One Week At A Time

Who’s going to win the Tour de France? This is sometimes the central question to the season. We view so many races as contests through yellow-tinted lenses and in turn no sooner does a rider thrive during a one week stage race than they’re projected as agrand tour contender. One regular question is why don’t some riders aim for week long stage races instead of charging headlong into inevitable defeat in a grand tour? Is there room for week-long specialists?

If you like your mid-size stage races then now is one of the best times of the year with the Critérium du Dauphiné and Tour de Suisse overlapping. There are many set-piece stage races throughout the year that offer opportunities to budding stage racers. Paris-Nice, Tirreno-Adriatico, the Volta Catalunya, the Tour of the Basque Country, the Tour de Romandie and more. The idea is that there’s a mix of riders who know they can’t win the Tour de France or another grand tour so why not get a couple of solid wins here instead of finishing, say, a forgettable seventh?

Similarly there might be riders who could win the Tour de France but part of the plan is to win some intermediate targets along the way. Not only do these wins prove a promising rider can win big but they bathe them in the responsibilities of team leadership and they also prove to team mates that their leader can do the job which in turn ensures greater commitment.

Alaphilippe California

Easier said than done. One change in recent years has been the tendency of riders to fly in from an altitude training camp, race and then vanish again for weeks at altitude. Among the top-10 overall in the Dauphiné only rider raced during the month of May: Julian Alaphilippe who won the Tour of California. All the rest were away training. For many their last race before the Dauphiné was the Tour de Romandie. Here among the top-10 barely anyone raced much April prior to this, a handful did a couple of races in the Ardennes and Mathias Frank was the only one to do the Circuit de la Sarthe. All this means any promising rider on the up wanting to make a name for themselves is going to find themselves up against the best riders, many fresh from altitude training camps and raring to test themselves and make a point against their rivals. Any young rider hoping to make a name for themselves will simply find themselves spectators to a battle between the likes of Froome, Quintana and Contador. In the past things might have been different with riders racing a lot more but in reality backing off in competition because of fatigue or other reasons – to bank blood during one era – which left space for others.

All this is compounded by the allure of grand tours. Win Romandie or the Volta Catalunya and it’s great but it’s not going be beamed around the world. The audiences are modest compared to a grand tour that captures national attention in the case of the Giro and Vuelta or the Tour de France with its global reach. That forgettable seventh place in the Tour de France is worth more in media exposure than an outright win in a stage race elsewhere during the year. We may not like this but it’s a fact of life for the peloton and the teams involved.

This extends as far as the choice of grand tours, several riders may well prefer to have a go at the Giro but their sponsors want them in the Tour de France limelight, perhaps only a sugardaddy sponsor like Oleg Tinkov could have indulged Alberto Contador’s Giro-Tour double last year as other commercially-orientated sponsors may have insisted on getting the most exposure possible.

Richie Porte

Success in a smaller stage race generates a big pull factor. Those who can win a hard one week stage race over the Alps and via time trial or two generally have what it takes to win a grand tour, or at least a skillset that requires refining. So anyone capable of shining in one of these one-week races can see the golden contract that awaits if they declare an interest in progressing. So as well as teams wanting exposure riders know they can parlay a week’s racing results into a big contract if they pledge to progress. One good example here is Richie Porte who has won a string of week long stage races while his best result in a grand tour is curiously his first: 7th overall in his Giro debut in 2010 and since then his high point has been 19th overall in the 2013 Tour de France. He can and should do better and there’s a sense that he’s done all he needs to do in shorter races so you can see why he’s chasing the grand tours.

Spilak and Rui Costa

There are remain specialists in the shorter races. Simon Špilak is one of the best examples, now in his ninth year as a pro and he’s only finished two grand tours (one Giro, one Tour) while he’s won the Tour de Romandie and the Tour de Suisse, albeit with the help of the anti-doping authorities rousting Alejandro Valverde as well as getting several high placings in these and other shorter stage races. In other words he’s a pure specialist but winning is still rare. Take Rui Costa winner of the Tour de Suisse three years in a row and buoyed by his displays of power in Switzerland he wanted to target the GC in the Tour de France. The result? DNF in 2015, DNF in 2014, 27th overall in 2013 and 18th overall in 2012. In short his efforts to target the Tour never delivered much although he took two stage wins in 2013.

