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Inside Cycling: Entering a new decade, American cycling is on a roll!

With a new decade of professional road racing getting under way, North American cycling has never looked stronger.

American cycling fans have a lot to celebrate these days.
American cycling fans have a lot to celebrate these days.

With a new decade of professional road racing getting under way, North American cycling has never looked stronger. There are more pro teams, racers and events than ever before — all good signs that point to the 2010s being even more successful than the burgeoning 2000s. As the charts here illustrate (and see the details below), pro cyclists from North America scored 42 podium spots in major European races in the decade just finished compared with 26 in the 1990s and 25 in the 1980s.

PODIUMS IN MAJOR EUROPEAN RACES
(exclusive of stage wins)

DECADE 1st 2nd 3rd TOTAL
2000s 19 13 10 42
1990s 7 10 9 26
1980s 9 6 10 25
1970s 0 0 0 0

STAGE WINS IN GRAND TOURS

DECADE TOUR GIRO VUELTA TOTAL
2000s 20 6 9 35
1990s 8 0 0 8
1980s 10 5 0 15
1970s 0 0 0 0

For the first time, there are three UCI ProTour teams (Columbia-HTC, Garmin-Transitions and RadioShack), at least one Pro Continental squad (BMC) and perhaps two (if Rock Racing has its application finally approved) and 13 Continental teams (11 of them in the U.S.). It’s hard to remember that just 25 years ago this continent boasted just one UCI-registered pro team: 7-Eleven. There were none before that.

On the events front, 1985 was the first year of the USPRO Championship in Philadelphia (won by Eric Heiden), which was America’s only UCI-sanctioned pro race; the country’s other international event, the two-week-long Coors Classic (won by Greg LeMond), still had an amateur race sanction. There were other national-level races back then, including the Tour of Texas, Arizona’s Tour de Bisbee, Colorado’s Rocky Mountain News Classic and Crested Butte Stage Race, and California’s Vulcan Tour, but the vast majority of events were criteriums contested by a handful of semi-pro teams and local amateurs.

Today, the surviving Philadelphia International Championship is the only one-day race in the Americas with an hors-cat rating; but there are now a half-dozen other UCI-sanctioned single-day races — to be joined this coming September by North America’s first two UCI ProTour races, in Québec and Montréal. The best-ever-financed U.S. stage race, the Amgen Tour of California, will likely attain ProTour status in 2011, while the Tour of Missouri and Canada’s Tour de Beauce also have UCI ratification. And stage races like the Redlands Classic, Tour of the Gila, Cascade Classic and Tour of Utah continue the tradition of solid national events.

With more high-level races at home, a better feeder system for American junior and under-23 riders on the Continent, and a wider choice of pro teams to join, today’s rookie racers have a far greater chance of succeeding than ever before. This is in stark contrast to the situation before Jonathan Boyer became the first American to race the Tour de France, in 1981. That same year, LeMond was the first rider from the U.S., Canada or Mexico to place in a major European event when he took third overall at the 1981 Dauphiné Libéré (behind his French teammate Bernard Hinault and runner-up Joaquim Agostinho of Portugal).

LeMond accounts for three-fourths of American wins in the `80s.
LeMond accounts for three-fourths of American wins in the `80s.

LeMond, who carved out his career on French and Belgian teams, would go on to net 75 percent of the 25 podium spots taken by North Americans in the 1980s. The rest were nabbed by four others: the 7-Eleven team’s Andy Hampsten, Ron Kiefel and Raúl Alcalá and Canada’s Steve Bauer — who raced with French and Swiss teams before joining 7-Eleven in 1990.

In the 1980s, LeMond won two world road championships, two Tours de France and the Dauphiné Libéré; Hampsten took the Giro d’Italia and two Tours of Switzerland; and Bauer was the first North American to take a European one-day classic (the Championship of Zürich). Their performances represented a remarkable kick-start in the European peloton and paved the way for the generation of racers headed by Lance Armstrong that would net 26 podium spots in the 1990s and a heady 42 in the 2000s.

The other chart here chronicles the number of stage wins taken in the three grand tours by North Americans. After 15 such victories in the 1980s, the number shrank to eight in the 1990s, mainly because few Americans started the Giro d’Italia in that decade. Then came the 2000s, when 35 stage wins came from 11 different racers, to help North American pro racing really come of age.

No cycling fan in the 1970s could have ever imagined an American with seven Tours to his credit.
No cycling fan in the 1970s could have ever imagined an American with seven Tours to his credit.

