The Moment Paris-Nice Was Won

Jumbo-Visma had enjoyed a strong week so far. Primož Roglič had gained time on the opening day, beaten all his GC rivals in the time trial on Wednesday, took the yellow jersey on Thursday after chasing down attacks from several rivals, and then won the summit finish on Saturday. However on the last stage he was isolated and looked vulnerable. Wout van Aert was there to shepherd him and this was the decisive moment of the race.

The race began with a Jumbo-Visma triplé. Having Christophe Laporte win on the opening day was good publicity for a team wanting to be liked in France, plus it meant Laporte had to do all the post-race media work while Roglič and van Aert could put their feet up. Apply hindsight and the move didn’t turn out to be a coup for the day and a nice photo. Roglič gained 22 seconds plus a 6 second time bonus to put him up 28 seconds on Simon Yates; by the end of the week and Roglič finished 29 seconds ahead of Yates on GC. Sure things would have been different but that’s the point, the opening day was important for GC, giving Roglič some insurance for the final day.

Monday’s stage to Orléans crossed the not so beau Beauce, where only the slightest breeze was needed to have the peloton in ribbons. Mother Nature provided crosswind action for hours but without ruining too many GC chances. It was the only pure flat stage for the sprinters and Fabio Jakobsen grabbed it. A wave of illness was spreading in the peloton. If Ben O’Connor had made the front group here, the next he was out because he was feeling sick and many others reported similar symptoms: Covid negative but coughs and sore throats. Just 59 riders would finish the race. There are comparisons to 1985 when 58 riders finished, but only 86 riders stated so about a third abandoned en route. This year almost two thirds did, a 62% attrition rate. Now the stat is anecdotal, given some riders elected to quit, especially on the final morning but it matters: many hoping for a big block of racing ahead of the classics got blocked sinuses instead.

Tuesday’s climb out of the Creuse valley via the the Col de Peyroux was too hilly many for many sprinters. Despite being in France’s second least populated départment a good crowd came out to see Mads Pedersen win ahead of Bryan Coquard, Wout van Aert, Jasper Philipsen and Biniam Ghirmay. If you could replay the sprint over and over, each could have seized a chance. On more certain terms Wout van Aert donned the green jersey here and he’d keep it to Nice.

Wednesday’s time trial worked well, suspense without settling the GC, the hilly course saw a mix of riders in contention but another Jumbo-Visma 1-2-3, the win for van Aert and a gain for Roglič, taking nine seconds on Simon Yates.

Thursday brought a mid-mountain stage in the Massif Central. The breakaway stuck and saw Brandon McNulty doing what he’s done already this season, only now taking his first World Tour level win. The UAE team budget’s gone up but the support for Pogačar hasn’t increased in line; resources going on a second sprinter in Ackermann, hiring Marc Hirschi and João Almeida. George Bennett and Marc Soler are the help they’ve hired but McNulty is going to be crucial too. Behind Roglič fended off a flurry of attacks by himself once his team mates had been burned off and took the yellow jersey from van Aert.

Friday saw the result nobody predicted with Mathieu Burgaudeau winning thanks a punchy and well-timed attack to take Total Energie’s first World Tour success since 2020. Peter Sagan’s arrival is not yet a roaring success, but his presence has encouraged others and the riders rate their new bikes and collectively their confidence is up. They’re paying millions for more than this but we’ll take a view in July maybe. Ex-MTB champ Victor Koretzky won the day’s combativity prize and said the 213km stage was the longest distance he’d ever ridden.

Saturday was the big summit finish. Paris-Nice has changed over the years, the recordman is Sean Kelly with seven wins and it was a different race back then, it included some climbing stages but few ski station arrivals. Now the Turini or La Colmiane are fixtures. Roglič won here, his first win of the season and Dani Martinez, Nairo Quintana and Simon Yates with him but unable to match his jump in the finish.

