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David L. Stanley

A look back at the 2023 bike racing season: Part one

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David Stanley is an experienced cycling writer. His work has appeared in Velo,, 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.

Here's the link to the second part of David Stanley's 2023 season review.

David L. Stanley writes:

We speak of professional bicycle racing in terms of ages: the Age of Bartali, the Age of Coppi, the Age of Bobet, of Anquetil; the Age of Merckx, the Age of Hinault and Lemond. Most are noted by the power of one man who exerted his dominance over the peloton; The Patron.

Yet, here we are in 2023, 100 years after Henri Pélissier won the 1923 Tour de France by 30 minutes over his closest rival, Italian Ottavio Bottecchia.

Henri Pélissier repairing his own flat tire in the 1923 Tour as required by the Tour rules of the time.

This is a New Age, one never seen before. This is the Age of Jonas Vingegaard, Mathieu van der Poel, Primož Roglič, Remco Evenepoel, Tadej Pogačar, and Wout van Aert. (Astute readers will note they are listed alphabetically by first name.) Never before have we seen such a roster so deep and talented. Six riders who excel across every facet of the sport. We have extraordinary climbers who can sprint at the end of the Classics. Exceptional Classics riders who can climb with the best. Men whose time trial skills stand up to piercing scrutiny on the biggest stages.

Jonas Vingegaard after winning the Tour de france for the second year in a row. Sirotti photo

The Post-War eras were outstanding. The ’60s and ’70s gave us the single greatest cyclist of all time. The ’80s were breath-taking. The ’90s and early 2000s? They were an uncomfortable era which shook all fans to their core. But the 2020s? We’ve never seen such an array of stunning talent.

This season, this 2023 season from January to October, requires two parts to do it justice. Let’s break down 2023. Here’s Part One.

The Super-Worlds. I loved the SuperWorlds. It was a tremendous celebration of the sport. Glasgow, one of the world’s greatest cities, was the epicenter of cycling talent and fandom for 2 weeks. UCI president David Lappartient, in an official press release, said “The first edition of the UCI Cycling World Championships was an unprecedented success. The event saw around 8,000 athletes (elite and amateur) from 132 countries take part in the various disciplines on the programme. 

“The TV figures show that the public massively followed the UCI Cycling World Championships competitions and that events and disciplines that do not normally benefit from such a high level of TV and media coverage benefited greatly from the increased exposure that will boost their popularity and development at international level.”

Mathieu van der Poel wins the World Road Championships in Glasgow, Scotland. Sirotti photo

How deep was TV coverage? Again, from the UCI, “More than 200 million hours of competition was viewed globally throughout the 11 days. When compared to the average across the editions from 2017–2022, this figure increased 75% from a typical year when the different disciplines are organised into separate events. There was a total of 18.2 million viewers in France (Glance/Mediamat - médiamétrie), 15.5 million in Italy (Auditel) and 11.9 million in the UK (BBC). 
Not only did viewers love it, it was commonplace to see athletes across all disciplines visit other venues to watch their compatriots.

Game knows game.

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A Great Sadness. Cycling is a dangerous sport, but it shouldn’t be a deadly sport. Should you race, you will crash. You will shred your skin on the tarmac. You will break bones. I guarantee it. Deaths during racing are rare, but you know what has become a goddamn epidemic? The deaths caused by reckless, and too frequently murderous, motorists when cyclists are out training. The animosity, often fueled in the right wing media and social media influencers towards cyclists is growing, not arithmetically, but geometrically. On top of that, drivers are ever more distracted by phones and the proliferation of screens built into our dashboards.

The deceased, may their families find peace.

Estela Domínguez, age 18. A rising Spanish neo-pro, Estela was killed while training in Villares de la Reina on February 9.
Ethan Boyes, age 44. A top US Masters sprinter and world champion, Ethan was killed while training in San Francisco, April 7.
Gabriele Glodenyte, age 24 (UCD cycling). Gabriele was a top Irish local pro. She was killed when a truck crossed the centerline while she was training at lunch time. May 27.
Germán Chaves, age 28 (Team Sistecredito–GW). Germán was struck by a reckless truckdriver while training with his father in Colombia, June 4.
Andre Simon, age 36. Antigua & Barbuda. 13 months after being struck by a reckless driver, Andre, a national team member, passed away on June 8.
Gino Mäder, age 26 (Bahrain-Victorious). Gino died from injuries suffered in the Tour de Suisse after a crash down a ravine. June 16.

The late Gino Mäder winning stage 6 of the 2021 Giro d'Italia.
Connor Lambert, age 25. Irish/Australian racer and mentor, Connor was killed when struck by a careless truck driver while training in Belgium. July 12.
Jacopo Venzo, age 17 (Campana Imballaggi Geo & Tex Trentino). Jacopo died from injuries suffered in a crash during the Junioren-Rundfahrt. July 21.
Magnus White, age 17 (US National Team). Magnus died after he was struck by a careless motorist north Boulder. July 29.
Tijl De Decker, age 22 (Lotto-Dstny). Tijl was the winner of the Paris-Roubaix under-23 race in May. He died after striking the rear of a car. August 25.
Jake Boykin, age 25. A national collegiate champion and PhD student, Jake was murdered by a drunk driver. September 26.
John Timbers, age 78. A top US pro in his era, he was a seminal figure in American bike racing as the founder, in 1976, of the Vuelta de Bisbee. John was murdered by a hit and run driver at 5:00 am on Oct. 18 as he was out training. This came across my newsfeed on Oct. 19 at 10:00 am as I wrote this piece.
There are others, I am certain, and my apologies for those I have omitted. May their memories be a blessing.

