Bora-Hansgrohe reveal the two winners of the Red Bull Junior Brothers programme

Patrick Casey and Anatol Friedl will ride for Bora’s development team, Auto Eder, in 2024, as the pair sit down for an exclusive interview with GCN

Clock11:30, Thursday 28th September 2023
Anatol Friedl (left) and Patrick Casey (right) will ride for Team Auto Eder in 2024 and sport special helmets as Red Bull athletes

© Joerge Mitter (Instagram: joergmitter)

Anatol Friedl (left) and Patrick Casey (right) will ride for Team Auto Eder in 2024 and sport special helmets as Red Bull athletes

Almost eight months on from the beginning of the brand-new scouting programme, GCN can exclusively reveal that Bora-Hansgrohe’s performance management group have crowned the Irishman Patrick Casey and Austrian Anatol Friedl as the two winners of the Red Bull Junior Brothers programme.

Designed to find the next big talents for Bora-Hansgrohe’s development pathway, the pair will now sign contracts with the team’s under-19 outfit, Team Auto Eder, as well as securing a Red Bull athlete partnership deal that will see them wear Red Bull helmets in the junior ranks next season, much like their fellow Red Bull athlete and Bora-Hansgrohe pro, Anton Palzer.

Casey and Friedl, 16 and 17 years old respectively, were surprised with the news by Palzer and Bora-Hansgrohe’s Head of Scouting & Development, Dr Christian Schrot, at the Red Bull Athlete Performance Centre on Wednesday. Later in the day, GCN spoke exclusively to Schrot, third-year pro Palzer, and the two new happy recruits.

From the Alpe du Zwift to Strava and the Red Bull Performance Centre, eight months of work pays off

Red Bull Junior Brothers is a talent scouting programme designed to give junior riders an unprecedented pathway from unsigned talents to a WorldTour team. Through Zwift and Strava, cyclists born between 2006 and 2007 had the chance to log their rides on predefined segments and apply to the scheme between February 1 and May 31, with the best of those riders invited to submit an application to the Red Bull Junior Brothers programme.

Twelve chosen riders were then part of a performance camp in Austria at the end of August and on the back of this, Casey and Friedl have been rewarded with contracts with Bora-Hansgrohe’s U19 development outfit, Team Auto Eder.

“I did one [Zwift race] really early on,” reflected Casey. “I used that as a way of getting into it, and then used the [real-life] climbs as part of what I consider as my actual application for it.”

Casey hails from Hebden Bridge in Yorkshire, United Kingdom, but races under the Irish flag owing to his family’s heritage. With the Lake District and the Pennines close at hand to the northerner, he was able to impress Bora-Hansgrohe with notable rides on Great Dun Fell and Wrynose Pass.

On the former, his time of 10:50 over the 3km segment saw him average 353 watts and set the second-best time on Strava - with only GCN’s own Andrew Feather pipping him to the KOM. On the latter, it is Q36.5 Pro Cycling rider Mark Donovan who boasts the KOM, with Casey clocking in the best time for an under-19 rider at the time, but the 17-year-old was not content with simply racing these two climbs.

“I did both of the Spanish ones as well actually. Because we were out doing Gipuzkoa Klasikoa, which is a 2.1 UCI race and me and my Dad were out there in the motorhome. So we looked on the map and thought these climbs perhaps suited us a bit better, because they’re longer climbs.”

To his part, Friedl posted the seventh fastest time of riders under 19 on the Mautstraße Kitzbühler Horn Climb in his homeland of Austria. Interestingly, the only one of those riders who set a faster time on the climb before May, was Team Auto Eder’s Hancz Tamás, who went and rode the climb just 14 days after Friedl.

“Not too bad a defeat for a rider who is one year older,” laughed Friedl when we revealed to him the exploits of his future teammate.

Both Friedl and Casey were invited to the Red Bull Athlete Performance Centre for a five-day training camp at the end of August, alongside 10 other hopefuls. It was here that Schrot and Bora-Hansgrohe team manager Ralph Denk could put the programme’s hopefuls through a series of thorough physiological and psychological tests, in order to select the two best recruits.

“I normally don’t go too well on the indoor testing, it’s not really my type of thing the dead-short power testing and I’m not a big fan of all of the isokinetic movements and that type of thing,” Casey admitted, acknowledging that he had little confidence coming out of the camp. “I definitely wasn’t expecting it to be honest, I thought I had no chance.”

The feeling was mutual between Casey and Friedl, but to Schrot and Bora-Hansgrohe’s scouting department, the two riders had impressed more than enough.

