When Lance Armstrong retired for the first time in 2005, it was depressing news for many. Not only was THE Tour athlete of the generation, if not ever, retiring, but this was the man who had near single handedly brought cycling kicking and screaming into modernity, what with the technology, marketing and tactics he employed. A power vacuum was thus being left, and everyone was fretting over who should fill it. Discovery Channel, Armstrong’s team, had their own ‘Race to Replace’ with in the team going on, and where extorting he values of men like Tom Danielson, Ivan Basso, Levi Leipheimer and Yaroslav Popovych. Meanwhile, ProCycling magazine began a slightly tongue in cheek column on ‘Are you the next Lance Armstrong’, which flitted between the absurd and the serious – most of the candidates where selected for some arbitrary connection to Armstrong, or because their name allowed some cheeky pun to be employed by the laconically daft faux-interview style of the column. Still, in hindsight, it’s nice to look back at just how well they did…
1. Arkatiz Duran (Saunier Duval, Basque, April 2006) – Age 19
Then: A 19 year old Basque with an ambition to win the Tour, Duran hadn’t achieved anything as a neo-pro (but took 20 wins as a junior) but was tipped for the top by his Director Sportif, who interestingly enough, tipped Alberto Contador and Luis Leon Sanchez as other names to beat. At six foot tall, he clearly wasn’t a pure climber, but then neither was Armstrong.
Now: Duran has yet to record any professional victories, and is unlikely to on the somewhat unknown Efapel-Glassdrive Portuguese team. He briefly returned to the amateur ranks in 2011, and hasn’t hit the heights Procycling hoped. At least his DS got 2/3 with Sanchez and Contador though…
Best Results: Hasn;t actually won anything, but was 15th on the cobbled stage of the 2010 Tour de France for Footon-Servetto.
Best CQ Ranking: 346th (2010, 182 points)
2. I’m afraid there is a gap in my ProCycling collection here – if any one knew of whom number 2-6 were, or could provide the relevant issues, it would be much appreciated!
6. Marcus Fothen (Gerolsteiner, Germany, Post-Tour 2006) – 25
Then: Had just come 15th /14th in the Tour, narrowly losing the best young riders jersey to Damiano Cunego, who he’d managed to lose to in a time trial. Had also been 12th in the 2005 Giro, world-U23 time trial champion, and was ‘convinced’ he would win the Tour before the end of his career.
Now: Fothen has apparently retired at just 32 years of age, and it seems his 2006 exploits in the Tour, holding the white jersey for 13 stages only to lose it by 38 seconds, was perhaps his best moment. He then went to ride for Milram, as did many German cyclists apparently desperate to show their patriotism, before going to Team NSP for a couple of years. Switzerland was a happy hunting ground, with wins in stages of the Tour de Suisse and Romandie, but he never followed through in the Tour again – he was 33rd in 2007, 106th in the Vuelta the same year, 30th in 2008, 124th in 2009 (with 108th in the Giro the same year) and 102nd in the 2010 Giro.
Best Results: That Tour performance in 2006 was the jewel in the crown, although he was second on a stage in 2008, plus he won stages at the Tour de Suisse and Romanide. 4th in Tirrenno-Adriatico and 8th in the Tour de Suisse in 2008 were his best stage race results.
Best CQ Ranking: 81st (2008, 574pts)
7. Oscar Pereiro (Caisse d’ Epargne, Spain, September 2006) – 28
Then: Pereiro was on the brink of becoming the winner of the 2006 Tour de France, albeit a month after the race ended. It wasn’t until September 20th 2007 that he ‘won’ that race, having of course almost won it through an absurd half-an-hour gain in a breakaway followed by Landis’ cracking on La Toussuire. Pereiro had also been 10th in the 2004/2005 Tours, winning the most combative rider award for the latter.
