Who is the greatest rider of all-time

Discussion in 'Professional Cycling' started by Kenny, Nov 23, 2002.

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Who is the greatest rider of all-time

  1. Bernard Hinault

    10 vote(s)
    1.0%
  2. Fausto Coppi

    24 vote(s)
    2.5%
  3. Francesco Moser

    28 vote(s)
    2.9%
  4. Eddy Merckx

    2 vote(s)
    0.2%
  5. Gino Bartali

    604 vote(s)
    63.1%
  6. Luison Bobet

    4 vote(s)
    0.4%
  7. Felice Gimondi

    1 vote(s)
    0.1%
  8. Rik Van Looy

    2 vote(s)
    0.2%
  9. Lance Armstrong

    2 vote(s)
    0.2%
  10. Miguel Indurain

    280 vote(s)
    29.3%
  1. gntlmn

    gntlmn New Member

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    I remember one saying Indurain used to use: you have to learn how to walk before you learn how to run. I think he's a believer in making steady progress and laying a deep foundation.

    Lance started out as a triathlete. I think the first racing sport he tried was swimming when he was about 8 years old. He was a good swimmer, and he was also not short on upper body strength. This means he had more muscle than you would want as a pure cyclist. But he later discovered he was a good runner and a good cyclist. He further discovered that he was dominant as a triathlete, and the upper body strength helped during the first event--the swimming.

    The problem with his transferring over to cycling is that he still had that upper body strength, and he managed to do well in spite of it. You wouldn't see a tour champion with a build like he had. It's just too much weight. It's not only the extra you have to tug around, but it also greatly hampers your ability to stay cool. So it's a double whammy. He managed to do well on the stages, but the for a tour, it's just too much to overcome.

    Eddie Merckx' once told Lance that he could win the TdF, but he needed to lose weight. He said he was built like a linebacker.

    What Lance did after he got sick was to figure out how he would win, and he took it seriously this time around. He bought an extremely accurate scale and figured out his caloric intake. He began to weigh the pasta. It helped that he had already lost the weight from the cancer, but it was no accident that he managed to keep it off. It was all part of his plan.

    Judging greatness by saying that one is not great if he was at one time not in great form but persisted and dominated for a long time after that seems rather biased. It seems more admirable to me that someone sets greatness as a goal and then attains it, however long it takes. How long will he continue to be great after he achieves it seems a fair measure, not how long it took to get there.

    If you have a boxing match with your next door neighbor when you are both 10, and he beats the daylights out of you. Then when you are both 20, you beat the daylights out of him and continue to dominate the sport for the next 10 years, isn't it fair to say that you are a greater boxer? Who cares how long it takes to get great as long as you get there? How long you maintain dominance should be measured as well.

    If you start winning the TdF when you're 30 and continue to win every year until your 39, you probably will be thought of as a late bloomer, but I doubt that anyone would say that you are not a great cyclist, if not the greatest.
     


  2. limerickman

    limerickman Moderator

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    Gntlmn,
    The points that you make are valid : I agree that it is the exception to win races in your first season and thus it is probably
    unfair to judge Lance by this benchmark.
    However, I watched him closely through 1992-1996 and there
    was absolutely no indication that he would do what he has done since 1998 !
    If there was a scintilla of evidince pointing to his dominance in the Tour, I would be the first to say so.
    1992-1996, he was a one day specialist.

    Also, the lack of variety in his palmares since 1998, also precludes him from being assessed against the other greats.
    His record simply doesn't have sufficient variety to allow him to be compared to the others.

    Unfortunately, Lance Armstrong fans (because they're fans) can't see the objective reality of this.
    He is a modern day wonder but in the all time list, he falls some way short.
     
  3. gntlmn

    gntlmn New Member

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    I remember reading about Lance during those years. Even he said on numerous occasions that he didn't think he could win the tour. His coach didn't want him to try at that age. Motorola figured, and I remember reading this, that it is too risky as a young rider below say 26 or 27 to try to win the TdF. If you end up winning, somehow it often results in ruining a young rider's future. They didn't want him to aim for the Tour until he was older. That's why he would go for stage wins but not much else. Also, if you're carrying around so much extra weight, you will tend to think you could never win. And it's true, you would not unless you lose it. It's not at all surprising to me, given these two factors--the restraint of the coaches and the extra weight--that someone who was unaware of how much these can impact a rider's form would not guess about his great future.

