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Hinault a greater talent than Merckx?

timoid.timoid. Posts: 3,133
edited December 2016 in Pro race
Yes this is one of those, who would win between a tiger and a lion debates, but bear with me.

I'm reading Fotheringham's biography of Hinault and am struck by the number of people (e.g. Guimard, Fignon, de Vlaeminck) who think that Hinault was a better talent than Merckx. Their trajectories are parallel (1st monument at 22, first GT at 23/22, first Tour at 23/24, retired at 32), GT palmares about equal and the nature of their victories quite similar. But consider:

- Hinault had stronger opposition. Fields were bigger and deeper, the advent of the Colombians and Anglos shook things up
- Hinault had a far weaker team. Guimard's Renault squads were talent factory, rather than a hand selected bunch of veterans that would have been contenders in their own right on other teams. La Vie Claire less so.
- Hinault actively helped teammates win (e.g. Villemiane's 1980 RR title, Fignon's 1982 Criterium National, Hampsten's first Tour de Suisse, Bernadau's 1980 Giro stage), "spreading the wealth" a bit more
- Injury cut out nearly 2 years of his prime

The more I read about Hinault, the more I appreciate how phenomenal he was. With his record, Merckx is clearly the greatest ever, but maybe not the most talented?


Yeah its a slow day at the office...
It's a little like wrestling a gorilla. You don't quit when you're tired. You quit when the gorilla is tired.
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  • rick_chaseyrick_chasey Posts: 52,736 Lives Here
    Well in that case, what about L...nevermind.


    What Hinault doesn't have over Merckx is that hunger to win EVERYTHING, however trivial.

    There were races where Hinault didn't care.

    Merckx ALWAYS cared...
  • Ben6899Ben6899 Posts: 8,189
    Hinault was a certified heavyweight (FF Trademark), but Merckx was... well he was Merckx.
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  • ocdupalaisocdupalais Posts: 3,788
    Perhaps worth a thread in itself, but I'm not entirely sure everyone agrees on the term "talent".

    What do you think it means?
  • La Vie Claire less so.
    Not sure about this, LVC won 4 TdF stages with 4 separate riders in 86 plus the overall (Lemond), Polka dot (Hinault) and young rider (Hampsten). Merckx had the best classics riders in support but Hinault also hand picked a lot of GC competitors during his time and made sure they rode for him. As for spreading the victories, I think Greg Lemond would perhaps disagree, especially in terms of the 1985 Tour!

    Not to knock Hinault at all, just to point out that all great riders are helped out by strong support, some luck and a bit of cunning!
  • phreakphreak Posts: 2,186
    Whatever the answer, I do miss the days when GC riders would challenge for classics.
  • rick_chaseyrick_chasey Posts: 52,736 Lives Here
    Like Nibali & Chaves?

    And even Uran depending on your definition.
  • phreakphreak Posts: 2,186
    Like Nibali & Chaves?

    And even Uran depending on your definition.

    Only really Lombardi though isn't it? No one does Roubaix and the Tour, for instance any more. Heck, even MSR is out of the question.
  • cyclecliniccycleclinic Posts: 6,865
    hainault may have had sharper elbows does that make him greater.
    http://www.thecycleclinic.co.uk -wheel building and other stuff.
  • Merckx had stronger opposition in the classics... De Vlaeminck, Maertens & co. are not your every day rider.

    It is possible that he didn't have stellar opponents in the GT, which explains why a man with the wrong body shape won bucket loads of them, but on balance they both had great rivals one way or another
  • timoid.timoid. Posts: 3,133
    ocdupalais wrote:
    Perhaps worth a thread in itself, but I'm not entirely sure everyone agrees on the term "talent".

    What do you think it means?

    Talent, is natural ability. Taking out all other variables who was the more impressive bike rider.
    It's a little like wrestling a gorilla. You don't quit when you're tired. You quit when the gorilla is tired.
  • timoid.timoid. Posts: 3,133
    La Vie Claire less so.
    Not sure about this, LVC won 4 TdF stages with 4 separate riders in 86 plus the overall (Lemond), Polka dot (Hinault) and young rider (Hampsten). Merckx had the best classics riders in support but Hinault also hand picked a lot of GC competitors during his time and made sure they rode for him. As for spreading the victories, I think Greg Lemond would perhaps disagree, especially in terms of the 1985 Tour!