Sunday morning saw Roglič in the overall lead with 47 seconds on Simon Yates and a minute on Dani Martinez. A lead similar to last year’s scenario when he was in yellow with Max Schachmann and Aleksandr Vlasov around a minute behind. What would happen this time? The final stage of Paris-Nice has often been the best and with ideal roads for an ambush. Or it was until Covid restrictions scrapped the final stage in 2020 and prompted a course change for 2021. Now we had the course proper back. Things went pretty much to script with Ineos using the climb to Peille to soften up the field and try to isolate Roglič. Only it was Martinez, Simon Yates, Quintana, Roglič and van Aert and before the top of the climb van Aert seemed to be pulling too hard for Roglič. Still it meant Jumbo-Visma had only three other riders to watch, a larger group could have been more chaotic, especially with Roglič looking on the limit. Then Martinez punctured and Roglič had only Yates to worry about for the GC.

Yates used the new steep side route up the Col d’Eze to make his move. 47 seconds was a big ask but sensing Roglič was in trouble, he went to get the stage win. It was here that van Aert came into his own, shepherding Roglič up the steep section, sheltering him on the headwind section to the top and then pacing him down the corniche. Roglič could barely take a turn and seemed to be giving instructions to WvA like a chase scene in a movie where someone jumps in a taxi and shouts “follow that car”, only this time it was “follow that Yates”. The big fast descent suited the pair and Yates was slowly being brought back but had enough to keep the Jumbo-Visma tandem at bay and take a stage win.

The Verdict
Another vintage edition which went right down to the wire. With Simon Yates solo and holding 25 seconds with 10km to go you began to calculate the waiting time bonus and wonder if another upset was on the cards. Not this time and Roglič takes his biggest stage race win in France after the Tour de l’Ain, ending a run of malchance in France.

The race has just the right ingredients along the way to offer something for everyone, for sprinters, classics contenders, time triallists, climbers and grand tour contenders, and all within a week. Jumbo-Visma had two riders in van Aert and Roglič who cover all these categories and so they enjoyed a good week and their support riders all fulfilled their roles. A year ago a sore or disconsolate Roglič didn’t go to the podium after the race to collect the points jersey, leaving a Jumbo-Visma soigneur to stand in and it’s tempting to say van Aert could have collected yellow for Roglič this time but no, Roglič built his win on the opening day, in the TT, in the Ardèche, and on the Turini with help from team mates. It’s just that Van Aert especially was instrumental for Roglič in the final hour: if he wasn’t there at the top of the climb in Peille to tow Roglič then Yates could have won.

We should be cautious with extrapolating too much from a race where so many riders fell ill, plenty were not at 100% as things went on. Still, on their terms Jumbo-Visma announced this was going to be a small dress rehearsal for the Tour de France: to get Roglič in yellow and van Aert in green and learn about managing these overlapping objectives. For obvious reasons Paris-Nice is not the Tour de France but measured against the their goals it worked.

With Tirreno-Adriatico now overlapping directly, the runaway win of Tadej Pogačar was always on in the background: riders on their team bus to the hotel during Paris-Nice could tune into watch Pogačar win. As much as Jumbo-Visma bossed the week, what could they do if Pogačar was on the startline? More importantly, what can they do at the Tour de France? As ever in cycling, these questions arise before the finish line arch is dismantled. There are no ready answers but Jumbo-Visma will be purring from the collective performance. They’ll delight in the windy stage to Orléans where UAE were gone with the wind that day and imagining the concrete tightrope that is the Great Belt Bridge on Stage 2 of the Tour de France. In a straight summit finish contest between the two Slovenes we’ll have to see, but Jumbo can find more angles with a stronger team, deploying van Aert and having Vingegaard too.

Once again it’s Jumbo-Visma and UAE grabbing all the headlines and results. For years Paris-Nice was dominated by Team Sky, it was their prep for July. They still weighed on the race this year with Dani Martinez finishing third and Adam Yates fourth but miss Egan Bernal. Among the other teams it’s hard to read much as illness disrupted so many plans, Israel finished last on the prize money rankings, often a good proxy for activity in the race but that’s because they long had one rider left in the race; Bora-Hansgrohe were second last and started the final day with four riders but none finished. Arkéa-Samsic will delight in more UCI points thanks to Nairo Quintana, BikeExchange more so from Simon Yates.

