Candidate cage match: Alejandro Valverde vs. Sean Kelly

Page 3 - Get up to date with the latest news, scores & standings from the Cycling News Community.
Oct 7, 2019
79
23
230
Kelly's Irish streak would likely see him take them to the barriers. Meaning he was seriously tough in a time where most good riders of his skills had to rely mostly on their own efforts. I disagree that they weren't at the top end of GT's; just that they attempted to do everything else in the same season unlike most true GT riders.

In the book, Sean Kelly: A Man For All Seasons, Kelly makes the point that building your entire season around a Grand Tour, was a risk he was never willing to undertake. Greg Lemond once said, "On his best day, there was nothing you could do against Kelly. He climbed better than the best climbers and sprinted better than the best sprinters."

Commentating on Eurosport, Kelly once said Valverde's Palmares was very impressive and finished by saying chapeau!
 
Reactions: Blanco and Koronin
Geraint Thomas, for example; the guy has skills across the board and could have made a bigger splash if he wasn't stuck in the Sky machine and Barloworld. I don't know if he possesses the sheer desire to earn for his family but he has had the physical skills to work a lot of these guys too.
Would he have made a bigger splash or just be a classic/TT as well as track rider? I'm sure he's earned enough for his family from his Olympic success and Sky/Ineos.
I think a better way would be if all present day riders majority of money came from winning, how competitive they would be with the other.
 
Reactions: Oldermanish
Except podiums do count, and Valverde's WC podium record is one that no one is close to and may never come close to. Valverde has more podiums in general. Also in the age of specialization Valverde is racing against different groups of specialists, while Kelly was racing, more or less, against the same people. Valverde is racing against classics riders who are peaking for the classics, then GT specialists who are peaking for the GT's and others who are peaking for specific smaller stage races, which he's trying to win everything he enters.

For wins Kelly has the edge of 10 - 6, but for podiums Valverde has the edge of 26 - 19. Podiums are meaningful.
Let's be clear on that. Kelly was racing against the likes of Vanderaerden, Moser, Madiot, Eddy Plankaert at Roubaix and Flanders. And against Saronni, Bontempi, Argentin at San Remo. And against Criquielion, Anderson, Rooks, at Liege and Lombardia. And while there was definitely some overlap between those races (the likes of Kuiper and van der Poel who could compete at them all) and some GT riders who rode classics more in those days (Fignon and Lemond both had one-day top 10s behind Kelly, and Indurain even had a top 10 at Liege in '89), there were definitely guys in those days who were classics specialists, and guys who were stage racers. And when Kelly went to the Vuelta, he was up against Herrera, Delgado, Parra etc, none of whom rode cobbles.

In 1986, Kelly won Paris Nice ahead of Zimmerman and Lemond and Pascal Simon, won San Remo ahead of Lemond and Saronni, came 2nd in Flanders behind vdPoel, then flew to the Basque country and won Itzulia ahead of Echave and Fuerte, then flew back to France and 2 days later won Roubaix ahead of Dhaenens and vdPoel.

It wasn't quite the level of specialization that you see nowadays, but while plenty of others were staying in their lanes, Kelly was going out of his way looking for races to win, and beating others (French, Italians, Belgians, Spanish) on their own turf.

Also, and all Kelly's GT performances have to be seen in this light, he was competing in sprint finishes day-in-day-out looking for green jersey points. He finished outside the top 20 on (IIRC) 2 stages of the 1989 Tour.
 
Let's be clear on that. Kelly was racing against the likes of Vanderaerden, Moser, Madiot, Eddy Plankaert at Roubaix and Flanders. And against Saronni, Bontempi, Argentin at San Remo. And against Criquielion, Anderson, Rooks, at Liege and Lombardia. And while there was definitely some overlap between those races (the likes of Kuiper and van der Poel who could compete at them all) and some GT riders who rode classics more in those days (Fignon and Lemond both had one-day top 10s behind Kelly, and Indurain even had a top 10 at Liege in '89), there were definitely guys in those days who were classics specialists, and guys who were stage racers. And when Kelly went to the Vuelta, he was up against Herrera, Delgado, Parra etc, none of whom rode cobbles.

