Cadel Evans: Yay or Nay on EPO

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I didn't comment on this yesterday but this quote deserves a reply.
  1. Most of us improve at that age. Evans was 26 in 2003.
  2. Dramatically? Evans's mental outlook improved after his worlds win. Plus he had plenty of great results before then e.g. Commonwealth Games TT gold medal (beating Mick Rogers). The issues at Telekom were complex it was strange they didn't select him to ride the TdF at least to support Ullrich, I haven't read a convincing explanation for that.
  3. Cadel was fortunate to have hit pay dirt in 2011 before age took its toll. I think his physiological peak (for grand tours) was around the time of the 2007 TdF when he was 30.
Naturally by going from being mostly a domestique to getting more chances to ride for yourself to eventually becoming a team leader, you'll will get more and better results, which was also the case for Evans. So I agree that in itself it isn't evidence of anything.

Still Evans level grew dramatically before he became WC on the road. He only won the Tour afterwards though, so that may very well have played a part in him finally succeeding, but I can't see him being able to come so close to winning it previously, if he wasn't doing at least the bare minimum.

I have to admit that at the time, I believed Evans could be clean/cleaner than those who beat him, because he seemed more human, never went thermonuclear, usually couldn't follow the very best every single day and could get dropped like a ton of bricks on a bad day.
Today I will gladly take my hat off to him, if he was able to finish 4th on Col d'Aubisque in 2007 on a day after a rest day, where others had received blood transfusions during the night, simply on talent.

Of course it's not impossible that the effects of doping have been largely overestimated in order for the doctors and the "doctors" to make more money, but I still don't find it likely that someone would actually have made it to the top without using PEDs, even if it were possible, because of the way the sport had developed over the years.
 
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I have to admit that at the time, I believed Evans could be clean/cleaner than those who beat him, because he seemed more human, never went thermonuclear, usually couldn't follow the very best every single day and could get dropped like a ton of bricks on a bad day.
Today I will gladly take my hat off to him, if he was able to finish 4th on Col d'Aubisque in 2007 on a day after a rest day, where others had received blood transfusions during the night, simply on talent.
I remember that Aubisque stage. I never saw Evans suffer so badly except perhaps on stage 18 of 2011 TdF chasing Andy. Contador showed some weakness towards the end of that stage which was when Rasmussen’s team pulled the plug to avoid embarrassment. Evans ride that day was human and as I wrote earlier 2007 was likely close to his physiological peak as a grand tour rider.

The following year Evans crashed badly on stage 9 which is likely why he couldn’t limit losses to Sastra on the Alpe or his underwhelming TT. I don’t think his post WC mindset would have overcome those injuries. The graceless Armstrong said something disparaging about the field that year.

The following day to Hautacam he fought to get yellow by 1 second which may have been ill advised knowing his injuries and the energy expended But everyone is an expert in hindsight.
 
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Reactions: Samu Cuenca
Is there any data on how bikes and gear compare between the 90s and now in the mountains?
Far from my area of specialty, but the most noticeable improvements should be lighter road bikes (~6.8-7.3 kg vs. ~8-9 kg), and aerodynamic frames/components. Drag plays a noticeable role even in ascents at speeds of 20-22 km/h. In addition to this, the gradient is never uniform, but many 7-8 % climbs have some semi-flat 2-4 % portions, where the speed is faster and drag plays a bigger role.

But even the "marginal gains" by other improvements may accumulate to a noticeable advantage, because every individual component of bike should've progressed (or at least stayed the same), some perhaps adding speed (better lubricants --> lower chain friction?) while others making the cycling more comfortable (e.g. electronic gear shifter). One interesting area of focus introduced by Team Sky was optimizing the sizes of almost every component to be optimal for every rider to a millimeter.

To give a perfect non-answer to the actual question, I have no data nor idea on what magnitude the benefit is vs. the 1990s. :rolleyes:
 
Reactions: Red Rick
It should be emphasized that the (on average) 3-4 % boost took place when hematocrit was increased by modest 5-6 %-points, but athletes in the EPO era weren't this cautious, e. g Claudio Chiappucci's Hct went (with EPO) from 35.7 % to 60.7 %, ~ five-six times the amount in the blood transfusion paper. There are also some naturally higher responders, but on the other hand, it is very unlikely that every consecutive Hct increase would give similar boost as the preceding one.

