Highlights of 2022 – Part V

The final highlight of the year? It’s hard, because to pick one is to exclude so many. So here’s a cop-out with several quick picks from 2022 which has proved to be an excellent vintage.

Having picked two Tour de France stages already, why stop there? There were many other good days. Wout van Aert’s win in Calais was lively and instructive but the action only came late that day. The pavé stage was hectic, with a surprise win but Roglič’s woes were a downer to cancel things out. Bob Jungels’ win in Châtel marked a big day with action from the start but seeing the GC riders mark each other wasn’t as good as other days. The Hautacam day did see action to the end with a quality breakaway overhauled on the final climb. Several other days were very lively too and it was satisfying to see the breakaways get their rewards, the Tour’s becoming a kind of daily world championships with intense racing almost every day… except for the sprints but these are still a thrill for the final 20km.

Staying with the Tour as the men’s race approached Paris, the women set off. Now I’d watch, and many readers of a niche cycling blog would too… but would millions of others tune in after weeks of watching the Tour, and could the racing deliver? The answer is yes, oui. The course helped deliver some variety. The Champs Elysées offered glamour before the race headed for rural Franc this meant field art and tractors, just like the men. Above all it was just good sport, the second day’s crosswinds allowed Marianne Vos to take yellow and if Annemiek van Vleuten was the inevitable winner, she was struggling with illness mid-week, then dropped on a descent on the final day to add some spice to it all. With hindsight the Tour factor really worked. There are plenty of races on the French calendar but few are followed by the general public, when Paris-Nice comes to town, even a one horse town, there can be complaints about road closures. But the Tour is on a whole different level, a sports event that’s also a socio-cultural institution. So taking the Tour label to a women’s race helped make it an instant hit, it got more crowds than, say, the men in a stage of the Dauphiné. It also brings in politicians and sponsors alike.

Sure the Giro wasn’t a vintage edition, it didn’t pass the “DVD test” as in you would not go and buy the DVD highlights to watch over winter; of course these days you’d probably need to buy a DVD player as well but that just makes the test even stronger. Anyway there were some great days, Thomas De Gendt’s win in Napoli was satisfying as the breakaway expert showed he’s still got it, and held off Mathieu van der Poel’s late charge with the Dutchman a catalyst on many days. Biniam Girmay’s stage win was exciting for the way he outplayed Van der Poel. With hindsight MvdP doing the classics and the Giro and then the Tour was too much and he turned stale by the summer.

Paris-Nice thrives if the wind gets up and sure enough we got textbook echelon racing on the early stages. There was also another exciting final stage with Simon Yates going on the attack to take the final stage and almost win the overall were it not for Wout van Aert towing Roglič over the Col d’Eze and into Nice, a tense end to a lively week. It’s not exactly perceptive hindsight given Jumbo-Visma said the team was a dress rehearsal for July but WvA’s work for his team leaders while dressed in green is notable.

Milano-Sanremo’s always a thrill, 290km where the tension ratchets up. Sure you could tune in for the Poggio and if it was a film it would test the audience but there’s something about the slow build up that works.

The cobbled classics always bring entertainment. To pick among them, the Ronde van Vlaanderen was tense although the circuit with the Oude Kwaremont-Paterberg combo is becoming too familiar. Still seeing Pogačar giving it everything up the Paterberg was special, when was the last time we saw the Tour de France winner doing this? The final sprint was wild as Madouas and Van Baarle closed in. Gent-Wevelgem was good too, you could see Girmay in the right place in the E3 race just before, this time he got the better of Jumbo-Visma by beating Christophe Laporte in a four-up sprint.

The promotion/relegation contest brought spice to many a race and gave added importance to many a small race, a depth like the general classification does in a stage race. As this is the highlights of the year, we’ll park the negatives it brought for another day. The excitement came because it was close for much of the season with Lotto-Soudal just overhauling BikeExchange-Jayco mid-season. Who knew opening a spreadsheet every Tuesday morning would be so exciting?

