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Letters to Cyclingnews - February 23, 2007
Here's your chance to get more involved with Cyclingnews. Comments and criticism on current stories, races, coverage and anything cycling related are welcomed, even pictures if you wish. Letters should be brief (less than 300 words), with the sender clearly identified. They may be edited for space and clarity; please stick to one topic per letter. We will normally include your name and place of residence, but not your email address unless you specify in the message.
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Altitude tents and EPO
Good statement. First off training puts pressure on the body and increases your threshold and altitude training puts pressure on the body and increases the amount of red blood cells. They are both a form of training to increase performance. Taking EPO is totally different. It's not training. I spend 35 hours a week to get these benefits. A person that takes EPO gets the same benefits with maybe two minutes of work. That's a little unfair. Plus with altitude training your body will only produce enough red blood cells it can handle, while taking EPO is dangerous because it forces the body to produce red blood cells and it can be to much for the body to handle, relating to death, this will not happen with altitude training.
While we are on the topic of it being unfair I would like to address a few other things. Altitude training systems can cost almost next to nothing. My system is very very cheap, ok it's something that I built myself (but that's to my advantage). It is far cheaper then a single trip to high altitude for a week, paying for flights, hotels, food, etc. It's something I can afford very easily and it's not an ongoing cost.
Some people must remember that a lot of athletes can afford to go to high altitude three times a year, I'm not one of them. There are others that can't afford to go also. So that's why I have a system at home. It's affordable and easier for my relationship.
Altitude tents and EPO #2
How on earth can David Norwich compare the use of altitude chambers to doping with EPO? Yes its use will increase an athlete's red blood cell count, just as any other method of training would, but why is this so unethical? Moreover, I fail to see how this practice can be regarded as artificial. It is merely simulating living and training in a climate with a lower level of oxygen, in exactly the same way a high altitude training camp would.
Surely you cannot regard training anywhere above sea level as unethical, these athletes spend much of their season racing up enormous European cols, I see it a perfectly sensible idea to train under these conditions.
The ToC wants to be a Grand Tour one day? They'd better start acting like a first-rate organization then. Their decision to extend the 3km crash zone to include the location of the pile-up on Monday that was some 10km from the finish was immature, stinks of local favoritism, and did nothing but tarnish the race.
I think that the big euro teams will think twice about spending the money to travel to California if they think that the rules are going to be changed at the whim of the race Marshall. So their home boy was a minute down? As you've heard a thousand times before: That's bike racing! It would have made the race so much more interesting if they had just left the times alone, and it would have proven that they have the maturity to watch Levi suffer without giving him an unfair advantage.
After reading "Breakthrough season for Chavanel?" I realized why the French can't seem to win many bike races. Compared with the rest of the pro cyclists, who seem to know exactly where their form is, Chavanel is "testing to see where I stand compared to last season".
Mick Rogers and company are on the track dialing in their TT positions. Even, with a broken shoulder, Magnus Backsteadt knows that his "...power figures are on par if not higher than last year..."
Adam Hanson is watching his weight with trainingpeaks.com, using a power meter, an oxygen tent, having muscle enzymes tested... he is paying attention to every detail trying to get the best performance out of his body.
This is the type of exacting detail that helped a certain rider obtain 7 Tour de France victories. Chavanel can only "...hope to finally have the success that I didn't get in the last few years."
I don't know what Chavanel's preparations are like, but it doesn't sound like
he works very hard considering he doesn't "know exactly how my form is".
I could not possibly disagree with Mr. Macon any more. No matter what Discovery says is the reason for them ending their sponsorship of their ProTour team, to the public it will look like Discovery is pulling out because of Ivan Basso.
No one in their right mind could ever say with total certainty that the Operacion Puerto affair will not rear its head once again at a later date. I think that Discovery is simply hedging their bets while they can. My hunch is the Discovery was none too happy with Johan Bruyneel and Tailwind sports when they signed Basso. And since the power of the sponsor is not absolute (as we have seen with the recent debacle between Astana and Manolo Saiz) Discovery can only sit back... and hope that nothing ugly rears its head in the next (and last) year as a sponsor.
And don't worry Mr. Macon, this is America. Someone with $'s on the mind will always be willing to step in and sponsor Tailwind Sports, no matter what the moral implications are. Good for Discovery.
Is there a reason that "Discovery" is written upside down on the back right side of the jersey?
You would think they would have caught that one? Look here, Cali stage two - Basso
Let's say that Tyler Hamilton was innocent and has some strange anomaly that made him appear to have blood doped. Are they still using this test today? If so, won't Tyler test positive again?
