Ups and downs for 2022: gravel worlds, a women’s Tour de France and more COVID

Every racing season has its ups and downs, and there are always some surprises along the way.

Who could have predicted a global pandemic or that cycling could succeed in bulldozing the majority of its European road season across the finish line two years in a row?

A new rider can appear out of nowhere to dominate the peloton, look no further than Tadej Pogacar and his ever-stronger hold on the Tour de France yellow jersey.

So what to expect for 2022?

Sadly, the pandemic is not going anywhere, but this year’s racing season should be unforgettable.

Here are some highlights that will stand out in 2022:

Tour de France Women: innovate

The first Tour de France Women continues to generate debate a week after its release. (Photo: Luc Claessen / Getty Images)

No event in 2022 is as anticipated as the Tour de France Women. The importance of his arrival cannot be understated.

Backed by the power and marketing prestige of ASO and a high-level sponsorship deal with Zwift, the eight-stage race comes at the right time for women’s races.

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The peloton is bigger than ever, and there are more and more financial backers behind the teams. The allure of the yellow jersey could and should push women’s cycling to the next level.

Of course, not everyone is happy. Some say that to achieve true equality, the women’s field should and can run for three weeks. Others warn of the risk of stretching the women’s calendar too much and depleting team and rider resources if there are too many race days that add up too quickly.

Most, however, seem poised to embrace racing as a chance to showcase the best of women’s racing.

Maybe not everyone is a fan of ASO, but no one can claim that they are not the best race organizer in Europe. They know what they are doing.

And with such an interesting and balanced course, the first Tour de France Women should be an immediate success.

UCI Gravel World Championship: a historic first

Like it or not, the UCI will crown officially sanctioned world champions for what has established itself as the most energetic and dynamic new cycling discipline since mountain biking.

Like mountain biking, gravel racing developed organically, with popular support from iconoclasts and local race organizers who built the niche from the dusty base.

Read also: The Gravel community reacts to the arrival of the UCI

And now, here is the UCI.

Much like mountain biking, the UCI dives into what it sees, which quickly becomes a very big thing.

By offering its rainbow jersey and the weight of an international federation, the UCI hopes that the gravel community will embrace its worlds just as much as the Swiss technocrats wish to put their tentacles in the burgeoning gravel scene.

Unlike mountain biking, however, gravel running is highly unlikely to become an Olympic discipline.

This means that the UCI will not be able to play bullying like it did with mountain biking in its early days a few decades ago.

UCI President David Lappartient swears cycling’s governing body won’t step in with a heavy hand, and to be honest, what can he do? Hardly anyone who takes part in races and gravel races cares much about the UCI.

UCI promises to reveal details next month of venue for inaugural World Championships – with sources recounting VeloNews it will be in the United States – as well as other key dates in a one-season series.

It will be interesting to see how far the ever growing professional niche in the gravel scene takes on the rainbow jersey.

My guess is very serious. Who doesn’t want to be the first winner of the UCI sanctioned world title?

New Paris-Roubaix dates: does a week make the difference?

Paris-Roubaix was canceled altogether in 2020, and postponed to October 2021, so how will an extra week make a difference in 2022?

A little more than expected.

This spring, Roubaix and the Amstel Gold Race will be switched to the race calendar due to the presidential elections in France. This means that it will be two full weeks before the Tour of Flanders and Roubaix, instead of a traditional week.

No big deal, right? Well, with today’s peloton so well calibrated and meticulously planned, this extra week will have a big impact on the best riders and classic teams in the peloton.

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Runners are already adjusting their calendars to try and reduce their peak of the spring season to fit the unique schedule.

Wout van Aert has confirmed that he is skipping a chance to win another cyclocross world title in part because of Roubaix’s later date. The long trip to the United States and growing concerns over coronaviruses aren’t helping either, but Roubaix’s later date has been a key factor.

Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) has said he will not take part in the first Belgian weekend, which means he will not defend his title at Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne.

It’s about reaching the top at the right time.

A week might not seem like much, but for finely tuned cobblestones, a subsequent Roubaix will play out in the spring in a subtle but meaningful way.

COVID-19: the fat lady does not sing yet

Sepp Kuss is relatively unscathed on the Tour de France.
A recent outbreak of a new variant of the coronavirus is casting a spell on sports. (Tim de Waele / Getty Images)

Everyone thought that in the summer of 2022, the coronavirus would be put back into the pandemic bottle.

Major players in the peloton were hoping to ease the string of health and safety measures that have dominated the peloton since 2020.

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However, Omicron had something else in mind, and as teams head to the Spanish Mediterranean coast next week for preseason training camps, infection rates across Europe are higher than ever. .

That means 2022 is likely to be a lot like 2020 and 2021, at least in terms of limiting fan access, keeping media at bay, racing “behind closed doors” and inevitable race cancellation.

So far, everyone has discovered that the race is not affected that much. And some say it’s even better in some ways in these difficult and weird times.

The most important thing is that everyone stays safe and that the peloton keep on pedaling.

Class of 1990: fact or always a factor?

Romain Bardet joined Team DSM in early 2021
Romain Bardet joined Team DSM at the start of 2021. (Photo: Marco Bertorello / AFP via Getty Images)

Time doesn’t slow down, and the much-vaunted “Class of 1990” is discovering how true this idiom rings for everyone.

Long before the Remcos and Tadejs led the pack, Peter Sagan, Nairo Quintana and Taylor Phinney were the New Kids on the Block.

Fast forward more than a decade, and one of pedal cycling’s most famous generations now in their 30s.

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Some, like Phinney, have already retired. Sagan and Quintana, two of the stars of the last 10 years, still run on pride and honor.

Any cyclist entering their thirties reaches a crossroads. A few, like Alejandro Valverde, can continue to win until their forties, and others become road captains or sport directors.

Expect a few runners like Tom Dumoulin, Thibaut Pinot and Romain Bardet, all born in 1990, to run hard to prove there is something left in the tank in 2022.

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