A poignant exposé on a cyclist's popularity

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What I think makes a rider popular in general:
  • success first and foremost- some less successful riders might get more popular than they results would suggest but the riders with the biggest fanbases are pretty much exclusively big winners
  • nationality- whether you like it or not it's a big factor for most people
  • time of rising to the top- a rider who starts dominating against a bunch of well-liked riders will get more unpopular while a rider who stops the domination of a disliked rider will get more popular for example
  • relatable life story
  • charisma
What makes me to like a rider:
- some more random and superficial stuff than you would think.
I would claim that riding style is more important than the last three. Agressive/offensive riders that attacks a lot and wins important races due to this are generally more popular than wheelsuckers and GC riders in the same format as Wiggins and similar riders.

My favorites the last 10-15 years are Gilbert, Nibali, Aru and to somewhat degree Cancellara and Contador. I didn't care much for Valverde, Gerrans, Wiggins, etc.

My new favorite is denitely Van der Poel. Still haven't found a new GC favorite.
 
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would claim that riding style is more important than the last three. Agressive/offensive riders that attacks a lot and wins important races due to this are generally more popular than wheelsuckers and GC riders in the same format as Wiggins and similar riders.
I intended to include that point but forgot about it. Although I do think it's one of those things people tend to overstate and rationalise. As far as I was able to observe, a rider with low charisma and rising to the top at the wrong time will be often unjustly seen as having more "boring" riding style despite attacking just as often as someone else's favourites.
 
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Perfection is nice, until it gets too perfect. This somehow is why I have always liked Froome because he's kinda clumsy on a bike and yet everybody knows lightspeed.

Also Voeckler/Alaphilippe type of artistry

Also Bernal/Pidcock type of multitalent very lively lightweight but very explosive.

MVdP maybe the too perfect one for me. Prototype of perfect cyclist. Too much teflon.
 
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MVdP maybe the too perfect one for me. Prototype of perfect cyclist. Too much teflon.
Perfect how? He is far from being the best tactical rider.

The most "perfect" rider in the peloton now has to be Pogacar. The guy can climb, time trial, perform spectacular long range attacks, win sprints in small groups and win the top one day races. I can't ever remember seeing a more complete GC rider.
 
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Popularity at large is mostly based on achievements, media coverage, often blended with a dose of nationalistic pride. It often is limited to the rider's country of origin unless he/she wins big. And even then, is it love or just respect (think Merckx or Hinault)?

I see other attributes as being every bit as important, because they transcend borders, generations, trophy cases. Some riders have a story that moves the public and brings love their way. In '99, because of his story, Armstrong with his first TdF win* became way more popular than LeMond ever was. Some riders are easier to identify with: for example, Eugène Christophe is still mentioned in this forum on a regular basis. Anquetil never received the same amount of love from the French public as René Vietto did. Or Poupou for that matter.

Pantani had a tragic story and a riding style that earned him many fans. Bertie won a lot, but it's his attacking that earned him popularity outside of Spain. Same for Il Squalo (replace Spain by Italy). Vino is an option in this poll. Panache still is what makes cycling and riders popular with the public.

My $0.02
 
I know some people poo-poo the notion of supporting a rider based on their nationality -- fair enough -- but it just occurred to me that my bias is probably based on the popularity of the sport in said country.
Not to sound defensive -- believe me when I say I'm disturbed by my admitted preference for Canadian riders -- but I realize that I wouldn't base my preference on a hockey player based on where they come from. I would base it on experience and knowledge of the sport. If someone asked who my favourite type of hockey player is, I would base it on the type of game they play and my preference for different styles of play.
These nuances regarding cycling are not displayed in a country like Canada, where the sport is niche, to say the least. Sure, you have former pros and people intimately familiar with the sport who know what they're talking about; but it's not part of a broader discussion with the majority of people who have no clue. No one watches Cycling Night in Canada, because it doesn't exist. Hence the pull for riders in foreign countries who place the sport on the map for a short period of time e.g. Canada, Eritria, etc.
When Hesjedal won the Giro it became national news and every sports fan was thinking about cycling for a couple days before the subject disappeared. The same cannot be said of a country like, say, Belgium, for example. It's part of the cultural fabric, so sure, nationality takes a back seat.

p.s. Kudos to topcat for creating an interesting thread.
 
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I'm not answering this, I don't want to start a flamewar with the fans of Contador, Valverde, Froome, and De Gendt.
I see, what you did there!

---
Another thing I quite like, is riders who have a - public - identity outside cycling. Whether it's Pinot and his goats, Stuyven and his chocolate, or the various riders who have a higher level education, such as Elise Chabbey, a doctor, going to work at a hospital during lockdown.
 
