
Backed by the Dave Rayner Fund, it is in the Ardennes he has made his home, and it could be in the Ardennes where he impresses – if selected – in 2017.
Alex Dowsett (Movistar)
British time trial champion Alex Dowsett goes into his fifth year with the Spanish Movistar team with a point to prove.
Injury cost the Essex-born 28-year-old a place at the Giro d’Italia last season at a time when, he says, he was in the form of his life and much-fancied to add to his 2013 stage win at the Corsa Rosa.
That he has only ridden two Grand Tours – that 2013 race, and the 2015 Tour de France – is an anomaly that points more to misfortune with illness and injury, rather than a lack of ability.
Alongside his fifth national title against the clock, Dowsett also won the final stage of the Tour of Poland in 2016 – his 13th professional victory.
But it’s the Giro d’Italia that sits top of his priority list in 2017, where he hopes to bid for a second Grand Tour stage win of his career before supporting team leader Nairo Quintana’s attack on the pink jersey.
Adam Yates (Orica-Scott)
While Adam Yates and his Australian team had done a good job of dampening expectations before 2016, last season saw the Bury-born 24-year-old’s stock rise massively.
Since turning pro with Orica-GreenEDGE (now Orica-Scott) in 2014, Yates has already been marked as a star for the future thanks to victory at the 2014 Tour of Turkey, before winning the Clasica San Sebastian the following year.
He was unable to defend his title in Spain last season, but then few will blame him – he had just a week earlier finished a career-high fourth at the Tour de France and bagged the white jersey of best young rider.
Of the British riders, only Sir Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome have finished higher than fourth at the Tour – and both of those ascended to the top step of the podium. Big things are now expected of Adam Yates.
That the 22-year-old has reached the top is not the surprise – Dibben has impressed on both the track and road already – only that he opted for Team Sky having ridden as a trainee for Cannondale-Drapac in the latter part of 2016.
But for injury, world points champion Dibben might have been celebrating Olympic team pursuit gold in August, but put the disappointment of missing out on a Rio berth behind him by redoubling his focus on the road.
A runner up at the junior Tour of Flanders and a podium finisher at the junior Paris-Roubaix, Dibben is well versed in the Classics, but also impressed with second place at the Le Triptyque race, which counts Tom Dumoulin, Bob Jungels and Thomas de Gendt among its former winners.
For now, however, the focus is on personal development for the Southampton-born ace, who said on signing for Sky: “It’s a great opportunity to get into the big leagues and see what it’s all about.”
Owain Doull (Team Sky)
Owain Doull has trodden a similar path to Dibben, coming through the British Cycling Academy and impression on both the road and track, so it’s fitting that he too has joined Team Sky for 2017 – though Doull’s signing was already confirmed pre-Olympics.
Were it not for his focus on the team pursuit at the Rio Olympics, Doull, 23, might have already stepped up to WorldTour level after a hugely impressive third place at the 2015 Tour of Britain.
But, after helping power the British team to gold in Rio, Doull has made the step-up. Doull’s ability across differing terrain came to the fore at the 2015 Tour of Britain, where he proved he can mix it with the best, and he is hoping strong performances early in the season – including a WorldTour debut at the Tour Down Under – will help him earn selection for the cobbled Classics.
Chris Froome (Team Sky)
Three-time Tour de France champion Chris Froome continued to go from strength to strength in 2016, with his yellow jersey a magnificent display of his all-round ability on the bike.
Froome’s 2017 season is set to kick off with the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race, with both the Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana on the cards again.
Having finished in the top two in seven of the last eight Grand Tours he has finished, that Tour-Vuelta double is certainly a possibility in 2017.
Tao Geoghegan Hart (Team Sky)
The third British neo-pro to have signed for Team Sky in 2017 has already pulled on the team’s colours before, with Tao Geoghegan Hart having been a stagiaire with Sky in 2015.
Rather than turning pro at the end of that year, however, Hackney-born Geoghegan Hart opted for another year with Axel Merckx’s talent factory – the Axeon-Hagens Berman team in America.
