Good enough for the TdF?

May 13, 2009
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This of course doesn't have an answer, so it's perfect for a cycling discussion board.

At what point are you good enough to challenge for a TdF overall victory?

On the top end, obviously when you're the best cyclist then you should definitely go for it.

Below that, it gets a bit murky. You might end up as the 'eternal second' and we had quite a few of those throughout the years. So the question is: is it worthwhile to try for the TdF overall year after year without winning, or should one start focussing on, say, the Giro, the Vuelta or maybe some of the shorter stage races or even one day classics (which admittedly might not suit everybody).

A few examples:

1) Levi Leipheimer. IMHO he was never really good enough for overall TdF victory. I think he might have done better targeting the Vuelta more often. He might have won one or two of them. He's obviously great in one week tours such as the ToC. He won a DL as well. Maybe if he had targeted the DL or the TdS, he might have won a few more of those. Could have been more satisfying than a string of top ten finishes in the TdF.

2) Cadel Evans: a couple of second places in the TdF, no GT victory, an overall in the Tour de Romandie. Again, I think if he had targeted the Vuelta he might have won it a few times. Also, there's no doubt he could have won many one week races but maybe he would have had an even more distinguished career as a classic racer.

now on the other hand we have

3) Dennis Menchov: two Vueltas, one Giro.

4) Ivan Basso: two Giros (and also one criterium international, one Giro del Trentino.)

5) Vino: one Vuelta (and also one DL, two PN, one TdS, one Amstel Gold, two LBL, one Giro del Trentino.)

6) Alejandro Valverde: one Vuelta (and also one Fleche Wallone, two LBL, two DL, and this year's Romandie**.)

7) Danilo DiLuca: one Giro (and also Amstel Gold, Fleche Wallone, LBL.)

8) Gilberto Simoni: two Giros (and also one Giro del Trentino.)

And then we have the exception from the rule:

9) Carlos Sastre: one TdF

Are Cuddles and Bottle doing it wrong? Should the Schlecks target the Giro/Vuelta double next year? Or will perseverance pay off in the end as it did for Sastre? What would you advise riders such as Wiggins, Gesink, Brajkovic, Kreuzinger, Nibali, Sanchez?
 
Jun 30, 2009
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I'm so glad you posted this, because I've been thinking about it for a while (not trying to say "I thought of it first", just like your idea)...

I DO understand a rider's desire to compete at the highest level, which for stage-race cycling is the TdF (feel free to disagree). But I DON'T understand the desire to keep doing this even though time and time again against a similar field to the one that beat you last year. You've got a limited number of "prime time" years at the head of the peloton. And I've got to agree with you, a Giro or a Vuelta title would probably top a non-podium top-10 in the Tour. At least for me, a guy that will in no way ever come close to achieving any of this.

Guys that fit this "should go for a Giro/Vuelta" mold for me:

C. Van de Velde
C. Evans
L. Leipheimer
C. Sastre (these days)
B. Wiggins
L. Armstrong (these days, why not try to win one of each since you can't beat 'Berto)
The Liquigas Roster
Alejandro Valverde 2 years from now
S. Sanchez

Guys that it's worked for:

I. Basso
D. Menchov

Guys who should probably still challenge Contador:

A. Schleck
F. Schleck
R. Gesink (in a few years)


I know that doesn't make for a very exciting tour, but it might raise the stakes on the Giro/Vuleta. This past Giro was one of the more exciting I've ever watched/followed.


Probably some people I'm forgetting from each category.
 
Jan 27, 2010
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for most nationalities (especially english speaking ones), simply appearing in the TdF is worth more (in fame and fortune) than winning the giro. also, talking yourself up as a potential contender is nearly as good publicity as actually winning (and doesn't have the "is he on something" stigma either).

note that someone like Leipheimer is actually not in much danger of winning anything - apart from his home race which no-one cares about, he actually has very few stage wins let alone stage race wins. Wiggins is another example.
in my opinion they have done a great job of creating maximum publicity from minimal results.
 
There's another factor to think of as well and that is the ambition of the team. For a team where the Tour is the main marketing opportunity it will always be a good idea to send their best rider there even if it means aiming for a top 5 rather than victory. It makes more sense marketing wise since the Giro and Vuelta is not as high profile and can be worth alot less.

So for a specific rider it depends alot on what team they can get a contract with and how they rank in the internal hierachy of the team.
 
