Moments that made the season: greatest hits from men's racing in 2022

Moments that made this year's racing season

It’s that time of year where the days grow shorter and the nights colder, and it seems like an age until the dawn of the new road cycling season. Time then, to reminisce over the highlights of another unforgettable year of racing, and to relive the moments that shaped the direction of the men's season as a whole.

There are many more moments of drama we could have included – the death-defying descents of Matej Mohorič at Milan-San Remo and Tom Pidcock from the Col du Galibier, on his way to a stage win on Alpe d’Huez; Remco Evenepoel’s assured victory at World Championships, or the photo finish drama of Amstel Gold Race – for the second year in a row – as Benoit Cosnefroy was denied victory at the last moment by Michał Kwiatkowski. 

Below, though, are the moments that arguably defined the season – the statements of intent, the turning of tides, the power plays from the sport’s greatest talents. We begin way back in March…

Solo at Strade

(Picture by James Startt)

It came as a surprise to precisely no-one when Tadej Pogačar struck out solo at the cross-wind battered, crash-riddled 2022 edition of Strade Bianche with 50km left to ride, and was never seen again. Sending a message to his rivals, the Slovenian prodigy showed his intent to dominate at both one-day races and Grand Tours, winning on the white roads in emphatic style, before heading to Tirreno-Adriatico to beat two of the other key dramatis personae of the 2022 season, Remco Evenepoel and Jonas Vingegaard.

Not bad for a week’s work.

It was all yellow

(Picture by SWPix)

The Race to the Sun was intriguing in that it offered an early season glimpse into the form of Primož Roglič, while his compatriot stuck around in Italy. After a nightmare in 2021’s edition, Roglič redeemed himself with the overall victory, but it was his team’s dominant display on Paris-Nice stage one that may have given UAE Team Emirates the most cause for concern.

After splitting the bunch in the trademark crosswinds, the trio of Roglič, Wout van Aert and Christophe Laporte attacked up the second ascent of the Côte de Breuil-Bois-Robert leaving the rest standing, storming to an electric 1-2-3 victory, destined to be their first but not last of the season. It laid down a stark warning: that the Dutch side had the squad to support their leader to the top prize.

Chinks in the Armour

(Picture by SWPix)

At Flanders, fans and experts alike were reminded nothing is guaranteed in cycling, as Pogačar found himself on the wrong end of a sprint against Mathieu van der Poel, improbably finishing fourth as Dylan van Baarle and Valentin Madouas stormed through at the last. It was an impressive result on paper, in his first outing in Oudenaarde, but his reacted angrily to defeat – it was the first time we’d seen him pushed to a tactical error – and it proved he wasn’t infallible, but it wasn’t enough to quell the tide of voices claiming he was unbeatable at the Tour. 

Eritrean Ecstasy

(Picture by James Startt)

One of the most significant victories of the Spring Classics was Biniam Girmay’s surge across the line at Gent-Wevelgem. With his impressive sprint, besting Jumbo-Visma’s reinvigorated Christophe Laporte, he became the first black African to win a one-day Classic, and his incredible spring continued when he followed it up with a stage win at the Giro d’Italia, making yet more history in the process. At just 21 years of age, the Eritrean has already created a lasting legacy for himself in 2022, changing the direction of his nation’s cycling history in the process.

Belgian brilliance

(Picture by SWPix)

Of all the wunderkinds in all the peloton, Remco Evenepoel is arguably the kid with the most pressure on his young shoulders, as he bears the considerable burden of the weight of Belgian expectation. 2022 was the year he delivered on the promises his incendiary performances at junior level made, and it all began at Liège–Bastogne–Liège. In a race marred by a huge crash that took out his team mate and pre-race favourite Julian Alaphillippe, Evenepoel launched a blistering attack on the Côte de La Redoute to surge clear with almost 30km left to race. In what he called his ‘best day on the bike ever,’ he proved without any doubt that he was a force to be reckoned with.

Tactically perfect

(Picture by Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

This year’s Corsa rosa treated us to many things: breakaway winners, battles between Biniam Girmay and Mathieu van der Poel, and a delightfully chaotic hilly circuit race around Turin that saw the GC hopefuls scattered all over the road. It also gave us a GC battle that went right down to the wire, and stage 20’s final climb of the Passo Fedaia provided exactly the kind of drama we crave, as 2020’s nearly-man Jai Hindley took on Richard Carapaz, attacking with 3.5km to go, and with a deficit of only three seconds, the writing was on the wall for the Ineos rider. 

The absolute masterstroke came when Hindley bridged to feisty German agitator Lennard Kämna, himself a stage winner atop Mount Etna, who had forged ahead in the day’s early break and stayed strong to the last. He towed Hindley for long enough to give him a much-needed rest, before Hindley sling-shotted to the summit, tying up the GC in the process. A seamless display of pure tactical perfection.

Vingegaard rises

(Picture by James Startt)

This first half of this year’s Tour de France had more metaphorical turning points than Alpe d’Huez itself, with Wout van Aert’s dogged pursuit of yellow and green in the first week, including his rampant solo charge into Calais, the almost slapstick disaster movie that was Jumbo-Visma on the cobbles of stage five, and Tadej Pogačar’s triumphant punch to the finish line in Longwy to take yellow.

It was stage 11 though that provided the most dramatic and significant turning point of the Tour, if not the season as a whole, as Primoz Roglič and Jonas Vingegaard combined to break down Pogačar's defences and Vingegaard cut a lone figure up the Col du Granon as he ground out the distance between himself and the rapidly fading Slovenian. 

It turned the tables not only in terms of the maillot jaune but it also represented a shift in the power balance between Jumbo-Visma and UAE Team Emirates following two years of Pogačar dominance at the Tour. And it was truly spectacular entertainment to boot – breathless, edge-of-the-seat drama, all the more thrilling for its sheer audacity. 

Like the others, it was a moment to savour and replay endlessly, a reminder of why this sport is so compelling, and a promise of many more years of dazzling competition ahead. Roll on 2023.

Cover image by SWPix