• The Cycling News forum is looking to add some volunteer moderators with Red Rick's recent retirement. If you're interested in helping keep our discussions on track, send a direct message to @SHaines here on the forum, or use the Contact Us form to message the Community Team.

    In the meanwhile, please use the Report option if you see a post that doesn't fit within the forum rules.

    Thanks!

Today's Riders vs. Those of the Past

Mar 13, 2009
1,063
1
0
Visit site
Polish's thread about the records of ascending Alpe d'Huez got me thinking about comparing the speeds between riders of today's era vs. the eras of the van Steenbergen, van Looy, Merckx, etc. etc.

As everyone pointed out the fastest times up the Alpe all occurred predominantly in the past 20 years. Hinault's 48 minute time would be considered laughable by today's standards.

However there is no indication that riders have seemingly gotten faster over the years in other styles of racing. Look at Paris Roubaix results. In 1948 Rik van Steenbergen won PR at a blazing speed of 43.6 km/hr. the fastest ever Paris Roubaix time ever.

How is it that 62 years ago pros are capable of putting in equal or better times in the toughest one day races, but the same trends do not arise in the mountains?

Lighter bikes is a possibility, but if LA is storming up Ventoux on a 21 lb. bike (all other factors ignored), how much do lighter bikes actually help?

Would riders of an earlier era dominate today if they had proper diets, trained smartly, and didn't race every day just for the appearance fees?

I'm interested to see what everyone thinks.

Because if van Steenbergen can punish on a pre-1950 bike, how much does technology actually help cycling?

Edit: another example- Evert Dolman won the 1971 RvV in 43.3 km/hr. For reference Stijn Devolder won the 2008 edition in 41.3 km/hr.
 
I imagine that's because maximum effort is not sustained during the whole course of a one-day race (or a mountain stage for that matter), but almost maximum effort *is* maintained during a climb when those records were established. A better comparision would be between a specific Paris-Roubaix cobblestone section in 1975 and 2010.

That said, better training, materials and diets do make a difference. Aside from other factors.
 
It's actually Peter Post who holds the Paris-Roubaix record, and won in 1964 at something like 45.1km/h but with only 22km of pave. In the 50s there were about 30km of pave, and in 2010 it is over 50km. That will make a difference
 
Jul 7, 2009
397
0
0
Visit site
I would also think race tactics were different in that era. In today's racing with race radio (amongst other things) riders are always informed of what is going on.

Without race radio for example in the 1950s riders would be scared anytime there was an escapee leading to a high level of pace for everyone the entire time.

In today's racing the first half of the race could be considered goofing off
 
Jul 7, 2009
397
0
0
Visit site
sometriguy said:
I would also think race tactics were different in that era. In today's racing with race radio (amongst other things) riders are always informed of what is going on.

Without race radio for example in the 1950s riders would be scared anytime there was an escapee leading to a high level of pace for everyone the entire time.

In today's racing the first half of the race could be considered goofing off
I should probably also add that you are just taking one section of a major tour (in this case alpe d'huez).

It is always in the benefit of the riders to go up the alpe as quickly as possible. In a grand tour, overall time compared to others matters. At PR, winning by a second is as good as winning by minutes and once a race is clearly decided it can slow a bit. Whereas in a grand tour, there will always be somebody with ambition of beating others to the top of the climb.

I think you are more likely to see the "advancement" in speed of the riders on a climb at the end of a grand tour stage than you are on a single stage race.
 
Jul 2, 2009
2,392
0
0
Visit site
nvpacchi said:
As everyone pointed out the fastest times up the Alpe all occurred predominantly in the past 20 years. Hinault's 48 minute time would be considered laughable by today's standards.


The 48 minute time really isn't a very good benchmark. Hinault and LeMond had attacked on an earlier mountain and had several minutes lead on everyone. LeMond himself said that they rode up 'like tourists'. They were pedalling alone having a chat for a lot of it.

Lucho Herrera's 41.50 in 1987 is a better benchmark. (Exact same time for Fignon in 89 too)
 
Jan 30, 2010
166
0
0
Visit site
Mambo95 said:
The 48 minute time really isn't a very good benchmark. Hinault and LeMond had attacked on an earlier mountain and had several minutes lead on everyone. LeMond himself said that they rode up 'like tourists'. They were pedalling alone having a chat for a lot of it.

Lucho Herrera's 41.50 in 1987 is a better benchmark. (Exact same time for Fignon in 89 too)

Very good point.. I find it interesting that Lemond/Hinault are always the unofficial benchmark of the Alpe when as you said they didn't exactly 'time trial' up it

Herrara 1987 is much more appropriate!
 
