State of the peloton 2021

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I will commit the sin of quoting myself, but for the first time in a long time I liked what I saw yesterday at the Vuelta. A big breakaway in an unpredictable, evenly matched dogfight and the last four riders standing being slow and looking spent. Admittedly the final 3.5kms were genuinely brutal terrain, but all four riders, including the winner, were clearly spent. The winner was at a virtual crawl at the flamme rouge and would easily have been overhauled and lost the stage if the guy in second had any energy. So the slow riding cannot be viewed as sandbagging in my eyes as it genuinely jeopardised victory.

It is the first stage in a GT all year that has looked like that to me and fits in with my perception of what was commonplace 5-10 years ago. Bahrain are clearly performing at a reduced level, which is a huge factor in things looking less rancid. But on yesterday's evidence possibly there is a more cautious stance amongst other elements in the peloton at the Vuelta this year?

One swallow does not a spring make and maybe it'll be back to one dude cruising to victory again today, but I'll be disappointed and surprised if that happens over the course of the next fortnight.
Storer was only 20s slower than the GC favorites on the final climb despite being in the break all day and not even their level.

They looked slow because it was a crazy steep climb.
 
Just a question I can't get out of my head: doing like MVDP just racing tdf one week must affect average speed that week at least? Has riders always done like that just coming for a week, grab yellow and go to another race?
 
Just a question I can't get out of my head: doing like MVDP just racing tdf one week must affect average speed that week at least? Has riders always done like that just coming for a week, grab yellow and go to another race?
Cipo did that every year (until ASO no longer invited his team to the Tour), but I don't know how much of an impact he and his sprint train had on the average speed.
 
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Cipo did that every year (until ASO no longer invited his team to the Tour), but I don't know how much of an impact he and his sprint train had on the average speed.
Don't think the effect is that clear but quite fittingly:

Individual stages can be even faster. The fastest road stage was the 194.5km stage from Laval to Blois in 1999, which was won by Mario Cipollini at a blistering 50.4kph.
 
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Storer was only 20s slower than the GC favorites on the final climb despite being in the break all day and not even their level.

They looked slow because it was a crazy steep climb.
True, but the GC favourites finished in a bunch of seven riders that didn't appear to go particularly full gas up all the way up the climb. The Eurosport commentators specifiically made mention of how slow Storer was at the flamme rouge. So I think they also considered he looked like he was going slow at that point, because he was going slow at that point.

Regardless of people's perception my main point is that the top four on the stage repeatedly changed position on the final climb, indicating they were at the limit and misjudging their energy levels. This is in contrast with what I've seen most of this year, where 9 times out of 10 the winner on a breakaway stage makes a move and holds their form impeccably to the line, showing little fallibility or overestimation of their energy. Some stages will always be won that way, but when it becomes that way stage after stage (often with different riders in a Bahrain top) it becomes unusual.
 
How do you compare Bahrain and Jumbo? The developments at Bahrain are more eye-catching since they are more sudden and last season nobody thought Bahrain was actually a strong team. It was a team with decent riders, while Jumbo were making waves and have the aspiration to win the Tour. But then Vingegaard was actually quite sudden as well, van Aert is flying in heights long not heard of, and Roglic is only beatable by Pogacar.

The teams look different, but do you think some riders could still be on the same stuff? Is it something different? A different approach? Do you think Jumbo are more unsuspicious?

(And were do DQS fit in there, have they lost their advantage?)
 
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How do you compare Bahrain and Jumbo? The developments at Bahrain are more eye-catching since they are more sudden and last season nobody thought Bahrain was actually a strong team. It was a team with decent riders, while Jumbo were making waves and have the aspiration to win the Tour. But then Vingegaard was actually quite sudden as well, van Aert is flying in heights long not heard of, and Roglic is only beatable by Pogacar.

The teams look different, but do you think some riders could still be on the same stuff? Is it something different? A different approach? Do you think Jumbo are more unsuspicious?

