Early season races: how important are they to GT success?

This post is prompted by Froome’s situation. Let’s say he’s sidelined for a year beginning right after the Giro. This means he would not be able to ride the Tour this year, but could ride it next year. But he’d have only about a month to prepare for it, as far as racing goes. How much would that affect him?

As precedent, I think of Contador, whose case of course parallels Froome’s in some other ways. Contador was able to race in 2011, but when CAS imposed a ban on him in the middle of February in 2012, he was sidelined until near the end of July that year. Thus he had only about a month to get used to racing before the Vuelta. Did that layoff affect him? Based on his form through 2011, one would have thought he would win the Vuelta easily. Instead, it took a somewhat improbable escape for him to pull it off. OTOH, even prior to that, Contador did have a history of often barely winning GTs, not only in his early years, but as recently as the Tour 2010. And of course he disappointed at the Tour in 2013, a performance that can’t be described to lack of preparation.

Anyone have any other examples bearing on this? Is racing critical to conditioning, or only to being comfortable in the pack, and therefore being better able to respond tactically?
 
When Basso came back, he wasn't close to the same rider he once was. But that can also be attributed to age and clinic reasons. He obviously had enough time to prepare for the Giro that year, in 2009, but wasn't allowed to race in 07 and 08 and you could see it, he really wasn't strong. The year after, in 2010, he won the Giro after an insane performance on Monte Zoncolan and a crazy Mortirolo-stage. That year he was obviously a year older, so I think there's something to getting used to race speed again, particular getting a GT or two under your belt.

Valverde is another example, pretty much the same as Basso. He was bad for Valverde-standards in the Tour of 2012, he probably also mistimed his shape a bit, but once he got that in his legs, he was superb in that Vuelta and might as well have won it honestly. I'd still argue the best he has looked in a GT, maybe.

But its different circumstances for everyone and there are so many variables, but to sum it up, not racing for big periods of time (1-2 years) I'd reckon IS a problem, especially GT-wise. I think its super important to at least ride one of those every year.
 
Good question.

I think they're very important to get the high efforts and super high intensity in. Those races are ridden on a smaller base then the GTs and fatigue stacks up, but that when riders ride say 3/4 stage races in the spring that when they come out of that and recover from that effort, they're at a higher level than when they don't ride them, and I don't think you can compensate for that by just training harder in may/june cause if you train too hard there you're tired when the Tour de France starts.

I think Aru is an interesting case cause he got sick in the Tirreno and then didn't race until the Dauphine. He then looked right on schedule in the Dauphine, was super strong in the first part of the Tour, but starting crumbling around stage 14.

Without those races your training base is too small to last for 3 weeks on top level. I think you either end up lacking the top form, or you end up lacking the endurance for 3 weeks, depending on how you train.
 
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Bardamu said:
Valverde's extremely high level of last year was also partly due to him riding three GT's the year prior.
It certainly could have an effect, but I'm not blindly gonna assume it had a positive effect cause he was running on fumes at the end of 2016 and if anything he probably needed more time to rest than ever before being entirely fresh. The other side of the argument is that once he rested up he was stronger than he ever was in say.. december. In any case, Valverde is far from your average rider.

An opposite case to look at would be Contador doing like 40% of a season in 2012 and sucking balls in 2013, but there's much more to be said for Contador in 2013.

The way I look at it, fatigue and form run in cycles, top form is never 100% fresh cause it requires training, but the negative effects of fatigue set in later, which is why some riders have their bests performances in the 3rd week of a Grand Tour. In reality this is probably a lot more complicated still, with different physiological pathways having different cycles and responses to training and fatigue.

And I think a lot of this is individual, and it also showcases some of the difference in preparing for a one day race, a regular length stage race and a GT.
 
It indeed difficult to measure what the influence of GT's are for the next season. But I've heard it more from riders who are not selected for GT's because their teams focus on GC, that it messes up their classics preparation for the next year.
 
If three GTs in '16 helped him in '17, surely he shouldn't be so good now with practically 0 GT riding last year? Or is the theory that the three GTs have an effect for more than one year, and that it is greater than the negative effect of not riding any GT the following year? I don't think so.
 
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Netserk said:
If three GTs in '16 helped him in '17, surely he shouldn't be so good now with practically 0 GT riding last year? Or is the theory that the three GTs have an effect for more than one year, and that it is greater than the negative effect of not riding any GT the following year? I don't think so.
I think it's more proof that it's not smart to look at Valverde to make general conclusions.
 