How can he go back to racing and being tested for blood doping knowing that this test will be used again. Wouldn't this lead people to believe that he was in fact guilty of blood doping before?
Maybe I am the odd one out, but at this point does anyone really care about the Grand Tours? I mean right now we have some great racing at the Tour of California and Ruta del Sol and the UCI Pro Tours teams are not all being allowed to start in the first ProTour race! So the UCI is telling the teams not to start Paris-Nice. Honestly I hope the teams will have the nerve to not bother with the event! There are so many other great events out there as well.
ASO believes that it rules the world because it has control over the biggest race in the world. But this would be like the New York Yankees saying that they don't want to play the Kansas City Royals because it isn't good for their market. They can't decide who they play, that is Major League Baseball's decision as the are the neutral governing body for baseball. Well the UCI is the neutral governing body for cycling, so they make the rules and these rules need to be followed.
The Grand Tour organizers care about their advertising and money-making, but they are not all that matter in cycling! So, we need a neutral governing body for our sport just like any other sport, and the UCI is our governing body. But how can a sport be taken seriously if the governing body is always undermined? It's pathetic and I hope the teams make a stand for our sport. The Grand Tours are not all that matter. There are other great races and any race can be replaced by other races. Maybe the teams boycotting Paris-Nice and even a Grand Tour is what the organizers need before they realize how warped their thinking is.
I may be alone in my thinking, but I have a feeling many other people realize that there are many great races out there that are not the Tour de France, Paris-Nice, or Vuelta a Espana!
Politically, the whole Unibet.com affair is a mess. But when have the politics of cycling become the focus of the fans? We want good, exciting races. If we can have absolute fairness and goodwill to go with it, all the better, but the backroom brawls shouldn't be any of our business. I feel for the management of Unibet.com, but I am actually very happy with RCS' selections for their upcoming races. Unibet in Tirreno could have been nice, but I'd much rather see Tinkoff at the Giro than Unibet. Astana was a sure thing, with such an exciting squad. Acqua & Sapone have Garzelli to spice things up. Panaria is more debatable, but they're Italian so they'll try extra-hard. What's Unibet going to bring to the party? On a sporting level, it's the best decision there is.
There's been a lot of mud slung around about Tinkoff, but they have an interesting team with quality riders that are allowed to race. That Pat McQuaid would say publicly they should not race in the Giro because they have Tyler Hamilton on board is getting into Dick Pound territory. Hamilton's served his ban in entirety, so he can race.
If Mr. McQuaid has any knowledge of facts that should prevent him from riding, it is his absolute duty to bring them forward. If he doesn't have any such info, it is his duty to keep his mouth shut. The problem resides in part with the UCI and their conviction that the ProTour should be 20 teams strong.
In my opinion, Unibet is part of the teams that don't belong in the ProTour. They are a great Continental team, as their results last year have shown, but they aren't in the same league as the Discos, T-Mobiles and Astanas of the world. Logic says they shouldn't be there but the UCI has stayed headstrong in their convictions. It is hardly surprising that the Grand Tour organizers are camping on their positions as well. Let the rich, fat businessmen have their brawl and let's watch some good cycling races, which is all we've been promised thus far this year.
Good season to all! May the best riders win. That's all we want.
As I see it the solution to the Unibet standoff with ASO, RCS Sport and Unipublic is a simple one. No ProTour teams show up to race at any of their events and let the organizers field them with the lesser teams. The UCI should find other races during those periods to send the teams to which will draw fans and media coverage away from the ASO, RCS Sport and Unipublic events. I am not sure what the ProTour teams contractual obligations about not showing up are, but if all the riders were to ride at around 15-20 km/h the races would be a complete bust. It would get attention the first few days of the three Grand Tours but after that people just wouldn't care and stop watching.
Jamie Bridges points out that "the pro peloton is run in a smoke- filled room." He's quite right. The spat between the ASO and the UCI over Unibet.com's entry into Paris-Nice is not about Unibet.com. It's about power. It's about who controls professional cycling.
The people who actually put the races on think they should be in charge of their races - including who's in those races. They want to operate in what is essentially a free market inviting the teams and riders of their choices (and competing for the star riders) to present the most attractive race they can.
The UCI wants to be in charge of the races as a way to market pro cycling as a global sport and to make things conform to their big picture vision of the sport. The sheer size of the ProTour maximizes the friction. Too many teams in the ProTour, too many races in the Pro Tour, and thus too many opportunities for conflict.