Ion Izagirre

For others it’s a story of opportunity. Ion Izagirre has become a week-long stage specialist for Movistar for the very same reason, he’s targeting the win in Switzerland this week because team captains Valverde and Quintana are not there. Geraint Thomas wants to target the grand tours but when can he get his chance? He’s going to be on team duty this July so being given free reign in Paris-Nice and the Tour de Suisse is all that’s possible on a team where many domestiques would be team captains elsewhere. The same at Astana where Miguel-Angel Lopez gets to try on the cape of team leadership to see if he can fly aged 22.

  • 7th overall in the Tour? Mentioned as “forgettable” above last year Bauke Mollema rode to this spot. It’s still a huge result but perhaps an achievement that is respected rather than celebrated by the masses. Another way to look at this is the “à la Zubeldia” label, the ability to place among the best in a grand tour without ever launching a decisive move and sometimes even avoiding the television cameras such is their focus on the few riders in the lead

Readers often email into ask why so many riders target the Tour de France in the likelihood of failure as measured by their chances of wearing yellow in Paris or standing on the podium. Wouldn’t it be better, the argument goes, to win something before during the season? Yes is the reply and it’s a good insurance policy in case of an accident in July and it brings a valuable addition to the CV and ranking points too. But easier said than done given the mountainous World Tour stage races are often packed with the big grand tour contenders who leave few crumbs on the table for the rest, sometimes they don’t need to win these races, they just have to beat their rivals. Still there are some specialists who aim to pick off these races but often they ride for well-funded teams, the kind who can aim to win all three grand tours and still have riders to spare during the season.

80 thoughts on “One Week At A Time”

  1. To win a race like Dauphine, Paris-Nice or TdR you have to still be able to generate e.g. 5,8-6.2W/kg on decisive climbs and be decent time trialist. So the podium spots are reserved for the same group of top riders who compete in Grand Tours. Sure, sometimes the route requires different skills or some circumstances cause that riders like Sagan or GvA are able to win like this year’s T-A or last year’s ToC. It looks like e.g. Costa found a cool niche with his TdS record but in modern cycling, I can’t see any option for e.g. “classics specialist” who can win with even not-so-fresh after altitude camp Froome or Quintana. Simply not enough W/kg.

    • Exactly and given the top few racers race so little they leave little chance for others when they show. Also the physiological demands of a grand tour are huge but not that far beyond a week long stage race, once you get to a week the fatigue has built up a lot already.

    • The “specialists” are riders who can indeed generate *those watts*, but start failing to if they’ve just spent the previous ten (or twenty!) days riding. Or who can cope with mountains when they aren’t… too mountainous. Or quite hard for three or four days in a rows.
      Porte, Rui Costa, L.L. Sánchez, Tony Martin, Spilak, Kreuziger… maybe D. Martin might enter the group, too, as other candidates like Henao, or, dunno, Taaramae.
      They often work as gregari precisely because the watts are there, but they pay too high a price in some “bad day” to keep a good GC along three weeks.
      In past years you had Vinokourov, Jalabert (yes, he won a Vuelta, but never podiumed in any GT besides that, and have a look at his short stage race palmarés), Karpets etc.

      The space is there for them to win these races, because the big guns have got other goals in mind and sometimes their form might be simply not good enough… or even because on a shorter race these guys are just as strong, from time to time, as the best GT riders, who are the best “GT” riders precisely because they have what it’s needed… in a GT.

      • I believe Uran has/had the potential to be the perfect one week rider. I’m a little biased, but I think he has what it takes physically, maybe mentally he’s too nice or not hungry enough. But, if he trained and targeted one week stage races, he could create the niche. Great topic.

  2. Re the issue with riders living on volcanos and only nipping down to sea level to do Paris-Nice/Tirreno, Romandie, the Dauphine, the Tour and the Vuelta if it all goes t*ts up in July. How about the UCI implemant a rule whereby for your WorldTour points to count you have to have taken part in a minimum number of race days (with obvious exception for injury). You could extend this to say that a certain number of these have to be one day races, or if you wanted to be particularly mean you could say that you can’t start the GT’s without these. Obviously the teams and ASO wouldn’t like this. But I would. That would allow some space for alternative winners as they obviously couldn’t go nuts to the wall in all of these, and would have to select targets.

      • What about making Dauphine, Suisse and some other hard enough stage races qualifying rounds for the GTs? You have to do well enough in those to qualify for participation in a GT?

        • What would be a “qualifying round” for the Giro? There’s only really Tirreno-Adriatico before it that’s comparable. Surely we want the best riders in the top races? “Qualifying” simply seems certain to deny us some people who might have been there otherwise thus downgrading the event. Everybody loses.