I would suggest not looking or considering what Valverde has done in one year to the next (bans, injuries, number of GTs, etc). Valverde is an outlier to what is typical among cyclists in general so to compare what someone may do it would smarter to exclude Valverde from these type of conversations unless you are specifically looking at him. When trying to figure out what he might be able to do upon coming back from his injury last summer the most recent examples are Taylor Phinney and Peter Stetna. Both are younger and did have more serious injuries. Neither one have gotten back to the level they were before the injury and we're now a couple years out from the injury for both of them. Both were out for a year or longer. Valverde on the other hand was back racing 7 months after his injury and at about the level he was when he got hurt. I would advise leaving Valverde out of these discussions and using other riders who would be more typical of what to expect.

As pointed out in 2016 Valverde raced 3 GTs and was basically dead on his feet at Lombardia at the end of the season. 2017 had a career spring. 2017 raced 0 GTs (part of one stage doesn't count) and is having an almost identical spring in 2018 to what he had in 2017.
 
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Bardamu said:
Valverde's extremely high level of last year was also partly due to him riding three GT's the year prior.
Nonsense. Any kind of discussion regarding Valverde belongs in the clinic.

And if riding 3 GT's in one season makes you that good, everyone would do it.
 
Re: Re:

El Pistolero said:
Bardamu said:
Valverde's extremely high level of last year was also partly due to him riding three GT's the year prior.
Nonsense. Any kind of discussion regarding Valverde belongs in the clinic.

And if riding 3 GT's in one season makes you that good, everyone would do it.
Why so? Why more than with other riders?
 
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Bardamu said:
El Pistolero said:
Bardamu said:
Valverde's extremely high level of last year was also partly due to him riding three GT's the year prior.
Nonsense. Any kind of discussion regarding Valverde belongs in the clinic.

And if riding 3 GT's in one season makes you that good, everyone would do it.
Why so? Why more than with other riders?
His past, for instance.

And how many riders do you know that reach their peak form in their late thirties?

There's Horner, but that doesn't really help your case at all, now does it?
 
I think it depends on the experience of the rider. For a relatively inexperienced rider, or a rider with a new team, they are useful for getting the team behind them and organising how a team works and gaining experience in leading a team and leading a race. And basic reassurance of form.
For someone like Nibali and Froome though, both of whom have long associations with their coach, a decent showing in the last warm up race (e.g. Tour of the Alps or Dauphine) should be enough.
 
Re: Early season races: how important are they to GT success

As always, Merckx_Index is challenging our brains :) .

Let's keep Valverde away from this discussion before someone crosses the line, if you see what I mean...

Since the mid-80's and more money coming into cycling and better pay for top-riders, big names don't have to race hard for seven months every year. Looking back, it created a more "even playing field". Now some can afford to prepare more, specialize.

I see two elements here: overall mileage and race days determining freshness...not just race days. How much is optimal, and how much is...too much? Oooops...add that one: intensity on race days.

My observations mostly come from studying my favorite rider, Il Grandissimo Tibopino. Who besides having posted his data a few years back, also uses Strava. Add all the articles, tweets and official website, and I can at least understand some of the mechanics. The question is: is that observation a one-rider sample, or can it be made a rule, or at least relevant for most riders. You decide.

2014: Heavy race calendar but conservative riding, including one DNS and one DNF (TA), more intensity late May and June (Bayern and Suisse), podium at the TdF, burnt at the Vuelta, rest and decent late season.

2015: slow start with a 5th on the Green Mountain, then TA and a big stretch of racing days, wins in Romandie and Suisse, TdF is sketchy: bad luck week one, week two, win on AdH, what could have been. Podium in the GDL.

2016: last day of January, lost a sprint ftw at la Marseillaise, big in Besseges, final part of Malhao supersonic, big TA, Crit Int, PV and Romandie, died in the Dauphine (except for a win vs. Bardet), won the Nationals ITT on home soil, but paid the price in July.

2017: very good early. Great preparation for the Giro, wins and podiums, great Strade debut...then nothing...win in the Ain and good Italian campaign to finish.

