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22 stories for 2022, part 3: The tragedy of Mo Wilson, the triumph of Evenepoel, the birth of 105 Di2

VeloNews' editors debate and dissect the biggest stories of 2022 in our own 22-stage grand tour of the cycling year.

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The 2022 cycling year was so packed with headline-harvesting stories that not even a full grand tour could house them all.

In this 22-stage series, Sadhbh O’Shea, Andrew Hood, Betsy Welch, Will Tracy, and Jim Cotton pick through the stories that shaped the narrative in 2022.

Also read:

From one rising star tragically lost to another ascending to the top: here’s part three of this five-part series:

The indescribable tragedy of Mo Wilson

Mo Wilson was shot dead in Austin, Texas, on May 11. (Photo: Ben Delaney)

Also read: The Moriah Wilson Foundation: Using MoMentum and more to honor the late cyclist’s legacy

In May, off-road professional cyclist Moriah “Mo” Wilson was shot and killed in Austin, Texas. She was 25 years old.

At the time of her death, Wilson was making a rapid ascent in both gravel and cross-country mountain bike racing. She emerged in 2021 as a dark horse at races like Unbound Gravel, but a commanding late season win at Big Sugar put her on our radar.

In early 2022, Wilson racked up wins at the Grasshopper Adventure Series, the Rock Cobbler, Sea Otter, and the Belgian Waffle Ride San Diego. She quit her job as a demand planner at Specialized to give herself more time to focus on racing. She was finding her voice on social media and had recently begun to publish a newsletter on Substack.

The tragedy of Wilson’s death was compounded by the criminality of it; a week after she was killed, an arrest warrant for the charge of first degree murder was issued for Kaitlin Armstrong, the partner of gravel pro Colin Strickland. Both Armstrong and Strickland had been called in for questioning after Wilson’s death, and a video recording of Armstrong’s car at the murder site was obtained by authorities.

Armstrong disappeared after she was interviewed and was apprehended by local police in Costa Rica six weeks later. She is currently in jail in Texas and awaits trial in June 2023.

In the wake of her death, Wilson’s family established the Moriah Wilson Foundation to support organizations dedicated to expanding access to recreation, sports, and educational programs.

– BW

Remco Evenepoel: A star is born

Liège, the Vuelta, road worlds: Evenepoel won big this summer.

Also read: Evenepoel joins elite company with rare worlds treble

Remco Evenepoel and his history-making season made him the top rider among what was already a thrill-a-minute season in the elite men’s WorldTour in 2022.

Not only did Evenepoel win Belgium’s first grand tour in 40 years — can you name the last? If you said Johan De Muynck and the 1978 Giro d’Italia you’d win some bets anywhere outside Belgium — Evenepoel followed up his Vuelta a España victory with a stunning solo shot to win the stripes in Australia.

Not only did Evenepoel win Liège-Bastogne-Liège and the Clásica San Sebastián in a season that earned him the cherished Vélo d’Or prize, he did it with the panache of a footballer he was before switching to cycling at age 16. His pint-sized pocket rocket build is only out-weighed by his heavyweight ambition. Evenepoel wants to eat the world, and so far, his appetite shows no signs of being satiated.

Insiders say Evenepoel is an ascetic compared to the rock-star persona that compatriot Tom Boonen brought to cycling’s stage a generation ago. Instead of hitting the discos at night, Evenepoel is weighing his oatmeal portions in the morning, skipping alcohol altogether, and sleeping in a customized hyperbaric chamber.

How far can Evenepoel go? He’s putting the Giro d’Italia on his sights for 2023, and putting a possible face-off against Tadej Pogačar off until 2024. At 22, time is on his side.

— AH

Shimano electrifies 105

105 Di2 – what the world has been waiting for.

Also read: Shimano 105 goes Di2

Japanese component heavyweight Shimano brought its Di2 electronic shifting to a more affordable price point earlier this year, unveiling it at the 105 level, the brand’s third tier of components behind Dura-Ace and Ultegra.

The move comes about a year from competitor SRAM making its third tier groupset, Rival, electronic, creating a landscape of cheaper electronic shifting across cycling.

The 105 Di2 development (and SRAM Rival eTap, as well) is not without downsides, however.

105 has long been lauded for its excellent shifting at an affordable price, something that could get riders on a budget into the sport, or could be raced with less worry over a crash sending it all to the junk yard. And it’s the lowest tier of components many cyclists would consider riding. But bikes with 105 Di2 are being priced much higher than builds with mechanical 105.

It ties in to a larger trend in cycling of the sport becoming more expensive. Even if the performance of bikes is higher across the board in recent years, they’re also less attainable. Maybe nothing says that quite like the existence of $8,000 builds with third tier components.

– WT

Lotte Kopecky wows the crowds at the Tour of Flanders

Lotte Kopecky wins the Tour of Flanders
Belgian champion Kopecky became queen of Flanders. (Photo: Jasper Jacobs/Belga Mag/AFP via Getty Images)

Also read: Kopecky wants Flanders victory to inspire young girls to dream

The classics seem like a very long time ago now, but Lotte Kopecky was one of the shining stars of the spring races. After notching up a stunning victory at Strade Bianche with a perfectly timed attack in the final meters of the race, Kopecky went into the Belgian races with the wind in her sails. Following a few close calls in the intervening weeks, she would soon be on the top step again at the biggest Belgian race of them all.

In front of adoring home crowds, Kopecky arrived at the finish area with her teammate Chantal van den Broek-Blaak, and a determined Annemiek van Vleuten. In the end, she used SD Worx’s numbers and her sprint power to dash to the line and claim an overwhelming victory. The crowds around the finish town of Oudenaarde erupted as they cheered on the Belgian champion.

Kopecky’s win was perfect timing for the race organizer Flanders Classics, who had decided to host the women’s finish after the men’s in an effort to boost spectators. They had done it during the COVID years, resulting in a big boost of TV viewers, but this was the first time that roadside spectators could see it in this format. It could have hardly worked out better.

– SOS

Bahrain Victorious raids: Still waiting for final verdict

COPENHAGEN, DENMARK - JUNE 29: A general view of Kamil Gradek of Poland, Jack Haig of Australia, Matej Mohoric of Slovenia, Luis Leon Sanchez Gil of Spain and Team Bahrain Victorious during the Team Presentation of the 109th Tour de France 2022 at Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen City / #TDF2022 / on June 29, 2022 in Copenhagen, Denmark. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images,)
The Bahrain-Victorious team at the Tour de France presentation. (Photo: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)

Also read: Europol ends ‘operational phase’ of Bahrain Victorious investigation

Police raids were back in the headlines in 2022, taking a page out of cycling’s notorious doping past.

Bahrain Victorious was the focus of what was perhaps the largest international raid in cycling history. Carried just before the start of the 2022 Tour de France, raids involved police and authorities from several nations working in unison, with the scope far outreaching anything done before. Yet a funny thing happened: the police didn’t find anything. Or, at least as far as everyone knows right now.

Going into the winter, officials confirmed the police activity on the case was closed, but insisted that the legal team and investigators were still digging through the cell phones, laptops, and other documents recovered from offices, residences, and team facilities across a half-dozen sites in Europe. It appears that police did not find a secret cache of drugs and blood bags, which was normal for the police raids during the go-go years of the EPO Era. Because if they had, that information would have leaked out by now.

Something still might pop up, but Bahrain Victorious officials are denying any wrong-doing, and even accusing authorities of over-reach.

— AH