    What you also don't see but the coaches knew was his highly unusual genetics; he produces very little lactic acid above anaerobic threshold. This is why the doctors would say he could go as far as he wishes in cycling. But you still have to put everything together, and it's not easy to accomplish this.

    Each of these champions you mention had some kind of advantage if you look closely enough. Indurain had an unusual metabolism, enormous lung capacity, and a resting heart rate of something like 28-32 bpm. His brother who also used to ride for Banesto did not inherit this unusual metabolism that Miguel had.

    So when you say that there was no indication that Lance would ever be great based on his 1992-1996 performance, you didn't look closely enough to see what is happening beneath the skin.
     
  4. Memphmann

    Memphmann New Member

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    But he is only great at the TDF, not overall. Unlike the other GREAT riders. 5 TdF wins still puts him short of the others.....

    Memph
     
  5. limerickman

    limerickman Moderator

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    I have to agree with Memphmann and say that Armstrong's palmares is too limited.
    But even with Memphmans statement that perhaps Armstrong could be considered the greatest TDf rider ever, I would also take issue.
    In assessing achievements, a victory is only as good as the quality of the opposition also.
    Look at Indurain - he competed against Zulle, Rominger, Jalabert,
    LeMond, Bugno, Pantani, Roche, Chiapucci.
    Look at Hinault (even better opposition than Indurain's), he had to deal with Fignon, LeMond, Kelly, Roche, Anderson, Zootemelk,
    Millar, Criquelion, herrara, Para.

    Armstrong's opposition in his list of victories includes Ullrich and
    Pantani, Beloki, Jullich.
    I suggest that there is a definite disparity of quality opposition
    here and given the fact that Armstrong only races competitvely in
    one major Tour per year, it simply continues to undermine the
    already doubtful argument advocating that he is up there with
    the all time greats.
    I'd love to see Armstrong go out and try to win other major tours
    as well as winning the TDF : but I don't think he has the ability to do so and thus he cannot expect to be favourably compared to the other greats.
     
  6. gntlmn

    gntlmn New Member

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    The only way to really tell is to get all the riders together and let them compete when they are all at the top of their game, and this is impossible. Even the way you describe how these different "greats" competed against other "greats" is not really accurate.

    You say Indurain had to compete against Lemond. He thought he would have to, but he didn't. In 1991, the first year Indurain won, Lemond was so far off form that he couldn't even be compared with vintage Lemond. He had a career ending condition in the 1991 Tour. He didn't know what it was right away. He thought it might be an iron deficiency because this had given him trouble before, but it turned out to be more serious. It doesn't affect him in everyday life, and you would never be able to tell. But it did not allow him to compete on an elite level anymore. So Indurain only competed with him in 1990, and Lemond won.

    It's not just about names. You have to look closer. And when you do so, you begin to realize that that's not enough. What is enough is to get them together in the same race at the peak of their forms. That's impossible.

    Given that more and more riders are gunning for the Tour as the years go by, I would expect the level of competition to increase, not to decrease as you suggest. Perhaps this is not happening, and international cycling is, as you suggest, on the decline. I doubt it, but this may be true. We'll never know.
     
  7. limerickman

    limerickman Moderator

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    Gntlmn,
    You are right of course, this discussion is simply people exchanging views and unless we can get them all racing in the one race, at the apex of their abilities, we will never know.
    However, some points that you make are worth lookng at.
    1990 TDF saw Indurain finishing 10th behind LeMond.
    In 1990, if Banesto management had made the correct decision to back Indurain rather than team leader Delgado, it is widely believed that Indurain might well have won the TDF.
    As it was the team made Delgado leader and they had to try to shore up his challenge to LeMond.
    It is also worth remembering that leMond won the TDF in 1989 :
    two years after he suffered his hunting accident.
    Therefore to sy that he wasn't the rider that he was in 1991, I think is a bit unfair to Indurain.
    No matter.
    I still hold to the thought about Armstrong and his career between 1992-1996.
    I would sincerely wish to see LA try to win some titles other than the TDF but, as he says himself, the TDF is the only event that truly motivates him.
    This is a real pity, I think.
    Every sport needs a grand patron and I think LA would fit this role
    really well.
     
