Explain Sean Kelly To Me.

I started watching cycling just after Sean Kelly's peak. Looking at this palmares, and it's just unbelievable. How can a guy win Paris-Roubaix and win the Vuelta and finish 4th in the Tour? Could he climb? What rider would be comparable today?
 
I can explain it to you. In the 1970s/80s the talent pool was a lot less. Domestiques didn't get paid what they are now. A team leader was expected to be a leader for all races, because they took up most of the budget. Teams didn't have the budget for different leaders in different races (no World Tour back then)

So Kelly was a incredibly robust rider. He could turn up for any race. At KAS he had to do Spanish races between monuments.. An equivalent now would be Gilbert, Alappilipe, maybe Valverde, but I'm not sure about his GC credentials now.
 
I got into cycling in the early 90s, so a little after too.

In Kelly’s day it wasn’t unusual for GT GC riders to compete in the classics. Kelly rode against Lemond, Fignon, Anderson, Kuiper etc to win his classics, who would all contest GC positions at the Tour in July. It was really Lemond who changed that late in his career.

Kelly could hang on in the mountains. He usually had at least one bad day in the Tour where he would lose a lot of time, but he still finished top 10 4 times. He could TT better than most climbers, and he could also pick up bonus sprint seconds, which were apparently pretty generous at the Vuelta back in those days

He had a busier calendar than most other pros of the time. A big part of that was his DS, Jean deGribaldy, who was known for pushing his riders to their limits.
 
I can explain it to you. In the 1970s/80s the talent pool was a lot less. Domestiques didn't get paid what they are now. A team leader was expected to be a leader for all races, because they took up most of the budget. Teams didn't have the budget for different leaders in different races (no World Tour back then)

So Kelly was a incredibly robust rider. He could turn up for any race. At KAS he had to do Spanish races between monuments.. An equivalent now would be Gilbert, Alappilipe, maybe Valverde, but I'm not sure about his GC credentials now.
I've compared Benoot to Claude Criquielion in the past, and i think from the current generation, he would be a better fit than Alaphilippe or Valverde. In this day and age, Benoot wouldn't be able to win the Vuelta unless he would shift focus, but given his weight he is an excellent climber (podium in Tour de Suisse last year, top 20 in the TDF, top 10 in Dauphiné iirc)...

Claude Criquielion was also a great classics rider and finished top 10 in the TDF multiple times iirc.

PS: What makes Kelly really remarkable, is that he was a really good sprinter as well.
 
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The other thing about Kelly is he had the hunger .He was unbelievably competitive and then some. When he talks about riders today he cuts them alot of slack if they dont perform,etc.....not back in his day ..he pushed himself to the brink

As he said himself if he ever thought about not going all in on everything he thought about the only alternative career for him ...shovelling cow *** back home on the farm ...so he kept going
 
He always felt he could have done better than 4th in the tour but his DS insisted he chase every bonus second at the intermediate sprints (including working to bring back breaks before they snagged them all) he could usually hang on in the mountains but always felt wrecked from never having an easy day due to the bonus seconds so usually coughed up time on at least one of the big mountain stages. He always said he would have liked to have gone for GC only but it wasn't to be.
 
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I was a boy when Kelly was riding. My dad was a big fan of his but I considered him a champ in the 1 day events but my clearest memories were of his constant failures in July considering the amount of hype surrounding him at the time in the English speaking media. Of course I was wrong but we only heard about Spain through the cycling magazines. Kelly was a great rider and near unbeatable in Paris Nice.

He reminded me more of Jalabert than Valverde because at his peak Valverde was a much better climber. Kelly would survive in the mountains and put time into the climbers in the TTs. The other thing is that La Vuelta was nowhere near as difficult in the mountains as it is now. They never used climbs like the Angliru in those days. The organizers tailored the race in ways that wouldn’t benefit their home riders. The designed it to draw international big names like a Merckx, Hinault, or Kelly. La Covadonga, the Vuelta’s most historically relevant climb, didn’t even debut until the early 1980s.

Another thing is that racing was so much longer then. Strategies were different. Even in Indurain’s days you rarely saw one team control the race in the mountains the way you do now. The GC group would already be formed two climbs out from the finish. It was more wide open because even the strongest teams like La Vie Claire never used their domestiques the way Sky, or US Postal or Telekom used them. It’s a different race and a guy like Steve Bauer could finish in the Top 10 due to being in the right breakaway. That’s why the most exciting races are the ones where Ineos/Sky aren’t able to dominate. Guys like Kelly used echelons to gain time. Nowadays you will have riders losing time to a group of favorites. Roulette like Kelly used the flats to get as much distance between themselves and the likes of Delgado and Lucho Herrera; climbers who would go on the attack before the final mountain of the day.

