Giro Stage 21 Preview

The Giro rides into Milan, a triumph for the race, riders, the sport and Italy. The race concludes with a short time trial and one enormous verdict as Tao Geoghegan Hart tied is on time with Jai Hindley, it’s up to them to win the race.

Side by side in Sestriere: a big breakaway went clear but they didn’t have enough time on reaching Sestriere and got overtaken in the finish. Ineos set the pace and Rohan Dennis was like a rickshaw driver, towing Tao Geoghegan Hart, just like on the Stelvio. Again Wilco Kelderman was dropped, as soon as a metre opened up the Dutchman was done for, his strength is his smooth style but it’s also his weakness, he seemed unable to stomp on the pedals to close the gap and his pink dreams were over. It left a trio in front with Dennis as chaperone to Geoghegan Hart and Jai Hindley on the last time up to Sestriere. Hindley tried several attacks but couldn’t get the gap, Geoghegan Hart looked to be on the very limit but managed to tuck into the slipstream and in the finishing straight he launched a long sprint to win the stage and with it the time bonus.

The Route: as flat as the profile looks, if not flatter to the point where the ramp out of the start hut is a notable slope today. It’s out of Cernusco sul Naviglio today, naviglio as in canal and a clue to how flat things are. It’s past Vimodrone and into Milan and all on big roads, this is a practical course to take the race from the suburbs into the city, it’s no scenic tour, borrowing the seedy backstreets of Milano Centrale station before the city’s historic centre. There are hardly any bridges to ride over nor underpasses to dip into, nor sharp corners, this is a test of power and aerodynamics rather than skill.

The Contenders: it’s hard to see past Filippo Ganna (Ineos) for the win, he’s won the two time trials already and by some margin, the flat course suits him and the only question is fatigue but he’s not been toiling for hours on end, day after day for the team. There are other names listed in the picks below but they’re back-ups in case Ganna’s ill or punctures today.

Hindley vs Geoghegan Hart: who will win in the Giro? We can extrapolate time from the two time trials in the race. In Palermo on Stage 1 Hindley was 49s quicker, or 3.2 seconds per kilometre faster; in Conegliano TGH was 1m15 quicker, that’s 2.2 seconds per kilometre better. Then we can apply some sense to these rides, on the opening day TGH wasn’t aiming for a high place on GC and probably didn’t give it everything on the windy day. But for the second time trial both riders were riding high on GC and needed a good performance, so Conegliano makes for a better comparison and here it’s firmly advantage TGH. However we’re a week later into the race, other considerations like freshness come into play, who had a good night’s sleep and the sometimes undefinable feel of the legs on the day. As Greg LeMond said on the eve of winning the Tour de France “if he has a bad day and I have a good day” then anything’s possible but on paper it’s Tao-time, even if he can scrape out one second per kilometre then he’s got it made. But it’s so close that should a rider puncture it could be decisive.

Elsewhere there are such big gaps that the rest of the top-10 looks to be set in concrete already but João Almeida could well overtake Pello Bilbao today to claim fourth place.

The Rules: Hindley is in the maglia rosa because while he’s tied for time, in the two time trial stages they’ve timed the riders down the nearest one hundredth of a second and Hindley is ahead here by fractions of a second. If they were to both finish on the same time today it’d come down to the timings again: who has covered the whole Giro course faster, including the fractions from the three time trial stages. If they were still tied on time – and we’re well into theory now – then we see who was actually quicker each day by adding up the placings on each stage. Hindley was 46th on Stage 1, 30th on Stage 2, 24th on Stage 3 and so on making 46+30+24… his total for 20 stages this morning is 380 compared to TGH’s score of 592 so it’s advantage Hindley just in case of a total tie on time.

Filippo Ganna
Almeida, Dennis, Cerny, Campenaerts, Bjerg

Weather: fog turning to clouds, a cool 14°C and slight tailwind.

TV: an extra hour of suspense as the clocks have changed in Europe overnight, from CEST to CET and finish is forecast for 4.30pm CET. The switch over to La Vuelta for the revised summit finish at Formigal in the Pyrenees.

178 thoughts on “Giro Stage 21 Preview”

  1. Thanks, INRNG, for your excellent coverage of this Giro – your stage previews are the first thing I read each morning.

    As a British fan, here’s hoping Tao can finish it off, but whoever wins will deserve it.

    P. S. Assuming Ganna (or Dennis) wins today, that’ll be seven (a third) of the stage wins to Ineos – and not one of them a sprint. Anyone any idea when a team won that many stages of a GT without a sprint win, or even with?

  2. A heartfelt thank you to Inrng for another season of outstanding insight and analysis. This blog is so far ahead in the race for quality bike racing coverage there’s no way for a breakaway to catch up. I also appreciate the overwhelming thoughtful, well-informed, and often humorous comments made by so many of the commenters.

    As for the race, I’ve enjoyed it immensely, despite the early loss of the top contenders. I hope all the riders and staff stay safe and healthy in the off-season and that racing in 2021 can resume with more normalcy.

  3. Just a thought regarding punctures, would TGH be better riding solid tyres today or would the loss in performance even on such a short stage outweigh guaranteeing no puncture?

    • the course will have been swept, tyres will be new, perhaps yes a jot of sealant to be sure. Also if TGH is 2.2 s/km quicker even over 15 km, he has over 30 seconds in hand, time for a bike change

      • I think it could be closer today, if it’s 1s per km there’s not much room for a bike change. But it’s a big urban course, there are no bits of flinty rock falling on the course and over 100 riders with lead vehicles and their following cars will go over the course first, it’s low risk… but there.

  4. A big help for Jai he starts last.132
    Tao Geoghegan Hart (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers 16:09:00
    Jai Hindley (Aus) Team Sunweb 16:12:00
    Agree with all who say a great JOB you have done Inrng any chance you can pop over to Spain ??
    Very many thanks.

  5. Thanks as always INRNG.
    Great previews for this Giro and amazing race.
    Hoping Tao does it but will applaud either.

    Two things aside from the excitement on my mind today:

    I desperately want a revised yearly cycling schedule to allow cycling to reach new fans and new places – but the current trade off between a shortened Vuelta and full Giro shows whatever the ‘Grand Tours’ are, they must be three weeks. The Vuelta is being completely overshadowed and not just by the Giros drama.

    (Even though I know it is a fantasy I favour a rotational system for Grand Tours outside of the Tour De France so we start to try and include other continents and the Giro/Vuelta happen every other year or similar. I realise though this would require a stupid amount of money to realise).

    The second question for me is how we can extrapolate the level of this Giro, P Slongo is saying it’s higher than the Tour, but I assume he’s defending Nibali? It feels like we’re Geraint fit or even Pogacar here they would have walked it but is that true?

    • I find it weird that after a great Giro your first suggestion is that it should be every two years instead of every one. Cycling is a great sport but it’s a minority sport. As soon as it forgets is traditional centre and goes looking for big money elsewhere it’s over. Plus you can tell the Italians that the Giro is only going to be every two years but I’m not convinced they’d listen.
      Plus on extrapolating levels, who cares? This has been fantastic entertainment. Thomas fit and healthy might have won but he’d have won with TGH very much on a leash. At this stage is 35 year old Thomas genuinely better than him? Maybe not. I know who I’d be favouring in future if I was Sir DB.

      • Maybe there’s some ‘hindsight’ there Richard. TGH’s best GT result until the Giro was 20th at last year’s Vuelta. Many thought that he was a level or so down from the serious GT contenders – me included – but he’s taken a big step forward in Italy and now he needs to grasp that Maglia Rosa because even victory might not open up many GT leader opportunities for him at Ineos.

        • Obviously, my comment is based on his performance in this Giro. Nobody knew how good he was until about a week ago. He still might not be that good, I’m not saying he’s going to dominate. But neither has Thomas and he’s probably past his best.

