The Young Guns

We are watching a strange era of cycling. It seems like at this point almost weekly there is a new 21 to 22 year old looking like a gt winner. We can of course look at all those cases in isolation, can argue about whether they are suspicious or not and how out of nowhere they really came. But at some point we might as well ask if there is more to it. What on earth is going on? How has it happened that we find a 22 year old Portuguese entering the third week of a gt as the leader hardly worth mentioning because there are so many riders in his age bracket that look just as good. How can it happen that the expectations for riders at certain age has changed so much within a year?

It's weird. I don't have any answers and arguably some potential answers don't actually involve doping. Still I feel like it's useless to even ask these questions in a different subforum so yeah, what are your thoughts?
 
It's not one climb though. It's a continued trend from the Tour where "I'm pushing my record numbers" Bernal got destroyed. It seems to me that whatever Ineos were missing the boat on in the Tour, they got right this time. Sunweb were flying at the Tour with a team that was banter worthy at first sight.

It does beg the question why super young guys can now all of a sudden be so good.
Feel like this post is a good start ^^
 
I think paradigms of what young riders can and cannot do and probably how they should train as a result have completely shifted probably. Maybe simply also doping at more professional levels earlier on, etc, which might have consequences on the very long term. Maybe they're just super responders. Maybe it's scouting earlier, so the big leap when riders start doping at WT worthy levels just happens earlier.

Maybe the old guys are stuck in their own doping methods and are just missing the mark like crazy. Thomas might have readjusted; at the very least he was dropping a huge ITT at the Worlds. Kelderman is hardly the paragon of youth. Richie Porte had his career best result at the ripe old age of 36 I think? Roglic reaches career best performances at 30. Quintana was performing HUGE in February then had knee injury. Geoghan Hart didn't look like a GT podium contender last year, yet now Ineos has adjusted he suddenly does. Almeida is at DQS where every rider who goes there instantly starts flying.

I think it isn't really so much about youth but being ahead of the curve here, and refining a new method that is kicking into gear in the last 2 years. I will say that Pogacar and Bernal look distinctively different now, like Bernal is an early blooming Colombian who goes to Sky/Ineos and wins his first Tour with their methods that were probably more established, while Pogacar is at the head of the nuclears arms race in the Tour especially in dropping an ITT I've never seen before.
 
Certainly some questionable performances. Especially if we consider the unsual circumstances and the lack of testing over the last few month. Will be interesting to see if they can back up the results next year. Wouldn´t be suprised if they cannot reproduce the same power numbers next year.
 
Reactions: Koronin
The fact that this generation doesn't have to deal with prime Froome, Nibali and Contador (2014-2015 is still pretty close to his prime) in gts probably also makes a big difference. The previous generation was also getting great results in gts at the age of 23, but they never managed to really take over.
Now the big names are at the end of the road, the current generation hasn't lived up to the hype/burned out early and the field is wide open.
 
We might have a distorted idea of what the right age to fulfill your potential is based on 30 years of EPO/blood doping. Or maybe that shift during the EPO era was simply caused by already mature riders getting on EPO and improved massively in their late 20s, thus changing the perception of what the most suitable age for cycling was, and there was a lot of cultural inertia for a couple decades afterwards.
 
Even without the break the young riders were going to take over. Evenepoel, Pogacar, even Hirschi, did not come out of nowhere after the break and Almeida was one of the guys specifically chosen to support Evenepoel and strengthen the GC side. So I don't think the corona break has been decisive.

Personally I think the scouting and training methods bring out the true younger talents earlier than before. You do not have to learn by experience so much, many preferences, strengths, weaknesses, recquirements of your body can be found out in the "lab". Also the hierarchy in the teams are a bit different now, you do not need to prove yourself through years of work.

One more aspect that might be important is that routes are a bit different now, that the sprint strengths are more important for GC contenders and recovery from going deep during short efforts is more important, whereas the amount of very long stages and long steady climbs has decreased.
 
The fact that this generation doesn't have to deal with prime Froome, Nibali and Contador (2014-2015 is still pretty close to his prime) in gts probably also makes a big difference. The previous generation was also getting great results in gts at the age of 23, but they never managed to really take over.
Now the big names are at the end of the road, the current generation hasn't lived up to the hype/burned out early and the field is wide open.
Good point, imagine young quintana without a thermonuclear froome, Andy without contador.

Interesting topic. I really cant convince myself of any nonclinic explanation for the pogacar ITT, on everything else I am very undecided
 
We might have a distorted idea of what the right age to fulfill your potential is based on 30 years of EPO/blood doping. Or maybe that shift during the EPO era was simply caused by already mature riders getting on EPO and improved massively in their late 20s, thus changing the perception of what the most suitable age for cycling was, and there was a lot of cultural inertia for a couple decades afterwards.
Well wouldn't this have been sorted out much earlier by riders entering the pro peloton on EPO much earlier than 2020?

A non PED factor I do see is less overracing of young talent and riders getting much better training programs for what they can handle at a moment. They're not all getting Kreuzigered anymore.
 