The comparison of ascent times are also interesting -- they reveal some patterns, but still many factors can affect the results, e.g weather, team strategy and even where in the calendar of the GT the ascent is located, early on or later, first or last in a series of mountain stages etc.

In 1996, Hautacam was only the second full-length mountain stage preceded by ~ 57 hours of riding in the Tour. There had been one short mountain time trial and one mountain stage was shortened due to bad weather.

In 2014 it was the sixth mountain stage in the race, and the stage took place after ~ 76 hours of riding.

In one recent study, Vo2Max of elite cyclists fell by 9 % in the course of the Vuelta, and power outputs by 12-15 %. There is at least tendency for the later stages to be slower for that reason alone.
For the elite climbers with the best preparations possible, they climb fast all weeks of a GT. Quintana was as impressive on Alpe d'Huez and Semnoz in 2013 as Froome was on the first two MTF. Similar in 2015, the most impressive climbing performance was the last mountain stage. Nibali was no slower on Hautacam than he was on Chamrousse.

And when we compare how much is gained from doping (to a totally clean alternative), you should also consider if the first two weeks in 1996 would be easier for a clean rider than the first two and a half week in 2014. And I don't get your times for how long they rode in the Tour, Riis was leading the GC after Hautacam in the time of 74h08'26'' (including bonus seconds), so he had 73h30' in the legs at the bottom (Nibali was at 80h).

The reason I mention the climbing speed in the 90's, is because Evans competed at the elite level of MTB before the epo test, which should mean that all his strongest competitors were on epo. Do we really think Evans could have had the natural talent for MTB that would make him ~10 % faster than everyone else? Really?!
 
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Evans not only competed brutally hard in the drug fueled days of the TDF but he was always (up until last few years) flying at prep races and competing for the win. Always did well at Paris Nice / Tirreno or Romandie and had big goes at Dauphine.

Decent half year long high level would be hard to obtain naturally.
 
TBH, I actually do not know where the Riis figure came from, but the 1996 hours are wrong, and it is 100 % my error, mea culpa.

The difference of second vs. sixth full-length mountain stages still stands (FWIW). As I quoted, there is a tendency for the sustaineable watt output to fall in the course of a GT. If there is extra motivation (e.g. knowledge that the race is essentially over after the stage) or other reasons for cyclists to overcome this fall, the uttermost limit in what is physiologically possible tends to be lower.

About Hautacam specifically, one should also question if the routes were even closely similar between 1996 and 2014.

The 1996 edition was essentially a flat stage with the one final ascent, whereas in the 2014 edition, Hautacam wasn't even the most difficult ascent. And yes, the stage was shorter in 2014.





Everyone can see the ascent times of e.g. Alpe d'Huez, and conclude that the speeds were 10-15 % faster in the 1990s, and that the increase was 100 % explained by EPO, therefore EPO gives 10-15 % boost in speed. I am not convinced that the difference was necessarily that high ceteris paribus, nor that it was fully even EPO-fueled.
 
The difference of second vs. sixth full-length mountain stages still stands (FWIW). As I quoted, there is a tendency for the sustaineable watt output to fall in the course of a GT.
For a clean rider, sure. Not with blood bags and the rest of the cocktail. The fastest Alpe d'Huez ascent since the passport was in 2015 (after setting the record on the rarely full gas ridden side of Croix de Fer) on stage 20. Though, it was a short stage that was far easier than the stage in 1995 (where the record was 7.36 % faster, so similar difference as for Hautacam).

When they are sat up well and go all out, you don't see a drop in performance for the very best. Their program and training is timed for that. See Horner on Angliru etc.

And even the 80's don't serve as the clean counter factual, you have to consider that as well, even if they mostly didn't use blood doping.

There are several strings in an advanced doping program and all the effects add up to way more than in the simple lab tests. Just how great an improvement did Riis make from 1992 to 1993? And even after that massive jump, he still kept on improving - for sure thanks to the effects of his doping.
 
