After concentrating solely on track cycling in 2020 and 2021 ahead of the Tokyo Olympic Games, Alexandra Manly (Team BikeExchange-Jayco) returned to the road for 2022 and has so far had a breakthrough season with four stages and the GC victory in the Thüringen Ladies Tour and a fourth place in The Women's Tour.
Manly confirmed her versatility at the Tour of Scandinavia by reaching the top-10 of five of the six stages, winning stage 4 with a good sprint after a clever late attack, and finishing the race on the overall podium.
"It's been a very good week in Scandinavia, to come home with third on the GC with this team is really special. I think we've bonded really well this week and it's been a great team effort from everybody, there's no way it would have happened without people learning from each day and committing to the plan every single day. We're super happy, the staff and everyone, it's been great," said Manly after the final stage.
In the classics season, Manly proved that she was far more than a track rider. She was her team's best finisher in the Tour of Flanders, Amstel Gold Race, and Brabantse Pijl, placing 18th, 12th, and 10th respectively, and showing that she is at her best after a hard race.
After a diversion to the track World Cup in Canada in mid-May, the 26-year-old came back at the Thüringen Ladies Tour where she turned heads by winning four of the stages herself, both in normal sprints and on uphill finishes. Of the two stages she didn't win, Manly had a teammate win one while a breakaway rider just made it to the finish on the other – with Manly in second place. Needless to say, she won the race overall and also took home the points jersey.
At The Women's Tour, Manly confirmed her class on a bigger stage, forgoing the flat sprints in favour of the more challenging stages. She was runner-up to super-sprinter Lorena Wiebes (Team DSM) on a hilly stage 3, made the decisive break on the even harder stage 4, and was only three seconds behind the winner on the stage 5 summit finish on the Black Mountain to finish fourth overall.
In the Tour of Scandinavia, Manly stepped up her game even further. After a 22nd place on stage 1 in a fast mass sprint, she never finished outside the top-ten, placing fifth and fourth behind perennial stage winner Marianne Vos (Team Jumbo-Visma) before seizing the moment on stage 4 and sprinting to victory in Mysen from a group of six that had formed in the final.
Stage 5 with a summit finish atop the 11-kilometre Norefjell climb was a tough ask for Manly. She profited from the fact that there were no attacks until three kilometres from the line, though, and could ride her own pace most of the time, closing the gap to some of the attackers to finish fifth and defend her GC podium place. On the final stage, Manly sprinted to eighth place.
In a form like this, Manly can be an important card to play for the Australian team at their home World Championships in Wollongong in September.
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Lukas Knöfler started working in cycling communications in 2013 and has seen the inside of the scene from many angles. Having worked as press officer for teams and races and written for several online and print publications, he has been Cyclingnews’ Women’s WorldTour correspondent since 2018.