(And were do DQS fit in there, have they lost their advantage?)
Jumbo were super suspicious for a long time before Bahrain. Now they are equal.

People have short attention spans and focus on what is new. Bahrain emergence overshadows jumbo who've been like this a few years.
 
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How do you compare Bahrain and Jumbo? The developments at Bahrain are more eye-catching since they are more sudden and last season nobody thought Bahrain was actually a strong team. It was a team with decent riders, while Jumbo were making waves and have the aspiration to win the Tour. But then Vingegaard was actually quite sudden as well, van Aert is flying in heights long not heard of, and Roglic is only beatable by Pogacar.

The teams look different, but do you think some riders could still be on the same stuff? Is it something different? A different approach? Do you think Jumbo are more unsuspicious?

(And were do DQS fit in there, have they lost their advantage?)
I'd say Bahrain is a bit more suspicious. With Jumbo it are mainly the same couple of names who have nuclear performances (Roglic, van Aert, Vingegaard, Kuss,...) which makes me think that it's more a case of talent and individual doping. With Bahrain it seems that suddenly everyone upped their level. Really smells like doping on a team level.
 
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I'd say Bahrain is a bit more suspicious. With Jumbo it are mainly the same couple of names who have nuclear performances (Roglic, van Aert, Vingegaard, Kuss,...) which makes me think that it's more a case of talent and individual doping. With Bahrain it seems that suddenly everyone upped their level. Really smells like doping on a team level.
I think since 2016-17 Jumbo has consistently been one of the most suspicious teams out there.
And there has been a number of other riders with noticeable jump in performance over the years (Bennett, Teunissen, De Plus, Jansen...) at a lower level.

Bahrain differs because the riders all improved in a very short period of time. Some were riders whom we had been waiting for years, some were established riders with a solid career before this sudden jump, hardly any of them was expected at this level. I'd say Bahrain is now in the elite tier of doping teams, where Jumbo/Ineos/DQS already belonged, but of course that's just speculation.
 
I think since 2016-17 Jumbo has consistently been one of the most suspicious teams out there.
And there has been a number of other riders with noticeable jump in performance over the years (Bennett, Teunissen, De Plus, Jansen...) at a lower level.

Bahrain differs because the riders all improved in a very short period of time. Some were riders whom we had been waiting for years, some were established riders with a solid career before this sudden jump, hardly any of them was expected at this level. I'd say Bahrain is now in the elite tier of doping teams, where Jumbo/Ineos/DQS already belonged, but of course that's just speculation.
im speculating that who gets to do above normal doping changes

in late 90s and early 2000s there was this push to expand cycling into USA in a major way so they got their horse

then with london olympics, britain got their horses juiced

now, after success of gulf oil states in football, it was inevitable that jump will come in other sports too so UAE and Bahrain got their horses juiced

im predicting that sometimes in the future germany will have to get back on cycling hype train, so they will get their horse (perhaps thats what BORA is transitioning into)

two other logical markets would be russia and china, unfortunately nobody likes them so its hard to sell

follow the money always
 
im speculating that who gets to do above normal doping changes

in late 90s and early 2000s there was this push to expand cycling into USA in a major way so they got their horse

then with london olympics, britain got their horses juiced

now, after success of gulf oil states in football, it was inevitable that jump will come in other sports too so UAE and Bahrain got their horses juiced

im predicting that sometimes in the future germany will have to get back on cycling hype train, so they will get their horse (perhaps thats what BORA is transitioning into)

two other logical markets would be russia and china, unfortunately nobody likes them so its hard to sell

follow the money always
What horse is Slovenia on?
 
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How is out of competition tests going now? Is it different in different countries depending on pandemic restrictions for example? Was it different last year, or were all OOC tests on hold?
 
