The likes of Remco Evenepoel, Jonas Vingegaard, Primož Roglič and Tadej Pogačar have been some of the biggest names making the headlines in the 2022 season, but there are a huge number of riders who had their first tastes of stardom this year. Whether they’ve been fighting for GC positions in Grand Tours, shaking up the Classics, going shoulder to shoulder with established fast men in bunch kicks, or getting in the right breakaways to duke it out for stage wins, these are our picks of some of the standout riders who have had a stellar 2022 season.
Fred Wright - Bahrain-Victorious
He may not have secured that big result just yet, but British rider Fred Wright has come so close on so many occasions, that he needs to be included in this list. Wright’s season started well with a strong showing in Paris-Nice, where he secured two top-10 finishes. A highlight of the Bahrain-Victorious rider’s strong classics campaign was an impressive seventh place in the Tour of Flanders, where he found himself able to follow the likes of Mathieu van der Poel and Tadej Pogačar on some of Belgium’s toughest bergs.
Fred Wright at the Tour de France (Image: Zac Williams/SWpix)
Later in the season at the 2022 Tour de France, Wright continued to make a name for himself as a rider who is consistently able to get himself into winning breakaways. Day after day, the 22-year-old found himself in the right move and this ended with five top-10 stage finishes in this year's Tour, including a second place behind Mads Pedersen on stage 13 to Saint-Etienne. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Wright’s Tour de France was the versatility of his performance, the Brit placed highly in time trials, punchy stages and flat bunch finishes.
The imperious form he showed at the Tour continued as Wright secured second in the Commonwealth Games ITT and then a further eight top-10 finishes in Vuelta a España stages (including two third places, two fourth places and a second place finish.) Wright has become a fan favourite following his positive, plucky and honest interviews at the finish of races and he’s proven this year that he is one to watch in both the Classics and Grand Tours in 2023.
Arnaud de Lie - Lotto Soudal
In his first year as a professional, 20-year-old Arnaud de Lie has exceeded even his own expectations. Despite only being a neo-pro, De Lie has accrued the sixth highest number of UCI points of all the riders in the world and was the leading light in Lotto Soudal’s ultimately futile fight against WorldTour relegation. De Lie’s fast finish has seen him outsprint the likes of Giacamo Nizzolo and Mark Cavendish this season on his way to winning Belgian one-day race Heylen Vastgoed Heistse Pijl. He’s completed an impressive 54 race days, and didn’t show any signs of fatigue towards the end of the year, securing an eighth place finish in Paris-Bourges at the start of October.
De Lie wins Vastgoed Heistse Pijl (Image: Getty)
Although his ProCyclingStats may tell a different story, De Lie hasn’t had a completely smooth run. He had heavy crashes in both 4 Jours de Dunkerque and in the Tour de Wallonie, but this doesn’t seem to have affected the Belgian’s confidence in bunch sprints. De Lie will stay with Lotto Soudal until 2024 after coming up through the team’s development pathway. Next year, however, Lotto Soudal will not be part of the WorldTour, which could hinder their selection for the biggest races. For De Lie, though, he will likely spend next season continuing to develop as a sprinter and will search for that first victory in a WorldTour race. He told Rouleur a few weeks ago: “I know it’s possible to win maybe any race with my sprint” and, based on his results this season, it’s hard to argue with this statement.
Jay Vine - Alpecin-Deceuninck
After graduating from the Zwift Academy to join Alpecin-Deceuninck in 2021, Jay Vine has had his best season yet in his second year as a professional. His standout results came at the 2022 Vuelta a España where he secured two stage wins on two of the toughest mountains of the race. The first, to Ascensión al Pico Jano, was in extreme conditions as fog and rain plagued the peloton and Vine held off a storming Remco Evenepoel (who would go on to win the race overall) to take victory. His second win on stage eight to Colláu Fancuaya saw Vine cross the line solo with a margin of over 40 seconds ahead of Marc Soler.
Jay Vine on his way to winning stage six of the Vuelta a España (Image: Getty)
An unfortunate crash on stage 18 of the Vuelta meant that Vine was forced to abandon the race, so he was unable to play his cards in the final trio of mountainous stages that finished the three weeks of racing in Spain. Vine did return to the peloton again at the tailend of the season, competing in four Italian one-day races including Il Lombardia. The form he had shown in the Vuelta didn’t reappear, although the 26-year-old still secured some solid results.
The Vuelta a España was another sign of Vine’s potential, not only as a prolific stage winner but also as a contender for the general classification in Grand Tours. Currently, Vine is contracted to Alpecin-Deceuninck until the end of the 2023 season and it will be interesting to see how he approaches next year. It’s likely that he’ll keep searching for stage wins rather than targeting GC, as his Belgian team is unlikely to bring a squad to support him in a bid for overall victory. However, this could change as his career develops and if he goes to a more established GC team in the future.