Armstrong was by far the most successful over the past two decades, taking 24 podium spots in major races and 22 stage wins (all in the Tour); and given his apparent hunger for excellence in his latest comeback the Texan might even extend his run of success into a third decade. Others who should also continue racking up podiums and stage wins in the 2010s are Levi Leipheimer, George Hincapie, Dave Zabriskie and Tyler Farrar —Garmin-Slipstream’s star sprinter who looks destined to figure strongly in this new decade.

Vuelta a España stage winners Tom Danielson and Ryder Hesjedal might have their best years ahead of them, while their Garmin teammate Christian Vande Velde is long overdue for a major podium or stage success — as is Team RadioShack’s Chris Horner. Other North Americans likely to get into the picture in future years include the new generation of riders that includes (in alphabetical order) Matt Busche, Taylor Phinney, Bjørn Selander, Peter Stetina and Tejay Van Garderen.

On the home front, several major stage races have come and gone over the past three decades. Colorado’s Coors Classic lost its title sponsor in 1988, and its successor, the East Coast’s Tour DuPont, suffered the same fate in 1996. Sponsorship is still the weak link in promoting major events here (as it is in Europe) and is the reason why the Tour de Georgia, established in 2003, is currently in abeyance and why the three-year-old Tour de Missouri is on shaky financial footing. But Amgen’s sponsorship, the state governor’s support and entertainment giant AEG’s ownership of the Tour of California, started in 2006, has given our premier stage race a sound start to its hopefully long life.

As for single-day races, Philadelphia survived a financial scare last year (but lost the two other Philly Week events) and, to give overall balance, the return of the once-successful San Francisco GP would be more than welcome in the 2010s. Perhaps the arrival this year of the two Canadian ProTour “classics” organized by television entrepreneur Serge Arsenault will be models for promoters to follow this side of the border.

The popularity of cycling on this continent has rarely been stronger. More cities are becoming bicycle friendly thanks to organizations like Bike Belong, the health benefits of cycling are being actively promoted by major foundations like LiveStrong, and media interest in the sport (especially the Tour de France) has increased exponentially since Boyer first lined up at the Tour 29 years ago.

These are all signs that point toward North American cycling continuing its upward path through this new decade, with more big races at home and greater successes on the roads of Europe. Exciting times!

INDIVIDUAL PERFORMANCES BY NORTH AMERICANS
(exclusive of stage wins)

The 1980s

Greg LeMond (USA)
World Championship ─ 1st in ’83, ’89; 2nd in ’82
Tour de France ─ 1st in ’86, ’89; 2nd in ’85; 3rd in ’84
Giro d’Italia ─ 3rd in ’85
Milan-San Remo ─ 2nd in ’96
Liège-Bastogne-Liège ─ 3rd in ’84
Tour of Lombardy ─ 2nd in ’83
Paris-Nice ─ 3rd in ’86
Tirreno-Adriatico ─ 3rd in ’82
Tour of the Basque Country ─ 2nd in ’85
Dauphiné Libéré ─ 1st in ’83; 3rd in ’81, ’84
Tour of Switzerland ─ 3rd in ’86

Andy Hampsten (USA)
Giro d’Italia ─ 1st in ’88; 3rd in ’89
Tour of Switzerland ─ 1st in ’86, ’87

Steve Bauer (Can)
Championship of Zürich ─ 1st in ’89; 3rd in ’85

Raúl Alcalá (Mex)
Championship of Zürich ─ 2nd in ’87

Ron Kiefel (USA)
Ghent-Wevelgem ─ 3rd in ’88


The 1990s

Greg LeMond (USA)
Tour de France ─ 1st in ’90
Championship of Zürich ─ 2nd in ’90

Lance Armstrong (USA)
World Championship ─ 1st in ’93
Tour de France ─ 1st in ’99
Flèche Wallonne ─ 1st in ’96
Liège-Bastogne-Liège ─ 2nd in ’94, ’96
Amstel Gold Race ─ 2nd in ’99
Championship of Zürich ─ 2nd in ’92
Clasica San Sebastian ─ 1st in ’95
Paris-Nice ─ 2nd in ’96

Andy Hampsten (USA)
Tour de Romandie ─ 1st in ’92; 3rd in ’93, ’94
Tour of Switzerland ─ 3rd in ’90, ’91
Tour of Catalonia ─ 3rd in ’94

Raúl Alcalá (Mex)
Clasica San Sebastian ─ 1st in ’92
Tirreno-Adriatico ─ 2nd in ’92; 3rd in ’91
Tour of the Basque Country ─ 2nd in ’92

