Well folks, it looks like we made it through another year. Adios 2022 and HELLO 2023! No more Covid, no more supply chain backlog, no more political fissures, no more hard to mount tubeless tires…well, all most likely not.
Nonetheless, here we are, doing our best to keep it all going. Already without the calendar actually flipping over, I’m already hearing troubling signs about the health of the bike industry as it relates to dealers and manufacturers being overstocked with bikes. But, let’s leave dealing with that potential reality for a year from now when we once again gather to look back from the threshold of 2024.
THE 2022 YEAR IN REVIEW
BEST GRAVEL BIKE
Reminiscent of my fave gravel bike in 2021, the Canyon Grizl, last year I came away most impressed with the Revel Rover. Here’s a sub-$5000 dual-purpose bike with shapely tubes, a sturdy Shimano GRX drivetrain and a bright “mint green” finish that helped make it as exciting to look at as it was to ride. Simply a good all-around package from a small Colorado bike brand.
THE OTHER POSITIVE TESTS
After two race seasons impacted by COVID, the cycling world thought it was history. The Tour de Suisse proved otherwise when 30 riders, including the race leader, were pulled from the race due to positive tests.
MOST FIERCE COMPETITOR
Luckily, no tragedy occurred at last year’s Rock Cobbler gravel race, but there was that one moment captured on video when a competitor tried to ride past a herd of meandering bulls and paid the price in a bad way. In case you missed it, here is the best version of the story so far…The Rock Cobbler
BEST DOSE OF HUMANITY
Both Look and Corima deserve a round of applause for showing their protest of Russia’s unprovoked war on Ukraine by pulling their sponsorship of the Gazprom-RusVelo team. No, this symbolic act did nothing to stop the war, but it spoke loudly of the civilized world’s disgust of the carnage that the invasion wrought.
BEST ACAPELLA MOMENT
When the loudspeaker at the Belgian Waffle Ride in San Diego quit midway through while playing “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the racers initiated their own sing-along, which soon brought the spectators in for a meaningful chorus.
WORST RUFFLED FEATHERS
The moment when some PR flack was softly chastising me for not doing a better job of promoting the products that he gets paid to cajole me to publicize. In other words, he was upset that I was opting to not act as an un-paid lackey here just to carry his water. When he raised the question of fairness – as if I had some obligation to promote his press release – I simply said he could always start his own magazine. Funny, I never heard from him again!
DAVID’S LOADED QUESTION
The moment I answered the phone, I could tell in David’s pause that something was amiss. “Hey, boss,” he asked, “do you want the good news or the bad news? The good news is that I’m not hurt. The bad news is that the Officine Mattio test bike is.” When I asked how hurt the bike was, he replied, “Basically ruined!” Despite the hundreds of bikes we’ve tested over the years, it’s true we have crashed and broken a handful. The unfortunate detail here was that the made-in-Italy OM had a $13,000 price tag. The resulting call to the importer was more painful than the crash.
BEST PRODUCT EVOLUTION
As celebrated as the bicycle rightfully is for being an eco-friendly alternative to cars, it’s also worth noting the impressive efforts made by many companies within the cycling industry to further our environmentally friendly status by relying on recycled material. Pearl Izumi was among the early pioneers here with their use of recycled fishing-net material to blend into their clothing. However, where the recycled material for clothing seemed obvious, one category I never imagined could make a good eco-friendly message was in lubricants. That was until the $100 plant-based Whole Enchilada bike wash and lube kit from Mountain Flow arrived at the office. So far, the products have shown good results, and just knowing that in some small way they are furthering the aim of being eco-friendly is a plus.
BEST SURPRISE RED
Of course it’s known fact that anything that’s red is faster and better than anything that’s not red. It’s also a known fact that when it comes to style and fashion that Shimano is one of the most conservative brands in the industry. With that in mind you can imagine both my level of surprise and joy when they released their S-Phyre RC 903 road shoe in the most brilliant red color. What better way to fight the scourge of white shoes in the group ride!
MOST SELFLESS SELFIE
Watching Peter Sagan’s boundless enthusiasm while getting mobbed at the start of Unbound Gravel was one of the best examples of a celebrity rider displaying a level of grace, amusement and, most noteworthy of all, patience, that I’ve ever witnessed. It was also a stark reminder that all the excessive whining about how pro road racers coming to gravel will harm the sport is so stupid.
BEST CRAZY INVENTION
Admittedly, I’m not much of a tech guy. When it comes to gadgets and gizmos, I usually leave them to the “kids,” Troy and David, to have fun with. Still, one of the most impressive new products launched last year was Muc-Off’s $45 Stealth tubeless tag holder that is designed to inconspicuously thwart bike thefts by virtue of hiding an Apple AirTag in the tire and rim of a tubeless wheel. Despite my retro-grouch ways, I say, “Brilliant!”
Following a few less than inspiring seasons, American racing fans were rewarded last year with some solid results from young guns like Magnus Sheffield (below) who not only became the youngest rider to win the De Brabantse Pijl race, but also the first American to do so. Joining the 20-year-old Ineos rider for his standout results was Quinn Simmons. The Trek/Segafredo rider (above) not only found himself in the red jersey at the Tour de Swiss, but also getting plenty of TV time in countless break-away rides in the Tour de France.
WORST LOSS TO AMERICAN RACING
Without a doubt, the biggest blow to the future of American racing was when Roy Knickman was forced to shutter his Lux Devo team that for years had helped provide the needed sustenance and guidance for some of America’s best young talent. Knickman, himself a former racer, worked tirelessly over the years and will be remembered for the effort he gave to help put American riders at the front of the peloton.