Milan-Sanremo is up next with Roglič and Pogačar in the same race for the first time this season. Interestingly Patrick Lefevere is talking about leaving Fabio Jakobsen behind, his thinking is the in-form sprinter may not get a chance if the presence of so many attacking riders sees the race light up on the capi and the Cipressa. Whether it happens is another thing but it’s a tantalising prospect, no?

52 thoughts on “The Moment Paris-Nice Was Won”

  1. “Follow that Yates!” Awesome.
    One of the best of all time for Paris-Nice. Every day there was interesting and exciting racing.

  2. “Milan-Sanremo is up next with Roglič and Pogačar in the same race for the first time this season.”
    Yep, finally the real season gets going. Dunno if either will be protagonists but if it’s a dual between those two my money’s on Pogacar after watching both in T-A and P-R respectively.
    Beyond that I’m loving that SKYNEOS (so far) seems an also-ran compared to UAE and J-V as perhaps there’s more to it than just how big the budget is? Ya gotta find the talent before you can buy it, right?

    • Not an Ineos fan but they have some serious young talent in Plapp, Ganna and Pidcock, just not sure if any of them are GC contenders as presently built. Once those guys all find the right races for they may be tough to beat. Can Pidcock win Fleche? Can Ganna or Plapp ride cobbles?

      • Their best GC rider broke his back the other week, so they might be a bit underpowered this season. In case you’d forgotten. (Magnus Sheffield also looks promising, and still a teenager)

    • Bernal, Carapaz and TGH were out due to long or short term issues. Neither JV nor UAE are poor teams. What exactly is your point there Larry?

        • I think that part of the point is grammar of sort: is INEOS still *the* superteam which Sky was? Nope. Is it *a* superteam? Yes. Points and victories speak aloud. Stacked with sheer talent, probably even way more than before. However, the sort of sun-bright monopoly or exclusive they used to enjoy from several POVs – including but not limited to way deeper pockets – evidently faded a little, split among a handful of competitors (or three). Luckily enough, I’d add, because in a moment in which athletic talent for GC doesn’t look much widespread, at least team power has gone from monopoly to oligopoly, which isn’t great, yet a little better.

          If they don’t go back to “doing their thing” in rising brutally and suddenly the level of shape of their riders when they start a target race, they might actually face (relatively) hard times.

          Check their current riders in the ranking’s top 50 places. Hayter, Van Baarle and Thomas sit from 40th place on. Van Baarle and Thomas are barely in, and while the former is essentially a gregario with a talent for cobbles tilted more and more to climbing tasks, the latter is, well, the same but better, only 36, which – however talented I do indeed consider him – makes any further big GC victory a tough ask. Hayter is extremely good yet still extremely young, too.
          The top 4 of the team (none of them in the ranking’s top ten) are A. Yates, who unlike is brother doesn’t look brilliant (hence the need for INEOS to “do their thing” if they want him on a GT podium, which he never got and only came close to a couple of times through 10 GTs); Carapaz, who clearly needs a huge boost of form after long term Olympic celebrations; Porte, who’s old and, well, Porte (good ol’ Richie on Carpegna – and down); and Bernal who’s… out.
          Also note that Porte and Thomas are the two oldest riders in the roster after Wurf.

          Losing Bernal was a huge blow, but Tao’s issues look a little more structural. The 2020 Giro looks more and more an exception, unless he’s pushed up again.

          Frankly, they’re left with A. Yates and Carapaz, and both are known forces who’d need a serious double ramping up, that is, *both* compared to their historical best *and* from their current form compared to competition (even excluding the Slovens, I mean!).

          What’s significant is also that a number of supergregari they have, now even safer bets than before, apparently had their own issues, making it less of a common view that 30%, 40% or even 50% presence from this same team in the selected group. De Plus, Dunbar, Fraile or Kwiatko, all still in their prime or even entering it, haven’t been granting in recent months the sort of deep support one could expect from their sheer profile.

          Generally speaking, if I was them, I’d now go totally with Dani Martínez as a captain or co-captain. Narvaéz also stepped up drom his already good level and can bring in support or daily wins (I can’t see him doing GC or not yet). Will this be enough? Not even close to old Sky times, unless, I must insist, they once again do the “submarine” Sky thing.

