10 riders in the men’s peloton with a point to prove in 2022

Lopez Geoghegan Hart Froome Sagan composite
(Image credit: Getty Images/composite)

The dust has only recently settled on another breathless road season, but teams and riders are already putting together their plans for the 2022 campaign and setting their objectives.

While every rider essentially has something to prove next year, and uses that to build momentum and motivation, it’s fair to say that some riders are under the microscope more than others.

They may not have had disappointing seasons, perhaps they’ve changed teams, or their goals have been realigned, but here are 10 riders in the men’s peloton who, for various different reasons, didn't or couldn't perform at their best this year and so who will be gunning for success in 2022.

Miguel Ángel López

Age: 27
Rider type: Stage racer
2022 Team: Astana Qazaqstan Team

The fallout at Movistar following Lopez’s dramatic exist from the Vuelta a España certainly wasn’t pretty and both sides could have undoubtedly handled the situation better but the fact remains that he heads back to Astana with a major point to prove when it comes to his Grand Tour ambitions. 

After all, he was within touching distance of the Tour de France podium in 2020, and in 2021 he flatlined at the Tour before bouncing back at the Vuelta with a superb stage win. Everything looked on track until his Movistar career imploded before our very eyes on stage 19. 

Back on board with Astana, the Colombian will still have to vie for leadership, but with Fuglsang and Vlasov both on new teams, and Vincenzo Nibali creaking towards retirement, the path should be relatively clear for Lopez to showcase the talents Movistar decided to let go. Any opportunity to attack his former employers and Lopez is likely to take it with both hands. It should make for one of the most interesting subplots of the season.

Peter Sagan

Age: 31
Rider type: One-day specialist/sprinter
2022 Team: Team TotalEnergies

When he’s not making his way through the principality of Monaco and arm-wrestling the local law enforcement, the three-time world champion is presumably plotting his way back to the top in the Spring Classics as he rebuilds himself on French soil with TotalEnergies. 

It’s been almost four years since Sagan won a Monument and three years since he took a green jersey at the Tour but the 31-year-old still remains a constant and consistent feature in virtually every race he enters. 

A ‘quiet year’ in 2021 still consisted of a points jersey and stage at the Giro and four other victories, but in the major one-day races he was found wanting. COVID-19 certainly played a huge part but in some people’s eyes his departure from Bora-Hansgrohe and subsequent drop to TotalEnergies represents natural regression as age begins to play a part and the younger generation begin to expand their dominance. 

Sagan might not be the rider he was two or three years ago but there’s still enough in the tank to stretch to a few more memorable moments, and if he remains motivated then he’ll roll up to races such as Milan-San Remo and Paris-Roubaix with a point to prove.

Chris Froome

Age: 36
Rider type: Stage racer
2022 team: Israel Start-Up Nation

The inclusion of Froome in our list of riders with a point to prove is virtually a copy and paste from twelve months ago when the four-time Tour de France winner announced that he would be leaving Ineos Grenadiers and venturing to Israel Start-Up Nation. 

The cycling world is still waiting for the veteran to regain the sort of form and condition that saw him wipe the floor with the opposition each July, with health issues still plaguing him. At this point, any glimmer of competitiveness would be seen as a win for the British rider. Given the miraculous comeback Mark Cavendish put together in 2021 it’s not entirely implausible to envisage Froome rediscovering something of his old self.

Team Israel Start Up Nation's Christopher Froome of Great Britain rides during the 2nd stage of the 108th edition of the Tour de France cycling race, 183 km between Perros-Guirrec and Mur de Bretagne Guerledan, on June 27, 2021. (Photo by Thomas SAMSON / AFP) (Photo by THOMAS SAMSON/AFP via Getty Images)

(Image credit: Thomas Samson/AFP/Getty Images)

Marc Hirschi

Age: 23 Rider type:
Rider type: One-day specialist/sprinter
2022 Team: UAE Team Emirates

We might never know the true reasons as to why Team DSM were willing to let the Swiss rider leave at the start of 2021 but it’s fair to say that the cloud that hovered over Hirschi’s departure from the German-registered team certainly stayed with him for much of the campaign. 

Hip injuries and dental issues didn’t help but by the end of the year the 23-year-old had begun to show shoots of growth with a string of decent performances. He couldn’t replicate the jaw-dropping displays he rolled out in the truncated 2020 season, but heading into 2022 the Swiss rider will be hoping to rediscover the sort of performances that made him stand out in both the Classics and Grand Tours. 

He’s still young and there’s plenty of time, but there’s definitely ground to be made up in terms of his results. 

Tao Geoghegan Hart

Age: 26
Rider type: Climber, stage racer
2022 Team: Ineos Grenadiers

Crashes played a significant part in the British rider’s season with a concussion sustained at Paris-Nice and a fall on stage 1 disrupting his Tour ambitions. 

The fact that he recovered from the concussion to even make Ineos’ Tour selection deserves credit, but, in a results-based business, this wasn’t the season the 2020 Giro winning was hoping for. While he gained some vital experience in the Tour, he was unable to win a race, and in a team where Grand Tour leadership chances are spread thinly, any form of setback can prove costly. 

That said, the talent that carried Geoghegan Hart to the maglia rosa in 2020 hasn’t suddenly disappeared and as he told Cyclingnews at the start of the off-season he’s hoping that 2022 represents something of a comeback. 

"Problems like I've had this year don't mean that I can't win another Grand Tour. I'll be back in 2022," he said.

