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David L. Stanley
2023 Bike Racing Season Preview:
16 Things I Want to See this Season

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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


Melanoma: It Started with a Freckle

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:

16 Things I Want to See this Season

1)  Annemiek van Vleuten, age 40, win one major anything; a classic, a GT stage, one more GT. AvV’s palmares on Wikipedia required me to spin the wheel on my mouse 14 times. Clearly, one of the greatest women cyclists of all time, she has been a dominant force on the world scene since her first big win at the 2010 Ronde van Drenthe. She was late to the game, having earned a Master’s degree in epidemiology in 2007 at age 25. She began racing at a high amateur level that same year. From that point forward, the wins came regularly. With her birthday in October, she’ll be 41 at season’s end. What a Chapeau! for her to win a significant race at 40. And given her fitness and dedication, there is no reason to suspect that the 2023 season will be her last. Sneller, Annemiek! Sneller!

Annemiek van Vleuten wins the 2020 Het Nieuwsblad.

2)  Peter Sagan, age 32, win one more classic. I’ve been a Sagan fan since he turned pro with Liquigas-Doimo at age 19. Peter has won everything he has set his mind to with panache and grinta. I’ve also been a Sagan fan for another reason: he’s grown up in the public eye, he’s done his share of dumb stuff (as we all do as young people), and he’s come out the other side a pretty fair example of a modern sports superstar. While he’s not at all likely to take a ninth points jersey at a grand tour, he certainly has the snap and smarts to snag a classic this season. Rychleji, Peto, rychleji!

Peter Sagan wins stage three of the 2022 Tour of Switzerland. Sirotti photo

3)  Mark Cavendish win one stage of one race. The circus and mystery that followed Mark’s team signing dragged on like a TV show that hung around one season too many. No one was surprised when Astana snagged Mark. No one will be surprised when Mark grabs Tour de France stage win 35, either. To those out there who will instantly start the “That doesn’t make Cav the best Tour rider of all time!” chant, please, just shut up. No one is saying that. Not me, not Cav, no one. It means that Mark Cavendish had one job and he did it very well. From his gold in 2005 in the Madison at World’s with Rob Hayles, I’ve been an unabashed Cav-man. Happy to see him snag the record, and pleased to see him head off with Peta and the kids to his next Adventure in Cav-istan.

Mark Cavendish wins stage three of the 2022 Tour of Oman.

4)  Chris Froome win one stage of one GT and retire happily at season’s end, recovery complete. Froome, oddly for such a soft-spoken fellow, has been a lightning rod for bad press and hate amongst the cycling world. He’s despised because he somehow is to blame for the current emphasis on power-meters. He’s been blamed for bringing the Sky Train of Destruction to the peloton. Let’s be real: there was also the Blue Train of Discovery Channel, and the Molteni Men of Merckx. When you have a generational talent in your squad, you do everything possible to win the races that matter. It’s like people blaming Patrick Mahomes for his offensive line being so damned good. Absurd, is what it is. Froome was an extraordinary talent, and there is no way to know how the years since his 2019 horrific crash would have gone for the young talents in the peloton if he stayed healthy. That he is again riding in the pro peloton after a crash so severe he had to re-learn to walk is extraordinary in itself. A stage win in any of the Grand Tours would be a perfect capper to the comeback for a rider who maximized his talent with seven Grand Tour overall victories.

Chris Froome at this year's Tour Down Under. Does he have another Grand Tour stage win left in his legs? Sirotti photo

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5)  The race starts now. The Santos Tour Down Under is a fine race. My Velogames Fantasy League team (Team Yobbo) is locked and loaded; a solid 115th place out of 3432 teams at race’s end. The Vuelta a San Juan in Argentina should be a cracker, as world champion Remco (Soudal-Quickstep) looks to grab a win, and the true return of another injured great, Egan Bernal (Ineos-Grenadiers). Fair racing, indeed, but the season truly starts on Saturday, 25 February with Omloop Het Nieuwsblad for men and women, and then on Sunday, Kuurne–Brussel–Kuurne.

