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Is Lance really the greatest bicyclist???(46 posts)

Is Lance really the greatest bicyclist????
Jul 26, 2001 10:14 AM
I know i'm going out on a limb here questioning America's greatest cyclist... but... I don't see Lance out there busting his but, again and again, like riders like Zabel or O'Grady. Granted, when Lance goes... he GOES! but he trains the whole season specifically for a few stages of the tour, and even then, he has some great climbers pulling him.

Shouldn't the "GREATEST CYCLIST" title go to the rider who's the MOST CONSISTENT, and WELL-ROUNDED? (meaning consistent performances in classics, tours, sprints, climbs, time-trials, etc?)
I would not raise this question yet....Cima Coppi
Jul 26, 2001 10:25 AM
Wait to ask it until LA retires in a few years time. Then we could look at his accomplishments and compair them to the all-time greats. Right now, he's about on equal terms to the accomplishments of Lemond, but Lemond did ride (not necessarily win) more races during the season. It's very conceivible LA will win 5 (and maybe 6) TdF's, and then we might call him the greatest rider to ever win the TdF.

The greatest cyclist of all time though still has to be Merckx. Think about it this way, Merckx won 32 TdF stages. He is tied for the record for number of stage wins in a single TdF, and of course he has 5 TdF victories. And thats just the TdF!!!
Jul 26, 2001 10:50 AM
No, not yet anyway. How many other races has he won and will win? LA, in my opinion, will not win more that 5 Tours because he's going to be 30 in September, and past 30-31, the going gets tough. I do think that he is the greatest AMERICAN road cyclists so far, and that includes Greg LeMond. As for all time greats... eh. He'll probably be remembered for a long time... in this country, anyway.

As for the all time greatest... I never saw Merckx race, so I don't know if he had intense competition. I leaning towards Hinault.
re: Is Lance really the greatest bicyclist???JimF
Jul 26, 2001 11:01 AM
I don't expect we can find a concensus on who the "greatest cyclist" is.
Lance is a great TdF (the world's greatest bicycle race) champion, which some equate to the world's greatest endurance athelete.
Like Indurain, he excels at the TTs, and is the best climber among the contenders. That, and some strategy, is what's needed to win the modern TdF.
His is arguably the greatest comeback story in the history of sport.
Greatest bicyclist? I don't know about that, but there's a whole peloton of the best riders in the world who would trade the shirts off their backs for his in a heartbeat. Maybe we should ask them.
You're out on a limb, alrightOld Guy
Jul 26, 2001 11:16 AM
What do you mean Lance isn't well rounded? He outclimbs and out time-trials everyone in the Tour! Why are the classics so important?

Did you (and everyone else) forget that he won the frigging Tour of Switzerland less than a month before the Tour? And that he beat the winner of the Giro? And have you noticed he's going after the hour record later this year?

What do you want? Should he focus on the Keirin next? BMX? What?
He is also a...Ron B
Jul 26, 2001 12:04 PM
pretty good mountain biker. Not many here remember his short stint two years ago when he hit the mountain bike circut after the Tour. He was good enough to hold his own and if he wanted to he could probably win there as well even though it takes a totally different mentality and type of training.

I would say he is a very well rounded cyclist. He also does very well in the classics and had a chance to win the Amstel Gold this year taking 2nd by a few feet.

The simple fact is that Lance gets little respect overall. Even if he wins 6 Tour's, holds the hour record, wins countless stages in the Tour, pulls off a Giro and Tour win in the same year, wins a World Cup mountain bike race, holds two jerseys at the same time (yellow and green or polka dot) he is still not going to be considerd the greatest or even in the top 3 to many people.

I do however believe that if he wanted to he could do all of the above and may do so eventually.

Debates like this are fun but you will never receive a consensus greatest of all time. Many consider Michael Jorden the greatest basketball player of all time, though quite a few disagree. Many consider Babe Ruth the greatest baseball player of all time, many disagree. Many consider Joe Montana the greatest football player of all time, many disagree.