Mikel Landa

Age: 31
Rider Type: Stage racer
2022 Team: Bahrain Victorious 

The Spaniard looked solid enough in several week-long stages races in 2021 but unfortunately for both him and his team he unravelled in the Grand Tours with a devastating crash at the Giro followed by a lukewarm display at the Vuelta that ended with him quitting on stage 17. 

The team still felt confident in extending his contract for a further two years, but with Jack Haig developing nicely and a gaggle of other riders vying for their own chances it’s fair to say that Landa needs to respond. 

It might be that the dilution of leadership and pressure suits the Spaniard and frees him from the responsibility of making big plays in the three-week campaigns but he definitely needs to find something like his 2020 form if he’s going to continue as a marquee rider for the team.

SAINTCYRLECOLE FRANCE MARCH 07 Arrival Sam Bennett of Ireland and Team Deceuninck QuickStep Celebration Arnaud Demare of France and Team Groupama FDJ Mads Pedersen of Denmark and Team Trek Segafredo during the 79th Paris Nice 2021 Stage 1 a 166km stage from SaintCyrlEcole to SaintCyrlEcole ParisNice on March 07 2021 in SaintCyrlEcole France Photo by Bas CzerwinskiGetty Images

(Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Sam Bennett

Age: 31
Rider Type: Sprinter
2022 Team: Bora-Hansgrohe

In terms of his character and general qualities as a human being, Bennett has nothing to prove. He showcased immense restraint and decorum in the summer when his boss went out of his way to constantly throw him under the bus. Said boss is finally seeing the consequences of his own actions play out in a financial sense, while Bennett heads to a team where his mental strength is unlikely to be questioned in such unfitting or unnecessary ways.

That said, after a season ravaged by injury and lack of racing, Bennett will want to prove that he’s still one of, if not the, best sprinter in the world. 

He returns to Bora-Hansgrohe – the team that stymied his Grand Tour plans during his first stint on the team – with complete leadership in the sprints and a leadout train he single-handedly picked. The conditions for success look almost perfect. If he and his leadout can find their groove early in the season, then we could see Irish rider have his best season to date.

Thibault Pinot

Age: 31
Rider Type: stage race
2022 team: Groupama FDJ

"I want to show I’m still here, because people have talked a lot since last year, saying I’m on holiday, enjoying life, having barbecues, that I don’t have the right mentality - loads of stupid things like that. I still have some pride, a bit of ego, and I want to show who I am."

That was Pinot back in August of this year and it’s reasonable to say that the sentiment still holds. This year saw the Frenchman rebuild his career piece by piece and although fireworks and highlights were thin on the ground, he still managed almost a full season of racing, minus a Grand Tour. 

In 2022 both he and his manager Marc Madiot will be hoping for a more significant stride forward with the Tour de France neatly pencilled in for July. There’s a long way to go before that point but the 31-year-old will be hoping to start well and build at his own pace before the seas of expectancy start to rise as the Tour begins to appear on the horizon. 

There’s still a wonderfully entertaining and talented rider in there, and he, Madiot, France and most of cycling all hope he’s on show next year.

Bob Jungels

Age: 29
Rider Type: stage race
2022 Team: AG2R

No blame can be attributed to Jungels for the season he endured in 2021 with a long-standing injury basically wiping away a year of the highly rated rider’s career. 

In an exclusive interview with Cyclingnews in November he talked at length about the physical as well as mental ordeals he’s faced but assuming he’s now fit and healthy 2022 represents a massive season in the 29-year-old’s career. 

It’s a contract season, which add its normal level of stress and pressure, but it’s also a year in which Jungles has the chance to re-establish himself a front runner in both the Classics and stage races. He’s on this list because 2022 represents a genuinely exciting period for the Luxembourg rider and AG2R.

VALDEBLORE LA COLMIANE FRANCE MARCH 13 Arrival Michael Matthews of Australia and Team BikeExchange during the 79th Paris Nice 2021 Stage 7 a 119km stage from Le Broc to Valdeblore La Colmiane 1501m Stage itinerary redesigned due to COVID19 lockdown imposed in the city of Nice ParisNice on March 13 2021 in Valdeblore La Colmiane France Photo by Bas CzerwinskiGetty Images

(Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Michael Matthews

Age: 31
Rider Type: One-day specialist/sprinter
2022 Team: Team BikeExchange Jayco

The Australian returned to Gerry Ryan’s BikeExchange to much fanfare but the versatile all-rounder had a season to forget in 2021 with no wins and a long list of near-misses. It wasn’t what he or the team were expecting and Matthews has talked openly about stretching himself too thin throughout this year. 

Going into the new season and Matthews appears to be moving in the right direction. He’s cut out several off-bike distractions and after a year of re-embedding himself, he will be hoping to hit the ground running when he starts racing in March. While the Grand Tours and the Classics remain high on his agenda it’s not impossible to envisage that the team send him to some smaller races early in the year in order to get some runs on the board as he looks to build some momentum. No sprinter wants to end the year without a win and Matthews will be looking to prove that he’s still an elite calibre rider.

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Daniel Benson

Daniel Benson was the Editor in Chief at Cyclingnews.com between 2008 and 2022. Based in the UK, he joined the Cyclingnews team in 2008 as the site's first UK-based Managing Editor. In that time, he reported on over a dozen editions of the Tour de France, several World Championships, the Tour Down Under, Spring Classics, and the London 2012 Olympic Games. With the help of the excellent editorial team, he ran the coverage on Cyclingnews and has interviewed leading figures in the sport including UCI Presidents and Tour de France winners.