6)  The Tourmalet x three: It was 1910, the 7th edition of the Tour de France. Octave Lapize wins the 10th stage which crested the Tourmalet, the legendary Pyrenean climb. He climbs off his bike for a moment at the top of the climb and screams “Vous êtes des assassins! Oui, des assassins!” at the organizer’s men. The Tourmalet rises 1401 vertical meters. The road is 18.3 km long with an average gradient of 7.7%. It climbs to 2,115 meters above sea level. And in 1910, it was no more than a muddy path for cattle and wild beasts.

Octave Lapize making his way up the Tourmalet in 1910.

This year, for the first time, the Tourmalet will be the headline climb of the second Tour de France Femmes. It will feature in the first week of the men’s Tour de France. It also features in Stage 13 of this year’s Vuelta a España.

7)  Clarification of the “motorpacing back to the peloton” rules. I especially want to see modification as they refer to a rider returning to the peloton after a concussion evaluation. The enforcement of the rules which surround the legality of a team car pacing a rider who had a crash or mechanical back to the peloton have always been shrouded in mystery. It seems to depend on the race situation, the rider in question, the number of riders involved in the crash, and perhaps the blood sugar levels of the commissaires after a breakfast of croissant and café au lait. In every sport, what players and coaches want is consistency. Once we all agree to the rules, the game goes so much more smoothly.

Except in cycling.

The new concussion protocol has made the rules even more obfuscatory. I’ve been beating the drums for a clear-cut and enforced concussion protocol for years. The UCI finally has one. And here’s the problem: Brit James Knox crashed in the Tour Down Under. He thumped his head. He underwent the testing procedure. He was now at least two minutes behind the peloton. There was zero chance he would get back to the group. The team made the decision to motor-pace him back to the group. A true case of “No harm, no foul.” Except the referees disqualified him for taking pace from a vehicle. Let’s look at this: You crash. You are examined. You pass. You have to ride on solo, minutes or more behind the main group, until you reach the finish. In essence, for following approved safety regulations, you are penalized heavily.

Under these circumstances, the rider’s best short-term bet is to do everything possible to fool the medical exam to the detriment of his/her health. This is counterproductive at every turn. You crash, you undergo and pass the medical, you get pace back to the rear of the main field, assuming you were in the main field at the time of the crash. If you were in a group that was gapped, you are placed back in your group. This is a helluva lot more useful for the UCI to rule upon than a pro cyclist’s sock height.

8)  Zoe Bäckstedt is a once-in-a-generation talent. At just 18 years old, Zoe (EF Education-TIBCO) currently holds four junior world titles across four different disciplines. She was crowned Cycling Weekly’s female rider of the year for 2022. At last season’s Wollongong Road World Championships, she took both the junior road and time trial titles. In fact, Bäckstedt’s winning margins in both events were the highest ever recorded in the junior ranks at the championships. She’s gonna kick some ass and take some names as a neo-pro.

Zoe Bäckstedt wins the 2022 Junior Women's World Road Championships. Sirotti photo


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9)  La Vuelta Femenina is a stand-alone race. The Vuelta, with all its Spanish glory, is the world’s unsung Grand Tour. Consequently, it was time for the organizers to put on a stand-alone women’s race. So, they did. The course is challenging. The climbs are no joke, and the women, in their debut, will race their guts out. Clear your calendars from May 1 to May 7 for some stellar action.

10)  The Women’s Classics. If you’ve paid attention over the last few years, you know that the women’s classics season is every bit as exciting as the men’s. The flag drops, the attacks start, and 4 hours later, there is a worthy and exhausted winner. There are no easy rides in these races. It goes in the gutter and stays there until someone in the line cracks and the peloton shreds like a wet Kleenex. Watch them all. If you are not entertained, come @ me on Twitter @DStan58.

11)  Remco takes on the Giro. His Vuelta proved he can win a Grand Tour. Next up—and according to the Godfather of cycling, Maestro Eddy, Remco has chosen wisely—is the Giro. Can he take a Grand Tour in the midst of la demenza that is the Italian press and the tifosi? Of course, he can. He’s Remco.

