Candidate cage match: Alejandro Valverde vs. Sean Kelly

Two great all-around riders who were/are at their best in one day races, but very competitive in stage races and GTs.

King Kelly:

GTs
TDF: 5 stages, 4 points jerseys
Vuelta: 1 overall, 1 other podium, 16 stages, four points jerseys

Shorter stage races
Paris-Nice: 7 consecutive titles
TdS: 2 titles
5 other major stage race wins

Monuments
MSR: 2 wins, 1 other podium
Paris-Roubaix: 2 wins, 1 other podium
Tour of Flanders: 3 podiums
LBL: 2 wins
Lombardia: 3 wins, 1 other podium

Other 1-day races
Gent-Wevelgem
WC: 2 podiums

Bala Verde

GTs

TDF: 1 podium, 4 stages
Giro: 1 podium 1 stage
Vuelta: 1 overall, 6 other podiums, 4 points jerseys, 13 stages

Shorter stage races
Dauphine: 2 wins
14 Spanish stage race wins

Monuments
LBL: 4 wins, 3 other podiums
Lombardia: 4 podiums

Other 1-day races
Fleche: 5
San Sebastian
WC: 1 win, 6 other podiums

Kelly has the edge in monuments, with 9 wins—including every one except Flanders--and 5 other podiums. Valverde has 4 wins, all in LBL, and 7 other podiums. But Valverde has 1 WC and 6 other podiums, to just 2 podiums for Kelly.

Valverde also has the edge in GTs, having podiumed in all three, with one Vuelta win and 6 other podiums, with a combined total of 18 stage wins, and 4 points jerseys, all in the Vuelta. Kelly, like Valverde, won the Vuelta once, with one other podium, 21 combined stage wins and 8 points jerseys in the Vuelta and TDF.

Valverde (Sr. Podium) has a total of 21 non-winning podiums in monuments, WC, and GTs. I wonder if that is a record.
 
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Kelly had by far the greater range of one day classics success but this is arguably cancelled out by a combination of the greater climbing ability of Valverde giving him more GT GC results and the greater specialisation across pro road cycling in the 21st century making a career like Sean Kelly’s almost unimaginable now.

I prefer Kelly but I think it is very very close and kudos to the OP for the matchup and palmares summaries for each rider.
 
Reactions: Invicituz
Two legends!
Kelly better one-day rider, Valverde better in GT's. In shorter stage races they were both exceptional.
Overall, despite me being a massive Bala fan, I must say King Kelly has the edge.

Oh, and one note, Valverde has 3 Lombardia podiums, not 4, so that gives him a total of 20 major podiums which very likely might be a record...
 
Reactions: Cookster15
Two legends!
Kelly better one-day rider, Valverde better in GT's. In shorter stage races they were both exceptional.
Overall, despite me being a massive Bala fan, I must say King Kelly has the edge.

Oh, and one note, Valverde has 3 Lombardia podiums, not 4, so that gives him a total of 20 major podiums which very likely might be a record...
Well, first places are also podiums, so that figure should be 26, 27 if you count Liège 2010.
 
Well if you count 2010 LBL he does have 21 non winning podiums in major races. I would guess that is a record, but I don't know for sure. I do know he holds the record for most Ardennes podiums with 17 (does not include 2010).

Not if if the two middle east races Valverde won should be counted or not, but he has won there twice.

Valverde and Kelly are two of the most versatile riders in cycling history and I think these stats prove that. Kelly a better one day rider with more range there, while Valverde is the better stage racer and better climber. I think in a way the biggest difference that makes Valverde's palmares more impressive is that he's racing in an age of specialization. That doesn't take away from what Kelly did.
 
Reactions: gregrowlerson
Both of these guys are money racers. Kelly probably had a more challenging schedule to accomplish what he did in an era where you made your own support. That challenge adds emphasis to his range of wins.
Valverde has the same will and may have thrived in Kelly's time but has benefitted from an era where teams are more organized and support is better. That, alone could prolong a career.
 
Valverde has a total of 21 non-winning podiums in monuments, WC, and GTs. I wonder if that is a record.
Yep, a record.
Closest are Poulidor with 17, Moser 16 and Gimondi 15.

