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Vuelta 2011 – The Race Within The Race

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Mambo95 said:
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')
Thanks for the correction on Lemond. I thought he never tried it but looks like i was wrong.

As for poupou well he won the Vuelta didnt he and the Vuelta and Giro are one and the same in this discussion. ;)
 
Mar 17, 2009
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Fergoose said:
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.
I think you're missing one major factor in any rider's race programme - a sponsor's needs.

A company like Liquigas may have more to gain in terms of marketing from a Vuelta or Giro campaign instead of a tilt at the Tour. In the same way as Boonen winning in the Ronde is worth much more to Quick-Step than a stage of the Tour, a win in the Vuelta is of more value to Kelme or another Spanish team. In a similar way Bissell have more to gain in competing in the ToC or the current USA Pro Cycling Challenge than the Vuelta. The Vuelta is way more prestigious than California but it serves some sponsor's needs better.

The Tour is a massively different scenario though because it is the one universally known race outside of the fans. It will catch the attention of people across the world in a way that the Giro, Vuelta and countless other incredible races won't. That's why, as has been suggested, ASO can be less adventurous with their route, visiting the same places almost in rotation without fear that the viewing public will be bored.

in F1 the old established race circuits are the same year in year out, while the newer races have to keep reinventing themselves. The chances of Monza, Spa or Monaco losing their draw is unthinkable. So it is with the Tour, because - It's The Tour

If you're only watching your first Vuelta & have never seen the Giro you have some way to go before you can truly appreciate this beautiful sport. The Tour is grand and all, but the true beauty is to be found in the Dolomites, the Flemish Bergs, Ligurian Capi & Pave of the Somme. Without immersing yourself in the history therein you have barely scraped the surface. Christophe, Coppi, Magni & Merckx all would still be legends without the Tour.
 
Libertine Seguros said:
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?
Oh yes. I am quite up front and open that there will be many posters on this forum who are more knowledgeable than I about cycling, including many who will be far more knowledgeable. You’ll find I tend to avoid ego stroking contests like that and unlike many on the internet am happy to admit when I got something wrong or simply don’t have enough knowledge to comment.

Does that mean I’m not entitled to an opinion or that I can’t make a valid point or that I should be discouraged from posting my thoughts? No. Especially if I acknowledge when someone makes a point I hadn’t thought of and educates me (which you’ll find has happened a few times in this thread already).

As another example of that, ultimobici brings up a valid point about sponsorship that I had not fully considered. I can imagine certain teams dictating where their riders race in consultation with their sponsors and given Liquigas’ heritage that could well be a factor. I am unaware of their market penetration in France and their Vuelta team here seems stronger than their TdF team (on first impressions).

You don’t have to have watched a Giro or Vuelta to know that they present a different challenge. By your own description it seems fair to say the TdF is less friendly to explosive climbers and more friendly to time trialists who can climb a bit. Knowing that, its pretty straightforward for me to have concluded that the TdF would suit a rider like Evans better than the Giro isn’t it? Apologies if I'm overlooking something obvious.

I wasn’t debating the merits of the various races at all infact, I was just, as you have done, confirming that when it comes to Grand Tours the TdF (rightly or wrongly) is the main prize (in terms of prestige, fame and subsequent endorsements) and that as such, it will likely disproportionately attract the focus of the top GT contenders from each generation of Grand Tour riders. Personally, I am really enjoying the Vuelta so far and can’t wait to see how it unfolds.

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.
Such as? Given the range of styles of riders who have won the Vuelta (e.g. from Heras to Menchov) I’m struggling to think of any TdF podium finishers from the past 15 years that couldn’t have aced a Vuelta had they given it their focus (apart from Oscar Pereiro and Levi Leipheimer). Totally speculative and unprovable, but its my feeling nonetheless. I guess it depends on the definition of “competing for the GC at the tour”.

And yes, I picked 15 years to intentionally leave out Miguel Indurain as possible example. :D
 
Fergoose said:
Oh yes. I am quite up front and open that there will be many posters on this forum who are more knowledgeable than I about cycling, including many who will be far more knowledgeable. You’ll find I tend to avoid ego stroking contests like that and unlike many on the internet am happy to admit when I got something wrong or simply don’t have enough knowledge to comment.

Does that mean I’m not entitled to an opinion or that I can’t make a valid point or that I should be discouraged from posting my thoughts? No. Especially if I acknowledge when someone makes a point I hadn’t thought of and educates me (which you’ll find has happened a few times in this thread already).