I personally think if Lance sticks around for another 3-4 years and continues to win the Tour as well as other races he should be considered either the greatest or second greatest next to Meryx (spelling). Only history will tell and even then there won't be a consensus agreement.
Classics are important!Tom C
Jul 26, 2001 7:29 PM
For a number of years Sean Kelly was the number 1 professional rider in the world on the basis of placings in the season of races which starts in late winter and usually ends with the Tour of the Lombardy in October. Although he never won the Tour he won enough Roubaixs, Paris Nices, Liege- Bastogne- Lieges etc. to garner enough points to win Pernod's Super prestige competetion many times over. Jalabert was a world number 1 as well as many others who never won the Tour. The world no.1 ranking is probably a more accurate representation of a riders accomplishment than any single race. But ah! the Tour is the most visible.
"Don't matter, it can all be debated"Canidraftyou
Jul 26, 2001 11:27 AM
Thats what we do here, create arguments by discussing opposing points. We all have valid points, some more than others. When they start back peddling, they'll start spell checking. So I have been "learned" a lesson, why as why or create a topic that may put the counter postee in a corner. We must praise and agree with everything. NOT!

No he is not the greatest, and only history can tell the tell. "One can't always bunt and expect a home run." No im not saying Lance always bunts, but what we have seen that last few days in bunting. In all sports the best of the best are the one's that excel's "Beyond", Babe Ruth, Ali, Jackie Stewart, Michael Jordan must I go on. They went for the throat. They shot for the star's. And until Lance wins what some are calling the triple crown, or wins more stages in a Tour, or wins the green Jersey and the yellow jersey. I think he is just "One of the greatest." The Greatest, not yet and maybe never.

For real guys "Peace out"
Who doesn't bunt?Old Guy
Jul 26, 2001 11:31 AM
Okay, give me a list of all the Tour leaders who HAVEN'T bunted when they leave the mountains? Going for a home run at this point doesn't sound courageous to me, it sounds stupid.
The topic is "The Greatest" why do what others have done.Canidraftyou
Jul 26, 2001 11:45 AM
I was building my case refering to Ride to Win all you can, like maybe the Green and Yellow Jersey.
Reggie Jackson doesn't bunt :) nmmr_spin
Jul 26, 2001 2:30 PM
He didn't pitch, either. :-0Old Guy
Jul 26, 2001 2:57 PM
Like the Agressive approach much?Guillermo
Jul 26, 2001 12:22 PM
Are you saying that until LA takes outlandish risks or completely destroys his competitors he should not get credit amongst the top people? Yes, sometimes that makes the sport more exciting, but going all out is just pointless. "Bunting"? No. Being satisfied with winning his third Tour in a row? Yes.
First off the greatest cyclist is Merckx, no questionSpyder Ryder
Jul 26, 2001 12:56 PM
He got his nickname, "The Cannibal" for a reason. The guy was simply unbelieveable. There was actually anti-Merckx sentiment because he was so good that he made the races uninteresting. Also Merckx is the only rider in history to win the yellow, green, AND polka-dot jerseys in the SAME TOUR!! Now if that isn't well rounded I cant say what is. He was relentless and was almost physically pained when he lost. He trained like a madman putting in like 50,000 miles a year when other guys were putting in only 20-30,000.

There should be no hesitation when someone asks you who the "Greatest Cyclist of all time is" and it is Merckx.

As for Lance placing second at the Amstel gold on a breakaway and just losing the sprint to Dekker and winning the Tour de Suisse would have to be considered accomplishments enough, and I agree with Cima we cant really know where Lance's place in history will be based on relults, I can see him winning 6 in a row, but just as easily I can see him winning one more and deciding that his family is more important than racing as well.

I can say this though, this Tour Lance has dominated more than anyone I have seen for a while, winning 3 of 5 mountain stages is incredible and the way he did it, just almost effortlessly was amazing.
Jul 26, 2001 1:18 PM
and don't ever think that Eddy did not have stiff competition in his day - I'm sure Mr. Anquetil and Poulidor and Zotomilk would have something to say about that. If he gets to the magic No.6, wins a couple Paris-Roubaix, Giro and at least another Worlds', then he will stand astride Mr. Mercx in history. Even Hinault was not so widely accomplished in the sport.

