Over- and underachievers during the last 20 years

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If we mean by this question who most overachieved their physical talents, we are mostly talking about the riders who had the greatest mental talents.

There’s something a bit strange about the way in which cycling fans tend to value the physical capacities of riders over their mental ones.
This is very true (and valid for most sport fans, think tennis).

Expectations over a rider's future are generally based on his physical attributes: endurance, recovery, power output, speed, etc. His potential assessed accordingly.
There's little room for analysis over someone's mental strength, which includes a number of aspects: drive, ability to suffer, composure, decision making, etc. There's no data available, no numbers to crunch. It is virtually impossible to assess if a junior has the mental strength to become a consistent pro, unless you know him personally.

Take Gianni Moscon for instance. Solid career among the u23, goes pro with Sky in 2016 and has a very promising first year.
Then in 2017 he finishes top5 in both Roubaix and Lombardia. The common view among cycling fans at the end of the year is that he might be the next rider to win all 5 Monuments. He's 23 after all.
But he hasn't finished top10 in another Monument since and the biggest win in his palmares is arguably the Tour of Guanxi.
Is he an underachiever? Probably yes, if you only consider his physical attributes. Does he have everything it takes to be a top rider at WT level though? I doubt it.
 
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I think this statement could use some clarification because I'm sure winning a stage through a breakaway is actually the easiest way one could land a pro win. It of course depends on circumstances a lot. Sometimes the peloton doesn't really care to catch you and you end up battling just a few guys neither of whom would be anywhere close to being a winner on a normal day. And sometimes you don't even need to be the strongest among those few guys, just attack at the right moment when they hesitate.
Sometimes you fend off the chase from a determined peloton which is of course very hard but that's not the most common thing that happens when someone wins from a breakaway. Definetely something like the Stelvio win from de Gendt was much more impressive than a typical breakaway win and even many of the regular wins from the whole peloton. But if it was just sheer power all the time, why does he never do it in classics? Does he not care about classics? Or maybe it's actually much more difficult to pull it off in one day race when every top guy is actually riding to be first at the finish line on that particular day? ;) Which is why I've never found breakaway stage wins to be anywhere near as impressive as top results in classics.
This.

I usually roll my eyes when the breakaway wins, and people hail it as as valuable a stage win as someone who won 'mano o mano'.

Of course you don't have to be nearly as good a rider to win from a breakaway of four when the peloton takes the day off and finishers more than ten minutes behind. It is not nearly comparable to competing strongly for GC, nor finishing well up in a one day classic.

Not all breakaway wins are the same though. And De Gendt isn't a standard breakaway rider. There was a stage (maybe in the 2017 Vuelta?) where he rode alone from a huge distance off, and still held off the peloton (who were actually trying pretty hard). That's also the thing about De Gendt, which in my view makes his breakaway wins worth more than normal....he does the bulk of the work in the group. In other words, he makes the breakaway/race.

As for Jens Voigt; I wouldn't put him in the same category. Someone said that he could have finished top 10 in a GT GC; no way. He can't climb. Not when you get to the proper high mountains. And he's never been a great ITT (he isn't like a Cancellara). That's why he was a domestique. And that's why he went into breakaways. Let's not glamorise him too much.
 
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This.

I usually roll my eyes when the breakaway wins, and people hail it as as valuable a stage win as someone who won 'mano o mano'.

Of course you don't have to be nearly as good a rider to win from a breakaway of four when the peloton takes the day off and finishers more than ten minutes behind. It is not nearly comparable to competing strongly for GC, nor finishing well up in a one day classic.

Not all breakaway wins are the same though. And De Gendt isn't a standard breakaway rider. There was a stage (maybe in the 2017 Vuelta?) where he rode alone from a huge distance off, and still held off the peloton (who were actually trying pretty hard). That's also the thing about De Gendt, which in my view makes his breakaway wins worth more than normal....he does the bulk of the work in the group. In other words, he makes the breakaway/race.

As for Jens Voigt; I wouldn't put him in the same category. Someone said that he could have finished top 10 in a GT GC; no way. He can't climb. Not when you get to the proper high mountains. And he's never been a great ITT (he isn't like a Cancellara). That's why he was a domestique. And that's why he went into breakaways. Let's not glamorise him too much.
Bonus points if the breakaway wins on a MTF on a big climb and 2 or more dudes literally wait for the sprint on the Ventoux or some dumb stuff like that, resulting in the obviously stronger guy winning by a million bike lenghts.
 
On the best breakaway specialists that come to my mind (probably from watching only TdF for 3 years) are Sandy Casar, Thomas Voeckler, Sylvan Chavanel, LL Sanchez, Pierrick Fédrigo, Jens Voigt and Steve Cummings. Even being more successful on breakaway wins then others they had 8, 45, 46, 43, 25, 59 and 17 career wins. Of which the 4 with more wins had more going towards their career tally then just breakaway wins.

