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M Gee

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The importance of Luck
« on: July 15, 2015, 03:50 »
We all know - Luck is very important in the spring classics. Got a flat? Too bad - no podium for you! Got caught out of position going in to a critical point? Dearie me, we won't see you at the front!

We like to applaud the skill it take, and skill and strength are massively important. But Luck is also crucial.

Many years ago - before even I was born - Luck was important in the TdF also. Back when you had to fix your own machine? Carry your own spare tires? Bad luck could eliminate your chances just as surely as bad form.

But, you know, I don't think that has been so true for a long time. Even back in the days of Tommie Simpson, luck was playing a smaller role at the finish in Paris.

Now, here's the thing. I am wondering if this has changed again. We now have several REAL contenders for GC honors. Back in 1986, there were 5 GC contenders, but only two were considered real, or serious. That ratio has not changed over the years, until now.

Today, I'm wondering if this HAS changed. Luck has been a big part of the TdF final podium these past few years, and especially these last two years. (Except we don't have the final podium for 2015 yet, but still . . .). Last year the final podium was dramatically impacted by luck. Every year in the past few, the first week has assumed a larger importance, in great part due to Luck!

I could go on - but I am tired - so I won't. But the thought occurred to me that we have seen a sea change at the TdF - and we are in a new time - when Luck has once again assumed a position of importance.

Which could be. Or it could also be that the general rule of thumb (held for the past 3 or 4 decades) that you can't win GT's back to back - there is just too much fatigue - is really a good rule-of-thumb. And other stuff.

Anyway - I just had that thought that we might be in a new era. Thot I would mention it.
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    Armchair Cyclist

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    Re: The importance of Luck
    « Reply #1 on: July 15, 2015, 07:18 »
    Not sure what your point is here.  No-one would deny that bad luck makes a difference, and that luck is mitigated by skill and positioning, and performance on other stages. 

    Had Froome been 20cm further back on the climb of the Mur de Bretagne, a tumbling Nibali would have caught him differently, and he might have fallen and broken his collarbone.  Those 20cm were more a matter of luck than tactics.  Every rider in the race could say something similar, and it has always been the case: your premise seems to be that this is novel (or a return to a previous reality)

    In a GT, there are more chances to recover the effects of bad luck: a puncture 5km out in a classic is terminal, a puncture 5 km before the end of a flat GT stage gives a deficit that a great rider might make up at a later date, or already have within his margin of lead.

    Oh, and back to back GTs were achieved less than two months ago.

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  • AG

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    Re: The importance of Luck
    « Reply #2 on: July 15, 2015, 10:20 »
    luck is and always has been exceptionally important.

    You simply cannot win a GT without some reasonable good fortune.    It doesnt mean being lucky will win you a GT ... you have to be exceptionally good - but you cannot win a GT without luck.

    Crashes ... someone falling in front of you ... happen.  You can reduce the chances of it happening to you by
    - riding towards the front
    - having team mates around
    - improving your bike handling skills
    - surrounding yourself with riders and staff who have great skills


    but at the end of the day .. sh*t happens.

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  • L'arri

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    Re: The importance of Luck
    « Reply #3 on: July 15, 2015, 10:24 »
    I think that yesterday illustrated perfectly why we should be thankful for luck of all kinds in this sport. Pro cycling would be very dull without it.
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    M Gee

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    Re: The importance of Luck
    « Reply #4 on: July 15, 2015, 15:35 »
    . . .
    Oh, and back to back GTs were achieved less than two months ago.

    I wouldn't consider the Vuelta / Giro "back to back" - the time gap between is much longer. But I could be more specific - add "in the same year".

    My point was that luck has been playing a larger role past couple years in the big tours than it has for a long time. And I was phrasing it as a question - just thinkin', ya know.

    Everybody is quite right - luck is always there and always has been. And you have more opportunity to recover from a spot of bad luck in a GT.

    It was just seeming to me that

    1. the top 5 (or 10) are closer in capability than in the past

    2. accidents are taking a bigger toll, especially in the first week, than in the past

    Neither one of those assumptions is proven to be true, afaik. Personally, I think they seem to be holding true, but we'd need somebody to compile some 40 years stats to see if there is a real trend. Unfortunately, nobody is paying me to do it! I wouldn't even know where to get the base data. I wonder if anyone has even recorded enough data to compare. You'd need something more than a DNF status.

    But if both assumptions are true - than it would follow that luck, both good and bad, assumes more importance.

    Anyway, it was just a thought - probably nothing more!
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  • cj2002

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    Re: The importance of Luck
    « Reply #5 on: July 15, 2015, 16:37 »
    It was just seeming to me that

    1. the top 5 (or 10) are closer in capability than in the past

    2. accidents are taking a bigger toll, especially in the first week, than in the past


    People have run the stats about accidents in the first week; I remember discussing it last year. But I don't think there have been more accidents in 2014/2015 than we would normally see. What is indisputable is that the casualties of said accidents have been much higher profile... yellow jersey wearers and overall contenders.

    I agree with your first point... It is always more exciting to see 4+ contenders who could genuinely win. And in terms of ability alone, Froome, Quintana, Contador and Nibali were rightly lauded as the Fab 4 before the start of the race. There are probably 4 or 5 others who sit just below them in terms of outright quality, too.

    Perhaps, then, what we're seeing is a closer field, meaning that the impact of bad luck is magnified. As in - Nibali or Contador have a bad day, then not only can Froome and Quintana take advantage, but so can van Garderen, Valverde, Porte, Gesink, Rolland etc. etc. Whereas when Contador and Nibali were light years ahead, a 2-minute drop could be made up in one big attack.

    I'm rambling now... But I think I made sense.
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    M Gee

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    Re: The importance of Luck
    « Reply #6 on: July 16, 2015, 00:08 »
    @ cj: Exactly. You make very clear sense to me.

    Among the things to wonder about will be this question: "Will the upper echelon riders remain closely competitive as new generations of pro riders join the ranks? "

    If you happen to run across any reference to the stats you are remembering - I would be interested in reviewing them! (And I'm quite serious, not tongue in cheek!)
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  • cj2002

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    Re: The importance of Luck
    « Reply #7 on: July 16, 2015, 09:13 »
    If you happen to run across any reference to the stats you are remembering - I would be interested in reviewing them! (And I'm quite serious, not tongue in cheek!)

    Cycling Tips actually ran a piece the other day looking at whether the Tour is "more dangerous", which discusses some of the numbers.

    One of its sources is this blog which looked at overall attrition, by stage and by year, from 1999 to 2014. 2012 was an outlier, by all accounts, but last year's race, which was ongoing at the time, was completely average. Of course, it was the losses of Cavendish, Froome and Contador (among others) that drew attention to the whole question.

    As of Stage 11 last year (conveniently enough) there had been 19 withdrawals. This year - 21.

    I realise - as do the authors of those pieces - that abandonments are not directly correlated to accidents. Although if you look at the DNFs for this year, most were involved in accidents - they may not have abandoned immediately, but the knock on effects were there. Paolini and Basso are notable exceptions to that (which brings us back to the same 19 DNFs as last year :cool )
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