      • ‘Why would Carapaz be 2nd to Thomas?’

        Because Thomas has earned the right more that Carapaz in the overall hierarcy of Ineos. I also believe he’s still very strong. And you take Carapaz anyway as 2nd leader in case something goes wrong. G has maybe 1 year left at the top, he’s earned the right to have a last crack at the big one if his form is still decent in Daupine etc. Carapaz will have his time

          • No they aren’t. Top domestique status rather than GC leader material. For next year at least.Thimas showed in Tirreno that he still has the form. He just came out of lockdown bad.

    • The Vuelta should come into its own soon, it has a good field and some good roads. Enjoy it because it’s the only race left on the calendar along the Giro di Sardegna, and it’s not clear when racing resumes as the Tour Down Under might have quarantine rules on foreign visitors making it not worth visiting for the non-Australian peloton.

  6. Another dramatic day yesterday despite the changed route, and another great ride by Dennis.
    I’ve been struck the last couple of days by how young and fresh-faced both of today’s chief protagonists look, a theme of youth that has been apparent all season, such as it has been.
    I must say that there’s something tremendously uplifting when young athletes come good, it brings a freshness and I feel invigorates everyone.
    Here’s hoping that TGH does it today but I’d almost be as happy if Hindley were to upset the odds also.
    They’ve both gotta fight for the right to party.
    (Something that many of England’s football followers held The Beastie Boys to during a troubled tour back in the late 80s, a night in Liverpool particularly so. Who remembers VW badges going missing from cars? 😀).

  7. Echo everyone’s comments about your daily insights and forecasts. Your analysis of previous day’s events, and thoughts the day’s race in prospect add greatly to the appreciation and enjoyment of each stage. Thanks for contributing to a great Giro! Will miss you at the Vuelta!

  8. Isn’t it an advantage not being in pink for TGH today — presumably his skinsuit will be fractions of a second quicker per km [and he didn’t have to have it fitted last night]

    [By the way, itsn’t the Lemond quote … and if I have a good day …?]

  9. Great coverage as usual INRNG. It’s been a cracking few weeks of racing and all the better for not having an out and out favourite.

    I had the impression yesterday that TGH wasn’t giving it 100% on the final climb and seemed content to follow the wheels. Hopefully that bodes well for today. Although it would have been great to see a full gas attack (assuming either of them had more to give).

    Question: what would have happened if today hadn’t been a TT? What would etiquette say if two riders were tied on time on the final stage? Would they race for any available time bonuses? Has that ever happened?

    • The first thing that might have changed was yesterdays stage.
      Ineos probably knew the TT results and might have instructed TGH that he had to take another second somehow on Jai. And Jai would have been told that all he has to do is finish with TGH if sunweb was on the ball.
      It would have complicated matters greatly.

  10. I’ll join in the thanks for the as always excellent daily content. I don’t know what you do for a living but if you wanted to jack it in and charge a membership for this site I think it’s easily good enough for you to get away with it.
    I’ve really enjoyed this Giro. It’s all the things we (I) usually moan are missing from the Tour. Suspense, since Etna on stage 3 nobodies had a clue who was going to win and going into the last stage it’s still wide open. No team has dominated though Ineos have had a slightly familiar influence over the last two mountain stages. An interesting and varied route including a fair crack of the whip for sprinters and time trialists. When was the last time a sprinter won 4 stages of the Tour and, and there were 3 individual time trials? Not ASO time trials either with a ridiculously steep hill thrown in somewhere. One downhill, one rolling and one as flat as a snooker table. We’ve also had a bit of in team intrigue at Sunweb, there’s still the nagging feeling they’d have been better having Hindley help Kelderman. I’ll throw my hand up as well, before this Giro I’d never heard of Hindley or Almeida. Or if I had I’d never noticed. The only slightly sour aspect for me is we’re still waiting for a new Italian GC prospect to come through. Though I suppose Ciccone has been ill and Masnada on team duty.

    • You appear to be saying that the Giro is a BETTER DESIGNED grand tour and I would whole-heartedly agree regardless of the protestations of riders who, in some cases, seem to think that they are now course designers too. ASO races these days seem somewhat anemic and sterile albeit I concede that each race is limited by the geography of where it takes place. I had an epiphany some years back now in regard to the Giro, however, and ever since then I have seen Le Tour for what it actually is, an inferior race that gets more attention than it often deserves.

      VV Il Giro!

  11. Oh and regarding today. TGH for the overall and Ganna for a stage win in some ludicrous average speed. You can’t underestimate how nerves might effect TGH and Hindley today though. But just looking at them TGH looks the more time trially while Hindley looks more the pure climber.

    • You don’t know until the day, but TGH is a bit cocky (witness his side-by-side cycling of Hindley). His general demeanour has been a bit more confident than Hindley. This might be due to internal conflicts at Sunweb. But he has had the look of a deer caught in headlights throughout this last week. I wonder if TGH will have slept better because of his confidence.
      We shall see.
      I still thought TGH gamesmanship yesterday was unnecessary.
      Any chance of Kelderman making up his time losses today? I assume not, but he was approximately 30-40 seconds faster than TGH. If he finishes above Hindley, the questions over Hindley waiting will rise like a slowly decomposing body…

      • I haven’t noticed any cockiness or gamesmanship on the part of TGH (or Hindley) – nothing outside normal cycling tactics.

        Kelderman has no chance today – too far back in a shortish TT.

        • I think TGH has a bit of an attitude. Personally I like it. Bit of swagger and showmanship. Not very British maybe but I’m all for it.

      • Hindley should either have waited for Kelderman or attacked TGH at least 5km from the finish on both the Stelvio stage and yesterday’s stage to try to put in more time into him before the ITT. If he’d done that he might have won or he might have come third.
        As it is, Sunweb’s tactics will very probably result in 2nd and 3rd anyway so it should have been tried. Hindley’s future prospects would not have been harmed by giving it a go and coming 3rd overall instead of 2nd.
        Sunweb have Movistar’d it.

        • Lots of hindsight about Sunweb’s tactics on the Stelvio. But watching it live, it seems to me they got it right. At that point, they had no idea whether Kelderman had cracked completely or would limit his losses: if you’d asked me at that moment, my bet would have been he was about to completely crack. In that situation, by Hindley following TGH, they at least ensured they kept one rider still in the game. Had Hindley waited, quite possible they could have eliminated both their contenders at once, with no means back into the race for Hindley. So given what was known and probable at that moment, they got it right IMHO.

          • My point is that the tactic they chose – JH leaving WK to fend for himself on the Stelvio, which I largely agree with – would only work if Hindley took time on TGH. Therefore, JH had to try everything to take that time – and that means attacking TGH earlier.
            As it is they’ve ended up with the halfway house of not supporting WK, and then JH not taking enough time on TGH. They needed to go with one or the other.
            And if JH had attacked more yesterday he might have taken time or lost time. But he could have lost 2 minutes and still ended up on the podium. Ergo, by JH attacking early, Sunweb could have got a 1st and 3rd in the Giro, and still would have got 2nd and 3rd if it hadn’t worked. As it is they’re very likely to get 2nd and 3rd.
            With what they have done, they’d have been more likely to take victory by having JH wait for WK on the Stelvio.
            That’s why I keep saying that JH should have attacked early yesterday and on the final climb on the Stelvio stage: there was little to lose and a lot to gain.

      • As a counter to this, Hindley was pulling bunny hops on the descent yesterday, which didn’t seem to do much to impress Matt Holmes! So I’d say they’ve both got a bit of swagger about them – it’s nice to see; much better than more blandness …

  12. It’s always a pleasure to read well crafted writing, beyond the facts and contents and grammar, the style and pace and rhythm, the ability to add layers of emotion and insight by the arrangement of words….INRNG has been doing this for many years and during the grand tours in particular it makes for a great start to the day. Thank you. You may be surprised to learn that TGH has this skill too, though he has perhaps slowed down sharing this, his blog was always a great insight into the trials and tribulations of a young rider, clearly a young man who puts focus into doing things well. Best wishes for him today, its been a long time since we have had two such exciting conclusions to a GT in the same year.

