Why are the riders faster this year ?

Well, I thought I'd ask this question in the clinic. I saw Bardet stating that this TDF is the highest level ever, and that they were breaking climbing records again and again. Why do you think that is ?

  • Could it be that riders are fresher as they have way less racing kilometers before the tour this year ?
  • Would more aero equipment play a role ?
  • Have travel restrictions caused less testing and made it easier to dope ?
  • One more thing, are temperatures lower than usual as we have a very late tour, and that making it easier to climb ?
I'd like to think that freshness at least plays a role, lets see, maybe one time we will know, At least it has been fun to watch this year, with a lot of riders apparently on relatively equal level :)
 
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We usually only start climbing later in the Tour. Fatigue (our lack of) has to play a role. The record breaking mountain stage wasn't that long, only had a few climbs, the final climb in the past was not often the final climb and there was a tailwind. The season hasn't been as long as usual either.
 
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Well, I thought I'd ask this question in the clinic. I saw Bardet stating that this TDF is the highest level ever, and that they were breaking climbing records again and again. Why do you think that is ?

  • Could it be that riders are fresher as they have way less racing kilometers before the tour this year ?
  • Would more aero equipment play a role ?
  • Have travel restrictions caused less testing and made it easier to dope ?
  • One more thing, are temperatures lower than usual as we have a very late tour, and that making it easier to climb ?
I'd like to think that freshness at least plays a role, lets see, maybe one time we will know, At least it has been fun to watch this year, with a lot of riders apparently on relatively equal level :)
Fresher - Top contenders go to great pains every year to optimize their Tour prep. Have they all been overtraining all these years, even those with limited calendars? I doubt it, but it's possible. A reasonable question but I don't see any evidence for it. Many riders rather seem to be coming into the Tour (or not even qualifying) undercooked and dropping.

Aero - IMO aero benefits are overstated as the vast bulk of the aero issue is the rider, not the bike. Marketing overstates aero improvements, and certainly it matters less on climbs. More to the point, what's the delta between aero this year and last year? Negligible.

Testing - We've seen several reports of little or no testing this spring and summer with COVID. It is clearly and objectively easier to dope this year. Doping clearly gives large benefits. We won't know for sure, but human nature and Occam's razor would suggest this is an obvious top candidate explanation.

Temps - Interesting, no idea how this might affect things. Not sure we have enough data to suggest this year is a huge outlier versus other years.

Other explanations:

Ticking Clock - Due to COVID, riders may simply be unsure if the Tour will last for the full 3 weeks and may well be drilling it on every stage to get wins. That might explain a relatively higher level in the bunch, but probably does not explain any outlier climbing records or higher level over the cols in general.

We'll know more by the end of the Tour. Will the perceived level be sustained?
 
In many sports the games/athletes are getting faster. Back in the mid 2000's when Mario Lemieux retired for the second time he made a comment about how much faster the game was when he returned through that 2nd retirement than before he retired the first time.
 
I still think it's rather funny that a guy who couldn't follow the past few years, is saying how much faster they are riding this year... yet he has no issues following now. And we're supposed to take this as gospel?

Fresher - Top contenders go to great pains every year to optimize their Tour prep. Have they all been overtraining all these years, even those with limited calendars? I doubt it, but it's possible. A reasonable question but I don't see any evidence for it. Many riders rather seem to be coming into the Tour (or not even qualifying) undercooked and dropping.
There is no evidence for it. Neither is there for any of your other points. It's all speculation. I think that's why he's asking.

The days of Armstrong, where GC riders would ride only a few racedays before the Tour, and close to nothing after, are long gone. Many GC guys try to ride 2 GT's. Many will try to ride the WCC or Liège/Lombardia/Fleche/Amstel. Which means in the current age, they either have to peak multiple times, or they have to keep their peak form for much longer. Not only the GC guys matter, but also the domestiques, who often ride a classic season in the spring. This year however, they all came to the Tour with only a limited number of race days.

Unlike in past decades, it's a lot easier for riders to train into shape with powermeters, heartrate monitors, computer software etc. I'm not saying it's ideal, but it's not like in the 90s when riders had no idea where they were at, until they entered a race. For instance, van Aert (as an example) who has been critical for Jumbo, came to the Tour after Strade, San Remo & Dauphiné. Last year, he did a full spring classics, (Strade, San Remo, E3, GW, Ronde, Roubaix, Amstel...) which only started about a month after his last CX race, before going to the Dauphiné and the Tour. No, there is no "proof", but i think it's only a logical conclusion, that not only the GC guys, but also their doms are a lot fresher than other years. And i do believe that the disadvantage of not having a normal prep is for the most part offset by the advantage of modern tools and information and is outweighed by the entire peloton being a lot fresher. This year, most of them will try to peak once, and make the best of it during that time, and the TDF is at the center of it.

