30. 5. – 2. 6. 2024 UCI Europe Tour

Who's riding the Peace Race? The Portuguese Comet and the World Tour stars who are already picking up wins

Two silver medals from the World Championships, two wins from top category races this year and a sensational fifth place from the Monument Around Flanders. A great record when you consider that António Morgado only celebrated his 20th birthday this year. Although he is in his first year among the professionals, he shines in the UAE Emirates formation jersey. And this bombshell will ride the Race for Peace until 23 in 2024!

When this year's edition for the biggest talents in the world peloton starts, the Caldas da Rainha native should definitely be a big one for fans to pay attention to. Not least because he was born in the same maternity ward as Joao Almeida, his UAE Emirates teammate four years his senior.

Indeed, Morgado is very high up in the hierarchy of the formation paid for by the Sheikhs. He belongs to a group of talents like Isac del Toro and Juan Ayuso, who are expected to one day replace Tadeo Pogacar. UAE Emirates bosses have been keeping a close eye on the young Portuguese. First his tears when he lost the battle for the 2022 World Junior Championships by millimetres and had to settle for silver. Then he cried again a year later when he took just silver in the under-23 race. But this year, when he finished fifth in the epic Tour of Flanders battle behind an unattainable phenomenon named Mathieu van der Poel, everyone took it as a small victory. "He was the last rider in the main group to go up each of the cobbled climbs. Being at the front, he took the podium," UAE Emirates bosses pointed out.

After all, Morgado subsequently began to collect triumphs. He went on to win Paris-Roubaix, then the Giro della Romagna, followed by a stage at the Vuelta Asturias. At the start of the season, he dominated the competition for the best young rider at the Tour of the Algarve. Last season he dominated the Tour of Rhodes, a small stage race. Unsurprisingly, he is under contract at UAE Emirates until December 2027.

The peloton, however, will be full of rising World Tour stars during the Under-23 Peace Race. Twenty-year-old Frenchman Paul Magnier has a three-year contract at Soudal Quick Step. This year, he celebrated triumph on stage three of the Tour of Oman and also in the one-off Trofeo Ses Salines. His compatriot, Alexy Faure Prost, will be making his first World Tour season in the Intermaché Wanty jersey this year at the age of 19, and is still under contract for another two years. He has a lot of confidence, having ridden, for example, the UAE Tour, the Tour of Romandie stage race and the Amstel Gold Race. And Frenchman Pierre Thierry will ride for Arkea BB Hotels in the World Tour in 2025 and 2026, if the French formation manages to maintain its affiliation to the elite.

The Netherlands will have 20-year-old Darren van Bekkum on the roster. The talent belonging to the development team Visma-Lease a Bike won the climbing competition during the Istrian Trophy, dominated the fourth stage during the Ronde de l'Isar stage race and celebrated the overall victory, being king of the climbers here as well. His compatriot Max van der Meulen has signed for the 2025 and 2026 seasons with the World Tour formation Bahrain Victorious, where Roman Kreuziger is the sporting director.

Slovenia's Žak Erzen will wear the same jersey in the same season, as the 18-year-old talent from the land of Primoz Roglič and Tadej Pogačar has already signed a contract with Bahrain Victorious.

In the Norwegian jersey, Morten Aalling will ride at the age of twenty-one is part of the development formation Visma-Lease a Bike, whose jersey he earned, among other things, by triumphing in the 2022 Orlen Nations Grand Prix!

A hot contender for the triumph will be Simon Dalby from Denmark, who finished second in the last edition of the Under-23 Peace Race, having celebrated one stage win. The 21-year-old is on the roster of the UCI Pro-licensed development formation Uno-X Mobility, where he is signed for the next two years.

The 2024 U23 Peace Race will start in Krnov on May 30, with the winner crowned on June 2 in Jesenik.

Photo: Barbora Reichová, www.uaeteamemirates.com, www.intermarche-wanty.eu

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