Tuesday, January 20, 2009

When Cyclists Rode More Than One Major Race Year

Lance is back so our ride discussion over the hills of Berkeley turned to the greatest cyclist never to ride Paris Roubaix. One of our strongest cyclists, a young guy from Tennessee, slowed down long enough so I could ride with him as we had a friendly disagreement.

My minor exception to Lance is his sanctimonious position on drug use. Yes--as he claims over and over, he never failed a drug test, but neither did most cyclists who were caught in other fashion (eg. soigneur/ trainer stopped at the border.) In any event David Walsh's book From Lance to Landis provides enough compelling evidence from testimony of former teamate/ former good friend Frankie Andreu, team soigneur Emma O'Reilly, Greg LeMond and Lances' defense of drug doctor Ferrari.

My major criticism of Lance is all the races he ducked each season. Surely if Tiger Woods was best suited for the US Open Only, and each year played a minor few warmups, won 7 US Opens in a row--but never participated at the other majors he'd be ripped on every sports talk show. But this is essentially what Lance has done. How many Paris Roubaix 's were run with US Postal George Hincapie all alone, while Announcers Liggett and Sherwin decry that George had no help once again at the end. No help, where was his teammate, the "world's greatest cyclist??" MIA. Multiple Tour de France winners Eddie Mercyx and Bernard Hinault won a classic and grand tour in the same year, they also won two grand tours in the same year. Besides from shying away from major classics, Lance has never ridden the Giro or Vuelta.

Andreas Klier loves being part of Belgium cycling culture. Even in his native Germany not many people know much about the classics or care for anything other than Jan Ullrich and the Tour de France. "In Flanders," Klier says "every old lady in the supermarket knows all the winners of the Tour of Flanders of the past 30 years." (Velonews, Sebastian Moll, 4/5/2005)

My clubmate argued that first I can't compare any other sport to cycling due to the physical stress. Second, cycling had changed and the days of Mercyx and Hinault are long gone. Did I mention Tennessee is a young guy--as Mercyx and Hinault were winning in my lifetime their record seems relevant, but as they were winning before Tennessee was born he considered it ancient history. But basically Tennessee said that no one excels in both the classics and grand tours anymore nor does multiple tours.

Except the classic riders from 2001-05 I don't really follow pro cycling, so I decided to look to see if there were many riders from 1990 forward who did what Lance has never done, either 1) excel in a grand tour and major classic in the same year, or 2) excel in two grand tours in the same year. No, they didn't have to win, just appear on the podium (though the list is truncated as I don't have podium results for most classic races, just first place.) And I went beyond a 1st place finish because I agree--any cyclist who only focuses on 1 race a year probably enhances their chance of finishing higher in their one sole major ride. My argument is that there is a few handfuls of modern great cyclists who DIDN'T focus on one event
and competed at a high level in multiple events in the same year. Even if they didn't finish first I applaude their trying.

In the finaly analysis Lance's truncated schedule is uniquely Lance, started by Lance. There have been many modern riders who do both the classics and grand tours well, or more than one grand tour.(For now A-Pantani)

Classic and Tour
Paolo Bettini-2006; World Championship (1st); Giro (points)
Mario Cipollini-2002; World Championship (1st); Milan-San Remo (1st); Ghent-Wevelgem (1st); Giro (points)
Damiano Cunego-2004; Tour of Lombardy (1st); Giro (1st)
Danilo DiLuca-2007; Liege-Bastogne (1st); Giro (1st)
Oscar Freire-2008; Ghent-Wevelgem (1st); TdF (points)
Thor Hushovd-2006; Ghent-Wevelgem (1st); Vuelta (points)
Miguel Indurain-1991; World Championship (3rd); TdF (1st); Vuelta (2nd); -1993; World Championship (2nd); TdF (1st); Giro (1st); -1995 TdF (1st); World Championship (2nd)
Laurent Jalabert-1995; Fleche Wallonne (1st); Milan San Remo (1st); TdF (points); Vuelta (1st); -1997; Tour of Lombardy (1st); Fleche Wallonne (1st); Vuelta (points); -2001; San Sebastian (1st); TdF (mountains); -2002; San Sebastian(1st); TdF (mountains)
Luc Leblanc-1994; World Championship (1st); Vuelta (mountains)
Greg LeMond-1990; World Championship (4th); TdF (1st)
Robbie McCuen-2002; World Championship (2nd); TdF (points)
Charly Mottet-1990; Championship of Zurich (1st); Giro (2nd)
Abraham Olano-1995; World Championship (1st); Vuelta (2nd)

2 Tours
Joseba Beloki-2002; TdF (2nd); Vuelta (3rd)
Alberto Contador-2008; Giro (1st); Vuelta (1st)
Marco Giovannetti-1990; Giro (3rd); Vuelta (1st)
Miguel Indurain-see 1991 above; -1992; Giro (1st); TdF (1st); see 1993 above; -1994; TdF (1st); Giro (3rd)
Laurent Jalabert-see 1995 above
Marco Pantani-1994; TdF (3rd); Giro (2nd); 1998; TdF (1st); Giro (1st)

3 comments:

William said...

Great blog.

Slightly outside of your window would be whipping boy Lemond in 1989 with the TDF and worlds. I also enjoyed the Walsh book. Funny how Armstrong bitch Bob Roll takes shots at Lemond when Greg hired an unemployed Roll to race mtn bikes back in the 90's.

Jay said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

William, thanks for the note. Having returned from a trip I'll finish up the pro cyclist list of modern racers who aren't one trick ponies. Unfortunately pro cycling is off the radar to most American sports fans--if Lance got the interest/ scrutiny the Barry Bonds', Manny Ramirez' get on local sports talk radio and the sports section, we'd get a fuller picture. Instead we just get hero worship of a winning American on an American team.