          Plus, luckily enough for them (not for the rest), they harvested a huge lot of young talent. Not everybody will work, but in Sheffield, Tulett, C. Rodríguez, Plapp, Hayter, Sivakov and, well, Pidcock (!) they’ve got an impressive amount of quality, none of them 25 yet, which means that a good deal of (still needed) further growth can be absolutely expected, at least for some of these athletes. It also means that they might need two or three further seasons to reach their top potential.

          • This fellow and yours truly don’t think INEOS is a “superteam” in the way they used to be. That’s what I was celebrating or maybe more accurately, taking “perverted joy” in. It’s no secret that I’ve never been a fan of what Dave B and Co have done, so for me it’s nice that someone else can come along and IM (and others) HO put them in their place, even if it’s a team bankrolled by a different kind of petro-dollars or another who guzzles ketone drinks despite MPCC rules against their use.
            Now, where’s that MSR preview? 🙂

  3. Pure speculation, but if Martinez had not punctured on the final stage, if he had escaped from a weakening Roglic with Yates – which he probably could have done, and if they had ridden together they could surely have taken more time on Roglic/Van Aert than Yates did alone… That’s a lot of ifs but whatever, Martinez had a great race and deserved at least his third place.

    As for Van Aert putting time into pure climbers like Quintana, Haig, Martin, Poels and A Yates on the final medium-mountain stage. I know he had had a “rest day” but still impressive. Maybe even more impressive was Kung finishing deservedly with the above. A real surprise for me.

    • Agree on Martinez, the piece was getting long already but was thinking about that, he probably could have gone with Yates and the descent would have suited a duo much more than a lone rider. There’s the risk of them wanting the other to do the work although here was the classic “I’m going to win the GC so if you work hard I won’t sprint for the stagfe win” scenario.

      • You’re right Ecky. Lots of ifs, but at least realistic rather than daydream ifs!

        And agree with the many others, a great race, even if the best individual was in T-A, and also a great commentary Mr IR.

    • It’s such a difficult calculation to make, but I always wonder how rational the tire choice is for riders in a stage race. Punctures at critical moments are rare (for any single rider) but they have large consequences. Do gc aspiratioalists choose tires less prone to puncture than all or nothing breakaway adventurists? That would seem logical.

          • I (happily) noticed that too. Makes me wonder since he used a disc-braked bike to win Strade-Bianche the story was it was lightened up by the liberal use of titanium screws, but then at T-A most of the team was on bikes with old-time brakes. With UAE’s budget titanium screws for the entire fleet should be nothing more than a rounding-error in the budget, so what gives? Is the combination of Colnago’s frame/fork and Campagnolo’s disc brake groupset too much over the 6.8 kg minimum weight, even with titanium hardware? Or was it a tactical decision – quick wheel changes vs fooling around with thru-axles/yanking bikes off the car in the event of a flat? I have a friend at Colnago but my guess is he’d say the choice of bikes is the decision of the team, not Colnago or Campagnolo so I haven’t even bothered him. Anyone know anyone at UAE who might comment? I really thought we’d seen the last of rim brakes in 2021 🙁

  4. “They’re paying millions for more than this but we’ll take a view in July maybe.”

    I’m not sure that TotalDirect can expect from Sagan. If he was still capable of the sort of results for which they’re surely hoping he would have been signed by a bigger team. His contract smacks of the late-career lower-level team cash-in move; there’s nothing wrong with that (Sagan has earned it and TD will benefit from his profile), but they shouldn’t expect more than a few wins across all competitions.

    • Too early to read much into Sagan given he’s had Covid recently and so his start to the season has been derailed and delayed. Something similar to last year would be decent for Total Energies, a few World Tour level wins here and there and to swap his Giro win for something in the Tour but we’ll see.

  5. Nice writeup. Thanks.

    Any danger of WvA having gone too deep a la Van der Poel last year (was it in Milan-San Remo) and scuttling his chances later int he season?

    • A reduced chance as he was deliberately backing off on some days. The team knew they’d need him for the final stage (“you’ll see Wout tomorrow” said one staff member on Saturday) so he was back on duty for this but had sat up on the two previous mountain stages.\

      Paris-Roubaix being a week later this year is really making some think about not being too sharp yet or too tired by now. Mads Pedersen looks ideal for Milan-Sanremo but he won’t go, although how he feels after 300km can be different etc too.

