FGR #20 Wrap

Wow! I’ve not seen consensus like that in the RKP comments section since … uh … since … okay, I’ve never seen consensus like that here. To whit: Fabian Cancellara, Jens Voigt, Tomas Voekler, Jens Voigt, Philipe Gilbert, Oscar Freire, Michael Barry, George Hincapie, Sylvain Chavanel, Stuart O’Grady, Chris Horner, Johan VanSummeren, Thor Hushovd.

That list is notable for not containing the names: Alberto Contador, Lance Armstrong, Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish. World Champion Cadel Evans had a passing mention, but no real advocate. So, what I’m getting is that winning doesn’t give you class. It just gives you a trophy, a bouquet and lipstick smears on each cheek (also possibly a hotel key … I’ve heard stories).

The Cancellara lovefest just went on and on. Here is a rider of supreme power, humble demeanor and team first attitude, a guy who clearly loves his family and rides with a smile on his face. The guy’s so classy he probably eats his pomme frites with a knife and fork. He most assuredly never farts in elevators or litters. I actually think in Switzerland littering is a capital offense, so maybe that doesn’t count. But still….

We also heaped the love on Herr Voigt, though he’s a different sort of rider than Cancellara. Voigt is not so much a dominant winner as a hammer par excellénce, the guy who, as he passes you on the way to the front of the peloton, you think, “Crap! There goes the morning!” Oh, and he smiles. First he crushes you, and then he grins. Nothing says class like a man who can smile while YOUR heart is breaking.

Also, clearly deserving and oft mentioned, was Philipe Gilbert, who is not the fastest or most powerful, not the strongest climber or sharpest sprinter, but a tactician and all around attack-minded rider, the guy who lights up the one-day races like a halogen in a coat closet.

I, for one, need these riders desperately. As the revelations spew out of Festina and Puerto and Mantova and little, out-of-the-way sports clinics in Austria and Germany, I need to remember that there are riders of true class in the peloton. There ARE reasons to keep watching.

Images: John Pierce, Photosport International

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  1. SinglespeedJarv

    And we all hold our breath and hope that none of our favourites names appear on the next list.

    Is there anything to be made of the fact that most peoples favourites are generally considered one-day riders and occasional stage winners rather than Grand Tour contenders?

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  3. C Mahan

    One name left of the list is the up and coming Tylar Farrar. I may be a little biased being from Washington but I’ve met him a couple of times and he is super down to earth. He is giving of his time and seems to want to win the right way. He’s never had a team that was totally committed to bringing the full on lead out train and you still hear him praising his teammates.

  4. todd k

    Good question Jarv. I know the past several years of doping scandals have biased my opinion on what riders I cheer and admire. A definite impression loops in my mind. That impression is that the average Grand Tour contender is likely to have doped at some point during his career. Maybe in another ten years, absent a Puerto, Festina, Landis, Hamilton, etc… maybe then I will begin to formulate a new bias for my opinion.

    Many of the names that were nominated were folks that are known for success through gritty, old fashioned, hard riding. Jens Voigt epitomizes that style. As importantly, most of the nominees fail more often than they succeed. Lastly, they also seem to share a character trait that suggests or hints at an ethic that implies they won’t do literally ANYTHING to win. It implies they acknowledge that boundaries must exist for fair play to occur. The combination of these elements restores the human factor for me that is lost once doping takes control of a sport.

    In the end I’ll always want to cheer on the dark horse. Give me the guy who may not ride at a high level day and day out, can’t win the Tour a gazillion time, but on occasion does something special. I’m a-ok with them not succeeding day in and day out. I’ll even be satisfied if they lead out the race in a break for 200k only to get caught at the red kite.

  5. Souleur

    Robot mentions that class cannot be bought, winning just gives you a trophy, a bouquet and lipstick smears on each cheek. However, I am convinced it may give more than that. I am afraid though after this weeks fine Gila girls w/tat’s flying, cheap rayban knock offs who were on the arm of Levi, that he may have indeed caught something after winning, minus the hotel room.

    On to jarv’s question, hmmm, not sure. That is a good question. Maybe its the crowd that floats in and out of here too? There are GC’rs I utterly love, but they are mostly old schoolers, who also used the spring classics to train and prepare. I hate the split we now have between specialists in spring, and Tour riders. I think they should all ride, spring, summer, fall.

  6. Doug P

    @ C Mahan, I agree about Tyler Farrar, and @ Souleur, that’s why I admire the work ethic of Eric Zabel,the Cal Ripkin of bike racing, the hardest workin’ man in the racing business.

  7. Alex Torres

    Way to go Robot, very nice FGR this one! I was traveling so I missed it, but then I´d have only added to the consensus and agreed with the outcome. Fabian is the very definition of class and style on a bike. He´s the 2000´s Hugo Koblet, his compatriot by the way. He is elegant, natural, he was born to ride a bike much in the way Frank Lloyd Wright was born to do architecture. Of course there are others who inspire me (and millions all over) but he´s on a level of his own IMHO.

  8. Touriste-Routier

    I think what we are seeing is a reflection of the difference between the calculated and conservative riding style of most of the modern grand tour contenders versus the passionate and nothing to lose style of many of the 1-day contenders. Clearly the latter is more endearing to this audience.

  9. Randomactsofcycling

    That’s right Touriste-Routier. I can relate to the ‘One Day Specialists’ a lot more because if I race (usually quite poorly) it’s all left out on the road. There’s no thought of recovery for tomorrow. It’s a fantasy, but I relate to their all out attitude and suffering.

  10. MattyVT

    The undercurrent of Robot’s comments is that we’d collectively be heartbroken if any of those names came up in a doping investigation. I wonder if Ballan would have come up had this question been posed last spring…

    Cadel seems to be learning class as he carries the Arc en Ciel. Depending on how he does at the Giro and Tour he may get a nod next spring.

  11. Tinpot Dictator

    It’s real character that we hold close to heart. The character that only the faithful see, and know. The rest – finger bangs, soap operas and false affronts – well, that’s just a joke on them.

  12. Bob Cesca

    I still believe Heinrich Haussler will make the list one of these days.

    @MattyVT – I caught that, too. A Cancellara doping scandal would be crushing.

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