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Letters to Cyclingnews - March 30, 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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Basso wind tunnel testing
The thing that David Norwich fails to capture is that the velocity of the spoke at the hub is basically just the linear velocity of the bicycle. The rim, on the other hand, is moving at about twice that speed, due to the rotational velocity. Since aerodynamic drag increases quadratically with velocity, an aerodynamic improvement at the rim will have 4 times the impact of one at the hub. It's a similar effect to changing from alloy nipples to brass nipples. Very little weight difference, but a much "quicker" feeling wheel.
Well, well, well, Mr. Riis. It seems we have a problem here. An alleged hematocrit of 64 eh? EPO? I just read your response to your doping allegations and you did not deny them. You simply stated that there was no evidence to that effect, and that you never really got on with the accuser, your soigneur Jef D'hondt.
It chaps my rear to hear Riis and many other former pros talk about letting go of the past when they stand so high and mighty against any current riders facing doping allegations. Let us hear the truth. It is a yes or no question, not a question about a statute of limitations.
I don't condone doping by any means, but I don't like the way Landis and Ullrich have been treated over the past year. By the way, if you did admit to using EPO, I wouldn't suggest you quit your involvement with cycling, like your countryman suggest of Landis, because I know that even with the EPO, you had to push yourself to almost unimaginable limits to win the Tour.
I suggest you all take a more humanistic approach to doping. How about fining/penalizing the team, not just the rider? I am eagerly awaiting closure for Landis and hope to hell Basso can ride the Tour and that he crushes Bjarne Riis and his squad.
After the accusations leveled at him in the Belgian TV piece, and over the years since his 1996 victory, you'd expect Bjarne Riis to come out punching, à la Lefévère. Instead, we have a composed man tell us he doesn't want to talk about the past.
He talks of his main accuser, Jef D'hondt, as a man "trying to make money by talking about the past". Not lying about the past, talking. No refutation, no denying... What's up Bjarne? Are we finally seeing one of the 90s gods of cycling 'fess up to how he achieved his exploits? That would be a breath of fresh air, and just what the peloton needs.
If young riders could see that, no matter how high you go, if you did so by doping, it'll catch up with you one day and your exploits will be tarnished forever, pursuing doping would inevitably appear a moot point. But, then comes the downer. Riis doesn't confess, he just doesn't want to talk about it.
Come on Bjarne! How are we ever supposed to get behind the whole "clean CSC" thing when the boss won't live up to his ideals and admit his supposed wrongdoings. It would be a gesture of courage, a true sign of a new start for cycling, where the alleged EPO generation, that now runs the teams, clearly abandon the methods of their youth and start anew. Come one, Bjarne! We're waiting...
Point of clarification required regarding drugs and drug testing in Australian Rules Football. The 'three strikes' process is only for illicit recreational drugs. Any positive test for performance enhancing drugs are dealt with immediately and as severely as possible under the standard WADA rules. The team doctor is notified immediately after the first positive recreational drug test, it is a process that recognises sports people become role models for many in the community and the 'powers that be' do not want footballers to look as though they endorse the use of recreational drugs. It is actually a progressive policy - hardly any other sports actually test for illicit recreational drugs, the Aussie Rules testing also occurs throughout the entire year including the off season, unlike many other sports drug policies that only conduct test at events throughout the season.
My issue with it is that it muddies the water around the point of drug testing - which for me is to try to ensure the spirit of competition remains in sport, neither the other participants or viewers should be cheated by someone using more than blood, sweat, tears, hardwork and their god-given resources to achieve the maximum they can. The media blow-up in Australia is over the use of recreational drugs - it is a part of society, of course some athletes partake in this activity - and it distracts from the primary point that performance enhancing drugs need to be stopped before they destroy the essence of sport. It is unlikely that they drugs could ever really achieve this in a team sport, but an individual sport like cycling will be lost if drug use is not beaten.
If some sports people want to partake in the use of illicit recreational drugs - that is their own choice about what they put into their bodies, if it doesn't compromise the experience of the viewer or the competition with another athlete, then I really don't care. It is more likely to inhibit than enhance their performance.
Lemme get this straight: ToC officials stretch the crash barrier a full 3km to accommodate hometown hero Levi Leipheimer, Coppi Bartali officials stretch the TTT time limit by 25% to keep Petacchi in the race, but Redlands officials can't give Ivan Dominguez a few bloody seconds on an uphill slog while he's wearing the sprinter's jersey? Lame!
Regarding this statement about Lance Armstrong: "I hope we never have a guy like Armstrong who won seven times in a row again. Ya know, he didn't even race the Classics!"
Armstrong won La Fleche Wallonne in 1996 while on Team Motorola. While he ignored the classics during his TdF run you can't say he never raced the Classics. Before he became the TdF champion that we all know him to be, he won a couple big single day races (1995 San Sebastian, 1993 World Championships).
Armstrong boring? #2
This letter is downright funny! Lance Armstrong was many things, but he was far from boring. Someone who made perfectly timed attacks, tearing the legs off anyone who would dare try to stop him is not boring. Let's not forget his rather strong type A personality.
