Winds of youth - a Teen Age is upon us

It's well-known that previous doping paradigms affected the age distribution of the most successful riders.

Is there a link between the pharmaceutical causes of the rising peloton speed and stand-out performances on the one hand and just how well the very youngest pros perform on the other?

Evenepoel, Pogi, De Lie, Sheffield, Ayuso, Simmons, Poole, Martinez, Uijtdebroecks are all exceptional. But why are there so many exceptions now? I'm specifically talking about the performances of 18-year-olds, 19-year-olds and 20-years-olds.

When Sagan was exceptional at that age, he was indeed an exception. Mohorič turned pro when he was 19 in 2014, but he first made a major pro result in 2017.
 
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The physiological peak age of a cyclist is probably closer to the age of these young guns than we previously thought. Add in the better talent discovery, elite training, and doping programs from a young age, and you get this. Cycling functions a lot more like 5-10k run races than marathons despite the long nature of the races, and those shorter events are always dominated by younger people on average. I do think 18-20 years olds as you specifically reference should not be quite top level yet, and some of those riders are surprising, but the age of people like Pog/Remco/Sheffield is not too surprising.
 
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I think it's mostly a cultural shift where younger riders that used to be shielded from doping to an extent in an effort to adequately gauge their potential (and perhaps in some cases to slowly erode internalized anti-doping attitudes) aren't shielded anymore - either that isn't felt to be necessary or the publicity benefits of having a young star are deemed to outweigh any other considerations. I think it goes beyond doping too - used to be teams would carefully nurse their young talent and carefully pick their calendar to ease them in and prevent a burnout, but again, apparently that's largely a thing of the past (I mean, no 20 year old will be made to race all three GTs or anything of the sort, but no one bats an eyelid anymore if they ride one GT to completion, which used to be very rare for anyone under 23).

Also, I wouldn't be surprised if this turned out to be a mistake in the long run. For many riders (Valverde-like freaks aside), you only get so many years at your absolute peak before you start declining, whether you started going all in at 20 or at 25. But regardless of whether or not you're being nursed or are going all out (physically and psychologicallly) from the start, there are still some traits like endurance and tactical acumen that are supposed to improve with age, so you might be better off leaving your 'peak seasons' for a later point in your career when you should be stronger overall. The obvious counterargument is that injuries exist and that stronger rivals can pop up at any point so you might as well just get the results you can while you can.
 
More structured and professional training in teenage years. When the best of those 19-20 yo guys join WT teams they are closer to being a finished product than before. Therefore top teams are more eager to have them on top notch doping programs immediately and make them leaders for races (instead of a longer phase of learning and helping before taking more reponsibility and better doping).
 
I'd add that training isn't just better, it's also much more figured out by a larger% of the young rider population, meaning you're no longer accidentally selecting average talents that were actually training the right way. Better invididualized training should make young elite talents also more able to develop quickly. There should also be fewer riders who's growth potential gets rekt by terrible training regimens as a youngster.
 
I think it's mostly a cultural shift where younger riders that used to be shielded from doping to an extent in an effort to adequately gauge their potential (and perhaps in some cases to slowly erode internalized anti-doping attitudes) aren't shielded anymore - either that isn't felt to be necessary or the publicity benefits of having a young star are deemed to outweigh any other considerations. I think it goes beyond doping too - used to be teams would carefully nurse their young talent and carefully pick their calendar to ease them in and prevent a burnout, but again, apparently that's largely a thing of the past (I mean, no 20 year old will be made to race all three GTs or anything of the sort, but no one bats an eyelid anymore if they ride one GT to completion, which used to be very rare for anyone under 23).

Also, I wouldn't be surprised if this turned out to be a mistake in the long run. For many riders (Valverde-like freaks aside), you only get so many years at your absolute peak before you start declining, whether you started going all in at 20 or at 25. But regardless of whether or not you're being nursed or are going all out (physically and psychologicallly) from the start, there are still some traits like endurance and tactical acumen that are supposed to improve with age, so you might be better off leaving your 'peak seasons' for a later point in your career when you should be stronger overall. The obvious counterargument is that injuries exist and that stronger rivals can pop up at any point so you might as well just get the results you can while you can.
When the change happened in the other direction, I don't think a cultural shift explained it. Or rather that if indeed there was a cultural shift, it was a consequence and not a cause.

All the greatest riders of the 1980's made results in an early age: Kelly won his first Tour stage at 22, Fignon won the Tour at 22, Hinault won Liège and Dauphiné at 22, LeMond won Dauphiné at 21, Moser won his first Giro stage at 21, Saronni won the Giro at 21 etc.

Even if the culture was conservative back then, the stars still showed their promise early and clearly.

That was very much not the case in the early 00's. It became more exceptional to deliver big results before turning 23. I think both EPO and especially blood bags pushed in that direction. It took time to master, and it took time for the latter to afford. Likewise, I suspect that the recent change of doping has pushed the age lower. Whether that's driven economically, driven by the passport, or by just having more immediate effects, I don't know.
 
I think both Valverde and Quintana are in line with the pre-EPO trajectory. Lenny Martinez is not. He can push huge W/kg as a teenager. Is he already using blood bags, or is there a substitute available to teenagers?
Why would the sub only be available to teenagers and why not already use blood bags? I see no correlation to age and blood bags.
 
Why would the sub only be available to teenagers and why not already use blood bags? I see no correlation to age and blood bags.
Maybe he is indeed using blood bags. But that would as well be a new development. Blood bags were not widespread two decades ago. Rasmussen says that he didn't use blood bags yet when he was 7th in the 2003 Vuelta.
 
I think the answer likely is the boring one. The training regiments of professional athletes are now used on teenagers (Look at the Ingebrigtsen kid in running for example) and it turns out getting the required training volume to be something like a fully developed professional athlete can be done by 20 if you start at 10.

VO2max peak is usually in early 20s so with a proper training one can reach superb lactate thresholds at this age already.
 
It would seem the trend towards performing well earlier in life has been going on for decades. This graph doesn't have data for riders born after 1990 but anecdotally it seems like the trend probably continues. If you believe the superior training hypothesis, this makes sense, as the shift to more structured training didn't happen overnight.

 
Evenepoel, Pogi, De Lie, Sheffield, Ayuso, Simmons, Poole, Martinez, Uijtdebroecks are all exceptional. But why are there so many exceptions now? I'm specifically talking about the performances of 18-year-olds, 19-year-olds and 20-years-olds.
Three 20-year-olds amongst the strongest today, including youngest rider in the field also taking red.
 
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