Seven unsung heroes of the 2022 pro cycling season
They might not have made headlines, but these seven riders enjoyed seasons to remember
Not every rider can be in the limelight. In every race peloton, there are domestiques and team leaders who slip under the radar, but deserve plaudits as much as anyone.
Forget Remco Evenepoel, Annemiek van Vleuten and Wout van Aert, here are seven of 2022’s unsung heroes.
Bora-Hansgrohe won their first Grand Tour in 2022, and although the pink jersey of the Giro d’Italia fell on Jai Hindley’s shoulders, the team owes a lot to Lennard Kämna.
After taking a stage win on day four atop Mount Etna, the German focused his energy on helping Hindley. Kämna was crucial in the Australian’s race-winning move, dropping back from the breakaway on the penultimate day to drag his team-mate away from Richard Carapaz.
The following month, Kämna landed his first national title, winning the individual time trial at the German National Championships.
At 30 years old, the diminutive South African climber enjoyed his best season to date. He came second on the Tour de France’s queen stage on Alpe d’Huez, ultimately finishing the Grand Tour in 7th, his highest ever placing.
Meintjes then went on to add to his successes in August, taking his first WorldTour victory on stage nine of the Vuelta a España.
“It’s something special, it still needs some time to set in,” he said after the race. “I’ve never been on the podium of a WorldTour race except for a team classification, so that was one of my main goals before stopping my career.”
The FDJ-Suez-Futuroscope rider opened 2022 with a national time trial title, and held fine form throughout the entire year.
Frustratingly, perhaps, the podium’s top step often eluded Brown. She came second at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, the Women’s Tour and the World Championships, narrowly missing out to Ellen van Dijk in the time trial in Wollongong, Australia.
Don’t feel sorry for her, though. The Australian added five wins to her palmarès, including a gold medal against the clock at the Commonwealth Games.
Enric Mas was 2022’s late bloomer. In the summer, he pulled out of the Critérium du Dauphiné and the Tour de France, in what looked set to be a year to forget.
Then came the Vuelta a España. Though Remco Evenepoel looked unbeatable, Mas was the only rider who could get within touching distance. The 27-year-old finished a valiant second, recording his third runners-up medal at his home Grand Tour.
Mas then rode his form into the end-of-season Italian one-dayers, where he jostled with two-time Tour de France winner Tadej Pogačar, dropping him to win the Giro dell’Emilia. Sadly for the Spaniard, Pogačar then came up trumps in Lombardy.
Having won the National Championships in 2021, all eyes were on the Team DSM rider this season. The 22-year-old started strongly with a top 10 at Paris-Roubaix, before taking her first WorldTour podium at Postnord Vårgårda WestSweden and a silver medal in the U23 road race at the World Championships.
As DSM’s road captain, Georgi also proved an important engine in the lead-out train that guided Lorena Wiebes to an astonishing 23 victories.
UAE Team Emirates, decimated by Covid-19 infections, finished the 2022 Tour de France with just four riders. One of them was super domestique Brandon McNulty, who dug deep to keep his team leader Pogačar in yellow jersey contention.
In the third and final week of the race, UAE team boss Mauro Gianetti told VeloNews: “Now all the world has discovered that we have a great, great rider in the team.
“He is a very good climber and very good in the time trial,” Gianetti added, before outlining that the best is yet to come for the American.
The 25-year-old Italian enjoyed a breakthrough year in 2022, taking the first, second and third professional victories of her career.
At the Tour de France Femmes, where all eyes were on Van Vleuten, Persico put in a stellar performance. The Valcar-Travel & Service rider finished fifth in the overall standings, claiming the honour of the highest placed rider on a Continental team.
She then went on to take bronze in the road race at the World Championships, teeing herself up for a strong season with UAE Team ADQ next year.
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Tom joined Cycling Weekly as a news and features writer in the summer of 2022, having previously contributed as a freelancer. He is the host of The TT Podcast, which covers both the men's and women's pelotons and has featured a number of prominent British riders.
An enthusiastic cyclist himself, Tom likes it most when the road goes uphill and actively seeks out double-figure gradients on his rides.
He's also fluent in French and Spanish and holds a master's degree in International Journalism.
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