Monday, 29 October 2012

What If The Tour De France Rankings Were Reallocated

Like Miguel Indurain, I still have doubts about the case made against Lance Armstrong on the grounds that he had performance enhancing chemicals during his career.  As I have noted before I feel a lot of this is more about international politics than about cycling.  On 22nd October, Armstrong was stripped of all of his seven wins of the Tour De France, i.e. 1999-2005.  However, the rankings have not been reallocated to other men who came in behind Armstrong.  Of course, many of these men have already suffered penalties as a result of their drug cheating, as 'The Guardian' noted on 13th October, 89 of the 190 men who had received a podium position in the Tour De France, Giro D'Italia and Vuelta a Espana, i.e. in the top 3 places in the race, since 1992, have now faced penalties. In fact I believe they have left out a number more who have done so. What interests me in this posting is, assuming that all of the drugs cheats had been eliminated, who would have been the winners of the Tour De France?  With Armstrong and these others gone, we see very interesting patterns appearing and men who are known only to cycling enthusiasts would probably be known across the world, the way Armstrong became.

Miguel Indurain won the Tour De France five times in a row, 1991-5 and with Armstrong gone is now an unrivalled record once more.  Indurain has never been found guilty of any drugs cheating so these wins would remain.  However, Claudio Chiappuci who came 2nd in 1992, Tony Rominger who came 2nd in 1993, Marco Pantani who came 2nd in 1994 and Alex Zulle who came 2nd and Bjarne Riis who came 3rd in 1995 would all be removed.  Bjarne Riis would also lose his 1st place in 1996, a year when the top three riders, Jan Ullrich and Richard Virenque being the other two, were all drugs cheats. 

Rather than writing out all the changes in text, a list is probably easier.  This in italics are riders who would have risen up the table if the drugs cheats had been removed:

1st Miguel Indurain (Spain)
2nd Gianni Bugno (Italy)
3rd Andrew Hampstein (USA)

Hampstein was twice winner of the Tour De Suisse and once the Giro D'Italia and only lost out to Bugno in the 1992 Tour De France in the final time trial.

1st Miguel Indurain (Spain)
2nd Zenon Jaskula (Poland)
3rd Álvaro Mejía (Colombia)

Jaskula had won the Volta a Portugal and stages of stage races and Mejia had won regional ones such as the tours of Galicia and Murcia.

1st Miguel Indurain (Spain)
2nd Piotr Ugrumov (Latvia)
3rd Roberto Conti (Italy)

Conti came 6th, his best ever position in the Tour De France, but the three riders above him, including Pantani, Luc Leblanc and Virenque have either been penalised or have admitted being drugs cheats.

1st Miguel Indurain (Spain)
2nd Melcior Mauri (Spain)
3rd Fernando Escartin (Spain)

Mauri won the Vuelta a Espana and Escartin came 2nd in that race twice.  Them stepping up the rankings from 6th and 7th place, would have made 1995 a clean sweep for the Spanish.

In 1996 and 1997, all of the top three finishers were drugs cheats, so after Indurain ended his reign, we would have seen men in this top spot that did not attract as much attention at the time.

1st Peter Luttenberger (Austria)
2nd Piotr Ugrumov (Latvia)
3rd Fernando Escartin (Spain)

Now, we begin to see history becoming changed. Luttenberger is basically unknown beyond tight circles, but is now becoming recognised as the 'real' winner in 1996.  Ugrumov would have won his second 2nd place and Escartin would have come 3rd two years running, meaning more attention would have been on these men and they would likely have attracted teams and support that was otherwise missing when they were just in the top 10.

1st Abraham Olano (Spain)
2nd Fernando Escartin (Spain)
3rd José María Jiménez (Spain)

With Ulrich, Virenque and Patani as the top 3 in 1997, again we would see different names coming to the fore, altering people's careers to a great extent.  Olano and his compatriots would have continued the Spanish predominance in the 1990s.  Like a number of the winners, he won the Vuelta a Espana.  Escartin would have been on the podium for the third year in a row.  This would no doubt have attracted attention to him to a greater extent than happened, he may have been seen the way Cadel Evans was in the latter 2000s as an 'almost man'.  He would have been a rare sprinter to win the race.  Of course, if he had held these positions, he may have been projected to win.  Jimenez would die of a heart attack only five years later at the age of 32.  However, no evidence of drugs cheating has come out against him.