If all those people went for the Vuelta, half of them should rather go for the Tour to have half a chance.

I think Evans, Basso and Menchov are good enough to win a Tour. The clock is ticking, though. Actually I fear it might be too late for them, but they had it in their legs.

Still, every year there's only one or two top contenders, and when the rising young star finally makes it everybody says they knew he was good but they couldn't see him making it that far. Kreuziger is very good, but it's hard to imagine him on the podium any time soon, until it happens. Evans struggled to finish in the top 8 until Puerto came along and half the GT contenders were kicked out, allowing everybody to notice how good he actually is.

Of course often it later turns out that rising young star is Kohl.
 
Apr 14, 2010
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ilillillli said:
L. Armstrong (these days, why not try to win one of each since you can't beat 'Berto)
You think he has it in his legs to compete in something like this years Giro?
 
Jun 30, 2009
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therhodeo said:
You think he has it in his legs to compete in something like this years Giro?
not necessarily this one, but in general i still think a typical giro would be a better option than a typical tour with a typical tour field. if, for no other reason, there's no contador.
 
May 15, 2009
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therhodeo said:
You think he has it in his legs to compete in something like this years Giro?
Well, if Basso has won it and supposedly he is clean (like his blood profile suggests), why it is not possible for Uncle Lance?:)
 
Jun 20, 2010
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Being that it's a "Professional" career they are doing what's required of the job. While a podium finish would be the icing on the cake it's not what pays the bills.
 
I think they should ride the Tour if that does bring them more popularity or fame in the cycling world.

Let's see other potential reasons for doing it:

1- Raymond Poulidor vs. Tony Rominger. Who is more popular. Remember that Tony Rominger won his Vueltas in the 90's so it is more recent. But when it comes to cycling specials and documentaries I have heard more of Poulidor time after time again and again. What about Ullrich. He will be the Poulidor of the modern era. He was very popular in Germany.

2- We can not underestimate that cycling is a very dangerous sport and Contador can crash hard and be out of the Tour (I don't wish him this, of course). After that, it is 100% up for grabs IMHO. He can pop positive for something and it would be the same scenario. So there is always a chance for the lesser riders to win.

3- It has been proven in 2006 that somebody can win from a breakaway. Look at Arroyo this year in the Giro. So if there is no dominant team "A la US Postal Team" there is a chance for tactics to play into the hands of the lesser contenders.

So if the rider is good enough (Cadel, Sastre, Schleck brothers, etc), there is always a chance to win. And for the general public and in certain countries the fame and popularity is bigger.:)
 
Jun 20, 2010
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you're correct. anytime after the warm up one riders inattention could end it for any one of the favorites. I love the GT's for one reason, the lack of predictability. Pro Bikers are the hardest athletes in the world above all other sports bar none.
 
May 13, 2009
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Escarabajo said:
I think they should ride the Tour if that does bring them more popularity or fame in the cycling world.

Let's see other potential reasons for doing it:

1- Raymond Poulidor vs. Tony Rominger. Who is more popular. Remember that Tony Rominger won his Vueltas in the 90's so it is more recent. But when it comes to cycling specials and documentaries I have heard more of Poulidor time after time again and again. What about Ullrich. He will be the Poulidor of the modern era. He was very popular in Germany.

2- We can not underestimate that cycling is a very dangerous sport and Contador can crash hard and be out of the Tour (I don't wish him this, of course). After that, it is 100% up for grabs IMHO. He can pop positive for something and it would be the same scenario. So there is always a chance for the lesser riders to win.

3- It has been proven in 2006 that somebody can win from a breakaway. Look at Arroyo this year in the Giro. So if there is no dominant team "A la US Postal Team" there is a chance for tactics to play into the hands of the lesser contenders.

So if the rider is good enough (Cadel, Sastre, Schleck brothers, etc), there is always a chance to win. And for the general public and in certain countries the fame and popularity is bigger.:)
Yeah, but isn't that thinking what likely screwed Cuddles and Bottle out of a more distinguished career? At least when you're Italian or Spanish the Giro and Vuelta, respectively have very high status. Bottle made the ToC his home race, but of course, it's quite a bit down on the prestige scale (despite what some people might claim).
 