I'm suprised we haven't had a breakaway specialist off on who would win more if they all raced against the other over a variety of terrain.
 
As for Jens Voigt; I wouldn't put him in the same category. Someone said that he could have finished top 10 in a GT GC; no way. He can't climb. Not when you get to the proper high mountains. And he's never been a great ITT (he isn't like a Cancellara). That's why he was a domestique. And that's why he went into breakaways. Let's not glamorise him too much.
I wouldn't rule it out in his CSC years. Won the Deutschland Tour two times (with Rettenbachferner), won the Criterium International 5 times, top 6 in Paris-Nice (2x), Liege-Bastogne-Liege, Tirreno Adriatico.

But I guess he had a better career this way then sacrifying wins in order to potentially sneak into the lower part of a GC top 10.
 
IDK if this is the right thread, but he have been mentioned here a few times already.

Some times, often with a few years between, I find my thoughts drift away and back to the Tour de France 2011. I’m not French and I’ve always loved Contador, but for me as a cycling fan I’ve always felt I was robbed for the perfect underdog romantic miracle in the Tour that year.

After 16 stages Voeckler is in yellow with 1:45 ahead of Evans, and he have defended his Jersey brilliantly in the mountains so far. In the downhill on stage 17 Voeckler, together with Contador and Sanchez, is about to make a split and possibly gain more time on Evans and the Schlecks when he makes a error and ends up off the road. Instead of possibly increasing the lead, he loses half a minute. Half a minute lost for nothing.

After another heroic defense of his jersey at Galibier he entered the last stage with 15s lead ahead of Andy Schleck. 1:08 in front of Frank and 1:12 ahead of Evans.

When the madness starts on Col du Telegraphe Voeckler decides to follow Contador, Andy and Evans. Mistake 1 this day. It looks good for a while, but disaster is impossible to avoid. Contador and Schleck attacks and Evans gets a mechanical. Voeckler is alone, but decides to chase Contador and Schleck alone up Galibier instead of wait for the Peloton, where Evans BMC team are driving the pace, and where he has a lot of team mates himself. Mistake 2. When he finally gets caught he is pretty dead and drops quickly when the attacks starts closer to the top. When he comes over the front he has two team mates with him, and Rolland that decided to stay with the favorites. He win the stage, but Voeckler lose the Tour.

What we do know:
  • His team, together with Cofidis manages to catch Sclecks, Evans, Contador and Sanchez before the Alpe d’Huez.
  • Rolland was flying that day.
  • Voeckler lost “only” 2min 25s to Schlecks and Evans up Alpe d’Huez even if he had killed himself on Galibier and was alone the whole climb.
  • In the TT the next day, Voeckler finish 12th, far ahead of the Schlecks, and only 2:07 behind Evans.
What I always think of and never will get out of my head:
Without the crash on stage 17 and if Voeckler decided to trust his team on Telegraphe/Galibier could he actually have won that Tour?

He lost 2:52 on those two stages. In the end he was 3:20 behind Evans, so the easy answer is no. The maths don’t add up, he still miss about half a minute.

But then, I can’t stop thinking about what difference the yellow jersey on his shoulder would’ve made for Voeckler in that last time trial...

So to keep it on topic, Voeckler is possibly a great example of an overachiever if you look at his career as one compared to what you could expect of a rider like him. But then again, I can’t let it go that he perhaps underachieved those last stages in the Tour 2011, possibly because he got to carried away by the moment and was not making rational decisions in the heat of the moment at that downhill down to Pinerolo and at Telegraph/Galibier...
 
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IDK if this is the right thread, but he have been mentioned here a few times already.

Some times, often with a few years between, I find my thoughts drift away and back to the Tour de France 2011. I’m not French and I’ve always loved Contador, but for me as a cycling fan I’ve always felt I was robbed for the perfect underdog romantic miracle in the Tour that year.

After 16 stages Voeckler is in yellow with 1:45 ahead of Evans, and he have defended his Jersey brilliantly in the mountains so far. In the downhill on stage 17 Voeckler, together with Contador and Sanchez, is about to make a split and possibly gain more time on Evans and the Schlecks when he makes a error and ends up off the road. Instead of possibly increasing the lead, he loses half a minute. Half a minute lost for nothing.

After another heroic defense of his jersey at Galibier he entered the last stage with 15s lead ahead of Andy Schleck. 1:08 in front of Frank and 1:12 ahead of Evans.

