Vuelta a Espana Mountains Competition: In Praise of David Moncoutie

53237108_mediumWith this edition of the Vuelta a Espana, David Moncoutie is looking to win the King of the Mountains competition. If successful he will have won it for the fifth time in a row, something that has never been done before in any of the Grand Tours. If he is successful and stands on the podium in Madrid with the spotty jersey, there is a good chance that we will be looking at him for the last time as he is retiring this year and usually does not race after the Vuelta. So as we settle into watching this race, let us keep one eye open to catch this master of his craft before he steps down off of that podium and into the sunset as we may never see another like him.

My guess is that the Cofidis rider did not plan any of this KOM stuff. His personality seems very different than say the more flamboyant Richard Virenque: pretty humble, a guy who keeps to himself, who doesn't follow the latest trends: old school. The early part of his career shows your basic very good but not great cyclist. He can climb well, obviously, but he never quite turned into a team leader. He only won one stage race of any kind, the Clasica de Alcobendas in 2002 and as for single day races the only win I can find was at the season opening GP Lugano in 2003. Good but not great. And to me that's one of the great things about this guy. He's one of the peloton and not a superstar.

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He also shown from the beginning a knack for wining stages in stage races. Since his second full year as a pro, 1999, he's won individual stages here and there every year except for 2007. The highlights here are two stages in the Tour de France, the first stage 11 in 2002, the second stage 12 the following year. He's also won one stage in each of the last four years of the Vuelta: from 2008 the stage numbers have been 8, 13, 8, and 11. Notice a pattern? At this Vuelta we should be looking for him to be most aggressive starting the later part of week one through week two.

In 2006 he won the KOM prize at Paris-Nice, the first time he won such a prize. 2007, nada. No results. So rather late in his career, 2008, is when he started his Vuelta KOM tear. So how does he rank with the other KOM Grand Tour greats?

The all-time winner of KOM jerseys regardless of which Grand Tour is Federico Bahamontes with 9- 7 in the Tour and 2 in the Vuelta. Virenque has won 7 times, all at the Tour and Gino Bartali did the same in the Giro. Lucien Van Impe has 6 KOM prizes, all at the Tour. There is one other 5 time winner-Jose Luis Laguia in the Vuelta. As for consecutive wins, the standing record is four in a row, set by Bartali and equaled by Manuel Fuente at the Giro. This is what Moncoutie is set to break: five wins in a row. I know I'l be rooting for him; I hope you will be too.

It wil be an od record to have, this consecutive KOM prize. Look at his Wikipedia page and it barely gets mentioned after the first paragraph. I'd love to hear him speak to how he decided to first go for it in 2008 and how its been every year since/ We need a book from him!

Of course he's said he was retiring before, particularly in 2010. He's made more retirement noises than Vino. Maybe he'll come back again. If so. I'll be happy. He seems pretty clear at the Tour though, especially when he crashed out. He's 37 now so retiring makes sense. One final thing about this singular rider: he's spent his whole career with one team, Cofidis. Who else who's been a rider for so long can say the same?

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