Escarabajo said:
1- Raymond Poulidor vs. Tony Rominger. Who is more popular. Remember that Tony Rominger won his Vueltas in the 90's so it is more recent. But when it comes to cycling specials and documentaries I have heard more of Poulidor time after time again and again. What about Ullrich. He will be the Poulidor of the modern era. He was very popular in Germany.
Poulidor is an odd case in that coming 2nd so many times solidified him as a popular choice, people wanted to see him finally pull it off. Usually the nearly-men fade into the ether of history, but Poulidor became so famous for coming 2nd that he's remembered fondly.

You'll also find that you hear more of him mostly in romanticised viewpoints; Rominger is the superior rider in terms of palmarès and statistics, but Poulidor has the sentimental nod. That's not to say he's not the better rider, but he's become perhaps more famous for not winning than he ever could have done by winning. And in fact, had he won the Tour that would perhaps have taken away from his legacy, because then he'd just be another of those one-time Tour winners, easily forgotten when going from dominant megastar to dominant megastar in recollections.
 
Libertine Seguros said:
... Usually the nearly-men fade into the ether of history, but Poulidor became so famous for coming 2nd that he's remembered fondly.

... And in fact, had he won the Tour that would perhaps have taken away from his legacy, because then he'd just be another of those one-time Tour winners, easily forgotten when going from dominant megastar to dominant megastar in recollections.
What about Ullrich? He won once, and still is remembered by being second behind Lance. Will he fade in history?
 
Jun 30, 2009
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Escarabajo said:
What about Ullrich? He won once, and still is remembered by being second behind Lance. Will he fade in history?
ah, that's a good one. i think he gets remembered because he was always lance's arch enemy/ foil for so many years. also, he won a tour, a vuelta a couple of world championships, and an olympic gold medal. not too shabby.
 
Aug 4, 2009
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Is Alex Zulle more famous for winning the Vuelta twice or for finishing second in the TdF twice? Probably the latter.
 
Jan 27, 2010
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ilillillli said:
ah, that's a good one. i think he gets remembered because he was always lance's arch enemy/ foil for so many years. also, he won a tour, a vuelta a couple of world championships, and an olympic gold medal. not too shabby.
watch ullrich's tour win again - it is really amusing (because it is so long-forgotten) how the commentators treat him like the new rising german diesel megastar, destined to destroy everyone else for the next decade.
of course he became the rider many felt sorry for.
 
Cobblestones said:
What would you advise riders such as Wiggins, Gesink, Brajkovic, Kreuzinger, Nibali, Sanchez?
Make a name for themselves competing in the toughest bicycle race in the world (according to the masses). Learn what it's like going up against a field with over a dozen strong GC riders and see how they shape up.

Regardless of what we may think, the Tour is the pinnacle of road cycling. These cyclists want to go out there and finish it and compete, regardless of whether or not they are good enough for 2nd or 20th.

Ignoring the Tour because you might not be good enough to finish 1st is just as bad as ignoring the other GTs because they don't fit with your program.
 
Jun 16, 2009
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ilillillli said:
ah, that's a good one. i think he gets remembered because he was always lance's arch enemy/ foil for so many years. also, he won a tour, a vuelta a couple of world championships, and an olympic gold medal. not too shabby.
He was the "enemy" only from the perspective of Lance and his fans. Lance needs someone to hate as motivation, and many of the fans feed on this.

Ulrich didn't really seem that interested in lance.

One evening after a classic mountain battle between Lance and Jan they bumped into each other. Ulrich was quite emotional after hours of attrition and embraced Lance, as if to say "what a day we had doing this job?" - Lance couldn't cope with it and pushed him away and hurried off scowling.

All Ulrich says today about Lance is that he feels sorry for Lance that he seemingly can't be happy without competiton and rivalry.
 
Jun 21, 2010
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LA's singular focus on winning the TdF (and the commercial circus that followed) has distorted popular thinking of what appropriate TdF goals are. I think there continues to be a place in history for the Poulidors of the world, and that place is kept not just by the Tour, but his other palmares. How about Virenque competing year after year for the polka dots? Or Voekler's run in yellow? The commercialization of sport obscures the fact that effort is a noble end in itself. Victory, popularity, sponsorships and endorsements are fleeting and not necessarily fairly bestowed rewards for effort.
 
On Zülle and Ullrich - they're more well-known now for finishing second in the Tour, but in the future, when Armstrong's achievements are consigned to the history books and you have a whole generation of cycling fans who have only seen Armstrong through archive footage, their first port of call will be the record books, which means Zülle and Ullrich's GT wins will become the first thing they're known for.
 

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