    • He’s got a good website with interesting things to read on it ( I’ve always found him an interesting rider/person, when he was tipped here as a neo-pro to watch it was in part because even as an U23 he seemed like a polished pro, he could handle big races and media interviews like a seasoned veteran.

      • In the light of TGH being a polished pro: I noticed in his post-stage interview he started all bundled up in dark clothes with logos partly obscured, but took his jacket off so his sponsor name was clearly visible on his ski suit for the camera. Clearly aware both of his responsibility to his sponsor and which bits of film would get replayed.

  13. What I find astounding is that year after year now the quality of INRG never deteriorates.
    Thank you for the insight and the sheer quality of this site is reflected in the comments section which is almost as much of a “must read” as the analysis.
    Long may it continue.

  14. After the TdF and classics Ratcliffe must he been wondering if he had made a mistake investing in Brailsford’s team management. Whatever happens today he should feel happy, and it’s been much more fun than an Ineos or JV train negating mountain stages.
    And, like your other readers, thanks so much for your knowledge, wisdom and balance Mr IR.
    This reader’s suggestion for the long winter nights: have a browse back through the IR archive.

    • The stages at the Giro have not been particularly vertiginous and as a result that’s allowed Almeida and DQS a long stint in pink. I don’t think it would’ve made a massive difference if Thomas had been leading INEOS, or if they had a stronger team, because the Giro parcours has not really allowed for the same sorts of selections and control – with a lot of sprint stages there’s been no need to try to control things because there weren’t huge time gaps, or the breakaway had sufficient time that it didn’t matter.
      If you look at the TdF, JV were just soooo much stronger that anytime they attempt to control the race JV just swallowed them up and spat them out. It’s not been a vintage year for INEOS, but it’s not been bad. It’s just a different feel because the pendulum swung in the TdF (and arguably the Dauphine). The conundrum for Brailsford is how to deal with JV next year. At the moment they look a Sepp Kuss short of really contending and controlling the race. Though that’s not the answer to the Pogacar paradox…

      • If your first sentence is true [hint: it isn’t] then one has even more case to wonder why, in 2020, rider tiredness is reason to refuse to ride set stages and to infuriate fans and race organisers alike. Wasn’t the Stelvio stage something like 5,800 metres of climbing in one day alone?

        PS Ineos are adding Laurens de Plus, Porte, Adam Yates and Dani Martinez. Whilst there might not be a winner in there, it doesn’t make then worse as a team.

        • So out of 21 stages there were four which were truly selective: Etna, Stelvio, Siestriere and Piancavallo. You could add Madonna di Campiglio which ended in a group finish… Not many mountain stages which required control. You tell me which ones I’ve missed because when I was watching I didn’t see too many stages which required a decent train to control.
          You’ll have to tell me out of the other “mountain” stages that Ganna, Dowsett, Ullissi, Narvaez, Tratnik, Cerny, Sagan and Démare won which were so controllable. Perhaps I am down playing the Cesenatico stage, but compared to the TdF and Vuelta this was not a GT of climbing.
          The riders complained after the Queen stage, and the worry was about the rain.
          I think your comments are therefore spurious.

      • “It’s not been a vintage year for INEOS, but it’s not been bad.”
        This may not age well.

        No TDF win….but with the Giro wrapped up and the Vuelta is swinging their way, two of the three majors wouldn’t be vintage? Hmmmm…..!!!!!

        • Don’t you think they’d throw both the Vuelta and Giro away for a win in the TdF? Also, the way JV crushed them at the Dauphine, and that they had won very little all year (they’d normally wrap up a few one week races, such as Paris-Nice) would suggest it’s not gone according to plan as they would have liked. Brailsford has spun a new paradigm following the Giro, but it doesn’t sound like a that was an intentional approach to their 2020 season. So no, not vintage Sky/Ineos. They’ve had to adapt to 2020, and as a team with plenty of money and talent they have the ability to adapt, and have started to turn things around. After stage 3 of the Giro it was looking a bit bleak. I won’t change my view even if Carapaz wins the Vuelta. I’ll likely laud how they’ve managed to adapt to the demands of COVID affected 2020.

  15. I suspect we are watching a unique race in many ways. The chances that 1st and 2nd go into the final stage effectively tied is very small indeed.

    I thought that TGH managed to cover Jai Hindley’s accelerations without too much stress but Inrng is a better judge than I. In any case he did and went on to win the stage with some ease. He did seem the more relaxed of the pair after the stage.

    Wiggo was going completely overboard about how “his boy” is going to win the Giro and how he is honouring the history of the sport. Maybe that’s true but certainly its good to see an east London lad getting to the top of the sport.

  16. Thanks @inrng and community.

    This has been a memorable Giro.

    I agree with what is said do often about the quality of the blog. And it’s been great to see the comments bubbling over the last couple of days. A reflection of the quality of the racing, the quality of the blog, and a lot of us British cycling fans getting our Team GB underpants out to support our Tao!

    It’s often suggested the blog be monetised. I’d like to disagree. The quality of the work is certainly of a standard that people might pay for,I would say it is field leading, and seems popular with people who bet too. But why do we need to monetise the quality by quantifying it? What does monetisation actually do to beauty, excellence and value?

    With respect to @inrng for a truly valuable service.

    • It does pay the hosting bills, the bandwidth, keeps the blogger in coffee, pays for petrol on recon trips etc… it’s something to think of over the winter but it’s just a blog here, it’s always open to everyone.

      • Perhaps some INRNG jerseys again at Prendas (and maybe a gillet that can be done up while descending)? I’ve a full riding week’s of INRNG socks, but was too slow to secure a jersey. Not sure how much these contribute to the running costs versus the admin headache, but more than happy to add to my collection if they do become available again.

        • I second this. At least do more socks. They are perishables. Maybe keep one or two jersey in stock and replenish when needed. There’s always those of us who missed the boat on the jersey.

      • I’m still in favour of the ‘tip box’, money that is solely given as a thank you for all the past content without expectations for the future. I don’t need a jersey or socks but would gladly contribute to anything that keeps this site in the air with all the goodness that we’re used (addicted?) to.

      • Have you thought about some Inrng posters? Something tastefully done to commemorate the various races throughout the year? A sort of collectors series. Or mugs even?

  17. An exciting ending but the lack of the 3 strongest riders has made this a bit of an asterisk giro for me. Not a strong start list then crashes, covid, old age etc give Hart and Hindley the chance of a lifetime. Good luck to them but in sport the value of a win is in relation to the opposition (see England playing Italy at rugby) and so the victory today will lack greatness IMHO.

    • I knew this would start. But, as far as I’m aware, there’s no agreed way to start rating victories against other victories. Do we downplay Nibali’s Tour win in 2014 because the two greatest grand tour riders of the decade, Froome and Contador, were both crocked? Or do we just say that surviving the course and enduring the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune is part of the game?

      Today’s winner will be a Giro winner. Forever. And that is enough.

      • “Do we downplay Nibali’s Tour win in 2014 because the two greatest grand tour riders of the decade, Froome and Contador, were both crocked?”

        I guess you’re new here.
        There has been quite a, at times rancorous, debate on this in the comment section over some years.

        • Not new at all and as far as I know we are allowed different points of view. Sport is about emotion and emotion is subjective. My view of greatness may be different to yours.

