Bora-Hansgrohe and Red Bull have launched a junior scouting program that will use rider data and performances on Strava segments and Zwift to help discover talented riders from around the world.
The two riders who are discovered during the summer-long program will be awarded a contract as Red Bull athletes and placed in Bora-Hansgrohe’s Team Auto Eder junior squad, which provides a pathway to a contract with the WorldTour team.
In recent years Cian Uijtdebroeks and fellow 19-year-old Luis-Joe Lührs have graduated to the Bora-Hansgrohe WorldTour team directly from the junior ranks. Lührs is riding the Tour Down Under with Giro d’Italia winner Jai Hindley, while Uijtdebroeks won the 2022 Tour de l’Avenir and is considered a huge future stage race talent.
Major WorldTour teams are searching for the best young riders amongst the junior ranks and fast tracking their careers via junior and under 23 development teams. The likes of Remco Evenepoel (Soudal-QuickStep), Juan Ayuso (UAE Team Emirates) and Uijtdebroeks jumped directly to the WorldTour as teenagers, quickly proving their ability while still very young.
Bora-Hansgrohe have pivoted to targeting Grand Tours and with Red Bull and hope their ‘Red Bull Junior Brothers’ program will help them find talented riders from around the world, including the non-traditional cycling continents such as Africa and Asia. The riders at Team Auto Eder can jump to WorldTour level or take more time to develop in two under 23 teams who act as feeder teams to Bora-Hansgrohe.
The Red Bull Junior Brothers is similar to the Zwift Academy that offers places at the Alpecin-Deceuninck teams but is more focused on discovering junior talents. Red Bull supports similar development programs in other sports and especially motor racing.
“This is the first time that Red Bull is involved with a project in road cycling globally, and I am proud that they are doing this together with Bora-Hansgrohe,” the German team manager Ralph Denk said.
“The goal of the Red Bull Junior Brothers program is to find the next superstar in cycling, an iconic rider and Grand Tour winner,” Melanie Hofbauer of project development explained.
“Everyone around the world can participate. We’ll scout all around the world with Strava segments and via Zwift. Everyone who was born in 2006 and 2007 can apply.”
The selection process begins by young athletes targeting specific Strava segments and rides on Zwift routes between February and May. The best riders can then apply via the Red Bull website in June, with 15 riders selected to attend a week of testing at the Red Bull Performance Center in Austria. The two riders selected for places on the Auto Eder junior team and Red Bull athlete contract will be revealed in September.
“It’s harder to find kids who want to engage with cycling because now there are e-sports, social media and some people don’t even do any sport. We think a global brand like Red Bull can help us reach more young people,” Bora-Hansgrohe directeur sportif Christian Pömer said at the presentation in Adelaide.
“The winners in cycling are getting younger and younger, so it makes perfect sense to start scouting earlier and earlier. Some teams go out and buy young talent with crazy money but we hope to develop them ourselves. It’s about data numbers, performances but also their leadership and character. We can get the riders we want, coach and educate them and hopefully find the next super star of cycling.”
Jai Hindley is one of Bora-Hansgrohe’s leaders after his Giro d’Italia victory in 2022. The 26-year-old Australia followed a traditional path to the professional peloton by moving to Europe and racing as an amateur in Italy but can see the benefits of the Red Bull Junior Brothers scouting programme.
“Cycling is a European sport but there are phenomenally talented riders all around the world and countries waiting to be tapped into,” Hindley suggested.
“If you have this support that our team offers it’d be a big help in your career. Our sport is changing, it’s more professional and at a younger age. Luis-Joe Lührs is far more professional than I was at his age and they can perform at a high level, even when super young. You have to go with the changes in scouting too, or you get left behind.”