The Vuelta’s always bringing tapas cycling, bite-sized action almost every day. Some days were a feast for the eyes with plenty of action and seeing Carlos Rodriguez and Juan Ayuso thriving was impressive as Spanish cycling needs a superstar. Ayuso was one of this blog’s neo-pros of the tear, an obvious pick, but is still remarkable for the way he looks like seasoned pro already. He was also a protagonist in February’s Drôme Classic race which was a great afternoon’s sport.

The World Championships were fun, in a way the women’s and men’s races needed to be combined: to have the action from the start of the men’s race where the French team riding à la Voeckler went on the attack early and split the field; plus the finish of the women’s race with the winner unknown right until the end and Van Vleuten mugging the field to cap her stellar season.

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And there were so many other great days. After getting overhauled by Miguel Angel Lopez in the Tour of the Alps, Thibaut Pinot’s win the next day was memorable for the mask on his face as he fought for his first win after a long lean spell and rehab. With hindsight he got one over on Lopez and there’s added poignancy given Lopez’s reported links to Operation Ilex.

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Mark Cavendish’s win in the British championships was special. On a day when you have many browser tabs open to various championships I tuned in to the GB race and saw him with a few others up the road and without the KM to go graphic, thought it meant the finish was near. Only it was practically the start and Cavendish was making moves all afternoon before winning the final sprint in what looked like test of stamina than speed.

Where to stop? Andreas Leknessund’s Tour of Norway win was special, a breakaway where he kept going solo to win the stage and take the overall in a race he’d seen from the roadside once as a child and thought “I’d like to do that“, and sure enough he did. Ion Izagirre getting knocked off on the final climb of Arrate in the Tour of the Basque Country only to come back and take the stage. Stage 5 of the Tour de Suisse, furnace like conditions and a hectic final hour on a tricky circuit, and if many riders would leave this race because of Covid, the glass-half full view is the peloton got the wake-up call in June rather than July. More? Make suggestions in the comments below…

And it all starts again in less than a month.

Highlights of 2022 – Part I
Highlights of 2022 – Part II
Highlights of 2022 – Part III
Highlights of 2022 – Part IV

16 thoughts on “Highlights of 2022 – Part V”

  1. Inrng – I don’t see how you could have done ANYTHING differently with your 5 highlights this year… I mean the order doesn’t really matter, but it was IMPOSSIBLE to narrow things down to 5 days that stood out over the rest.

    And, I honestly don’t think the greatness of this season is due to being “post”-covid (disclaimer, I know we’re not done with covid, etc. but things are “normalising” – please don’t jump on me for this comment). This was a great season, full-stop. The riders pulled out all of the stops, the weekly relegation updates made me check the standings further down the placings than normal, and the women’s side of the table was brilliant – AVV is clearly an absolute animal and gives me hope (we’re almost the same age) that I can have some very good riding years ahead of me.

    Very sad that another prominent rider died due to a split-second accident, please everyone be safe out there.

    But, overall a great season filled with massive efforts and it was interesting from start to finish! Happy Holidays everyone. Inrng, thank you for everything you’ve done, this is my only daily cycling stop now – the quality of the writing are in a class of its own (not to mention by far the most interesting topics).

  2. I will also highlight CAV’s GB jersey as a highlight. I only got to see the highlights but to see a sprinter like himself show that he’s more than just a show pony on such a hard and miserable day was a delight. It’s not a roubaix level field for sure but it was a great effort and race.

    • Exactly, it showed that 100% Cav is still one of the top riders in his home country. He isn’t a rider who can only sprint, he also has an engine that 99.9% of his countrymen can’t match.

  3. The UCI’s WorldTour promotion/relegation system added spice to the racing (and I see Lotto are already dropping the Giro for other races) but amongst all the winners and losers, the bizarre also happened – Girmay’s abandonment after getting a cork in his eye from the victory vino, I think stands out.
    Thanks again to Mr Ring for the blog and a Merry Christmas to all.

  4. Flanders is probably cycling’s greatest spectacle away from the grand tours and I thought the finale lived up to that this year, which isn’t always the case. Elsewhere it was brilliant to see Girmay’s wins.

