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6 pro cycling things we’re looking forward to in 2022

Robyn Davidson
1 Jan 2022

From the Tour de France Femmes to MVPD vs WVA and less of a calendar shakeup, there's plenty to look forward to...

Happy New Year! How’s the head feeling?

The grind doesn’t stop here at Cyclist, so why don’t you go grind up some coffee beans as we look towards the incoming year, and what we’re most looking forward to on the road.

The script of the 2022 season currently lies bare, pages waiting to be padded with unforgettable stories and tales for history. From debuts to retirements, Grand Tours to Classics, comebacks and clashes, the good, the bad and the ugly awaits.

The previous season awarded us with a delectable delight of feasts. Tadej Pogačar retaining his Tour de France title, Mark Cavendish’s record-equalling comeback, Marianne Vos’ legendary 30 Giro Donne stage victories.

You were spoiled for choice and ultimately voted Lizzie Deignan’s Paris-Roubaix Femmes victory as the most defining moment of the year, and who could forget the attempted chase down by Vos?

Image credit: A.S.O./Fabien Boukla

The 2022 road season is due to commence, and here are six moments to look forward to this year.

1. Tour de France Femmes – 24th to 31st July

For so long, we have been waiting for (the return of) a women’s Tour de France. Not one that is a direct replication of its male counterpart, but one that can stand in its own right, women driving their own legacy for such a momentous event.

Image credit: A.S.O./Fabien Boukla

Last year – how crazy does that sound by the way? – the route for the eight-stage race was announced. 

Its own Grand Départ unfolds in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower to the iconic Champs-Élysées before departing to the gravel road sectors of the Champagne region. From there La Super Planche des Belles Filles awaits. The seven kilometre leg-breaking jewel in the queen stage.

In total, the 1,029km route is stretched across sprints, puncheur and mountain stages giving the Tour de France Femmes versatility.

Image credit: A.S.O.

What I’m not looking forward to is the financial side of the event – which is good but, like we so frequently say about women’s races, could be better. On average, the race has a running length a third of the men’s Tour de France. Do you think the prize pot reflects that?

Nope. €250,000 is the total prize pot for the women whereas it stands at €2.5 million for the men.

Keep an eye on our complete guide to the 2022 Tour de France Femmes which we will be updating as more details emerge.

2. Grand Tour Showdown – Giro, Tour, Vuelta

Death, taxes, me writing about my love of the Grand Tours. Whether you’re a Giro girl, fancy more of a French fight over three weeks or are an España enjoyer, there’s no denying how beautiful a Grand Tour fight is.

Image credit: Pauline Ballet

Ineos Grenadiers used to have quite the stronghold on the three-weekers. The emergence of young superstar Tadej Pogačar and Jumbo-Visma’s Primož Roglič however has shifted these races to a different kind of dominance.

Pogačar went back-to-back at the Tour de France in 2020 and 2021, winning Liège-Bastogne-Liège and Il Lombardia last year too and catapulting his status even further into the stratosphere of cycling talent.

He stated his aims to go for a Giro title at some point, but it just won’t be this year. 2023, maybe?

The length of Grand Tours opens the door to a new world of possibilities, ones that can see Damiano Caruso suddenly challenging Egan Bernal for a Giro d’Italia title, something I don’t believe is unfair to say was beyond our wildest dreams when he took to the start line alongside team leader Mikel Landa.

Ones that can bear witness to a heartstring-tugging comeback from Mark Cavendish, who arrived at the Tour after from the brink of retirement at Gent-Wevelgem only to equal Eddy Merckx’s stage victory record.

Image credit: A.S.O./Pauline Ballet

Or even ones that saw a rider put in a herculean effort to claim victory on the Queen stage, then miss a decisive move on the penultimate day, tumble down the standings, abandon and search for solace in his team car consequently leaving watchers dumbfounded. Miguel Ángel López later moved teams from Movistar back to Astana.

So who will win the 2022 Grand Tours? It's almost time to see...

3. Battle of the North - 16th to 21st August

I’ve been looking forward to this race ever since it was announced. Organisers of the Ladies’ Tour of Norway, which ran from 2014 to 2021, have replaced their event with the new Battle of the North.

The initial 10-day planned Battle of the North has since been decreased to six days since its 2019 reveal – a result of the Vårgåda municipality withdrawing due to other commitments – and it’s finally set to make its debut after falling victim to another pandemic-enforced cancellation last year.

Three stages will be held in Norway, two are in Denmark and one takes place in Sweden.