Now: ProCycling were always going to put whoever won the first post-Lance winner in the column, but Pereiro was probably not who they expected. Pereiro defended his Tour title in 2008, finishing 10th, before suffering a horrific crash and a move to Astana to help his compatriot Contador, which didn’t happen. He retired to play second division football, his Tour victory the pinnacle of his career – just don’t mention salbutamol…
Best Results: Won the 2006 Tour de France, and won a stage in 2010. Finished 10th the three other times he finished the race.
Best CQ Ranking: 30th (2006, 938pts)
8. Martin Pedersen (CSC, Denmark, October 2006) – 23
Then: Pedersen had just won the, er, Tour of Britain, back in the good ol’ days where they used to let cars on the route at the same time as the riders (seriously). Pedersen had won the first stage in a break away, and that effectively wrapped the race up. He was in all honesty seen as more of a classics rider, but as a neo-pro, supposedly had lots of opportunity to develop.
Now:Rides for Christina Watches, after stints at Footon-Servetto and Leopard-Trek. Did win the Tour of China in 2012, but you start to get the impression the ProCycling badge of honour is a curse…everybody does worse once they’re proclaimed the ‘next Lance.’
Best Results: Tour of Britain overall 2006 and Tour of China overall 2012
Best CQ Ranking: 208th (2009, 293pts)
8. (yes, two eights…) Diego Ulissi (N/a, Italy, November 2006) – 17
Then: Had just turned junior world champion at the age of 17 and was cited as ‘the most talented Italian youngster since Damiano Cunego’ – high praise then.
Now: Still only 24, Ulissi is beginning to show the makings of a good rider. He is already a stage winner at the Giro, albeit thanks to the disqualification of Giovanni Visconti for some iffy sprinting, and won the junior worlds again the year after ProCycling picked him out, only the second rider to win it twice. He won the Tour of Slovenia in 2011, was 21st in the Giro in 2012, then followed up with a good 2013 with 5 wins including Milan-Torino. Just a shame he has to wear Lampre’s kit.
Best Results: Stage 17 2011 Giro d’Italia, 1st Milan-Torino 2013, 1st Giro d’Emillia 2013, 1st Overall Coppi y Bartali 2013.
Best CQ Ranking: 22nd (2013, 1132pts)
– There was a ‘Are you the next Paul Tergat’ column instead of the usual in the December 2006 issue, to tie in with Armstrong running his first New York Marathon. Tergat was the defending champ and world record holder for the discipline.
9. Romain Feillu (Agritubel, France, January 2007) – 22
Then: Had had a ‘comeback’ from a scooter accident when he was in his mid-teens, requiring surgery for this right leg to be lengthened surgically. He was second behind Gerald Ciolek in the U23 Worlds, blaming his lack of victory for the fact he was a featherweight 60 kilos, meaning he ‘climbs pretty well.’
Now: It seems Procycling picked the wrong Feillu to trump up – for a start, Feillu ,matured into a sprinter, whilst brother Brice was a climber famed for winning in Andorra in the 2009 Tour, albeit forgetting to zip up his jersey and thus ruining sponsor Agritubel’s day. Romain, however, managed a day in the yellow jersey in 2008 thanks to a break away – unfortunately it was a day where he had to do a TT, so he didn’t get much opportunity to show it off – indeed, it may well be the shortest time period someone has worn the jersey in the race. Allergies ruined much of his career, with his last win in 2010, when he moved to Vacansoleil.
Best Results: 1st Overall Tour of Britain 2007, Held Tour de France yellow jersey 2008, 1st Overall Tour du Picardie 2011, 3 Stages 2011 Tour Mediterannean.
Best CQ Ranking: 29th (2011, 995pts)
10. Ivan Basso (Discovery Channel, Italy, February 2007) – 29
Then: Remember when Basso signed for Disco? Those were the days…admittedly not the most ambitious tip from ProCycling – Basso had already spanked everyone in the 2006 Giro, before being thrown out of the Tour the same year for his connections to Dr Fuentes. He was then cleared of wrong doing by the Italian Olympic Committee, which cleared the way for Bruyneel to bring him into Discovery – quite the coup given he was the Tour favourite a few months earlier. Still, rumours of his involvement hung heavy over the Italian.
