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Letters to Cyclingnews - March 2, 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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As a fan of Jan Ullrich since the 1996 Tour where he helped Bjarne Riis to victory, I am saddened to hear of his retirement. He impressed me so much in 1997 when he rode alongside his team car asking for permission to attack in the mountains, since team leader Riis was imploding that year.
But that same humbleness may have been his downfall. Jan was naturally gifted, but never had the take-no-prisoners instinct of the great champions. That's why he could never beat Lance, and that's why he has decided to step down at a time when he could conceivably return and use his anger to fuel his racing.
His announcement is a blow for cycling. I wish all the best to Jan and his family.
Ullrich's retirement #2
What a sad story. He didn't even come back positive.
He said he never cheated - and somehow it's true: If Ulle did anything different from any other Tour contender, it wasn't about drugs for sure. A little more fruitcake, maybe or more likely - that he hasn't done that much at all.
Thanks for giving me all those epic moments - they will last. Like the stage to Andorra-Arcalis in 1997, what a ride!
Ullrich's retirement #3
The sport of cycling has lost one of its most powerful and memorable champions today. You'll never convince me that the entire Operacion Puerto was anything more than a witch hunt cooked up by, among others, a manipulated press and not a little help from the French, with complicity by obligation from the likes of the UCI and the ever-enlarging mouth of our good friend Dick over at WADA.
Show me the positive test results. Show me the conclusive evidence. Demonstrate to me, beyond a doubt, that Jan Ullrich gained anything at all at any point in his career by doping (we refer to that as 'justice' here where I live). Jan has been served a tremendous injustice, and the UCI, WADA, and these so-called 'investigators' should collectively hang their heads in shame for fabricating and disseminating the lies that have led to putting him into a situation where he doesn't even want to race anymore.
"I couldn't live without cycling - it's my passion and my life. I still don't understand why I was not allowed to compete in the Tour last year. My life as a cyclist collapsed that day. I've been painted as a criminal while I've done nothing wrong." (Jan Ullrich during his retirement announcement)
If you have ever spent any time as a cyclist - torturing yourself, season after season, working toward a goal (and loving every minute of it) - you know how sad those words are. Jan was in his prime and I think he still had many good races in those legs and lungs. A crime has definitely been committed. Problem is, it wasn't Jan that did it. It was the very people that should have hailed him as the champion that he truly is and the one I will always remember him as.
Ullrich's retirement #4
I don't really want to be an 'I told you so' but I told you so.
Right after Ullrich was excluded from the Tour last year I sent a letter to Cyclingnews.com saying that Ullrich would never race again - you did not publish my letter. So remember - you heard it here first!
In response to Adam Hansen's letter regarding altitude training: there is an obvious benefit to training grounds where there is altitude. Namely, longer climbs, steep roads, and testing descents.
However, research indicates that to derive a physiological improvement in blood oxygen carrying capacity, it's not where one trains, but where they sleep and recover that matters. Hence, eliminating the need for any trips into the Alps for training unless one merely wants to scout a route or do some hill training. For a long-lasting altitude training benefit, one would have to consistently live and sleep at altitude or use an altitude tent.
But, is the tent really good for the relationship? Maybe those fancy air units and hoses have a secondary purpose not yet discovered by physiologists.
How did you build your cheap-o altitude tent? Would you care to write a quick "this is how I did it!"
I had the same question so I asked him. Here is his response...
"Your concern about my testing positive again is a valid one, however we do believe they are using better materials to conduct the transfusion test today. Most of my tests were run during the validation period for the test when they were encountering a number of issues with the materials and were just learning how to run the test method, which is fairly finicky. So we hope there are better measures in place today and that I would not test positive again. I have never been aware of an instance where someone was using someone else's blood for competitive advantage, and I'm certain no one is doing this today given the publicity my case drew. So I don't imagine anyone will ever be accused of this again."
I personally believe the lab was wrong. I think the lab has pretty much 'say so' who is guilty and who is not and not just from unbiased testing. I also feel that rules are tightening within the labs and with testing procedures. Now that people are looking at how technicians write there signatures and if the same technician perform a test I feel that this "anomaly" will not show up again.
I have little issue saying I feel Tyler and Floyd are innocent. In fact I feel it is not said enough. It seems that people are so willing to believe Dick Pound when he spouts his "he must be guilty" speech but the public that believe in there riders shut up and don't want to commit.