          • I think prosperity will largely determine how we view the win, and much of that will be based on how TGH and Hindley perform. In the same way that we view certain Tour and Vuelta wins as aberrations I think the same may be true of in this case.
            That’s no disrespect to TGH. He’s as surprised as anyone to have won. But he knows had COVID not happened, a condensed calendar resulted in a field with depleted depth and questionable form that this would not have happened, and if he really knows the germ of his success he’ll be sending gold watches to the Bahrain Merida team and their dodgy water bottle cages.
            I feel a bit for Thomas at this point who must be cursing his bad luck. To watch this slowly unfold must be a bit stomach churning. Would INEOS have won seven stages and the tour with him there?
            Make no mistake TGH was the best rider there. He showed himself during the course of the race, slowly making his way up the GC, he took his chances when they came and rode himself into contention. Few will forget how this Giro was won and the nature of the closeness with which it happened.

    • I couldn’t care less who is on the podium, a close race with dramatic narrative twists and turns is what matters to me and thats we we got here, in a year when there could easily have been no Giro at all. All it takes is to have two riders (preferably on opposing teams) who are in with a real chance til the final stage and you have an exciting race, my two cents.

    • England beating Italy at rugby is one thing but beating them in a World Cup final, regardless of the circunstances that enabled them to get there, is something else.

  18. Don’t doubt that our generous host will post a digest at some point, but this year’s Grand Tours and what Classics we were lucky enough to get have brought new talent through at speed.
    Whilst TGH and Jai Hindley were out front battling, Jao Almeida was all-in to pick up any pieces. – Where were the remaining Giro favourites, if anyone still doubts the depth of quality riders in this year’s edition?
    Over in the Vuelta a 20 yr-old came to the line as part of a breakaway that succeeded.
    Remco Evenepoel has been out, so we’ve been deprived of his brio.
    The pro peloton will always need experienced riders, but it’s great to see that the more mature no longer block rapid natural talent and progress like they used to ( doping ). It makes for way more interesting sport. Some spectators might be unsettled by the unpredictability but let’s not worry about that, not when we can have sport like yesterday’s stage.

    • I thought this as well. Older riders no longer have the benefits of years of ‘PROFESSIONAL PREPARATION’. More just about pure talent/legs. You love to see it.

      • I’ve seen some commentary that the strength of young riders this year has been their greater willingness to spend hours on the turbo and that they’re keener on developments like Zwift etc. This meant that they started the second part of the season with a better base than some of the older riders

        • Yes I did hear that. Could be some truth in it. However at the same time they are hardly likely to give much voice to the ‘no-one is doping’ theory. Too close to home. What I can say is even 10 years ago it would have been unheard of for u25s to be dominating.

          • I suspect it’s because training techniques have moved on so much in recent years, which means coaches can impart so much knowledge to the young riders. Plus there are all sorts of tests that can show how good a riders is and at what type of racing they’re good at, etc. Previously, riders had to learn this on the road.
            Plus, the hierarchy that existed in cycling has largely gone – thankfully.
            I think when it comes to cycling people still tend to reach for ‘doping’ when looking to answer a question.

        • I wasn’t going to say anything, but since you’re into the realms of conjecture. The bio passport definitely makes it harder to dope. The tracking of blood values means that you can’t suddenly spike the results.
          However, the suspicion is that younger riders are coming in with higher baselines, which isn’t heartening.
          All talk of “improved” training is fairly bogus. Training techniques and diet have not changed in a meaningful way in decades. It’s always been the smoke and mirrors of doping (remember when all our athletes ducked of to Australia to train). There’s no magic about what you put into your body, and the body also reacts fairly predictably to training stimuli. You might be correct if you said that riders training had been disrupted by COVID. That has various implications and is likely to account for a number of riders performing less than optimally.

    • One advantage that older riders have – sadly – lost is racing experience. With the DS on the radio, riders no longer have to figure out their own tactics. The team car could come up in the old days, but that can’t happen too often, and is often impossible due to race conditions.
      Another advantage of experience lost is that with powermeters on their bikes, riders no longer have to judge their own efforts.
      Both of these have lessened the importance of the brain, leaving it more down to legs alone. I don’t think that’s a benefit to cycling.
      I welcome the younger riders – it is more exciting that they are no longer stymied earlier in their careers – but I’d like to see the older riders gain the advantages of experience.

      • Did they do a stage in the TDF a few years back with only race radio and no team radio? I vaguely recall that. Also recall that the riders weren’t happy about it, citing safety concerns (which seemed not valid as they still had race radio). It’s something I’d def like to see more for various reasons

        • No idea.
          Jos van Emden’s suggestion:
          Team race radio
          “No more radio connections between the sports directors and the riders. It makes the racing very unsafe because many directors shout that their riders must go forward, even if it’s not actually necessary. The riders could instead just be in contact with the race jury car, which could report problems and or mechanicals.”

          How many crashes have we seen where the cause is many riders charging to the front towards a narrowing of the road? Leave them to go through these narrowings on their own and they’ll do it just fine.
          Teams want control. That’s why they claim radios are a safety issue.

      • Sort of know what you mean, J Evans, but sadly the evidence is the more mature riders simply had better knowledge and experience of doping. They used this to keep young riders down, preferring only those who ‘toed-the-line’ to keep the kapos in champagne.
        Radios are like power meters and GPSs. You can’t uninvent them, and really why would you want to do this? The safety argument wins it outright;- Street furniture, sharp turns, width restrictions are not meant to turn each race into an obstacle course and only adroit use of race radios prevents many an injury. Riders can still fall off on their own, or in company of others. Just because a DS is yelling to ‘move up’, does not equate to the rider actually being able to do it, either. Each team can play its own tactics thanks to radios, sure, so yesterday’s stage would have had QST riders up the road being made aware of when Almeida might reach them, but all the other teams can also use their radios to get riders in to neutralise what’s being attempted. It is still about the legs and it’s still about the racing brain.
        The one thing of benefit that did come from an experience this week was mature rider input to get that stage shortened. Nobody missed the additional 100k of peloton procession and you can’t deny the quality of racing in stages both before and after. Sorry for the towns that only had team buses passing through and sorry for Mauro Vegni’s pacemaker batteries but here is a good reason to have experienced heads as part of each team. They are the mentors that will bring riders on and not bully them now that doping’s day is (hopefully) done. Sooner the people who don’t get this can be gone, the better.

        • Allaphillipe in Flanders. Only reason he crashed was cos he was on the radio to his DS. Zero evidence that team radio makes things safer. You can still have race radio to warn of obstacles etc.

        • plurien, the more mature riders did not only have experience of doping. They also had experience of racing. When doping is mentioned some seem to forget all else. Even though they were doping, they still did everything else that a professional cyclist does, and that includes accruing experience in how to race.

          Race radio can provide the safety warnings. Teams don’t need to do that. As van Emden and others (e.g., Voeckler) have explained (and as I mentioned above), team radios cause accidents. Also, the world championships, olympics and other races don’t have team radios and they’re fine safety-wise.

          You don’t have to ‘uninvent’ power meters, etc. You just make a rule that says you can’t have them on your bike during a race. Many sports have rules that ban things that would make the sport easier, etc. Cycling itself has rules outlawing certain technologies – minimum bike weight, the bike has to be a certain style – no recumbents – etc. So this is already happening.

          There is zero evidence that doping’s day is done.

          Many riders didn’t agree with the shortening: it seems to have been decided by a minority. There is no health issue in riding 250km in the rain, and grand tours are supposed to be a test of all kinds of riding.

          This sort of thing could be used by teams in the future to get rid of stages or shorten stages that don’t suit their riders. The 2016 Tirenno-Adriatico was won by GVA because stage 5 was cancelled due to snow. Except there was no snow. There was snow forecast by one weather forecaster, but not by many others. However, certain teams put pressure on the organisers to cancel the stage. Once you have competitors deciding when and how they will compete it’s a slippery slope towards unfairness.