All in all, increased mileage for the year since 2015: it doesn't look like a make or break. Race days in '14 were insane in the spring for Thibaut...but intensity was low. So, in my view, it comes down to managing punishment that you inflict on your body in race situation as you build-up. Something that Pete Pfitzinger described very well when it comes to preparing for a Marathon.

In a nutshell, you can't sit on the couch and be more performant. And you can't race all-out on a busy schedule either.
 
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Parker said:
For someone like Nibali and Froome though, both of whom have long associations with their coach, a decent showing in the last warm up race (e.g. Tour of the Alps or Dauphine) should be enough.
So you think if Froome had sat out racing till now, and just entered the TdA, he would be fine for the Giro? You believe that--at least for elite riders--early season racing isn't necessary for conditioning?

A related question I have is what riders do when they're laid off--usually by a doping ban--for a couple of years. Let's say someone is suspended in the early-middle part of the season, and is officially banned late in the year. Come January or February of the following year, does he start training just as hard as he would if he were getting ready to race? Does he keep that training up for the entire season? Or does he sort of go into hibernation, riding a little but not enough to get in condition for racing, until the ban is over?

It can't be easy to find the motivation to train hard if you can't race, but if you don't, can you get that form back fairly quickly after the long layoff? Let's say you go one full season with no racing and training at a reduced level. Can you start training at the normal pace the following year, when you're allowed to race, and get right back to where you were?

I note the post upthread recounting the difficulty of riders coming back completely following a long layoff because of an injury. In that case, they may not be able to ride at all for a while, and of course, one has to wonder about the effect on psychology of a serious injury, too. IIRC, Beloki was never the same after that horrific crash in the TDF.

I have to believe that in the absence of Clinic factors or injury consequences, a rider should be able to come back completely from any layoff, given enough time. Maybe one season of renewed racing is not enough, but he should be OK by the following year. Other sports may have some relevance. Boxing has a little similarity to cycling in that endurance and power/weight are critical. Boxers frequently take off a year or more, not because of doping or injury, but just because of burn-out. If/when they return, they're frequently as good as ever, if they haven't begun their age decline. A key difference wrt cycling is that boxers are not constrained by a season, but can wait till they feel fully back before stepping into a ring again.
 
I'll answer your question with what Valverde did while he was servings what amounted to a year and a half off. He trained that entire time as if he was racing. He did extra TT training because he knew that was a huge weakness. What he did do was turn off mentally. Although he doesn't talk much at all about Operation Puerto or his ban he has spoken a few times about specific things. He explained that during that year and a half "forced vacation" he was able to mentally shut down completely. He's flat out said that that time to turn off and recharge has greatly extended his career. The training he did some of it was with guys who were in the peloton at the time including teammates and other friends. His ban is dated Jan 1, 2010 though Dec 31, 2011. The ban was handed out in May of 2010. His first race back was TDU 2012 and he won one of the stages. However, as I stated before, he's an outlier to what is typical.
One note, he has actually stated he would not recommend to any other rider to take a year off to get better at time trialing. For him it was he was given a 2 year ban so he figured he would put it to good use and improve an area of his riding that he knew was a weakness.
 
Re: Re:

El Pistolero said:
Bardamu said:
El Pistolero said:
Bardamu said:
Valverde's extremely high level of last year was also partly due to him riding three GT's the year prior.
Nonsense. Any kind of discussion regarding Valverde belongs in the clinic.

And if riding 3 GT's in one season makes you that good, everyone would do it.
Why so? Why more than with other riders?
His past, for instance.

And how many riders do you know that reach their peak form in their late thirties?

There's Horner, but that doesn't really help your case at all, now does it?
There are many riders still riding for questionable teams having questionable doctors, no reason to single Valverde out.

You mean the guy who has been winning races since his early twenties and continued to do so in his thirties is like Horner? Ok.
 
Aug 6, 2015
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Re: Early season races: how important are they to GT success

Tonton said:
As always, Merckx_Index is challenging our brains :) .

Let's keep Valverde away from this discussion before someone crosses the line, if you see what I mean...

Since the mid-80's and more money coming into cycling and better pay for top-riders, big names don't have to race hard for seven months every year. Looking back, it created a more "even playing field". Now some can afford to prepare more, specialize.

I see two elements here: overall mileage and race days determining freshness...not just race days. How much is optimal, and how much is...too much? Oooops...add that one: intensity on race days.