Tyler Hamilton and drug testing #2
Don Williams said, "How can he go back to racing...?" It's simple: he served his suspension, and now he is eligible. There is no rule that says you have to confess after you lose your appeal in order to come back.
If Hamilton was wrongly accused, I'm sure he would still like to clear his name, but either way, innocent or guilty, he is now eligible. There are plenty of other current issues in cycling you can be outraged about if you feel the need. Let's get over that one.
It goes without saying that the situation with ASO and the UCI is completely ridiculous. However, I wonder how much agony the owners of Unibet are really going through. They are probably jumping for joy that the word Unibet is being written in so many articles, letters and constantly discussed on television.
After all, isn't this why they sponsored a ProTour team in the first place, to gain exposure? It's a heck of a lot better than one of their riders finishing 11th in stage 3 of Paris-Nice for example.
With that said, I do feel that the other ProTour teams should unify and boycott any event that doesn't invite all 20 ProTour teams. Clearly Unibet is simply a scapegoat in this power struggle as evidenced by the organizers of the Giro and Vuelta announcing plans to also exclude them. If the riders are serious about creating a union and a ProTour calendar then they can not let this opportunity to stay unified pass.
The riders make the races, not the organizers. By not showing up at Paris-Nice, I bet (on Unibet.com?) the ASO will quickly do an about face. In the end, the organizers need the riders more than the riders need the organizers. There will always be another race in the future where organizers will agree to invite all the teams. Stick together ProTour teams!
Discovery pulling out had nothing to do with Basso, at least not directly. An absence of Lance creates a sport that, unfortunately for us cyclists, is barely watchable to the American viewing public. Coupled with the recent spate of drug press, they just don't get any mileage from sponsoring a team for $15 million a year.
Okay everyone calm down. The Discovery lettering is not upside down. What you are seeing is the graphics to the back panel of the jersey. The writing is written side-ways when viewed from the back, which makes it appear upside-down when you see the rider from the side. If you guys would just pay attention there is a side panel to the jersey on which the writing is correct. I like the new kit and I'm already trying to get my hands on it.
I've read befuddled letters regarding the "upside down" Discovery graphic on a couple of different sites now. Seems pretty simple, although perhaps as it is early season TV viewers have yet to discover it. From behind and above, looking down from a helicopter for example, a vertical word on the right would be read from top to bottom, or from bottom to top on the left.
As "Discovery" is bit too long to go horizontal along the back, perhaps it was written vertically and justified to be read naturally from the aerial shots. Maybe a position straight down the back where it isn't as easily seen from the side would have been better. Too bad they won't have another season to tweak the graphics.
This letter makes it seem as though Levi Leipheimer was the only person to benefit from the commissaires' decision to extend the 3km crash zone to 10km during stage 1 of the Tour of California. If he were, I'd be in full agreement with what was said, but the reality is half the field was piled-up including "many of the GC contenders".
I think a team manager is more likely to attend a race that is run by officials willing to take the time and thought to make a fair decision than one which rigidly adheres to a rule even if it takes half of the GC contenders out of contention. Keep in mind that officials for European races make (or fail to make) decisions that affect the outcome of the race all of the time. All one needs to do is look at a mountain stage in a Grand Tour to see an example of this when half of the field is clearly outside of the time limit and yet are permitted to continue.
Tour of California mistake #2
To say that the commissaries' decision to extend the crash zone due to "local favoritism" is wholly incorrect. The rider who stood to gain the most from the unfortunate crash was Benjamin Jacques-Maynes, who would have taken the overall lead had the extension not been made. Jacque-Maynes is from San Jose – another Northern California (and, indeed, San Francisco Bay Area) city.
Tour of California mistake #3
The decision to extend the 3km crash zone was definitely a Bush league move. The race Marshall did not have a decision to make, his role is to enforce the rules of the UCI not change them on a whim.
I definitely think this left a bad taste in the mouths of the European teams, just look at Robert Forster's comments. If that had been Voigt that went down in the crash do you think the race Marshall would have made the same decision, Hell no.
It would have also led to better more open race if Levi would have had to make up that 1 minute deficit instead of the Discovery train out front everyday so all of the casual American cycling fans can gawk at the only team where they could name more than three riders on the squad.