Okay, my personal ranking of most suspicious performances in 2021:

1 Padun, Dauphiné
2 Cavendish, Tour
3 van Aert, especially Tour
4 more Bahrain riders, collectively: Colbrelli, Mohoric, Mäder, Caruso
5 Vingegaard, Tour especially
((joint 6th place: Pogacar, during one Tour stage and first ITT; van der Poel, Tour TT; Asgreen, E3 and Flanders))

I'm not counting Portugal and stuff, since I don't take that seriously.
Also not ranking Roglic whose level is suspicious, but it's not sudden (anymore), he can't do it all and the pure numbers are not out of this world the way they are for some other performances.
 
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Here's my own shout-out: Lorenzo Fortunato on the Zoncolan in the Giro.

It's the sort of performance out of nowhere (& never replicated) which just screams 1990's & 2000's. And no one said anything... even when his boss is Ivan Basso.

I think it's easy to point the finger at the stars of the sport but for me when I see these small teams & some random nuclear performances conveniently timed for one big stage in their own home GT... yeah, no comment.
 
2 Cavendish, Tour
The only thing questionable about the Tour for Cav, besides Quickstep, was finishing the full 3 weeks in my opinion but he had 3-6 riders helping him. His top speed decreased during the Tour as he was going 3-6 km/hr slower in his sprints the second and third week. He beat the riders he beat before. Unless you want to say his 2021 season as a whole but he raced 7 races and 12 days before his first win and was improving each race.
 
Here's my own shout-out: Lorenzo Fortunato on the Zoncolan in the Giro.

It's the sort of performance out of nowhere (& never replicated) which just screams 1990's & 2000's. And no one said anything... even when his boss is Ivan Basso.

I think it's easy to point the finger at the stars of the sport but for me when I see these small teams & some random nuclear performances conveniently timed for one big stage in their own home GT... yeah, no comment.
Fortunato's climbing time wasn't anything crazy and he dropped like 4 minutes on a steep climb.
 
The only thing questionable about the Tour for Cav, besides Quickstep, was finishing the full 3 weeks in my opinion but he had 3-6 riders helping him. His top speed decreased during the Tour as he was going 3-6 km/hr slower in his sprints the second and third week. He beat the riders he beat before. Unless you want to say his 2021 season as a whole but he raced 7 races and 12 days before his first win and was improving each race.
Yeah, I highlighted the Tour as especially crazy in my eyes because of the three weeks, because I don't consider his sprinting level in 2021 crazy but his regained endurance.
 
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I am still interested in the partying culture of previous peletons and wonder if that's still going on. Thinking that in the pandemic it must've been harder to do the stuff they previously would do in the evenings that most certainly must have diminished their results. I mean all the alcohol and late night partying during a race.

I just cannot shake that whether you party or sleep after a race day should affect your results. Not suggesting all riders are party animals, but some gotta be, no?
 
I am still interested in the partying culture of previous peletons and wonder if that's still going on. Thinking that in the pandemic it must've been harder to do the stuff they previously would do in the evenings that most certainly must have diminished their results. I mean all the alcohol and late night partying during a race.

I just cannot shake that whether you party or sleep after a race day should affect your results. Not suggesting all riders are party animals, but some gotta be, no?
I have no insight at all into any top riders' private life, but the way I image it they actually hardly party during the season nowadays, in my eyes that's a thing of the past. I can't imagine them being competitive if they did. Alcohol and not enough sleep are such big performance killers. There sure will be a rider here or there who does it but I suppose he will pay for that with bad performances. I think if that's what you're really into you just don't become a cyclist anymore.
 
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I have no insight at all into any top riders' private life, but the way I image it they actually hardly party during the season nowadays, in my eyes that's a thing of the past. I can't imagine them being competitive if they did. Alcohol and not enough sleep are such big performance killers. There sure will be a rider here or there who does it but I suppose he will pay for that with bad performances. I think if that's what you're really into you just don't become a cyclist anymore.
I was hoping for that as Dekker's book was rather shocking in that regard to say the least.