As another example of that, ultimobici brings up a valid point about sponsorship that I had not fully considered. I can imagine certain teams dictating where their riders race in consultation with their sponsors and given Liquigas’ heritage that could well be a factor. I am unaware of their market penetration in France and their Vuelta team here seems stronger than their TdF team (on first impressions).
You also have the balancing of the teams' riders' ambitions to consider. Liquigas could probably compete to win the Giro or Vuelta with Ivan Basso. But they can do that with Vincenzo Nibali just the same - but Basso wants to win the Tour, and the team top brass consider that he's more likely to win the Tour. So he does that while Nibali does the other two. Similarly with Katyusha, I'm sure sponsor demands played a role in the all-Russian team at the Tour, but also a fresh Joaquím Rodríguez is somebody who the Vuelta suits more than the Tour. He certainly can compete for the GC at the Tour - he was 8th last year - but Katyusha and Rodríguez considered potentially winning the Vuelta more valuable than maybe coming 7th at the Tour (though of course given the number of injuries they could have done more).

You don’t have to have watched a Giro or Vuelta to know that they present a different challenge. By your own description it seems fair to say the TdF is less friendly to explosive climbers and more friendly to time trialists who can climb a bit. Knowing that, its pretty straightforward for me to have concluded that the TdF would suit a rider like Evans better than the Giro isn’t it? Apologies if I'm overlooking something obvious.

I wasn’t debating the merits of the various races at all infact, I was just, as you have done, confirming that when it comes to Grand Tours the TdF (rightly or wrongly) is the main prize (in terms of prestige, fame and subsequent endorsements) and that as such, it will likely disproportionately attract the focus of the top GT contenders from each generation of Grand Tour riders. Personally, I am really enjoying the Vuelta so far and can’t wait to see how it unfolds.
Your tone earlier sounded dismissive of the other two GTs, suggesting that anybody who considers themselves a GC rider would automatically go for the Tour. Which is clearly not the case, and made you sound highly dismissive of riders like Heras and Savoldelli, or Simoni, for whom their home race was much more important to them (and two of whom were, of course, paid handsomely to forgo any ambitions towards the Tour that they may have had, in service of Armstrong). Perhaps that wasn't your intention, but the tone that it struck to some of us was an implication that the Tour is better than the Giro or Vuelta (often it isn't) and that anybody who goes for the GC of the other 2 GTs only does so because they can't compete at the Tour, and if they could, they'd all do the Tour. Again, maybe that wasn't what you intended, but that's how it came across.

Such as? Given the range of styles of riders who have won the Vuelta (e.g. from Heras to Menchov) I’m struggling to think of any TdF podium finishers from the past 15 years that couldn’t have aced a Vuelta had they given it their focus (apart from Oscar Pereiro and Levi Leipheimer). Totally speculative and unprovable, but its my feeling nonetheless. I guess it depends on the definition of “competing for the GC at the tour”.

And yes, I picked 15 years to intentionally leave out Miguel Indurain as possible example. :D
There's a lot more people target the GC than finish on the podium - anybody who finishes on the podium is going to be good enough at both climbing and ITT riding to compete at all 3 GTs.

How about Nardello, Boogerd, Moreau, maybe Leipheimer (he was 2nd in 2008, let's be fair), Zubeldia, Klöden, Azevedo, Totschnig, Kirchen, Vande Velde, Hesjedal, possibly Wiggins (we'll see how he does on Farrapona and Angliru) and post-comeback Armstrong? How many of them would realistically win or podium a Giro or Vuelta?
 
fergoose you can have your opinion but you should accept that due to your lack of knowledge( you admit that yourself) it may be wrong.

please name 5 riders under 30 with more GT GC success then nibali(who is the same age as andy btw).

you can only name contador and arguably andy schleck(I would be more proud of winning a vuelta then to have come second a bunch of times at the tour)

btw overall schleck is only better at climbing then nibali. on a proper tour route with 100k of itt and 2 big downhill finishes schleck would lose plenty of time on nibali . even dropping nibali on the climbs nibali's descending skills are so good compared to schleck's that he would prolly get back to him and descend away from him during a descend. also nibali is extremely good at limiting his losses as he proved many times before.

both those guys have beaten evans on last year's giro.

i have no doubt in my mind that scarponi and nibali could have finished this years tour on the podium.

p.s. of libertine's list i would say maybe azevedo and bottle
scarponi also is a great GT rider certainly much better then cunego that was 8th at this year's tour and was 5th before the itt.
 