That decision helped him top the youth classification at the Tour of the Gila, before two 12th place finishes at the Tour of California and Tour of Utah sandwiched a stage win and runners-up spot at the Tour de Savoie Mont Blanc.
The 21-year-old has also topped the youth classification at the USA Pro Challenge during his time with Merckx’s team and is a former podium finisher at the Paris-Roubaix juniors race.
Best known for his climbing and GC potential, however, we expect Geoghegan Hart to be honing his skills in the mountains in 2017.
Peter Kennaugh (Team Sky)
A season which started with so much promise for Team Sky’s two-time British champion Peter Kennaugh ultimately ended in frustration after twice suffering ill-timed injuries.
Manxman Kennaugh, 27, won the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race and was second behind team-mate Froome at the Herald Sun Tour early in the season, but a crash at the Tour of California in May derailed his pre-Tour de France plans.
Instead, Kennaugh lined up for the Vuelta a Espana, where he wore the red jersey after Team Sky won the stage one team time trial.
But later in the race, and sat 15th overall, injury hit again – this time a nasty saddle sore, which contributed to him being the last man to finish the now infamous stage 15, losing nearly 54 minutes in the process.
Nevertheless, Kennaugh has shown what he can do on plenty of occasions – he has nine pro wins to his name since swapping the London 2012 velodrome for the road, and has become an integral part of the Team Sky squad.
Luke Rowe (Team Sky)
Welshman Luke Rowe might serve as inspiration to the likes of fellow countryman Owain Doull, having served his apprenticeship with Team Sky and gone on to become an important part of the team’s arsenal.
But the 26-year-old has also been an important part of the team’s Tour de France squad in the last two seasons – helping to protect Chris Froome and set the pace on the flat.
Rowe still has just a solitary Tour of Britain stage win to his name so far, but he has proved himself on the cobbles and he will again be a man to watch in the spring.
Ian Stannard (Team Sky)
Luke Rowe forms one part of Team Sky’s Brit-led Classics arsenal, but Ian Stannard has also earned his place as one of the key riders in the spring, as evidenced by his third place at last year’s Paris-Roubaix.
That result equaled the best-ever British finish at the Hell of the North and Stannard has proven his potential across the board at the Classics, finishing third at E3 Harelbeke in 2016, while he has twice won the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.
He has also enjoyed Classics success, triumphing at E3 Harelbeke in 2015 and finishing third at Gent-Wevelgem that same year, but the 30-year-old Welshman is now pinning his colours to the Grand Tour mast.
A key part of Chris Froome’s three Tour de France stage wins, Thomas has hinted at targeting a Grand Tour for himself – namely the Giro d’Italia – in 2017.
Ben Swift (UAE Abu Dhabi)
Ben Swift ended a long association with Team Sky to sign for the former Lampre-Merida team in the winter, though that almost proved his undoing with the team scrabbling for funds when their proposed Chinese sponsors backed out.
However, the team was rescued by investment from Abu Dhabi and now, riding for the Emirati team, Swift is out to prove exactly what he can achieve.
A versatile rider, Swift finished second at Milan-San Remo in 2016 – his second podium finish at La Primavera – and eighth overall at the Tour of Britain, but the 29-year-old Yorkshireman has just one victory to his name since the start of the 2015 season.
Ill-timed injuries have not helped his cause, and neither has the depth of talent at Team Sky’s disposal, so Swift’s move to the former Lampre team could revitalise him as a rider.
Mark Cavendish and Steve Cummings have shown exactly what a change of teams can do, and if Swift can follow suit then 2017 promises to be a big year.
Don’t forget the Irish
Alongside the 17 Brits, there are also five Irish riders competing in pro cycling’s top tier including Irish champion Nicolas Roche, who has swapped Team Sky for BMC Racing.
Roche is likely to play an important role in fellow former Team Sky man Richie Porte’s Tour de France bid, where one of his rivals will be Roche’s cousin, Birmingham-born Irishman Dan Martin.
