Who doesn’t love a sprint finish? There’s really nothing quite like them. Filled to bursting point with adrenaline and drama, they’ve got it all.
The build up and hysteria all starts as the peloton flies into the final kilometres, with teams assembling their lead out trains ready to launch their chosen fast man or woman for a bid at glory. If a breakaway is still ahead then that’s even better for tension.
In 2022 we saw some brilliant victories from the fast men and women of the sport, and the occasional day when a stage set to be one for them was snatched from their grasp at the last second. Christophe Laporte in Cahors at the Tour de France anyone?
Some sprinters can go it alone, and outmuscle their rivals single handedly in order to land the prize of a Grand Tour stage win, or a Milan-San Remo title, others wait in the wings, kept safe by their teammates before flying out of the traps like a possessed greyhound when the line is in sight.
Or if you’re Laporte, you can simply pop up out of nowhere and spoil the party right at the last minute.
Here are the top six sprinters in 2022 as chosen by us.
Belgian rider Jasper Philipsen very nearly took a hat trick of stage wins at the Tour this year.
The Belgian was constantly in the mix in the opening sprint stages, but then unfortunately spent a few days as the brunt of all the jokes, as he mistakenly celebrated what he thought was a win on stage four, not realising that a rampant Wout van Aert had crossed the line from the breakaway before him.
However, Philipsen was able to see the funny side and would eventually have the last laugh in France. The Belgian won stage 15 before taking a prestigious victory in the unofficial sprinters world championships on the Champs-Élysées on the final day of the Tour.
Earlier on in the year he won two stages and the points competition at the UAE Tour. Philipsen will be one to watch in 2023 and will be right in the mix at some of the biggest races.
There was a week in March where Elisa Balsamo seemed unbeatable. In her world champion's rainbow jersey, the Trek-Segafredo rider won the Trofeo Alfredo Binda, the Exterioo Classic Brugge-De Panne and then Gent-Wevelgem. A special trio, all Women's WorldTour races.
It didn't last, and Lorena Wiebes (more of whom later) appeared to have the beating of the Italian in tight bunch sprints, but Balsamo still won nine races, including her first two Giro d'Italia stages and one at the Ceratizit Challenge by La Vuelta too.
Also, she might have lost her rainbow stripes, but she did win the Italian National Championships, meaning she still won't be in a regulation Trek jersey.
On his way to doubling up in the Maglia Ciclamino, the jersey the best sprinter wears at the Giro, Arnaud Démare snagged a hat trick of stage wins on the road in Italy in May. It’s safe to say that with a second sprinters jersey, the Frenchman has been one of the best sprinters at the Giro of the past three years. In 2020, Démare also won the maglia ciclamino, taking four stage victories in the process.
As well as his achievements at the Giro this year, the Frenchman also won Paris-Tours as well as the points jersey at the Tour de Pologne.
Fabio Jakobsen has had quite the journey over the last three years.
The Dutchman being back on his bike and racing in 2022 was already an achievement in itself. In 2020, Jakobsen suffered potentially life threatening injuries after a high speed crash at the Tour de Pologne and there were question marks over whether he would be able to return to racing again.
Fortunately, he bounced back from his horrific injuries in 2021 to win the points jersey and three stages at the Vuelta a España, but this year, he arguably went one better.
Jakobsen made the headlines before the Tour de France had even begun this year, as he was selected ahead of Mark Cavendish to lead the charge for Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl at the French Grand Tour. But he certainly delivered.
Jakobsen won stage two of the race in Denmark to cap an amazing eighteen months for the 26-year-old. On top of that, the Dutchman also became European road champion, outsprinting Arnaud Démare and Tim Merlier at the championships in Munich, Germany in August.
Dutch rider Wiebes continued her journey to the top which has seen her land a dream move from Team DSM to SD Worx for 2023.
Wiebes took two stage wins at the inaugural Tour de France Femmes this year, and held both the yellow and green jerseys after victory on the opening day.
Before heading to France, the Dutchwoman took a hat trick of stages as well as the points jersey at the Women’s Tour and won the RideLondon Classique.
She would then go onto become European female road champion after victory in Munich and also took wins at Ronde van Drenthe and Scheldeprijs.
Former world champion Pedersen has allegedly promised to get the number 13 tattooed on his back if he wins stage 13 at the Giro next year.
The Danish rider has set himself a bit of a precedent in 2022, winning stage 13 at both the Tour and Vuelta as well as two other stages at the Spanish Grand Tour. You wouldn’t bet against him going all out for that slightly strange goal at the Giro either.
As well as his Grand Tour success this year, the Dane also landed top ten results at Milan-San Remo, Gent-Wevelgem and the Tour of Flanders. Expect Pedersen to be right up there at the sharp end in San-Remo again next Spring to get the ball rolling on another successful campaign.
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