She also won the Setmana Ciclista Valenciana, the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and the Liège–Bastogne–Liège, while finishing second in the Tour de Romandie, Strade Bianche, Tour of Flanders and La Flèche Wallonne. It is not surprising, then, that she also won the overall 2022 UCI Women’s World Tour, in which points are awarded for the performances in 23 road cycling competitions and then added at the end of the year. Van Vleuten easily won with 4,683 points, well ahead of the second-place finisher, Lorena Wiebes, also of the Netherlands, who had 3,830 points.
Lotte Kopecky, who won the Tour of Flanders and Strade Bianche this year, came in second in the Vélo d’Or voting, with French off-road racer Pauline Ferrand-Prévot third. Van Vleuten has been both a pioneer and a role model for younger woman riders in her long career, winning the Giro Donne three times and the La Vuelta Challenge twice. She has also racked up two World Road Race and two World Time Trial championships – after she turned 35. Thanks to her durability and persistence, she has been able to race long enough to profit from the new, more prestigious races that have been organized as women’s road racing gained prominence and investors.
Evenepoel did not win the 2022 UCI Men’s World Tour. That honour went to Tadej Pogačar, with Wout van Aert finishing second and Evenepoel third. However, he had an excellent year, winning both the Vuelta a España and the World Road Race Championship in dominating style. In addition, he won the Liège-Bastogne-Liège and the Clásica San Sebastián to round off his breakout season. At 22, he is the youngest rider to win the Vélo d’Or and he was clearly delighted by receiving the award.
“It’s a great honour to win the Vélo d’Or, especially so early in my career,” he told journalists. “Because, in my opinion, it’s the most important prize in the sport. It’s a reward for the entire season. When I was still playing football, I was fascinated by the prestige of the Ballon d’Or. Actually, the Vélo d’Or is the Ballon d’Or of cycling, and that link resonates a bit with me.” Van Aert, who won the UCI One-Day Race World ranking for the year as well as his first Tour de France green jersey, finished second in the voting, with Pogačar coming in third.
After Evenepoel’s stellar year, cycling aficionados were licking their lips in anticipation of a 2023 Tour de France battle royale of Evenepoel, 2021 Tour winner Pogačar, 2022 winner Jonas Vingegaard and perhaps the 2019 Tour winner Egan Bernal, all vying for road racing’s biggest prize. However, the newly crowned Vélo d’Or recipient has opted instead to race in the Giro d’Italia next year. The reason may be that there are about 70 km of time trials in next year’s Giro, while the Tour will offer only one climbing time trial in 2023.
Whatever the reason, cycling fans will be deprived of a potentially thrilling top-level competitive race. Maybe it will happen in 2024 or, who knows, perhaps Evenepoel will eventually change his mind. We can only hope.