          The only way forward with a qualifying idea is to make the entire season one big league with a genuine prize at the end. But this then goes against the whole ethos of pro cycling from day one which is that each race is its own little world, a set of separate events.

          • It also goes against the reality of cycling which is that the disproportionately biggest race is 2/3rds of the way through the season, so many riders are coasting from there on, and don’t necessarily mind whether they “qualify” for further events.

      • If they wanted to keep the respect/favour of their team mates for when the big races come round they’d have to do their share in the wind and carting bottles.

    • The thing with Mollema is he sometimes shows potential to do more than that. You often see him following the decisive moves, he wins sometimes.
      But, in the end, you always see him ending up in those ‘bottom half of top ten’ placings of GC.

    • Is Lejaretta the one who Hansen overtook in the most consecutive completed GTs?
      Hansen is amazing, but this guy was a level above that.

  3. I’m not so sure about what you imply speaking of media exposure in GTs, as your Zubeldia example shows very well.
    In that case, we should see many more 6th-12th GC placed riders going harder for stage wins instead of lingering about in the background of a selected group (I’m generously assuming that the 5th man in GC might think about a final podium, or that he may at least remain in the close-up takes when the action goes hot).

    TdF’s audience is really huge, and on a *truly* different order of magnitude than Giro or Vuelta only when photos, short videos and news-like coverage is concerned.
    But you won’t see many times Zubeldia (or Mollema or Frank or König or Dani Navarro or Brajkovic etc.) in that sort of 5′ world-wide recap which are the *main* (while not the only, obviously) added value of the Tour in media terms.
    You’ll see the top three or four GC guys (or their train, if anything), the stage winner and maybe, just maybe, the author of some especially relevant albeit failed attack.
    Taking that into account, I really don’t think that they’re riding with media coverage in mind.

    I recently noted that, despite paying a notable attention to cycling, I struggle to recall who placed in the top 10, or even in the 4th-5th place, of most recent GTs. Tour included. Whereas I easily recall the final podia of all the three GTs, plus several stage winners here and there.
    I’m pretty sure that in *concrete* media exposure terms a podium in whatever GT at the end of the day pays more dividends than a 7th place in the TdF. And a stage win in the Tour more than that same GC 7th place.
    To start with, you make the generalistic news in your local country, which doesn’t necessarily happen with an anonymous top-ten (clearly enough, a lot is about the way you ride).

    Hence I suspect that people focus on modest GC goals in the TdF mainly out of a typically “sporting” way of thinking: the GC is a specific goal, the TdF is the most important race, I’m going for my “kind” of objective (“I’m a GC rider, thus I’m going for the GC”) in the top available competition.

    Everyone in the sport more or less shares this POV, this sort of concepts (“you’ll be our GC man”), then the guys do their best (that “I might as well win” or “I might as well get a surprise result better than I am” mentality which most competitors share) and, well, their best turns out to be an invisible 7th-8th place, but since you and your team are fighting hard for it, it ends up being considered as a success (especially if you climbed up a couple of positions)… and rightly so, I’d say… even if in terms of *real* media exposure you’d better win some stage. Or getting a third place in the Giro.

    It must also be said that different sets of skills are required by different goals: we tend to think that if you are a top-ten GC man in the TdF you’d easily win stages or get great results in the other GTs, but truth is that you could find it way harder. For, say, Basso it will prove easier to defend a good GC than to win stages. And a lot of riders who had great GC results (podium or top-5) in the TdF achieved inferior results in the other GTs: in recent years, think about Gesink, Van den Broeck, S. Sánchez, Kreuziger, F. Schleck, and, sure, Zubeldia himself!
    Same is true, and even more so, for those riders who stuff up the TdF’s top-tens without any expectation of a top 5, like, say, the above-mentioned M. Frank, D. Navarro, Fuglsang, Brajkovic… they all tried their luck several times in other GTs, sometimes even with greater team support, but their best results always came from the TdF.
    If you start to think about this way, it’s a lot clearer: people who’d do just the same (or worse) in other GTs… well, obviously end up preferring the one which is bigger.
    It’s not like all of them would *really* get a *better* GC in the other GTs which are “easier” – when they try, it’s simply not happening. Because most of the times, nowadays, the GTs are different, not “easier or harder”.

      • That’s really a sporting *hope* and perhaps, perhaps, something you try to sell to your sponsors for the next year, if they’re naive enough. But anyone watching the race knows what a 7th place means, that is, if the hope you’re speaking about is more or less concrete. Especially if you aren’t anymore a white jersey rider.