  8. gntlmn

    gntlmn New Member

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    That's interesting what you say about Indurain in 1990 re: Delgado. Maybe that's true, that he would have mounted a serious challenge as team leader, but that is speculation. And what I said about the 1991 Lemond is true, he really was in bad form that year with a medical condition, a degenerative muscle disease. Look at the following excerpt from http://www.roble.net/marquis/coaching/lemond98.html

    Bicyclist: And then the coach came up in the car and told you to slow down and wait for Hinault?

    LeMond: Yes, but they lied to me. I had about a three to four minute lead on him at that point, but I thought I only had about 45 seconds. Every time I asked them exactly how much time I had they'd evade the answer, telling me Hinault was in the group right behind me. Then when the pack of riders came up with Sean Kelly and Phil Anderson, guys who I climbed much better than, Hinault was still nowhere in sight.

    Bicyclist: So you had to wait even longer?

    LeMond: Well, what happened from the beginning is that Paul Keochli (my coach) came up and started talking to me, saying 'You cannot ride with Roche, you can't attack. Hinault's coming up. You need to wait for him. We want to insure our first and second place.' We started arguing, me saying, 'Well, how far back is he?' But he wouldn't tell me, and then eventually he said forty or forty-five seconds. And as we're sitting there arguing, Luis Herrara rides up the road. If you look at the results from that year, Herrara wasn't climbing any better than I was. So we keep arguing and finally I decide, okay, I'll wait. By now, all the momentum of our strong break had been lost because of the argument. So I waited. Roche had been sitting their listening to the entire argument, and of course he's more or less the enemy. He was in third and wanted to keep that place secure. I'm thinking, 'Jesus!, we've blown this entire chance!' I wait and I wait and I wait. A group of about sixteen or eighteen riders come up, and Hinault's not there. He's still another minute and a half behind that group. By the time I finished the stage, he was still a minute and 15 seconds down and I'd waited minutes for him! It wasn't until that big group came to me that I really got pissed, when I realized Hinault wasn't there and that he was even farther down the climb behind guys that were sprinters! In a way, Hinualt should not have won that Tour. It doesn't matter if he's the strongest the first week, that doesn't make a difference. It's who's the strongest over three weeks. If he had a bad day, that's part of it-he didn't deserve to win the '85 Tour. At the hotel, they made all these promises for the following year, but still said, 'You have to help Hinault the next day.' I wasn't mad at Hinault. I wasn't pissed at him at all. Hinault wasn't telling them what to do. It was Bernard Tapie's and Paul Keochli's conspiracy to make sure Hinault won his fifth Tour. So they promised that no matter what, even if Hinault was in the very best shape the following year, he would work for me. That's why I was so irritated the following year when he totally tried screwing me. But I don't blame him. Well, I blame him because he wouldn't have won his fifth Tour if I hadn't slowed down. But the fact that he did, he was going for his sixth. He didn't care about me.

    Bicyclist: Did that final instance affect your friendship?

    LeMond: Yes, we basically became non-friend's after that attack. But I'm pretty neutral about my feelings with Hinault, now. These things happened so many years ago, that I harbor no ill feeling toward him. At the same time, I have to admit, I've probably only exchanged thirty words with him in the last decade. But if I saw him, I'd talk to him; I'd be friends with him. It's still vivid in my mind, though. The battles we went through in '86 seem like yesterday. The only thing that remains irritating is that I'm sometimes not given full credit for my '86 Tour. If I analyze the '86 Tour, I beat Hinault who was probably as strong that year as he had ever been. In reality, I should have won the time-trials, too. That was the most deceptive thing about that Tour. I flatted and broke a wheel in the first time-trial, so he beat me by forty-seconds, making him think that he was stronger, when, in fact, I lost over a minute and a half due to mechanicals, having to stop and change a wheel, and then, later, having the bent wheel rubbing on the brakes for the final ten kilometers. In Europe, even to this day, the big question is 'Did Hinault give LeMond that Tour? Did he ride against me or for me?' That he rode so aggressively against me did help in a way, since it was clear he was trying to win, but the skeptics will always wonder. Let me just tell you, I would have loved to have been on a different team and been able to go head to head with him, instead of having to figure out how to politely win the race. It was actually very political. I mean, he was a French hero, at least as popular as Michael Jordan is in this country. And to be an American in France going against him[his voice trails off].

    Bicyclist: Barring your hunting accident, do you feel like your were capable of joining the ranks of riders like Hinualt and Indurain? Do you feel that you could have won five Tours?

