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Vuelta 2011 – The Race Within The Race

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My counterargument to the 'everybody at the top end must be doping' argument is this.

David Moncoutié finished 8th in the Vuelta in 2008. This is a race where guys who've tested positive in their career took the first 2 slots. David Moncoutié is usually the #1 guy cycling fans would put their hands in the fire for; the guy pointed to as a clean cyclist by various sources including Gaumont and Millar. If we are to make the assumption that David Moncoutié is clean, then we are to make the assumption that a clean rider can make it to the top 10 of a Grand Tour, albeit the weakest of the three.

BUT we also know from the testimonies of teammates, managers and David himself, that Moncoutié is not exactly the hardest trainer out there. For him, a couple of hours riding around a Parisian park is training; he doesn't pay much attention to the sports science side of things at all.

If we are saying that all people who make it to the business end of a GT are doping, we therefore make the assumption that:
- almost no riders at all are more talented than David Moncoutié (therefore it is impossible to come higher in a GT than he does without doping)
- no riders of the same or similar talent level as David Moncoutié are any more dedicated than him (as if they were of equal talent level but trained harder or paid more attention to marginal gains they would beat him).

Those are two extremely big leaps of faith to make.
 
May 26, 2010
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Libertine Seguros said:
My counterargument to the 'everybody at the top end must be doping' argument is this.

David Moncoutié finished 8th in the Vuelta in 2008. This is a race where guys who've tested positive in their career took the first 2 slots. David Moncoutié is usually the #1 guy cycling fans would put their hands in the fire for; the guy pointed to as a clean cyclist by various sources including Gaumont and Millar. If we are to make the assumption that David Moncoutié is clean, then we are to make the assumption that a clean rider can make it to the top 10 of a Grand Tour, albeit the weakest of the three.

BUT we also know from the testimonies of teammates, managers and David himself, that Moncoutié is not exactly the hardest trainer out there. For him, a couple of hours riding around a Parisian park is training; he doesn't pay much attention to the sports science side of things at all.

If we are saying that all people who make it to the business end of a GT are doping, we therefore make the assumption that:
- almost no riders at all are more talented than David Moncoutié (therefore it is impossible to come higher in a GT than he does without doping)
- no riders of the same or similar talent level as David Moncoutié are any more dedicated than him (as if they were of equal talent level but trained harder or paid more attention to marginal gains they would beat him).

Those are two extremely big leaps of faith to make.

Moncoutié raced for the mountains jersey and as such was probably not seen as a threat to overall, that and his rep for clean riding, so it was possible to gain more time than other GT contenders and finish top 10.

But Moncoutie is definitely talented, of that there is not question. As for the level of his talent sadly we will never know and he never had the chance to prove to us due the sports failure to address PED use.

As to Moncoutie's training, i doubt it is a couple of hours around the park
 
Fair points Libertine Seguros and ones I wouldn't have had enough knowledge to make. Taking the 2008 Vuelta, Sastre bet Moncoutie by 6 minutes overall. Far fetched? Not for me even though Sastre had a TdF in his legs (an admittedly not very taxing edition).

As for the point of Riis not shouting from the rooftops that he has a clean rider on his roster? I can't buy that. Riis is a cheat so he'd look like a fool by drawing sharp attention to his own personal failings. An endorsement from Riis about a rider's honesty is the last thing any clean rider would want. It'd be like Russell Brand assuring you that your daughter is chaste.
 
Jun 27, 2009
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Fergoose said:
I don't know of Sevilla I'm afraid, but Heras and Mancebo, sure. Looking at TdF performances (the ultimate benchmark) Heras and Mancebo give little indication of having been truly top tier atheletes. Sure Mancebo got a few top tens and even a top 5. But we now know how that was acheived. Heras was all over the place in the TdF. In this Vuelta example, if a doping Sastre still couldn't get within 5 mins of Heras, he should have asked for a refund.
Heras was considered a threat to Lance and was regarded by many as a better rider than Beloki, the ONCE team rider. Some have speculated Armstrong preferred to buy Heras off rather than compete against him (not my opinion, but it makes sense). 4 Vuelta wins, 2 more podiums, and 2 more Top 10 placings, as well as 5th in the Tour 2000.

As for Mancebo, Echevarri was grooming him to be Indurain's successor, but it didn't work out. Still his GT performances are nothing to sneeze at.

Compared to Mancebo and Heras, Sastre had the advantage of coming up under Manolo Saiz, who groomed so many of the great riders of the past decade (Jalabert, Beloki, IGG, Jaksche, Contador, Nozal, Scarponi, Luis Sanchez...and of course Johan Bruyneel was once a protogee)...

I think it's probable that Saiz's methods for training riders made a substantial impact and Saiz was ahead of his time. Bruyneel and Riis learned what they could from him and riders trained by him.

No one saw Sastre as equal to either Heras or Mancebo back in 2001-03, but under Riis Sastre developed into a serious GT contender.
 