        However, note that hope is worth more or less nothing in terms of media exposure, especially at the Tour where so much is about hanging on, while in the other GTs you can sum up media exposure with aggressive racing and eventually get a decent albeit not podium-worth GC (cfr. Kruijswijk or Hesjedal or Rolland or Jungels in the last Giros, or Dumoulin, Chaves, Mentjes in the last Vuelta, or Aru in the previous one).

        Also note that the top-5 makes sense, most of the times, only since it may mean a possible podium, but if you stretch that too much it stops working: “wow, 7th is so good because with luck and form I could be 5th”… which in turn means I could be 3rd? Every step is less and less probable: a lot of riders make that TdF top-ten without having the slightest chance of ever podiuming, so to conjecture anything from that you’d better take into account the global value of the rider, or your hope will remain most probably an ill-founded one.

        • Added to the fact that 7th in a GT could come from being in the teens and then being allowed in a break because you are no threat to the top 5, or could be someone who was chasing the podium, attacked, blew up and tumbled down the classification. Anything outside of a podium would need to be considered in context as in three weeks, there are too many potential stories to bring you to the finishing line.

          The above is not meant at all to be dismissive, anyone who can finish in the top 10 of any GT is by definition the elite of the elite and deserves utmost respect.

        • +1, I tend to agree with Gabriele,

          i think underneath the “sporting hope” there is the “human side” of the athlete that need a goal in order to keep his focus.
          Cycling is a brutal sport that demand hours and hours of lonely training (similar to swimming and long distance running).
          And, although they are all professionals, to keep this level of determination for hours and hours of training (far from home, in altitude,…), one important factor is an objective, even if is a “hope”, but something that keep you focused.
          I think that for most of the riders, a top 10 is a more stimulating goal than a stage win, that is one additional reason for such a disproportional focus on something that doesn’t seems too rational.
          Again, I understand they are all professionals and a lot of time media, pay checks and sponsors will get on the way, but for such high intensity sport, we shouldn’t underestimate the need for a very compelling obejective

        • That very much depends on time gaps, not places. You could be 7th with 20s to 3rd or with 7 minutes. Which makes a huge difference, at least for me. YMMV

    • I think the Tour, to an extent, rewards invisible, uninspiring types with no explosiveness because of the type of terrain it takes in. The roads in the French Alps, and if anything more do the Pyrenees, are excellent feats of engineering that can take just about any vehicle up and over them. They are wide, they are smooth and they aren’t steep. So if you are a bit of a dull climbing diesel who can sit on wheels and go all day on those sorts of climbs you’ll do well and come 7th or so. But that won’t necessarily transfer to the short and steep climbs in the Vuelta or the generally more difficult to control and more varied Giro.

  4. key phrases ‘hope springs eternal’ and ‘hope is the last thing to die’

    OTOH riders like Nico Roche tried for the high GT GC placings (yeah, I know he got 5th in the ’14 Vuelta) but have fronted up that they’re not GT-winning contenders, because of things such as consistency, being at the front of the race, every day for 3 weeks (or whatever). And so have settled for team captaincy roles, the chance to go stage-hunting on occasion, and being supported in smaller races.

    • Roche was an interesting case because he was trying back in the day when UCI points mattered so much that his Ag2r team (and Lotto) were hiring Iranian riders with points just to stay in the World Tour. So Roche could go for a high GC in the Vuelta and collect those valuable points but probably without the need to win anything, he and others were expected to play it safe and collect points rather than gamble with breakaways and stage wins.

      • Roche is also an interesting case because of his dad and his background on French teams. His dad was a great GT rider in an era when you could win GTs with a normal physique, partly because there were a lot more TT km, partly because current riders . In the current super-skinny era he doesn’t really have a chance. Also he was on French teams that were obsessed with GC in the Tour, but who wouldn’t even give him a TT bike to train on. I still think if he’d done more lumpy classics and stage hunting from the start of his career he’d have a much better palmares.

        • The bit after “current riders” there got stripped out as WordPress thought it was HTML – it said “partly because current riders {insert speculation about weight loss methods here}”

  5. Steve Cummings after Sunday’s stage win:

    “I did once go for GC in Tirreno-Adriatico and I was sixth or seventh. But for me I’d rather win one race than be 10 times in the top 10 and maybe I’m stupid because you get paid less. But I race for passion not money. Yeah, I don’t like GC. I think it’s boring sometimes; six, seven, ten teams in the front protecting one guy. I don’t know. I have three days this year which will always be in my head and like really nice beautiful ways to win, and that’s why I race.”