If I ever suffer the misfortune of cancer, I can truly say that Mr. Armstrong would no doubt be the most inspirational role model in my life.

I can say that I am loving it having one of the top handful of all-time Tour greats performing live on TV every day this Tour this year! The greatest thing of all from Lance's performance would be for a renewed North American cycling boom like happened in the wake of the LA 84 Olympics and the phenomenon known as Greg Lemond.
Competition? um... ehGuillermo
Jul 26, 2001 6:30 PM
Okay, just for the record, when you said something about Merckx's "competition"... Anquetil was in his prime in the late '50s and early '60s. In fact, he won his five Tours in '57, '61-'64. By '66 (when Merckx actually began serious pro competition), Anquetil was 33 years old and only doing considerably smaller races. Heck, Anquetil won his first Tour when Merckx was 12!

As for Poulidor, he began pro riding in 1961, essentially riding with Anquetil. He was "old", by cycling standards when Merckx came around. Poulidor was totally Anquetil's generation. He actually rode in the Tour when he was 40! That's great competition.

Zoetemelk started in '71, when Merckx had won his 3rd Tour, and Zoetemelk was just a young inexperienced guy. Not takin' anything away from him... but Zoetemelk was just one of those guys who (he said it himself) was "lucky" enough to come in on the end of Merckx's career and the beginning of Hinault's. He's in the same boat as Sean Kelly... great but no Tour until 1980 when Hinault dropped out after leading it. If only Kelly had been that lucky.

Speaking of Hinault, even if LA did win "a couple Paris-Roubaix, Giro and at least another Worlds'", he would not beat out Hinault. Hinault is a solid second behind Merckx, winning 11 major Tours and out time-trialing the 7 years younger Greg Lemond in his last year. He also had knee surgery early in '83, and what a great comeback he had! I don't know if you want to go into "how widely accomplished" Hinault was, but go ahead. I'll e-mail his stats to you.

*Just saying my piece
Hinault vs Lemondrodemiles
Jul 26, 2001 7:11 PM
I believe that Lemond crashed on that time trial that Hinault beat him on. I think they were pretty much on the same pace when the crash occurred.

Years ago someone did an article on the greatest cyclists of all time. His criteria was the number of classics won, counting a stage of the TDF as a classic also. Of course, Merckx wins hands down with almost double the guy in second place. The guy in second: Sean Kelly, who never won the TDF (couldn't climb well enough)or the world championship. His best shot to win the rainbow jersey was in 1989, when Greg Lemond led him out on the sprint. Kelly couldn't come around, and sat up when he saw he was beaten, losing second to Konyshev. Kelly was a very complete rider, winning a whole closet full of green jerseys in the TDF, but is never mentioned among the great cyclists of all time. I guess not winning the TDF pretty much eliminates you from that consideration.

I believe that if Greg Lemond had had the work ethic of Sean Kelly he could have re-written the record books, except for Merckx. Of course, that opinion is based on him not getting shot, also.
Hinault vs LemondTom C
Jul 26, 2001 7:49 PM
On that time trial you mention Lemond did crash, Stage 20, Saint-Etienne ITT 58km, 1986 TDF and lost 30 seconds ( he took a turn too sharply). He lost that time trial by 25 seconds to Hinault. In the earlier ITT Nantes 61.5 km, Hinault beat him by 44 seconds. In their last head to head TT competition in the 1986 Coors Classic won by Hinault, Lemond then also lost the mountain ITT to Hinault by, to quote Lemond, "I can't believe he beat me by 50 seconds".
Competition? um... ehbartali
Jul 27, 2001 4:59 AM
Guillermo - I agree with most of your post with one exception. Fausto Coppi was better than Bernard Hinault.

Fausto Coppi was the first man to win Giro and Tour in the same year (1949) and then repeated the feat in 1952 in an era when it was UNTHINKABLE to accomplish this.