Tour of California mistake #4
In regards to "Tour of California Mistake," it must be remembered that the decision to extend the 3km crash zone kept another local out of the leaders jersey. If the crash zone had been left as is, Ben Jacques Maynes would have become the race leader, arguably more of a local than Levi Leipheimer.
If anything, one could argue that the decision demonstrates a bias towards international pro teams, at the expense of domestic/continental pro teams. Personally, I would have rather seen Levi lose the leader's jersey for at least a day. More contestation of the leader's jersey would have made the ToC more interesting, and that is a good thing for the sport.
At the end of the day, though, the decision to extend the crash zone likely had no effect on the end result, which was a convincing Leipheimer win.
Tour of California mistake #5
I agree wholeheartedly – The act of extending a neutral to 10kms. Wow. Let's think of all the races that I could have won had the last 10km climb been a neutral – I would have been "crashing" all over the place.
Listen, if you race, you crash! It's part of the saga that makes bicycle racing so interesting and less mundane.
Why not give him a red card? Meaning he will need to sit out races for, say,
Mike Andersen says Dick Pound is "exactly what [cycling] needs" to rid the sport of doping. Given that Mr. Pound has been the Chairman of WADA since its inception in 1999, and given that there is no evidence doping in cycling (and all of sport) is at all improved over that eight-year time period, one must ask what Mr. Andersen looks to as a basis for his opinion?
Dick Pound has proven a failure. His intemperate and often ill-founded attacks on athletes have resulted in a lack of trust and confidence in WADA's ability to carry out its mission with fairness and integrity. His refusal to seriously address the circus act at the LNDD testing lab of Chatenay-Malabry can only be characterized as gross negligence.
No, Mr. Andersen, what cycling needs is for Dick Pound to accelerate the date of his resignation, and for WADA to replace him with a Chairman committed to fairness and integrity, not just in competition but also in testing and punishment. Only when athletes, fans and sponsors are confident that rules are fair, and are fairly administered, can progress against doping in sport be made.
Hats off to Dick Pound? #2
Mike, I couldn't agree more with you about George W Bush and WWF wrestling, but I have to disagree with your praise of Dick Pound. Here in the US, as you probably know, we tend to emphasize the rights of the individual over the institution, (for you non-legal types that's known as procedural due process).
In all the high-profile doping cases that Dick Pound has publicly commented on, he has demonstrated a tendency to stomp all over due process for, what seems to me to be, personal aggrandizement. I think the incident involving Lance Armstrong's 1999 blood samples is the perfect example. You and others may believe that Lance did take EPO. I don't know. What I do know is that an independent examination of the facts of that case resulted in a 132 page report by a Dutch lawyer that lambasted Pound for his statements and the lab for its unscientific and unprofessional actions. Pound was also chastised for his conduct in that affair. To me, the defense he offered for his actions reminded me of George W Bush.
So, while I can't agree with you on Dick Pound, I understand your frustration. In the meantime, I hope that like me, you'll encourage your children to continue bicycling. We both know, I'm sure, the pleasures of a long ride with our kids on a good trail. Good Luck to you and yours and good luck to cycling. If it goes away, my family will really miss it.
I guess the easiest and surest way to stop battle between UCI and Grand Tours organizers is an immediate withdrawal of all races organized by ASO, RCS and Unipublic from the ProTour.
Where will be UCI by then? Yes, in the middle of nowhere and in desperate attempts to back pedal.
I think the UCI should have ensured that each team they granted a ProTour license to would be able to legally race in each of the countries hosting ProTour events. That was a UCI mistake. I think allowing the race organizers of ProTour events have input on who gets a ProTour license seems to be a obvious step that should have been taken, and would have avoided the Unibet fiasco.
The lack of communication between the UCI and the hosts of ProTour events is staggering and remarkably stupid. Finally, I am not convinced that the ProTour makes much sense anyway, even if run properly.
The UCI are on a mission to try to bring cycling to a global market. They wish to expand the cycling world. We hear recently that tours such as the Tour Down Under, Tour de Lankawi and Tour of California are being considered as potential ProTour races. Is that great? Excited are you?
How many if any wild card entries do you think would be available to our local national pro teams? How many teams can a stage race host? This seems to be the crucial point behind the ASO, RCS and Unipublic standoff. They are not hell bent against the idea of a Pro Tour, they just want a bit more local control.
