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Sprinters Voting With Their Feet

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This is a post that's designed to make you say bah. This post is designed to bring out the reactionary in you; the part of you that hates change and/or thinks things should always be the way you like it.

Below are two lists of sprinters. Which column do you like?

Column A--------------------Column B

Mark Cavendish-----------Andre Greipel

Tom Boonen---------------Tyler Farrar

Heinrich Haussler--------Oscar Freire (Graeme Brown)

Matti Breschel-------------Alessandro Petacchi (Danilo Hondo)

Francesco Chicchi-------Daniele Bennati (Fabio Sabatini)

Theo Bos-------------------William Bonnet

JJ Haedo-------------------Lucas Haedo

Peter Sagan---------------Francesco Ginanni

Robbie Hunter------------Robbie McEwen

Bernard Eisel-------------Wouter Weylandt

Tom Leezer----------------Greg Henderson

Alexander Kristoff--------Robert Forster

It should be obvious by now that the list on the left is from the Tour of California while the list on the right is from the Giro d'Italia. Sprinters on the startlists for both races. Yep, there are more sprinters in both races but as you can see from the bottom of the lists, the quality drops off so I am not naming them. I added Freire and Benna to the Giro's start list since they were slotted for there-and I added their understudies, Brownie and Sabatini.  I did not add any American Continental sprinters, which is an omission.

As we know, the Giro is  a Grand Tour, meaning that there are 22 Pro Tour and Pro Continental teams that I am culling the best sprinters from. California is only a .HC race (this year), meaning there are only seven Pro Tour teams and two Pro Conti teams along with seven Continental teams-none of which I picked a sprinter from. Just a quick glance shows that the two lists are comparable even though one might think the Giro with its greater prestige and over twice as many teams at the highest level would have many more. That was indeed the case last year when the race that was opposite the Giro was the Volta a Catalunya, a Pro Tour race with a team lineup comparable to the Giro's. Clearly the ToC is doing a better job attracting a high level field than Catalunya did. 

Below the fold I will look at how the Giro and California are comparable.

The following stats do not include any results in the Giro or (obviously) the ToC:

Total VDS points of these sprinters: ToC-3.532. Giro-3,152

Total wins: ToC-23, Giro-28 (Greipel with 11)

Total wins in  VDS races: ToC-17, Giro-5

The biggest win here is Oscarito's Milan-Sanremo win. Next is Eisel's Gent-Wevelgem. Farrar's Scheldepris' win is matched by JJ Haedo's Rund um Koln and  victory. The rest are stage wins.

Winners of points competitions in the major stage races:

Graeme Brown @ Murcia

Peter Sagan @ Paris-Nice

Average age of the two sprinters lists: ToC-26.91 (Hunter oldest @ 33); Giro-30.48 (McEwen oldest @ 38)

Total Virtual Musette points: ToC: 50 (Boonen-42); Giro: 127.5 (Petacchi-43, Freire-41.5)

Virtual Musette is an indicator of a rider's place in history.  Boonen, Petacchi, and Freire have established themselves as among the all-time greats.

Summary- 

Two keys here to understand the differences between the two lists of sprinters. First, the a ge difference is big. As I have said before, athletes make their reputation in their 20's and life off their reputation in their 30's. The ToC list has only one rider older than 30 (Hunter). The Giro list has seven-Petacchi, McEwen, Henderson, Forster, Hondo, Brown, and Freire. The Virtual Musette points comparison says basically the Giro has a bunch of sprinters at the end of some very distinguished careers, while the ToC list has a bunch of sprinters who have just entered the elite ranks and will (probably) grow their palmares in the next decade. If you were in a Keeper fantasy league, there's no question which list you would take.  (The ToC list for those not that into fantasy stuff.)

The second key is the Italian orientation of the Giro list. Kinda obvious.  If you want to call the ToC merely a Tour de France prep race then it makes sense that it would have a more cosmopolitan start list than the Giro. 

But the bottom line is that the big sprinters find the Tour of California more attractive. Will that trend continue next year when the race becomes a Pro Tour race and thus all the big teams will be there? Why not? Again that goes back to what Chris was writing about earlier this week and I'm taking further: the Giro is not much of a sprinters race the past bunch of years so why slog through three weeks for not much reward when you can get good miles at California and win stages too against other big names? 

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So, you ask, is the same happening for GC and all-rounders? 

Okay, I'll make a list of the other riders to see what we got:

California----------------------------Giro

Lance Armstrong----------------Ivan Basso

Andy Schleck--------------------Vincenzo Nibali

Levi Leipheimer-----------------Carlos Sastre

Michael Rogers-----------------Alexander Vinokourov

Dave Zabriskie------------------Cadel Evans

Ryder Hesjedal-----------------Stefano Garzelli

Fabian Cancellara-------------Michele Scarponi

George Hincapie---------------Damiano Cunego

Stuart O'Grady------------------Brad Wiggins

Jens!------------------------------Filippo Pozatto

Paul Martens-------------------David Millar

Chris Horner-------------------Xavier Tondo

Tony Martin--------------------Marzio Bruseghin

 

I could go on with Giro names because the Giro in this case clearly wins out.  Then again, having twice as many top level teams they should dominate. But look a little further and separate the GC guys from the all-rounders and Classics specialists. At the point the ToC GC crowd is still American oriented, meaning that you have GC guys from American teams or teams with American interests like Saxo. We'll have to see if PT status changes that but right now the ToC isn't particularly attractive or unattractive to GC guys. Part of the issue is that GCers who aren't doing the Giro have all sorts of schedules to prepare them for the Tour. I am not putting stats up with these guys but a glance tells me that there isn't the young/old split here as with the sprinters. If anything the ToC is older with the Radio Shackers. 

With the Classics guys it's less clear to me but there is more of a lean towards the ToC than what the GC guys are doing. Of course the Classics guys overlap a ton with the Sprinters so that's a factor. And the Italians aren't sending their first line guys to the ToC. A lot of top-line Classics/Cobbles guys are here as opposed to either the Giro, and they are looking at this race (as opposed to the Tour of Belgium) to get back to racing. The ToC organizers must be very, very happy with their startlist. They didn't lose any star power in their move from February to May.

 

I won't go on about any big trends for the future here. We gotta see first what PT status does to the ToC. Or it could change dates again in a few years. Any move towards elbowing into Grand Tour status or two-week race status is too far in the future to worry about. So far this race has made all the right steps to cement its place in the calendar. This race is just something to keep an eye on.