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David L. Stanley
2022 Bike Racing Season Preview

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David Stanley is an experienced cycling writer. His work has appeared in Velo, Velo-news.com, Road, Peloton, and the late, lamented Bicycle Guide (my favorite all-time cycling magazine). Here's his Facebook page. He is also a highly regarded voice artist with many audiobooks to his credit, including McGann Publishing's The Story of the Tour de France and Cycling Heroes.

David L Stanley

David L Stanley


David L. Stanley's masterful telling of his bout with skin cancer Melanoma: It Started with a Freckle is available in print, Kindle eBook and audiobook versions, just click on the Amazon link on the right.

David L. Stanley writes:

This is a 2022 season preview article. In a preview article, the writer is supposed to tell you what will happen in the coming season. I cannot do that. If I could, I’d offer up screenshots of my Betfair account instead of writing 1600 words. But what I can do is tell you about a few riders I find interesting, a trend or three, and what I look forward to this season.

Women to Watch (alphabetical order):

Elisa Balsamo (Trek-Segafreddo). A stellar junior career, a World Champion, the young (27/2/1998) Ms. Balsamo will continue to grow and impress, especially as a member of the deep Trek-Segafreddo squad. She’ll look great all season long in l’arc-en-ciel jersey.

Elisa Balsamo after winning the 2021 World Road Championships. Sirotti photo

Anna van der Breggen (Director Sportif-SD Worx). Ms. van der Breggen is one of the finest women to throw a leg over the bike. Her palmares are deep, her race acumen likewise. Look for an improved Lotte Kopecky under the guidance of AvdB.

Lizzie Deignan (Trek-Segafredo) The first woman to claim the triple crown of women’s racing monuments, her strength and speed make her closely marked in every event. Plus, is there a deeper team than Trek this season?

Marianne Vos (Jumbo-Visma) Beyond a doubt, the finest woman cyclist of this century, and perhaps of all-time, the 34 years old Vos is not going anywhere. She is gutty, fast, and willing to crush anyone in her way. I admire that trait in a racing cyclist.

Elynor Bäckstedt (Trek–Segafredo) Bloodlines matter. There is an old saying, “If you want to get to the Olympics, choose the right parents.” Elynor did. Magnus’s palmares are well-known, and mom Megan Hughes was also a world-class cyclist. This is going to be a break-out season for the young Bäckstedt. Bet on it.

Men to Watch:

Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) vs. Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix). Once every ten years or so, in every sport, we are privileged to see a pair of closely matched generational talents. Bird vs. Magic. Cancellara vs. Boonen. Brian Orser vs. Brian Boitano. These two, it is simple: If you love bike racing, do not miss any race in which they both participate.

Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl). The World’s Happiest Frenchman rides with extra-ordinary panache and grinta. At crunch-time you should not take your eyes off of him. At 29, he is at the peak of his power.

Julian Alaphilippe winning the 2021 World Road Championships. Sirotti photo

João Almeida (UAE Team Emirates). Almeida is a tremendous talent. Riding at the side of Tadej Pogačar will be a major opportunity for the young man. He will have his chances and he will take them.

Filippo Baroncini (Trek-Segafredo). He is focused. He is happy. He is immensely talented and he is but 21. He is surrounded by top riders, and the Trek group of directors are well-suited to steer this young man. “Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look…such men are dangerous.”

Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers). Keep the good mojo going for his continued recovery, okay? Okay.

Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain Victorius). He will win the Tour of Flanders this year to go with his Paris-Roubaix.

Remco Evenepoel (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl). No, he is not “The Next Merckx” (more on that honorific later), yet he is a young man with no ceiling. Immensely talented and supremely confident, he is a 22-year-old that rides as one who knows no limits. And if Eddy thinks he’s too mouthy, or if Stuyven thinks he’s disrespectful, well, there are plenty of men in each sports halls of fame tagged with the same adjectives.

Biniam Ghirmay (Intermarché). This young man is a massive talent. Like beating Remco in a sprint (first stage of Aubel–Thimister–Stavelot) massive. He is from Eritrea. Cycling is in a growth cycle in Africa, and Ghirmay could be the continent’s Greg LeMond, the man who galvanized the US pro bike boom of the 1980s. I am rooting for him. Rooting hard. You should, too. Thanks.

Peter Sagan (Team TotalEnergie). I believe in the regeneration hypothesis for athletes. Sometimes, a player needs a new environment, a fresh start. Watch out, once again, for Mr. Sagan.

Peter Sagan (center) in his new team kit.

Primoz Roglič (Jumbo-Visma). Here’s a guy who would’ve won a bunch of Grand Tours if it was not for…

Tadej Pogačar (UAE-Team Emirates). Quite possibly set to become the finest stage racer of the 2020s.

Last, as an entry (since this is a US-based site):
Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma) & Brandon McNulty (UAE Team Emirates). These are two stellar riders. Much like João Almeida, these two are exceptional climbers riding on top teams. They can ride with absolutely anyone in the world. We will see several great results from each this season. Bet on it.