    • He’s part of a cast of riders who can do this. David Moncoutié was one in the past, maybe Kanstantin Siutsou, Alexis Gougeard and Giovanni Visconti to name just three suggestions among those in activity today who can carve out a great career precisely because they want to go in the breaks rather than play it safe.

      • It’s a mentality thing Cummings could never be a GC rider, because he doesn’t like riding at the front of the bunch, he prefers to do his own thing. Being a GC rider especially chasing GT wins requires 100% focus on every stage, one mistake can cost you (think Kruijwijk – Giro 2016 or Froome – Tour 2014).

        Many riders prefer the wildcard option, hence why riders will actively lose time in GTs to avoid the pressure of GC.

        There is also a perspective issue here, as consumers of cycling, we want to be entertained, we prefer to watch attacks and see riders making bold daring moves. However the teams themselves and the cyclists have their careers to think about, a good GC on a GT can secure a good move, e.g. Louis Meintjes, Leopold Konig. It is also about a riders palmares, for Roche an example cited earlier, he wanted a top in a GT, and worked incredibly hard to achieve this, for the average TV watching fan this would have mattered very little, he would not have got much exposure, but for him and his career it was v. beneficial.

  6. For types of media exposure surely the TdF has more different types. For example, it is probably the only race many media outlets preview at all and then just that you are taking part will give you home country coverage never mind if you might win anything. The general public may even watch/read these and then not actually bother with what happens day-in day-out during the race. Perhaps it is the taking part that counts!

    • This is actually very true. Ji Cheng (it’s actually Cheng, Ji if you insist on putting first name first) now got quite a following in China and successfully launches his TV commenting career.

      He’s probably the most followed break away chaser in the peloton if you count by how many people knows and follows his progress.

      That said, I’m still a bit disappointed with him not getting the lanterne rouge in the Giro. Not that I’d be lucky enough to get the price with so many betting on him.

      • This is so. There are different levels of media exposure in big and small (cyclingwise) countries, but the TdF is the sole race that gets cycling more than its usual amount of coverage or coverage outside the media that usually cover it.
        Finland is a much smaller country than China but a similar point: it is only in July that cycling gets regular coverage (even if itäs only a minute or 30 s on daily television or half a page when the Tour begins) and the biggest media moment in Finnish cycling history was in 2009 when Jussi Veikkanen rode four days in the polka dot jersey, Stage wins in minor races such as Route du Sud, Tour Méditerranéen, Deutschland Tour or even Paris-Nice got little if any publicty and made no impression on the general sports following public.
        The man in the street knows the Tour de France – though not necessarily the names of winners other than Lance Armstrong – but couldn’t probably name all three GTs or wven the countries and certainly not the name of a single Finnish road race or the name of any other rider.

          • I always imagine that the Tour to French people is like Wimbledon in the UK – all of a sudden everyone likes tennis for a couple of weeks, even though 90% of viewers would be hard-pressed to name the winners of any of the other Slams, let alone the smaller tournaments (OK, they could probably guess, but you know what I mean).

  7. If Froome stays healthy (and, of course, I hope he does) he will win. This is sad, not because I have anything against Froome other than I don’t like who owns his team–and he’s hardly to blame for that. It’s sad because although he makes the same move on mtn top finishes every time, other GC team directors / riders are somehow never ready for it. I’d like to see at least one GC team develop a strategy for this repeated move by Froome. Hint: He likes the Pyrenees better than the Alps (although that’s not a hard and fast rule). But I’ll bet the gradient he likes is.

  8. Froome is going to win. Unless he falls off. And I think that’s pretty funny that that is an accurate assessment.

    Then, Contador, Quintana, and maybe Valverde, who is certainly earning his wage.

  9. I’d have to begrudgingly agree with your assessment of modern cycling. It seems that the races that give you the label ‘legend’ are: the monuments, the grand tours, the world championships and more recently the Olympics.
    It reminds me a little of tennis in that the slams, Davis Cup and Olympics are the only ones that really matter. However, it seems that unlike cycling, you don’t get people who are only good in short tournaments but not in the slams.

    • Well, with tennis, it is still 3-4 hours of intense effort per match and plenty days to rest in between in Slams. It’s not like they are asking them to play 8 hours a day for 21 consective days with 2-3 rest days in between.