But no, there is no proof. Neither is there proof that they're all doping.

There is also very likely more quality among the top contenders this year compared to last year, when Alaphilippe finished 5th and Kruijswijk on the podium.
 
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Testing - We've seen several reports of little or no testing this spring and summer with COVID. It is clearly and objectively easier to dope this year. Doping clearly gives large benefits. We won't know for sure, but human nature and Occam's razor would suggest this is an obvious top candidate explanation.
I wonder how objectively easier it would have been to dope in April and May this year? Easier to get away with large scale doping certainly, but surely not easier to actually get hold of the dope - particularly in countries where there was a very hard lockdown. I guess this could possibly be an explanation as to why only the team leaders seem to be really excelling; if there was limited supply. But it seems very speculative.


Perhaps another factor is that riders simply did higher quality training this year for reasons not related to doping. Half of the stage races they normally do are basically junk miles. Long rides averaging about 150w. If that is being replaced with specific trainer workouts or more targeted preparation rides, it could see an increase in level. And then if they were at home then recovery is probably also going to be better compared with if they are moving hotels and doing coach transfers each day. Perhaps some of the elite riders even have things like oxygen tents at home. Then there are also fewer distractions off the bike, and less crashes and illnesses disrupting the training.
 
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I wonder how objectively easier it would have been to dope in April and May this year? Easier to get away with large scale doping certainly, but surely not easier to actually get hold of the dope - particularly in countries where there was a very hard lockdown. I guess this could possibly be an explanation as to why only the team leaders seem to be really excelling; if there was limited supply. But it seems very speculative.
I think we need to start saying what drugs we think are being used. Corticos don't have a partic complex supply chain and doms and team leaders were not in lockdown together meaning there would have been no need to prioritise which got the goodies.
Perhaps another factor is that riders simply did higher quality training this year for reasons not related to doping. Half of the stage races they normally do are basically junk miles. Long rides averaging about 150w. If that is being replaced with specific trainer workouts or more targeted preparation rides, it could see an increase in level. And then if they were at home then recovery is probably also going to be better compared with if they are moving hotels and doing coach transfers each day.
The progression over the last couple of decades has been toward fewer race days ahead of the Tour. The numbers are easy enough to check. Bardet, for instance, had 33 race days ahead of the 2019 Tour, seven of them one-day races. This year he's done 27, only two of them one-day events. We don't need to speculate over whether riders have fewer race days in their legs this year, the numbers can be checked.
Then there are also fewer distractions off the bike, and less crashes and illnesses disrupting the training.
Yes and no. Some might say that Covid itself is a pretty big distraction, especially when it comes close to home, which for some riders it has. Then we don't really know about training accidents. For sure, yes, we know Quintana got knocked down but we don't get press releases from the others every time they fall off. As for illnesses, that's pure speculation.

One question we could ask is whether we really are seeing a faster race than last year. Let's take the blunt instrument of average speed: after nine stages last year the peloton had covered 1,587 kms in a time of 38 hrs 37' 36", which the back of my envelope says is 41.1 kph. This year after nine stages (up to the first rest day) the peloton has covered 1,537 kms in a time of 38 hrs 40' 01", which the back my envelope says is 39.7 kph. So, to answer the question of why the riders are riding faster this year, we could simply say they're not.
 
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One question we could ask is whether we really are seeing a faster race than last year. Let's take the blunt instrument of average speed: after nine stages last year the peloton had covered 1,587 kms in a time of 38 hrs 37' 36", which the back of my envelope says is 41.1 kph. This year after nine stages (up to the first rest day) the peloton has covered 1,537 kms in a time of 38 hrs 40' 01", which the back my envelope says is 39.7 kph. So, to answer the question of why the riders are riding faster this year, we could simply say they're not.
This. Maybe Bardet just doesn't have enough miles in his legs this year and the race feeling faster but in reality it isn't? Maybe he doesn't suffer from fatigue as much as some but also doesn't have the same top end climbing power others have, so where he would generally excel has been removed with the lack of racing and the early climbs on easier stages?
 
