Good point.ergmonkey said:Yeah, I'm serious.
Vino isn't a "top rider" with his two Liege wins and one Amstel plus numerous podiums?
Ivanov isn't a top rider with an Amstel win plus podiums?
The Schlecks don't really count--despite each having won an Ardennes Classic--because by some arbitrary rule we should ignore GT riders and/or non-sprinters? Come on. If guys are legitimately racing for the win, then they're racing for the win--no matter what they do in July.
As for Valverde, I very clearly posted that he would have raised the level of the Ardennes Classics this year--just as Evans would have. Or am I obliged to ignore Cadel because he's a GT contender?
It's easy to idolize past winners--especially when they really were as good as Bettini was--but I agree with those who have posted here that one might just as well launch similar criticisms at many of Bettini's rivals. I clearly remember seeing not Bettini but Garzelli being the one to annihilate a Liege field where only a very young Ivan Basso could even pretend to keep pace. I clearly remember perennial favorite Michael Boogerd never, ever, ever looking like he had a chance to outsprint a Bettini or a Rebellin. And I clearly remember seeing guys like Rumsas, Astarloa, Celestino, Hamilton, and Mayo clock up podium finishes in hilly Classics.
I really don't think today's field is so much worse. And I certainly don't think Rebellin was a better Ardennes rider in 2004 than Gilbert was this year.
Also, after 2002, Bettini was never that good in Liège. Was severely outclassed several times by Boogerd, Vino, Rebellin in 2003-2005 period and after that the Valverde/Schlecks period... where he sprinted one time to 3rd place and that was pretty much it.