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We've only just begun to explore the nuances of the topic of this thread. There's a couple of other threads on the "best" rider of the 2020s and a dog rough attempt at an all time ranking but here we're not so narrow minded. This thread is about the most likeable rider, that rider who has an ineffable quality that makes him oh so popular. Here's a list:
  1. Delgado
  2. Nibali
  3. Contador
  4. Gilbert
  5. Vino
  6. Valverde ( I know his fans are a bit much, but he has such grace on the bike)
  7. MAL
  8. MvdP
  9. Remco
  10. Lulu
 
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We've only just begun to explore the nuances of the topic of this thread. There's a couple of other threads on the "best" rider of the 2020s and a dog rough attempt at an all time ranking but here we're not so narrow minded. This thread is about the most likeable rider, that rider who has an ineffable quality that makes him oh so popular. Here's a list:
  1. Delgado
  2. Nibali
  3. Contador
  4. Gilbert
  5. Vino
  6. Valverde ( I know his fans are a bit much, but he has such grace on the bike)
  7. MAL
  8. MvdP
  9. Remco
  10. Lulu
I probably take things way too literally, but I cannot to profess to like a rider I don't know.
Sure, Nibali looks good on a bike, but so do I.
Sure, Delgado was the namesake of the awesome band The Delgados, but I've never met the guy. He could be a right prat (I'm trying to introduce awesome insults inspired by the British folk who have that ground fully covered. It's a virtual treasure trove. I just don't know if I'm using these terms in the appropriate manner, but I digress.)
Contador seems like a likable bloke (see what I did there?). I'd have a steak dinner with him any day.
Gilbert: I hate his guts. Just kidding. I've never met the guy!
Vino: He's very good looking. Dreamboat is the word.
Valverde: Head looks like a Chia Pet. Other than that, he seems ok.
I have no idea who MAL is, but I'm sure he's a likable bloke..
MVDP looks absolutely gorgeous on a bike. That's the only positive thing I can say about the guy, because, you know, I've never met him.
Remco, oh Remco. Where to start? Let's start by suggesting that he may be an alien from a far away planet. But yeah, seems like a nice guy.
Lulu, who are you? Lulu, who are you, who who?
 
What makes a cyclist popular? I consider it ridiculous to root for a cyclist just because he's your countryman. I cheer for cyclists based on
  1. Riding style and how graceful they are on the bike. Some riders just look good freewheeling while others look awkward.
  2. Charisma
  3. Attacking nature and improvisation
I'm on tenterhooks waiting for the myriad of responses.
I absolutely root for my countrymen first, and my Mom's countrymen (Belgians) second. Call me ridiculous, I like my country. I want our riders to win.

Of course how they ride and how they come across as a person are huge factors, which regularly will override my homerism. See Contador and MVDP. Don't care about the Spanish or the Dutch, but these are amazing riders, hugely talented, who rode/ride with style, passion, and panache.

Some riders make me genuinely dislike them because of lack of style, hideous form, crap tactics, obvious cheating, being a total a-hole, or insulting my intelligence in the media. See Froome for all but one of those, or Armstrong for the last 4.
 
Before 2009 the only snippets of cycling I heard was my parents watching the Tour and Armstrong winning being in my yearbook from 1999-2005. Armstrong riding got me into watching the 2009 Tour and by the end I was supporting the Schlecks, Cav, Armstrong, and Klöden against Contador. I watched every stage, beginning to end from 2009-2015. After the 2009 Tour I didn’t even know there was other races before and after, I thought it was a once a year thing. By the time 2010 came around, Phil and Paul mentioning Cav’s wins outside TdF, I investigated, found this forum, and more races. Somehow I evolved into supporting the original four, plus Contador and more while minus Armstrong. A lot of it maybe comes from the cycling video games and using them in that game. Now I support Cav, Valverde, Pinot, Demare, and Bernal in their races first and foremost but like others. Cav opened me up to the cycling world from his winning and personality, this forum added favorites to Ullrich, Contador, Boonen, and so much more.
 
MVdP maybe the too perfect one for me. Prototype of perfect cyclist. Too much teflon.
If MvdP would reliably string together Amstel's, Strade's and Mur de Bretagne's, yeah cheering for the guy would get stale.

Fortunately, we're never quite sure which MvdP we're gonna get. For every sheer display of dominance or victorious daredevil attack, there's a Yorkshire, Olympic MTB fiasco or a 2021 Ronde or Roubaix anti-climax. All those tremendous letdowns make the highs even greater.
 
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