The problem boils down to the politics of central control versus local control. The real challenge is for the UCI because it cannot have effective centralized control (i.e. the ProTour) unless it properly respects local control - that is, the people who own and organize the races (e.g. ASO). The UCI needs to reduce the burden that the ProTour places on the races and their organizers, and to stop trying to run roughshod. The ProTour is just too big and unwieldy. Fewer teams (10 or less) would be a start.
I know I am in the minority on this one, but I am behind the UCI on this one. I was waiting for the ProTour Teams to come out and boycott Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico themselves, but it appears ASO is on its own course to deny participation all by themselves. There is no denying that ASO has rescued many prime cycling races (some might say stole), and these races are rich in cycling lore, but these races are bigger than ASO.
ASO is lucky because they have the events that everyone wants to ride. RCS, and Uni-Public are not so lucky, and it has only been the ProTour that has brought absolute quality participants to many of their lesser races. While the Giro was always fun to monitor, it was a joke until the ProTour guaranteed RCS a highly competitive field.
So once again it is the riders that make the race, and it seems only the UCI recognizes this. However, the UCI is probably going to lose, because basic economics (sponsors) are going to dictate that their investments are huge, and they want their name out there on the road in all these big races. I don't see sponsors financing a team boycott so the UCI can prevail.
The fight between the GT organisers and the UCI seems to get worse for every new year of the ProTour. When cycling needs to gather around the problems around doping the governing parts of the sport namely GT organisers and the UCI is involved in the ever going fight about how cycling on top level should be organised.
I addressed this problem in a letter a few years about the great damage that a battle like this could cause. And the battle is still here without that the involved parties could gather around a good solution for the sport as a whole.
I think that the ProTour is good idea but it has some flaws as any new concept but I also think that it's very hard to think of a ProTour without for example Milan-San Remo, the Giro, the Tour etc.
But for the sake sport stop fighting and get a solution that everybody could agree on namely the organisers (and then I mean every ProTour organiser not just the GT-organisers), the teams, the riders, the sponsors and the UCI so that we could stop the nonsense that is going on at the moment with ProTour teams that are not invited to ProTour events etc.
Dear UCI & ASO
Please, please sort out the ongoing feud between the UCI & ASO amongst others. Our sport is in turmoil with the fallout from Operation Puerto, Floyd Landis' positive and so on, and this continuing struggle between the UCI and the Grand Tour organisers is making the sport look ridiculous.
The UCIs current 'banning' of the ProTour teams taking part in Paris-Nice is further alienating present and potential sponsors who should be applauded for standing true to cycling in the current climate, and not be penalised from taking part in one of the most beautiful races of the season. ASO - I understand your argument against the UCI, but don't let poor Unibet be the pawn in your battles. Let them race, albeit incognito with the question mark jerseys due to French advertising laws. Reduce the team sizes if necessary to enable them to race. The sponsor has put money and faith behind cycling when we most need it.
I'm begging you both, please stop the arguments and concentrate on the battle against doping, and keeping the sponsors we have.
When a Pro Tour team buys a ProTour license from the UCI, the UCI "guarantees" access to Pro Tour events. However, the UCI does not own these events. The organizers do.
What I'm curious about is does the UCI have contracts with organizers such as ASO stipulating the events' Pro Tour status and associated rights and responsibilities. If so, then the ASO would be in breech of contract for excluding Unibet. If not, then the UCI is selling something it doesn't own (access to certain events) and the teams are buying licenses with expectations that cannot be legally enforced.
Are millions of dollars of sponsor money really being spent without proper contracts in place?
I agree, make the ProTour results mean something by having the same categories that exist in most of the races.
Furthermore, I think that the team managers who are supportive of the ProTour need to start talking with their sponsors. The sponsors are in the sport because they love it, or for the opportunity it provides. As I understand it one of the premises of the Pro Tour is that by increasing exposure outside of Europe and to other races in Europe, sponsors will get more bang for their buck. So maybe the sponsors have a role to play in the ASO/RCS Vs UCI fight. Maybe if the sponsors voiced their opinions the main parties could re-establish a dialogue and begin to resolve the issue.
No sponsors, no sport.
RCS decision #2
In response to all the letters complaining about the decision of RCS to exclude Unibet from their races I think you need to think about it from the position of the organizers. RCS own the Giro and the other races, it should be and is rightfully their prerogative to invite whom they choose. Why should the UCI (which is a shambolic organization in my opinion) have the right to tell the owners and promoters of a particular race who they have to invite? That doesn't seem right to me. It's akin to the professional organization I am a member of telling me who I have to hire in my business. It is just not going to happen and nor should it.