In 1986, Kelly won Paris Nice ahead of Zimmerman and Lemond and Pascal Simon, won San Remo ahead of Lemond and Saronni, came 2nd in Flanders behind vdPoel, then flew to the Basque country and won Itzulia ahead of Echave and Fuerte, then flew back to France and 2 days later won Roubaix ahead of Dhaenens and vdPoel.

It wasn't quite the level of specialization that you see nowadays, but while plenty of others were staying in their lanes, Kelly was going out of his way looking for races to win, and beating others (French, Italians, Belgians, Spanish) on their own turf.

Also, and all Kelly's GT performances have to be seen in this light, he was competing in sprint finishes day-in-day-out looking for green jersey points. He finished outside the top 20 on (IIRC) 2 stages of the 1989 Tour.

If you want to go there, Valverde finished inside the top 50 of every single race and stage he completed over 200 consecutive times, which is a record. He also now holds the record for the most Grand Tour top 10 over all finishes and has only 3 overall GT finishes outside the top 10. All three of those come with extenuating circumstances (2 after having not raced a GT for at least 1 fully year and the other being his 3rd GT of the season and 5th in a row). Again in Kelly's time there was no where near the specialization that we have today. In this age of specialization it is rare for a non sprinter to get close to 100 victories let alone have more than 100.
 
Let's be clear on that. Kelly was racing against the likes of Vanderaerden, Moser, Madiot, Eddy Plankaert at Roubaix and Flanders. And against Saronni, Bontempi, Argentin at San Remo. And against Criquielion, Anderson, Rooks, at Liege and Lombardia. And while there was definitely some overlap between those races (the likes of Kuiper and van der Poel who could compete at them all) and some GT riders who rode classics more in those days (Fignon and Lemond both had one-day top 10s behind Kelly, and Indurain even had a top 10 at Liege in '89), there were definitely guys in those days who were classics specialists, and guys who were stage racers. And when Kelly went to the Vuelta, he was up against Herrera, Delgado, Parra etc, none of whom rode cobbles.

In 1986, Kelly won Paris Nice ahead of Zimmerman and Lemond and Pascal Simon, won San Remo ahead of Lemond and Saronni, came 2nd in Flanders behind vdPoel, then flew to the Basque country and won Itzulia ahead of Echave and Fuerte, then flew back to France and 2 days later won Roubaix ahead of Dhaenens and vdPoel.

It wasn't quite the level of specialization that you see nowadays, but while plenty of others were staying in their lanes, Kelly was going out of his way looking for races to win, and beating others (French, Italians, Belgians, Spanish) on their own turf.

Also, and all Kelly's GT performances have to be seen in this light, he was competing in sprint finishes day-in-day-out looking for green jersey points. He finished outside the top 20 on (IIRC) 2 stages of the 1989 Tour.
He appeared to be internationally respected by fans for his willingness to win anywhere. Don't think I ever saw video of Spanish or Italian fans being anything but supportive which wasn't always the case.
 
If you want to go there, Valverde finished inside the top 50 of every single race and stage he completed over 200 consecutive times, which is a record. He also now holds the record for the most Grand Tour top 10 over all finishes and has only 3 overall GT finishes outside the top 10. All three of those come with extenuating circumstances (2 after having not raced a GT for at least 1 fully year and the other being his 3rd GT of the season and 5th in a row). Again in Kelly's time there was no where near the specialization that we have today. In this age of specialization it is rare for a non sprinter to get close to 100 victories let alone have more than 100.
It might even be rare for today's sprinters to hit 100 wins as there are now many sprinters who are on an even field and usually 5 years at the top. Kittel didn't even get to 100. The 5 (6) highest right now below 100 are:
EBH(questionable) 33: 81
Kristoff 33: 79
Viviani 31: 78
Bouhanni 30: 67
Demare 28: 61
Groenewegen 27: 53
 