          • Does the older riders’ race experience separate them that much though, even without radios? Tao has been racing since he was 13, so has 11 years of racing experience, and certainly didn’t have a radio in his ear at hog hill or Crystal Palace…

          • Davesta, I can’t say I know for certain, but I’d have thought riding in world’s biggest races provides greater experience than hog hill.

          • Possibly. I’ve never ridden a world tour race or grand tour, so can’t say for sure either, but I have ridden small races and bigger races, and at a fundamental level bike racing is bike racing – you use tactics and strength and skill and mental games to beat the guys next to you…and you can certainly learn an awful lot of that in 11 years!

          • J Evans – sorry but your latest on radios is starting to sound a lot like the arguments that seatbelts shouldn’t be mandatory ‘because somebody was saved when their sports car threw them out instead of taking them down into the ravine’. Alaphillippe was dicking about when he hit the moto, same as MVP was when he crashed in De Ronde(?) in 2019
            The whole point about dopers is not that it made them better: It stopped other riders who were better than them ever getting a place on the team. That’s how they stole the experience you so value. They should not have any place in the sport until such time as they’ve handed back every penny they won, every team place they took and agreed a proper pennance for their cheating. (They can’t do this, so they don’t have a place in the sport).
            This is a sport. People will always try to game the system. That’s only human. It’s the place of the rule-makers, the organisers and the riders’ esprit de corps to keep things in line. When they fail we get anarchy and the sport falls into disrepute. Radios don’t do this, doping does. Rules and someone owning the duty of care for the riders doesn’t, reckless ‘showman’ organisers do.

          • plurien, a lot of riders say that radios cause crashes, but never mind that, explain to me how it is safer for teams to warn riders of safety issues than it is for race radio to do so.
            You can’t because it would be exactly the same. Teams having radios is not about safety.
            (Also, if race radio were giving out the warnings all riders would have the same info. so it’d probably be better.)

            The rest of your comment is fixated on doping to the exclusion of all else and so has nothing to do with what I wrote.
            My original point – see above – was that having teams directing you by radio and having powermeters on your bike negates the advantages given by experience.
            That point has nothing to do with doping.

        • Re your theory about older riders using doping to keep younger riders down how do you explain Damiano Cunego and Riccardo Ricco?
          The thing is young riders being good seems odd but isn’t anything new. Rik Van Steenbergen is still the only teenager to win a monument and that was in 1944. Jacques Anquetil won his first Grand Prix des Nations (the world time trial championships of his day and over 100km) at 19. Merckx won his first Milano-Sanremo at 20. Basically if you’ve got it you’ve got it and age is fairly irrelevant as long as you’ve developed fully into an adult! What has probably held young riders back over the years is the deeply ingrained conservatism that dominates the thinking of professional cycling.

          • +1 on your concluding remark Richard S!!
            Cunego, Ricco, Cobo (in an opposite kind of way because he just cheated and didn’t respect the traditions)… plenty of others were the product of a system that valued ‘experience’, ‘time served’, ‘respect in the pro peloton’ or whatever you want to call it. They were put in touch with ‘Doctors’ through their team set-ups or through more ‘experienced riders’ who all took it as self-evident that to succeed in the sport you had to be on a ‘special diet’ or ‘strict training regime’. All of this was a comfort blanket for those who felt only they were the true insiders of the sport and that everyone else was not in touch with the ‘values of our sport’. This portmanteau term of inclusion encompassed not only doping, but bullying, ostracism and all kinds of exclusion used against anyone that might lift the lid.
            In some weird way it is possible to have respect for the riders who would subject themselves to the practices around ‘enhanced performance’ because it must have bloody hurt but really, to sit there and tell ‘some kid’ that the only way they will make it in ‘our sport’ is to ‘go and see the Doctor’; what are you doing? You’re running a processs of selection to find out who’s suggestible to your methods and you’re blanking out a whole load of truly talented athletes who quite rightly believe the sport is not in safe hands.
            ‘Race radios’ and their supposed evil influence is often a side-dish, a way of protecting the core values that lie behind the sport’s supposed traditions, alongside ‘preparation’. And it is odd that this thinking is allowable as conservatism in this debate, that it goes right to the top of the sport, as if it’s debatable or symmetric to say that cheats can be allowed and that they actually make the sport possible. They can’t and they don’t.

            You may think it’s a reach on my part to lump the argument against radios in with the one for doping, but take a look at the comments above and notice how the subject of radios was introduced. – It’s a kind of softener for the hit that ‘a doping pro had race experience’ (2.12pm) as if cheating to get rid of those who wouldn’t dope somehow trumps the objection against cheating. When you allow those who don’t dope to get experience you can see there is a shorter career, a faster turnover of riders able to win races and absolutely no place for old stagers who only keep up by cheating.
            Pro cycling of old, where you get to know the riders over years and years is probably not going to happen now. This makes some feel uncomfortable when they are watching the sport with little or no idea of a rider’s style because so many of them are new. My social media is full of ‘nostalgie’ for the 60s, 70s, 80s, which includes actually very few riders – you’ll all know the names – and it makes you realise how these few guys were around for years and years. How did they do that? – Were there not many hundreds good enough to get into the sport for each one of these ‘stars’? – Well, it wasn’t on bread and water alone, as the saying goes. It was wrong and it held the sport back, but more especially it held a lot of very talented athletes back too. The ones who wouldn’t be bullied into doping. We need to learn how to know a little bit less about how each race is going to turn out and enjoy watching a bit more.
            And BTW, yesterday’s Vuelta stage was a belter.

          • plurien, race radios have nothing to do with doping.
            It is just as safe to have an independent body supplying safety information over the radio to rides as it is for their teams to do it. (Or can you explain otherwise?)
            Ergo, teams do not need race radios for safety.
            Many riders claim teams having radios has an adverse effect on safety, as explained above.

            Without having the team telling you what to do on the radio a rider has to decide their own tactics on the road.
            An experienced athlete will therefore have some advantage over a less experienced rider.
            Without having a powermeter telling them how they should be riding an athlete would have to judge their efforts for themselves.
            An experienced athlete will therefore have some advantage over a less experienced rider.
            Again, nothing to do with doping.

            All of this also has nothing to do with doping. That’s your fixation. Doping has nothing to do with any of the points I made. You haven’t responded to either of the two points here or elsewhere, instead going off on a complete tangent trying to relate these things to doping, which I find genuinely confusing. If you want to talk about doping go ahead (I don’t disagree with anything you’ve said, although I’ve only skimmed the doping stuff because it’s not relevant to this discussion), but why try to relate it to these two points?

          • It’s my understanding that the team radios are a completely separate system, not currently capable of taking Radio Tour style feed. They are made to be discreet to each team, after all. Nor would it be relevant to riders to know that car 53 is to come forwards, or that Comm 1 is in place for intermediate sprint at km 123, all of which is typical communication the riders dont want in their ear. Plus, the DS in each car knows where the riders are, and is watching live TV if available to pass useful info on at the relevant time, including from Radio Tour. A recent case came at a roundabout in the Giro where Viviani was brought down by a moto. If the organiser alerted riders to the strange configuration of the roundabout, would it then be liable because it was a known hazard, or would it keep quiet since the percorso is all on roads? TV showed the breakaway and DSs had a good few minutes to give warning.
            Anything is technically possible, so rider warnings could be broadcast as a separate feed by the organiser, but really what does this add?
            One of the main things riders watch on their stem is heart rate. This is not only about racing on instinct. ‘Put me back on the bike’ indeed.
            If you want to take away the tech that riders and teams deploy, you really do need a better reason and you really should not raise the topic in response to a comment about doping: Bad.