That is pretty much an assertions after assertion based on the premise that particularly blood doping in all of its forms is almost a magic potion that explains almost every collective or individual improvement. Because doping strategies, the magnitude of use are very much unknown, all scenarios do fit into the narrative one way or another.

Too bad that the ascent times are almost apples vs. oranges even when there was more generally a noticeable increase in speeds in the 1990s, measured and documented e.g. in the famed paper by Nour El-Helou et al.
 
I remember that Aubisque stage. I never saw Evans suffer so badly except perhaps on stage 18 of 2011 TdF chasing Andy. Contador showed some weakness towards the end of that stage which was when Rasmussen’s team pulled the plug to avoid embarrassment. Evans ride that day was human and as I wrote earlier 2007 was likely close to his physiological peak as a grand tour rider.
He wasn't able to follow Contador and Rasmussen on Aubisque, but he hadn't been able follow them during most of the race, so that was hardly a surprise. But if he really hadn't done anything on the rest day or in the early morning that wasn't against the official rules, then I just don't believe he would have finished 4th that day. Again I might be too influenced by accounts from riders who were doping at the time to actually believe anyone was absolutely clean then (or today for that matter).
 
“evidence”.
He wasn't able to follow Contador and Rasmussen on Aubisque, but he hadn't been able follow them during most of the race, so that was hardly a surprise. But if he really hadn't done anything on the rest day or in the early morning that wasn't against the official rules, then I just don't believe he would have finished 4th that day. Again I might be too influenced by accounts from riders who were doping at the time to actually believe anyone was absolutely clean then (or today for that matter).
As I wrote, considering how he matched Rasmussen all Tour young 24 year old Contador showed no signs of a rest day blood bag on that Aubisque stage.

As for what you heard them say, other pro riders don’t generally like admitting they are less talented. Very normal. As for Evans being able to follow when he did he was obviously at his extreme limits and cracked spectacularly on at least one occasion (PdB). For this he was accused of being a wheel sucker.

We have already covered ground that the boost is possibly much lower than we all assume for athletes with a very high VO2 max to begin with.
 
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You guys do know he bragged about having a "Ferrari engine" right?
Ferraris are very fast cars with powerful engines right? This is less convincing than the one off Ferrari meeting “evidence”.

If you test with a 87 VO2 max I think you are entitled to think in human terms you have a Ferrari engine even though obviously that is a poor choice of word to utter about yourself in this sport with that Doctor’s reputation.
 
I remember that Aubisque stage. I never saw Evans suffer so badly except perhaps on stage 18 of 2011 TdF chasing Andy. Contador showed some weakness towards the end of that stage which was when Rasmussen’s team pulled the plug to avoid embarrassment. Evans ride that day was human and as I wrote earlier 2007 was likely close to his physiological peak as a grand tour rider.

The following year Evans crashed badly on stage 9 which is likely why he couldn’t limit losses to Sastra on the Alpe or his underwhelming TT. I don’t think his post WC mindset would have overcome those injuries. The graceless Armstrong said something disparaging about the field that year.

The following day to Hautacam he fought to get yellow by 1 second which may have been ill advised knowing his injuries and the energy expended But everyone is an expert in hindsight.
The biggest problem on the Alpe was that Kohl had pushed it a bit too far earlier in the race and flushed his final blood bag after being told to tone it down. He was the main potential ally Evans had on that stage, but after Sastre went, while Evans followed when the Schlecks made moves to stop them riding across to help Sastre, he went into typical-for-the-time Evans mode, letting Kohl pace long after it was clear the Austrian didn't have it on the day, and sulked after things got away from him. This can also be seen in the 2009 Dauphiné, when once it's clear he - in the yellow jersey - is not getting any help from Contador or other GC guys while Szmyd and Valverde have their deal, he doesn't take turns or set that strong a pace as Fuglsang and others escape from the group unchallenged. The last week of the 2009 Vuelta is similar, with him not even really trying to gain back any of the time lost to Valverde on Sierra Nevada after a brief foray on La Pandera is unsuccessful when Valverde had a great recovery ride.