Libertine Seguros said:
Your tone earlier sounded dismissive of the other two GTs, suggesting that anybody who considers themselves a GC rider would automatically go for the Tour.
The intention was in no way to be dismissive of the Giro or Vuelta; I thought I’d been at pains to point that out, but obviously not enough. I was more suggesting that anyone who was capable of a good chance of winning the TdF would automatically go for the TdF (and I still believe that although the prospect of going up against a doping Armstrong and his doping team would likely put many folk off such a futile attempt). The 2008 & 2009 editions of the Tour were frankly poor as a spectacle for a neutral observer (but obviously a zillion times better than the preceding years because they weren’t as tainted and the performances were much slower and believable on key climbs). It is ridiculous the way they appeared to try to make everything be decided on one stage out of 21 – so yes, not a TdF fanboy at all here (although I’ve loved the last two editions).

I may however have let a dismissive tone creep in when discussing the likes of Heras and Simoni as they are legally proven cheats whose performances at the TdF would suggest that they were not truly elite atheletes. Even if the Tour doesn’t suit you as a pure climber and you have focussed on the Vuelta or the Giro, you still have a chance of getting inside the top 20 regularly if you are an elite cyclist. As Sastre proves!

Thanks for the examples that couldn’t tackle the Vuelta – as I suspected our definitions of ‘competing for the GC at tour’ were different (yours is more accurate perhaps, mine was more "competing for a top five finish at the TdF"). Those aren’t particularly strong riders as examples (i.e. riders that chalked up three or more good finishes - apart from Boogerd & Kloden, and I conceded Leipheimer). I’d turn around your quote and ask

‘How many of them would realistically win or podium at the TdF?’

The answer to that from your examples is 3 (Kloden, Leipheimer & post comeback Armstrong - none of whom have ever to my knowledge focussed their season on the Vuelta). Of the others, I didn’t find much evidence of any of them having focussed on the Vuelta either, but would certainly concede that some years the TdF can be so conservative (with only one key stage plus an ITT), that it is possible for less talented performers to creep into the outer fringes of the Top 10 and that these riders would likely struggle to reach the outer fringes of the Top 10 at the Vuelta. So yes, if we use your definition of GC contenders you are quite right that there is maybe an average of one rider per year in the TdF top ten who probably couldn’t get a Top 10 Vuelta finish even if they focussed on it.

However, if we use the ‘podium contenders’ definition of GC contenders I’m not convinced that

There are plenty of people who can compete for the GC at the Tour who could never compete for it at the Vuelta.

Parrulo said:
fergoose you can have your opinion but you should accept that due to your lack of knowledge( you admit that yourself) it may be wrong.
As you read my last post, you’ll know I fully accept that in the first paragraph of said post. I also fully accept that having a reservoir of knowledge but an inability use that knowledge to make a reasoned argument will also result in people being wrong. As an example, you’ll have found numerous posters in this thread who have made basic errors and many who, unlike me, fail to acknowledge when they are perhaps not right.

For me forums are not about proving who is right and who is wrong. It’s about gaining more information to improve my enjoyment of the sport and I am grateful for your contributions in helping me with that.

I’ve done that in this thread. Mission accomplished. None of the stages thus far have added to the debate, with no outlandish attacks or eyebrow raising performances.

We strayed into TdF versus Giro/Vuelta discussions which is not something I’m particularly bothered about. However, if folk make arguments about it, I am happy to look up data and respond if I don’t think their point is sound.

please name 5 riders under 30 with more GT GC success then nibali(who is the same age as andy btw).
Why? I’ve enjoyed Nibali greatly from when I first saw him on the TdF. I’m not knocking him, he is probably my favourite rider out of the Vuelta contenders this year and I would love him to win. That doesn’t mean I think he’ll win this year (if VdB is fit or Menchov shows his best form) or that I accept your point that if Nibali focussed on the TdF he’d have finished ahead of Contador, Sanchez, Basso, Voeckler and one of the Schlecks (or VdB and possibly even Wiggins if they hadn’t crashed out) in order to make a podium. So I enjoy Nibali, but I don’t agree with your point at all.

As for Scarponi, I think he is capable of anything after making his debut in the top 10 of a GC at the age of 30 and having served a doping ban. Its why out of all the remaining GC contenders in this Vuelta, he is the one I’ll be hoping that Lady Luck doesn’t shine on in the coming fortnight as I believe out of all the contenders he is the one most capable of once again bringing the sport into disrepute.
 