    • Actually, you do. There are players who are good in 2 out of 3 set matches – smaller tournaments up to ATP 1000 – and players who are also good in 3 of 5 set matches – GS majors and DC.

  10. I find the 10Km olympic running race very interesting – perhaps more so than the marathon and definitely more interesting than the niche ultra marathon. The athletes that win the 10K and marathon are amazing no matter how you look at it.

    Likewise, I believe there should be more emphasis on the one week races – and the riders that can do well in them. If the point system in cycling was modified to mean something more.

    My preference would be to make the one week races more varied – nothing against the current Tour de Romandie, Volta Catalunya or Paris Nice but I would like to see a variety. If the events like the Tour of Great Britain, or Tour of Japan, could be included every few years at the WT level it would be even would make things even more ‘fair’.

  11. You do feel that GC riders get trapped, especially in the age of the Sky train. Sky have managed to produce an equation (which is now emulated by others) which nullifies the expenditure of explosive attacks – incidentally Steve Cummings used that same equation to good effect in last years TdF to win spectacularly – and so riders aren’t tempted to try to drop a rival for fear of blowing up and losing time if they do.

    Losing time on a prologue or otherwise seems like a useful gamble if it allows you to get in a break and up the road, but it is a gamble – one that hasn’t paid off enough for Ryder Hjesdahl.

    What makes any race interesting is if players actually turn up to race. The problem at this point in the season is that these week long races present a) good racing to get in form for the Tour and b) an opportunity to get injured. Riders are looking good, but no one is really showing their full arsenal and no one wants to miss out on the big party.

  12. Very well timed article and very captivating.

    I find the Zubeldia example the most striking. He’s done top 10 TdF GC five times in his carreer yet I can barely remember to actually even see him on a hard mountain stage.

    I guess you have a lot of people e-mailing you with the same comments have posted earlier this week on a Bauke Mollema article on

    I am getting such a deja vu feeling as a result that it almost feels like you wrote the article because of my comment there, although that is of course a silly thought 🙂

    • I’m afraid I didn’t see the comment, will go and look now. Instead the piece was partly based on an idea I wanted to explore and also reader emails asking more riders don’t try and do the Dauphiné or Suisse at 100% in order to beat the likes of Contador or Froome who might be at, say, 90% right now.

  13. Unfortunately the TdF is the gold standard for pro bike racing in the US.

    TJVG, Andy T, and the other younger WT Americans would better serve their palmares and place in history by concentrating on winning more week long tours. Thus developing more organically and not thrown to the lions of the GT’s. Although sponsors and teams prefer placings in the GT’s.

    • good point othersteve – I always wondered whether TJVG wouldn’t be in a better position now if he had said ‘right, aged 23-28 I’m going to try and win 2-3 stage races/yr, learning what it takes to lead and win, and build towards 29-35yrs in the GTs’. As it is he seems a perenial also ran with expectations continually higher than his palmares really justifies after a bit of early promise…

  14. I wonder about the future of some of these races. While they suit some teams and some riders, on the whole they just don’t seem to capture public imagination even in the areas in which they’re staged (with some exceptions, e.g. Pais Vasco, TDU).

    It seems that, after the Grand Tours, it’s one-day races and shorter stage races that people actually want to see – modern examples include Strade Bianchi (of course), Tro-Bro and Tour ‘de’ Yorkshire. Great racing, great crowds – rare examples of real growth in a sport which otherwise appears to be in constant decline.

    Bit like test cricket vs T20 maybe?

    • One day races are mostly on weekends. GTs have 3 weekends, in holiday times, with masses of foreign tourist coming to see such a race, whereas the 1-week races have 1 weekend and the rest on normal workdays. You can’t just tell from counting the crowds that people don’t wanna see a race. Apples and oranges.

  15. I would say that the ‘one week specialist’ is becoming a rarer beast by the year, possibly soon to be entirely extinct?
    A one week racer has climbing ability, and this needs some support in the mountains. The make-up of the team must be tailored somewhat to this.
    So, it may need a team to have, say, four or five climbing assistants for one rider.
    It seems quite a sacrifice on the teams’ behalf, especially so if the major one-weekers are swept up by the big GC guys.
    Tom Dumoulin may be the best current example.
    He has the full skill-set, but what does Giant Alpecin do, build a full team around him only to find themselves still lacking in July? GA’s modus operandi is quite different.

