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Notes From the Soon To Be Retired 2021 Desk

Featuring a link to today’s Hour Record attempt

Thoughts while waiting for Alex Dowsett’s Hour Record attempt to start, or end...

Lots of announcements coming out about 2022, but let me start this post by putting a final wrap on 2021. And by that I mean announcing the winners of the Podium Cafe Best In Class Awards! The winners, based on polling by you, the readers, are as follows:

  • Tadej Pogačar is indeed your Men’s Rider of the Year. There was some concern that he might not win, in a scenario where large numbers of people who would otherwise recognize the obvious are nonetheless frightened and confused by Slavic accent marks and change their vote. But to your credit, you learned to live with the down arrow over the c in Pogs’ surname. Or you punished Primož Roglič instead.
  • Annemiek van Vleuten earned her wings as our Women’s Rider of the Year, with a comfortable 45% of the vote, well ahead of the various Dutch ladies (and Elisa Longo Borghini) who split the rest of the vote.
  • Paris-Roubaix was tabbed the Men’s Race Day of the Year, taking 33%, over the World Championships road race (16%) and — proving that not everyone here struggles to remember events from over a month ago — Strade Bianche (12%).
  • On the Women’s side, the Olympic Road Race just barely edged Paris-Roubaix from sweeping the Race Day of the Year slate, by two ballots. No other event was close to the 40 and 38% these two got, proving that it pays to go long.

Thanks to all who voted! I hope people think of the Cafe as a place where they can go and participate in the democratic process in a way that doesn’t drive them crazy. I’m not a big stick-to-sports guy but sometimes it feels very comforting to do just that.

OK, 2021 has been settled. We will do a bit more looking back as part of our previews of 2022, and we have a fanposter, thepl, who is doing some team reviews now. Feel free to check those out! Always good to have new writers around. Message to readers: feel free to write more!

Speaking of (very much not) new writers, I will be back in my site manager role from this point forward. Andrew’s availability is tbd, but his life is very full right now, which limited his writing time pretty drastically in 2021. Obviously I couldn’t exactly stay away during my “retirement” and while my availability is up and down, hopefully it will hit its peak on a continuous level from about Strade Bianche to the end of the Tour de France? Fingers crossed. Meanwhile, Ursula has said that he will be stepping back from his duties so anyone who would like to join the team in preparing the rider spreadsheet and scoring results for the 2022 FSA Directeur Sportif, please contact me at podcaf at geee mail...

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OK, we are on to 2022. Today the Giro d’Italia released its official route details for the Grande Partenza in Budapest next May. Like other recent overseas starts, the trip to Ongaria Ungheria (get to know your Italianification terms) will last for three days, followed by a rest day for the race to return to Italy.

Wait, you say, Isn’t Hungary like one country over from Italy? Why do they need a rest day? Yes, in theory you could drive the length of Slovenia and hit the Bel Paese in a few hours, but you won’t run into any upcoming Giro stages that way. Apparently when the race resumes, it will do so somewhere in Sicily, according to the previously (and presumed still) reliable parcours rumor-trackers at CyclingStage. Remember a couple years ago when the Giro left from Jerusalem? That was about 1200 nautical miles from Palermo. Budapest is about 1100 or so air miles away.

The three Ongarian stages will be mostly flat, but the opening stage includes some sort of final-km kicker to the line in Visegrád, potentially taking it out of the hands of the sprinters, while stage 2 is a 19km time trial which may or may not include some double-digit gradients to make it interesting. By stage 3, which will be a proper sprinters stage, we will have seen the maglia rosa migrate in the direction of actual contenders, albeit with lots of first-week caveats. Attila Valter, who became the first Ongarian to wear the pink jersey last year, was on hand at the presentation of the stages and will get lots of attention on departure day, May 6, as a possible stage winner.

According to Cyclingstage, and probably other sources, the Giro will continue leaking out details of its route over four days next week. The flat stages will be announced Monday, then the medio montagne stages Tuesday, the major mountain events Wednesday, and the finale Thursday. Seems like a pretty crafty media strategy, as opposed to a gala event where everyone is wondering why we are having a gala in the middle of a pandemic? I will refrain from any deep dives about stuff from the rumors list until they become official, but just note that the word “Blockhaus” is being thrown around.

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32nd Koppenbergcross - Grand Prix Jolien Verschueren 2021 - Men’s Elite Photo by Luc Claessen/Getty Images

Are you following ‘Cross? This has always been a minor matter here at the Cafe, with a subset of us following passionately and others choosing to catch their breath before the next road season starts. We just came through some of the most memorable eras in the sport’s history — the Nys years (and the slew of charismatic challengers like Stybar and Albert along the way), followed by Matti vs Wout, now enjoying its continued success as the MWU (Matti-Wout Universe) has brought its franchise to the road. So if you aren’t as stoked for watching Toon Aerts chase Eli Iserbyt, you probably aren’t alone. [Although if Monday’s KoppenbergCross didn’t tempt you...]

Now it looks like the MWU, which has expanded to include a new character named Pidcock, the Cousin Oliver of the MWU, will resume action in late December. Pidcock, meaning Tom Pidcock, the INEOS star-in-waiting whose age (21) and performance (!!) combine to make one wonder if he might catch and pass the two stars of the Classics and the Mud sometime soon... Pidcock is starting his Cross calendar at Superprestige Boom December 4. Van Aert should be starting around then, though he hasn’t been as specific, and now van der Poel is saying he will start in late December, presumably after a road team training camp that ends December 12. The Rucphen (NL) race happens the following weekend, a logical place for the reigning world champion to return to his winter habitat. Speaking of world championships, I am pretty sure I and several of the Editors will be at CX Worlds in Fayetteville in January.

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3rd UAE Tour 2021 - Stage 7 Photo by Tim de Waele/Getty Images

Apparently the UCI has released the complete 2022 Men’s UCI World Tour calendar, though I have yet to see an official, graphical representation of it, even though at least some people have known about it for several months. What we do seem to know, though, is as follows:

  • The Cadel Evans Great Ocean Race is not happening, nor is the TDU. The World Tour will open with the UAE Tour, a return to where the sport left off when COVID came calling.
  • Paris-Roubaix will indeed switch weekends with the Amstel Gold Race, due to the French elections being held Sunday, April 10. Now we will have Flanders on April 3, Amstel the 10th, and P-R the 17th. While breaking with tradition, I suspect this will work out pretty well, as AGR isn’t exactly a different species entirely from De Ronde.
  • The rest of the calendar looks like a return to normalcy, where the Giro eats up all of May, the Dauphine starts a week later, the Tour starts July 1, the Vuelta begins the third week in August, and it all wraps up at Lombaria on October 8.

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Alex Dowsett Photocall - Silverstone Sports Engineering Hub
Dowsett in the wind tunnel...
Photo by David Davies/PA Images via Getty Images

Anyway, good luck to Dowsett, who starts his Hour Record effort in a few hours, in Aguascalientes, a bit north of Mexico City. The Englishman will be chasing the record of Belgian Victor Campenaerts, who rode 55.089km in 2019 on the same track, a half-km ahead of Bradley Wiggins’ 2015 record.

WATCH IT HERE on Dowsett’s YouTube channel. The BBC will carry it live in the UK as well.