It might even be rare for today's sprinters to hit 100 wins as there are now many sprinters who are on an even field and usually 5 years at the top. Kittel didn't even get to 100. The 5 (6) highest right now below 100 are:
EBH(questionable) 33: 81
Kristoff 33: 79
Viviani 31: 78
Bouhanni 30: 67
Demare 28: 61
Groenewegen 27: 53

That's interesting. Currently we have 4 over 100, you're right it doesn't look like we'll get our next one to 100 for awhile.

For non sprinters Alaphilippe is likely the best pick with 30 wins at 28 years old. However, Valverde had 46 wins at the time he turned 28 and it took him well into his 30's to get to 100 wins. (The comparison is more for perspective for a non sprinter to reach that number).
 
That's interesting. Currently we have 4 over 100, you're right it doesn't look like we'll get our next one to 100 for awhile.

For non sprinters Alaphilippe is likely the best pick with 30 wins at 28 years old. However, Valverde had 46 wins at the time he turned 28 and it took him well into his 30's to get to 100 wins. (The comparison is more for perspective for a non sprinter to reach that number).
The 4 being Sagan, Valverde, Griepel, and Cav. 2 pure sprinters, 1 classic/sprinter, 1 GC/classic/hard sprinter. It'll be tight for Alaphilippe but I think he'll finish around Gilbert's total. The top sprinters now probably 40-80 wins. Kwiatkowski could have got close as well under different circumstances. The biggest thing is specialization, young up and comers being predominant, and your team.
 
The 4 being Sagan, Valverde, Griepel, and Cav. 2 pure sprinters, 1 classic/sprinter, 1 GC/classic/hard sprinter. It'll be tight for Alaphilippe but I think he'll finish around Gilbert's total. The top sprinters now probably 40-80 wins. Kwiatkowski could have got close as well under different circumstances. The biggest thing is specialization, young up and comers being predominant, and your team.

Yep. I guess in a way the funny part is Valverde was considered a sprinter by the peloton when he first turned pro. Depending on the way a stage finishes he is willing to get involved in field sprints even now and has won some, although it takes a perfect set of circumstances. I suspect your right about Alaphilippe ending with a total near Gilbert, although I don't expect him to race into his late 30's. Of the younger sprinters I think Ewan and Gaviria may have the best chances to get close to 100 if they can stay healthy. Now this crop of young kids (Pogacar, Higuita, Evenpoel, etc) we need to see them for a few more years to see if they can project out to the kind of totals needed to get to 100. Valverde has an average of about 8 wins per season, which takes into 13 seasons to get to 100 wins. It takes a very talented rider who is a prolific and consistent winner over a lot of seasons to get to that number.
 
The 4 being Sagan, Valverde, Griepel, and Cav. 2 pure sprinters, 1 classic/sprinter, 1 GC/classic/hard sprinter. It'll be tight for Alaphilippe but I think he'll finish around Gilbert's total. The top sprinters now probably 40-80 wins. Kwiatkowski could have got close as well under different circumstances. The biggest thing is specialization, young up and comers being predominant, and your team.
Alaphilippe's problem here is that he almost didn't win anything at all during his first four years as a pro. Then in 2018, he began clocking them up. So if he can maintain his current frequency, he could get there but it'll be very difficult.
 
Reactions: Koronin
The 4 being Sagan, Valverde, Griepel, and Cav.
Yep, and out of this four I think Valverde's numbers are most impressive.

Cav and Greipel are pure sprinters and naturally they get most opportunities to win, although I don't want to underestimate their achievements by any means. They won a hell of a lot, even by the sprinters standards. Only Cippo and Petacchi won a little more...