    • That could apply to Evenepoel and his T-A right now.
      Bernal is being missed by Ineos, so it is a big pity Martinez had that puncture, when we could all think he isn’t being missed.
      So many other teams are just missing completely.

      • @inrng: ah, that makes sense
        @plurien: martinez is a fun rider to watch and i would have loved to have seen him team up with yates. ever since his performance for bernal last year i’ve loved watching him ride. it would have been great to see him get a big result.

        • Indeed.
          It’s not like he hasn’t won quite big already (if you think about the stage, he’s got one at the Tour de France, i.e. the tough one at Puy Mary, besides Turini at Pa-Ni 2019, and if it’s about GC, he got the general victory at Dauphiné in that crazy 2020 final stage).

          • I wasn’t really familiar with his palmares, though looking at them now I see what you mean. Cycling wasn’t really on my mind in ’20, so I didn’t see the Dauphine that year…feels like a century ago.

            He definitely won the best image of cycling for 2021, though, and 5th in the Giro while breaking wind for Bernal. Perhaps not the right metaphor…

  6. For me, it’s another sign of Roglic’s weakness in the latter stages of races – it’s happened a fair number of times now. Without WVA’s help, he’d possibly have lost the race (and perhaps Yates is wondering what if he’d attacked Roglic sooner).

    I can’t think of any time I’ve seen such a weakness in Pogacar – maybe losing 1.5 min in the crosswinds of Stage 7 of the 2020 TdF (but he was inexperienced then). I wonder if Roglic ever wonders what might have been had his team focused totally on gaining him more GC time there rather than getting WVA the stage win.

    • Don’t be too hard on Roglic. I wouldn’t expect him to be dominant. He is great, but definitely a step behind Pogacar, bernal and another potential young guy. Roglic is aging too. Good for him to get these results in the earlier stage races because on a GT who knows how he will perform.

      Van Aert looks unstoppable. You really wonder what he could do if he dropped some more weight and hit the TdF in top top form.

      • Currently a bit obvious when comparing palmarés, I know, but I often think about Rominger (who had a similar build although a slightly different sets of skills, less of a rush and bike handling, but even more watts and ITT talent).

        Both very late starters in cycling who nevertheless after some learning seasons went through a rapid growth which, thanks to their notable athletic qualities, made them relevant in their late 20s then hitting the very top of the pyramid at 30.

        Rominger stayed at the very best or around there until he was 35, then, as some readers here do usually appreciate, he retired as soon as he noticed a fast decline at 36, when he wasn’t a winning force anymore, albeit still a top level contender.
        He was one of that handful of absolutely impressive main characters in GC narratives during the Indurain era, that is, the first half of the 90s. As a collective, no later generation could match them in terms of sheer quality (speaking of stage racing, of course), and until Pogacar (still… potentially) nobody hit the level of Indurain, either.

        In the case of Pogacar and Roglic, it must be said that Indurain and Rominger shared a very similar time span, while the Slovenians could find themselves one against each other at their best only for some further 2-3 seasons or so, unless Roglic becomes more of a Valverde and less of a Rominger, and also assuming that Pogi is able to bring on his level all the long way to his 30 at least.
        And, of course, we’d need (we already need) other top serious GC contenders to make it a full cast.

        • While I’m far from a fan of Roglic – comparing him to Rominger IMHO is an insult.
          Rominger for me was “Richie Porte on steroids”…and if you consider Tony’s connections to Dr. Ferrari maybe that’s not just hyperbole? Rominger backed into a Giro win (I was there) and won the Vuelta 3 times vs the only notable on the podium with him being Pedro Delgado in 1992 and 1994.

          • Of course one has to leave the doping question aside until you have an historical perspective of sort, but that would prevent *any* comparison between present riders (whom you very seldom can have any certainty about) and past ones.

            Only comparing among them past athletes belonging to the very same period? Coherent, but boring.

            Taking for granted that present athletes are clean or “cleaner” until they test positive (or better, and more probable, until they’re otherwise exposed)? Gullible – and equally boring.