Biniam Girmay - Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux’s Biniam Girmay made history this year when he became the first black African to win a stage of a Grand Tour in stage ten of the Giro d’Italia. The Eritrean rider outsprinted Mathieu van der Poel at the end of a punchy, attritional race to Jesi after coming close on multiple stages leading up to that point. Girmay was then sadly forced to leave the Giro after a champagne cork hit him in the eye during podium celebrations, but he left the race as a trailblazer and inspiration for many.
Biniam Girmay after winning stage ten of the Giro d'Italia (Image: Zac Williams/SWpix)
While his win at the Giro may have made the biggest headlines, it wasn’t the first of Girmay’s season. He started with a victory in Spanish one-day race Trofeo Alcúdia and then took a big win at Gent-Wevelgem a few months later. Girmay finished the season well with a third place in Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec and second in Grand Prix de Wallonie.
In 2023, Girmay will be a key rider to beat for his rivals. He can pack a punch at the finish of a tough and hilly race, and this makes him a dangerous man to take to the finish line. Girmay is well-suited to the new, attacking style of racing that has been prevalent this season and we can expect him to go head-to-head with the likes of Van der Poel and Wout van Aert again next season.
Oscar Onley - Development Team DSM
Oscar Onley is the only rider on a UCI Development Team who has made it on our list. At just 20-years-old, the young Brit has now spent two seasons with Team DSM’s Development squad, and seems to be flourishing in that environment. Onley’s first big result of the season came at the big, five-day U23 stage race Giro Ciclistico della Valle d'Aosta. Onley took a solo victory on the final stage ahead of some esteemed company – many of whom had already signed WorldTour contracts.
Oscar Onley celebrates winning the white jersey at the CRO Race 2022 (Image: Getty)
Onley was given his first chance to race against some of the biggest riders in the men’s professional peloton in the CRO Race at the end of the season. It was there that he found himself battling head-to-head with Tour de France winner Jonas Vingegaard in the race’s hilly stages. Onley secured two second place finishes behind Vingegaard and ended up third on the general classification, a formidable result for such an inexperienced rider at that level. So far, there has been no announcement from Team DSM regarding if or when Onley will move up to the WorldTour setup, but his performance at the CRO Race is a sign that he has the characteristics to compete with the best of the best. Onley is currently contracted to the DSM Development Team for the 2023 season, meaning he will have another year to develop and target some of the biggest U23 races on the calendar.
Magnus Sheffield - Ineos Grenadiers
In his first year with Ineos Grenadiers, and his first year riding a full season in Europe, Magnus Sheffield has impressed. His victory in stage three of the Vuelta a Andalucia Ruta Ciclista Del Sol was a sign that a winter under Ineos Grenadiers’ instruction had paid dividends for the American’s form, and this continued throughout the season. Sheffield was instrumental in Ineos Grenadiers' successful Classics campaign, helping Dylan van Baarle to victory in Paris-Roubaix. The 22-year-old got his own big win a few weeks before that, too, taking an dominant victory in Brabantse Pijl ahead of seasoned punchy Classics riders like Benoît Cosnefroy and Warren Barguil.
Magnus Sheffield on his way to winning Brabantse Pijl 2022 (Image: Zac Williams/SWpix)
Sheffield’s talent doesn’t stop at one-day races, he also performed well in shorter stage races like the Tour de Romandie and the Tour of Norway (in the latter he finished sixth overall on the general classification.) Sheffield is suited to time trials, too, securing a second place in the ITT at the Tour of Poland behind Thymen Arensman and a victory in the time trial at the Tour of Denmark. The young American was also on for a stellar finish at the World Championship time trial in Wollongong until he crashed on a corner. Overall, Sheffield’s results this year show that he is one to watch for 2023 on a variety of terrain and the 59 race days he completed this season are only going to make him even stronger.
Thymen Arensman - Team DSM
Team DSM’s Thymen Arensman has asserted himself as a future Grand Tour contender this season. The Dutch rider has completed an eye-watering 65 race days this year, taking part in a number of short stage races as well as two Grand Tours – the Giro and the Vuelta. His season started off well with a sixth place in Tirreno-Adriatico and third place in the Tour of the Alps. Arensmen went into the Giro d’Italia on stupendous form and was rewarded with two second place finishes on stage 16 and 21, and a top-20 in the overall GC.
Thymen Arensman celebrates winning stage 15 of the Vuelta a España (Image: Getty)
A stage win in the time trial at the Tour of Poland was proof that the Giro had improved Arensman’s form even further and it was at the Vuelta where he finally secured that big victory in stage 15 of the race to Sierra Nevada. He beat Enric Mas by almost one and a half minutes to cross the finish line solo that day. Impressively, Arensman backed this up with a second place on stage 20, proving his endurance despite being a young rider, and finished sixth on the GC overall.
Arensman will move to Ineos Grenadiers in 2023, further bolstering their group of incredibly talented young riders. It will be interesting to see how many opportunities that Arensman gets on this team as it is full of GC hopefuls already.
Cover image: Zac Williams/SWpix