The end of the 2022 Vuelta a España: Remco Evenpoel takes the leader's red jersey home. Sirotti photo

12)  The Glasgow Mega-Worlds. Everything you ever wanted under one roof! How do we keep our prices so low? Volume! Volume! Volume! It’s a genius idea: road, track, BMX, para-cycling, MTB, heck, even a Gran Fondo rainbow jersey on offer—all in one of the world’s coolest cities. Over 200 rainbow jerseys in total will be awarded across all of those disciplines. A bonus, World’s are held earlier than normal, 03 August to 13 August. That means the road riders coming out of the Tour de France on July 23 will have enough time to recover their form as the men’s race is August 6.

Check out the Glasgow World’s site for all the details.


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13)  Biniam Girmay win a Classic or Monument to back up his win in Gent-Wevelgem in Flanders Fields. Biniam Girmay is a top rider. Full stop. There are no easy wins in the Big Kid Tour. He’s Eritrean and he’s an example of the talent that resides on the African continent. With many cycling sponsors and cycling oriented programs invested in Africa, it is only a matter of time before we see a major influx of African talent on the world cycling platform. Watch the world’s talent pool get deeper and deeper as more and more African men and women take up the sport. And that, folks, will be a great boost for the sport.

Biniam Girmay has just won 2022 Giro d'Italia stage 10. Sirotti photo

14)  Wout van Aert vs Mathieu van der Poel. It’s Jumbo-Visma vs Alpecin-Deceuninck in a steel cage death match all spring long. It’s Ali vs. Frazier, Eddy Merckx vs. Roger De Vlaeminck, Boonen vs. Cancellara - it’s Wout vs Mathieu. Extraordinary bike handlers, huge motors, une tête pour la course, and a will to suffer and win rarely seen, this year’s spring classics will be must-see TV. I promise.

15)  The explosion of young riders. From 20 year old Juan Ayuso (UAE-Team Emirates) to 25 year old Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) and all letters of the alphabet in between, we are witness to an explosion of young talent, a volcano of cycling genius the sport has never seen. It’s rare that in the midst of a watershed moment, one realizes that the water is shedding. Be advised, it’s coming down by the bucketful.

  • Joâo Almeida (UAE Team Emirates) - 24
  • Thyman Arensman (DSM) – 22
  • Juan Ayuso (UAE Team Emirates) – 19
  • Remco Evenepoel (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) – 22
  • Ethan Hayter (Ineos Grenadiers) – 23
  • Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers) - 23
  • Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) – 23
  • Carlos Rodriguez (Ineos Grenadiers) – 21
  • Magnus Sheffield (Ineos Grnadiers) – 21
  • Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) - 25
  • Fred Wright (Bahrain Victorious) – 23

16)  The Grand Tours. I love the Classics. Hell, I worship the Classics: the Muur, Oude Kwaremont, Trouee Arenberg… they are temples. Yet, the Grand Tours hold us spellbound for three weeks. For 22 days, three times a year, cycling fanatics live and die with missives from Italy, France, and Spain. Consider this, Wimbledon holds us rapt for 14 days. The Masters, for 4 days. The Indy 500 or Monza, for 3 hours. Few sporting events generate sun-up to sun-down interest like a Grand Tour. This year, we are promised 9 hors categorie weeks of bicycle racing. If you doubt, go re-read item 15 above. Don’t forget, there are plenty of older riders, riders over 26, (and when did 26 become old?), who will be hot for the top step on the podia in Rome on 28 May, in Paris on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées on 23 July, and in Madrid on 17 September.

Voici une belle saison! Here’s to a great season! Ecco una grande stagione! Aquí está una gran temporada!

Pro-Tip: Check out my latest endeavor? I’m part of the Cycling Legends Feed-zone podcast, along with noted cycling author Chris Sidwells, Gary Fairly (late of the Velo-cast) and the @Packfiller himself, Patrick Bulger. Our show has been described as “Four blokes who seem to know cycling talking in the pub.”

An accurate description of The Feed-zone. Thanks!

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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