When the madness starts on Col du Telegraphe Voeckler decides to follow Contador, Andy and Evans. Mistake 1 this day. It looks good for a while, but disaster is impossible to avoid. Contador and Schleck attacks and Evans gets a mechanical. Voeckler is alone, but decides to chase Contador and Schleck alone up Galibier instead of wait for the Peloton, where Evans BMC team are driving the pace, and where he has a lot of team mates himself. Mistake 2. When he finally gets caught he is pretty dead and drops quickly when the attacks starts closer to the top. When he comes over the front he has two team mates with him, and Rolland that decided to stay with the favorites. He win the stage, but Voeckler lose the Tour.

What we do know:
  • His team, together with Cofidis manages to catch Sclecks, Evans, Contador and Sanchez before the Alpe d’Huez.
  • Rolland was flying that day.
  • Voeckler lost “only” 2min 25s to Schlecks and Evans up Alpe d’Huez even if he had killed himself on Galibier and was alone the whole climb.
  • In the TT the next day, Voeckler finish 12th, far ahead of the Schlecks, and only 2:07 behind Evans.
What I always think of and never will get out of my head:
Without the crash on stage 17 and if Voeckler decided to trust his team on Telegraphe/Galibier could he actually have won that Tour?

He lost 2:52 on those two stages. In the end he was 3:20 behind Evans, so the easy answer is no. The maths don’t add up, he still miss about half a minute.

But then, I can’t stop thinking about what difference the yellow jersey on his shoulder would’ve made for Voeckler in that last time trial...

So to keep it on topic, Voeckler is possibly a great example of an overachiever if you look at his career as one compared to what you could expect of a rider like him. But then again, I can’t let it go that he perhaps underachieved those last stages in the Tour 2011, possibly because he got to carried away by the moment and was not making rational decisions in the heat of the moment at that downhill down to Pinerolo and at Telegraph/Galibier...
Tommy doesn't wait for the train to come and save him and even though it probably cost him it's also why I love him
 
Out of curiosity what's the hate for TommyV all about
I just always found him utterly obnoxious. Then he continued riding for yellow when Hoogerland was yeeted into the barbed wire. His main redeeming quality was never winning anything I really cared about tbh.

What's the hate for A. Schleck all about?
I loved Schleck, albeit less than Contador. He just became a meme super quickly and then he just did one of the most spectacular speedruns of "top rider to useless" I have ever seen.

Fun fact. Schleck did a better ITT in the 2013 Tour than in the 2011 Tour. I think it was one of 2 top 15s excluding nats in 3 years.
 
I just always found him utterly obnoxious. Then he continued riding for yellow when Hoogerland was yeeted into the barbed wire. His main redeeming quality was never winning anything I really cared about tbh.


I loved Schleck, albeit less than Contador. He just became a meme super quickly and then he just did one of the most spectacular speedruns of "top rider to useless" I have ever seen.

Fun fact. Schleck did a better ITT in the 2013 Tour than in the 2011 Tour. I think it was one of 2 top 15s excluding nats in 3 years.
Fair enough if you found him obnoxious but what exactly was he supposed to do about Hoogerland stop and give him a wheel
 
If you only consider the wins column, Urán is a big underachiever.
For a guy that lost a TdF to Froome by seconds, a Giro to Nibali, while working for Wiggins and a Giro to Quintana, with Stelviogate included, you may think his wins should have been numerous. No GTs, no stage races, just 1-day and stages
 
This is very true (and valid for most sport fans, think tennis).

Expectations over a rider's future are generally based on his physical attributes: endurance, recovery, power output, speed, etc. His potential assessed accordingly.
There's little room for analysis over someone's mental strength, which includes a number of aspects: drive, ability to suffer, composure, decision making, etc. There's no data available, no numbers to crunch. It is virtually impossible to assess if a junior has the mental strength to become a consistent pro, unless you know him personally.

Take Gianni Moscon for instance. Solid career among the u23, goes pro with Sky in 2016 and has a very promising first year.
Then in 2017 he finishes top5 in both Roubaix and Lombardia. The common view among cycling fans at the end of the year is that he might be the next rider to win all 5 Monuments. He's 23 after all.
But he hasn't finished top10 in another Monument since and the biggest win in his palmares is arguably the Tour of Guanxi.
Is he an underachiever? Probably yes, if you only consider his physical attributes. Does he have everything it takes to be a top rider at WT level though? I doubt it.
Moscon only needs a different enviorment to reach his potential, everytime Cassani sends him to the WC he's part of the winning move and rides a great race. I guess most of his problems are mental.
 
I never hated him tbh. I did find them a little boring but it's just that they were my least favourite of the GC guys at the time and I've definitely come to appreciate them alot more now
I rooted for Andy—loved watching his climbing style, and I actually enjoyed some of his goofiness. But the latter, along with umbilical bro connection and passive racing at times, seemed to eventually annoy people. He certainly didn’t fit the out-of-the-coal-mines, hard-as-nails rider stereotype that to me seems really archaic.

And he’s the only one whose attack before the Mur in Flèche Wallone I thought might stick:)
 

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