    It’s become a fact that a GC winner will only come from Sky, Movistar, Astana and Tinkoff.
    A rider that can thrive in week-long racing in the other teams (even Etixx) faces a huge quandary; stay and stymie potential development due to lack of climbing support or return to the Classics / or transfer to above said teams to realise GT potential. Alaphilippe and Dumoulin face this dilemma in their careers.

    Having said all that, the sponsors do play a role seemingly:
    Tour of California and Etixx – No.
    Tour of California and Specialised – Yes.
    The week specialist, if he’s a winner, has a place if it brings benefit to the sponsor.

  16. This article reminded me of how much I like the 1 week races and how much I seem to get bored of the 3 week races. I recall Robert Millar once saying that if you think their boring to watch, you should try riding one.

  17. I’m not quite sure the cricket analogy fits for me.

    In terms of a sporting contest I’d probably draw a parallel between a test series and a GT but otherwise I struggle to equate the rest of the two sports. Cricket has found a way to prop up it’s premier format using entertaining formats where no-one cares much about the result (except maybe bookies) and I’m not sure what the cycling equivalent would be.

  18. Speaking of this genre, & it’s specialists: does anyone have any deeper info on what Cameron Meyer is up to? Just saw the news that he’s left Dimension Data with immediate effect. Ok, hes’ not perhaps the highest profile but he ( along with Rohan Dennis?) seem to be a couple of guys who found good success in week-long stages races rather than GTs. At least thus far in their careers.

  19. To me the issue is that I follow the whole season, and I want the whole season to be taken seriously, by teams and riders. I don’t think the Tour-centrism is a “fact of life that we have to live with”, at least in traditional core-countries.
    And yes, one-week riders are not necessarily the same as GT riders. There are many good one-week riders who could never take a GT, from big guys like Mottet to smaller poachers like Pascal Richard or J.C. Dominguez. It’s different racing, it’s a different animal. But it must ABSOLUTELY have flat time-trialling, so that there’s some balance between rouleurs and climbers for the GC. That’s how I read Tony Martin’s justified anger, at being left out of contesting races his equals in the past (think Boardman) were allowed to contest in their day.

    • I’ll drink to that! But I don’t want those flat chrono stages to be so long that they ruin the chances of the smaller riders. The tried-and-true, “defend in the mountains and mow ’em down in the chrono” tends to be boring – I was there for every one of BigMig’s GT victories and they were way too often dull, dull, dull.

      • The thing with Indurain is that for 5 years he was basically indestructible in the mountains (and he even delivered historic pieces of climbing carnage, as someone rightly recalled here a few days ago), so there was no balance. Short or long TTs, he would have won anyway, equally boringly. But TT-less is just as dull: all the climbers stay grouped until the end of the last climb, waiting for “their” (usually very short) distance, or even measure the available time bonuses, and that’s about all. If the “TT god” of the era is indestructible over the climbs, there’s nothing to do but bow down and admire. But Indurain, Anquetil or Merckx were exceptional exceptions, and even they were sometimes put in memorable difficulties by the climbers.
        The basic idea, which stays as valid as ever, is that TTists should get the leader’s jersey, but lose time in climbing. The more advantage they have, the more wildly they get attacked by climbers, and from further distance. Dumoulin vs Aru. Roche vs Delgado. Tonkov vs Olano. It’s the same logic, whether on long or short stage races, only on a different scale, as you rightly point out.

        • Perhaps my memory is foggy, but I can remember even back at the time lamenting Mig’s “defend in the mountains, mow ’em down in the chrono” strategy, while effective …is dull. If I had nothing else to do I’d consider going back and looking at those Tours and Giri again as I don’t remember BigMig gaining much time on his challengers anywhere but in the long chrono stages…but since I have better things to do, I’ll take your word for it (with a grain of salt).

        • Ferdi – I totally disagree that if the TT’s were short, that Mig would still have won. In fact, with short TT’s then Mig could have EASILY lost at least one of those TdF’s. Read the following to see that if the 1995 TdF had the same TT distance as the 2015 TdF, then Indurain very likely would not have won.

          Look at it this way, in the 1995 Tour, stage 8 was a 54km TT, in which Indurain beat Alex Zulle (the eventual second place finisher on GC) by 3:56, and the second individual time trial was 46.5km, and Indurain took 1:49 out of Zulle. Total TT gains is 5:45, or 3.4 seconds per kilometre. Now, if they both rode the 2015 TdF, with a total of 13.8km of individual time trials, then Indurain only gains 59 seconds on TTs and he finishes behind Zulle.

