This is the first in a new series highlighting up-and-coming riders to look out for in 2013. Not all of them will be new faces, some will be looking to 2013 as their year to come of age and prove their worth. The first rider to watch out for in 2013 is: Peter Kennaugh.
As the cycling media largely focuses on Geraint Thomas as Sky's prospect to replace Bradley Wiggins at the top, the British based team has another, more overlooked weapon in it's armoury waiting to strike. Peter Kennaugh. Like Thomas and Wiggins the 23 year old Manxman has spent much of his youth focusing on Track Cycling, rising through the ranks with a whole host of junior and senior titles since 2006. Kennaugh was picked up by Sky Procycling at the end of 2009 and though still largely focusing on track for most of 2010, he finished second to Thomas in the British Road Race Championships and made his Grand Tour debut at the end of the year in the Vuelta a Espana - from which Sky later withdrew due to the death of Txema Gonzalez.
2011 Would prove a more productive year for Peter Kennaugh on the road. Finishing his first Giro d'Italia in 83rd place (very respectable at such an age and with little Grand Tour experience) and third overall in the Route du Sud Kennaugh was starting to show promise, especially as a natural climber (the Route du Sud included the Col d'Aspin and the Tourmalet) - though unfortunately for him not enough to be selected for the Tour de France squad. He finished the year off with another stage race top 5 finish (fifth) in the Tour of Poland.
2012 made Kennaugh a household name as he once again focused on the track and eventually won a Gold medal in the team pursuit at the London Olympic Games alongside Ed Clancy, Geraint Thomas, Steven Burke and though this is undoubtedly the high point of Peter Kennaughs career, 2013 brings new challenges and renewed excitement for the youngster.
So why is 2013 such a big deal? Kennaugh has been waiting in the wings at Sky for 3 years and much of his focus during the road season has been on the track - like any rider Kennaugh must have contractual obligations and I imagine now would be the time to start focusing on the road, after all this is why Sky pay his wages. Also, thanks to Olympic Gold there isn't much on the track left for Kennaugh to achieve and the natural progression would be to move away from the velodrome and onto the road in much the same fashion as Bradley Wiggins and Geraint Thomas (who announced that he would at least be taking time away from the track, if not permanently). It's a natural step up for any bike rider and this is where the career and of course the money lies for Kennaughs foreseeable future.
At only 23, Kennaugh is full of promise. If a rider is in his peak between the age of 28-31 then some knuckling down and hard work could pay off for Kennaugh in spectacular style. With role models at Sky like Wiggins, Froome and Thomas, Kennaugh is still young enough to learn his trade from his team-mates over the next couple of seasons before big results are expected of him and if 2011 is anything to go by, then he's already well on the way to achieving those aims in relatively quick time. Early season races for Kennaugh include Tirreno-Adriatico, the Giro and the Ardennes classics (in which he could even be elected team leader) and it's here where we should see how his climbing abuilty fairs against his opponents. Expect to see Kennaugh let of the leash somewhere along the line for a stage win in Tirreno and maybe even the Giro, whilst Amstel and Liege-Bastogne-Liege are already set as personal goals for Kennaugh.
If there is one thing that is exciting me about Sky in 2013, then it's the prospects of Kennaugh and Thomas. Forget Wiggins, Froome and the Grand Tours, 2013 is about the next generation, the young blood and the future of British road cycling. I will be watching closely whenever Kennaugh competes - if he really is the 'natural climber' he is said to be, then the future could look very bright...