Fergoose said:
As you read my last post, you’ll know I fully accept that in the first paragraph of said post. I also fully accept that having a reservoir of knowledge but an inability use that knowledge to make a reasoned argument will also result in people being wrong. As an example, you’ll have found numerous posters in this thread who have made basic errors and many who, unlike me, fail to acknowledge when they are perhaps not right.
Which posters are you talking about?
 
The Hitch said:
Which posters are you talking about?
The ones that have been contradicted by other posters on a point of fact. If this is done, then either Poster A (making the original point) or Poster B (providing what they believe is a factual correction) must by definition be incorrect. You'll find examples in the past 9 pages (e.g. whether Sastre responded to a Ricco attack in 2008) and you'll find this a recurring theme on this (or any) forum. Forums are generally not inhabited by T-100 style robots incapable of minor factual errors or oversights, so it is to be expected.

I'm not in the habit of naming names and my comment was not meant as a slur. It was perhaps meant more as "if you want to criticise me for the occassional error, then perhaps first you should go knocking on the doors of people who a) make an error & b) don't acknowledge it".
 
Fergoose said:
The 2008 & 2009 editions of the Tour were frankly poor as a spectacle for a neutral observer (but obviously a zillion times better than the preceding years because they weren’t as tainted and the performances were much slower and believable on key climbs). It is ridiculous the way they appeared to try to make everything be decided on one stage out of 21 – so yes, not a TdF fanboy at all here (although I’ve loved the last two editions).

I may however have let a dismissive tone creep in when discussing the likes of Heras and Simoni as they are legally proven cheats whose performances at the TdF would suggest that they were not truly elite atheletes. Even if the Tour doesn’t suit you as a pure climber and you have focussed on the Vuelta or the Giro, you still have a chance of getting inside the top 20 regularly if you are an elite cyclist. As Sastre proves!
To be fair on the likes of Heras and Simoni though, those were the days of once-a-year performances and some pretty ludicrous peaking; Simoni always targeted the Giro, and so would usually be pretty tired by the time the Tour came around, while Heras spent most of his time in the service of Armstrong at the Tour. And even if you leave those two out, what about Savoldelli?

Thanks for the examples that couldn’t tackle the Vuelta – as I suspected our definitions of ‘competing for the GC at tour’ were different (yours is more accurate perhaps, mine was more "competing for a top five finish at the TdF"). Those aren’t particularly strong riders as examples (i.e. riders that chalked up three or more good finishes - apart from Boogerd & Kloden, and I conceded Leipheimer). I’d turn around your quote and ask

‘How many of them would realistically win or podium at the TdF?’

The answer to that from your examples is 3 (Kloden, Leipheimer & post comeback Armstrong - none of whom have ever to my knowledge focussed their season on the Vuelta). Of the others, I didn’t find much evidence of any of them having focussed on the Vuelta either, but would certainly concede that some years the TdF can be so conservative (with only one key stage plus an ITT), that it is possible for less talented performers to creep into the outer fringes of the Top 10 and that these riders would likely struggle to reach the outer fringes of the Top 10 at the Vuelta. So yes, if we use your definition of GC contenders you are quite right that there is maybe an average of one rider per year in the TdF top ten who probably couldn’t get a Top 10 Vuelta finish even if they focussed on it.

However, if we use the ‘podium contenders’ definition of GC contenders I’m not convinced that
The devil's in the details, I'm afraid, and as you said competing "for GC" rather than competing "for the win" I read the wrong interpretation to what you meant. That's no big deal, it's just that at the Tour you have a class of riders who ride simply to get a solid GC position, who would be happy with 6th to 10th. These riders who are riding for the GC but not realistically expecting to win I have counted, whereas you have based your considerations on the riders who are likely to actually win outright. That's fair enough - but most people who win the Giro and Vuelta would fit into this category, and at the worst into that class of GC riders who can make it to 6th-10th. Nibali, for example, was 7th in the Tour at 24; Alejandro Valverde has always managed to make one stupid mistake that loses him several minutes, but when he was truly on the form and had eradicated those mistakes, he wasn't able to ride. Ivan Basso could certainly contend for the Tour, I think he could easily have given a better account of himself this year if he hadn't had that crash in training in May. Menchov HAS ridden to the podium of the Tour. All of them are legitimate competitors to appear on the podium of the Tour, and that's part of why they won the Giro and Vuelta. The contenders who can compete for the podium of these other GTs based out of their climbing prowess - the Mosqueras, Riccòs, Sellas and Rujanos of this world - notwithstanding the Clinic link of course, they still don't actually win.
 
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