May 26, 2010
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Fergoose said:
Fair points Libertine Seguros and ones I wouldn't have had enough knowledge to make. Taking the 2008 Vuelta, Sastre bet Moncoutie by 6 minutes overall. Far fetched? Not for me even though Sastre had a TdF in his legs (and admittedly not very taxing edition).

As for the point of Riis not shouting from the rooftops that he has a clean rider on his roster? I can't buy that. Riis is a cheat so he'd look like a fool by drawing sharp attention to his own personal failings. An endorsement from Riis about a rider's honesty is the last thing any clean rider would want. It'd be Russell Brand assuring you that your daughter is chaste.
you must think JV and Garmin are a bunch of hypocrites, Team Sky too.
 
Jun 27, 2009
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Libertine Seguros said:
My counterargument to the 'everybody at the top end must be doping' argument is this.

David Moncoutié finished 8th in the Vuelta in 2008. This is a race where guys who've tested positive in their career took the first 2 slots. David Moncoutié is usually the #1 guy cycling fans would put their hands in the fire for; the guy pointed to as a clean cyclist by various sources including Gaumont and Millar. If we are to make the assumption that David Moncoutié is clean, then we are to make the assumption that a clean rider can make it to the top 10 of a Grand Tour, albeit the weakest of the three.

BUT we also know from the testimonies of teammates, managers and David himself, that Moncoutié is not exactly the hardest trainer out there. For him, a couple of hours riding around a Parisian park is training; he doesn't pay much attention to the sports science side of things at all.

If we are saying that all people who make it to the business end of a GT are doping, we therefore make the assumption that:
- almost no riders at all are more talented than David Moncoutié (therefore it is impossible to come higher in a GT than he does without doping)
- no riders of the same or similar talent level as David Moncoutié are any more dedicated than him (as if they were of equal talent level but trained harder or paid more attention to marginal gains they would beat him).

Those are two extremely big leaps of faith to make.
All this is dependent on the assumption that Moncoutie is clean. We have no reliable evidence of this outside of rumor or the assertions of people in his camp that obviously have interests of their own. Sure Millar/Gaumont suggested Moncoutie is clean but it wouldn't be the first time that the reputation of a talented young rider is protected (remember Contador and Valverde in Puerto?).

It's also important to note that cyclists who dope train harder. That's why they dope...so they can train more and better. I cannot "train harder" to "make up for doping" because the doping is what allows me to recover and put in more hard training. 'Hard training' and 'doping' compliment each other.

A couple of years ago, in another forum, a guy put forward the argument that 'because reliable people vouch for Wiggins' character, and Wiggins is currently in the Top 5, therefore the Tour must have cleaned up.' Very neat lol.

That kind of reasoning is an epic fail. It asks us to accept a general conclusion on the basis of a leap of faith. It implies that if Wiggins is doping, then it's some kind of failure of character, rather than a sportsman doing his thing. But I guess we'll keep seeing it because the sport needs to appear clean to attract new fans and sponsors.
 
An impressive CV for Heras, granted - he got his money's worth. But the TdF is (rightly or wrongly) the daddy of the GTs, the one the very best prioritise and test their abilities. Heras had a bunch of very ordinary finishes there. For someone cheating to finish so lowly in the TdF doesn't convince me that if you took away the PEDs you had a massively strong athelete (whereas I think Armstrong & Ullrich could be considered as very strong atheletes who were also doping).

ludwig said:
No one saw Sastre as equal to either Heras or Mancebo back in 2001-03, but under Riis Sastre developed into a serious GT contender.
Sastre was only 26 in 2001 and didn't mature into a Top Ten contender in a GT until 2002. Its my understanding that it is not at all rare for a GC rider to find their best form until around 28 or 29 (2003/04 onwards for Sastre, with Heras being a year ahead of him on that curve).

Looking over his CV, Sastre's career shows remarkable consistency. The gradual improvement as he matures. A consistent plateau at his peak and then a gradual decline as he ages. The years when he has a poor GT finish coincidentally are the years when he has tackled multiple GTs. His standout GT finishes are when he appears to have focussed his preparation on just one.

I can't speak for journalists, but for someone assuming he is cheating to look at Sastre's career achievements and conclude he is not comparable with Mancebo & Heras seems surprising - he has had nine top 5 GT finishes.

Please note, I wouldn't always talk about Sastre, but he seems to be the one folk like to bring up most.
 
Mar 10, 2009
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Fergoose said:
In 2008 itself Sastre expended an absolute minimum of energy until the Queens stage.
It should be said that, Sastre in that Tour was the only rider able to go with Ricco when he 'won' one of his two Stages. I'm just sayin like .....
 