With regard to the ProTour concept, I believe that the organizers of the Grand Tours have opted out and therefore have no obligation to invite any ProTour teams if they wish not to. The UCI can't possibly mandate an organizer to be a member of a competition they wish not to be members of. The organizers should be free to run their events as they please after all they are the ones who put up the money and take on the risk of running the events not the UCI.
As a long time cycling fan, and someone who has seen the inside of the sport, I say, "Hats off!" to Mr. Pound. He's exactly what the sport needs to facilitate the removal of the seedy elements. Cycling will continue to see diminishing sponsorship as long as those who support the organized cheating remain. The only thing that will cure the problem is for all the sponsors to pull out and rob the cancer of sustenance. Perhaps the death of it is what's required when the problem is to the point of "everyone does it'.
I'm not sure which is more disgusting, the cheating or the continuous media spin offered by the cheaters. Frankly, the defense offered by the culprits reminds me of GW Bush and his team's methods of denial. More disgusting is the number of people who actually believe that tripe!
I'm happy to be away from that all, and will certainly not encourage my children to support professional cycling. It's worse than WWF wrestling.
In the meantime, I'll be riding my bike. Good luck
Mr. Pound has serious chutzpah if he believes that Lance Armstrong owes him any sort of explanation regarding the spurious report of 1999 EPO samples. First, Armstrong is retired, and is out of reach of Pound's indignation or scrutiny. Second, independent counsel has determined that the results came from flawed testing, which Pound refuses to accept. Third, Pound has been a vigorous and single minded pursuer of Armstrong based on little more than the suppositions of L'Equipe in 1999-2000. For Pound to call these discredited results "proof" borders on slander, and I think he's dancing on the edge of litigation, much as a certain author of a certain book, whose identity is not worth remembering.
Why doesn't the UCI, penalize or do something with Brown? He has caused many a crash in races, and the other racers blame him afterwards!
It has been well documented that cases of respiratory maladies have been drastically increasing over the past few years. Such illnesses are not discriminating between elite athletes or lazy bums that lay on the couch all day. Like a previous letter writer said, these illnesses are linked to the horrifying rise in air-borne pollutants in our world. To suggest that an increase in asthmatics in the pro peloton suggests an increase in doping is very, very weak at best, utterly ridiculous at worst.
Asthma everywhere #2
The smooth motion of cycling doesn't aggravate asthma to nearly the same degree as the jarring motion of running - and almost all other sports involve running. As a lifelong asthmatic, the only aerobic sports I've ever been able to do comfortably are cycling, skating and swimming. Skating isn't as fun, fast or practical as cycling and swimming involves, well, swimming (yech).
A very sizable portion of the human population are asthmatics, and just as many of them want to enjoy the benefits of moving their bodies in sport as in the non-asthmatic population (maybe more, because we know what it's like to not be able to breathe). And, since cycling is the most accessible sport that asthmatics can do comfortably (ie, without excessive asthma symptoms), is it any wonder that a high proportion of asthmatic people take up cycling? And, if a higher-than-normal percentage of asthmatics take up cycling at the introductory level, then doesn't it logically follow that there will also be a higher-than-normal percentage of asthmatics at all levels of cycling?
On the practical side of things, how many amateur competitors have access to a UCI/National Federation certified doctor as their primary caregiver? In America, most of the small proportion that does have access would need to step outside their medical insurance plans and pay for all their medical care by that certified doctor out of their own pocket because it would be considered "out-of-network". If we asthmatics need medication for normal life and want to race, but can't afford to throw away our medical insurance to go out-of-network, we are technically "dopers". It's one of the reasons why I stopped racing myself. But now, thanks to the Conspiracy Theorists, even if you do all the right things, spend the extra money and go to all the hassle to get your asthmatic condition certified you are still considered a "doper" because "there are too many of you".
Is it suspicious that there are "a lot" of tall people in basketball, or "a lot" of rotund people in weightlifting? No, because people are naturally going to be drawn to the sport for which their bodies are best suited. The best aerobic sport for asthmatics is cycling. It's not a conspiracy, it's common sense - something that seems altogether lacking in today's sports environment.
If you're going to come up with a conspiracy theory, at least come up with a good one. Landis had just had a terrible day and was minutes off the lead. A quick survey of likely Tour winners who should be nobbled would not have included him. He then rides a stage like no-one else has ridden before or since. So what's most likely; a little boost to help him ride or some masked Spaniard lurking round after the totally unanticipated victory to spike his piss?
I look forward to your letter about the grassy knoll and how 9/11 was set up by Bush and Rumsfeld...
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