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Top 10 male riders of the 21st century.

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1.Valverde
2.Contador
3.Cancellara
4.Boonen
5.Bettini
6.Froome
7.Pogacar
8.Nibali
9.Gilbert
10.Roglic
That's a pretty solid list in terms of names if not placings, but as much as I might be loathe to do so, if Valverde, Contador are on the list, then Armstrong should be there as well. Other possibles for me would be Van der Poel, Quintana, Freire, Evans, Alaphilippe, Sagan and maybe a few others.
 
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I don’t feel qualified to weigh in, but as a non-historian, I’d go with this list if pressed:

  • Pogacar
  • Lance
  • Contador
  • Froome
  • Nibali
  • Roglic
  • Gilbert
  • Cancellara
  • Boonen
  • Vingegaard
MvDP and Remco all great chances of displacing someone before their careers are done. I know this won’t be popular, but I decided not to include Valverde because he has too few big wins. All of his monuments are the same monument, plus Worlds and Vuelta is super strong but I put him below Vingegaard who had two dominant Tour victors against the rider I rate as the all around best of the century.
 
No Sagan?
I think that Froome and Contador were more dominant in grand tours, than Sagan in one day races, Pogacar and Nibali are better because are all rounder, in particular Pogacar; Gilbert, Cancellara, Boonen, Bettini got better results in one day races.
The comparison with Roglic and Valverde is difficult, but I think that 3 Vuelta + 1 Giro + 2nd TDF + LBL + tons of one week races, and 1 Vuelta + tons of podium at TDF, Giro, Vuelta, + 4 Liegi + WC + 5 Fleche, is better than Sagan's palmares, although not by much.
 
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1. Pogacar
2. Cancellara
3. Froome
4. Contador
5. Boonen
6. Sagan
7. Gilbert
8. MVDP
9. Vingegaard
10. Nibali

Honourable mentions - Roglic, Valverde. Variety of big wins went against Valverde and no Tour hurts Roglic with only 1 big 1 day win to counterbalance this.

Remco and Wout can both scale this list over the next 3 years.

I don’t overly rate Nibali and think his palmares outperformed his ability but he deserves to be here.

The early 2000s GC class were too 1-dimensional and clinic heavy to judge fairly against the current class.
 
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As rough first approximation, I think number of big wins with the Tour worth twice as much works quite well. After that you can correct for non-big wins, big non-wins, dominance and special feats etc.
  • 12 | Contador
  • 10 | Armstrong, Froome
  • 09 | Pogačar
  • 08 | Boonen, Nibali
  • 07 | Bettini, Cancellara
  • 06 | Valverde, Gilbert
  • 05 | Freire, Sagan, Roglič, Van der Poel
  • 04 | Cunego, Vinokourov, Evenepoel, Vingegaard
 
This is very difficult.

There are several names I feel you cannot seriously exclude:
  • Alberto Contador
  • Chris Froome
  • Paolo Bettini
  • Tadej Pogacar
  • Lance Armstrong
  • Tom Boonen
  • Fabian Cancellara
Then you have 3 spots left to distribute between:
  • Alejandro Valverde
  • Peter Sagan
  • Vincenzo Nibali
  • Philippe Gilbert
  • Mark Cavendish
  • Mathieu Van der Poel
  • Primoz Roglic
  • Roberto Heras
I don't think Gilbert did enough besides being very versatile and the trajectory his career followed put even that in doubt. He won Lombardia when it was easier, never challenged in LBL again after 2011 and only saved his career after going to QST and becoming a pretty different rider. I'll omit him.
Heras won the Vuelta four times but did not do much besides. I'll omit him too.

Van der Poel has had a stellar last few years but he's still pretty far behind Boonen, Cancellara and Bettini. Pogacar has been more versatile on the road (I know MVDP does cross and MTB and I don't care).
At this time I omit him too but he might very well make it in the coming years.

Still five names left: Valverde, Nibali, Roglic, Sagan and Cavendish.

Cavendish is in. He basically peaked as high as a pure sprinter ever could.
Roglic imo is out at this time. I don't foresee Valverde and Nibali still considered in fifteen years but for now their careers still outweigh that of Roglic in my opinion.