I'd be really interested to see whether there has been some significant changes to the development programs of teen riders the past 5-8 years. I can't believe the explosive debuts of new juniors is just a new rocket fuel hook up - we are seeing time and time again massive breakouts and you've have thought that if it was purely medical that it would be far more likely we would see riders in their mid-twenties being the ones to unexpectedly go parabolic.

We'd have Vlasov and Remco shining here without their issues and there's another wave chasing on hard behind; guys like Pidcock are already pushing huge numbers (and eclipsing seniors on MTB) and he's not going to be the only one.
 
I'd be really interested to see whether there has been some significant changes to the development programs of teen riders the past 5-8 years. I can't believe the explosive debuts of new juniors is just a new rocket fuel hook up - we are seeing time and time again massive breakouts and you've have thought that if it was purely medical that it would be far more likely we would see riders in their mid-twenties being the ones to unexpectedly go parabolic.

We'd have Vlasov and Remco shining here without their issues and there's another wave chasing on hard behind; guys like Pidcock are already pushing huge numbers (and eclipsing seniors on MTB) and he's not going to be the only one.
If the development is just long term consequences of doping as junior it could work out like this.

But it hasn't just been juniors performing better, although them reaching top performances earlier is a seperate thing in my mind.

For me the obvious reasons why it's largely medical is that faster climbing times weren't all that isolated to just a few guys over the season. The entire top 6 or so of the Tour was flying. And that includes some really well established riders. Also you have guys like Geoghegan Hart who isn't exactly super young and who would in this case follow the more traditional late 20s peak idea, but it's not like he would've been a top candidate for being cleanz before being at Ineos.

Many riders have suddenly surged in numbers over this season, super young guys just look much more obvious cause they come out of nowhere.
 
Last edited:
The fact that this generation doesn't have to deal with prime Froome, Nibali and Contador (2014-2015 is still pretty close to his prime) in gts probably also makes a big difference. The previous generation was also getting great results in gts at the age of 23, but they never managed to really take over.
Now the big names are at the end of the road, the current generation hasn't lived up to the hype/burned out early and the field is wide open.

This is it. The guys who are now in their mid 30s were really good. The same will soon happen in tennis as the top three finally age.

Also now teams are more international so there's more choice of teams, so they can't hold on to a young talent if they don't get their chance. I also recently heard an interview with a leading agent who was saying that talented kids are training like pros in their teens now.

Of course there are posters on here who think everything is about doping, because they're stupid.
 
Good point, imagine young quintana without a thermonuclear froome, Andy without contador.

Interesting topic. I really cant convince myself of any nonclinic explanation for the pogacar ITT, on everything else I am very undecided
Especially because it seems everyone is riding just really fast but with no accelerations, wonder how they would go when Contador or Froome put in their 3rd attack on a climb almost back to back.
 
This is it. The guys who are now in their mid 30s were really good. The same will soon happen in tennis as the top three finally age.

Also now teams are more international so there's more choice of teams, so they can't hold on to a young talent if they don't get their chance. I also recently heard an interview with a leading agent who was saying that talented kids are training like pros in their teens now.

Of course there are posters on here who think everything is about doping, because they're stupid.
Also all the stories about how young people struggled coming from places like Australia to a French team wher ethey were alone and no one would speak to them, it would not be as bad today with a lot of Europeans speaking fluent English, the Internet etc etc. More kids would be finding their feet earlier.
 
Some of these young guns are getting lucky, too. Bernal won the Tour last year helped by a sudden change in the course, and Pinot's injury. After this year, there are legitimate questions of how good he is, whether he's likely to win another Tour.

Almeida has taken advantage of an extremely unlikely crash by Thomas, a strange bonk by Yates, and an aging Nibs, among other things. Not to mention the pandemic altering of the schedule, which has affected who would be in the Giro, or either of the other two GT, and what kind of shape they would be in.

Pogacar's win can't be chalked up to luck, but it's certainly high on the suspicion meter, and again, one wonders whether some riders have had their training compromised by the pandemic more than others. In a normal year, I would have expected Thomas to be a Tour threat, let alone not even make the team, and his start in the Giro tends to support that. Froome is past his prime, but if he hadn't crashed last year, he almost certainly would have ridden the Tour, and at least affected the dynamics of the race.
 
This is it. The guys who are now in their mid 30s were really good. The same will soon happen in tennis as the top three finally age.

Also now teams are more international so there's more choice of teams, so they can't hold on to a young talent if they don't get their chance. I also recently heard an interview with a leading agent who was saying that talented kids are training like pros in their teens now.

Of course there are posters on here who think everything is about doping, because they're stupid.
Everything isn't about doping, and the points you raise above are very legitimate reasons for young riders being so good.
Teams are getting better at accommodating international riders, improved training methods are now highly accessible even for juniors with the prices of power meters and smart trainers getting lower.

Sadly, every time there's been performances that look extraterrestrial, they are. Especially in cycling. Alderlass is still ongoing, Puerto has fizzled out, Freeman still can't get his story straight in court, riders such as Guillaume Martin are all but straight out warning us.

Martinelli, Riis, Stephens, White, Gianetti, Saronni, Vinokourov, Vaughters, Julich and many others are still heavily involved at the top level. The sport hasn't earned the benefit of the doubt. Sorry.
 
Reactions: SafeBet

ASK THE COMMUNITY