            I prefer to focus on relative values between athletes, even from a doping POV. Ugrumov and Berzin whom Rominger beat at the Giro weren’t surely suffering from a pharmacological deficit, not at all, neither was 4th placed Chiappucci. However, Chiappucci and Ugrumov were very solid values beyond doping facts (IMHO Berzin was also classy, but that’s way way harder to prove against reasonable assumptions about the doping advantage he enjoyed).
            Zülle, very close rival to Rominger at the 1993 Vuelta was also a very strong rider who wasn’t short of medical help. Same goes for Breukink or Leblanc, whom you conveniently avoid to name when you decide to look no further than the podium.

            By the way, it’s not like Roglic was facing the most powerful opposition ever in many GTs, quite the other way around; in sheer terms of “podium competitors” the best he beat was probably Valverde and Pogacar in 2019, which is a *WOW* of sort, no doubt, until you notice that Valverde was 39 and Pogacar 21: yes we all know that age doesn’t matter for these two guys, but… well, to such extremes, yes, it matters. And when he met classier rivals? At the 2019 Giro he was clearly beat by an already fading 35-year old Nibali and nearly kept down the podium (8″) by Landa.

            All that said, on a different level, that is, if we speak of enjoying the race rather than athletic level, well, I guess we agree: give me a Roglic over Rominger anytime! Especially the Itzulia 2021 or Tour 2018 or Vuelta 2021 etc. Roglic. As I said elsewhere, I actually appreciate big time both Roglic and Pogi.

            I think that I can also get part of your point about Porte: impressive short stage race rider, compact powerful build, quite good both climbing and against the clock, lacking in handling or peloton surfing skills.
            Yet you’d need to give good ol’ Richie a very significant load of steroids, ketones, EPO and whatever you might come up with before you have him achieving the sort of results Rominger got. And I’m afraid he probably wouldn’t anyway, if the rest were also at it.

            Rominger was also an infinitely better ITT man and one-day racer (slightly faster finisher) than Porte. He won twice Lombardia and was runner-up at Liège. Hour-record. Besides GC, from 1992 to 1996 he always won at least a GT stage each year (often multiple ones). Two GP Nations (i.e. ITT Worlds before they were officially created, when he, already declining, was 3rd and 4th just before retiring). It’s not just about doping. Some of these results require very very serious talent for the nature of the challenge in itself.

          • Agreed Gabriele – Larry, you can’t say it’s an insult to compare Roglic to Rominger, and then insult Rominger by calling him a juiced Porte. Porte is great, but he’s definitely not in the class of Roglic or Rominger.

            Interesting take on the doping issue Gabriele – on many of the points, I completely agree. And, I know this isn’t a popular opinion, but I’d bring LA into the discussion when comparing the level of Indurain and other great GT riders. LA was just as juiced as Indurain’s class.

          • CA – “Larry, you can’t say it’s an insult to compare Roglic to Rominger, and then insult Rominger by calling him a juiced Porte.”
            I’m wondering why I can’t say that, but more interested in the MSR preview….

  7. Why not more talk about S.Yates for the Giro? No Slovenians, Carapaz doesn’t seem in good form, I’m not convinced by Landa / Haig / Caruso, no idea re Dumoulin, TaoGH seems a bit flat…

    Who else is there _______??

    • Probably just because it’s a bit early?
      I was thinking the same thing while watching P-N. The competition doesn’t look so fantastic, unless Dumoulin is back to something close to his best.

    • Good question. Michał Kwiatkowski comes to mind, a world champ and Sanremo who winner who fold his lot to become an invaluable helper. But what’s more striking with WvA is his the range but also the way he helps one day and leads the next.

      • I think the thing with WVA is that he is free, at times, to satisfy his own ambitions. He does sprints, classics and time trials, and wins. Kwiatokowski’s transformation into a super domestique has put an end to his palmares. Tony Martin could be set into this mould too and he too saw the decline of his own success once he started pulling peloton’s around France. But in both Kwiato and Martin’s cases the role was handed to them mid-career. WVA is still in his early phase. It’s quite something when you also consider that he is in competition with MVDP who entertains an entirely different role for his (less successful) team.

