Cycling has always been a grueling sport that requires immense physical and mental toughness, endurance, and strategic thinking. Over the years, the sport has evolved, with new techniques, technologies, and training methods. However, things got really boring in the 90s and 2000s when teams and individuals focused solely on what they were good at, and the sport lost its charm.
One thing that has remained constant, though, is the allure of the Spring Classics and Grand Tours. The likes of Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault, and Jacques Anquetil have left an indelible mark on the sport, with their victories and legacies still inspiring cyclists to this day.
In recent times, a new generation of super cyclists has emerged, including Wout VanAert, Mathieu van der Poel, and Tadej Pogačar. Let's explore how these modern-day cyclists compare to the greats of the past, who also participated in all the Spring Classics and Grand Tours. Previously, such a comparison was not even possible, as the likes of US Postal with Lance Armstrong and then Team Sky with Chris Froome never attempted to do everything, except for Armstrong before his cancer and well, you know.....
One of the most significant similarities between the old and new generations of cyclists is their versatility. In the 60s and 70s, it was common for riders to participate in all the Spring Classics and Grand Tours. This was a testament to their physical and mental strength, as well as their ability to adapt to different terrains and weather conditions. Similarly, modern-day cyclists like Wout VanAert, Mathieu van der Poel, and Tadej Pogačar have proven themselves to be versatile riders, capable of excelling in different race formats.
Wout VanAert, for instance, has won stages in the Tour de France, Alpe Duez, and many others on all sorts of terrain. He won the Green Jersey in the Le Tour and won stages at the Vuelta a España and the Critérium du Dauphiné, among other races. He has also won multiple classics, including Strade Bianche, Milan-San Remo, and Gent-Wevelgem. His ability to climb, sprint, and time trial makes him a formidable opponent in any race he enters.
Similarly, Mathieu van der Poel has won multiple races across different disciplines, including cyclocross, mountain biking, and road racing. In road races, he has won the Amstel Gold Race, the Tour of Flanders, and the Dutch National Road Race Championships, to name a few. His attacking style and ability to accelerate on short, steep climbs make him a joy to watch and a fearsome adversary.
Tadej Pogačar, on the other hand, is a pure climber, having won the Tour de France twice in a row. He also won the UAE Tour, the Tirreno-Adriatico, and the Tour of Slovenia. His climbing abilities are unmatched, and his youthful exuberance and grit make him one of the most exciting riders of his generation.
Another similarity between the old and new generations of cyclists is their work ethic and dedication. Eddy Merckx, for instance, was known for his obsessive training regimen, which involved long hours in the saddle, meticulous attention to nutrition, and a relentless pursuit of excellence. Similarly, Bernard Hinault was renowned for his discipline and focus, which helped him win five Tour de France titles and numerous other races, including Monuments like the Tour of Flanders, Amstel Gold, and La Fleche Wallonne, in amazing style and grace.
This new generation has brought back the romance and wonder to cycling, creating an utter spectacle for us to enjoy!