This. Maybe Bardet just doesn't have enough miles in his legs this year and the race feeling faster but in reality it isn't? Maybe he doesn't suffer from fatigue as much as some but also doesn't have the same top end climbing power others have, so where he would generally excel has been removed with the lack of racing and the early climbs on easier stages?
The entire premise is wonky, since he hasn't been this close in GC after 2 mountain stages in a while. And now he says they're riding fast.

The avg speed argument is difficult to stomach as there are more actual climbs in the first 9 days compared to last year. Unless my memory fails me (which is often does).
 
The entire premise is wonky, since he hasn't been this close in GC after 2 mountain stages in a while. And now he says they're riding fast.

The avg speed argument is difficult to stomach as there are more actual climbs in the first 9 days compared to last year. Unless my memory fails me (which is often does).
Yes, but they've also soft pedalled a lot so it does tend to balance out (usually over the whole Tour though). It's a pretty blunt tool but it gives a general idea of what's going on and I think he's probably just looking at a couple of climbing times and assuming the whole race is faster, when it probably isn't.
 
I think he's probably just looking at a couple of climbing times and assuming the whole race is faster, when it probably isn't.
We appear to be looking at two mountains, the Peyresourde and the Marie-Blanque and what we don't seem to be acknowledging yet is there's no Ineos mountain train controlling the speed, pacing the climb, and consequently we're seeing some actual, real racing, not just a final kilo effort.
 
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The avg speed argument is difficult to stomach as there are more actual climbs in the first 9 days compared to last year. Unless my memory fails me (which is often does).
I'm not going to dispute this - I did call avg speed a blunt instrument - but I think we both agree that there are multiple factors to be considered, not just doping. One factor I think we need to consider is that perception trumps reality nine times out of ten. Especially round here.
 
The numbers are easy enough to check. Bardet, for instance, had 33 race days ahead of the 2019 Tour, seven of them one-day races. This year he's done 27, only two of them one-day events. We don't need to speculate over whether riders have fewer race days in their legs this year, the numbers can be checked.
It's not about speculating over race days. It's speculating about what difference having four and a half months of no racing between March and August has had. That is a huge block of dedicated training that riders would not normally have had. No half focus on the Ardennes, or trying for a mini peak for the Dauphine. It's been four and a half months of focused training for the Tour. That is a qualitative difference to normal.

As for illnesses, that's pure speculation
It's speculation to an extent. But considering most riders were living under lockdown designed to reduce the spread of viruses; it's a pretty reasonable assumption to make.

One question we could ask is whether we really are seeing a faster race than last year. Let's take the blunt instrument of average speed: after nine stages last year the peloton had covered 1,587 kms in a time of 38 hrs 37' 36", which the back of my envelope says is 41.1 kph. This year after nine stages (up to the first rest day) the peloton has covered 1,537 kms in a time of 38 hrs 40' 01", which the back my envelope says is 39.7 kph. So, to answer the question of why the riders are riding faster this year, we could simply say they're not.
Bardet's claim was faster climbs and a higher level, not a faster race. Average speed is an appalling metric to use for almost anything.
 
Someone said this in another thread, but if there was bascially a free-for-all for a few months this spring, you'd think some random domestique would come out flying after the restart (not that the absence of that is proof that everyone was clean).

Kinda miss when some rando would just tear things up for half a season and then get caught or fade back to obscurity.
 
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Perhaps it is better to say that the racing is more hectic/nervous this year. The bunch seems more nervous (with a fair number of crashes in a short period), and that can absolutely impact one's perception of how 'hard' the racing is. In other words, it may not be that racing is faster or at a higher level, but just more nervous and energy consuming for riders.

Of course, there could also still be doping!
 
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Perhaps it is better to say that the racing is more hectic/nervous this year. The bunch seems more nervous (with a fair number of crashes in a short period), and that can absolutely impact one's perception of how 'hard' the racing is. In other words, it may not be that racing is faster or at a higher level, but just more nervous and energy consuming for riders.
And this I think is true: here and at other races since the reboot it's sometimes felt more like spring races, folk getting used to riding in a group again after a few months lay-off. Which, of course, is perfectly understandable.
 
Perhaps it is better to say that the racing is more hectic/nervous this year. The bunch seems more nervous (with a fair number of crashes in a short period), and that can absolutely impact one's perception of how 'hard' the racing is. In other words, it may not be that racing is faster or at a higher level, but just more nervous and energy consuming for riders.

Of course, there could also still be doping!
There is even more riding on these races than in other years. Less opportunities to win. Level in Tour de l'Ain, Burgos, Poland, was also higher than normal, because more big players wanted to show themselves (they weren't "just" prep races like other years). Teams really want to go for it. I think Covid has really made it a lot harder to get a grasp of what exactly is going on.
 