He won 5 Giros and 2 Tours. His first Giro came in 1940. He set the hour record in 1942 that stood for 14 years until Jacques Anquetil broke it in 1956. He won the Paris-Roubaix in 1950 and 3 Milano-San Remo with the 1946 edition winning by FOURTEEN minutes.

In the 1952 Tour de France, halfway thru, Coppi had it all locked up (it was also the first year of the Alpe d'Huez and he won that stage as well). Organizer Jacques Godet had to DOUBLE the prize money for second and third place to keep the interest of the cyclists going.

But there is one thing that NO cyclist did better than Coppi: win by large margins. In the 1949 Giro, there was the famous Cuneo-Pinerolo stage that featured 5 MAJOR mountain passes included Vars, Izoard, Madalene.

It was a 254 kilometer stage. After 90 kilometers, Coppi took off by himself and finished over 7 minutes ahead of the field. Not Merckx, not Hinault and especially not Armstrong were ever capable of doing something like that.

Let's also not forget that Coppi rode in a time that was considered the golden age of cycling wihere the competition was the fiercest with greats such as Bartali, Bobet, Robic, Kubler, Koblet and Van Steenbergen.

And finally think of all the lost Tours 1940-1945 and the lost Giros 1941-1946 that he, and Gino Bartali for that matter, was not able to participate in because of WWII.

My all time greats list: Merckx, Coppi, Hinault, Anquetil, Bartali.
Competition? um... ehbartali
Jul 27, 2001 5:01 AM
I forgot. Coppi was also World Champion (Road) 1953 and he was also World Champion on the track (pursuit) two times in 1948 and 1950.
Jul 27, 2001 7:33 AM
... I'll give you that. Coppi was the "campionissimo", but still I don't like to compare a rider from the 1940s-50s with one of the late '70s and early '80s. At least your reasoning for "all-time great classification" makes sense.
Jul 27, 2001 10:02 AM
Guillermo - I understand what you are trying to say. I will never say if Coppi raced against Hinault then Coppi would have beaten him. It's stupid.

But what we can do is intelligently debate on cyclists accomplishments and rate them.

When getting into these debates of comparing great athletes from different eras, the only way to compare is to look at their victories, their accomplishments and the duration of their domination.
Jul 27, 2001 10:33 AM
Obviously we're not going to change each other's minds, but as an overall record, I think that Hinault's over 200 major victories is substantial.

However, Coppi's hour record was remarkable for the technology of the time.

Who knows what Coppi would have done if he hadn't gone into the Italian army? And who knows what Hinault would have done if he hadn't gotten a knee injury, had been motivated to attempt to break more records, and had continued riding past his prime, as Coppi did?

If... if... if...
Jul 30, 2001 4:41 AM
Guillermo - The only thing Coppi won past his prime (1956-1959) was a Trofeo Baracchi in 1957.

In 1955 he was still competitive (at 35) coming in 2nd place at the Giro (losing by 55 seconds to Fiorenzo Magni), Italian Road Champion, 2nd place in the Paris-Roubaix and he won the Trofeo Baracchi.

But after that, his participation in major races was minimal.
just meant - talk to his contemporaries ..Shockee
Jul 30, 2001 3:59 PM
... and happend to mention three of the most notable to race against Eddy - even if their careers peaked in different periods and they were not Eddy's equal, they knew that it was as tough then as now.

Yep, I admit that I was in diapers during Eddy's reign, so my knowledge of that period is pretty sketchy (basically reading stats in Winning Magazine). I do, of course, remember following much of Hinault's era and totally agree on that one. Nevertheless, thanks for posting more details. Any good books or websites to recommend?

