How Flemish cyclists dominated 2022’s road cycling season
The international cycling season will conclude this Saturday with Il Lombardia. The Italian cycling classic is the final race of the 2022 UCI WorldTour, a global season of 31 road cycling events. And feats of riders such as Remco Evenepoel and Wout Van Aert have made 2022 a landmark season for Flemish and Belgian cycling.
Van Aert was able to show off his dominant form early in the season. Among others, he finished 8th in Milan-San Remo, 2nd in Paris-Roubaix, 3rd in Liège-Bastogne-Liège and first in both the E3 Saxo Bank Classic and Omloop het Nieuwsblad. He also won the points jerseys in Paris-Nice and the Criterium du Dauphiné, in preparation of the prestigious Tour de France.
The rider from Herentals secured no less than eight podium places, including three victories, during the three week long race in France. Van Aert rode four stages in the yellow jersey, a first in his career, won the points classification, and helped his teammate Vingegaard win the general classification. Lampaert en Philipsen contributed to the total of six Belgian stage wins this year, making it the nation’s most successful Tour de France since 1985.
However, the best was yet to come for Belgian cycling fans. After decades of struggling with results in the three big stage races - Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España - Remco Evenepoel won the Tour of Spain, becoming the first Belgian Grand Tour winner since 1978. But the successes of the Flemish cyclist didn’t end there.
Two weeks later, the World Championships would take place in Australia, and Evenepoel came out on top once again. After a 35 km long solo the Belgian delivered one of the most dominant victories in recent history, arriving more than two minutes in front of silver medallist Laporte. He is only the fourth cyclist in history to win a Grand Tour, a Monument (Liège-Bastogne-Liège in April) and the World Championship in the same year.
And the context of this championship was far from simple. Not only did Evenepoel finish a three week long Grand Tour in first place just a few weeks before, he also had to travel across the world and deal with the resulting jet lag.
The fact that the Flemish rider is only 22 years old makes this feat even more astonishing. Usually, cyclists are in peak form during their late twenties. This means that Evenepoel still has a lot of room to grow. Belgian media were quick to point out similarities with compatriot Eddy Merckx, widely regarded as the greatest cyclist of all time.
Other highlights by Flemish cyclists include Dylan Teuns’ win in La Flèche Wallone, Jasper Philipsen’s victory on the Champs-Élysées - the prestigious sprint finish of the Tour de France - and Lotte Kopecky’s first place in the Tour of Flanders for Women.
Unsurprisingly, Belgium also dominates the UCI rankings of 2022. The country amassed over 17,000 points in the national ranking, around 5000 points more than runner-up France. Evenepoel and Van Aert will finish in second and third place in the individual ranking. In total, Belgium attained 28 WorldTour victories, beating the previous record of 20 in 2017.
A new generation of Flemish cyclists has made history this year. It will be difficult to top this season in 2023, but the future of Belgian cycling is looking bright.
Remco Evenepoel wins the men's elite road race at the UCI Road World Championships Cycling 2022 in Wollongong, Australia. - © BELGA PHOTO DIRK WAEM