        • Being ‘free’ in a team when you’re that good, is like not worrying about money when you are rich. The team has done this with Kruijswijk and Dumoulin, plus maybe Gesink until they weren’t so good and suddenly their last result doesn’t get them any privileges. It does start to look a bit like them getting used up.
          It’s a tough old game,sure but you don’t see Pogacar or more relevantly Roglic bouncing from superstars to journeymen anywhere near as much. Other teams wouldn’t dream of asking their top riders to jump around like JV do. The guy is a Classics superstar.

  8. McNulty now trademark attack could become a useful strategical skill at the TdF in case UAE needed or wanted to switch away from direct control of a break, even more so if we consider that Pogacar himself is no stranger to middle to long range moves. Finding a teammate up the road who’s still very strong in the finale despite having been out there from the start could be a huge plus (not to speak of the ability itself to pick the right move to make the break). Just ask Purito 2012 or Dumoulin 2015 (both at the Vuelta).

    As for his very legitimate personal ambitions, it’s to be seen if McNulty’s huge talent will one day bring him on a GT podium as it was for, say, De Gendt, or if he’s going for a later De Gendt’s version since this early stage of his career.

    It must be said, anyway, that he’s still got the potential to grow further and become a serious challenger to the few actual dominant forces, especially if he gets better and better (as was the expected norm for a 23 year old!).
    In a sense, it’s more probable that McNulty gets much better than he’s now rather than, say, foreseeing a huge growth for Pogacar, whose further improvements, if substantial, would bring him quite beyond previously known human limits (which also happens, sometimes – tough, not so often, indeed).

    Some serious step up is what one also needs to hope about, say, Almeida. I’m not sure that racing for the same team will foster competition, but, hey, who knows (many cycling history actually went exactly like that). Or Vingegaard (oh wait, he’s racing at Jumbo), or Sivakov, Dani Martínez and so on. Otherwise, we’ll need to wait for the Pidcock, Plapp, Ayuso or Carlos Rodríguez.
    Of course, it’s not that I dislike Pogacar or Roglic, quite the other way around, but surely I’d love to see more competition – even better if it was spread through more teams, which looks even harder checking the names above.

  9. @CA Re: Lance
    He was implicitly included – and as if never caught – in my (personal) appraisal of post Indurain GT champions. To me, it’s frankly quite obvious that 2 more Tours aren’t worth the double Giro-Tour double both in 1992 and 1993.
    I’d go as far as to say (even if it’s open to debate) that once you’ve already got a number of TdFs (exactly “which number” might also be a subject for discussion), being able to win different GTs, and especially the Giro, even if in different seasons, is quite more probative than cashing in the n-th TdF, when your overall GT skills and historical role are concerned.
    And the Giro-Tour double? Heck.
    Several other elements could be added, for example the level and variety of rivals, but I won’t go into further detail (Lance had some very good rivals, too, a good part of them whom he hindered or damaged by any possible means not necessarily on the road – I only mean that it wasn’t the sort of exceptional field which Indurain mastered on the bike).

    Plus, not every doping is the same. Lance enjoyed *special* (not “general”) impunity for him and his team, which on turn allows higher levels of systematic doping. For instance, he was refilling during races, something that several among his rivals couldn’t dream of (as we know thanks to some of Fuentes’ “calendars”). That wasn’t Indurain’s case, not even by far. Some of rivals now and then were probably up to stronger “therapies” than he was.
    And an even more serious factor in order to gauge Lance’s actual cycling talent is the weight of political influence and collective social dynamics within the peloton (of course, also tilted by his power to focus antidoping on his “enemies”, to have them politically excluded from TdF and so on).

    This last paragraph is why I consider it fair to cancel those TdF victories. There’s a long list of ugly “did any other single cyclist ever do this or that” which, for now, applies to Lance only, and which justifies such an exceptional measure. However, as I said above, I was still counting Lance in, and with all “his” Tours, when speaking of Miguelón’s superiority.

    Lance was a superhuman *competitor* as we won’t see many (if any) in our lifetime, and luckily enough!; an impressive literary character (for good or ill), exceptional athlete, and, surely, decent cyclist, too 😛

    • Agreed, Lance’s place in history is, well, it’s a very complicated topic – one thing, T-Mobile’s old team bus had “refueling” stations too, and some of their athletes were caught travelling between stages to get “top-ups” (Patrick Sinkewitz, if my aging brain recalls correctly).