Jun 27, 2009
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Fergoose said:
An impressive CV for Heras, granted - he got his money's worth. But the TdF is (rightly or wrongly) the daddy of the GTs, the one the very best prioritise and test their abilities. Heras had a bunch of very ordinary finishes there. For someone cheating to finish so lowly in the TdF doesn't convince me that if you took away the PEDs you had a massively strong athelete (whereas I think Armstrong & Ullrich could be considered as very strong atheletes who were also doping).
Hmm, results don't necessarily tell us everything. Heras was a big part of Armstrong's Tour campaigns. I think something went wrong for Heras in 01 and he was only strong for part of the race, but in 02 he was on rare form and journalists and observers considered him the 2nd strongest climber in the race. However, Heras' main role was pacing Lance on the steep finishes so he wasn't aiming for the podium himself.

It's actually kinda similar to Sastre's role in the 2006 Giro. Sastre was on massive form in this race and if I'm not mistaken, I remember Basso telling the media that Sastre would have won this Giro if he wasn't there. 2006 is a huge year for Sastre because he finished 3 GTs plus a 4th in the Tour.

I can't speak for journalists, but for someone assuming he is cheating to look at Sastre's career achievements and conclude he is not comparable with Mancebo & Heras seems surprising - he has had nine top 5 GT finishes.
I was responding to your suggestion that Sastre is a top-tier athlete and Heras and Mancebo weren't. Sastre is roughly the same age at these guys (Mancebo, Heras, Sevilla) but for as long as I'm been following cycling and the Vuelta (since 2001 basically) I can't recall him being talked about as more naturally talented or having greater natural lung capacity or anything. Clearly Sastre IS a champion and Riis deserves credit for seeing a champion where everyone else saw a domestique, but it wasn't something that was obvious to journalists.
 
ludwig said:
All this is dependent on the assumption that Moncoutie is clean. We have no reliable evidence of this outside of rumor or the assertions of people in his camp that obviously have interests of their own. Sure Millar/Gaumont suggested Moncoutie is clean but it wouldn't be the first time that the reputation of a talented young rider is protected (remember Contador and Valverde in Puerto?).
Millar suggested Moncoutié was clean in his book. That came out a lot later than the Gaumont stuff. I think it's fair to say that when Millar's book was finally published, Moncoutié was not considered a talented young rider anymore.

It's also important to note that cyclists who dope train harder. That's why they dope...so they can train more and better. I cannot "train harder" to "make up for doping" because the doping is what allows me to recover and put in more hard training. 'Hard training' and 'doping' compliment each other.
That depends. Some riders talk of doping as a motivational factor, never training as hard as when they were doping; others talk of maintaining the same level but being able to continue longer at top effort because of the doping. Others have talked about it being a shortcut because they were lazy in their training methods (seem to recall Dekker being one of these but I might be mistaken). Different riders respond differently to doping, both physically and psychologically, and while some general rules of thumb can be made it's impossible to make a generalisation like that.

A couple of years ago, in another forum, a guy put forward the argument that 'because reliable people vouch for Wiggins' character, and Wiggins is currently in the Top 5, therefore the Tour must have cleaned up.' Very neat lol.

That kind of reasoning is an epic fail. It asks us to accept a general conclusion on the basis of a leap of faith. It implies that if Wiggins is doping, then it's some kind of failure of character, rather than a sportsman doing his thing. But I guess we'll keep seeing it because the sport needs to appear clean to attract new fans and sponsors.
But the conclusion that all riders at the top are doping is itself a leap of faith, because if a rider like Moncoutié is clean, then to say that everybody else up there is doping, we are making the leap of faith that there is nobody who is either a) more naturally talented than him, or b) similarly talented but more dedicated. You countered by pointing out that using Moncoutié as our test subject is itself a leap of faith, which I readily concede. But in the absence of anybody in the péloton who we truly know 100% is clean, I'll settle for using somebody who is known to be mercurial but highly talented and has numerous testimonies to his being clean as a feasible control, since every good scientific experiment needs a control group.

The question is, if on this forum circumstantial evidence is all that is needed for us to confidently say a rider is doping, why isn't circumstantial evidence all that is needed for us to say they're clean too?
 
Jun 27, 2009
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Papparrazzi said:
It should be said that, Sastre in that Tour was the only rider able to go with Ricco when he 'won' one of his two Stages. I'm just sayin like .....
2008 was not a Tour without doping incidents. The 3rd place overall is listed as "blank".
 
Jun 27, 2009
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Libertine Seguros said:
But the conclusion that all riders at the top are doping is itself a leap of faith, because if a rider like Moncoutié is clean, then to say that everybody else up there is doping, we are making the leap of faith that there is nobody who is either a) more naturally talented than him, or b) similarly talented but more dedicated. You countered by pointing out that using Moncoutié as our test subject is itself a leap of faith, which I readily concede. But in the absence of anybody in the péloton who we truly know 100% is clean, I'll settle for using somebody who is known to be mercurial but highly talented and has numerous testimonies to his being clean as a feasible control, since every good scientific experiment needs a control group.

