Thursday, June 7, 2012

Andy Schleck and Jan Ullrich: a Comparative Study

It is no doubt that Andy Schleck and Jan Ullrich are some of the most naturally talented cyclists of all times. Despite Ullrich's well-known issues with motivation and weight control, and Andy Schleck's lack of coach, they seem to have uncanny ability to get fit just in time for the Tour de France. Both name the Tour de France as their single most important goal of the season, although to be fair Andy Schleck occasionally produces a win in the Ardennes classics.

In a previous post we examined Andy Schleck's superhuman ability to get fit for le Grand Boucle in no time, leaping and bounding ahead of competitors. Unfortunately, winning the TdF on the road seems to be a challenge for both of them. We think that examination of these riders' performances in the warm-up race leading up to the TdF, be it Critérium du Dauphiné (CdD) or Tour de Suisse (TdS), is illuminating.

We now chart GC performances of both rides in the Tour de Suisse - the favored race of both riders excepting this year (arguably, this year's choice was made by Johan Bruyneel) -  and GC performances in the Tour de France.
Jan Ullrich and Andy Schleck: from Tour de Suisse
to Tour de France, in linear scale
 Read on as we share our analysis below.

Jan Ullrich and Andy Schleck: from Tour de Suisse
to Tour de France, in log scale.

While Jan Ullrich's astonishing 1996 TdF followed a lacklustre TdS, it should be noted that at that time he was working for teammate Udo Bolts' GC performance. Since then, he's had a decent showing in the TdS: for example, in 1997 he finished 3rd in TdS and won the TdF. The following year 1998, an out-of-shape Ullrich finished only 10th in the TdS and was out-climbed by Marco Pantani in the TdF. Winning the TdS is not a guarantee, however, as we can see in 2004. And in 2006, well, we now know his form was thanks to his doping regimen.

Andy Schleck's career is is only a few years long, so we have fewer data points. But it is clear that his performance jumps are more noticeable.

Some may argue that performance as measured by GC ranking does not scale linearly. Thus, we also provide a logarithmic display. Is this a more fair assessment?

Finally, what about year-by-year performance when compared by age?

Jan Ullrich versus Andy Schleck: TdS to TdF by age.
It is too easy to forget how young Andy Schleck is, and that he still has more than half of his racing career ahead of him.

Is comparing Andy Schleck to Jan Ullrich fair? Share your thoughts below.

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