4. Mathieu van der Poel vs. Wout van Aert 

The rivalry between Mathieu van der Poel and Wout van Aert is one for the ages. While I believe their names should be allowed to stand alone, their own accolades doing the talking, the fact cannot be bypassed that their careers have been intertwined for years, interacting and influencing one another.

Image credit: A.S.O./Charly Lopez

They have pushed themselves to the limit ever since the junior ranks in cyclocross came calling. Therein lay the foundations for a sustained battle that shows no signs of slowing. World championship jerseys have swapped shoulders, barely given a moment’s rest as their compatriot breathes down their neck at the possibility of snatching it from them.

Image credit: A.S.O./Pauline Ballet

For the two are seemingly destined to be paired together, race each other, beat one another. On the road at the Tour of Flanders in 2020, the pair separated from the field in an attack that their competitors simply could not answer. Previous breakaway partner Julian Alaphilippe had been taken down by a motorbike 35km from the finish.

It was to be decided from the duo who would take De Ronde.

Only fitting then, that it would be awarded by the narrowest of margins. Mere inches separated their front wheels, both locked in a bike throw enshrined in history.

Van der Poel had kicked first. Van Aert followed. Shoulder to shoulder. Head to head. Van der Poel just pipped Van Aert to the win, an impressive demonstration of strength on the line.

What entertainment will they provide us with this year?

5. Less of a calendar shakeup 

Of course, one of the overarching themes of the 2022 season will (hopefully) be some semblance of normality returning to the racing calendar. Paris-Roubaix returns to its regular month spot instead of the October showdown we witnessed just three months earlier, yet as we all know, nothing is ever truly certain when you’re still dealing with a pandemic.

Unfortunately we won’t be graced with the usual summer delights of the southern hemisphere as both the Tour Down Under and Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race are cancelled for the second year in a row. The Santos Festival of Cycling replaces the Tour Down Under however, featuring domestic riders taking part in a three-day race for both men and women.

Long gone are the typical January Instagram posts of World Tour riders cuddling kangaroos and koalas. Coronavirus, this is my last straw.

Not altered by the pandemic but instead previously impacted by its downgrade to ProSeries status, the Giro d’Italia Donne will also return in July to a World Tour status, subject to meeting specifications. How many stages will Marianne Vos win this time?

Image credit: A.S.O./Gautier Demouveaux

As one of the requirements for its return into the World Tour calendar, it’ll be interesting to see the race produce 45 minutes of live coverage. It has been a shame to not witness previous editions of the race in comparison to its consistently televised from start to finish male counterpart the Giro d’Italia, and hopefully the respect this race deserves will continue.

6. Anna van der Breggen's new career

Her retirement on the road was not something I was looking forward to, but I have been intrigued by the concept of it. Anna van der Breggen was a dominant force in the women’s peloton and one of the greatest cyclists of her generation. I have no doubt she will continue to influence the sport from her new directeur sportif role at SD Worx.

Image credit: A.S.O./Gautier Demouveaux

Van der Breggen’s retirement season bestowed upon us performances of utter perfection that we were fortunate enough to witness, let alone reflect upon her entire career.

February set the precedent for races to follow. A win at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in the rainbow bands here, a seventh consecutive victory at La Flèche Wallonne there and before you know it, she swept the general classification, points and mountains jerseys at the Volta a Burgos.

At her final Olympics competing for the Netherlands, Van der Breggen won a bronze medal in the ITT behind Annemiek van Vleuten and Marlen Reusser, labelling it a ‘great way’ to finish her career.

Now she’s embarking on her switch to directeur sportif and I cannot wait to see the managerial side of such an intelligent racing brain from the team car as opposed to racing herself.

The Van der Breggen-shaped hole in the women’s peloton will not be filled. Yet that doesn’t mean the women’s peloton will be left reeling without her competing.

Annamiek van Vleuten and Marianne Vos remain poised to pounce for the next race win opportunity on their calendar. World champion Elisa Balsamo has moved to Trek-Segafredo to ride alongside the likes of Paris-Roubaix Femmes winner Lizzie Deignan.

Image credit: A.S.O./Fabien Boukla

Jumbo-Visma have stepped up to World Tour status. Both Lotte Kopecky and Marlen Reusser join the stacked SD Worx. Joss Lowden and Elinor Barker have signed for the Uno-X Pro Cycling team.

I for one cannot wait to see how this all turns out.

To paraphrase iconic legend Raven, let the road season… begin.

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