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The Incredible Year in Women’s Cycling

By Megan Flottorp

What a year it has been! Looking back on 2022, we are confident it will be heralded as a new era in women’s road cycling. From a stunning solo victory by Elisa Longo Borghini at the Paris-Roubaix Femmes to the hugely successful premiere of van Vleuten’s Tour de France Femmes, and several other standout performances, this year brought one high point after another for the women’s peloton.

So, as we wind down over the holidays and look ahead to what awaits us in 2023, let’s take a moment to celebrate a few moments that defined the power of women’s cycling over the last 12 months.

Elisa Longo Borghini soars to victory at Paris-Roubaix

Two-time Olympic medallist Elisa Longo Borghini was a force to be reckoned with as she took to the hills and pulled off a historic Paris-Roubaix victory. Notably, following her race-winning 32-km solo move, Longo Borghini commented to the assembled press about the attention that women’s racing was garnering, a fact reflected in the number of journalists present at the finish.

“Surely it’s the next step,” she said, noting that only the World Championships had received as much attention as this second edition of Paris-Roubaix Femmes. “I think there’s more and more attention from the media on women’s cycling, and I think it’s what we deserve because I think today it was a display of a great race.”

The Tour de France Femmes makes its bold entry on the world stage

Annemiek van Vleuten was the woman proudly sporting the yellow jersey after an exhilarating eight days of top-notch, emotional racing that defined the inaugural Tour de France Femmes. In addition to her victory, the race gifted fans with many iconic moments and proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that the women have what it takes to make this premiere race their own. From Lorena Wiebes’ emotional Champs-Élysées victory to the young fans sporting oversized polka dot shirts alongside the route, there was plenty to indicate how monumental this event was. An overall delight to watch, the 2022 introduction of this race marked an essential point in time for women’s cycling, and we are confident that the momentum will continue to grow.

Annemiek van Vleuten is a thrill to watch

Deserving of a mention all her own, Annemiek van Vleuten had several wildly impressive moments this season and has indeed raised the bar for what the women’s peloton is capable of. Consider her TdFF win, when she was hit with an untimely stomach bug that prevented her from eating and drinking and ultimately caused her to lose time on the general classification. Not one to let a little illness slow her down, though, she fought her way back to go from being 1’28” down on the yellow jersey to conquer three Category 1 climbs and mobilise one dominant stage victory to claim the maillot jaune.

Of course, that was not her only notable win of the season. The Dutchwoman won all three Grand Tours and the world championships this year. Unsurprisingly, then, she was the comfortable winner of the first women’s Velo d’Or. A well-deserved award winner, if ever there was one.

Lorena Wiebes makes a name for herself

Another rider who deserves special mention for her incredible 2022 season is Lorena Wiebes. The 23-year-old sprinter is currently among the peloton’s fastest women and has an impressive 59 career wins to her name. She started the year with a successful spring in Belgium, taking with GP Oetingen and just kept that momentum flowing. At the WWT RideLondon Classique in May, she sailed through three wins and the overall before adding another casual three at The Women’s Tour.

Thus, it was with existing seven 2022 Women’s World Tour wins that she took to the Champs-Elysees in July. Powering her way into the history books, she ended the first day of the race in yellow atop the podium. The wins kept coming, too. She took the European road race title, a string of stage wins, and the overall at the Simac Ladies Tour.

Lorena Wiebes
Lorena Wiebes stole the spotlight in 2022. © Profimedia

Five new women’s teams join the top tier of racing

In an impressive showing for the women’s program, 2022 saw the UCI unveiling six new women’s teams stepping up to participate in the World Tour. Five of those teams moved up from second division ranks, while the UAE team took on the licence from Alé-BTC-Ljubljana, who were already a World Tour squad.

As such, there were 14 teams in the women’s World Tour for 2022, and it looks like that number is set to grow for next year. Currently, 13 teams have submitted to renew their UCI Women’s World Team status, and three UCI Women’s Continental Teams have applied for a UCI Women’s World Team licence. This would bring the number to 15 for the 2023 season.

Under 23: For the first time

2022 saw the 95th edition of the UCI Road World Championships, and, for the first time, race titles were given out in the women’s Under 23 category. Even though there were some complaints regarding the organisation, it was nonetheless a big step forward for the women’s program. Currently, few opportunities exist to support younger female riders transitioning to the elite bracket. Hopefully, the introduction of the women’s U23 and junior races will help fill this gap in the years to come.

2023 brings us the first women’s Tour de l’Avenir

And, thankfully, the World Championships will not have to do that job alone. Looking ahead to next year, we are already excited about the introduction of a women’s Tour de l’Avenir. During the Tour de France, Tour de l’Avenir organisers announced a women’s edition of the race, “contested under the same format and open to up-and-coming cyclists under the age of 23, in perfect harmony with the general movement initiated this year with the Women’s Tour de France.”

Indeed, this critical step will allow U23 women to race against their peers in a highly visible event. As we’ve seen, races like these often help pave the way for future success and will help contribute to a general increase in visibility and coverage for the women’s road racing program.

As we reflect on a successful year for the women’s program, we should also be mindful that there is still work to do to continue building the sport and getting our fierce women riders the attention they deserve. Let’s go into 2023 shouting and making noise for our favourite riders so that more and more fans can discover just how brilliant this sport truly is.