          • plurien, I feel I have to respond to this as you have entirely misrepresented what I said, even though I feel I’ve written enough on this, and also you don’t seem to read my comments properly as not only do you seemingly not understand them, but you haven’t argued against any of the points I’ve made about radios and powermeters.

            You claim:
            ‘You may think it’s a reach on my part to lump the argument against radios in with the one for doping, but take a look at the comments above and notice how the subject of radios was introduced. – It’s a kind of softener for the hit that ‘a doping pro had race experience’ (2.12pm) as if cheating to get rid of those who wouldn’t dope somehow trumps the objection against cheating.’

            Put very simply, I never linked ‘experience’ and ‘doping’. That was you. You brought doping up; I’ve never been talking about it.

            I said: ‘One advantage that older riders have – sadly – lost is racing experience.
            With the DS on the radio, riders no longer have to figure out their own tactics. The team car could come up in the old days, but that can’t happen too often, and is often impossible due to race conditions.’

            ‘Another advantage of experience lost is that with powermeters on their bikes, riders no longer have to judge their own efforts. ‘

            You said: ‘the evidence is the more mature riders simply had better knowledge and experience of doping’ – so you brought up doping; my comments had nothing to do with doping, and I said nothing about it.

            I responded to that by saying ‘the more mature riders did not only have experience of doping. They also had experience of racing.’ – So, I largely ignored your doping comments, and I went on to talk about what that experience gave them and continued talking about radios and powermeters. My only point being that experience and doping are not related.

            I’d never have mentioned doping even, and only responded because you brought it up.
            As I said, ‘When doping is mentioned some seem to forget all else.’ – that’s certainly what you’ve done here.

            The only thing I said about doping was ‘There is zero evidence that doping’s day is done.’

            My point – as in my original point, copied above – was that experience brings certain advantages that radios and powermeters partly negate.

            At no time did I excuse doping.

            At no time did I even make any single point about doping.

            I’ve never been talking about doping – see my comments. That’s your obsession.

            It’s more than ‘a reach on my part to lump the argument against radios in with the one for doping’, it’s ridiculous and it has nothing to do with the argument.

            Seriously, it’s clear to everyone else that the arguments pro-/anti- race radios and powermeters do not involve doping. It’s equally clear that older riders gain more experience and that this is an entirely separate point from doping. (You gain experience regardless of whether or not your doping – it’s just got nothing to do with it.)

            To say that I only brought up radios to excuse doping is ludicrous.
            To say that I was talking about experience to excuse doping is ludicrous.
            Both of these are ludicrous a) because they’re totally unrelated to doping; and b) because *you* brought up doping. I’ve had nothing to say about it.

          • plurien, in short, it’s clear from my comments above that I was making a fairly simple point about how some technologies lessen the effects of racing experience.

            That was it. That was my point. I wasn’t excusing doping. Your brought up doping. And I still didn’t excuse it after that. I mostly ignored it. You never answered my points. Then you accused me of being an apologist for doping. Great discussion. Thanks.

          • My original point, replying to yours about doping, was that older riders doing less well these days is not necessarily because in the old days they were doping (I’m not denying that they were, nor excusing): it could be because experience now counts for less due to the tech.
            I doubt that doping is the reason, not least because both older and younger riders could still be doping.
            As for radios, having a separate, independently produced radio system for giving riders information would get rid of the problems caused by team radios so I do think it would be a better system.
            As for powermeters, they’re not a safety issue. If you were worried about your riders heart rate you could put a heart rate monitor on them. You don’t need the full powermeter system.

          • I’ve shaken hands on this, but here’s the bit that really set me off, and which you don’t include in your selection of quotes;-
            “J Evans Sunday, 25 October 2020, 2:12 pm
            plurien, the more mature riders did not only have experience of doping. They also had experience of racing. When doping is mentioned some seem to forget all else. Even though they were doping, they still did everything else that a professional cyclist does, and that includes accruing experience in how to race.
            Race radio can provide the safety warnings. Teams don’t need to do that. As van Emden and others (e.g., Voeckler) have explained (and as I mentioned above), team radios cause accidents. Also, the world championships, olympics and other races don’t have team radios and they’re fine safety-wise.”
            Doping is bad and it was only those that doped who could stay in the sport – A classic self-fulfilling spiral of doom. ‘They also had experience of racing’, as you say, sure, but only once they’d doped and it was your wording which gives the appearance of an excuse or revisionism. I hope we can move on.

          • plurien, my point from the very beginning was about experience.
            You then brought up doping, and I said even with doping the experience point is still valid.
            Doping is immaterial to my points.

          • plurien, I’ll have one final go at this.
            Your intial comment:
            ‘The pro peloton will always need experienced riders, but it’s great to see that the more mature no longer block rapid natural talent and progress like they used to ( doping ).’
            – I would suggest that this comment is more about experienced riders doing less well than it is about doping, and that is what I responded to.
            – All of my points that follow that comment are suggesting other reasons experienced riders are doing less well: radios, powermeters, training methods, testing of riders’ physical attributes, the lack of a peloton hierarchy.
            I don’t engage with the doping aspect at all. Don’t condone; don’t condemn. I say nothing about it.
            And yet you keep banging on about it – even in your last comment: ‘Doping is bad’.
            We all know doping is bad. Nobody is disagreeing on that. Why do you keep saying it? Particularly when it has nothing to do with anything that I have said.
            The last sentence of my first comment sums it up:
            ‘I think when it comes to cycling people still tend to reach for ‘doping’ when looking to answer a question.’

  19. Has the Giro published Hindley and Geoghegan Hart’s actual overall times, so that people know how many hundredths of a second separate them?

        • I saw this too. Great result for INEOS who also won the team classification.
          I noted a number of other classifications which I may have got confused about – wasn’t there a combativity award, but also one for Fair Play, Breakaway, Sprints on top of the mountains, points and young rider categories. Seemed like they were dishing them out to virtually anyone in the race.

          • Didn’t hear anything about the ‘most beautiful Nibali’ public vote award, or whatever it’s called, this year though – were they still handing that out, and if so, had the fickle public found a new object of adoration?

  20. InRng: I echo the positive comments of those above regarding the excellence of your posts. Grazie.

    Regarding the seismic age shift, I also wonder if there isn’t a major nutritional and scientific one at hand. Namely Ketone Ester (KE) supplements. I am NOT casting aspersions or making accusations of doping, since these are legal supplements. As others have noted above these young riders, without numerous years of 25k + kms in their legs are outlasting riders with decades of endurance riding. And it’s not one young rider but many. This lifetime accumulation is generally recognized by physiology experts as requisite for such feats. In addition, the young riders look fresh at the end of each stage. Without going on too long here, this supplement (early season training) blocks the effect of over-reaching so riders can push harder without overtraining with it’s detriments. It can also be used during the events to allow greater power at the pointy end of the race, during the last kms. Ketones protect the muscle from glycogen deprivation, allow a greater sprint for those bonus seconds. Interestingly, the product is produced in the UK and studied most extensively in Belgium. It is also interesting that the teams and riders we see in the thick of it these days are well funded and from the UK, Holland and Belgium. Most of the “super youth” are from these countries, excepting the Slovenians, but one (PR) meets the other criteria. It is not just the men’s side of the peloton where this is true. Ask honestly, how is it this is occurring? The two legal supplements with scientifically validated evidence of benefit are beet root juice and KE. Beet root juice (Nitric Oxide enhancers) is cheap as dirt and therefore available to everybody. Ketone Esters on the other hand are very expensive, approximately $100/per rider/day, so their use is limited to big budget teams.

    It would be interesting, since it seems that our esteemed host has insight into the racing world, if there was some reporting to be done on the topic.

    • NB Sunweb don’t use ketones so this doesn’t cover Hindley, Hirschi etc.

      There’s not much research proving they’re useful but sports science studies are often slow to review things and rely on small samples, they’re far from clinical trials for medicines when it comes to measuring the effect or not.