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What Gets My Gears Turning for This Season.

Women’s pro cycling: I am excited to see the continued growth of women’s racing. The racing is spectacular. The competition is fierce. The fields are deep and competitive. A real Tour: the Tour de France Femmes, 24th to 31st July, is 8 stages long. This will be a real Tour, not a post-script tacked onto the end of the men’s race (which I am also excited about), but a standalone race.

Once more, the women head to Norway for the Battle of the North - 16th to 21st August. Norway hosts one of the most beautiful of races, a highly competitive field, and a locale where women’s endurance sports are entrenched. And as always, the spring classics.

Men’s pro cycling. And as always, the spring classics. Cobbled or pavé or tarmac, hilly or rolling, they are long, treacherous, challenging—a true test of fitness and nerve and gumption. Starting 26 February, with Het Nieuwsblad, you will find me parked in a comfy chair for all the classics. Yes, it’s not July without the Tour, May without the Giro, or early fall without the Vuelta, but for me, give me the classics.

Omloop Het Nieuwsbald in 2021. Sirotti photo


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Trends to Watch.

The future is gravel. Gravel is everywhere. Strade Bianche. Paris–Tours. Tro-Bro Léon. Across the US, from entry level to high-level ex-euro-pros, gravel racing has taken hold.

No wonder. Gravel is fun. I dare you to ride down a pot-holed gravel road at speed and not envision yourself as Roger De Vlaeminck riding to victory in the 1972 Paris–Roubaix. Or Lauren de Crescenzo riding to victory in the 2021 Dirty Kanza.

Gravel is safer. I ride gravel roads solo 4 or 5 days a week. I see five times as many cars on the paved roads in a three hour Sunday a.m. group ride as I do in 10–12 hours on gravel. Yes, I’ve kept track.

Gravel racing is for everyone. Here in the US, where criteriums make up the bulk of our racing, when you get dropped as a newbie, a kindly official may allow you to ride 6 laps off the back. When the pack closes in, you’re pulled. Ah, but as a newbie gravel racer, you get dropped from your group, you still get to suffer for the next 6 hours until you reach the finish. And as a stoic, I feel good saying that suffering is good for the soul.

At the moment, the racers who dominate gravel racing are mostly ex-road pros. But those folks are all in their 30s. In the very near future, we will see some terrific young riders who have never raced anything but gravel come to dominate the sport.

HOT TAKE – By 2025, a top level pro team will sign one or two of those young guns to a short-term contract, put them on a motor-pace program for 2 weeks to get them up to World Tour speed status, and one of them will win either Paris–Roubaix or the Tour of Flanders. Bet on it.

Pitch “The Next Merckx” moniker into the dustbin. No one will be the next Merckx. Stop saying that. Right now. Eddy is the finest racer ever. But the racing was different. The talent pool was different. Team structure was different. Training is different. The season was different. The money was drastically different. Eddy was 45 years ago. 45 years ago, Pelé dominated world soccer/football and is known as the greatest player ever. In this era, I’ve seen Cristiano Ronaldo and Messi bump heads for 15 years, but I’ve yet to read either one called “The Next Pelé. Most importantly, stop calling Belgian kids with loads of potential by that name. It makes them crazy. It makes me angry. And you won’t like me when I’m angry. Basta!

Podcasts. Over the last few years, podcasts have blown up. Any subject, any language, you can find a bunch of reasonably bright people (or some real dumbasses, should you disagree with them), talking about your favorite topic. Cycling podcasts are no different. Racing, touring, MTB, CX, track, there’s a podcast for you to listen to while you Zwift in the basement. That said, I’ve been invited to join 2 stalwarts of the cycling podcast scene. Patrick Bulger (The Packfiller Podcast) and John Galloway, late of The Velocast and now with Cycling Legends, have asked me to join them in a new venture: working title, The Feed Zone: a smörgåsbord of cycling opinions, information, and random insight. We’ll record our first episode Feb. 27, the day after Het Volk, er, Nieuwsblad.

The Wollongong World Championships. I understand from a few well-travelled mates in Sydney that there few places in the world that rival the ’Gong coastline. Plus, with average spring temps in the low 70s/20s in NSW and only 7 days of rain in September, we should have perfect weather for the Worlds.

There are 232 days between the road season’s real start in Ghent on February 26 and the end on October 16 with the Chrono des Nations in Les Herbiers and the Japan Cup in Utsunomiya on the 1990 World’s course. Buckle your helmet, throw plenty of Clif Bars in your musette, and a case of Belgian saison in the cooler; it’s going to be a great season.

Bet on it.


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David Stanley, like nearly all of us, has spent his life working and playing outdoors. He got a case of Melanoma as a result. Here's his telling of his beating that disease. And when you go out, please put on sunscreen.

 

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