    LeMond: Well, look at the facts. I have three Tour victories. I gave away '85 Tour. I was out because of an accident during the two prime years of my career, '87 and '88, which were two of the easiest years to win the Tour in that period. I mean if you're in the thick of racing, you understand the hierarchy. During those two years, Hinault was out, Fignon was out. Put it this way, in '89 and '90 I only feel like I raced to 90 to 95 percent of my potential. In '86 I was much stronger, climbed much faster, much better time-trialist. When we would do the time-trials, Hinault and I would finish two to three minutes up on most people. And you have to remember that in cycling, every year you make minute improvements. In '86 I wasn't out of the top five stage races from February to September. Of course you can't rewrite racing history, but I'm confident that I would have won five Tours.

    Bicyclist: Will your disease affect your future in any way? Is much known about mitochondrial myopathy [a degenerative muscle disease that prevents the body from properly disposing of lactic acid]?

    LeMond: No, nobody knows anything about the disease. I've heard so many variations of it. People get it as an adult and start to feel more tired, and then ten years later, they're in a wheelchair. Then I've heard of people who have it that couldn't exercise as a kid, but now they exercise and they feel fine. Nobody really knows. It's always in the back of my mind. When I do get tired from exercising, I ask myself, 'Am I tired just because I exercised, or is it the disease?'

    Bicyclist: How, exactly, does one learn whether they have mitochondrial myopathy?

    LeMond: They do a muscle biopsy and then examine it with an electron microscope x-ray, at which point they can see if you have red ragged fibers, which are basically crystallized mitochondria, which do not produce AT (adenosine triphosphate, the basic fuel source on the cellular level). It's pretty clear as to whether you have it or not. There's no subjective interpretation. It's either you have it or you don't. I haven't had a biopsy since I retired. I did an EMG in October; it showed that I still have roughly the same level of the disease as three years ago. But the doctor also said that an EMG isn't accurate enough to detect whether it's actually progressed. To learn that would require another biopsy. The problem is that if it's progressed more, there's nothing they can do about it, so I don't really want to know.


    End of quote.

    If Hinault wouldn't have lied to Lemond and he hadn't taken a shotgun blast on his turkey hunt, there is a chance, and not a remote one, that Lemond would have won the Tour 6 years in a row, from 1985 through 1990. He still would have gotten the muscle disease in 1991, but that may have been delayed if he hadn't gotten shot (I am guessing it would not have delayed).

    As for Lance not being a champion of all races, not just the Tour, that would be nice. However, if you do focus on one race, that's where the overwhelming publicity is, and I doubt there is one pro rider who would prefer to win another rather than the TdF.
     
  9. limerickman

    limerickman Moderator

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    I totally agree with the view expressed by Gntlmn about Greg LeMond.
    I would certainly have him up there with the all time greats.
    His accident did work against him in 1991-1993.
    I still think that Indurain was untouchable in 1992.
    As for 1990, BigMig was working for Delgado but I think even BigMig would say that LeMond was strongest in 1990.

    I have always said that LeMond had class - from day 1 that was
    apparent.
    Greg enjoys a lot of respect here in Europe because he was judged to have been a great talent very quickly.
    And for having put up with Le Blaireau as well !
     
  10. Roy Gardiner

    Roy Gardiner New Member

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    I love the if-game. If Chappucci in 1990 hadn't ridden like a complete idiot, if Fignon in 1989 hadn't had a boil on his arse, if Hinault in 1986 hadn't been beyond his best, Lemond wouldn't have won any.
     
  11. limerickman

    limerickman Moderator

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    Roy,

    Can we take it that you're not a fan of LeMond's ?
    Or are you arguing against his advocates ?
     
  12. Roy Gardiner

    Roy Gardiner New Member

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    The latter. He was a very great rider indeed, and changed the earning power of pro riders. But as you can see I wanted to point out that the IF game is not all one way. :)
     
  13. MartyReeves

    MartyReeves New Member

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    GREG LEMOND

    TdF 1985 Would have won, but gave it to Hinault
    TdF 1986 Won
    TdF 1987 Likely winner, but injured (hunting accident)
    TdF 1988 Likely winner, but injured (hunting accident)
    TdF 1989 Won
    TdF 1990 Won
    T'sdF 1991-1995 Would likely have taken 1 or 2 tours from Indurain but for blood desease from hunting accident
    A healthy Lemond, not required to work for someone else was unbeatable

    Lance Armstrong could prove to be his equal
    Eddie Merckx was virtually his equal
    Fausto Coppi was likely his equal, but for WWII
     
  14. Daremo

    Daremo New Member

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    It still amazes me that LA has received almost half the votes the Cannibal has ..........

