Under 23 World Champions


How often does junior sporting success translate to glory at the elite level? How often does the dux of your school gain the greatest success? How often does the number 1 draft pick become the best player in the AFL? How often does an Under 23 World Champion climb to the highest ranks in the World Tour?  


We saw another exciting Under 23 World Championships run and won last weekend and it again poses the question - will this year's victor go on to become a luminary of the professional ranks?


A memory that still haunts me to this day is the Melbourne Football Club drafting Jack Watts at pick number 1.  It was a really exciting year, as finally, my team had the next big thing and the media was going bananas for the talented Victorian schoolboy.   That was 2008, and here we are in 2017 and I'm still waiting for the number 1 pick to shine - no doubt he is a good footballer but he is no Luke Hodge or Nick Riewoldt, who were 1st round draft picks that will retire as champion captains and legends of the game.  And where were Dan Hannebery and Rory Slone in the 2008 draft? Pick 30 and 44....   


Back to cycling - Matej Mohoric was the king of the kids in 2012 & 13, winning back to back World Championships and globalising his famous downhill pedalling style, as he stormed to victory in Florence - getting the better of Caleb Ewan on both occasions.  But it wasn't until August this year that Mahoric was able to throw his hands in the air at a World Tour event.  At this same point in time, Ewan had 11 World Tour victories to his name.  As an Under 23, Ewan went on to again finish 2nd behind Sven Erik Bystrom in 2014.  This edition's stats sheet is very relevant to today's rising stars.  Fernando Gaveria finished 20th, Magnus Cort 22nd, Angel Lopez 26th, Dylan Teuns 29th, Gianni Moscon 51st and Jack Haig 67th.  I understand that this course wasn't for everyone - for example the climb was too short for Haig and Lopez, but it exemplifies that being Earth Champion doesn't always translate to elite success.


Digging a bit further into the archives, most Australian cycling fans can remember the 2010 Under 23 World Championships where Michael Matthews claimed victory in Geelong.   This star-studded results sheet consisted of: Matthews, Degenkolb, Phinney, and Demare all within the top five.  But there are still outliers that have entered the World Tour to achieve as great if not better results: Mikel Lander 19th, Rafal Majka 26th, Tony Gallopin 50th, Luka Mezgec 91st just to name a few. 


Obviously the race is an indicator of future champions but winning the event doesn't lock in World Tour success.  The challenge in cycling is that are so many variables and the jump to the elite category poses a new environment to junior athletes.  The immense depth of the professional ranks creates a highly competitive environment that takes, as BT would say "the package" to succeed. 


An inability to adapt and progress past the Under 23 ranks could be the difference between becoming a good athlete or a living legend.


For more evidence, Google - "where did Richie Porte finish in the Under 23 World Championships?"  


See you back at the social club,