Sagan is a sprinter/classic specialist, like Boonen for example, or Zabel, Freire, not to mention Maertens and Van Looy earlier. His numbers are also impressive, especially considering his age, he has a room to improve but that will depend on lot of things. But there were similar type of riders out there recently who won even more than he did (Zabel, Boonen).

Valverde however is a special case, he is a climber and GT rider from day one of his career, so I can't quite compare him to Kelly and Jalabert who were sprinters at the early part of their careers and then develop themselves into all-rounders, although they never reached climbing level of Valverde. Maybe Saronni would be comparative, but he was also a lesser climber. But, interesting part is that all these riders were from another era, some 20-30, even 40 years ago.
Out of his contemporaries, we could compare him to Vino, Di Luca, Cunego, Evans, Purito, Schleck, Dan Martin, Nibali, Pinot..., riders who were both good at stage races and one-day classics. Not single one of them has at least half of number of victories Valverde has. Vino is closest with 56. Valverde has 127...
 
Reactions: Koronin
So Kelly who started mainly as a sprinter must be compared to them pure sprinters despite winning GTs, but Valverde, for whom 90% of wins are some sort of sprint, must be compared to that entirely different subset despite winning the same amount of GTs as Kelly?
 
So Kelly who started mainly as a sprinter must be compared to them pure sprinters despite winning GTs, but Valverde, for whom 90% of wins are some sort of sprint, must be compared to that entirely different subset despite winning the same amount of GTs as Kelly?
Look Kelly won GT alright, as did Maertens, as did Saronni, as did Moser, etc. None of them was at Valverde's climbing level. Ja Ja comes close in later part of his career, but not exactly there. I mean man won on top of 25 moutains! :rolleyes: Mountains, not hills!!!
I'm not trying to underestimate Kelly's achievements, not at all. Just look at my first post in this thread and you'll get the picture.
I'm just saying they are not exactly the same type of riders.
Valverde is a climber and hilly classics specialist, and I compared him to similar riders. That's all. The fact that he can sprint like that is some kind of God's gift, cause that kind of riders could't supposed to do that. I agree, that skill gave him a lot of victories, but by any means that must not be seen as flaw or minus, but as a great quality of one rider.
 
So Kelly who started mainly as a sprinter must be compared to them pure sprinters despite winning GTs, but Valverde, for whom 90% of wins are some sort of sprint, must be compared to that entirely different subset despite winning the same amount of GTs as Kelly?
I don't know much about Kelly's career, but I think that the Vuelta is a slightly lesser GT now, and it was even more so back then. Hence, you cannot really compare Kelly as a GT GC rider to Valverde, who from the beginning of his career has been at least somewhat of a threat at the TDF, and probably should have more than just one podium at that GT if he had had some better luck (plus he has that Giro podium, and many, many podiums at tougher modern day Vuelta's).

Kelly may well be the greater overall rider, but 1 GT win vs. 1 GT win is very misleading.
 
Reactions: SHAD0W93
I don't know much about Kelly's career, but I think that the Vuelta is a slightly lesser GT now, and it was even more so back then. Hence, you cannot really compare Kelly as a GT GC rider to Valverde, who from the beginning of his career has been at least somewhat of a threat at the TDF, and probably should have more than just one podium at that GT if he had had some better luck (plus he has that Giro podium, and many, many podiums at tougher modern day Vuelta's).

Kelly may well be the greater overall rider, but 1 GT win vs. 1 GT win is very misleading.
You can compare them. Valverde is the better GT rider. Just like Kelly is the better classics rider. However, for all Valverde's consistency in GTs him only winning one is in my opinion easily glossed over especially in comparisons to better GT riders. It's also a little tough to ignore he's not up in GT wins while Kelly is up 5 monument wins, as well as winning all of them but De Ronde.

In this case, I think Valverde's argument over Kelly is his WC win.
 
Reactions: SHAD0W93

ASK THE COMMUNITY