I just had give Eddy get some backup to help put Lance's wonderful career in perspective.
... andShockee
Jul 30, 2001 4:00 PM
I did not mean to imply that Hinault was not so widely accomplished!!!! I was implying that of Lance.
Okay, you're forgiven :) nmGuillermo
Jul 31, 2001 10:44 AM
Well said (nm)MeDotOrg
Jul 26, 2001 1:19 PM
First off the greatest cyclist is Merckx, no questionGuillermo
Jul 26, 2001 5:42 PM
I don't know if trying to win everything is the best strategy... yeah, it worked for a while, but we never got to see Merckx get into a tight spot and have to mentally figure a way out of it. I know, I know... that's the point, right? Merckx never GOT into a tight spot, but I'd like to see what would have happened if he had.

*Not disrespecting Merckx here... he was fierce.
re: Is Lance really the greatest bicyclist???what the fu..
Jul 26, 2001 3:26 PM
The limb has broken and you have fallen on your head. Not because Lance is or is not the greatest but because you said "even then he has some great climbers pulling him". Like Zabel and O'Grady win sprints all by themselves! Those guys fly the last couple hundred meters but it takes a team and a good lead out man to get them there. Of course they have to stay at the front and be in position to win (just like Lance in the mountains). Specialization has become commonplace in sport and cycling is no exception. By your definition I would have to say EM is the greatest cyclist and I think we will be waiting a long time to see an individual win the green, polka-dot, and yellow jerseys in the same tour.
re: Is Lance really the greatest bicyclist???yeah
Jul 27, 2001 1:49 PM
Take out Faganini and Mr. Zabel is in the fight of his life with O'Grady. It's true that specialization is the name of the game. Look at something like baseball, which has less physical demands. The days of the pitcher-outfielder(i.e. Babe) are over. You have to be good at one thing just to have a shot at making it. I don't think anyone will ever win all the jerseys again. Look how Jalabert took his jersey this year. Long, unsucessful breakaways (yes he did win stages too), not even in the true mountian stages. The peloton is too good to allow even an amazing talent to win all the jerseys.
Lance is really the greatest "survivor"LBS Guy
Jul 26, 2001 4:56 PM
Lance may not be the strongest or greastest cyclist, but he is the greatest comeback in the history of cycling, in the history of all sports, the doctors actually told him in all honesty he had about a 5% chance to live, and he came back to win the most prestigious cycling event, and the toughest sporting event. he may not be the greatest overall cyclist, but he is the greatest comeback in sports history
re: Is Lance really the greatest bicyclist???CioccOld
Jul 26, 2001 6:54 PM
I really can't add anything to the prior posts, I think all that can be said has been. But my 2cents. Who cares if he's the best cyclist ever, he isn't now but maybe that will change over time (and is that really important). Is he better than Lemond (had his peak years interupped by the hunting accident), Idurain, Hinault who knows they didn't race against each other. Is Ali better than Louis we'll never know.

But we are very lucky to be able to see a gifted athlete excel in his time against a gifted rival and we should just appreciate that. And his battle with Cancer makes his accomplishments all the more special.

Let's just be happy to have seen his performances and wish him the best of luck., More importantly lets hope he stays in remission and gets to enjoy seeing his kids grow up and has time to spend with them.

In the big picture thats all that really matters.

Unfair to include classicsegrand
Jul 27, 2001 12:12 AM
How many of you saw the amstel gold race this year? I saw this and personally feel this race was gifted to the local guy Dekker (fitting in with LA's personality) I feel he could have easily won this race, but saw it as an early season tune up to the TDF. The win would have meant nothing to him...but meant the world to Dekker and the Dutch people. That's my opinion anyway...but thats why its hard to compare LA to others in the past who have won more thann the TDF. Elliot
No, No, No! Nobody gifts classics. Nobody! nmmr_spin
Jul 27, 2001 9:33 AM
How can you be so sure?egrand
Jul 28, 2001 8:14 AM
In my inexperienced eyes, the difference in Armstrong's style in the closing kilometers of the Amstel Gold race (as compared to his techniques of the past three weeks) make me believe he let Dekker win. I don't recall him out of the saddle in that race (vs yesterday's end to time trial) Perhaps if a non-Dutch rider was with him in the end the results would be different. Elliot
Lance can't sprintmr_spin
Jul 30, 2001 6:54 AM
The only weakness Lance has is that he can't sprint. He got beat, fair and square. No deals. No gifts. Just beat. Take those inexperienced eyes and watch the 1999 Amstel. Did Lance gift that to Boogerd?