    For a slightly left field choice how about Taco van der Hoorn’s win at the Brussels Classic? Not the biggest race obviously but a ridiculous final few hundred metres. Like a really grim version of the Amstel that MVDP won.

    I remember at the time people saying MVDP’s win was what people who don’t watch bike racing imagine bike racing is like, and van der Hoorn’s win had an element of that.

  5. I think it was the best season I can remember in the 10 years since I got inspired by the beautiful agonies of bicycle road racing.

    A brilliant season with some stellar victories by riders racing like thoroughbred horses!

    Hats off @inrng – sports writing of the highest quality to compliment the racing – expert analysis, insider info, excellent turn of phrase, a light touch and quick wit – it’s like a seat in the helicopter above the peloton. Thank you.

    Have a safe and productive holiday and new year everyone.

  6. Just to say a big Thank You to the producer/editor/creative genius/highly informed and erudite analyst who is INRNG. Also to the riders and teams that bring such great sport to the best events among all the sports.
    Best Wishes to all.

  7. Being provincial, I’d add Pidcock’s win on l’Alpe d’Huez – less about the final climb, more about the jaw-dropping descent of the Galibier.

    Tro-Bro Leon often delivers as well and this year was another good addition.


  8. Itzulia’s final stage was indeed incredible, a merry-go-round of attacks and virtual GC shift. The whole stage race was notable with some high level performance by Roglic and Evenepoel with the likes of Vlasov, Dani Martínez, Vingegaard, Mas, Yates also in the mix. Note the good performance by Juanpe López.

    Volta a Catalunya had a memorable stage 6, but it was generally very good, with a strong Aussie touch and its always lively final stage.

    Pogacar on a snowy Carpegna at Tirreno was also one to remember.

    And I’d suppport Pidcock’s performance, too.

    Speaking of Ineos, Sheffield winning Brabantse Pijl was impressive – a race which offers so often a great day of racing, just as Emilia with a rare victory by Mas (rematch at Lombardia went the other way).

    McNulty early seasons victories were great to watch, as it was a once again competitive Quintana. For the sentimental spectator, Gilbert winning Dunkerque trying to salvage Lotto’s licence (or just to bow out with a win) was a worthy moment.

    This was so good a season at so many levels… although 2016 was probably a better season in terms of “summing up quality”: Nibali grabbing a crazy Giro full of great stages; Quintana winning the second – and obviously secundary – round of the match with Froome at the Vuelta with some tight uphill battle and that Contadoresque stage… sparked by Contador; Chaves taking home a gruelling Lombardia after graciously losing the above named Giro; Hayman denying Boonen a record-breaking Roubaix at the end of a majestic race; Sagan getting his first cobbled Monument with a commanding performance over Cancellara and Vanmarcke; Sagan and Boonen again, now face to face – with Cav just in the middle – for those great Desert Worlds with crosswinds and all; Sagan also had won the Euro Champ over Alaph on the very-Alaphilippesque Plumelec course… and much more, but, to make it short, great racing with great narratives of duels and career-defining momenta, both season-long lones and long-term ones. Minor stories were Tirreno going back to a Classic-men duel due to suspect application of the EWP, Contador winning a great Itzulia and López a finally once more spectacular Suisse, Demare being accused thanks to Strava of having won Sanremo in keirin style…

  9. Great summaries of the year and a big thank-you to Inner Ring for another year of fantastic coverage. I don’t always get to the watch as much live action as I would like but this blog at least keeps me up to date on what has been happening.

  10. Stage 16 of Le Tour. A good win, that do not come often, with an emotional back story, for Hugo Houle. I am happy to admit my strong great white north bias.

    • Good pick too, for me it needed the GC riders to make more attacks but the did try some moves on the steep “Mur” de Péguère part, and the long descent helped things come back a bit and the same descent saw Houle clear so a bit less suspense in the finish. But a lively stage all the same, no sooner had the big breakaway finally formed than its members started trading attacks.

      With Woods marking Madouas it must have been a satisfying day for Canadians… including team owner Sylvan Adams.

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