Steve Bauer (Can)
Paris-Roubaix ─ 2nd in ’90

Michael Carter (USA)
Tour de Romandie ─ 3rd in ’91

Bobby Julich (USA)
Tour de France ─ 3rd in ’98

Jonathan Vaughters (USA)
Dauphiné Libéré ─ 2nd in ’99

Chris Horner (USA)
GP de Plouay ─ 3rd in ’97


The 2000s

Lance Armstrong (USA)
Tour de France ─ 1st in ’00, ’01, ’02, ’03, ’04, ’05; 3rd in ’09
Amstel Gold Race ─ 2nd in ’01
Championship of Zürich ─ 3rd in ’02
GP des Nations TT ─ 1st in ’00
Dauphiné Libéré ─ 1st in ’02, ’03; 3rd in ’00
Tour of Switzerland ─ 1st in ’01
Midi Libre ─ 2nd in ’02

Levi Leipheimer (USA)
Tour de France ─ 3rd in ’07
Vuelta a España ─ 2nd in ’08; 3rd in ’01
Dauphiné Libéré ─ 1st in ’06; 3rd in ’05, ’08
Deutschland Tour ─ 1st in ’05; 2nd in ’06, ’07

Tyler Hamilton (USA)
Giro d’Italia ─ 2nd in ’02
Liège-Bastogne-Liège ─ 1st in ’03
Tour of the Basque Country ─ 2nd in ’03
Tour de Romandie ─ 1st in ’03, ’04
Dauphiné Libéré ─ 1st in ’00; 2nd in ’04

George Hincapie (USA)
Tour of Flanders ─ 3rd in ’06
Ghent-Wevelgem ─ 1st in ’01; 3rd in ’02
Paris-Roubaix ─ 2nd in ’05
GP de Plouay ─ 1st in ’05
Eneco Tour ─ 2nd in ’06

Fred Rodriguez (USA)
Milan-San Remo ─ 2nd in ’02
Ghent-Wevelgem ─ 2nd in ’02

Bobby Julich (USA)
Paris-Nice ─ 1st in ’05; 3rd in ’04

Floyd Landis (USA)
Dauphiné Libéré ─ 2nd in ’02


STAGE WINS FOR NORTH AMERICANS IN GRAND TOURS

The 1980s

Greg LeMond (USA)
Tour de France ─ 1 in ’85, 1 in ’86, 3 in ’89
Giro d’Italia ─ 1 in ’86

Andy Hampsten (USA)
Giro d’Italia ─ 1 in ’85, 2 in ’88

Davis Phinney (USA)
Tour de France ─ 1 in ’86, 1 in ’87

Steve Bauer (Can)
Tour de France ─ 1 in ’88

Jeff Pierce (USA)
Tour de France ─ 1 in ’87

Ron Kiefel (USA)
Giro d’Italia ─ 1 in ’85

Raúl Alcalá (Mex)
Tour de France ─ 1 in ’89

TOTAL: ─ 15 stage wins


The 1990s

Lance Armstrong (USA)
Tour de France ─ 1 in ’93, 1 in ’95, 4 in ’99

Andy Hampsten (USA)
Tour de France ─ 1 in ’92

Raúl Alcalá (Mex)
Tour de France ─ 1 in ’90

TOTAL: ─ 8 stage wins


The 2000s

Lance Armstrong (USA)
Tour de France ─ 1 in ’00, 4 in ’01, 4 in ’02, 1 in ’03, 5 in ’04, 1 in ’05

Tyler Hamilton (USA)
Tour de France ─ 1 in ’03
Giro d’Italia ─ 1 in ’02

Dave Zabriskie (USA)
Tour de France ─ 1 in ’05
Giro d’Italia ─ 1 in ’05
Vuelta a España ─ 1 in ’04

Levi Leipheimer (USA)
Tour de France ─ 1 in ’07
Vuelta a España ─ 2 in ’08

George Hincapie (USA)
Tour de France ─ 1 in ’05

Fred Rodriguez (USA)
Giro d’Italia ─ 1 in ’04
Vuelta a España ─ 2 in ’03

Julio Perez Cuapio (Mex)
Giro d’Italia ─ 1 in ’01, 2 in ’02

Tom Danielson (USA)
Vuelta a España ─ 1 in ’06

Jason McCartney (USA)
Vuelta a España ─ 1 in ’07

Tyler Farrar (USA)
Vuelta a España ─ 1 in ’09

Ryder Hesjedal (Can)
Vuelta a España ─ 1 in ’09

TOTAL: ─ 35 stage wins