Top 20 Cyclists of all time

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Too many riders were not caught. Indurain being a likely example. And LA actually is another example, illustrating how big a role chance plays. Has anyone forgotten how close he was to going down in history as a legitimate winner of sevenTours, when Floyd opened up? IF LA had just given Floyd a job, nothing would have happened. Maybe years later, it would have all come out, but by then it would have been too late. As it was, it was seven years after LA's last Tour win that he was finally sanctioned and banned.

How about Contador? His samples happened to go to one of the few labs capable of detecting CB at the levels present in his urine. I could give some more examples, but we are in the wrong forum for this discussion.



I was going to point out that if you include LA, Ullrich looks pretty good, too, considering he rode most of his most important races vs. LA. Take LA out of the picture, and Ullrich has four Tour wins, two seconds (plus one stripped) and one third. Plus 2 WCTT, and an Olympic RR.

In fact, in a sense he did win four Tours, because though he officially finished second in three, no one finished ahead of him. Isn't that the definition of winning?
This can go even further. Whether you think Froome was doping with Salbutamol or not, the decision of whether he wins that Vuelta wasn't even a case of, is his test positive or not, it was about a decision a group of people like you and me made.
He was inches away from not having won the Vuelta at all and has now instead won it twice.

Just looking at the official results looks so beautifully simpel but it frankly gives you a wrong impression. The real stories are so much more nuanced
 
Too many riders were not caught. Indurain being a likely example. And LA actually is another example, illustrating how big a role chance plays. Has anyone forgotten how close he was to going down in history as a legitimate winner of sevenTours, when Floyd opened up? IF LA had just given Floyd a job, nothing would have happened. Maybe years later, it would have all come out, but by then it would have been too late. As it was, it was seven years after LA's last Tour win that he was finally sanctioned and banned.

How about Contador? His samples happened to go to one of the few labs capable of detecting CB at the levels present in his urine. I could give some more examples, but we are in the wrong forum for this discussion.



I was going to point out that if you include LA, Ullrich looks pretty good, too, considering he rode most of his most important races vs. LA. Take LA out of the picture, and Ullrich has four Tour wins, two seconds (plus one stripped) and one third. Plus 2 WCTT, and an Olympic RR.

In fact, in a sense he did win four Tours, because though he officially finished second in three, no one finished ahead of him. Isn't that the definition of winning?
And a Vuelta for Ullrich, which everyone always
 
Look at Jan and Lance - both were punished for the same offence in the same era. Officially, one is a Tour de France champion, the other is not. Regardless of what they did before and after they crossed the line, I think the man without a Tour win should be ranked maybe a little higher.
Or maybe "cheating better" should not be a valid parameter when looking for the best cyclist. You assume Lance is the better rider, personaly i'm not so sure. Every body reacts differently to dope and you can not say team A got the exact same results as team B by doing roughly the same. And what's more, it doesn't even matter what you or i believe, neither should it. It's like whining that murderer A got a less favorable judge than murderer B. Or one of them making a case in front of a jury that he should go free, because they didn't catch every other murderer in the world, so why should he be punished.

There will always be guys that got away with it, unfortunately. But they shouldn't be the ones to set the bar. Cycling is a sport, it's about determining who is the best within the rules allowed. It's not because some weren't caught, that others should get a free pass.

Another nice example why we shouldn't think like that would be a guy like Ricardo Ricco.
 
For me it is hard to rate the great riders of the distant past because of a lack of personal knowledge/interest, and the separation that seems to exist pre 1990 and post 1990 in one sense obviously, and that specialisation became pretty much essential in the last thirty years. Which had made the recent comparisons and evaluations between Kelly and Valverde rather difficult to do.

Anyway, some other points of discussion. I disagree with any suggestion that podiums shouldn't count, or should only do so as a point of separation between two riders and the size of their palmeres. After all, was Chris Horner a greater GC GT rider (on the road) than Andy Schleck? And as good as Valverde?

My own random points system mentioned earlier also has its flaws, or even more obvious ones, for some races add far more to a riders legacy than an otherwise 'normal' win would. Take Nibali's win in San Remo as a great example. For me, it is worth more than his Lombardia wins, and probably by some distance. Firstly, his victory was unexpected; he won a sprinters classic. Secondly, in my opinion many more riders target MSR than Lombardia. Lombardia is also worth less on this basis than Liege.

If a standard monument win is worth 1 point, Nibali's shock win could be worth 1.5 points.

I mentioned that roughly a TDF win could be worth 2 points vs. 1.5 points for a Giro win. However, the Giro hasn't been close to that prestige level of the Tour as you go further back in history, nor was it very much world widely contested. Perhaps earlier versions of the Giro could be only worth half of a TDF win? Having said that, I think that Froome loses more from his legacy by taking away his 2018 Giro win, then he loses if you take away either of his 2016 or 2017 TDF wins.

The 'on the road' argument is very interesting. In fact, Armstrong, Contador and Froome would all come out very close, even with giving the TDF extra value. On my general points system, Lance would have 14 points for starters, Alberto 13.5, Chris 10.5. Froome would make up a great deal of ground with giving some value to podiums, because Contador didn't apparently care for those, and Armstrong only has that 3rd in the Tour. Contador has the best one week success of these three, but then Armstrong has a couple of one day wins.

As far as impact on the sport (and outside it) goes, than unfortunately Armstrong is probably well ahead of those two, and maybe even ahead of everyone. I recall being at a trivia night (in Australia, not America) a few years ago, and the question was, "Which cyclist is known as The Cannibal?" It was multiple choice, but even with Merckx as an option, my team was the only one to get this answer right (and it was an older crowd too). Everyone else probably answered Armstrong.