    Probably because he is the flavor of the Tour right now ........

    If this same question was asked after Indurain won his 5th, I bet it would be the same type of results in favor of Mig.

    Other than the 5 TDF's, the World's in '93, a few stage wins in other years in the TDF, and his successive wins at the Tour Dupont and the Dauphne, he doesn't have a lot on his resume that is notable. Never won any other great Tour, and really hasn't even competed in them.

    Mercyx and the Indurain have both won more than one different major tour. Same with Coppi.

    Lance is one of the greatest TDF specialists, he is NOT one of the greatest cyclists ever ............ bottom line.
     
  15. limerickman

    limerickman Moderator

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    Daremo,
    I couldn't have put it better myself ! (re your last message about LA)
     
  16. Tuschinski

    Tuschinski New Member

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    *Agrees 100%*

    Lemond was a great competitor who had a lot of bad luck indeed. But conjecturing that without it he would have won it all seems to be rather over the top.

    Especially in the Fignon/Chiapucci cases did he have a truckload of luck besides his undeniable class (still the utmost respect, you make your own luck for sure)

    Lemond might be your personal favorite, but he just isn't THE greatest rider of all time if you look at what he accomplished.

    Maybe he could have been... but that's all in the past.
     
  17. oldbobcat

    oldbobcat Well-Known Member

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    I have a personal admiration for Claude Criquelion , but I know he isn't the greatest.

    And even though I'm not a big fan of Lemond, I am still electrified by the story of his world championship ride.
     
  18. oldbobcat

    oldbobcat Well-Known Member

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    That's an interesting way to look at it. I like it.
     
  19. jstraw

    jstraw New Member

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    Coming in late, first let me say that I don't buy any argument that says an era is inferior to another era.

    Sure, 2003 Armstrong would kill a 1973 Mercx, but a 2003 Merckx would be another story altogether. If the competed in the same era they would have had comparable gear, training science, health management, nutritional science, etc.

    The thought of Merckx, with the benefit if Armstrong's infrastructure boggles the imagination.

    The Cannibal was and remains the Mohammed Ali/Michael Jordan/Wayne Gretsky/etc. of his sport. Even if you *only* look at his TdF accomplishments, *everyone*, including the other five-Tour winners pale in comparison. You start looking at how many days Eddie spent in the Maillot Jaune and how many stage wins he had and he leaves ALL of them in the dust.

    Armstrong, or anyone that comes along in the future, will need to win 6 just to make the debate remotely interesting.

    Lance is GREAT, he is amazing and in my opinion, 2003 was his GREATEST Tour victory. I have nothing but the greatest admiration for him.

    But there has never been anyone that could hold a candle to Eddie Merckx' accomplishments.
     
  20. limerickman

    limerickman Moderator

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    I've got to say that I wholeheartedly agree with your view concerning Eddie Merckx.

    It's amazes me how people take Eddy's record for granted in certain respects.
    We're lucky to have lived in this era to witness Eddy's achievements (albeit, I only saw him toward the end of his career)
    His records are phenomenal - and he achieved what he did
    achieve against top class opposition (Gimondi, Poulidor, Ocana,
    Thevenet) too.
    If he was competing in this modern era, he would be a brand name like Jordan, Beckham etc.
    An interesting anecdote, I was at Sean Kelly's farewell race in
    Carrick-on-suir in December 1994 and Hinault, Fignon, Roche,
    De Vlameick, Criquillion etc were there to be with Sean in his last race.
    Eddy Merckx was also there and he took part in a thirty mile cycle with Sean and the rest of them.
    The media coverage for this event was widespread and the TV and radio people were making a beeline for the Hinault's and Fignon's etc.
    Eddy flew in for this event on his private jet - made no fuss about wanting to be there with Sean : but the media interest in his
    participation was mutted.
    I thought that it was a pity to see the Greatest of the Greatest
    cyclists being practically ignored.
    I managed to get a few words with the greatman but I just thought that it was a pity that hsi attendance at this great event
    didn't engender more media interest in the day.
     
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