Plus the year that Kelly won it, there wasn’t much of any competition at The Vuelta since it and the Giro were in the spring, which is why they designed it to be more international. Delgado chose to ride the Giro to improve his form for the Tour. Hampsten, Breukink, Bernard, and most of the other contenders were in Italy as well. I don’t even remember if Lucho rode in 1988 (edit: he did but finished in like 20th place). All that on top of LeMond being injured, Fignon being a shell of himself, and Roche out. The podium behind Kelly in 1988 was pretty weak.
 
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perico is spot on, and again, having followed the sport since the mid-70s and big time since 1978, I can add to that post. I liked Sean Kelly. After him, only one rider had a somewhat similar set of skills: Jalabert. Both excellent sprinters but not top-3 in a GT field, multiple green jerseys, only a hand-full of stage wins. But always scoring points, and scoring on medium mountain stages when the pure sprinters survive in the gruppetto.

Kelly was a bigger guy than Jalabert. That's the difference, one climbed a little better, the other performed better in tough-guy monuments like PR or RVV.

Sagan is not good enough of a climber to be compared to Kelly, Valverde is not nearly as good of a sprinter, riding styles are different, and as perico mentioned, designs and tactics were different.

And so were salaries: you couldn't just race in July in Kelly's time in particular. Money and specialization pretty much came with Tapie La Vie Claire and LeMond's contract. So in addition to the likes of Moser, he would face a hungry and angry badger in the monuments. Jalabert still faced big-time foes, but the field in the one-day races was thinner in my opinion.

Both great, edge to Kelly.
 
Also in Kellys era even team leaders earned most of there money riding the post tour criteriums and driving themselves straight after to the next days event .Then start the autumn classics .
Todays riders earn enough that they don't need to tired themselves out chasing money.
 
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Even Jalabert can’t quite be an apt comparison because while he displayed much of the same skills as Kelly they were not at the same time. Jalabert started as a sprinter and Green Jersey winner then developed post crash into a climber with punch that could contest top 10 GC but had lost the bunch sprint level then.

Don’t think we will ever see an insanely accomplished run like Kelly winning RVV, Basque Country then PR in 8 days.
 
Even Jalabert can’t quite be an apt comparison because while he displayed much of the same skills as Kelly they were not at the same time. Jalabert started as a sprinter and Green Jersey winner then developed post crash into a climber with punch that could contest top 10 GC but had lost the bunch sprint level then.

Don’t think we will ever see an insanely accomplished run like Kelly winning RVV, Basque Country then PR in 8 days.
The comparison would be pre-crash Jalabert ('94), post-crash he was a different rider indeed. Although it could be said that Kelly was a much better climber in the later part of the '80s than he was in the late '70s, early '80s.

'92 TdF: Jalabert won one stage, from the break, placed in all bunch sprints and won green over Musseuw essentially by finishing 8th in Mulhouse (Kelly was 10th), 12th at St. Gervais, 4th in Saint-Etienne, and 6th atop La Bourboule. All stages with climbs, the latter being a MTF.

'84 TdF: slightly different outcome, same methodology. Kelly doesn't win a stage but places many more times than his main rival, Frank Hoste, who edges him in all but one sprint finishes including three stage wins. Kelly makes up the points notably in the Alps, including a 2nd place in Avoriaz. In Paris, Hoste places 3rd, Kelly would win green by finishing just behind him. Comes Hinault who takes 4th, Kelly is 5th and loses the jersey by 4 points.
 
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Sagan is well able to TT, but TT's don't count towards points jerseys. He has a win and 9 top 10s in ITTs other than the national championship. The 1 win led to his GC win in the Tour of California.
Absoutley, but Kelly was an excellent time trialist, world class on his day. And for all sagan's many abilities he's probably never been at that level TT'wise.
 
When Sean Kelly was winning his Green Jerseys at the Tour, was he contesting all the sprint finishes like Sagan does?

Edit: Looking at PCS results for his TDF, he absolutely was. Amazing that he contested all the sprints, and then hung on in the mountains and was great in the TT's. What a freaking rider!
 
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Sagan is not even better ITT-er than Valverde, and Bala definitely could not brag about his TT qualities.. :rolleyes:
Sagan never contests TTs. He generally never has anything to ride for. He's finished top-20 in TdF ITTs twice, both times ahead of riders contesting GC places.

I stand by what I said; Sagan has never needed to contest ITTs, so it's not true to say he can't do them.


When Sean Kelly was winning his Green Jerseys at the Tour, was he contesting all the sprint finishes like Sagan does?

Edit: Looking at PCS results for his TDF, he absolutely was. Amazing that he contested all the sprints, and then hung on in the mountains and was great in the TT's. What a freaking rider!
His last of his 5 Tour stage wins was 1982, which not-coincidentally, was his first green jersey. He won a group sprint into Pau after a stage where the favourites group has stayed together over a couple of cols. After that, he would contest every sprint, and every mountain stage, with the result that he collected a lot of 2nd places for the rest of his career. (21 2nd places, 17 3rds)
 

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