The question is, if on this forum circumstantial evidence is all that is needed for us to confidently say a rider is doping, why isn't circumstantial evidence all that is needed for us to say they're clean too?
Well I would need more evidence if I'm going to base a chain of reasoning as well as a belief system on one assertion. If Moncoutie was willing to allow a trustworthy journalist to follow him around for 8 months and the journalist declared Moncoutie verifiably clean, then I'd happily accept him as a control subject and would be prepared to revise my opinions.

However, there are whistle blowers out there giving us credible info, even if much of it can't be verified. And there are also honest scientists out there who help us form credible opinions on the science of doping in sport. So there are other bodies of evidence out there besides the assertions of David Millar and Gaumont about one likable climber.

For myself personally, I try to avoid making direct assertions about contemporary riders--it's much easier to show that Sastre was likely doping in 02-06 then it is to show Sastre was doping 09-11, because we don't have many control subjects that we know for certain were on doping programs during the latter period. While I hope there have been improvements and some data indicate improvements, I feel it's unlikely the peloton has cleaned up completely when the omerta attitude remains widespread and the same DSes who pioneered the doping in the 90s-00s remain at the helm. I feel a sport genuinely dedicated to reform would treat whistle blowers like Jaksche, Kohl, Sinkewitz and Landis more respectfully, rather than ostracizing them and permanently excluding them. There is no indication that riders feel free to speak about doping or that someone could blew the whistle and be protected from retribution.

Instead, I think we are moving to a private league system where the all talk of doping will be silenced like it is in other sports. Maybe this is for the best.
 
Papparrazzi said:
It should be said that, Sastre in that Tour was the only rider able to go with Ricco when he 'won' one of his two Stages. I'm just sayin like .....
Good correction. The specifics of that stage lost in the fog of my mind! I was probably too busy furrowing my brow at Ricco going... "where the hell has this kid come from?"
 
ludwig said:
Instead, I think we are moving to a private league system where the all talk of doping will be silenced like it is in other sports. Maybe this is for the best.
I doubt it. Not enough money in cycling to shut it all up. This isn't football, where the number of on-field deaths due to heart-related problems goes up by 550% since 1990; when Bruno Neves dies in a race the police investigate the team. Also, the other thing is that cycling is known to have a problem. In order to get its house in order, things have to get worse before they can get better.

Doping, for better or for worse, will forever be a topic of discussion within cycling, just as it is in other endurance sports such as athletics and cross-country skiing.
 
Sastre stayed with Ricco in the 2008 Tour? When? Ricco took off from everyone on the Aspin and at Super Besse the only one even close to him was Valverde, of all people.
 
Fergoose said:
I don't know of Sevilla I'm afraid, but Heras and Mancebo, sure. Looking at TdF performances (the ultimate benchmark) Heras and Mancebo give little indication of having been truly top tier atheletes.
You are wrong to discount non TDF results. Wrong to assume that riders would only perform at that particular race. Yes its the most prestigious but you probably underate the Giro and Vuelta. When riders go for the Giro or Vuelta they dont do so half assed. Well apart from the Schlecks of course.

A lot of top gt riders never really went for the TDF - Simoni, Savoldeli, Heras, Garzelli. You say they are not worth looking at because they didnt bring it in July. But when the July riders visited their races very often, targeted their races, these riders could more than hold their own.

Danilo Di Luca has for example I dont think ever ridden the Tour de France. But in the Giro he beat Andy Schleck in 2007 and run Dennis Menchov awfully close in 2009. The same Menchov who brought the same form a year later to the TDF and finished on the podium.

Menchov came 4th in the 08 Tour but only 5th in that years Giro.

Heras was a top tier athlete no doubt, who would probably have finished even higher in the Tour had he not been working for Armstrong.
 
Mar 17, 2009
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Fergoose said:
An impressive CV for Heras, granted - he got his money's worth. But the TdF is (rightly or wrongly) the daddy of the GTs, the one the very best prioritise and test their abilities. Heras had a bunch of very ordinary finishes there. For someone cheating to finish so lowly in the TdF doesn't convince me that if you took away the PEDs you had a massively strong athelete (whereas I think Armstrong & Ullrich could be considered as very strong atheletes who were also doping).



Sastre was only 26 in 2001 and didn't mature into a Top Ten contender in a GT until 2002. Its my understanding that it is not at all rare for a GC rider to find their best form until around 28 or 29 (2003/04 onwards for Sastre, with Heras being a year ahead of him on that curve).

Looking over his CV, Sastre's career shows remarkable consistency. The gradual improvement as he matures. A consistent plateau at his peak and then a gradual decline as he ages. The years when he has a poor GT finish coincidentally are the years when he has tackled multiple GTs. His standout GT finishes are when he appears to have focussed his preparation on just one.

I can't speak for journalists, but for someone assuming he is cheating to look at Sastre's career achievements and conclude he is not comparable with Mancebo & Heras seems surprising - he has had nine top 5 GT finishes.

Please note, I wouldn't always talk about Sastre, but he seems to be the one folk like to bring up most.
What you are overlooking time and again is the context for a rider's results in a race.