          • It doesn’t work like that, not all.

            When you’ve got a 4’30” buffer (like the one Indurain had over Zülle after the ITT), you may leave a looser leash to your rivals, because it makes no sense to risk blowing up tracking every move of them.
            Zülle created some difficulties to Indurain attacking from far in the La Plagne stage (reportedly because of a mistake in understanding his DS’s – Manolo Saiz – orders), but Indurain controlled his closest rivals until the final climb, where he got back some 2′ from Zülle… leaving the rest of the field 2′ back (three climbers like Tonkov, Pantani and Gotti), 4′ back (Virenque, Rominger, Lanfranchi, Chiappucci) or… even more (the rest).

            Without the previously accumulated gap, Zülle wouldn’t have enjoyed the same freedom.

            Besides, if Indurain had needed to get back those 10″ he lacks in your imaginary scenery, he’d have got them back more probably than not just forcing a little bit in any of the other mountain or hilly stages, Zülle never looked superior (quite the contrary, indeed).

          • Gabriele – It definitely works partly as I said. An ITT specialist like Indurain would have serious problems with a TdF like we had in 2015.

            Besides, in my scenario, the gap Zulle had over Indurain isn’t 10 seconds, it was 35, which as you know in modern TdFs is a very hard gap to overcome.

            We’re arguing semantics, because obviously Zulle and Indurain would have raced the 1995 Tour differently without all of those ITT kms. I was only putting doubt on Ferdi’s comment that Indurain would have won no matter what amount of ITT kms there were.

          • CA, I partially share your point, that is, without ITTs Indurain would have had a harder life. Not even by far as hard as you appear to think, anyway.

            That said, having to face, among the others, one of the best climbers and GT riders in cycling history (Pantani), he’d have probably lost some mountain-loaded edition with very few ITT kms. That’s difficult to establish, anyway, given what I observed above, that is, that when you’re safe in GC terms you’ve got no need to wear yourself out to track an explosive climber and risk blowing up.

            However, my specific point is that what you comment *about 1995* makes very little sense. Do you vaguely remember that Tour, or have you at least given a look on the web at how things went?
            Because it’s, dunno, like one of the worst examples you could pick ^__^

            Indurain demolished the *whole* field in a hilly stage like the Liège one. He was head and shoulders above the rest on *any* terrain, that year.

            He only lost time in the mountains thanks to long-range moves he had voluntarily let go (exception: Pantani).
            He was systematically among the two or three best GC men in every mountain-top finish, while the others were losing time here and there.
            Riis (3rd placed in final GC) lost more than 5′ in La Plagne. Zülle, besides that stage in which he had been allowed to go with an earlier move, *never* could place his wheel before Indurain’s.
            Not – a – single – time.
            He even lost spare seconds in Guzet-Neige or Mende.
            How do you suppose that they were going to take time from him if they were weaker climbers?
            Fourth placed Jalabert lost about half of his gap in the mountains.

            Perhaps Pantani? But Indurain proved stronger than him in La Plagne (about 2’30”) – also because Pantani tended to suffer in the first uphill finish at the Tour (due to the rhythm on the flat in the previous days). Add to that the minute Indurain got in Liège, another minute and a half he could “steal” Pantani in the albeit short ITT and you’ll see how Indurain could have won even losing time in Alpe d’Huez and Guzet-Niege, without need to speculate on what happened to Pantani in the Cauterets stage.

            Indurain, that year, would probably have won without a single TT km.

            The most specific exampe I can think of is 1994, Pantani would probably have won that Tour in case the ITT kms were reduced. But, as I said, this are very abstract conjectures.

          • Gabriele – haha…. well, ahem – in 1995 I was, well, let’s just say European bike races weren’t exactly on my radar! I was more interested in recess, watching movies and playing with my friends and we didn’t get a lot of European bike races on my TV!

            So, to answer your question, I really have very little idea about the 1995 TdF – but I did get you to admit that with very little ITT km’s, Indurain would have trouble (remember, that’s all I was pointing out). That’s all I wanted to point out! I definitely don’t want to call myself an expert on the 1991-1995 TdF’s.

            Thanks for the back and forth!

  20. I suppose the importance of the 7th floor depends upon which way the elevator is going. For a “contender” to finish seventh, meh! For a young unknown rider, it could be the start of something big.

  21. This years Tour de Suisse is a pretty good one so far for fans of 1-week races. Not the biggest names, but more thrill than the Dauphine.

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