1st Christophe Rinero (France)
2nd Michael Boogerd (Netherlands)
3rd Jean-Cyril Robin (France)

The 1998 tour was seen as the one in which doping came really to the fore, so eliminating many riders for taking ranking positions, again wiping out the top 3, Pantani, Ullrich and Bobby Julich.  Reassinging their positions brings the men skilled on climbs, Rinero and Boogerd to the fore.  This would have been seen as the year in which the French and the promising Dutch fought back against Spanish dominance of the race.

1st Fernando Escartin (Spain)
2nd Angel Casero (Spain)
3rd Abraham Olano (Spain)

The blip of 1998 would have been overcome and the Spanish would be back in control.  Escartin, the most consistent rider in the Tour of the late 1990s would finally have got his win.  By now he would be far more recognised than has been the case with others like Lance Armstrong, Alex Zulle and Jan Ullrich cheating to take the positions over this period.  However, a new personality would have been poised to step into the limelight and have the longest run of wins since Indurain.

1st Joseba Beloki (Spain)
2nd Santiago Botero (Colombia)
3rd Fernando Escartin (Spain)

As you will notice, with so many of the top cyclists taking drugs, we similarly see other names appearing on a regular basis with Beloki but also Escartin still on the podium. Though Beloki was investigated for doping, he was cleared in 2006.  Out of the top 6, the others being Armstrong, Ullrich, Christophe Moreau, Roberto Heras, Virenque, Beloki was a rare one in the top flight not to be taking drugs, or has so far been proven.

1st Joseba Beloki (Spain)
2nd Andrey Kivilev (Kazakhstan)
3rd Igor González (Spain)

The podium positions of the 2000 race: Armstrong, Ullrich, Beloki, were repeated in 2001.  However, eliminating the drugs cheats, still gives Beloki his second win of the race, but brings other names forward.  It certainly would have put Kazakhstan on the map of cycling to a much greater extent.  Some believe Kivilev should have won 2001 because of the subsequent suspicions around Beloki.  Whatever happened it would make his death in 2003 during the Paris-Nice race from injuries sustained even more poignant.  The Spanish would be continuing their pre-eminent position seen in the 1990s.

1st Joseba Beloki (Spain)
2nd Santiago Botero (Colombia)
3rd Igor González (Spain)

Beloki came 2nd in 2002, but taking out Armstrong would have given him his third consecutive win, and a very small group it is that have done that.  The Spanish would still be to the fore.

1st Haimar Zubeldia (Spain)
2nd Carlos Sastre (Spain)
3rd Denis Menchov (Russia)

With Armstrong, Ullrich, Alexandre Vinoukourov, Tyler Hamilton, Iban Mayo, Ivan Basso, Moreau and Francisco Macebo, eight of the top ten have all had drugs penalties.  Thus, even with a number of Spaniards now being caught, 2003 would see the continuing Spanish dominance.  It has been suggested to me, that by this stage the race organisers would have altered the routes to play down the mountains on which so many Spanish and Colombians are strong.

1st Andreas Klöden (Germany)
2nd José Azevedo (Portugal)
3rd Georg Totschnig (Austria)

2004 would have been like 1998, the year when the consistent line of Spanish victories was broken briefly.  Azevedo rode for Armstrong's team so may in future be proven to have been on drugs, but so far I cannot find a record of him being accused.  Klöden came 2nd anyway and is now being acclaimed as the 2004 winner by some.

1st Cadel Evans (Australia)
2nd Óscar Pereiro (Spain)
3rd Haimar Zubeldia (Spain)

With the top 6 riders having faced drugs penalties and three already having been disqualified: Armstrong, Ullrich and Levi Leipheimer, 2005 would have been the year of Cadel Evans first victory, six years earlier than has been recorded.  Australian riders were coming to the fore in this period, but it would be years before they reached the level that they should have done.  The number of drugs cheats, and it seems Yaroslav Popovych should be among them even though he has denied the charges, means that Zubeldia, originally 15th in the race and now 11th due to disqualifications, would have been back on the podium, reasserting Spain's standing.

