22 stories for 2022, part 4: Zwift takes on trainers, Vos wears yellow, Swenson sweeps gravel
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 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.
From indoor trainer emnity to top Tour performances and beyond: here’s part four of this five-part series:
Zwift slashes trainer prices with the Hub
Also read: Zwift enters hardware market with the seriously enticing direct drive trainer
One brand encroaches on another’s turf, and a relationship once seemingly mutually beneficial turns litigious overnight.
The indoor training space is becoming a must-watch drama, and a direct drive trainer is at the center.
Zwift’s long-expected play in the hardware space made a splash this fall when the virtual training software heavyweight flexed its muscle to release the Zwift Hub, a direct drive unit whose $499 price tag, combined with an attractive spec sheet, shot it instantly to the top of the list for best value trainer, making access to Zwift cheaper and easier.
Wahoo, whose widely praised indoor training equipment once graced the Zwift online store and makes access to the virtual roads of Watopia possible for so many, called in the real Wahooligans — the legal department — to squash the move, claiming in a court filing that “The Hub is identical, in all material respects, to the KICKR CORE, one of Wahoo’s innovative bicycle trainers.”
The KICKR CORE costs $900.
For now, the Hub is still available for sale on Zwift.com, and there were no doubt a lot of orange boxes under Christmas trees.
All this is taking place against the backdrop of recent layoffs from Wahoo (Zwift recently underwent its own layoffs as well), pointing toward tougher times ahead for all involved.
Keegan Swenson finds, defines the spirit of gravel
Also read: Would Swenson switch to the WorldTour?
The trajectory between the WorldTour and gravel has typically gone in one direction: from the road to the dirt. This year, Keegan Swenson proved that the opposite can be true as well.
Although the 28-year-old didn’t uproot his life in the American West to go race in Europe, he did get a late call-up to road worlds and had some chats with people about making a late leap to pro road racing. Ultimately, however, he decided that what he has at home — an ever-increasing portfolio of off-road races to choose from and an incredible adeptness at doing them (not to mention a nice paycheck) — is too good to let go.
Swenson isn’t a new name in off-road; the Utah-born rider has been racing since he was a junior. But before this year, he was new to gravel, having focused on cross-country mountain bike racing at the World Cup level. A lack of stellar results led Swenson to focus on XC and marathon-distance racing at home, and without cracking many podiums, he decided to try gravel.
Turns out, he’s very good at racing long distances on dirt roads.
Swenson barnstormed through the inaugural Life Time Grand Prix Series this year, collecting wins at Sea Otter, the Crusher in the Tushar, and the Leadville 100 along the way. The day after Leadville, he won SBT GRVL, in what he called one of the hardest efforts of his life. Although he was outsprinted at the line at Unbound, he still managed to win the series outright.
Swenson will be back on American soil in 2023, looking to defend titles, break records, and likely, to win Unbound Gravel.
Marianne Vos wears yellow at Tour de France Femmes
Also read: Vos: ‘It was beautiful to wear the jersey’
Marianne Vos was part of the initial campaign to get the Tour de France on the women’s calendar — a campaign that would ultimately lead to La Course and then Tour Femmes — so it was fitting that she was one of the riders that wore the yellow jersey during this year’s race.
The Dutchwoman has won almost everything in her illustrious career, but a Tour de France yellow jersey was not on her palmarès. She had ridden one of the unofficial Tours de France for women, the Grand Boucle Féminine, back in 2009 and finished third overall, but never had a chance to wear the leader’s jersey. Vos has long said that she doesn’t focus on filling in the gaps on her palmarès but taking the yellow jersey was a big moment for her.
After coming close on the opening stage where she finished second on the Champs Elysées to Lorena Wiebes, Vos finally got her moment on day two. She claimed victory in Provins after making it into a late breakaway move and rode into yellow. She would keep the jersey until the race hit the mountains and took a second stage win in Rosheim. It was a dream Tour de France Femmes for Vos and her time in yellow got the race off on the right note.
Tom Pidcock tops Alpe d’Huez, hints at things to come
Also read: Ineos Grenadiers to let Pidcock ‘keep following his ambition’ after Tour triumph
He’d won a cyclocross world title, spring classics, and mountain bike World Cups. But Tom Pidcock couldn’t conquer the most iconic climb of the Tour de France, could he?
Ineos Grenadiers’ multi-discipline Brit hit new ground and topped Alpe d’Huez with his breakaway victory in the “queen stage” of the Tour de France this summer.
Pidcock had long been touted as one of the peloton’s Swiss-knife do-it-all stars, but until July’s Tour, his ability in the mountains remained relatively unknown.
He promptly dispelled the doubts in the race’s 12th stage by dropping all his breakaway rivals in a multi-mountain marathon that pointed toward a future few might have forecast only days before. Pidcock’s ride this July laid hints at a GC potential that is a whole cycling stratosphere from the ruts and guts of his cyclocross youth, and added another dimension to his far-stretching palmarès.
The speculation train steamed fast out of the station after Pidcock’s Alpine assault. Could the 23-year-old become the next British Tour de France winner? Will he toss his knobby tires into the trash can?
For now, Pidcock pledges to keep committed to his all-terrain ambitions through his Olympic MTB defense in 2024. And after the forthcoming Games in France? A different, three-week, French race could be next.