• “In my country and in Belgium, everything is opening again. We’re free. Over there, the people are afraid. I’m happy to be racing here, but my mind and my prayers are with the people in Ukraine. Here it’s about 25-year-old guys fighting for the win, but over there the 25-year-old guys are fighting for freedom in their life. It put things in perspective.” —Fabio Jakobsen putting the role of bike racing in perspective.
• “I destroyed cycling once with the super-tuck, now I’ve destroyed cycling again. Now I think everyone will start to use dropper posts. It’ll be one more thing to think about on the bike. It’ll be like Formula 1. There was just the gas and brake pedals, now they have hundreds of buttons.” —Matej Mohori on using a dropper seatpost for the win at Milan-San Remo.
• “The E3 Saxo Bank Classic was the Jumbo-Visma show. The sponsor is a chain of supermarkets in Holland, and it was like the team going into their local store, strolling down the aisle and placing bottles of champagne into their basket.” —Fabian Cancellara on Jumbo Visma
• “It means so much to me inning the Gila. Six years ago I couldn’t imagine this. I was at the rehab center learning how to walk and talk again. If someone would tell me, ‘Don’t worry, Lauren, because in six years you’re going to win the Gila,’ I would have said, ‘You’re crazy, I’m not a climber!’ Mentally, it’s huge coming back from that to being able to win a race like this; a five-day stage race takes a lot out of you.” —Lauren De Crescenzo describing her arduous journey to winning the Gila Road stage race.
• “Pull through until you get dropped. If you don’t get dropped, you win.” —Former Unbound Gravel winner Ian Boswell’s best tip for winning Unbound Gravel.
• “This climb is just disgusting!” —Race commentator Christian Vande Velde’s apt description of Stage 8’s climb in the Vuelta a Espana that had riders pedaling up a 22-percent grade.
• “All of the clutching of pearls from all of the gravel gatekeepers!” —Industry veteran Daniel Large musing on the tiresome histrionics displayed by many in the gravel world over one new controversy after another.
BEST ALLAYED DOUBTS
At the end of 2022 there was a flurry of talk-and doubt- about this company called Life Time moving into the sport and buying up some of the biggest bike races/events on the calendar. Nervous as the bike industry can be about “outsiders” moving in on our turf, Life Time has brought a wealth of improvements to the sport, especially with their Grand Prix Series that has brought some needed financial aid for the the racers.
BEST TEAM PLAYERS
The Ineos Grenadiers can sit proud knowing their roster is made up of some solid all-arounders who obviously love riding their bikes. Take Tom Pidcock who not only won an Olympic gold medal on a mountain bike two summers ago, but then went on to claim a cyclocross world title and then a Tour de France stage win with a thrilling descent effort (top photo). Tom’s teammate Cameron Wurf (above) tried his best to outdo him by working for Dylan van Baarle to win Paris-Roubaix before heading to the Ironman World Championships a few weeks later, followed again weeks later to race at Unbound Gravel.
• While the 2022 gravel season had so much to celebrate with big strides made in new races and participation, a dark pall overshadowed everything with news of the death of up-and-coming star Moriah Wilson. The facts of her now widely reported murder need not be recounted; instead, it is the memory of the bright, cheery and dominating light that she brought to the world of gravel racing that should be remembered. I first encountered Moriah at the finish of the Rock Cobbler where, clad in all black, she rode in alone for the win and celebrated with Peter Stetina. A few months later at the Belgian Waffle Ride, there she was again next to Stetina, only this time it was at the start of the race where she would go on to win just as convincingly. Unfortunately, her highly anticipated showing at Unbound Gravel was not to be, and the close-knit gravel community was robbed of a promising future that we looked forward to sharing and celebrating.
• It was at the Vermont Overland race that leading Kenyan cyclist and Team Amani rider Suleiman Kangangi was killed in a collision. “Sule is our captain, friend, brother. He is also a father, husband and son. Gaping holes are left when giants fall. Instead of leading us at the front of the pack, he will now lead us as our guiding pole star as we press forward in the realization of his dream,” read a team post on social media.
• Every once in a while bike designers come along with a vision of how a bicycle could look and perform that truly stands apart from conventional thinking. Mike Burrows was one of them. Although his radical Lotus 108 (made famous by Chris Boardman at the ’92 Olympics) was perhaps his most outlandish and recognizable, it was his partnership with Giant in 1990 that brought forward the first commercially adapted compact frame with the TCR that revolutionized the market. Burrows passed away last September at the age of 79.
• That the gravel community has made the discussion of inclusion so prominent is a good thing. However, long before the modern conversation of inclusion became a thing in the gravel world, Dervla Murphy was off riding her bike across multiple continents in 1963. Her two-wheeled exploits would lead to a celebrated book—Full Tilt: Ireland to India With a Bicycle—as well as a legacy as one of Ireland’s more prolific adventurers. In musing about her heralded trip, Murphy wrote, “I regard this sort of life with just [my bike] and me, and the sky and the earth as sheer bliss.” —Dervla passed away last May at the age of 90, but thankfully her spirit of two-wheeled adventure lives on, most prominently in EF Education-EasyPost rider Lachlan Morton, who is now planning a future world-record attempt at circumnavigating the globe.
Just days before the year flipped to 2023, news broke that long time coach and former racer Noël Dejonckheere passed away at the young age of 67. I first heard his name from Bob Roll who spoke of Dejonckheere in glowing terms from the 7-Eleven days and then many times for his role with USA Cycling. From his earliest days as a racer winning Paris-Nice and Vuelta a Espana stages to coaching up and coming American racers for USA Cycling, this was a man committed to bike racing day in and day out.
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