    Not to knock Hinault at all, just to point out that all great riders are helped out by strong support, some luck and a bit of cunning!


    That was my point.

    Merckx teams: Hand picked full of guys who would be leaders on other squads (a bit like Sky)
    Gitane-Renault: French production line of talent.
    La Vie Claire: Big budget hand picked squad.

    Hinault's Renault support came nowhere near the Molteni support. Merckx even had 10 team mates for some of his Tours.
    It's a little like wrestling a gorilla. You don't quit when you're tired. You quit when the gorilla is tired.
  • rick_chaseyrick_chasey Posts: 52,736 Lives Here
    timoid. wrote:
    La Vie Claire less so.
    Not sure about this, LVC won 4 TdF stages with 4 separate riders in 86 plus the overall (Lemond), Polka dot (Hinault) and young rider (Hampsten). Merckx had the best classics riders in support but Hinault also hand picked a lot of GC competitors during his time and made sure they rode for him. As for spreading the victories, I think Greg Lemond would perhaps disagree, especially in terms of the 1985 Tour!

    Not to knock Hinault at all, just to point out that all great riders are helped out by strong support, some luck and a bit of cunning!


    That was my point.

    Merckx teams: Hand picked full of guys who would be leaders on other squads (a bit like Sky)
    Gitane-Renault: French production line of talent.
    La Vie Claire: Big budget hand picked squad.

    Hinault's Renault support came nowhere near the Molteni support. Merckx even had 10 team mates for some of his Tours.

    What sets Mercks apart is his win ratio.

    I don't know Hinault's but I doubt it was anywhere near this:
    In his best year, Merckx won almost every other race he rode. Merckx won the equivalent of a race a week for six years.[4] This table shows his strike rate of wins as a percentage of races undertaken.

    1965: 13%
    1966: 21%
    1967: 23%
    1968: 24%
    1969: 33%
    1970: 37%
    1971: 45%
    1972: 39%
    1973: 37%
    1974: 27%
    1975: 25%
    1976: 13%
    1977: 14%
    1978: 0%
  • Hinault > Merckx.
  • timoid.timoid. Posts: 3,133
    Merckx had stronger opposition in the classics... De Vlaeminck, Maertens & co. are not your every day rider.

    It is possible that he didn't have stellar opponents in the GT, which explains why a man with the wrong body shape won bucket loads of them, but on balance they both had great rivals one way or another

    Yeah. I was thinking more about GTs. The Giro and the Vuelta really were no great shakes until the 80s and the Tour only had fields of about 130 with teams of 10/11 in Merckx day.

    Although it is interesting that de Vlaeminck calls Hinault the best he's seen. This may because there isn't a huge amount of love lost between them
    It's a little like wrestling a gorilla. You don't quit when you're tired. You quit when the gorilla is tired.
  • timoid.timoid. Posts: 3,133
    timoid. wrote:
    La Vie Claire less so.
    Not sure about this, LVC won 4 TdF stages with 4 separate riders in 86 plus the overall (Lemond), Polka dot (Hinault) and young rider (Hampsten). Merckx had the best classics riders in support but Hinault also hand picked a lot of GC competitors during his time and made sure they rode for him. As for spreading the victories, I think Greg Lemond would perhaps disagree, especially in terms of the 1985 Tour!

    Not to knock Hinault at all, just to point out that all great riders are helped out by strong support, some luck and a bit of cunning!


    That was my point.

    Merckx teams: Hand picked full of guys who would be leaders on other squads (a bit like Sky)
    Gitane-Renault: French production line of talent.
    La Vie Claire: Big budget hand picked squad.

    Hinault's Renault support came nowhere near the Molteni support. Merckx even had 10 team mates for some of his Tours.

    What sets Mercks apart is his win ratio.