Now: Basso eventually came clean in a manner, saying he simply ‘intended to dope’ – despite thrashing everyone in the Giro by 10 minutes with a blasé expression in 2005. Unsurprisingly, the same form was not evident on his comeback, when he was very unlike Lance and went to the Giro. It took him a couple of goes, but he eventually won the exceptional race that was the 2010 Giro. Now at Cannondale, and supposedly after another pink jersey, or a yellow one.
Best Results: 1st Overall, 2006 & 2010 Giro d’Italia, stage, 2004 Tour de France, 7th 2011 Tour de France.
Best CQ Ranking: 7th (2006, 1642pts)
11. Wesley Sulzberger (SouthAustralia.com-AIS, Australia, March 2007) – 20
Then: Sulzberger was part of a trend of strong young Aussies, who was an all around talent in all kinds of terrain, although his time-trialling was an area earmarked for improvement.
Now: With Orica-GreenEDGE, and not doing a lot to be honest. Was in their Call me Maybe video though.
Best Results: 5th Tour Down Under 2009
Best CQ Ranking: 219th (2009, 277pts)
12. Another missing issue…
13. Tom Peterson (Slipstream, USA, May 2007) – 20
Then: Peterson was one of the fledgling signings of Jonathan Vaughters’ Slipstream set up, as one of the riders who would be taking advice from all those ‘clean’ riders on how to ride clean. Vaughters claimed he was the ‘by far’ the best U23 talent in the States, and had ‘three week stage race potential’ – whilst he hadn’t ridden any, he’d been Best Young Rider in the Tour of California in 2006. A good climber, his time trialling needed work however.
Now: After coming 10th in the 2009 Tour of Austria, has shown an unerring reliability in coming 115th or 116th in the Vuelta.Moved to Arg0s-Shimano to increase his chances of getting a Tour place. Turns Out Mr Vaughters prediction hasn’t come true, but that’s no surprise really.
Best Results: 10th 2009 Tour of Austria, stage, 2009 Tour of California
Best CQ Ranking: 366th (2009, 179pts)
14. Andrew Bajadali (Jelly Belly, USA, June 2007) – 33
Then: A bit of a joke by Procycling perhaps, including Bajadali on the basis that he had kept up with Leipheimer and Hincapie at the US championships, was American and had a ‘comeback story’ because he had lots of metal in his leg after a crash.
Now: Never got to the Professional continental ranks, retired in 2013.
Best Result: Won the Tour of Thailand in 2009
Best CQ Ranking: 563rd (2009, 1o0pts)
The August 2007 issue didn’t include a column, but did produce a big feature on Andy Schleck, (CSC, Luxembourg, 22) touting him on the cover as ‘The Next Lance’ and ‘destined for Tour de France domination’ having just came second in the Giro at his first attempt.
Articles calling him ‘Heir to the Throne’ seem odd now, when despite coming 12th and 2nd in his first two Tours, Schleck is rapped for ‘only’ winning the 2010 Tour by default when Contador tested positive. Harsh for a man who’s been on the podium thrice, his career is now being drawn up as one of missed opportunities because of a supposed lack of motivation that caused him to miss the 2012 event and ‘only’ come 20th off the back of a serious injury in 2013. The 2014 route looks tailor made for him though… Best CQ Ranking: 10th (2010, 1445pts)
14. Kevin Seeldrayers (Quick-Step, Belgium, Post-Tour 2007) – 20
Then: Seeldrayers was a bit of a Belgian revelation, with 5th overall in the Tour of Georgia and a irking loss in the Dauphine when his chain snapped. His pure climbing style made him weak at TT’s, but manager Lefevre was convinced his ‘limits [are undiscovered]as of yet.’
Now: Did actually become a hot topic when he was 14th in the 2009 Giro, but has failed to repeat that promise – 23rd in the Vuelta is his next best Grand Tour performance. Now one of many domestiques in the Astana team.
