The media struggles to compare LA with past riders. Is there any metric that can work?
I argue here that the length of the Palmeres (list of victories) is NOT a good metric. This is because modern training (periodization) allows riders to be much better than they used to be, but only for a select few races each year. Because everybody is focussing, it is nearly impossible to win races that are off your peak (somebody else is peaking then!). Hence, the best riders win less frequently.
The incomparable Merckx (Palmeres Superman) and his best contemporaries raced all season, focussing on races as they came. They might not race all three grand tours in one season, but sometimes they did. Merckx's extraordinary talent allowed him, in countless races all season, to dominate a field that was not effectively peaking for any event. His talent and drive resulted in a huge Palmeres.
But modern riders know that they can only be at their absolute best for a few races each year, and they select these races very carefully. Hence, the winners of each event, such as the Vuelta, Giro, TdF, Liege B L, FlWall, etc., are very likely to be those who focus their training on those events. Lance Armstrong is the most famous here, focussing only on the TdF, but others do this for other races.
In the old days, the best rider won the most races - it was an idyllic period when fans could watch their heroes compete weekly, and in the case of extraordinary talent (i.e. Merckx) expect them to win weekly. Today, modern training methods yield a different test: The best rider in a given specialization wins the biggest race in that specialization, and Lance is the modern champ of stage races.
But modern training has made comparisons across the ages impossible. I'd appreciate your thoughts on this...