He may not have won - but it would have gone a long way to silencing a lot of the criticism at the time, and also prevent him developing the reputation that he later worked so hard to overcome. But as Óscar Freire said, "in order to win, first you must be prepared to lose" - and I'd actually argue that his 2010 Giro, where he finished 5th, is actually a bigger success for him than either the 2007 Tour or 2009 Vuelta, both of which he podiumed - because he got the stage win and the secondary jersey. 2008 Tour he held the maillot jaune for several days so that counters it. Evans got a lot of stick at that time for negative racing, and while it wasn't always as bad as perceived, he did seem to have a tendency to get discouraged easily, making a move and if it didn't pay off, retreating into his shell immediately. 2009 Dauphiné to Saint-François-Longchamp is actually a sign of things to come, as he attempted to shake Valverde a number of times, although every move was the same, a standing attack from on the front. It was like a dry run for the late career renaissance, whereas week 3 of the Vuelta that year - especially after such a disappointing Tour, where the most memorable thing was his being turfed out of a breakaway because the other fugitives feared they'd be chased down with him there - was like a final hurrah of the old Cuddles who cost himself chances to win.
 
The biggest problem on the Alpe was that Kohl had pushed it a bit too far earlier in the race and flushed his final blood bag after being told to tone it down. He was the main potential ally Evans had on that stage, but after Sastre went, while Evans followed when the Schlecks made moves to stop them riding across to help Sastre, he went into typical-for-the-time Evans mode, letting Kohl pace long after it was clear the Austrian didn't have it on the day, and sulked after things got away from him. This can also be seen in the 2009 Dauphiné, when once it's clear he - in the yellow jersey - is not getting any help from Contador or other GC guys while Szmyd and Valverde have their deal, he doesn't take turns or set that strong a pace as Fuglsang and others escape from the group unchallenged. The last week of the 2009 Vuelta is similar, with him not even really trying to gain back any of the time lost to Valverde on Sierra Nevada after a brief foray on La Pandera is unsuccessful when Valverde had a great recovery ride.

He may not have won - but it would have gone a long way to silencing a lot of the criticism at the time, and also prevent him developing the reputation that he later worked so hard to overcome. But as Óscar Freire said, "in order to win, first you must be prepared to lose" - and I'd actually argue that his 2010 Giro, where he finished 5th, is actually a bigger success for him than either the 2007 Tour or 2009 Vuelta, both of which he podiumed - because he got the stage win and the secondary jersey. 2008 Tour he held the maillot jaune for several days so that counters it. Evans got a lot of stick at that time for negative racing, and while it wasn't always as bad as perceived, he did seem to have a tendency to get discouraged easily, making a move and if it didn't pay off, retreating into his shell immediately. 2009 Dauphiné to Saint-François-Longchamp is actually a sign of things to come, as he attempted to shake Valverde a number of times, although every move was the same, a standing attack from on the front. It was like a dry run for the late career renaissance, whereas week 3 of the Vuelta that year - especially after such a disappointing Tour, where the most memorable thing was his being turfed out of a breakaway because the other fugitives feared they'd be chased down with him there - was like a final hurrah of the old Cuddles who cost himself chances to win.
I disagree about the Alpe in 2008. It seems you think Cadel could have reacted similarly to his fight against Andy on the Galibier in 2011? Everyone discounts that crash on stage 9. He tore his nicks and jersey to shreds and was grazed and bruised right down his left side. Crash injuries like that don't always show immediately, but it saps strength. Meanwhile the fresh and uninjured Sastra rode low key all Tour as the Schlecks lured Evans into wasting energy chasing them. Carlos then unleashed a 39' ascent into a headwind. Anyhow it was also too much for Menchov who also attempted to cross to Sastre and didn’t have Cadel’s disadvantages.

I agree with some of your other points and this is his change of mindset post worlds win.
 