“In our testing at the performance centre from Red Bull, we figured out a lot of good potential for his future development, from the mental side but also performance-wise,” Schrot noted on Friedl.

“We really believe that he can have a good career and also a lot of room to develop further, which is quite important for us.”

As for Casey, Bora-Hansgrohe particularly notes his “resistance to fatigue,” which they feel could see him develop into a very exciting GC talent one day.

“We knew him already through our scouting and also from races, we followed him. Also in the lab testing we already saw good numbers, but the room to improve is quite good, which gives us confidence that we can really bring him forward in the next few years.”

Anton Palzer surprises the pair with Red Bull helmets, as the good news is revealed

Eager to reveal the exciting news to Friedl and Casey, Bora-Hansgrohe enlisted the help of their third-year pro and well-known former ski mountaineer, Anton Palzer. The German is one of the peloton’s high-profile Red Bull athletes and the idea was quickly schemed up to surprise the two winners under the false pretence of further testing.

“It was quite a funny story because I think they thought they had to do another performance test, and I surprised them with their two helmets and jerseys of the Team Auto Eder,” chuckled a mischievous Palzer. “I think it’s a special day for them and now they can be super proud that they are the two selected guys for the upcoming years in Team Auto Eder.”

“I also have the feeling they were pretty surprised and also then having Toni Palzer with us was a really nice moment,” Schrot added. But with a pair of wry smiles, Friedl and Casey revealed to GCN that they both developed their own suspicions that their dreams may have been about to come true.

“I think we had our suspicions because there’s a big group chat of everybody who’s on the camp and us two aren’t actually on it,” Casey disclosed, “but everyone else sort of worked out it was none of them and by process of elimination, they said ‘it’s probably you two then!’. Then we got called back for further testing and I thought it could be good news.”

With a mountain biker and a super time trialist Team Auto Eder have two bright talents

Be it a surprise or not, the handover of the Red Bull helmets and Team Auto Eder kit to Friedl and Casey was part of a whirlwind day that saw Bora-Hansgrohe’s development side gain two new delighted recruits for the 2024 season. Unique in their own ways, the pair offer two notably different types of rider to the squad.

Confident, eloquent and thoughtful, Casey spoke at length to GCN about his upbringing in cycling as a child of the Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome golden age of British cycling. The pair’s TT exploits no doubt inspired the Yorkshireman as he came through the ranks on Steven Burke’s Cycle Sport Pendle team, with Burke himself a two-time gold medalist on the Olympic velodrome.

“With the time trialing, it’s always something I’ve worked on, because if you look at a sub-60kg, 5’8” riders, they typically don’t go so well in the time trials,” Casey acknowledged. “That is your weakness and something that stops you from being a GC rider, so having that as anything but a weakness will set you up really well in that GC role.”

Where Casey’s path to Team Auto Eder began with cycling to school and later joining Cycle Sport Pendle as a youngster, Friedl’s destiny always seemed to be aboard two wheels, with his father being the owner of the Federleicht Bike company. The Austrian brand specialises in making mountain bikes for children, the discipline which is the main love for the 16-year-old.

“I really appreciate it,” Friedl answered when questioned about the help of his father. “It has helped me and my dad drove to every race with me and my siblings.”

Now a Red Bull athlete and a soon-to-be Team Auto Eder rider, Friedl will hope to continue with his mountain biking success, which has seen him take the Austrian national championship title across multiple age groups.

“With his technical skills from the mountain bike, this also gives him a potential for different races. He will also continue the mountain bike as well, so both are planned,” confirmed Schrot.

Following in the footsteps of Cian Uijtdebroeks

Whilst the Red Bull Junior Brothers programme is new in itself, the pathway from Team Auto Eder is well-trodden, with Luis-Joe Lührs and Cian Uijtdebroeks both graduating from the team straight to Bora-Hansgrohe’s WorldTour ranks.

“I am super proud to be honest,” Schrot smiled when we discussed Uijtdebroeks’ eighth-placed performance at the Vuelta a España.

“Cian is a perfect example to showcase how that can work and everybody was just delighted about the Vuelta. We are still having goosebumps when we think of it!”

Being the only junior riders with Red Bull helmets will no doubt bring its own challenges to both Casey and Friedl in 2024, but the pair exude an air of composure that is often rare with such young talents.

With the support of Red Bull, the development structure offered by Team Auto Eder and the achievements of those in the Bora-Hansgrohe ranks, both riders look well set to showcase the Red Bull Junior Brothers programme as a new innovative pathway for youth scouting and development.

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