Sastre was not considered a GT contender by any DS until his move to CSC. Even then he was more of a loose cannon looking for stage wins in the mountains, getting into the top 10 was almost a byproduct.

Pointing out his squeaky cleanliness is fraught with problems too. Kelme, ONCE & CSC have some of the murkiest histories in the sport. He must have gone around the team hotel in a blindfold with is iPod on full volume to avoid accidentally witnessing nefarious activity!

To deride Heras's Tour record is, as has been mentioned, ignoring his role at Postal. He was a Domestique Deluxe for Armstrong, effectively removing a rival in the process.

As for Sevilla, check out his palmares here http://www.cyclingbase.com/palcoureurs.php?id=93&idtitle=1
Not too shabby, even if he was on the gear.

If you look beyond the doping and find out about the sport in its entirety you'll come to understand the way in which dope has affected the results. Asking around on a forum is fine but it only skims the surface and is less objective in many instances.

My take on Sastre is that he may have been less embroiled in doping but likely as not he ain't clean. That said I think he also is possibly a rider who didn't get that much of an advantage when it was a free-for-all but when things were more controlled he was at less of a disadvantaged.
 
I think Sastre could have had better results with a bit more freedom in 2000 and 2001 instead of dragging Olano and Beloki around Spain.

In 2000 he had to help Olano for 10 stages and only after he was relatively free to ride ride for himself. He was second on a stage (from a break), 5th on another (2nd from the bunch), suffered on the Angliru but was still top-15 from the bunch and 16th on the Abantos,

He was 14th on GC after the stage where he finished second from the break and finished 8th in Madrid.

In 2001 after Beloki failed Sastre was second in the MTT, 3rd on Aitana and was in the lead the next stage when he crashed.

On another team without Olano, Beloki and Iggy Sastre would have been able to show his ability earlier, provided his ability wasn't correlated with the team he rode for.
 
Yowzer, plenty to get through!

Hitch You say the only GC contenders to not take the other GTs seriously are the Schlecks. Then two paragraphs down you highlight how Di Luca bet a very young Andy Schleck in 2007 (before Schleck's natural peak). It’d be better if you picked an example where a proven TdF podium contender (preferably a confirmed cheat and in their prime) took a year to instead focus on the Vuelta or Giro and got thumped by the contenders there. But you’d need more than one isolated example to present a case that the Giro/Vuelta are as ultimately competitive as the TdF.

In no way am I completely discounting non-TdF results or trying to be disrespectful to the Vuelta or Giro. I am saying, for the ultimate benchmark of the ultimate atheletes involved in GTs, the TdF has to be where you look – it’s the daddy in terms of the names that enter it and the prestige. There are so many cyclists, like Nibali (who I am a fan of), who clearly decide they can’t compete in the TdF, so they should look elsewhere. In 2009 he didn’t go to the Giro, focussed on the TdF and could only muster 7th. We haven’t seen him at the TdF since.

Its part of the reason why I am tipping an underprepared & recently injured Van den Broeck to beat the defending Vuelta champion in this contest. In my opinion, VdB’s 5th (only 6mins off the victory) in last years TdF was at least comparable to Nibali’s Vuelta victory (I actually think it was a stronger performance). Again, all subjective and I’m sure some of you would disagree (but it sounds like Nibali was destined for second until Anton crashed out).

Being less mountainous and attracting less pure climbers, I’d imagine the TdF suits Menchov more than the Giro, so him doing better in the TdF in 2008 is not necessarily a sign of that being weaker (although the 2008 edition of the TdF was incredibly weak, which is why we should not be surprised by Sastre winning it). On the flip side, Menchov has perhaps managed to have the ultimate Vuelta & Giro success and disappoint at the TdF, because of the calibre of opposition.

I will bow to others opinions of Mancebo & Heras standards, many of you will have seen them perform more than I have. I was merely contesting the claim that they were in any way markedly superior to Sastre (even assuming Sastre was doping at the same level as them). A comparison of their career GT achievements shows them to be fairly even in my personal opinion. Heras does considerably better in the Vuelta, Sastre does considerably better in the TdF, Mancebo does consistently good in both. I'd argue that none of the three is considered a truly elite athelete. Heras was happy to be a domestique for a time (despite cheating), Mancebo never won a GT (despite cheating) and I’d argue Sastre is very talented, consistent and intelligent rather than an elite athelete (he may even concede the same himself).

ultimobici
ultimobici said:
What you are overlooking time and again is the context for a rider's results in a race.
1. I don’t think that is a fair reflection. What you are overlooking is the occasions above when I have gone into detail about specific tours and specific stages (admittedly primarily 2008 TdF, but also a stage in the 2003 TdF when Sastre bet USPostal on the climb. You’ll note I acknowledged it was a very good example, before I realised one explanation would be that, in not seeing Sastre as a threat, Ullrich & Armstrong marked each other instead and let him run off.