Of course the Tour de France has to have Agritubel, and all the French teams participate. It is why all the French ProTour teams will race Paris Nice. Their sponsorship euros require it as well as national pride. And if this was a Kazakhstani tour, don't worry, Astana would be racing.
Wild card invitations are important. It allows the race organisers to show some national teams and it gives the host nation's cycling sponsors some exposure. Would that guy Donald ever have had a chance to have ride in the ToC if 20 ProTour teams had turned up? (And of course I should remember the team name, for the sponsor).
The ASO and co. are right to stick their heels in. It is the UCI that have made a mess by insisting on 20 teams and not the 18 as originally planned. Really if RCS had some guts they should have refused Tinkoff in order to make their point a little clearer to us tifosi.
Unfortunately, many are arguing the decisions of ASO, RCS, et al are questions of local control. This is a sport with an established governing body (UCI). You may not like the behavior of the body but imagine if Indianapolis told the FIA they want to run a Formula One race but only if they can decide which teams can show up and which rules will be enforced in the race.
If ASO was denying access to Discovery rather than Unibet I expect the discussions would be very different. Will a potential sponsor be interested in investing millions of dollars in a sport where participation and exposure is at the mercy of every event organizer; rules can be adjusted by individual organizers; and you have no right to know which events you will be allowed to participate in and what rules you will participate under until a couple of months before the actual event.
This may have worked in the old days when cycling was more regional in appeal (European) and alternatives for sponsors were limited. Today big money sponsors will simply take their money to a more stable environment. In the end ASO may get an all French Tour, RCS an all Italian Giro and Unipublic an all Spanish Vuelta. These country's local clubs can contest their home events while the multi- national corporations invest their sponsor dollars in NASCAR.
I'm glad to see letters from others who recognize that the organizers are trying to control the Sport. That's the job of the UCI. We have the ASO and other organizers (Tour of Germany) telling teams that if they hire so-and-so they will not be allowed in their races.
Additionally, we have organizers who have decided that they are going to "set the rules" which have resulted in riders being found guilty before they have even been caught out in a valid drug test or other approved testing scheme. The chaos which now exists in the Pro ranks is partly due to a failure by the UCI to enforce their rules, and those who have signed up to be members (riders, teams AND organizers) not following the rules...but it's the organizers who, at the moment, seem to be the most out-of-control.
UCI vs. the world #2
The real fight is ASO, RCS Sport and Unipublic vs. the World.
We already have a threat to the Tour of Spain by developing stage races in Europe. With a world wide ProTour we can look forward to ProTour races including major tours in the US, China, Australia perhaps Malaysia and eventually India and South America.
The current big tours are under notice. In 10 years time we could have a world wide calendar with new major events sharing the glory of the current European classics. To make room might there be only one three week tour - and even alternating between France and the US. No wonder ASO, RCS Sport and Unipublic do not like the ProTour and will do everything to destroy it.If the Pro Tour survives they see their profits falling dramatically. They could embrace it and export their skills but they do not seem to have the imagination.
The current debacles of drugs and effective inclusive management by the UCI must be settled and soon or how many more sponsors, TV hours and fans will be lost?
It would be nice if people writing letters would take the time to check the facts. Chris Whiley complains about Floyd Landis on Stage 17 in last year's Tour that, "He then rides a stage like no-one else has ridden before or since."
Actually, Floyd Landis has ridden a stage like that. Repeatedly - in training. Others have done similarly in races.
As Allen Lim pointed out, Floyd has trained with a PowerTap meter for several years, and his power output on Stage 17 was something he's done before.
He averaged 281 watts when moving (that includes coasting downhill) and 324 watts while pedalling. Truth is, there are a lot of people who've put up numbers like that.
Please get your facts straight. Floyd has guts, but there was nothing superhuman about his ride that day. Just a result of hard work.
The previous writer suggested that one needs a "UCI/National Federation certified" doctor to allow a person to legally use an asthma inhaler for bike racing. This is incorrect. The UCI requires that a doctor sign the "Abbreviated TUE" form stating that the athlete has a medical need for the allowed medication. The doctor could be the rider's HMO primary care physician or other doctor within their HMO.
No specifics about the "medical need" are required on the form, but it would be prudent for the doctor to confirm this need with a simple, 30-second test of lung function before inhalation of the medicine and 15 minutes after. The abbreviated TUE and its instructions can be downloaded from the USADA website.
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