He had already been pretty consistent with his abilities today during the whole season before the Tour, and as such he wasn't supposed to do much there, just get to know the race and be a domestique for Heras (who turned out not needing any domestiquing).rhubroma said:Still what's striking to me is that most of the pure talents were very good even in their first Tour years. From Merxce, to Hinault, to Fignon, to Lemond, to Pantani in the mountains, to even Ullrich.
It does seem odd that as evidently talented as AC has shown himself to be since his first Tour, that he was so far out of contention in that race. Of course, the same could be said of Indurain and Armstrong, but with the record of grand tour wins AC has put up since his first years, you would have thought - I'm not saying podiumed in his first Tour - but done something a little bit more consistent with his abilities today.
Anyway, in the 80s it was easier to get to the top because you relied on your raw talent alone, so barring injuries or botched training programs the real talents shone. In the 90s and 00s you had another disadvantage as a young rider: the guys ahead of you had been using you-know-what in training for ages.
Still, Pantani was almost 2 years older than Contador in his first Tour and had already rode two Giros, while for Contador the 2005 Tour was his GT debut. I don't think Ullrich was a typical case at all.
If you compare Contador to his current rivals, Andy Schleck is probably the only one who qualifies as "great GC rider almost immediately". Things go slower nowadays.