Question becomes Sagan v. Valverde v. Nibali for the last two spots.
In the end I am going to lean towards Valverde and Sagan here. Mostly for Valverde's consistency and Sagan's streak of WCRR's and green jerseys. I will say though that Sagan never really managed to outright beat the previous generation before they retired and only partly capitalized on the weaker interim generation before the current freaks took over.

Nibali had a great career but I still feel he somewhat overperformed. Apart from perhaps 2014 he was mostly playing second fiddle to Froome and Contador in GT's. If he had won Rio 2016 things might have been different.

Some honorable mentions
  • Oscar Freire
  • Remco Evenepoel
  • Jonas Vingegaard
  • Alessandro Petacchi (only exceeded by Cavendish in GT stages won)

Final ranking
  1. Alberto Contador
  2. Chris Froome
  3. Lance Armstrong
  4. Fabian Cancellara
  5. Tom Boonen
  6. Paolo Bettini
  7. Tadej Pogacar
  8. Alejandro Valverde
  9. Peter Sagan
  10. Mark Cavendish:He should be on the list (for now) but not higher than 10. Too specialised.
I don't think any of the current classic stars did quite enough to elevate them beyond the three best GT riders so far (Contador, Armstrong and Froome). Of those three Armstrong was the most dominant but he didn't care for any other races. Froome was perhaps also more dominant than Contador but the latter was up there more often in one-week races and didn't require as strong of a team.

The three classic stars are a bit of a toss-up for me.

The rankings right now is just a waiting room for Pogacar to become nr. 1 anyway.

I could see people replace any of the last three with Roglic, Nibali, Gilbert or Van der Poel though.
 
Fair enough for putting Cavendish up there for what he has accomplished as a sprinter, but I think it's a very bad argument to put a thump on the scale because of his limitations. Boonen and Freire were also sprinters, and they have significantly better one-day palmares than Cavendish, so no the latter did not peak as high as he could. He could have won in London and Doha, but didn't. He could have won Sanremo again, but didn't. He could have won the green jersey more often, but didn't.

Without rewarding Cavendish for what he couldn't do, I think you need to put a lot of weight on Tour stages won in a bunch sprint with the help of the best teams for that to have him above Gilbert and Nibali.
 
Currently the top 10 male riders of the 21st century are:

Alejandro Valverde
Chris Froome
Fabian Cancellara
Alberto Contador
Tadej Pogačar
Primož Roglič
Vincenzo Nibali
Tom Boonen
Peter Sagan
Philippe Gilbert

Runner-up competition (still active):

Mark Cavendish
Nairo Quintana
Remco Evenepoel
Wout van Aert
Julian Alaphilippe
Mathieu van der Poel
Jonas Vingegaard
Michał Kwiatkowski
Geraint Thomas
Greg Van Avermaet
Alexander Kristoff
Arnaud Démare
Richard Carapaz
Egan Bernal
John Degenkolb
Jakob Fuglsang
Rui Costa
Simon Yates
Edvald Boasson Hagen

Source:

 
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This is very difficult.

There are several names I feel you cannot seriously exclude:
  • Alberto Contador
  • Chris Froome
  • Paolo Bettini
  • Tadej Pogacar
  • Lance Armstrong
  • Tom Boonen
  • Fabian Cancellara
Then you have 3 spots left to distribute between:
  • Alejandro Valverde
  • Peter Sagan
  • Vincenzo Nibali
  • Philippe Gilbert
  • Mark Cavendish
  • Mathieu Van der Poel
  • Primoz Roglic
  • Roberto Heras
I don't think Gilbert did enough besides being very versatile and the trajectory his career followed put even that in doubt. He won Lombardia when it was easier, never challenged in LBL again after 2011 and only saved his career after going to QST and becoming a pretty different rider. I'll omit him.
Heras won the Vuelta four times but did not do much besides. I'll omit him too.

Van der Poel has had a stellar last few years but he's still pretty far behind Boonen, Cancellara and Bettini. Pogacar has been more versatile on the road (I know MVDP does cross and MTB and I don't care).
At this time I omit him too but he might very well make it in the coming years.

Still five names left: Valverde, Nibali, Roglic, Sagan and Cavendish.

Cavendish is in. He basically peaked as high as a pure sprinter ever could.
Roglic imo is out at this time. I don't foresee Valverde and Nibali still considered in fifteen years but for now their careers still outweigh that of Roglic in my opinion.

