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What separates the good from the great?

So winning bike races requires a combination of physical, tactical and psychological qualites. How much of winning is in the head and how much is in the legs? What do we think separates the good cyclists from the really great ones?

And for the sake of staying on topic let us assume they all have access to the same 'medical team'! ;)
 
180mmCrank said:
And for the sake of staying on topic let us assume they all have access to the same 'medical team'! ;)

But they do not and over the last twenty years medical prep has been the most important key to success. There are riders--you know who---who would have won GTs multiple times but in a clean sport would never have placed in the top ten of a GT. The elephant in the room is so large it cannot be ignored.
 
Apr 8, 2009
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BroDeal said:
But they do not a
I think what 180mmcrank was saying was 'lets not turn this into another doping debate'
For my money it is an overriding will to win which dictates everything to how you train, prepare the bike, or race. Merckx and Hinault were prime examples of this, getting up after bad crashes and carrying on regardless.
One of the great rides was Pascal Simon back in the 80's. Crashed while wearing the yellow jersey and rode the mountain time trial the next day with a broken collarbone with Fignon chasing him down. Held the jersey but got off the next day when he was dropped and lost the jersey on the road.
Likewise Merckx riding the tour after breaking his jaw.
Call them foolhardy, but hunger to win takes over.
If they weren't riding bikes, they would be applying the same principals in business or any other discipline. That is why they are real champions
 
Mar 11, 2009
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I think the mental stuff can be important but seriously I bet the guy who comes second truely believed he was going to win too. I tend to believe that genetics are probably the most important thing. Yeah you can have someone with the right physiology that doesn't seem to want to perform but we're talking the good vs the great, they probably train as well as each other and both believe they can do it.

As much as I hate to think we can't control everything, I think the other thing is luck has to play some kind of factor. For example (and I'm sorry to use him as I know he gets over mentioned but I can't thnink of a better example) but a certain multiple TDF winner is incredibly lucky that he didn't break his collarbone earlier in his career. Whereas Beloki was incredibly unlucky to have suffered the fall during the 03TDF which essentially ruined his career.
 
Ok, first of all you need to define what you mean by winning and what is good and great. Are we talking only people at the top of classics and GT competition or are we talking the entire cycling spectrum?

I'll go ahead and give my view by defining these things myself.

First of all when you talk about winning the most important thing before anything else is that you need to have a winning weapon. A good sprint is probably the easiest and best way of being a winning cyclist compared to a non winning cyclist.

Another strong weapon is being a good time trialer. This lets you win time trials and in extention also shorter stage races. This will give you wins that people that can't time trial won't get.

A third winning weapon is climbing which could give you mountain stage wins and also other types of stage race wins.

A winning weapon is the first thing to separate the winning cyclists from the people that don't have any winning weapons. There might be good cyclists with no winning weapon so on comparison the great one is the one that has one of these weapons. But lets not stop here.

If we assume that we define a good cyclists as someone that actually has a weapon and is capable of winning at something sometime then we can find great riders among those that have multiple winning weapons.

Being both a time trialer and a climber will get you even more win in stages and GCs that if you only had either weapon. Combining a good sprint with the ability to climb well or decently will make you a good classics rider for example and lets you win races where the field if thinned to a small group for eaxmple. Also if you're a very good climber a sprint or just generally an explosive attack will get you more wins than if you're just a sailboat up the climb.

We could of course set the standard for being a good cyclist even higher and only concentrate on the highest levels of competition. Then you could have good riders that might be able to beat people without winning weapons in lesser races etc but that don't have the ability to win at the absolute highest level against the great cyclist category. At this point I think a mental aspect comes into play as well. Minute diffrences might be the diffrence between being a good and great cyclist at these levels so the one that has all his stuff together will probably have the slight edge to win.

It could be any range of things that sets them apart. The ability to push themselves a little extra, the attention to detail in preparation and training etc etc.

I think talent gets you as far as giving you a weapon to begin with and other than that it's all up to how you manage to develope that talent in the right way.
 
Mar 18, 2009
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tashimi76 said:
I think the mental stuff can be important but seriously I bet the guy who comes second truely believed he was going to win too. I tend to believe that genetics are probably the most important thing. Yeah you can have someone with the right physiology that doesn't seem to want to perform but we're talking the good vs the great, they probably train as well as each other and both believe they can do it.

As much as I hate to think we can't control everything, I think the other thing is luck has to play some kind of factor. For example (and I'm sorry to use him as I know he gets over mentioned but I can't thnink of a better example) but a certain multiple TDF winner is incredibly lucky that he didn't break his collarbone earlier in his career. Whereas Beloki was incredibly unlucky to have suffered the fall during the 03TDF which essentially ruined his career.

