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Top riders of Today

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With Tornado Tom's second win in a row and ninth of the year, I got to thinking: Cycling is somewhat unique in that almost all of the top riders tend to perform that way year in and year out, injuries aside. I can't recall the last time someone high up the food chain signed a fat contract and then tanked it the following seasons, only to perform well again in his contract year. Yet you see it happen with regularity in baseball and basketball, somewhat in hockey, and rarely in the NFL (no guaranteed contracts).

Does this mean that cyclists just want to excel more than other athletes, regardless of compensation? I've yet to hear a cyclist complaining of being disrespected (which is frankly refreshing). And I distinctly remember Lance getting his game face on for 7 straight years, long after his annual income topped $12m. Texas pride or something else?

Tom Boonen said last year that he'd like to continue racing until he's 30 and then hang up his bike. I don't know what his pay is but he's certainly earning it. Unlike riders of the last generation, a tip top guy now can earn enough in a good 10 year career to set him up for life. And if you're a guy like Boonen, you'll never have to buy a drink for yourself in Belgium ever again.

So what makes riders honor their contracts and actually earn their pay?