I’ve asked for people to pick apart specific rebuttles I’ve made (rather than largely ignore them and instead make up a new example). The one time I was queried there, I conceded I may have been wrong. It has subsequently turned out I might have been right after all and that Sastre did give his only main attack/effort on the Alpe rather than respond to Ricco’s attack. I honestly can’t remember either way and its not a major point at all. What it is though, is evidence I’m not ignoring is the context of a rider’s result in a race.

Besides, it appears someone like Roundabout has a greater knowledge than me, and is so better placed to respond to your “context within a race” (thanks for that). What I’d add to that is that Sastre was only 26 when he left ONCE wasn’t he? Again, he was not as his peak, so its understandable he might not have been a clear GC prospect in his youth. Who can say how a 26 year will perform as a GC contender when they are 29/30? For every Andy Schleck there is a Robert Gessink.

Sastre was not considered a GT contender by any DS until his move to CSC. Even then he was more of a loose cannon looking for stage wins in the mountains, getting into the top 10 was almost a byproduct.
2. I don't think it’s a remotely valid point to suggest Sastre's massive string of GT top 10s was because he raced for stage wins rather than the overall. I can't think of anybody else who was stage win focussed that then "inadvertantly" got almost a dozen top ten GT finishes as an accidental by product. Perhaps someone can correct me though. But that argument actually undermines the case for Sastre doping. If you are saying his high GT finishes were due to him being ignored by leading GC contenders then you are undermining the argument that he only did so well in GTs because he was doping.

Pointing out his squeaky cleanliness is fraught with problems too. Kelme, ONCE & CSC have some of the murkiest histories in the sport. He must have gone around the team hotel in a blindfold with is iPod on full volume to avoid accidentally witnessing nefarious activity!
3. I have not pointed out Sastre’s squeaky cleanliness, as I’ve said repeatedly, its impossible to prove that he (or anyone else on the planet) has never taken EPO. What I have said is that I remain unconvinced by any argument in this thread (or elsewhere) that there is clear evidence of Sastre doping, or even justifiable overwhelming suspicion. I maintain he is still very much in the No Case To Answer column and therefore fit for me to cheer on during this Vuelta.

4. The example of Moncoutie shows it may well be entirely possible for a clean rider to stay in a team and not stick their nose into what their teammates are sticking into their arms. Being in the same team in no way means you all behave the same or cheat the same.

To deride Heras's Tour record is, as has been mentioned, ignoring his role at Postal. He was a Domestique Deluxe for Armstrong, effectively removing a rival in the process.
5. I did not deride Heras’ TdF record.

We remain in this thread in the position where 8 of the 9 riders in the Vuelta prediction poll haven’t previously tested positive or have extremely murky past performances that clearly point to doping. I think that is brilliant and far better than I expected (I don’t know much about Menchov, Anton, Rodriguez and Nibali’s performances outwith the TdF so I was fearing there would be many examples of them making ridiculously aggressive performances or having been the subject of extremely strong and incriminating first hand testimony or corroborated testimony. Actually, I only just twigged that ultimobici included Kloden as a confirmed cheat, so it may only be 7 out of the 9 contenders. Still much better than I thought and besides Kloden is no longer a contender in this Vuelta, so I’m not too bothered anyway. I don't like him as a rider as he has shown a lack of ambition throughout his entire career which I find very disappointing.)
 
Fergoose said:
Yowzer, plenty to get through!

Hitch You say the only GC contenders to not take the other GTs seriously are the Schlecks. Then two paragraphs down you highlight how Di Luca bet a very young Andy Schleck in 2007 (before Schleck's natural peak).

it’s the daddy in terms of the names that enter it and the prestige. There are so many cyclists, like Nibali (who I am a fan of), who clearly decide they can’t compete in the TdF, so they should look elsewhere. In 2009 he didn’t go to the Giro, focussed on the TdF and could only muster 7th. We haven’t seen him at the TdF since.
The bit about the Schlecks is part of a running gag on the forum that they are lazy. Ignore it it was only half serious.

Nibali finished 7th in the Tour as a 24 year old and if you take away the 1 minute head start Andreas Kloeden was given by the organisers with a pathetic 40km ttt, Nibali would have gotten 6th.

A year later this 6th best rider of the Tour could only manage 3rd in the Giro and that was with a 2 minute head start of his own in the ttt. In that ttt Nibalis team liquigas put 1 and a half minutes into Cadel Evans and 2 and a half minutes into Michelle Scarponi. Without this head start of his own Nibali would only have come 5th.

Yet you say a 5th place in a TDF is roughly equal to a win in another gt. Then how comes Nibali was only slightly higher in the Giro (as a more mature rider) than he had been in the Tour a year earlier.


It’d be better if you picked an example where a proven TdF podium contender (preferably a confirmed cheat and in their prime) took a year to instead focus on the Vuelta or Giro and got thumped by the contenders there. But you’d need more than one isolated example to present a case that the Giro/Vuelta are as ultimately competitive as the TdF.
Well this is very easy considering who half the thread is about.