    I don't know Hinault's but I doubt it was anywhere near this:
    In his best year, Merckx won almost every other race he rode. Merckx won the equivalent of a race a week for six years.[4] This table shows his strike rate of wins as a percentage of races undertaken.

    1965: 13%
    1966: 21%
    1967: 23%
    1968: 24%
    1969: 33%
    1970: 37%
    1971: 45%
    1972: 39%
    1973: 37%
    1974: 27%
    1975: 25%
    1976: 13%
    1977: 14%
    1978: 0%


    Hinault's stats include criteriums. Just saying...
    It's a little like wrestling a gorilla. You don't quit when you're tired. You quit when the gorilla is tired.
  • rick_chaseyrick_chasey Posts: 52,736 Lives Here
    timoid. wrote:

    Although it is interesting that de Vlaeminck calls Hinault the best he's seen. This may because there isn't a huge amount of love lost between them

    This is undoubtedly the case.

    de Vlaeminck is upset he's not #1 Belgian.
  • rick_chaseyrick_chasey Posts: 52,736 Lives Here
    timoid. wrote:

    I don't know Hinault's but I doubt it was anywhere near this:
    In his best year, Merckx won almost every other race he rode. Merckx won the equivalent of a race a week for six years.[4] This table shows his strike rate of wins as a percentage of races undertaken.

    1965: 13%
    1966: 21%
    1967: 23%
    1968: 24%
    1969: 33%
    1970: 37%
    1971: 45%
    1972: 39%
    1973: 37%
    1974: 27%
    1975: 25%
    1976: 13%
    1977: 14%
    1978: 0%


    Hinault's stats include criteriums. Just saying...

    Sure but look at that 1971 season. 45% of all races. Including:


    1st Road race, Road World Championships
    Tour de France: Overall classification, Points classification & 4 stages
    Milan–San Remo
    Liège–Bastogne–Liège
    Giro di Lombardia
    Rund um den Henninger Turm
    Omloop "Het Volk"
    Paris–Nice
    Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré
    Grand Prix du Midi Libre
    Tour of Belgium
    Giro di Sardegna
    Super Prestige Pernod International

    I mean, 3 monuments, yellow & Green in the Tour, Dauphine AND Paris Nice...!!!!!
  • timothywtimothyw Posts: 2,482
    It's impossible to ignore Merckx's sensational hour record. With a sane pacing strategy he might have broken 50km.

    The fact that Boardman with 25 odd years of sports science, less spokes, and a season built around the target could only put a few metres onto it speaks volumes.

    Merckx did it after having won the Giro-Tour double.

    Big Mig took the hour record having won the tour, but held it for only a month and a half. Strange times then of course, what with the aerodynamics and epo.

    I think Hinault won as much from his aura and strength of personality as he did from his undoubted talent. He was a fighter, he knew how to command the respect and compliance of his rivals. When his aura of invincibility slipped in 1984, it went quite spectacularly wrong for him, his 1985 victory obviously coming thanks to a superb team behind him.

    Still, both great champions and a fascinating debate to have!
  • rick_chaseyrick_chasey Posts: 52,736 Lives Here
    timothyw wrote:
    It's impossible to ignore Merckx's sensational hour record. With a sane pacing strategy he might have broken 50km.

    The fact that Boardman with 25 odd years of sports science, less spokes, and a season built around the target could only put a few metres onto it speaks volumes.

    Yeah but Merckx is here.






















    Boardman is here, by comparison.
  • timothywtimothyw Posts: 2,482
    You can knock Boardman's road palmares and GC record as much as you like, you can't knock his ability to get aero on a bike and go round in circles for an hour.
  • timoid.timoid. Posts: 3,133
    timothyw wrote:
    It's impossible to ignore Merckx's sensational hour record. With a sane pacing strategy he might have broken 50km.

    The fact that Boardman with 25 odd years of sports science, less spokes, and a season built around the target could only put a few metres onto it speaks volumes.

    Merckx did it after having won the Giro-Tour double.

    Big Mig took the hour record having won the tour, but held it for only a month and a half. Strange times then of course, what with the aerodynamics and epo.