One factor I think we need to consider is that perception trumps reality nine times out of ten. Especially round here.
Not really an argument when one of the riders in the top 10 is saying it's much faster. I'll take Bardet's perception over irrelevant stats. As far as "round here", posters here have been spot on for two decades about nearly everything. Blanket dismissals of any forum, let alone this one, are absurd and constitute nothing but white noise. Dismissals of specific comments with reasons would be potentially compelling.

I still think it's rather funny that a guy who couldn't follow the past few years, is saying how much faster they are riding this year... yet he has no issues following now. And we're supposed to take this as gospel?
Funny why? He says he's enjoying it. He says he's going faster than he has been previously. That maps clearly to what we're seeing. Why wouldn't we listen to him? Who said "take it as gospel" other than your strawman? No one.

There is no evidence for it. Neither is there for any of your other points. It's all speculation. I think that's why he's asking.
I regard rider statements and climbing record(s) being broken as evidence...because it is evidence. Let's not conflate evidence with proof. Regarding doping, I stand by my comments above under "testing". I speculated about no rider in particular. I said doping was a top candidate explanation. That's very specific language, not an accusation.

But no, there is no proof. Neither is there proof that they're all doping.
And no one has said there's proof. Not sure why this is addressed to my comments.
 
Funny why? He says he's enjoying it. He says he's going faster than he has been previously. That maps clearly to what we're seeing. Why wouldn't we listen to him? Who said "take it as gospel" other than your strawman? No one.
Funny as in, it makes no sense. Whether he enjoys it or not, is completely besides the point. Oh, but he's saying he's going faster than ever before? Well, i guess in that case it makes sense... So I guess if Pogacar just comes out with a statement that he's going faster than he's ever gone before, everything would be ok? Ah, too much of a strawman argument for you probably.

And no one has said there's proof. Not sure why this is addressed to my comments.
Because you were making a point that other people are only speculating. "A reasonable question but I don't see any evidence for it." There is no evidence of anything you're saying either.

I regard rider statements and climbing record(s) being broken as evidence...because it is evidence. Let's not conflate evidence with proof. Regarding doping, I stand by my comments above under "testing". I speculated about no rider in particular. I said doping was a top candidate explanation. That's very specific language, not an accusation.
Right, sorry, in Dutch there is no such difference between evidence or proof (I guess you'd say "bewijsstuk" and "bewijs" in that case). In this case however, i would certainly not see those as "evidence" regardless. It's a statement by a rider, based on nothing but his personal impression. If climbing times are evidence, than so are tailwind and plenty of other factors we've already discussed. It would rather say the climbing times are "a fact to take into consideration".
 
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Funny as in, it makes no sense. Whether he enjoys it or not, is completely besides the point. Oh, but he's saying he's going faster than ever before? Well, i guess in that case it makes sense... So I guess if Pogacar just comes out with a statement that he's going faster than he's ever gone before, everything would be ok? Ah, too much of a strawman argument for you probably.


Because you were making a point that other people are only speculating. "A reasonable question but I don't see any evidence for it." There is no evidence of anything you're saying either.


Right, sorry, in Dutch there is no such difference between evidence or proof (I guess you'd say "bewijsstuk" and "bewijs" in that case). In this case however, i would certainly not see those as "evidence" regardless. It's a statement by a rider, based on nothing but his personal impression. If climbing times are evidence, than so are tailwind and plenty of other factors we've already discussed. It would rather say the climbing times are "a fact to take into consideration".
<<in Dutch there is no such difference between evidence or proof>>
I don’t see how that can possibly be correct, though of course I don’t know Dutch. Consider that at every crime scene investigation police gather all the “evidence” they can find, but may end up with no “proof” of anything.

or scientists find evidence of viral transmission through the air but don’t have proof until they can more directly observe what is happening in controlled testing.
 
<<in Dutch there is no such difference between evidence or proof>>
I don’t see how that can possibly be correct, though of course I don’t know Dutch. Consider that at every crime scene investigation police gather all the “evidence” they can find, but may end up with no “proof” of anything.

or scientists find evidence of viral transmission through the air but don’t have proof until they can more directly observe what is happening in controlled testing.
It would be largely up to context. There are "bewijsmateriaal" and "bewijsstuk" which basically would translate into "material/piece of proof".
If you type in proof or evidence into google translate, you also get "bewijs" both times (just tested it).
 
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