Best results: Best Young rider, 2009 Giro d’Italia, 3rd Tour of Austria 2013
Best CQ Ranking: 164th (2009, 347pts)
15. Johan Bruyneel (Discovery Channel, Belgium, September 2007) – 44
Then: This really had more to do with Bruyneel ‘reinventing himself as a author-businessman-cum-dial-an-inspiration a la Lance’ then him actually being a Tour winner like Lance, as Bruyneel, fresh from winning an 8th Tour, this time with Contador, released a book called ‘We Might as Well Win.’
Now: Says he is done with cycling after the USADA ‘reasoned decision’ etc. Not saying alot else, presumably for legal reasons. Had been working at Astana, then moved to Radioshack, then to new Radioshack (ie Leopard), which he subsequently left once the proverbial hit the fan.
16. Martijn Masskant (Rabobank, Netherlands, October 2007) – 24
Then: A late developer about to move to Slipstream, he described himself as a ‘good all-rounder…suited to short stage races and classics.’ Procycling were more concerned with the fact ‘you can’t have a Tour winner called Martijn’ and that ‘aliteration and Tour winners don’t go together.’ Incisive insight there.
Now: Suggested he was more a classics man in 2008 and 2009, where he came 4th in the Eroica, Paris-ROubaix and the Tour of Flanders, before dropping from the Radar with injuries. Even Garmin have run out of patience, and he has now signed for United Healthcare.
Best Results: 4th in 2008 Paris Roubaix, 4th 2009 Tour of Flanders.
Best CQ Ranking: 154th (2009, 402pts)
17. Lucas Euser (Slipstream, USA, January 2008) – 24
Then: The biggest surprise was that this column featured at all in an issue edited by Greg Lemond. Another featherweight Slipstreamer at 59kilos, was being touted as a man to rival Tom Danielson for the ‘best American climber’ rights, and could count Levi Leipheimer as his training partner. Survived the Slipstream cull as men like Zabriske and Millar were brought in. Best result was 2nd in the KOM at the Tour of Georgia.
Now: Didnt survive the Slipstream cull for very long, leaving for Spidertech in 2010. HAd his best year in 2013 for United Healthcare, nut nothing to set the world on fire.
Best Results: Various top 10s in US races.
Best CQ Ranking: 419st (2013, 145pts)
18. Rigoberto Uran (Caisse d’Epargne, Colombia, February 2008) – 20
Then: ‘The most precocious talent on the world stage’ after being the youngest winner of a ProTour race when he won a stage of the Tour of Switzeland for Unibet. Was also famed for crashing into a river after missing a corner at the now defunct Tour of Germany, breaking his collar bone in the process. However, Gianni Savio claimed that Uran was a ‘classics rider, not a climber’ and that whilst he could hold his own in the mountains, ‘he won’t drop people, not like Soler.’
Now: Took up the Chris Froome role in the 2013 Giro d’Italia by beating Bradley Wiggins to a stage win, as well as taking 2nd overall after the Knight of the realm abandoned. HAd been 7th the year before, and had been ill in 2011 when he held the white jersey in the Tour.Has been on the podium of the Tour of Lombardy, took a silver to Vino at the Olympics after looking the wrong way in the sprint, and now has his own team to lead – Omega Pharma Quick Step, who appear to have changed their kit to remind him of Sky, who used him as a mountain goat.
Best Results: 2nd Giro d’Italia 2013 + stage, 2nd Olympic Road Race 2012, 3rd Tour of Lombardy 2008/2012, 5th 2011 Liege Bastonge Liege.
Best CQ Ranking: 16th (2012, 1162pts)
19. Jerome Coppel (Francais deux Jeux, France, Season Preview 2008) – 22
Then: A bronze medallist at the U23 TT worlds twice, Coppel was rated for his exceptional ability to suffer, but was known more for his time trialling then any real Lance-esque ambitions.