Martin joined Etixx-QuickStep last year and impressed with third-place finishes at the Volta a Catalunya, La Fleche Wallonne and the Criterium du Dauphine. He then went on to finish ninth overall at the Tour de France. With two Monument wins to his name – Liege-Bastogne-Liege in 2013 and Il Lombardia in 2014 – Martin has proved he has more than one string to his bow and is likely to be competing on multiple fronts again in 2017.
The third Irishman is by Philip Deignan, who remains at Team Sky for a fourth consecutive season. The 33-year-old – a top-ten finisher at the 2009 Vuelta a Espana – suffered an injury-disrupted 2016 season but has been an important domestique for Sky.
Elsewhere, 22-year-old time trial ace Ryan Mullen is starting his second full season with Cannondale-Drapac, having signed pro last season following a successful stint as a stagiaire in 2015. Mullen underlined his ability against with fifth place at the UCI Road World Championships, marking a strong end to his first year as a UCI WorldTour pro.
And the list of WorldTour riders from the Emerald Isle is completed by Sam Bennett, who moves up to cycling’s top tier after his Bora-hansgrohe team were granted a WorldTour licence for the first time. Sprinter Bennett will count world champion Peter Sagan among his team-mates for the new campaign, after the Slovakian’s winter switch.
And what about the other British and Irish riders?
One step down from the UCI WorldTour, there are also six Brits and four Irish riders signed to UCI ProContinental teams for 2017.
The formation of new Irish team Aqua Blue Sport has, unsurprisingly, seen many of them snapped up – including British champion Adam Blythe – and with 37 WorldTour races and wildcard entries to be filled, the ten riders should see plenty of top-level action in 2017. But who are they?
British UCI ProContinental riders
Adam Blythe (Aqua Blue Sport) – age 27 – British champion Adam Blythe has joined his fifth team in as many years after Tinkoff, where he raced in 2016, folded. Blythe’s national championship win was the eighth victory of the sprinter-cum-Classics rider’s career.
Mark Christian (Aqua Blue Sport) – age 26 – Manxman Mark Christian impressed with Team Wiggins in 2016, finishing fifth at the Tour Alsace and 12th at the Tour of Britain to earn a first contract at ProConti level for 2017.
Andrew Fenn (Aqua Blue Sport) – age 26 – Scottish rider Andy Fenn left Team Sky in the winter after two years as a domestique there and will bring Classics experience to Aqua Blue Sport.
Dan Pearson (Aqua Blue Sport) – age 22 – Another rider to swap Team Wiggins for Aqua Blue Sport, Dan Pearson finished the 2016 season with an 11th place overall at the Abu Dhabi Tour, making him the best-placed Brit in the race.
Mark McNally (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) – age 27 – Liverpool-born Mark McNally stepped up to ProConti level in 2016 and impressed as a domestique in the Spring Classics – playing his part in Enrico Gasparotto’s Amstel Gold Race win. He concluded the year with second place on stage six of the Eneco Tour, his best WorldTour result to date.
Irish UCI ProContinental riders
Matt Brammeier (Aqua Blue Sport) – age 31 – one of three Irish riders to sign with the Irish team for its inaugural year, Brammeier boasts WorldTour experience with Omega Pharma-QuickStep and, most recently, Dimension Data.
Conor Dunne (Aqua Blue Sport) – age 24 – Giant Irishman Conor Dunne steps up to ProConti level after a season with JLT-Condor, where he impressed in the break at the Tour of Britain.
Martyn Irvine (Aqua Blue Sport) – age 31 – The darling of Irish cycling, Martyn Irvine became his country’s first world track champion when he won scratch race gold in 2013. Failure to qualify for Rio 2016 led to him retiring, but Aqua Blue Sport have tempted back into the peloton.
Stephen Clancy (Team Novo Nordisk) – age 24 – Stephen Clancy is starting his fifth season with the all-diabetic Team Novo Nordisk. Every member of the team has diabetes, with the team’s goal to prove diabetes should be no barrier to sport.
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