Huub Artz and Bart Lemmen prove that the unexpected should always be expected: the underdogs shine in 2024 Cycling

Huub Artz and Bart Lemmen prove that the unexpected should always be expected: the underdogs shine in 2024

Huub Artz and Bart Lemmen prove that the unexpected should always be expected: the underdogs shine in 2024

Suddenly, there he was. Huub Artz, a 21-year-old from the Netherlands. By far the strongest of the diverse breakaway group in the final stage of the Tour of Oman. On the steep Green Mountain, which, contrary to its name, is not a green oasis but a barren collection of rocks lying in the baking sun, he held his ground for a long time. It seemed for a moment that the noble unknown would maintain his lead, until Jan Hirt and the eventual overall winner Adam Yates caught up to him. A pity, indeed. He was just 29 seconds short. What remained for him was a third-place finish and an unforgettable photo of him, utterly spent, collapsing against the barriers.

Huub Artz, amusingly referred to as ‘Hop Hartz’ by the Omani commentators, wasn't a well-known name before the Tour of Oman. Last year, he was part of Metec-SOLARWATT, where he notched up commendable finishes, such as in Kreiz-Breizh and the Elfstedenrace (Eleven Cities Race), performances strong enough to earn him a spot on the Intermarché-Wanty development team. This allowed him the chance to experience the big leagues in Oman, racing among the elite. On Green Mountain, Huub Artz discovered his potential. He embodies the fearless racer who, in 2024, dares to challenge the dominance of established stars.

The performances of Lemmen in Down Under confirm that the unexpected should always be expected

Artz's journey of discovery is a boost for cycling, for he is not alone. 2024, for now, is a year where gluttons like Mads Pedersen snatch up all possible crumbs from under the noses of the smaller teams and riders. In races like the Tour of Murcia and the Clasica de Almeria, the top competitors have already fought fierce duels for the top prizes. But the underdogs also get their turn. And not just a little. It was only a matter of five minutes or so before Artz would have been the next to celebrate a prestigious victory. Because the list of remarkable wins is already quite long in this young year.

Honestly, who would have expected Stephen Williams to dominate the Tour Down Under? Representing Israel-Premier Tech, previously labeled as a team of old men, he left former world champion Julian Alaphilippe and former Vuelta winner Simon Yates trailing in his wake. And what about the Dutch Bart Lemmen, who marked his debut for Visma | Lease a Bike with an impressive fifth place in the overall standings Down Under? The performances of Williams and Lemmen confirmed that the unexpected should always be expected. That a breakthrough is always just around the corner, and among the broad array of top competitors and rising talent, there are always opportunities for anyone who dreams of eternal fame.

bart lemmen

The Bardiani friends saw how Milan, Matthews, and Mohoric started too late

In early February, in Castellon, the peloton was sluggish in the first stage of the Tour of Valencia. Bardiani friends Manuele Tarozzi and Alessandro Tonelli were on an adventure and had the day of their lives. Together, they crossed the finish line, a good minute ahead of the peloton where top riders Jonathan Milan, Michael Matthews, and Matej Mohoric started their chase too late. In the Étoile de Bessèges, Samuel Leroux of the underappreciated Van Rysel-Roubaix team won the queen stage just ahead of the onrushing peloton that included glutton Pedersen. For Tonelli and Leroux, their victories were the finest moments, the greatest victories of their careers. And for cycling fans, a signal that the underdog has audaciously and uninhibitedly squeezed into the cycling elite.

Okay, he didn't win. But that was the only downside. He just went for it, at the bottom of the climb. To see where his limits were, to see how far he could go. It was just not enough. But still. The underdogs are back, and Huub Artz symbolizes that. The next time a currently nameless, brave escapee or noble unknown manages to fight against all odds and win, it's just brought a bit closer. And if he, just as beautifully and exhausted as our compatriot, slides to the ground against the barriers, it only adds to the charm of the underdogs in cycling.

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