Cycling is not a sport which favors youth. It takes years to learn how to ride the large Alpine passes or when to start a sprint, and a rider does not physically mature until their mid-20s. Race organizers usually reward young riders by letting them compete for their own classification and jersey, usually called the Young Rider Classification. Cycling lore says that a rider will begin to show signs of their true potential around the age of 25, and rare is the rider who can win big races before 25.
Young riders can provide some of the most exciting racing because they are untested and able to produce unexpected results, such as with Pierre Rolland (pictured above) at the 2011 Tour de France. Here is a list of 10 riders who will be 25 or under at the start of the season who will animate 2012 and the years beyond. The first five riders are cyclists who have shown flashes of brilliance but not yet produced a significant result, and the last five are riders who have won a major race before the age of 25, and should continue to do so in 2012.