But it also means to me that we really have to expect riders today to be better and have more endurance than those years, so it becomes even more complicated to compare times/results etc?

Like we cannot go "this rider did what that rider did 2006" and expect it to compare. Because I assume that they needed those high level of doping to make up for their boose intake and lack of sleep. (I could easily use someone like Rasmussen as a comparison though as that guy was on top of his doping game but I cannot imagine for a second he was the one partying the nights away.)
 
Boonen and Luca Paolini both got popped for cocaine, right? The Schleck brothers were known to enjoy the clubs of Ibiza.

Side note, I recently learned that cocaine causes the body to lose fat but retain fat-free mass: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3863945/
It does not, in fact, cause users to reduce their overall caloric intake, but interferes directly with fat deposition. It's a perfect weight loss drug, and it needs to be treated the same as drugs like clenbuterol or AICAR (the latter of which is actually far inferior due to various undesirable side effects).

Meanwhile, WADA, in its infinite wisdom, has recently reclassified cocaine (and MDMA, THC, heroin), so that now: "if an athlete can demonstrate that the use of any of these four substances was out-of-competition and unrelated to sport performance, the suspension imposed will now be three months and may be reduced to one month if the athlete completes a drug rehabilitation program."
 
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The only thing questionable about the Tour for Cav, besides Quickstep, was finishing the full 3 weeks in my opinion but he had 3-6 riders helping him. His top speed decreased during the Tour as he was going 3-6 km/hr slower in his sprints the second and third week. He beat the riders he beat before. Unless you want to say his 2021 season as a whole but he raced 7 races and 12 days before his first win and was improving each race.
I think looking from a bird’s eye view can sometimes give better perspective. He dominated out of nowhere for almost the entire season at 5-10 years post peak sprinting age. The TdF is the premier race in the world and he still won 4 stages regardless of who was or wasn’t there. And then won less in smaller races against lesser competition. I don’t even know how doping regimens for sprinters compare to GC contenders but there’s probably a bit of this and a bit of that going on at the least. And I don’t say that to take away from his performance.
 
I think looking from a bird’s eye view can sometimes give better perspective. He dominated out of nowhere for almost the entire season at 5-10 years post peak sprinting age. The TdF is the premier race in the world and he still won 4 stages regardless of who was or wasn’t there. And then won less in smaller races against lesser competition. I don’t even know how doping regimens for sprinters compare to GC contenders but there’s probably a bit of this and a bit of that going on at the least. And I don’t say that to take away from his performance.
His sprints haven’t been anything crazy. He is winning using his brain. On almost all of his wins he hasn’t sprinted out in the wind until around 150 to go, a lot of the times less distance. He has been using the slipstream of the others as long as he can. He isn’t launching 200-300 meter sprints with multiple accelerations. He’s lost that ability with age and is relying on his brain and a well timed acceleration.
He “dominated” April and June-July. He has competed in 3 sprints since the Tour ended and lost to Groenewegen after another A+ leadout from TJV, Hayter after Ineos crashed in front, and WVA who is in monster form. He lost before to Merlier, Philipsen, and WVA. He is coming back from overracing in 2016, multiple bouts with mono, many crashes and injuries, depression, and severe lack of racing with Covid season on top of the other issues.
So is it:
1. Weak competition
You race who lines up and he has beaten Philipsen who has won quite a bit, Merlier, Ewan, Groenewegen, and WVA
2. Team
He has won 2/9 sprints with a leadout from Quickstep. Otherwise he did it using the others slipstream and himself. The team was good at protecting him and getting him through the stages.
3. Doping
Someone else brought up but why would Qyickstep put their doping regime in someone who was supposed to be their C sprinter and helper at small races beginning of the year. He has had 3-6 riders help him make each time cut. His sprint got slower as the Tour went on.
4. Luck
He has been extremely lucky. Not only did he get to rid the Tour but Ewan crashed on top of others making mistakes in the sprints he has won

That’s a birds eye view.
 
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