Primož Roglič holds the Giro d'Italia trophy over his head on the podium. Kate Wagner's profile photo is jankily edited in place of his face.

Our favourite Stories: The method and the madness of Kate Wagner

At least two of the selected five stories aren't wholly about Slovenians.

Jonny Long
by Jonny Long 29.12.2023 Photography by
Gruber Images
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Welcome to our year-end Favourite Stories series. To pick the best of our over 1,000 stories published this year, we assigned each of our staff and core contributors to write about someone else. Today, Jonny Long has a look at how Kate Wagner manages to bring the reader intimately inside everything she writes about.

You likely know the drill by now with these articles, unless this is the first one and if so then this could serve as a woefully inadequate introduction.

Kate Wagner is part enigma, part journalist, part internet sensation, part whatever she decides to do next. I saw her tweeting something about taking up sword lessons the other day but I already felt tired reading the tweet.

You don’t need me to tell you how talented she is, and it’s a privilege for us to publish her work at Escape Collective. She joined us on the ground at both the Spring Classics and Tour de France this year, where she produced a number of the pieces I’ve selected below to sum up her 2023. You’ve probably already read them, but they’re worth reading again. Soothingly excellent, like US Office re-runs, except with references to Dante’s Inferno, of course.

Inside a stunning Paris-Roubaix Femmes

When you send Kate to cover a race on the ground she’s always going to find something different. In this case, at Paris-Roubaix Femmes, in her debut in an Escape Collective jersey if you will, what she found was a seat in one of the HumanPowered Healthcare team cars.

Driving the Roubaix cobbles is usually a once in a lifetime experience – as your lower back will hardly thank you for the one time around the rugged farmers’ roads. That’s what makes the fact these riders turn up every year for more punishment, and do so expectantly, is only a small part of what makes Roubaix so special.

Read “At Paris-Roubaix, emotions hit as hard as cobbles” here.

Primož Roglič’s greatest victory freed him from his hardest loss

Celebration and catharsis for Primož Roglič. ©kramon

La Planche des Belles Filles at the 2020 Tour de France inspired Kate’s first piece of cycling writing, and it was so good it immediately launched her latest career (if you’re ever in her company, she’ll mention off-hand some other thing she studied or learned or worked at in a seemingly past life, I’m still trying to figure out the timeline to be honest).

There was no-one else better placed to write about Primož Roglič’s closing the chapter on his penultimate day Giro d’Italia triumph.

Read “Primož Roglič and the closed circle of longing” here.

Of course Tadej Pogačar has an office-park criterium in Slovenia

Entering the sport in the 2020s, specialising in Slovenian cycling is an obvious niche to go down as a reporter. The difference? Kate actually moved to mf-ing Slovenia for a few months to accelerate her learning of the language and do things like attend Tadej Pogačar’s office park crit.

Read “The Tadej Pogačar office-park crit” here.

Only time could resolve the suspense of the 2023 Tour de France

I’ll keep this one simple. I watched Kate write this entire story in a tiny notebook on the hood of an ASO car at the finish line of the Tour de France’s stage 16. I’ve never seen anyone else work like that before and I don’t think I ever will again (until the next time Kate does it in my vicinity, of course).

Read “The Tour de France exits purgatory” here.

How should we think about a team as dominant as Jumbo-Visma?

Alongside capturing the beauty of the sport, there is the need to critically evaluate what we are seeing. At the end of an utterly dominant campaign, it was time for an even-handed and nuanced assessment of Jumbo-Visma’s 2023 season.

Read “The trouble with dominance” here.

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