+1. Does anyone remember that article written last year or the year before by the journalist who wrote about his aspirations to be a pro and went to have all the tests done by a sports physiologist? I think it was in VN...

I'm roughly paraphrasing here but he was told by the coach/trainer, "you're wasting your time...you are not a thoroughbred...you're a mule...I can train you to become a fast mule, but you are never going to be a thoroughbred..."
 
flyor64 said:
I'm roughly paraphrasing here but he was told by the coach/trainer, "you're wasting your time...you are not a thoroughbred...you're a mule...I can train you to become a fast mule, but you are never going to be a thoroughbred..."

You know there's a big meme right now that talent is overrated, 10,000 hours of practice is the key, etc.

Anyone who's ever been an elite athlete knows otherwise. Typical layman wishful thinking.

Sure training lots will take you far, sometimes very far. But at the margin, once you get into that 1% of 1% bracket, talent is everything.

I used to ride on the same team as a guy who is now in the ProTour. 10,000 hours my ar-se try 500 hours before he was kicking a-ss.
 
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what separates good from great?

I hate to say it but nice guys dont make it in this sport. I don't mean off the bike, I'm sure a lot of great riders are/were wonderful people. But in a race a champion can't be worrying about what the nice approach is. In addition to certain other "aides" that I'm not going to get into, LA took absolutely no crap from his teammates. Merckx, Hinault, they're all the same. If you can't tear a strip off a teammate and demand they basically destroy themselves for your benefit, you won't be a champion. In other words, sometimes you just have to be an ***hole.
 
Mar 10, 2009
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The Greats Win, plain and simple, the good just place. There is no great in the real record books that does not WIN!

No matter how nice, how diplomatic, charasmatic, no wins equates to good. Win equates to Great.

Why its a question to some is beyond me, looks like more historical reading is needed by some.
 
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ElChingon said:
The Greats Win, plain and simple, the good just place. There is no great in the real record books that does not WIN!

No matter how nice, how diplomatic, charasmatic, no wins equates to good. Win equates to Great.

Why its a question to some is beyond me, looks like more historical reading is needed by some.

Being great means winning races? Gee, I never thought of that. Maybe the reason no one else mentioned it is because it's ridiculously obvious. I didnt need your condescending post to know that.
 
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experience and confidence are the keys.
It is not all about genetics. Tommy D, number wise, was in the same physiological level than LA. Why he cannot win? It is because he does not have it mentally.
To win you need to have the experience of winning. You need to know what to do in certain situations.
 
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hulkgogan said:
You know there's a big meme right now that talent is overrated, 10,000 hours of practice is the key, etc.

Anyone who's ever been an elite athlete knows otherwise. Typical layman wishful thinking.

Sure training lots will take you far, sometimes very far. But at the margin, once you get into that 1% of 1% bracket, talent is everything.

I used to ride on the same team as a guy who is now in the ProTour. 10,000 hours my ar-se try 500 hours before he was kicking a-ss.


I definitely agree on this point. We all know people who buy a bike for the first time, and zip through to cat 3 in a year (or cat 2).
 
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Kennf1 said:
I definitely agree on this point. We all know people who buy a bike for the first time, and zip through to cat 3 in a year (or cat 2).

I saw a documentary a couple years ago about a Boston University experiment. They took a dozen or so non-runners and with state of the art training techniques tried to train them so they could finish the Boston Marathon. The first step was VO2 test of each person to get a base/starting point. One of the participants was a late 30's CEO with 6 kids and a bit of a gut. He said his only excercise was an occasional game of tennis. I don't remember what his score was, but the sports physiologist said it was equal to an elite endurance athlete.
Due to his insanely busy life he rarely showed up for scheduled training runs but still finished well under 4hrs. Gotta be genetics.
 
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i have to agree on the genetics part. but unfortunately for most they don't know about themselves in that type of way, unless they subject themselves to testing. did you ever see gattica?
 
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Great rider: Anquetil
Good rider: Poulidor

The common story about these rivals has Anquetil being the rude, self-centered egomaniac and Poupou the hugable, perfect son-in-law.

Anquetil took everything that made Poulidor so popular as a personality and turned it around in his mind. At the right times he despised Poulidor so much he'd rather die than see him win.

Real champions hate.

;p
 
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Dr. Wattini said:
experience and confidence are the keys.
It is not all about genetics. Tommy D, number wise, was in the same physiological level than LA. Why he cannot win? It is because he does not have it mentally.
To win you need to have the experience of winning. You need to know what to do in certain situations.

A FREAKY responder to drug therapy actually can transform from a mule to a thoroughbred.