      However, on the whole I tend to agree that a huge part of Lance’s power went beyond the bicycle. He had the will to dominate and drive to do it in the most ruthless ways.

      Some of the points you make are subjective and I definitely cannot go toe-to-toe with you to compare the quality of Lance’s vs. Indurain’s competition. However, I definitely agree that once Bruyneel/Lance decided to focus on the TdF, they ignored every other race, which was ridiculous. As a fan, I found I enjoyed cycling a lot more as a whole when in 2006-2007 I was able to find the cyclingnews live updates of the spring classics – races that Lance (and the North American media) effectively ignored. That is, it was nice to not focus on only one race each year.

      • One more further point, I meant by the last point that as a fan, cycling became way more interesting when I was able to see how the sport plays out over the course of a season.

        Lance had one focus, and to that end he effectively only focused on one small stretch of cycling (1-week stage races, some one-day races plus TdF). It was repetitive and boring, but no other sport plays out over the year as cycling does.

      • Of course, T-Mobile was a highly refined doping structure, with universities supporting and so. Yet, let me underline again that in a sport in which you sometimes choose no to lead GC just to skip the stress, well, being reasonably sure that you can do whatever you want versus trying to hide and avoid being caught all the time (irrespective of the actual risk of being checked – just the perspective of it), well, it makes a huge difference. Which in itself isn’t true for Lance only in cycling history, but in that moment and against those rivals it was a huge difference (among many others). On top of that, Lance knew by direct experience that even in the case of being caught by mistake or by external forces again and again, he’d be covered and justified *fully*, not even scolded or his official public image stained (“never ever ever tested positive”). Not the case of Ullrich et al., evidently enough.
        Besides, of course (yes, I know this wasn’t your point), many other rivals simply didn’t enjoy that same sort of top structure in technomedical terms, even if they could buy and inject EPO or corticosteroids.

        – – –

        “However, on the whole I tend to agree that a huge part of Lance’s power went beyond the bicycle. He had the will to dominate and drive to do it in the most ruthless ways”.

        I suspect the guy would see himself as a Kathryn Bigelow character, but I think it’s way more a Jane Campion sort of thing (no, not Bright Star – pretty much all the rest or so). Stephen Frears was the one who took the matter on screen, but that wasn’t perfect either. I guess that the idea was going for the “everybody lies” thing, or that we’re all humans, petty humans. Truth is that, besides Campion, we already have a couple of portraits of Lance (although none is about cycling) by Brady Corbet: The Childhood of a Leader and Vox Lux. Two materpieces highly needed to get a fine angle on our curious age, trapped between to centuries (cinephile alert).

        – – –

        Lastly, well, “preventing” any potential cycling fan from watching the Classics because everyone wants GTs … wow, it’s always a shame, but in the very last 90s and the first decade of the 2000s it’s no less than *criminal*.
        Museeuw, Vandenbroucke, Bartoli, Gilbert, Boonen, Cancellara, Bettini, Valverde… hey, it’s sort of the absolute best you can see on a bike. All of them historical figures. There have been better cyclists, and better (more complete) Classics riders, but very few times, if ever, we had such a concentration of talents around, more or less together in a dozen years or so. If anything, only the 2-3 previous Golden Eras of cycling come close (those were golden in GTs, too, and odten thanks to the same men). A slight excess of specialisation, although we still speak of quite much versatile riders: but here we probably have half or so of the best 5-6 cobbles cyclists ever, and same goes for Ardennes.
        And just consider that the “supporting cast” was Rebellin, Van Petegem, Tchmil, Boogerd, Ballerini, Flecha, Di Luca, Vinokourov, Tafi, Jalabert, Pozzato, Ballan, Cunego, Purito…

        • BigTex has one legitimate claim: The biggest fraud (so far) in sporting history.
          Everything else is just that…fraud. When his lips are moving he’s just like Donald Trump, nothing but a con-man. Why this mofo isn’t dirt-poor and living in a single-wide trailer in Nowheresville, TX is one of the world’s great injustices.

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