    I think Hinault won as much from his aura and strength of personality as he did from his undoubted talent. He was a fighter, he knew how to command the respect and compliance of his rivals. When his aura of invincibility slipped in 1984, it went quite spectacularly wrong for him, his 1985 victory obviously coming thanks to a superb team behind him.

    Still, both great champions and a fascinating debate to have!


    Hmm. Hinault won with his ability. 85 was an exception, where he had to finish with a broken nose . In 1984 he was coming back after a major knee injury and wasn't quite right. The guy who trounced him (Fignon) in 84 freely admits he was not at a fully fit Hinault level.
    It's a little like wrestling a gorilla. You don't quit when you're tired. You quit when the gorilla is tired.
  • timothywtimothyw Posts: 2,482
    Well, yes, but did we ever see a fully fit Fignon again? Fignon clearly also had a superb, yet fragile talent. If he had been at the 85 tour at the same level would Hinault have won? Would LeMond have?

    LeMond only beat him in 89 thanks to tri bars, worth far more than the margin he actually won by.
  • phreakphreak Posts: 2,186
    timothyw wrote:
    Well, yes, but did we ever see a fully fit Fignon again? Fignon clearly also had a superb, yet fragile talent. If he had been at the 85 tour at the same level would Hinault have won? Would LeMond have?

    LeMond only beat him in 89 thanks to tri bars, worth far more than the margin he actually won by.

    Both might have lost if Delgado's alarm clock had of worked.
  • Who, even considered this thread!!!
    Its like comparing Pele to, I dont know..Messi, yes Messi might be more skilful etc etc...but the one MASSIVE fact....he ISN'T Pele!!

    And for that reason, I'm applying the same logic..Hinault was good..but he IS NOT Merckx.....convo closed!! Lock the thread!!
  • timoid.timoid. Posts: 3,133
    Who, even considered this thread!!!
    Its like comparing Pele to, I dont know..Messi, yes Messi might be more skilful etc etc...but the one MASSIVE fact....he ISN'T Pele!!

    And for that reason, I'm applying the same logic..Hinault was good..but he IS NOT Merckx.....convo closed!! Lock the thread!!

    FWIW I rate Maradona ahead of Pele...
    It's a little like wrestling a gorilla. You don't quit when you're tired. You quit when the gorilla is tired.
  • TheBigBeanTheBigBean Posts: 11,846
    Who, even considered this thread!!!
    Its like comparing Pele to, I dont know..Messi, yes Messi might be more skilful etc etc...but the one MASSIVE fact....he ISN'T Pele!!

    And for that reason, I'm applying the same logic..Hinault was good..but he IS NOT Merckx.....convo closed!! Lock the thread!!

    Messi is comfortably better than both Maradonna and Pele. That's easy.
  • rick_chaseyrick_chasey Posts: 52,736 Lives Here
    As is the current Ronaldo
  • No_Ta_DoctorNo_Ta_Doctor Posts: 10,124
    **Attaches hipster beard**
    Garrincha was better than all of them. And Bartali was better than Merckx and HInault.
    **Removes hipster beard**
    “Road racing was over and the UCI had banned my riding positions on the track, so it was like ‘Jings, crivvens, help ma Boab, what do I do now? I know, I’ll go away and be depressed for 10 years’.”

    @DrHeadgear

    The Vikings are coming!
  • DeVlaeminckDeVlaeminck Posts: 6,338
    I'd have Messi over Ronaldo and probably Maradona over Messi - Pele I'm too young to remember. Merckx's palmares is far better than Hinault's though I didn't really follow cycling during the career of either - the margin of Merckx's Tour wins is hugely impressive though - I'm not really seeing the argument that Hinault was a bigger talent as Merckx seems to beat him whatever metric you use.
    AFC Mercia women - sign for us
  • RichN95.RichN95. Posts: 24,308
    For my money Hinault is the greatest Grand Tour racer of all time.

    13 starts, 10 wins, 2 seconds, 1 DNF (while leading)
    Twitter: @RichN95
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