Oh, and I'm still trying to figure out what help Dekker gave USPS in the tour. Seems to me, Dekker won the stage on the day the break took 35 minutes out of Lance, turning the tour upside down. That's help?
Eddie "the Cannibal" MerkxRetroG
Jul 27, 2001 4:58 AM
The best. Won like 1/3 the races he entered.
Eddie "the Cannibal" MerkxLanakila
Jul 27, 2001 5:37 PM
Is he related to Eddy Merckx by chance? If you are going to pretend to know something about the man, you could at least get his name right.
Eddie Merkx winsmilsk84
Jul 30, 2001 5:41 PM
Eddie won almost 500 professional races (I think the exact # is 492). He is deffinately the best ever. He also held the hour record for almost thirty years, up until Boardman. I doubt that Lance has even broken 50 wins yet in his entire career. I also don't recall him winning any Classics.
re: Is Lance really the greatest bicyclist???NoName
Jul 30, 2001 5:18 AM
That would be a big yes....So LA is out of this classification
Comparing the greats: Merckx / Longotommyb
Jul 30, 2001 9:26 AM
It's a lot of fun comparing the great ones from one generation to the next, but the comparison I find most interesting is between Merckx and Longo. Both are the obvious choices as the best ever, but strangely, Longo's name is missing from the long lists of posts above. Looking at the numbers, she was (actually still is) at least as good as Merckx. Olympics, Worlds, stage races, classics, mountains, time trials, road, track, everything. Chalk up two more national championships this year. Not even Merckx lasted this long, and I wouldn't bet against Longo for another few wins next year.

So, regardless of who you rate in second behind Eddy, keep in mind that rider's really in third, with a virtual tie for first between the two legends.
Lance the greatest? Give me a break!bollibompa
Jul 31, 2001 12:42 PM
Lance is good, but he ain`t the greatest. Anyone focusing on about 5 stages of a race to claim the overall can`t be the greatest.
If we start talking about a rider like Jalabert, Casagrande or similar riders, we see (JaJa) a Grand Tour overall, several weeklong stage races, classics, both green and polkadot jerseys, only to be matched by MERCKX and HINAULT, we can talk about champions, just be sure to see that the real greats, ie: Coppi, Bartali, Anquetil (oops, gourmet food, champagne, cigars, he doesn`t belong there even if his palmares says so), Merckx, Hinault. Indurain can`t be among the greatest either, maybe?
Interesting article on BBC Sportstuneout
Jul 31, 2001 3:34 PM
re: Is Lance really the greatest bicyclist???Joseph
Aug 1, 2001 10:41 AM
There is no way that you can compare what LA has done to GL. GL finished 3rd in his first TDF, 2nd in his next race (that he could have won) and 1st in his third race. There was no rider stronger than GL prior to his hunting accident. And then to come back and when two more in a row and a world championship. there is no comparison. Let us not forget that GL achieved his goals at a time when an American in the peleton was frowned upon. Note that his teams were no where near being as strong as USPS. take away the hunting accident and give GL a team like USPS and then think of how many TDFs he could have won. In addition, look at LA's track record in TDFs. Ullrich has a much higher average placing than LA. Not to mention the fact the Ullrich has more wins in other big races, such as the Tour de Spain, World Championships and the Olympics
re: Is Lance really the greatest bicyclist???wrt
Aug 1, 2001 11:27 AM
It would be my contention that he is one of the best cyclists of our time along with lemond and big mig. Is he in a class with fausto, eddy, and jaques? Probably not. His accomplishments are amazing, though. While he hasn't won any of the classics it is important to remember that the classics take skill and luck to win. The tours are the tests of pure skill, physical AND mental. Lance focuses on the tdf because lets face it, for american cycling, that is the only race. The fact that lance has dominated both the climbing stages as well as the time trials shows that he is indeed well rounded.