Amaury Pierron's ascent to the white jersey has been the story of the 2018 race season. Pierron is an unknown entity, a ludicrously fast French youngster who seems to have stepped out of nowhere but should we all have seen this coming?
At 22, he's one of three young Gallic racers that have won their first World Cups in the past two years. But unlike Fayolle and Bruni, he's importantly gone on to win his second too. That elusive second tends to be the one that sends riders over the top and, importantly, proves that Fort William was no fluke.
He hails from the south of France but not the Nice cradle that raised everyone from Vouilloz to Vergier but the south-central Auvergne region. He learnt his craft at Brioude, along with his older brother Baptiste (who has scored World Cup top tens) and younger brother Antoine (a junior World Cup podium rider last year). Let's take a look over his rise from the Massif Central to the top of the World.
2013 - First Year Junior
Amaury's debut on the World Cup circuit started in far less glamorous circumstances than his current results might suggest. A DNF in Fort William set the tone for a formative year for the freshman on the PassionVelo.FR team.View on Instagram
Battling against the likes of Loris Vergier, Dean Lucas and Luca Shaw, Pierron's best result was a 16th in Leogang at the final race of the year.
2014 - Second Year Junior
Now familiar with the rigours of World Cup racing, Pierron secured a then career-high 3rd place finish at the opening round in Pietermaritzburg. A 30th in Fort William followed before Amaury officially announced his presence to the World with a win in Leogang.
The duality of racing reared its ugly head again however when a crash forced him out of contention in Mont Saint Anne and a 46th place finish at the World Champs put a dampener on an otherwise breakout season for the 18 year old. Despite only completing three rounds, his results in South Africa and Austria meant that Pierron secured a 4th place overall finish in his final year as a junior.
2015 - First Year Elite
The step up to the Elite field of racing is a notoriously difficult one. We've seen the likes of Loris Vergier and Sam Hill stride on with aplomb, equally riders who shone as youngsters have faded into obscurity as they failed to deal with the pressure of transitioning. Pierron's first season competing with the major players was a mixed bag.
He was picked up by the Lac Blanc Scott team and secured top 20s in Lourdes, Lenzerheide and Val Di Sole but they were tempered by a DNF in Leogang and 61st in Mont Saint Anne. Amaury ended his first year in Elites in 34th place.
2016 - The first podium
Max Commencal scooped up the young Frenchman onto team Lac Blanc Commencal and his trust in Pierron was rewarded immediately as the 20-year-old secured his first Elite podium at the opening round of the 2016 season in Lourdes.
What promised to be a seminal season for Pierron was hampered by a crash in Cairns in Round 2. With a broken wrist, Pierron struggled to regain his early season form; a 78th place finish in Lenzerheide and a DNF in Mont Saint Anne followed before he was able to secure a 13th place finish in Vallnord to leave a silver lining on an otherwise cloudy season.
The year ended with more disappointment at the World Championships in Val di Sole. It's a track we know Pierron is fast at and he was 11th at split 1 but another crash saw him finish dead last.
2017 - Business time
Pierron began 2017 as he had 2016 with a top ten finish in Lourdes followed by disappointment. At Lourdes, Pierron qualified well but was caught out by the thunderstorm. He was still the fastest rider through the rain, although he probably didn't catch the worst of it. This was followed by a DNF in Fort William. Pierron had clearly shown that he had the speed to compete on the biggest stage, but was hampered by inconsistency. Four results outside of the top 20 followed and it looked like Pierron might be taking a step backwards.
Cue Val di Sole. Pierron stormed his way to second place on the most brutal track of all. For many this was their first introduction to Pierron, for those who had been following his progress, it was justice served.
A 9th place finish in Cairns at the World Champs and redemption on the track that he had sustained his injury one year prior capped a hugely important season.
2018 - On top of the World
Pierron came into this season looking fitter and stronger than ever. At the IXS in Maribor against a field stacked with World Cup talent, Pierron took 2nd. Standing trackside in Croatia it was clear that he had hit another gear, there were only about 5 other men in the entire field who looked to carry his pace. A puncture in finals hampered an otherwise stellar run - Pierron was 3rd at split 3 and looked a sure bet for the podium.
Pierron then made the trip to Fort William for the National Series race prior to the World Cup. It had previously been a nightmare track for him with only one finish in three attempts but he qualified first with a run time just 1 second slower than Danny Hart's eventual winning run. Come finals, a cruiser run saw him finish 43rd, but the pace was there.
At the World Cup, Pierron qualified 10th with a time near identical to that which he had qualified 1st with the week prior and there was plenty in the tank. On race day he shaved 5 seconds off that time to take his first win.
At Leogang it was a repeat performance. It's the track he won his only junior World Cup on and a third place qualifier backed up with his second win in seven days was another stunning performance. Pierron had arrived.