Yes, we know, it’s been done to death but nonetheless here – in no order of merit, with no apologies for any omissions, these are MY choices – we bring you, ‘Riders of the Year.’
Let’s start on the track and the shortest of all World Championship disciplines, the Sprint.
The Netherlands, Harrie Lavreysen took his fourth straight title at the ripe old age of 25 years, made more impressive by the fact that this is his 11th world title.
This year also saw him take the Keirin, his third straight win in the discipline but he failed to improve on his four Team Sprint golds as the usually all-powerful men in orange succumbed to a resurgent Aussie team in the final.
Dominance at the track worlds is a cyclical phenomenon with nations taking turns atop the podiums – Germany, France, GB and Australia have all had their time and now it’s the Netherlands with Jeffrey Hoogland winning the Kilometre Championship and Yoeri Havik the Points Race.
Sticking with Europe’s lowest country, I must mention their top female rider – I say ‘female’ because I’m advised that ‘ladies’ and ‘girls’ are now ‘non PC.’
Annemiek van Vleuten at 40 years-of-age Movistar added another World Road Race title to the one Martin and I saw her win in 2019 at Harrogate as well as the Setmana Valenciana, Het Niewuwsblad, Liege-Bastogne-Liege, Giro Donne, Tour de France Femmes and Vuelta Challenge.
And as a Scot I can’t forget to mention the 2022 World Points Race Champion, Ms. Neah Evans – chapeau!
Pippo Ganna’s 56.792 kilometre Hour Record was stunning, for sure but I felt that Dan Bigham didn’t get the plaudits he deserved for his 55.548 K ride when he broke Victor Campenaerts record.
Dan was also a key figure in Ganna’s record bid and reminded us of his quality when he pulled on that Worlds Team Pursuit rainbow jersey later in the year – definitely my ‘Pistard’ of the year.
If Dan Bigham is trackman of the year for me, then Remco Evenpoel is roadman of the year.
QuickStep’s Belgian pocket power house silenced the doubters with a Classic – San Sebastian, a Monument – Liege-Bastogne-Liege, a Grand Tour – La Vuelta, and the Worlds.
In addition he won the Tour of the Algarve, The Tour of Norway, Gullegem Koerse, the Belgian Time Trial Championship and took bronze in the Worlds iTT.
His next big test is the 2023 Giro – it should be interesting with Geraint Thomas, Primož Roglič and Thibaut Pinot all having thrown their hats into the pink ring.
But despite the beauty of Remco’s season, laid back Slovenian, Tadej Pogacar runs him close. The UAE Tour, Strade Bianche, Tirreno-Adriatico, the Tour of Slovenia, three stage wins, time in yellow and second on GC in the Tour de France, Montreal, Tre Valli Varesine and Lombardia.
He races ‘old school,’ smiles a lot and is mostly philosophical in defeat – a class act.
Then there’s Wout Van Aert, the Jumbo Visma Belgian started his rampage at Het Nieuwsblad, took a stage and the Points maillot in Paris-Nice, won E3, was on the podium in Paris-Roubaix and Liege-Bastogne-Liege, took two stages and Points jersey in the Dauphine, wore yellow for the first week, won three stages and finished in green in le Tour, won the Bretagne Classic and was on the podium in Montreal.
And I write this after having just watched him give another display of cyclo-cross excellence to win at Zolder.
Another remarkable rider in what is a great era for Belgian cycling.
Wout’s Dutch, almost lifelong rival, Mathieu Van Der Poel [Alpecin-Deceuninck] was also on fire – a Primavera podium, Dwars Door and de Ronde, a stage and spell in pink in the Giro, a perhaps disappointing Tour before a stellar late season – Geraardsbergen, Izegem and Wallonie before that sad Worlds debacle.
And, just like WVA he’s churning the mud and sand; the two of them are at a level above the rest – the ‘cross Worlds should be a great gun fight.
Yorkshire’s Mighty Atom,’ Tom Pidcock perhaps didn’t have the season he would have liked due the standards this young man sets for himself but his Alpe d’Huez stage win would be the highlight of just about any rider’s career, never mind one of just 23 years-of-age.
INEOS are taking no chances at one of the ‘Sugar Daddy’ squadras nicking their boy and have him on the books until 2027.
My personal favourite one day race is the ‘Primavera,’ Milan-Sanremo, the ‘Classicissima’ or ‘Classic of all Classics.
Over the years I’ve watched some daredevil drops off the Poggio – Merckx and Kelly spring to mind but none are more impressive than the one Bahrain’s 28 years-old Slovenian, Matej Mohoric delivered in March.
Crazy, beautiful, and stunning.
Dylan Van Baarle confirmed his great abilities over the cobbles with second in Flanders and the win in Roubaix.
However, the Dutchman leaves the freshly ‘Classic combative’ INEOS for pastures new at the already very strong Jumbo Visma team.