I think an even better comparison yet is to look at the riders like Herrera in the 80's who could go around 42 min on Alpe d'Huez...check out their TT times in comparison to the strongest of their time. Now look at the riders who go 38-40 mins and look at their TT times. Hmm. How is it that climbers have gotten so damn good at TT riding? Look at Hampsten as an example....he would lose minutes in a TT. Now, Contandor (built not so unlike Hampsten I might add) crushes 170 pound land rockets in a tour TT.

It's not just the uphill times you have to look at....it's how they TT in relation to the riders of their time.
 
Jul 23, 2009
2,891
1
0
Visit site
Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!

The chief weapon of modern riders is abnormally large hearts... and incredibly high cadence. Their two weapons are abnormally large hearts and incredibly high cadence.. and ruthless efficiency. Their three weapons are abnormally large hearts, incredibly high cadence, ruthless efficiency, and an almost fanatical devotion to training. Amongst their weaponry are such elements as abnormally large hearts, incredibly high cadence...... I'll come in again.
 
Hairy Wheels said:
I think an even better comparison yet is to look at the riders like Herrera in the 80's who could go around 42 min on Alpe d'Huez...check out their TT times in comparison to the strongest of their time. Now look at the riders who go 38-40 mins and look at their TT times. Hmm. How is it that climbers have gotten so damn good at TT riding? Look at Hampsten as an example....he would lose minutes in a TT. Now, Contandor (built not so unlike Hampsten I might add) crushes 170 pound land rockets in a tour TT.

It's not just the uphill times you have to look at....it's how they TT in relation to the riders of their time.

The whole formula 1 approach with wind tunnels and stuff has had a great impact. In the nineties the all of a sudden rode all these weird bikes which are not allowed today, but the general use of the wind tunnel has increased a lot. Instead of only a few riders here and there it's basically the whole team that goes through it now.

Think about it. When Lemond started using the aero bars it was his own initiative and he was laughed at. Today a lot comes from all the engineers connected to the teams and manufacturers...
 
Aug 11, 2009
729
0
0
Visit site
Is anybody really going to compare average speeds from a one-day point-to-point race? Especially one without a fixed route?

If you want to know the number one factor in determining the speed of such a race, it isn't bike technology, tactics, or training methods; it's wind speed.

If you want to set a record, just like Cipollini's fastest-ever Tour stage, better find yourself a tailwind.
 
Jan 27, 2010
168
0
0
Visit site
bingo - paris roubaix is mostly flat, open roads and runs in one direction. wind is the key factor in speed, even more so than the different routes and tactics. likewise the RvV usually involves hours of riding flat roads in windy conditions before the famous finale.
 
JPM London said:
The whole formula 1 approach with wind tunnels and stuff has had a great impact. In the nineties the all of a sudden rode all these weird bikes which are not allowed today, but the general use of the wind tunnel has increased a lot. Instead of only a few riders here and there it's basically the whole team that goes through it now.

Think about it. When Lemond started using the aero bars it was his own initiative and he was laughed at. Today a lot comes from all the engineers connected to the teams and manufacturers...

I think you missed my point. I was not comparing TT times to the past. I was making a point about how current climbers seem to TT MUCH better than climbers of past eras. My case....you would have NEVER seen a 130-ish pound climber beating large TT riders in the past, but you've seen it time and time again with Contador and others. Even Pantani, that guy could TT when you look at some of his times. The same goes for Ricco etc etc. Contador just seems out of this world.

Look at the results from the 87 Tour. Very telling. The one exception back then seemed to be Delgado....who was 140 plus and was also busted for dope.
 
Hairy Wheels said:
Even Pantani, that guy could TT when you look at some of his times.
Pantani would lose 5-7 minutes in a long TT, until the 1998 Giro where he went from "probably the best climber in the world" to "twice as good as the next best climber in the world" and would only lose 2-3 minutes in a TT. Then he'd swap his blood samples with Forconi who'd get busted in the last TT for going over the hematocrit level. Or something.
 
Mambo95 said:
The 48 minute time really isn't a very good benchmark. Hinault and LeMond had attacked on an earlier mountain and had several minutes lead on everyone. LeMond himself said that they rode up 'like tourists'.

Exactly. The real racing that day took place earlier: Hinault's attack on the Galibier, Lemond's chase with Steve Bauer, Lemond and Hinault breaking away again on the next descent . . . By the time they reached the Alpe Zimmerman was five minutes back, and they rode up like they were on a club run.

I seem to recall that, after Iban Mayo won the TT up Mont Ventoux at the 2004 Dauphine, cyclingnews.com ran an analysis which argued that the decrease in times from Charly Gaul in the 50s to Mayo in the 00s was, relatively speaking, equivalent to the improvement in Olympic marathon times during that same period. The point was that cycling times have improved at roughly the same pace as those of other world-class sports.
 

TRENDING THREADS