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The Return of the Time Trialist. The Grand Tours have shortened their time trials dramatically from those of the early part of the 21st century. In the 2002 Tour de France, there was a prologue of 7 km, two individual time trials with a total of 102 kms, and a team time trial of 67.5 km for a total of 176.5 km. That’s just too many kilometers contre-le-montre. With so many kms against the clock, the finest climbers were often eliminated, early on, from the GC. Concurrently, the superior aerodynamics available in the last decade has further widened the gap between the pure men of power and the pure climbers. The Grand Tours should be about balance.

The 2023 Tour offered but 22.4 km. That was balance enough for Jonas Vingegaard to press his imprint into the yellow jersey.

And yet, we are seeing a resurgence of pure time trialing talent. Vittoria Bussi (Febametal) smashed the 50 km mark for the women’s hour record with her 50.267 kilometers in one hour. (Much more on her next week in Part Two.)

The Men with Horsepower.
Filippo Ganna – Whether the road or the track, nobody beats him. Well, one guy did, but still, Filip O’Ganna is one smooth 12-cylinder Lambo.

Jonas Vingegaard – With his TT win over Tadej Pogacar by an unexpected margin of 1’38’’ in the 22.4 km mountainous time trial to Combloux, Jonas became the first ever Dane to win a Tour de France ITT. It didn’t win him the Tour, but it set the tone for his victory.

Josh Tarling – A stellar talent, at age 19, Josh has not yet begun to scratch the surface of his potential. Hey, UCI, bring back Trofeo Barrachi with the old rules so we can see how fast Ganna and Tarling can go.

Primož Roglič – His TT skills won him the Giro. He needed time against another fine chrono man, Geraint Thomas. He got the time.

Primož Roglič, stage one of the 2023 Giro d'Italia. Sirotti photo

Remco Evenepoel – World Champion. N'est-ce pas?

Rémi Cavagna – Never bet against Cavagna in a short TT or prologue. He gets on the podium.

Stefan Bissegger – What I said about Cavagna? Yeah, Stefan, too.

Stefan Küng – Okay, I’m on a roll. Cavagna, Bissegger, and this Stefan, too. They’re not a law firm. They are steam rollers of the time trial. Les rouleaux compresseurs du contre-la-montre, d’accord ?

Tadej Pogačar – Why does Tadej win so many races alone? He attacks as hard, maybe harder, than anyone on the climbs, and then uses his extraordinary power and pacing skills to open up and maintain his gap. That’s why time trialing is the ultimate test of cycling prowess and that’s why Tadej might well go down in the books as the greatest of all time.

Wout van Aert & Mathieu van der Poel – They’re forever joined. They both will attack. They both can open, hold, and grow their gap. They both have a ferocious killer instinct that matches their sprint at the end of a Classic. While not “pure” TT men, they both can get themselves into the top ten of any time trial in any Grand Tour. And that’s something special in the 2020s.

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The Rise of Adam Hansen and the CPA. Hansen’s resume as a pro is incredible enough. He completed a record 20 consecutive Grand Tours. Yes, the Giro and Tour and Vuelta every year for nearly seven years. But it is his work as elected president of the riders’ union, the Cyclistes Professionnels Associés (CPA) where he will leave the greatest legacy.

Adam Hansen before the start of Vuelta stage 13. Sirotti photo

Organized pro cycling must become safer. For over one hundred years, teams and sponsors and race organizers and the UCI have viewed all but the most elite riders as disposable. Cars get on the racecourses. Moto drivers for press and TV are too often poorly trained and briefed on the parcours for the day. Local police often don’t understand the behavior of the peloton. Selfie taking fans and sign waving fans cause crashes through their egotistical behavior. Poor course design, especially in the closing kilometers of stages, routinely causes havoc. Crowd control barriers must be made safer. Weather conditions must be acknowledged and managed for rider safety.

Adam Hansen is at the forefront of these changes. Empowered by the riders’ confidence, he says that in his role as the president of the CPA, he has worked with riders to see how cycling can be made safer.

From unified signage between races, safety nets on descents, on to the minutiae of how close a steward stands in front of a parked car, nothing is off-limits for Hansen as he delivers his recommendations to the UCI.

I have two recommendations for you at the close of Part One of my season review.

  1. Early on Thursday morning, October 19, I came across the Fast Talk Femmes podcast. Hosted by top retired women pros Dede Barry and Julie Young, they sat down with Adam Hansen and current top pro Ashleigh Moolman Pasio (AG Insurance-Soudal-Quickstep) for a 60-minute breakdown of the rider safety issues that face pro cycling. Please give it a listen or read the transcript. Dede and Julie do a much deeper dive than I could ever do here. Fast-talk Femmes Podcast.
  2. My second recco is to get yourself out to a cyclocross event: local, regional, national, it doesn’t matter. Take a few beverages, buy some grub at the food trucks, get crazy. Oh, dress warmly, bring a rainshell, and have some towels in the car for clean-up. Now, git!

Part II drops next Monday: The Woman’s Hour Record. The Americans. The Superstars. The Retirees.

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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