Carlos Sastre. Forget podium contender, the winner, yes WINNER of the Tour de France decided to focus on the Giro the next year - 2009.

He won 2 stages yes and was awesome but overall he could only manage 4th.

This years winner Cadel Evans focused on the Giro last year. WHere did he finish. Oh 5th (4th if you take out the unfair time he lost in the ttt)

Samuel Sanchez was by far away the best of the rest in the 2010 Tour de France, only losing 3rd overall because he broke his wrist on the most important stage and had a broken wrist for the itt and still by some miracle helf onto 4th.

But 10 months earlier the same Samu Sanchez, focused on the Vuelta (didnt do the Tour) and came 2nd to Alejandro Valverde.

In no way am I completely discounting non-TdF results or trying to be disrespectful to the Vuelta or Giro. I am saying, for the ultimate benchmark of the ultimate atheletes involved in GTs, the TdF has to be where you look –
It has the biggest names but not a monopoly on names. This year for example Contador Menchov Scarponi Nibali Rujano Anton Rodriguez Sastre at the Giro was arguably just as big as the Tour linup especially consdering Contador went into the Tour half the man he usualy is because of the Giro.

The Tour is the benchmark if you want to look at winners. No GC rider is considered a true great unless they won the Tour (apart from Binda ). But if we are talking the slightly lower wrung of top gc contenders you can show your worth in the other GTs just as much as you can do in the Tour. A few places higher of course, but plenty of average riders have come top 10, even top 5 in the Tour ( Hejsdal, CVV, maybe wiggins) , while plenty of great Gc riders have never done well at the Tour, or never done the Tour period but are clearly better than the above ( Mosqura, Scarponi)

To suggest anyone who focuses on the Giro does so because they cant win the Tour is ignorant. Every single great Tour winner in history has focused on the Giro countless times with the exception of Armstrong and Lemond (who isnt that big in the scheme of things).

Its part of the reason why I am tipping an underprepared & recently injured Van den Broeck to beat the defending Vuelta champion in this contest. In my opinion, VdB’s 5th (only 6mins off the victory) in last years TdF was at least comparable to Nibali’s Vuelta victory (I actually think it was a stronger performance). Again, all subjective and I’m sure some of you would disagree (but it sounds like Nibali was destined for second until Anton crashed out).
Yes Nibalis Vuelta win was mediocre, it was the worst field the Vuelta has had in a while.

But id say comparing VDBs 5th is stretching it. Contador, Schleck Samu and Menchov yes definately.

Maybe even J Rodriguez in 8th was better than Nibalis Vuelta. He won a stage by dropping all the best climbers on a climb they went all out on, got a top 10 overall and when he got his mind together managed to come in behind Contador and Schleck in 3rd on their great showdown, even though they were fighting for the win and he was fighting for nothing. And thats consdering he already had a amazing and very tough season.

VDB by contrast was unremarkable did nothing. The guys in front of him were fighting for stages and wins, he was fighting for 5th. Just paced himself up climbs.

Nibali at the Vuelta at least put in some awesome performances. He was ganged up on by teams, attacking with the sole purpose to drop him so couldnt just pace his own way up climbs.

No one ganged up on VDB for 5th. His main rival for that position was Gesink who was working for Menchov and the next rider - Hejsdal is nowhere near as good a gc rider as Nibalis rival - Mosquera.

Being less mountainous and attracting less pure climbers, I’d imagine the TdF suits Menchov more than the Giro, so him doing better in the TdF in 2008 is not necessarily a sign of that being weaker (although the 2008 edition of the TdF was incredibly weak, which is why we should not be surprised by Sastre winning it). On the flip side, Menchov has perhaps managed to have the ultimate Vuelta & Giro success and disappoint at the TdF, because of the calibre of opposition.
Menchov has also been unlucky that he has focused on the TDF in stronger years like 2010 and 2006. in 07, 08, 09 and definately 11 he could have done far better at the Tour.
 
The Hitch said:
To suggest anyone who focuses on the Giro does so because they cant win the Tour is ignorant. Every single great Tour winner in history has focused on the Giro countless times with the exception of Armstrong and Lemond (who isnt that big in the scheme of things).
We were talking about Nibali. He isn't a Tour winner diverting his focus elsewhere looking for a new challenge. He's a great rider who couldn't quite podium in the TdF. I'd love to see him have a crack at it again though. And fair point on his age. I'd forgotten he was still just a pup!

I find it hard to believe that a rider who truly believes they can win the Tour de France would elect instead to focus on one of the other GTs and turn their back on more prestige and commercial endorsement - its difficult to think of equivalents in other sports; footballers who'd prefer a Serie B salary, or F1 drivers who'd over look Ferrari to seek out the fame of driving for Hispania Racing (ridiculously exaggerated comparisons obviously but a TdF winner is a household name with the endorsements to match. Even I couldn't name some recent Giro & Vuelta winners and I've been a fan of the sport for a fair old time). The TdF winners who then try the Giro too are probably thinking they can double up without too much of a negative impact on their Tour (like Contador thought this year).