Now: Somehow managed to come 14th in the 2011 Tour with Sojasun, and was essentially the only reason they got to ride. That dried up when it seemed that was his limit however, but heis frequently up there in the week long stage races. Now with Cofidis as he does the tour of French teams frenchman are seemingly obligated to make.
Best Results: 14th 2011 Tour de France
Best CQ Ranking: 53rd (2012, 739pts)
20. Lars Bak (CSC, Denmark, March 2008) – 28
Then: Close to a ‘break out’ from his mould as a ‘strong guy’ apparently, Bak had won the Tour de l’Avenir in 2005, an indicator of Tour winning talent usually, and had been 21st in the Vuelta in 2006, showing that he was supposedly ready to take a step up to the big time for stage races, albeit in a team already loaded with stage race talent.
Now: Has been through CSC, HTC and now at Lotto, and seems to have a thing for Grand Tour TTT’s – he’s been part of the winning team in 3. Won a stage of the Giro in 2012, and showed what sort of riding he’s really good at when was 5th in the madness that was the 2010 Paris-Roubaix.
Best Results: Stage 2012 Giro, 5th 2010 Paris-Roubaix, Stage Eneco Tour 2009, 1st Vuelta TTT 2006/2010, 1st Giro TTT 2011
Best CQ Ranking: 73rd (2008, 592pts)
21. Bauke Mollema (Rabobank, Netherlands, April 2008) – 22
Then: Part of a Dutch revolution with Robert Gesink, Mollema had only been racing for three years but was already an ‘ace climber’ who had won the Tour de l’Avenir. Rabo managers insited both could be Tour top 10 riders, although Gesink was keen to point out he’d had the better results so far, albeit being keen to joke that ‘maybe he’ll get better and I’ll get worse…’
Now: Has supposedly usurped Gesink as heir to the Dutch throne, with a 4th place in the Vuelta his best 3 week performance. He even won the points competition, and was 6th in the 2013 Tour despite a minor crash in the time trial. Won a stage of the Vuelta in 2013. Could possibly get on a podium, but unlikely. Is getting better though, and still only 27.
Best Results: 12th 2010 Giro, 4th 2011 Vuelta, 6th 2013 Tour, Stage 2013 Vuelta,
Best CQ Ranking: 13th (2013, 1357pts)
22. Benoit Vaugrenard (Francais deux Jeux, France, June 2008) – 25
Then: Billed as the best rider on FDJ aside from Gilbert, which wasn’t exactly high praise at the time, but Vaugrenard had beaten the future great in the Ardenne classics, with top 20 performances all around. Procycling did concede that he ‘never will be a Tour winner’ however.
Now: Strong domestoque for FDJ. Picks up wins here and there.
Best Results: French TT champ 2007,Various stages of short races.
Best CQ ranking: 82nd (2008, 574pts)
23. Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Silence-Lotto, Belgium, July 2008) – 25
Then: VDB was heading for a top 10 finish at the Giro as the magazine went to print – the first by a Belgian since 2002, and had already ridden for US Postal where he had been identified as Bruyneel as a the best Belgian stage racing prospect – although given he was the 1st to come in the top 10 in 6 years, this wasn’t exactly the greatest build up. Still, his stoic, diesel-esque capabilities were seen as a good indicator of future success.
Now: VDB has one one race in his career –stage one of the Dauphine in 2011, so not a bad one, but he has been very consistent in Grand Tours, after upstarting Cadel Evans in 2009 to force the Australian to begin his move to BMC. That 15th place led to 4th in 2010, before he was forced to withdraw in 2011’s crashfest, before coming 4th again in 2012. He’s been 8th in the Vuelta as well, and his increasing aggression suggests he could end up like Carlos Sastre, and get his run of luck and pull off the big one…
Best Results: Stage, 2011 Dauphine, 4th 2010/2012 Tour de France, 8th Vuelta 2011
Best CQ Ranking: 44th (2012, 815pts)
24. Yuri Trofimov (Bouygues Telecom, Russia, August 2008) – 24
Then: Winner of a mountain stage of the Dauphine and an ex-mountain biker, which as starting to become the vogue of choice thanks to Evans and co’s exploits (maybe not Rasmussen/Hesjedal though).Valued as a great climber despite using an electronic translator to know what his team mates were saying (these were the days before the smart phone of course)
Now: Came 13th in the 2013 Giro, and is now at Katusha, where he spends most ofhis time smashing everyone into submission as a domestique.