      • Not being argumentative, but questions should always be asked when things change radically. Also, I come here because this is the most thoughtful, rational place to get feedback on cycling without personal attacks. I’m aware of the small size of the studies and their difficulty with repeatability, however, it’s not the mean effect as in group studies, but the individual effect that is sought after for the individual athlete. The research shows that, at the group level reverse periodization training is not beneficial, but some individuals had excellent benefits, Sky touted it as integral to Froome’s training and grand tour success. The warm down has no good scientific rational, but they do that too. They, Sky, were early adopters of the BRJ science and made it an integral part of their training regimen, despite the “questionable” science in elite cyclists. Why do so if the literature didn’t support it? In fact, I’m told in personal communication, by a world’s leading scientist on nitric oxide that numerous national and international professional and olympic teams approached him/her for guidance on the BRJ topic, and implemented the recommendations. The primary research on BRJ in athletes came from the UK, while Belgium is at the forefront of KE work. So, these quasi-national men’s teams (Sky, JV, DQS) have early access to the product and can trial it in their athletes long before others become aware of it’s beneficial effects. Regarding Sunweb, just because the team didn’t use it in the past and isn’t supplying it, doesn’t mean it’s not being used.

        It would be interesting to put the question directly to each of the teams and individuals and get a direct answer.

    • … I am NOT casting aspersions or making accusations of doping, since these are legal supplements…

      You of course know, that this does not mean anything. Once upon a time every substance on the wada code was legal. Till they were not anymore. Calling it „supplement“ was by the way very clever, because it sounds so harmless and un-drug-like and bought them some years.

      I think we all know, that something is very, very wrong. Even, if some prefer to look away. The human physique, bio chemistry and the physical, medical, chemical laws have not changed over night. What the human body by itself is able to do has also not changed over night. And it is also not possible, that suddenly a whole group of superhumans appear. And just by coincidence they all come along at the same time.

      It is not possible to do what these kids do. Keeping always in mind, that they do it not against their peers, but compared to the worlds best cyclists. It is simply not possible. Not without „help“.

      I feel for these young people, because they might be too young, too immersed in the whole thing, to actually understand everything, that is happening around and with them. They believe what people say to them, as we believed as very young people what grown up people around us told us. If someone I trusted would have told me „these are just vitamins“, I would not have questioned it. I would also have had not the ability to understand the fact, that something is „legal“ right now, does not mean it is harmless or ok to take.

      And when these young people will wake up in a few years, they will have difficult, psychological work to do. Because of that I find it even more difficult to stomach, that everybody just plays along and pretends as if these results are in any way normal or achievable. It is wrong and unfair towards these young people. We should question their results for their own sake.

      (The only one I excempt to some extent is Evenepoel, because he really is that special, generational talent, that comes around once every few decades in my mind).

      • If this is Gabriele, welcome back! If not, it’s a compliment that I thought it might be as Gabriele always wrote here in a thoughtful and interesting way.

        I agree with everything you say about these ‘supplements’. We’ve no idea what they do long term, and they are still a method of getting a ‘non-natural’ advantage. As you say, one year’s ‘supplement’ is next year’s ‘dope’.

        I think sport’s philosophy should always be:
        Immediately ban any substance as soon as it becomes known as a performance enhancer, or is being used in some other way.
        Then find out what it does, and whether or not it is harmful.
        Then, once you know all this, you can decide whether or not to ‘legalise’ it.
        Sport has nothing to gain from some athletes taking whatever performance-enhancing substances. But it has a lot to lose.
        And the athletes themselves have much more to lose.
        We should start from a safety standpoint, which would have the added bonus of being a fairness standpoint. (Do we really want rider X being so much better because he’s taking potion Y?)

        My main question regarding your points about young riders would be, do these ‘supplements’ explain why we have so many young talents of late? I ask this because wouldn’t other (older) riders also take these ‘supplements’? I can’t see why they would not.

        Also, younger people are fitter and healthier (lord, how I know that). Go back many decades and the top athletes were young – in their 20s primarily. Perhaps because of the changes in cycling discussed above they now have more opportunity to show their superiority. I am not convinced by this; it’s merely an idea.

        • Wondering which cyclists take what can be a bit like a dog chasing his tale. You can go on forever going round and round and not get very far. I’m not convinced young riders being good is a sign that things are wrong because as I’ve said elsewhere young riders have won things before. And there being a lot of superhumans or whatever. Are there a load of superhumans right now? Is having Evenepoel, Pogacar, Hirschi, MvDP WVA, Alaphilippe and Ganna around at the same time any different to having Contador, Froome, Wiggins, Valverde, Boonen, Gilbert, Sagan and Martin (Tony) around at the same time? They all won a lot, all at different times did incredible things that made you think they were the best thing since sliced bread and all raced at the same time. Worth noting at the moment is the prevalence of whole teams to come good all at once, like Jumbo Visma immediately after lockdown and Sunweb from the start of the Tour onwards. And also for me from riders around at the start of the 90s, like Lemond and Fignon, there was chat about how suddenly large riders became very good climbers, watching WVA at the Tour made me a little uncomfortable in that respect. But we’ll never know. It could be something, it could be nothing.

        • Nay, it wasn’t me. I’m lurking from time to time (much less than I’d love to) but the last couple of years have been about full-time paternity and grabbing new fellowships as a researcher here and there. *Very* little and precious spare time essentially devoted to riding my Bianchi around. Add to that a long lockdown with no internet in Lanzarote, which was a great way to face that situation but didn’t exactly help at keeping in touch.
          Looking forward to next stages (in life) for a change, ’cause this was at the same time utterly fulfilling and utterly exhausting and utterly compelling. Sort of climbing up the Stelvio, only it lasts months. Great but sometimes you miss a bit of variety.
          At the Giro I ended up rooting for Tao – imagine what’s gone lost from this pages! – although INEOS plus a 4×4 (is it a self-parody or what?) are possibly even worse than Murdoch in terms of pure evil, nowadays. Like, the sort of thing which will eventually put an end to the human species, and hence – more importantly so – cycling, way faster than covid or Vaughters’ letters.

        • Nah, not Gabriele, but I know it is a compliment. Thanks.

          I hear what you say about youth and about younger riders being more professional these days. I think on the whole it is balanced. Being that young and fresh to the World Tour has positive and negative effects and overall they probably mostly balance themselves out.

          Many riders in the past also came through years of national cycling contests, training camps and courses, before they became professionals. Maybe they were not trained quite the way young people are trained today, but they also were trained for years to become a professional. So yes, there might be a difference to today*s young riders, but not that stratospheric a difference. And yes, when you are young you get not so hung up with things, might be more unconcerned and just go for things. At the same time younger riders lack experience. I also think it is important to remember, that we are talking about endurance sport. Being young in endurance means a different thing from being young in general. Plus they are not only young in years, but also young in regards to being a professional rider in a World Tour peloton and season. So overall: A balance of negatives and positives.

          I would not shake my head, if one or two of the young riders would have won a race this year – although there are thousands of riders, who never manage to do this. I maybe would even be able to accept a win in a world tour race. But to win a Grand Tour? No way. On top of this pogacar did this mostly without a team. And while geoghegan hart could rely on a team, that in itself is only half the story: Having dennis blow the race apart is one thing – but being able to follow him, is quite different.

          Of course there were always exceptionally good riders, who could win a race or a stage quite early in their career. But this is not what we are talking about here. This seems different. These are Grand Tour wins. Easy wins, seemingly. And these young riders were by far the strongest of the whole peloton on every terrain. This is crazy. They looked fresh every day anew, even deep into the 3. week of a race. To me it seems as if there is something, that has an effect on riders, maybe working the better the younger the riders are or the younger they were when they started taking it.