He's also very high on the list of total podiums (including wins) in those races:
Merckx - 45
Valverde - 26
Coppi - 25
Gimondi - 25
Moser - 24
Bartali - 23
De Vlaeminck - 22
Hinault - 21
 
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Blanco, thanks for that information. Not that anyone was underestimating Valverde's place in history, but this underscores it even more. No one else in your list was active after 1990 (Kelly by my count comes in at 19), which speaks to Koronin's point about our current age of specialization.
 
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Reactions: Blanco and Koronin
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Blanco, thanks for that information. Not that anyone was underestimating Valverde's place in history, but this underscores it even more. No one else in your list was active after 1990 (Kelly by my count comes in at 19), which speaks to Koronin's point about our current age of specialization.
Yes, for the record, Sean Kelly has achieved a total of 19 podiums, including wins, in those races.
Monuments: 15
Grand Tours: 2
World Championships: 2

This total could have been 20, but for his forced withdrawl from the 1987 Vuelta, due to a saddle boil, while in the race leaders jersey.
 
Reactions: Koronin
Yes, for the record, Sean Kelly has achieved a total of 19 podiums, including wins, in those races.
Monuments: 15
Grand Tours: 2
World Championships: 2

This total could have been 20, but for his forced withdrawl from the 1987 Vuelta, due to a saddle boil, while in the race leaders jersey.
Which shows the monuments were where Kelly really thrived. Valverde's are more equally spread across the spectrum.

Valverde: 26
Monuments: 10
Grand Tours: 9
World Championships: 7

One other interesting note, Kelly and Valverde hold the record for most Green Jerseys at la Vuelta with 4 each.
 
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According to procyclingstats.com, the most top-10s Valverde achieved in one season was 47 in 2015.

According to procyclingstats.com, the most top-10s Kelly achieved in one season was 102 in 1985.
 
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The only other rider of this generation who’s comparable to Valverde is Nibs, who has has 11 podiums in GTs, and 6 in monuments, for a total of 17. Not too many other riders in this century have even podiumed in both a GT and a monument. I can come up with Purito, Sammy Sanchez, Vino, Andy Schleck, DiLuca, and Cunego. Any more?

Another remarkable fact. Valverde and Cadel Evans are the only riders to win both a GT and a WC since Olano, whose last win in either category was in 1995.
 
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Reactions: Koronin
Slightly different riders as many mentioned. Both have fantastic records.

Monuments don't matter to me as it's an artificial category, somewhat recently introduced. When Kelly was riding, FW was every bit as big if not bigger than AGR. So was GW. La Vuelta was an after-thought: heck Indurain never won it. He could have, he didn't. The "comparing different eras" disclaimer applies here.

Kelly won a lot, Valverde won a lot and he's not done. We could go to PCS and get an answer. Argue that PN is not equal to a Dauphine, maybe 80% if that. Or also consider the level of competition. Stats, math, and the likes, which we do a lot.

Personally, although Kelly won a bit more in my opinion, I consider that Valverde's longevity gives him an edge. Regardless of the competition, over two generations of riders, Valverde has dominated or been a factor in major races.

Also, I would point out THE one rendez-vous, the prize, the WRRC. Rainbow, glory and eternal fame. That's not even close. Not just the win, but the number of podiums puts Valverde on top in my opinion.

I like the Nibali argument, or Vino too by the way.
 
The only other rider of this generation who’s comparable to Valverde is Nibs, who has has 11 podiums in GTs, and 6 in monuments, for a total of 17. Not too many other riders in this century have even podiumed in both a GT and a monument. I can come up with Purito, Sammy Sanchez, Vino, Andy Schleck, DiLuca, and Cunego. Any more?
Basso, Scarponi, Simoni, Fränk Schleck, Garzelli, Hamilton, Urán and Riccò all did it too. And in newer times, Pinot, Chaves and Bardet, too.
 
IMHO Lombardia podiums shouldn't count when making the comparison. It's a weird race at the end of the season that no one targets. Many GC riders end up with a good result there but would never be competitive an any other pre-October one day race.
 
Reactions: gregrowlerson
I think it's a good argument we need more mountainious one day races tbh.
Do we really? Since grand tours are already there for climbers, I don't feel like there should be an overflow of mountainous one day races as well. If anything I would say that there should be another WT stage race apart from the Binckbank Tour that is oriented to classics riders.
 
I don't know if we really need more mountainous one day races. However, I'd love to see a one day race that has both mountains and cobbles in it.

I agree with Bonimenier one more stage race that is more for the classics riders than just Binkbank Tour.
 

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