Early peakers

Jul 8, 2017
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Do you guys believe that the riders who have great results as a "kids" like Andy Schleck and Gesink in the past tend to underachieve? Because looking at the past 20 years we had riders like Ulrich, Cunego (was he supposed to be a great GT rider ?), Andy, Gesink and say Quintana (well we can very well exclude him from the list), all of them having good achievements in there early 20's not quite reaching that "top-limit" they were expected. And for the record, was Contador supposed to be the best GT rider when he was young in 2003-5 (as I start following closely in 2006) ?
I asked this because of the Bernal hype lately, seeing all these riders makes me think that he may very well be close to his limit and hardly progress too much from now on... hence I would bet on a "slowly-progressing" rider (say Latour) to be the next big name more then on Bernal/Gaudu.
 
Interesting thread.

Contador is a hard one cause he was a great climber very early, but he had his incidents in 2004 and 2006, so it's no big surprise he only rose to the very top around 24.

I think for many riders the absolute peak years don't last very long, and they're not that consistent, but I think most riders can have around 8 to 10 years near their peak.

Schleck and Froome are no ordinary cases at all, and I'm pretty sure the endurance aspect matters a lot too. Less explosive riders like Nibali don't usually burst onto the scene as hard.
 
This is a very big discussion and you'd need a large sample to prove one point or the other. Let's take the last 20 years.

There have been riders doing very well in their early 20s and then becoming champions: Boonen, Sagan, Valverde, Cavendish.
Riders who were great early and never improved for a number of reasons: Andy Schleck, Gesink, Boasson Hagen, Pozzato, Kreuziger, Cunego (I wouldn't include Ullrich here, he was at a steady level throughout his career, just happened to ride against Lance).
Riders who were promising early and then progressed a lot: Contador, Nibali, Cancellara, Bettini, Gilbert, Cadel Evans, Purito, GVA.

On the other hand, most of the riders who were nobodies in their early 20s ended up being domestiques or having short careers. There are a few exceptions, but I'd still say the odds of finding a future champion among riders who break out early are much higher than finding a future champion among riders with no results to speak of at the beginning of their careers.


I honestly believe it's a bit early to rate riders still in their prime like Quintana. Many of the riders I mentioned, even the very best, have had down years (think Nibali 2011 or Contador 2013). Maybe 2017 was the same for Quintana and he'll bounce back in a couple of months.

I'm with you on a rider like Latour though, he reminds me a bit of the young Nibali. No jaw-dropping performances like other riders his age, but a steady improvement over the years and some impressive race instincts. No guarantee of becoming world-class of course, but promising.
 
Every rider has a different story.
Cunego was the classic example of an enormous hype at the begging of his career, however until 2008 (partly 2011) he was one of the best in the world. In 2008 he smoked Valverde and Schleck on the Cauberg and he would have been World Champion in Varese without Ballan's attack, plus he won the Lombardy in october. Then I think he gave up mostly mentally.
There are riders that simply develop earlier and riders who develop later. Purito started winning something only after his 30. Valverde is on the top since he was 23. Surely there are riders that for some reasons arrive at their top level in their early 20s physically, but the decline of the likes of Schleck, Kreuziger, Betancur and many others has also to do with mental/motivation issues and physical problems.

However is true that there are riders who reach their physical top at 25 and than they just keep this level. I think of the colombians (Uran, Quintana,...) who seemed the new merckxs when they were 22-23 for the hype which was around them. They've remained very good riders however they seems to have reached their top at 25 and they're keeping this level. I think that Gaviria and Bernal will also partly follow this pattern. Gav is already a top level sprinter but I don't know how much can he still progress in the classics for example. Bernal also will reach a very high level but it's difficult to say until what age will he get better.


Then there are plenty of examples of riders who were incredibles as juniors or U23 and than did nothing in the pro
 
Jun 30, 2014
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Most of the young Americans who rode for Axel Merckx in the U23 ranks look like monsters when they go up against the pros in the US stage races at a really young age and also get really good results in U23 races, but pretty much stop improving at the age of 23/24.
 
That also happens a lot to many Dutch youths who basically live like full pros at a very early stage of their careers, thus reaching the top of their potential earlier but often burning out (physically, mentally or both), likely in part from their subsequent failure to deliver on that misleading hype.
 
Sep 20, 2011
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hrotha said:
That also happens a lot to many Dutch youths who basically live like full pros at a very early stage of their careers, thus reaching the top of their potential earlier but often burning out (physically, mentally or both), likely in part from their subsequent failure to deliver on that misleading hype.
Apart from Gesink, name one. Jetse Bol?
 
Pff there have been plenty more. Guys like Posthuma, Weening, De Kort, Kreder etc were world class at u23 level but never world class at pro's
Even other nationalities who rode for Rabo Conti like Rory Sutherland were pretty much world class at u23 level
 
Sep 20, 2011
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Dekker_Tifosi said:
Pff there have been plenty more. Guys like Posthuma, Weening, De Kort, Kreder etc were world class at u23 level but never world class at pro's
Even other nationalities who rode for Rabo Conti like Rory Sutherland were pretty much world class at u23 level
Well, they always had an incredibly strong team for a conti team which suited them extremely well result wise. Doesn't mean these guys were ever amongst the most talented riders intrinsically, nor is it proof of them being burned out. All had respectable careers. Correlation does not imply causation.
 