Overall G.C. riding for Grand Tours and climbing stage races is actually pretty simple. You have to start with a big ego, good talent; and yes big blood refills. Ride away on final climbs/ TTs and have the team drag you around everywhere else... 80% of the time the rider with the highest FTP/Kilo (all out 1-hour wattage divided by bodyweight in kilograms) will end up winning. If not a heavier more powerful rider was able to generate more watts in a long flat TT and pull back time on a rider with the higher watts/kilo.

By the way Ullrich and Lance had virtually the same FTP/Kilo with Lance having slightly more total power output using the basic law...

Yes, Undoped Lance and Tom Danielson probably have about similar if TD is not slightly more talented... You see not everybody responds the same to drug therapy and Danielson didnt have Dr. Ferrari which makes a HUGE f-ing difference. He almost got to work with Ferrari though. Lance!

It takes a BIG EGO and determination to win the Tour, you need to be aggressive like Lance and get hooked up with the best programs; its really important to maximize everything because it all adds up. Lance made the most of his talent (which would make the average pro a donkey carrying bottles and maybe a lucky stage win.)

I'd bet the house if everybody was totally clean and doping did not exist, Lance would never have been top 50 places... Neither would Danielson if his Vo2 max was under 85.

An 82 V02 max is good but its not top 50 in talent overall in Grand Tour mountain climbs. You can win some races, get into breaks, etc but you wont win a one day classic and you wont get top fourth of the field overall in a Grand Tour. This is with everybody clean. When modern day doping is added things become massively distorted, Unrecognizable!
 
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i think what youve got to remember with the lance argument, is that he is considered a great because he won 7 tours...

how did he win those.. becuase he revolved his season around the tour, no giro, handpicking races, he saw the route to greatness purely as winning the tour de france...

not everyone agrees with it, but climbing alpe d;huez, and ventoux probably a thousand times over his career is for him, the difference between good, and great.. i think in discounting the wins of lance because there are positive tests for 99 forgets how much work he put into winning the tour... that kind of preparation does make the difference..

say what you like about him, but he is one of very few great riders in the current pelaton...

in fact.. who else in the current pelaton would be considered great... basso?
 
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i think what youve got to remember with the lance argument, is that he is considered a great because he won 7 tours...

how did he win those.. becuase he revolved his season around the tour, no giro, handpicking races, he saw the route to greatness purely as winning the tour de france...

not everyone agrees with it, but climbing alpe d;huez, and ventoux probably a thousand times over his career


Dimspace, he didnt ride Alpe D'Huez 1,000 times... Even if he did it wouldnt do a damn thing! Once well trained (you can become well trained anywhere) your limited by oxygen carrying capacity, you simply cannot generate more watts over a given amount of time based on your 02 assimilation (over say 40 minutes up a mountain.)

Without Ferrari Lance would have never ever been top 25... Maybe not even have ever finished a Tour again post-cancer...
 
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Talent is certainly essential IMHO but also the ablilty to suffer. In Britain the next big hope finished 3rd in yesterdays giro stage. Swifty was tested in the lab and his figures were unremarkable (as were cavs) but he seems to have an ability to take pain and suffer it. Cav is truely a driven man to win without which all the talent in the world is pretty useless.
 
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lanternrouge said:
Talent is certainly essential IMHO but also the ablilty to suffer. In Britain the next big hope finished 3rd in yesterdays giro stage. Swifty was tested in the lab and his figures were unremarkable (as were cavs) but he seems to have an ability to take pain and suffer it. Cav is truely a driven man to win without which all the talent in the world is pretty useless.

Sprinters can win on a lowish V02 max being dragged around in the draft...

But their peak power is incredible for sure... Maybe more impressive than G.C. rider's aerobic talent.
 
BigBoat said:
Sprinters can win on a lowish V02 max being dragged around in the draft...

But their peak power is incredible for sure... Maybe more impressive than G.C. rider's aerobic talent.

Yep, sprinters peak power is mostly all genetic too. You can up it a bit with weights and maybe some steriods, but the bottom line is that very few riders can stomp on the pedals and put out 1700 watts 5-second power numbers after making it to the end of a race in position to do that for a win. Genetics is a big deal.

All that being said, mentality is very important for a cyclist. One has to be able to take pain and hold the wheel in front no matter what.
 
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BigBoat said:
Dimspace, he didnt ride Alpe D'Huez 1,000 times... Even if he did it wouldnt do a damn thing!

I disagree. I think once you know a climb intimately, you know where you can push, where you can attack, where you can conserve energy, and when the damn climb finishes (!). Knowing what to expect on a climb makes a world of difference. I know it does for me.
 

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