          I feel quite strongly about all this. I donˋt want to read in 10, 15 years, that a whole generation has health problems with maybe a burned out body, damaged organs, because of the substances they took, when they were young. Not even necessarily because of the substances they took themselves, but because these substances enabled them to do efforts, that damaged their bodies. The body is not made to take these massive efforts lightly. And if it does, for whatever reason, it will have consequences in the long.

          One reason for example, that pain killers should not be used in a race is, that it stops you from receiving the signals from your body, which means you can go over the threshold, that is good for your health and body. It might help you in this race, but it is a terrible idea for your body in the long run. The same applies for anything, that deletes other signals and boundaries of your body.

      • Thank you Anonymous, well written. Yes, I too think that we have every reason to suspect that something is very wrong. And I think it is crucial both for its own sake and for the perceived legitimacy of raising these questions that we, as you say, raise them for the sake of these young people themselves. Nothing more to add, just a +1 for a thoughtful comment.

      • “What the human body by itself is able to do has also not changed over night. And it is also not possible, that suddenly a whole group of superhumans appear. And just by coincidence they all come along at the same time.”

        No. It hasn’t. But there does seem to be a reluctance in cycling to accept that standards in sport, including those governed by physiology improve.

        If you look at the sport of rowing, and the gold medal winning times at the olympics, they have consistently improved, every olympic cycle. I don’t think anyone would argue that the best rowers now have more ‘talent’ than the best rowers of 20 years ago (Redgrave, Pinsent, et al.) but the gold medal times are faster. I would postulate there is very very little doping in rowing.

          • “I would postulate there is very very little doping in rowing.”

            This made my day 😀

            It’s not a professional sport, there is almost no money in. Drugs follow the money.

          • Edmund Fletcher, how naive. Fame and fortune come to the victor. That’s why you have Kenyan’s doping to win athletic races. They may be poor, but they know that success is the way to sponsorship deals and international travel.
            Steroids were replete in bodybuilding before it became a multi-million dollar enterprise.
            Cycling’s own history has been mixed with poor cyclists and dubious practises with little monetary gain.
            Weight lifters are often being busted in a sport which is likely poorer than rowing.

        • Why would you think that competitive athletes from whatever country are immune to the seductions of doping? Those individuals are no different from cyclists, football players, rugby players and runners (all sports affected by doping). The main differences are with these sports is the money invested, the will to stop doping and the money spent doing so. Even in rich sports you find that anti-doping is under funded. And, it is also surprising that ‘poor’ countries are become hot-points for doping e.g. Kenya has had hundreds of athletes fail tests. The benefits of winning and being a winner there are immense though.
          There are lots of lazy assumptions about doping and it’s affects, and most people think “it doesn’t happen in my sport” is probably the biggest of them. Football fans repeatedly say how it wouldn’t benefit a skill based sport like there’s but the ability to close down the opposition in their own half is something which blood doping allows. This was something Barcelona were legendary at in the 2000s, and funnily enough when Fuentes was caught with blood bags of footballers Barcelona/Spain/Madrid were all hinted at.
          Doping is usually caught not by the scientists, but through malcontents dobbing in their former athletes, friends, colleagues.

          • “I would postulate there is very very little doping in rowing”.Sandr
            Dave Walsh from Sandro Donati ” No matter how many heads you cut off, the beast returns”‘
            Wise and informed words from those who have been into dark places. We would do well to remember

    • The controlled studies of Beet root juice benefits are very equivocal. In “highly trained” subjects , there is tatsitically no benefit — noise outweighs any signal.
      There’s often more pr0nounced effects in amateurs, but even then, there are responders and non-responders..
      But I can imagine a “highly trained” cyclist thinking “can’t hurt and it might help” .. even if it’s a placebo, the mind & brain is a big part of endurance performance.

      • What a great discussion from all involved. Thanks. Can’t get this much respectful and intelligent discussion on any other site. I believe the J-V comments in the Nutritioninsight article summarize the team outlook, we experiment on an individual basis and look at the data. Clearly they have found a benefit or they wouldn’t be using them, as I’m guessing Sky/Ineos have also. As I stated above, early secret access leads to early adoption of these nutritional strategies. It doesn’t matter how hard others train if they don’t have access to the information and supplements. I had no knowledge of Zmonde’s article prior to my post, but interesting isn’t it, the teams cleaning up in the peloton are the same one’s mentioned and most of the young turks are coming out of these regions/nations. And let us not forget the women’s peloton and the dominance of certain of their teams too.

        • I wouldn’t be too quick to embrace it at face value, like Q rings, a small improvement/‘micro-gain’ can prove a wonderful cover for Jiffy bags And TUEs of more powerful stuff.
          As lay people we tend to get blinded by the fallacy of expertise: better training, better diet etc for gains.

  21. I thought that was a satisfying grand tour to watch. TGH must offer to mow Dennis’ lawn for the coming summer!

    I’ll add my thanks to INRNG for hosting this blog. It’s excellent reading.

  22. Fair play to Tao what an awesome race to win (and the nicest trophy in the business) Good to see Rohan appearing totally focussed and happy with Ineos, even Dave B seems cock a hoop!

    • I find it intersting that when a domestique does well on a mountain people always ask if they could have gone for GC. Dennis has tried for GC previously in a GT and not done well. He was nowhere to be seen during the first two weeks of the race but came alive in the 3rd week. I am pretty certain that if he had been at the head of affairs during the first two weeks we would not have seen him on the Stelvio.
      It also helps to explain his performance on the Stelvio: he is a very good climber and well rested (compared to GC contenders) he can keep up with them for one climb. He did then lose 8 minutes on the final climb. His performance was incredible but, put in context, not unbelievable.
      Could Dennis be a GC contender? Perhaps but very unlikely to get close to a win. Could he have been a GC contender in this race? No chance.

  23. With various comment and speculation on the relatively early success of Bernal, Pogacar and to a lesser extent TGH I find it interesting to look across the generations at the age of Tour and Giro winners.

    Gimondi in the 60s, Hinault in the 70s, Fignon in the 80s and Ullrich in the 90s all won their first Tour before their 24th birthday. Contador at almost 25 was the relative veteran in the following decade.

    Of the 22 occasions (some riders appear more than once) a rider under 25 has won the Giro, only Cunego and Quintana did so this century.

    By contrast, had Thomas won the Giro he’d have become the oldest winner since Magni in 1955. Nibali or Fuglsang in prevailing would have become the oldest-ever winner.

    On a 50-70 year timeline there seems to me nothing more exceptional or unusual about a 21-year-old Tour/Giro winner than a 35-year-old one. Maybe more so when looking across the last 20 years…

    • This is a great observation – an appropriately long term, empirically supported, view. Thanks for posting.

      Also, I’ll add to the chorus of thanks to INRNG for the race coverage. Wonderful work as usual!

  24. Many thanks INRNG for the excellent writing and insight as always, the sudden glut of races to cover can’t be easy. The deluge of races in the autumn downpours adds a certain something to the racing, I think I will feel the close of the season more acutely having been spoiled for choice these last few weeks.

  25. According to the PCS site TGH has not yet committed to (or at least announced) a contract for 2021. There seems to be little speculation so that will be Ineos I suppose, and thus adding to an already weighty (in the metaphorical sense) set of GC riders/climbers.

  26. We could now have a clean sweep of young riders winning the Giro, TdF and Vuelta, though at the moment the likelihood of the Vuelta seems low.
    Which of the eligible riders would be most likely? At the moment Enric Mas would be the main candidate eligible, but has proven to be off the pace.

    • Carapaz, Mas and Carthy are all youngish by GT standards – or at least they were a year or two ago!
      Mas has the best team support with Carapaz second.

      How many stages will be required before GT GC points can be awarded and a true winner determined? Getting to the next rest day sounds like a small miracle at this time.

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