My observations mostly come from studying my favorite rider, Il Grandissimo Tibopino. Who besides having posted his data a few years back, also uses Strava. Add all the articles, tweets and official website, and I can at least understand some of the mechanics. The question is: is that observation a one-rider sample, or can it be made a rule, or at least relevant for most riders. You decide.

2014: Heavy race calendar but conservative riding, including one DNS and one DNF (TA), more intensity late May and June (Bayern and Suisse), podium at the TdF, burnt at the Vuelta, rest and decent late season.

2015: slow start with a 5th on the Green Mountain, then TA and a big stretch of racing days, wins in Romandie and Suisse, TdF is sketchy: bad luck week one, week two, win on AdH, what could have been. Podium in the GDL.

2016: last day of January, lost a sprint ftw at la Marseillaise, big in Besseges, final part of Malhao supersonic, big TA, Crit Int, PV and Romandie, died in the Dauphine (except for a win vs. Bardet), won the Nationals ITT on home soil, but paid the price in July.

2017: very good early. Great preparation for the Giro, wins and podiums, great Strade debut...then nothing...win in the Ain and good Italian campaign to finish.

All in all, increased mileage for the year since 2015: it doesn't look like a make or break. Race days in '14 were insane in the spring for Thibaut...but intensity was low. So, in my view, it comes down to managing punishment that you inflict on your body in race situation as you build-up. Something that Pete Pfitzinger described very well when it comes to preparing for a Marathon.

In a nutshell, you can't sit on the couch and be more performant. And you can't race all-out on a busy schedule either.
what bad luck :confused: STOP IT!!! he didn't have it in the stage of mur de huy
 
Re: Re:

Bardamu said:
El Pistolero said:
Bardamu said:
El Pistolero said:
Bardamu said:
Valverde's extremely high level of last year was also partly due to him riding three GT's the year prior.
Nonsense. Any kind of discussion regarding Valverde belongs in the clinic.

And if riding 3 GT's in one season makes you that good, everyone would do it.
Why so? Why more than with other riders?
His past, for instance.

And how many riders do you know that reach their peak form in their late thirties?

There's Horner, but that doesn't really help your case at all, now does it?
There are many riders still riding for questionable teams having questionable doctors, no reason to single Valverde out.

You mean the guy who has been winning races since his early twenties and continued to do so in his thirties is like Horner? Ok.

Or go back farther than early 20's. He earned the nickname El Imbatido when he was racing as a cadet. He won over 50 consecutive races. As a child and teen he had parents of other kids begging him to soft pedal and LET other kids have a chance to win. Purito Rodriguez raced against him as a teen and echos what others have said at the Junior level. If they showed up to a race and saw Valverde they KNEW they were racing for second place unless Valverde screwed up. He's been winning races his entire life from the time he started racing.
 
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Re: Re:

Bardamu said:
El Pistolero said:
Bardamu said:
El Pistolero said:
Bardamu said:
Valverde's extremely high level of last year was also partly due to him riding three GT's the year prior.
Nonsense. Any kind of discussion regarding Valverde belongs in the clinic.

And if riding 3 GT's in one season makes you that good, everyone would do it.
Why so? Why more than with other riders?
His past, for instance.

And how many riders do you know that reach their peak form in their late thirties?

There's Horner, but that doesn't really help your case at all, now does it?
There are many riders still riding for questionable teams having questionable doctors, no reason to single Valverde out.

You mean the guy who has been winning races since his early twenties and continued to do so in his thirties is like Horner? Ok.
Strange how you think this works in Valverde's favour lol.

Anyway this is talk for the clinic, so if you want to continue this discussion move to his thread there.
 
Aug 6, 2015
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Re: Early season races: how important are they to GT success

Tonton said:
portugal11 said:
what bad luck :confused: STOP IT!!! he didn't have it in the stage of mur de huy
He saw Bonnet crash and almost die in front of him...how do you call that? Your comment is off-topic anyways...
no and no... stop with that BS of bonnet almost dying, that is not true
 
Given his age, I think that 12 months out would finish Froome.

As for the importance of early season races, it's partly dependent on the individual, though it also seems more important to race them in the current era. Remember that Ullrich and Kloden were often very lazing racing wise until June. Whereas maybe Porte has over raced early on. Age is against him too, but maybe this will be his year if he continues his low key build up to July, only showing some decent form in June.
 

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