Question becomes Sagan v. Valverde v. Nibali for the last two spots.
In the end I am going to lean towards Valverde and Sagan here. Mostly for Valverde's consistency and Sagan's streak of WCRR's and green jerseys. I will say though that Sagan never really managed to outright beat the previous generation before they retired and only partly capitalized on the weaker interim generation before the current freaks took over.

Nibali had a great career but I still feel he somewhat overperformed. Apart from perhaps 2014 he was mostly playing second fiddle to Froome and Contador in GT's. If he had won Rio 2016 things might have been different.

Some honorable mentions
  • Oscar Freire
  • Remco Evenepoel
  • Jonas Vingegaard
  • Alessandro Petacchi (only exceeded by Cavendish in GT stages won)

Final ranking
  1. Alberto Contador
  2. Chris Froome
  3. Lance Armstrong
  4. Fabian Cancellara
  5. Tom Boonen
  6. Paolo Bettini
  7. Tadej Pogacar
  8. Alejandro Valverde
  9. Peter Sagan
  10. Mark Cavendish:He should be on the list (for now) but not higher than 10. Too specialised.
I don't think any of the current classic stars did quite enough to elevate them beyond the three best GT riders so far (Contador, Armstrong and Froome). Of those three Armstrong was the most dominant but he didn't care for any other races. Froome was perhaps also more dominant than Contador but the latter was up there more often in one-week races and didn't require as strong of a team.

The three classic stars are a bit of a toss-up for me.

The rankings right now is just a waiting room for Pogacar to become nr. 1 anyway.

I could see people replace any of the last three with Roglic, Nibali, Gilbert or Van

Fair enough for putting Cavendish up there for what he has accomplished as a sprinter, but I think it's a very bad argument to put a thump on the scale because of his limitations. Boonen and Freire were also sprinters, and they have significantly better one-day palmares than Cavendish, so no the latter did not peak as high as he could. He could have won in London and Doha, but didn't. He could have won Sanremo again, but didn't. He could have won the green jersey more often, but didn't.

Without rewarding Cavendish for what he couldn't do, I think you need to put a lot of weight on Tour stages won in a bunch sprint with the help of the best teams for that to have him above Gilbert and Nibali.
Somewhere along the line and I think this is very much down to the Anglo media, sprint stages got elevated to a level far above what they are actually worth, a world where quantity has a greater value than quality. Thus you have people making claims that a one dimensional sprinter is greater than a TDF, 4 time GT, 3 time monument winner.
 
Somewhere along the line and I think this is very much down to the Anglo media, sprint stages got elevated to a level far above what they are actually worth, a world where quantity has a greater value than quality. Thus you have people making claims that a one dimensional sprinter is greater than a TDF, 4 time GT, 3 time monument winner.
Unless being a sprinter is to be considered second class Cavendish is the greatest sprinter of the 21st century do far.
Therefor he deserves a place on the list.
 
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Somewhere along the line and I think this is very much down to the Anglo media, sprint stages got elevated to a level far above what they are actually worth, a world where quantity has a greater value than quality. Thus you have people making claims that a one dimensional sprinter is greater than a TDF, 4 time GT, 3 time monument winner.
It's funny how often on this forum you'll read of the Belgian bias or the Anglo media not being able to assess things. Good thing we have some clear, objective minds of different nationalities to enlighten us.

Perhaps you'll like one of the honorable mentions I listed.

It's pretty much impossible to compare Cavendish to Nibali directly. When compared to similar riders it's imo clear that Cavendish is HC while Nibali simply isn't. As far as I am concerned someone like Cavendish'll have a spot on the list until 10 other names that are simply too good to pass up come along.

Nibali beat almost nobody of note in the GT's that he won. While that's not his fault it does speak towards how much of a GT threat he actually was (a step below the best GT riders of his time).

He won Lombardia a few times but that race has padded many a palmares in recent decades.

He did win MSR and should have won Rio 2016 and I definitely see him as a candidate for the top-10 alongside Valverde, Sagan and Roglic.

Anyway in fifteen-twenty years he probably won't seriously be considered anymore for a top-10 like this. Cavendish might though if you feel that a pure sprinter possibly can.
 
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