Panache 2023

Panache 2023

Paying tribute to the greatest rides & defining moments of cycling in 2023.

26 December 2023

Panache – a word that doesn’t float into most conversations. But here at Rapha, it does. 

Derived from the Latin word pinnaculum, meaning small wing or peak (which also gives us the word pinnacle); the noun panache originally portrays a plumage of feathers in the headwear of nobility — a badge of honour and ye olde symbol for strength and swagger.

Ride back into the future, and panache in 2023 means – in cycling terms at least – exploits of courage and desire; forgoing any preconceived tactics and instead rolling on instinct, racing with cunning, and riding beyond limits. It’s what underlines cycling’s beauty — flashes of brilliance and pedalling against the odds to achieve greatness, no matter the prize.

And so, here is our annual celebration and highlights reel of those remarkable moments, glimpses of genius, guts and guile that define panache in the world’s greatest sport.

1. The Dream Finish | Alison Jackson at Paris Roubaix

“Bike racing is hard. Until now it’s always just been a dream.”

Pilot-of-the-pavé Alison Jackson showed resilience, patience and ultimately an awesome pair of legs to clinch victory in the world’s greatest one-day race. And she did it in the most dramatic, edge-of-the-saddle style. Jackson almost single handedly dragged the break onto the banks of Roubaix velodrome, driving the pace to ensure they weren’t caught by the bunch. Tracko Jacko then perfectly positioned herself, accelerating over the top of Marion Borras on the final bend to cross the line by a bike length and become the first Canadian to win the hallowed cobblestone trophy. 

“We’re gonna have a dance party.”

The reaction of her and the team immediately afterwards on the track is something to savour. And, of course we’re going to say this, is it any wonder she had the best legs considering her kit choice? Pro Team Knee and Arm Warmers may just have given her the edge over her bare-boned competitors. Put it down to experience, timing and maybe the kit sponsor…

2. Pluck of the Irish | Ben Healy at Liège-Bastogne-Liège

“I gave it a good go and on the first little dig, I went solo and just pushed on to the finish from there.”

We may as well move swiftly onto another of EF Pro Cycling’s big rides of the classics campaign, Ben Healy at leg-busting Liège-Bastogne-Liège. The Irishman’s fourth place in the 160 mile race in southern Belgium was made possible by his gargantuan efforts to close down Remcoe ‘Aerobullet’ Evenepoel over the last 30km. Alas, he missed the podium but it emphasised the 22-year-old’s class. Healy was 12 years old when fellow Èireannach Dan Martin won the Old Doyenne; let’s hope he can emulate him in the not-too-distant future.

“I just enjoy racing and being aggressive. Stage hunting is something I enjoy doing.”

We should also mention Healy’s showstopping stage win at the Giro; where he attacked on the Capuccini climb in the Appenines, and rode solo for 50km to an historic win in the heart of Italy. And you know what we’re gonna say about his kit too – a modified TT suit, a remixed version of which should soon be available to more riders worldwide.

3. Lucky 13 | Jackson Goldstone’s home run in Quebec

“Oh my god, what a day. I just went lights out on that run, I had nothing left.”

Another Canadian breaking ground, this time going very fast with full suspension. The young man from Whistler, Jackson Goldstone has had a crazy debut year as an elite rider and was the only athlete to win two World Cup events. And this final race of the season in Mont-Sainte-Anne, Quebec, was a truly awesome conclusion to his year. With the number 13 on his bike and back, the 19-year-old whipped the home crowd into a frenzy with a blistering final run. The diminutive downhill demon was swamped by friends and fans by winning with zero fear and a whole lot of skill.

4. Ivy League of Her Own | Kristen Faulkner shines in Europe

“Last year at the Giro I was off the back the whole time, so this year is pretty special”

Only four years ago Kristen Faulkner was working as a venture capitalist. In 2023 she won the Queen of the Mountains jersey and two stages at the Giro Donne. This Harvard computer science graduate fell in love with cycling at 23-years-old and having recently won the elite time trial at the Pan-American Games in Santiago, Chile; Kristen has her sights set on riding at the Olympics in 2024. Faulkner’s ride at the Strade Bianche – where she placed third on the podium – also proved her talent. And she’s just signed for EF Pro Cycling. Excellent.

5. Cosmic Kasia | Kasia Niewiadoma at the Gravel Worlds

“This is so sweet! I really don’t have words for it. It’s my first rainbow jersey. I’m just so happy!”

Kasia Niewiadoma hadn’t won a race since 2019, and then all of a sudden the Polka was back on the podium on seven occasions in 2023. Perhaps the most exciting of these was her UCI Gravel Worlds win in Italy. Attacking 20km out, Kasia proved her pedigree and pushed on for a gritty win in the Autumn sunshine.

6. Code Rojo | Sepp Kuss wins in Spain

“It’s a position I never expected to be in and that’s the beautiful thing about it.”

On the scorching roads of Spain this September, Sepp Kuss from Durango, CO did what neither Lance Armstrong nor Greg LeMond could do, and won the Vuelta a España. Speaking of LeMond, the inter-team battle which ensued between Kuss and his Jumbo-Visma colleagues had echoes of the ‘86 Tour where L’Americain duelled with his own team captain, Bernard Hinault. Kuss kicked on with both Roglič and Vingegaard pursuing, plus a party of other WorldTour wonders. Showing courage and focus, his crowning moment came on stage 17 where he would defend his lead despite being dropped by both Roglič and Vingegaard. Kuss kept calm and in contention to stay top of GC on the final kms of the gruelling Angliru.

7. Brother Courage | Lachlan Morton’s Tour Divide

Putting the ache into panache, Lachlan Morton’s self-sustained sallies across continents has become something of an art form. 

“In these moments I realise just how close to my mental limit I operate at, and the pleasure I get being there.”

Redefining the limits of what a pro racer can and will do to himself, this man really is exploring the wild frontier of endurance sport. The Tour Divide, riding the length of the USA, takes the pioneering spirit of bikepacking to a level that makes you bonk just thinking about it. 

The upcoming documentary capturing this adventure, filmed and directed by Gus Morton (Lachlan’s big brother) is something you shouldn’t miss and gives a beautiful insight into the madness of one man’s addiction for going long.

8. L39ION of Love | Sam Boardman at Tulsa Tough

“I try to be as complete a human as I can be, because I think at the end of the day this is a sport of individuals.”

Sam Boardman's win on Cry Baby Hill at Tulsa Tough this year was a sweet victory for one of the biggest-hearted heroes in the US peloton. A talented rider who has selflessly worked time after time to bring his teammates over the line first, Boardman broke away to have his moment. Fans of crit racing showed a huge outpouring of love for the universally admired Boardman. An emotional victory.

9. Ground Breaker | Keegan Swenson breaks Leadville 100 Record

“This year I was all-in. I was going to send it, I wanted to make it mine.”

Smashing the course record of arguably the world’s toughest mountain bike race, Keegan Swenson broke free from a group of 13 and rode solo for the victory, 25 minutes ahead of his closest chasers. Awesome.

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