Best Results: Stage Vuelta a pais vasco 2009, 13th 2013 Giro.
Best CQ Ranking: 137th (2009, 404pts)
The September 2008 issue decided to go with ‘Are you the next Bernard Hinault’ for Amael Moinard (Cofidis, France, 26) who had been 15th in that years Tour, the second Frenchman after Sandy Casar in 14th.
Valued as a France’s best prospect, Moinard has since effectively been turned into a domestique de lux at BMC, and so that 15th has been his best Grand Tour result, although he did win a stage of Paris-Nice in 2010.Best CQ Ranking: 287 (2008, 242pts)
25. Lars Boom (Rabobank, Netherlands, October 2008) – 22
Then: World U23 TT champ, Dutch road race champ and about to go to the cyclo-cross worlds, Boom seemed to have all bases covered in Rabobank’s impressive development squad. He suggested coyly however that it would be ‘4-5 years before I am a big rider on the road’
Now: Boom’s 5 year prediction has gone pretty well – he’s won stages in the Dauphine, the Vuelta, won the Tour of Belgium, the Tour of Britain and the Eneco Tour, and he’s still only 27. With a World Cyclo-cross title as well, Boom is an all-around talent who has turned into a short stage race man rather than a Lance-esque grand tour specialist.
Best Results: 2009 Tour of Belgium, 2011 Tour of Britain, 2012 Eneco Tour, 2013 Ster ZLM Tour, 2009 Vuelta stage, Paris-Nice and Dauphine prologues, World Cyclo-cross champion 2008
Best CQ Ranking: 30th (2012, 974pts)
26. Lance Armstrong (Unattached, USA, November 2008) – 37
Then: An obvious one for the Procycling staff, as Lance announced his comeback, citing a desire to win an eight Tour, although he was supposedly 10lbs heavier and doing 80watts less than in his prime. Still, this was Lance Armstrong, so who knew what he could achieve when he put his mind to it, even if the Tour, in his own words, was ‘not a race for old men’ (tell that to Chris Horner)
Now: No longer a 7 time Tour winner if you believe the record books, and in the process of trying to rehabilitate his public image whilst fighting various lawsuits. Probably not quite where the column thought this would all end up…
Best Results (post comeback 2): 3rd 2009 Tour de France, TTT 2009 Tour de France, 12th 2009 Giro d’Italia
Best CQ Ranking: 2nd (2002,2110pts)
26 (yes, there are two number 26’s….) Craig Lewis (Columbia, USA, Season Preview 2009) – 23
Then: After the column was replaced with the ‘Armstrong age-gauge’ after ‘The Second Coming’, it was brought back to laud Craig Lewis, who had comeback from a horrific crash, breaking 40 bones, to finish 11th at the Tour of Lombard. Rated as a climber and a time triallist, Lewis had great potential it seemed.
Now: Lewis had already passed his peak it seemed. He did win a Grand Tour stage, but that was as part of HTC’s TTT squad at the Giro in 2011. Now with the disbanding Champion Systems, his best days are seemingly gone.
Best Results: TTT 2011 Giro
Best CQ Ranking: 507th (2011, 118pts)
And with that, the column was over, replaced with serious pieces and occasional letters about too much Lance coverage. The question of who will dominate still comes up a lot, and lots of names are bandied about – Contador, Schleck, Froome, Quintana, but it seems the likelyhood that however unlikely it looks that someone will be challenged, someone always pops up eventually. Perhaps people should give Armstrong more credit for his performances as a result – winning 7 years in a row is a mighty impressive feat regardless of the circumstances. We will never see the like again..