I think its far from ignorant to suggest that riders will make such considerations when choosing which GT(s) they'll go after in a given season. I'd guess other factors will include the stage layout on the tour, which rivals will be taking on which GTs and how rigorous the anti-doping measures are deemed to be at each GT on any given year.

I'd wager that Sastre's decision about the 2009 Giro could easily have been influenced by the knowledge that the then untouchable Contador would be returning to the TdF. Like I say, I think Sastre is smart and knows his limits. No way could he ever hope to compete with a doping Contador.

And just to be argumentative. The higher gradients of the Giro would suit Evans far less than the Tour, so I'm not surprised he didn't do great in it. Generally though, your Tour vs Giro/Vuelta field comparisons were much more persuasive and informative - so thank you.

As for Nibali versus VdB - we'll be able to gauge the relative merits of their respective performances last year, in the coming fortnight (unless VdB suffers unduly on the first super hard mountain finish. If he passes that first one okay, then a fair comparison is possible). An extra wee dynamic to look out for.
 
Jul 2, 2009
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The Hitch said:
To suggest anyone who focuses on the Giro does so because they cant win the Tour is ignorant. Every single great Tour winner in history has focused on the Giro countless times with the exception of Armstrong and Lemond (who isnt that big in the scheme of things).
Is that the same LeMond who came 3rd in '85 and 4th in '86, or a different one? :)

It depends what you consider 'great'. Even though he only won it once, I'd consider Zoetemelk 'great' and he never touch the Giro (and only the Vuelta twice). Similarly, Poulidor - no Giros that I can see. Plenty of others too.

Many posters on here often suggest that 'Rider X' should miss the Tour because they can't win and focus on the 'easier' Giro and Vuelta. If they're thinking it, you can be sure that some cyclists are thinking it.

As to Nibali, I think he really wants to win the Giro (as all Italians do, except Basso, who's 'been there, done that')
 
Fergoose, didn't you confess here: http://forum.cyclingnews.com/showpost.php?p=654162&postcount=44 that you've never watched a Giro and this is your first Vuelta? Don't you think you aren't in the best position to therefore argue about what riders can or can't do at those races?

The Tour, Giro and Vuelta are similar races, but in certain respects they are very different. The mountain passes of the Tour are mostly long but fairly gradual, good quality roads. The Giro and Vuelta often feature the organisers going out of their way to hunt down gnarly, horrible steep climbs, the kind of climbs we never see in the Tour. Riders who can compete for the top 10 of the Tour could probably not do so at the Giro or Vuelta (Hesjedal or Vande Velde, for example), whilst many riders who top 10 the Giro or Vuelta probably couldn't do so at the Tour, because lightweight climbers are benefited at these races (Sella or Pozzovivo, for example).

Also, you have a number of other key differences:
- the average speed of the péloton is much higher at the Tour owing to its importance and the unwillingness to let too much unpredictability spoil gameplans; as a result, riders who are not so strong, and less experienced GT riders, will usually start off with the Giro and Vuelta. An upshot of this is that breakaways go further, and are more likely to succeed, which means more teams want to get into them, and makes the race harder to control. At the Tour the pace is so high that it's hard for anybody to break the iron fist of control.
- Because of the Tour's world standing, everybody wants to be at the front there. This means that the race often features a large number of contenders who race defensively, because the risk of losing that all-important top 10 place is too great. It's only when the backs are to the wall that we get things like Schleck attacking on the Izoard this year. In the Giro and Vuelta, riders in the bottom end of the top 10 are much more likely to attack to better their positions, and this means that the people who compete to win are more likely to be asked to answer a number of attacks throughout; this balances out that they likely have more left in the tank because of the lower average speed.
- The Tour de France has the undisputed position as the #1 most important race in the sport. Because of this, the race organisers can afford to be lazy with the route, and they are. They also have a tendency to play safe, and rather than hunt out a new mountain or creative stage design, go with a 'name' climb that everyone can hype up - Ventoux, Alpe d'Huez, Tourmalet, Galibier. The Giro and Vuelta, however, their positions are not so undisputed, and as a result they are constantly searching for ways to draw more attention to their race, resulting in the discovery and use of new climbs, the inserting of more interesting closing sections to stages (see stages 3, 5 and 6 this week) that would likely, in the Tour, be happily left to bunch sprints.

Finally, all of the races have their own challenges in the form of the weather. The Giro often features wind, rain and sometimes even snow, which challenges the riders. The Vuelta features stages of up to 40ºC, again, which challenges the riders even at the lower average speeds.

It is too simplistic to say that any GT rider who focuses on the Giro or Vuelta does so because they can't win the Tour. There are plenty of people who can compete for the GC at the Tour who could never compete for it at the Vuelta. The characteristics required are similar, but don't be fooled into thinking they're the same.
 
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