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I disagree about the Alpe in 2008. It seems you think Cadel could have reacted similarly to his fight against Andy on the Galibier in 2011?
It's less about expecting him to pull out that kind of recovery ride and more about expecting him to be more proactive in the chase given what was at stake. He might not have won, but taking a back seat in the chase and riding passively when on the back foot was what he had a reputation for, and it just put more fuel on the fire of that reputation for negative racing at the time, and given some of his highly-strung off-bike behaviour at that Tour that certainly played a role in the negative characterisation of him at the time. Yes, if he'd gone out to try to limit his losses and taken charge of pacing that group rather than accepting his fate and sulking about it, it might have cost him 2nd place; but as Óscar Freire said, in order to win, first you must be prepared to lose. He already had one 2nd place at the Tour and seemed to be letting what, at the time, seemed like it might be his best ever shot (what with Contador absent and Andy Schleck at that time seen as the coming man) slip out of his grasp.

Though given the circumstances of 2006-7 he could be forgiven for arguing in favour of holding fast to 2nd on the basis that it could turn into 1st later.
 
It's less about expecting him to pull out that kind of recovery ride and more about expecting him to be more proactive in the chase given what was at stake. He might not have won, but taking a back seat in the chase and riding passively when on the back foot was what he had a reputation for, and it just put more fuel on the fire of that reputation for negative racing at the time, and given some of his highly-strung off-bike behaviour at that Tour that certainly played a role in the negative characterisation of him at the time. Yes, if he'd gone out to try to limit his losses and taken charge of pacing that group rather than accepting his fate and sulking about it, it might have cost him 2nd place; but as Óscar Freire said, in order to win, first you must be prepared to lose. He already had one 2nd place at the Tour and seemed to be letting what, at the time, seemed like it might be his best ever shot (what with Contador absent and Andy Schleck at that time seen as the coming man) slip out of his grasp.

Though given the circumstances of 2006-7 he could be forgiven for arguing in favour of holding fast to 2nd on the basis that it could turn into 1st later.
Except Evans didn't take a back seat. Watch - around 1'24". The crash is why he didn't have the strength to do any more. Most of the negative characterizations of Evans came from 2007 when he could do no more than try to hang on to Contador and Rasmussen's wheels. In fact if he rode tempo on PdB he finishes with Levi and wins that Tour.

(12) 2008 Tour de France stage 17 - YouTube
 
Except Evans didn't take a back seat. Watch - around 1'24". The crash is why he didn't have the strength to do any more. Most of the negative characterizations of Evans came from 2007 when he could do no more than try to hang on to Contador and Rasmussen's wheels. In fact if he rode tempo on PdB he finishes with Levi and wins that Tour.

(12) 2008 Tour de France stage 17 - YouTube
3,5km to go is already 3/4 the way up the climb and Sastre went at the bottom. The gap was already 2 minutes by that point.

What's your take on Sastre and doping? He's a good comparable, consistently a good strong climber and GT performer through the mid 2000s, rising to the very top during the clean-up operation 2006-8. Sastre was always a much smarter climber but he lacked some of the weapons that Evans had (wasn't a fast finisher at all, didn't have any real one-day palmarès to speak of). Had a good reputation at the time. But in retrospect, like with Evans, that's probably a relative measure.
 
Thing is even after Evans got to the front the group still kept losing time to Sastre.

I don't think he had more to offer that day, simple as that, in my opinion. Not a conscious choice to do nothing and hope Sastre blows up by himself.
Agree. He did what he could. And the video shows he was on the front plenty. Naturally if you don't have the strength you look around for help.
 
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3,5km to go is already 3/4 the way up the climb and Sastre went at the bottom. The gap was already 2 minutes by that point.

What's your take on Sastre and doping? He's a good comparable, consistently a good strong climber and GT performer through the mid 2000s, rising to the very top during the clean-up operation 2006-8. Sastre was always a much smarter climber but he lacked some of the weapons that Evans had (wasn't a fast finisher at all, didn't have any real one-day palmarès to speak of). Had a good reputation at the time. But in retrospect, like with Evans, that's probably a relative measure.
Maybe watch more of the video, I only suggested that part. Sastre rode 39;30" into a headwind that day which is the 26th fastest time.


Sastre was a better pure climber than Evans no question but Cadel the better GC rider. But Sastre's 2008 time was quicker than Geraint Thomas in 2018 for example (41:16 ). Thomas had the benefit of riding behind his team who sacrificed themselves for much of the way even though there was some cat and mouse. So my take is 2008 Sastre is somewhat doubtful.
 

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