Then again, if any civilised human was to turn to something like cannibalism these days, you would probably pick Lance.
 
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Look at Jan and Lance - both were punished for the same offence in the same era. Officially, one is a Tour de France champion, the other is not. Regardless of what they did before and after they crossed the line, I think the man without a Tour win should be ranked maybe a little higher.
I personally think, even though the offence was the same, their particular cases were not.

Lance was one of the worst. Not because of doping, many did the same thing, but because of bribing, bullying, intimidating, using everyone and everything just to get the advantage over everybody else, to get the desired win as much easier as possible. He was not on a level-playing field with others, he was far above.

Ullrich on the other hand was just trying to catch up with him (unsuccessfully).
 
Too many riders were not caught. Indurain being a likely example. And LA actually is another example, illustrating how big a role chance plays. Has anyone forgotten how close he was to going down in history as a legitimate winner of sevenTours, when Floyd opened up? IF LA had just given Floyd a job, nothing would have happened. Maybe years later, it would have all come out, but by then it would have been too late. As it was, it was seven years after LA's last Tour win that he was finally sanctioned and banned.

How about Contador? His samples happened to go to one of the few labs capable of detecting CB at the levels present in his urine. I could give some more examples, but we are in the wrong forum for this discussion.

No different than refereeing decisions in other sports. Sometimes they are wrong, sometimes fouls are missed, sometimes they are only right because there was VAR. In the end all we are left with is the result.
 
Look, there are around 30 riders with 5-8 big wins in their career.
You can make a case for each of them belonging in the top20 list, and it most cases I wouldn't have much to argue against (except perhaps for guys like Bartoli or De Bruyne).

I normally prefer to rank athletes by tier and I do believe what separates this big group of riders from one antoher is mainly due to personal preferences. If one believes any race pales in comparison to the Tour de France then Lemond is a lock for top20 (but even more so Indurain). If one likes a varied palmares then Nibali is very hard to exclude. Number of overall wins are your thing? Make room for Sagan and Saronni.
It is really nuanced for me and I'm way too ignorant on cycling before the 90s to choose a side over the other.

There's one argument I've seen mentioned a few times that I truly don't agree with: dismissing one day wins because luck plays too big of a role. Well, it is probably true you can win a classic by "chance" (a la Hayman). But there's no way you can win the same Monument for 3 or 4 times because of luck, otherwise a lot of riders would pull it off during their careers.
all very fair points.

As noted in my list post, I definitely have my biases (LeMond) and in some cases lifted certain riders to provoke discussion (Ocana).
 
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Ullrich could have 5 without Armstrong.
97, 00, 01, 02(didn't race because of depression and off the field issues from Armstrong demolishing him), and 03. Perhaps he could have done better in 04 or 05 but Basso was very strong and Klöden was very strong in 04.
 
No different than refereeing decisions in other sports. Sometimes they are wrong, sometimes fouls are missed, sometimes they are only right because there was VAR. In the end all we are left with is the result.
The idea of internet forum discussions is that we don't have to limit ourselves to the results. While there is an official list of all results, there is no official list of the best riders, or for that matter, of the best in any sport. So in composing that list, people are allowed not just to weight results differently--a monument win vs. a points jersey--but to weight the same result under different conditions differently.

Officially, LA never won a TDF. But he did finish seven of them with the best overall time, and if some people want to count them as more than officially nothing, who's to say they can't do that?
 
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Well, yes, but there's also much has been made about the differences in the level of boost in the post-EPO generation than beforehand when doping was on a more primitive level. As a result we should perhaps be judging riders purely in regards to what they could achieve against their contemporaries rather than on a historic scale, which again makes it hard to make a definitive call. The sport has just changed too much over time. How much would Chris Froome have won in the 1920s? How much would Costante Girardengo have won today? Who can possibly say, the sport is just too different. It's like comparing Messi to Puskas, or Hamilton to Fangio. Puskas was playing in an age of far more basic equipment on far worse surfaces with a heavy ball and with defenders allowed to chop you from behind at all turns. Simultaneously, though, Messi is playing in an era of far greater depth of talent, but he's afforded far more protection than the stars of the 50s and 60s were, as defenders are discouraged from doing anything to slow down the stars. Fangio was driving in an era of much longer and more challenging courses in an era where death was a constant spectre. At the same time, Hamilton isn't allowed to commandeer a teammate's car if his breaks down and is competing in a much more specialised and professional series, where every driver is a top level pro without gentleman drivers and privateers.
He should have done it in 2016.
I agree with you, in motorsports, even the worst drivers are still not that off the pace. The gap between the top and the bottom is much smaller. Similar to cycling, really. Domestiques are probably much closer to leaders than in the past.
Plus in cycling, if we do a teleportation the 90s riders would be the strongest, but that's for another sub.
 
Not wanting to get dragged into certain discussions and bans or comparing Palmares, for me Cancellara makes an interesing case.

If Cancellara had been around in 60s/70s/80s then I think ht would have even greater Palmares (without the Olympis obviously), but he could in those days have even won Grand Tours, especially the heavy time-trials. This is why comparing eras is so fifficult
 
Not wanting to get dragged into certain discussions and bans or comparing Palmares, for me Cancellara makes an interesing case.

If Cancellara had been around in 60s/70s/80s then I think ht would have even greater Palmares (without the Olympis obviously), but he could in those days have even won Grand Tours, especially the heavy time-trials. This is why comparing eras is so fifficult
That is an intriguing suggestion. A natural follow on from that is to question whether Indurain would win the TDF with so few TT kilometres and more mountainous courses.
 
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