Johannes Kulset: The Tour de France’s youngest rider who is going to ‘let his legs to do the talking’

The Uno-X Mobility rider is living his father's dream by riding in the Tour for the first time

There is plenty to be said for having years of experience in the peloton when approaching a Grand Tour. From fuelling strategies, to managing fatigue and handling pressure, the Tour de France asks a lot of riders who make it to the start line. Historically, this has meant older riders perform better over three weeks of racing, but it’s a trend that is rapidly changing over the years. Tadej Pogačar was just 21 years old when he won his first Tour, for example, and it’s not uncommon in the modern peloton to see riders take stage wins early in their careers. This is something that the 2024 Tour de France’s youngest rider, 20-year-old Johannes Kulset, is keeping in mind.

At the team presentation in Florence, with a panoramic view of the city at sunset behind him, Kulset’s slight frame and babyface stands out on stage alongside his Uno-X Mobility teammates. There’s plenty of pressure on the rider who is only a few years out of school – he’s riding the Tour for a team run by his father, Vegar Kulset, who has long hoped to see one of his sons starting the biggest bike race in the world.

“It’s super special riding here for Uno-X. Even though my dad has never said it, I think this has been a dream of his to have one of his children riding the Tour de France with the team. It’s so big for me. It means a lot,” Kulset explains with a smile. 

Image: Getty/Soccrates Images

The 20-year-old has fairly earned his spot on Uno-X-Mobility’s Tour team by proving himself as one of the most exciting climbing talents in Norway in recent years. His team talk about Kulset producing breathtaking power numbers on training camps and this has translated into racing too – Kulset finished in third place Alpes Isère Tour earlier this year. A crash in training put doubts in whether the young rider would make it to the Tour, but Kulset explains his return to form has gone smoothly.

“It was always the plan originally at the start of the year, but I had a crash some weeks ago so I was a bit unsure. Then I came back and I’m all in for the Tour,” he says. “Overall, it’s been pretty good leading up to this race – in some races I’ve struggled with the tactics and also had some bad luck but the shape has been good. Hopefully my luck will turn around now.”

Uno-X-Mobility bring a versatile team to La Grande Boucle, with a strong lead out train for their sprinter, Alexander Kristoff, as well as riders who have the potential to look for opportunities in breakaways. With his 58 kilogrammes and 5'9" height, Kulset is unlikely to play a role in helping the Danish team in flat stages, but he has ambitions when it comes to getting in breakaways in the mountains. He may be in his Tour debut and be the youngest rider in the race, but this isn’t squashing any of his ambition.

“It’s super cool to be the youngest. Hopefully I have a lot of years in front of me. It’s not too much stress to get a result but hopefully I can get a lot of experience and have a lot of fun,” Kulset says. “My own ambition is to try and be as competitive as possible in a lot of stages, helping the team win a lot of stages too.”

There may be those with their doubts about whether the 20-year-old is ready to compete in the Tour de France and concerns over the impact that doing a three-week race will have on the longevity of his career, but Kulset doesn’t show a flicker of nerves as he rolls through the Piazza Michelangelo in Firenze. In fact, he looks like he’s exactly where he’s meant to be.

“I think doing a Grand Tour this year is definitely a positive thing,” he grins. “But I’ll do the talking with my legs.”

Cover image: James Startt

Rachel Jary

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