Being world class u23 and not turning world class as a pro is an sich not an argument of peaking early. U23 just means you're great in one particular generation.

Though it's indeed pretty clear that many of them at that point were already higher on the curve of their maximum potential relative to others.
 
Jun 27, 2013
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Dekker_Tifosi said:
Pff there have been plenty more. Guys like Posthuma, Weening, De Kort, Kreder etc were world class at u23 level but never world class at pro's
Even other nationalities who rode for Rabo Conti like Rory Sutherland were pretty much world class at u23 level
Vermeltfoort and Scheunemann looked like world beaters
 
Loads of young italians too were amazing at junior or u23 level, like ulissi or ratto. aussies tend to do similar things, especially young tt-ers like howson, bobridge, durbridge (the most successful, but still maybe not as good as some were hoping - although he's got a lot better results recently), flakemore, hepburn. A lot of that though is down to the fact they focus on track a lot.
 
I don't jump many bandwagons when young riders come through and usually I wait a bit before cheering for a rider (whatever that means).

There was one exception to that rule, however. When a 20 year-old Slovak I had never heard of before bulldozed himself through the Paris-Nice, I became a fan immediately and thought he might go on to become the best rider the sport had ever seen.

He did not crumble. He did not fade. And to this day, he remains my personal favourite in the peloton. And he did indeed go on to become the best rider (at least of those I have seen).

In fact, the only rider I would compare with Sagan in terms of precociousness is Egan Bernal.
 
One of Valverde's best seasons (if you go by win totals) was when he was with Kelme. At 23 years old he got his first Vuelta podium. Then just before his 37th birthday he completed his 3rd Ardennes double and what may have been the best spring of his entire career. So riders can be very good at a young age and continue that throughout their careers. Others do hit a ceiling in their mid 20's and never progress past that. However to be one of the best riders throughout your career you really need to show signs of being very good early.
 
Moreno Moser deserves a mention as having has an extraordinary first full season as a pro (and up to the beginning of March), followed by 6 years of mainly indifferent performances, with just occasional hints of what we thought had been revealed.

I fear Alberto Bettiol is lining to follow the same trajectory.
 
Jul 8, 2017
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I was referring mostly about the GC riders. Since we have plenty of examples sustaining the high level for a long time Cance, Boonen, Cav (when he actually stays n his bike), Valverde and some others.
It was kind interesting case for some of the TOP top GT talents I mentioned above. Because even Quintana could be without a GT (YET) if it wasn't for some weird stages (that chaos on Stelvio and Contador's atack).
 
Sep 6, 2016
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Unfortunately I think it comes down to clinic reasons. It’s also very hard to maintain a high level of performance for many years. There can only be a maximum of 9 riders on GT podiums in a given year, so if you aren’t at the very top you won’t match your old results.
 
Re:

Armchair cyclist said:
Moreno Moser deserves a mention as having has an extraordinary first full season as a pro (and up to the beginning of March), followed by 6 years of mainly indifferent performances, with just occasional hints of what we thought had been revealed.

I fear Alberto Bettiol is lining to follow the same trajectory.
Moreno Moser issues are mental/motivational. There's a perennial sense that he's going to announce retirement. He's simply not anymore in the mentality of a professional athlete.

Bettiol was nowhere this spring and now he's injured however the later hasn't showed not even a fraction of what Moser did in his first years. Bettiol has a top ten in S. Sebastian, top 25 in Flanders and a lot of other placements (like 5th in a stage at the tour) all achieved last year. Moser won Tour of Poland, Strade Bianche, GP Frankfurt plus 3rd on the Alpe d'Huez before turning 23

Bettiol doesn't come from a rich family so he probably needs to do the job, and has not even won a sigle race among the pros yet. He was never anything more than a little promise.
 
I think we should keep the sprinters out of the discussion. They simply need a completely different skillset.
I don't know whether you can call this issue "peaking too early". I'd say they are simply peaking at a different age, otherwise you could as well say guys like Nibali are peaking too late. I think bernal, just like schleck, Quintana and others won't improve after getting 23. His level at that point might still be enough to become a tdf winner though.
I generally find it interesting though that climbers peak at completely different ages. I mean who on earth would have thought Nibali ends his career more successful than schleck in 2007 or even in 2011. For the same reason I still think Mas has a chance to become an elite gc rider as he has shown great potential but is hopefully just nowhere close to being fully developed. Ofc it's unlikely but it's possible and who knows, maybe in ten years I'll ask "who on earth thought Mas would end his career more successful than Bernal in 2018?" :D
 
Gigs_98, Mas very well could reach his peak a bit later. However, I'd say that is likely for this current generation of Spanish cyclists. This would be do to the fact that after the economic collapse cycling in Spain was hurting at all levels. So as this group starts to turn pro they are a bit behind on development to begin with. Soler just started to really show some glimpses of how good he can be last year and has carried that to this year.
 

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