1st Óscar Pereiro (Spain)
2nd Andreas Klöden (Germany)
3rd Carlos Sastre (Spain)

By 2006 we would be seeing the development of a leading clutch of riders, given that Evans came in 5th, moved up to 4th already now by the disqualification of Floyd Landis.  It would have been fascinating to see how close the quartet of Evans, Pereiro, Klöden and Sastre, probably Zubeldia too, would have been.  This was the first year that Armstrong was not the winner for seven years, but in this readjusted race, there would be a number of leading names, not seemingly as unassailable as Armstrong, but still with credit.

1st Cadel Evans (Australia)
2nd Carlos Sastre (Spain)
3rd Haimar Zubeldia (Spain)

Sastre would have clearly staked his claim as being the latest of the Spaniards who dominated the Tour De France in the 1990s and 2000s.  Evans would have won his second Tour after the disappointment of 2006.  In theory with Alberto Contador being removed for drugs Evans won this year anyway.


1st Carlos Sastre (Spain)
2nd Cadel Evans (Australia)
3rd Denis Menchov (Russia)

With the reassignment of positions, the rise of Sastre would be much clearer, with him stepping up the podium in succeeding years and developing a clear head-to-head battle with Evans.  Menchov, who it is often commented is the quiet man of the Tour would have again received greater recognition.

1st Andy Schleck (Luxembourg)
2nd Bradley Wiggins (UK)
3rd Andreas Klöden (Germany)

As it is, the winner of the race, Alberto Contador has been stripped of the title for drug cheating so Schleck is the actual winner.  With Armstrong also out, Wiggins's story changes and he arrives on the podium three years earlier than the history we know.  Klöden again shows he had not disappeared in the battle between Evans and the Spaniards.  Frank Schleck originally came 4th but has now been found to have been a cheat, possibly being fairer on his brother than I was on Popovych, I have left Andy in place until proven guilty.  If that does ever happen, then the 'Year of the British' would have come first in 2009 rather than 2012.

1st Andy Schleck (Luxembourg)
2nd Denis Menchov (Russia)
3rd Samuel Sanchez (Spain)

For the first time in two decades, there is no need to alter the rankings of the 2010 Tour De France.  With these changes, Schleck would have won his second consecutive tour and the arrival of Menchov in 2nd place after two 3rds over a seven year period would be less of a surprise.  Sanchez, no doubt, would be seen as the latest in a long line of Spaniards right at the top of the Tour.

1st Cadel Evans (Australia)
2nd Andy Schleck (Luxembourg)
3rd Thomas Voeckler (France)

With Frank Schleck removed from 3rd place for drugs, the ever popular Frenchman, Voeckler, a winner of some stunning stage victories would get on the podium, the first one since Rinero's victory in 1998.  Sanchez would have come 4th, showing that whilst to the end of the 2000s and into the 2010s, other nationalities were coming to the fore, Spain was not lagging too far.  Evans would have been winning his third victory at the Tour which would probably make him insufferable but also the winner with victories stretched out the longest, over seven years.

1st Bradley Wiggins (UK)
2nd Chris Froome (UK)
3rd Vincenzo Nibali (Italy)

Another, which as far as we know needs no alterations.  However, it would seem less incredible given Wiggins's 2nd place in 2009, though there would probably be even more discussion of where he had been in the meantime.

Thus, if we remove all the drugs cheats from the Tour De France rankings, we discover a difference race.  However, one, that seems to make more sense.  It is clear that Indurain ushered in a period of Spanish dominance of the race, even setting aside the Spaniards who have used drugs, and in this I am including EPO, doctored blood.  We see much more the rise of riders like Zubeldia, Pereiro and Sastre, even of Menchov.  There were interesting battles among a leading group of cyclists, which of course how the races have been shown, was ignored, because these men had been fighting sometimes for 10th place.  However, all were putting in good times and doing so through their own effort.

Doing the analysis for this posting, however, has probably brought me around to the UCI's view that the slots of those men disqualified should not be filled.  When you find the large majority of the top 10 or 20 of those who came home in any Tour De France were on substances of one kind or another, it makes nonsense of the whole process.  I do hope, as some commentators are doing, as on Wikipedia, that those men who rode clean and so ended up 5th or 11th or something similar because they were up against drugs cheats, will get the recognition that they should receive for their efforts.

1 comment:

Alex said...

I' waiting for this season. Hope this time it would be more excite to see Live.