Sure, he won, a lot. Each win however had some element of tactic and attack like you were watching a battle with front row seats. If you hate Armstrong, fine, say you hate him. Boring just isn't a fair assessment. It's just poorly communicated frustration. Look dominance, attack, patron and leader up in the dictionary and I doubt you'll find a passive word associated with these terms.
Let's not forget, Armstrong made all of those around him ride and prepare that much harder. That rose the level of competition which is far from boring.
If anything, cycling is missing a patron now, a true leader like Eddy, Miguel and Lance; guys who dominate and provide shock and aw with their dominance.
Armstrong boring? #3
Yet, once again we have another person bashing Lance Armstrong. Am I the only person who enjoys watching an athlete on top of his game? I always thought the Tours he won were very exciting because of how explosive he could be. Rather than speak badly of Armstrong, shouldn't we be upset by the fact that the other riders just, plain and simply, failed to up their game?
Armstrong is a true hero to many of us. Does anyone remember the Tour in '03 when Ullrich had him dropped on a mountain stage, only to see Lance come roaring around the corner to only concede seven seconds or so. I believe Phil Liggetts words were "Lance Armstrong you are brilliant!" I get goosebumps just thinking about it.
When he had to dig deep, he could deliver the goods. Plus, the charisma he possessed made him a great interview all the time. Is there anyone like that now? I think not. Oh, and I do believe he has raced a few classics if I'm not mistaken.
"Armstrong was physically very strong and very determined but technically and aesthetically Ullrich was a much better cyclist" What?
While I agree with this gentleman's "jist" that Ullrich was a fantastic athlete, overshadowed by Armstrong during his best years, what the heck does this statement mean?
"Technically" Ullrich was a much better cyclist? Armstrong trained better, ate better, was tactically smarter, positioned himself in the pack perfectly, and was a better bike-handler (remember Ullrich descending?). Armstrong could climb, time trial, and even sprint surprisingly well. Ullrich? Well, he could time trial...
"Aesthetically"? What does that mean anyway relative to cycling? That Ullrich was more pleasing to the eye? Well, that's subjective, but as a Clydesdale that is often referred to as "The Big German" by his riding buddies, I can tell you bigger isn't better when it comes to looking at home in spandex or on a bike. Ullrich, like me, in some early-season photos looked like he should have taken up rugby instead of cycling. And we won't even bring up Ullrich's slow-motion lumbering, knee-breaking climbing style compared to Armstrong's fluid, "dancing" method.
I'm as sick of hearing about Armstrong at this point as everyone else, and while I'm not convinced it's "better for cycling" (i.e. publicity, sponsorship dollars, etc.) having him gone, I welcome the more open racing. And no one can argue that Ullrich wasn't a great rider.
But alas, the results over the past 7-8 years show clearly, Ullrich was no Armstrong. Not physically, technically, or aesthetically.
Ullrich/Armstrong comparisons #2
Responding to this article, made me realize that every sport has its comparison based on many different aspects.
For instance, Cricket (what's that got to do with cycling - nothing but hear me out), there are those who like players with all the grace and style of Fred Astaire, those who like classic stroke makers. These players are not well remembered, for they did not create big match winning runs or win the game for the team. Everyone (including History) remembers and has heard of Sir Donald Bradman. He was considered to be less technically sound than others of his era, and not having the grace of other gifted cricketers. So what? When it mattered most, he could make huge scores to save a game or win it.
With cycling it's the cyclist who wins that is always remembered, not the rider with the best technical ability who looked better on a bike, because history suggests and most likely proves that having the best technical ability and looking aesthetically pleasing will not win you consecutive TdF's or any other race for that matter.
Ullrich will always be remembered for two reasons -
Armstrong is much like Bradman, when it mattered most (July 1999-2005) he delivered the "big score" and won. So what if he didn't look pleasing on a bike or have the technical ability, he won and that's all that matters.
Comparisons will always be made, from different eras and they are just that. History always dictates who is remembered.
Both are exceptionally gifted athletes and deserve any plaudits that come their way.
For the record I am an Armstrong fan, ride Treks, and enjoyed watching TdF after TdF and Ullrich battling for either 2nd/3rd or 4th overall.
If anything, Big Mig and Big Tex are the ones who need closer looking at, since they both won the majority of their TdF wins via the TT and climbs (or not losing time on the major climbs)
Ullrich/Armstrong comparisons #3
I agree with my kiwi friend 100%. When you look at the ranks of really talented cyclists we have loved watching over the years, my favorites have been the sometimes troubled and never perfect riders like Ullrich and Pantani. I relished watching big Jan power up those climbs on pure strength, knowing full well his Watts expended far surpassed anyone in the final group.
Jan never explosively attacked like LA, but he was always a threat and always looked better and better as the long races wore on. He was, and is, one tough cookie. So I join you in saluting Jan Ullrich. I think he was more fun to watch and cheer on then anyone else in cycling. He valiantly suffered more than any rider I've ever witnessed, other than Voekler a few tours ago.
Christopher A. Fore
Ullrich/Armstrong comparisons #4
I'd like to agree that for the most part Ullrich was a far more sensational cyclist to watch, his style very traditional and Spartan, but I think one of the things that made Armstrong so entertaining were his explosive attacks, a la Pantani, but I'm surely not saying Armstrong was a good a climber as Pantaini, just a similar attacking style.
That said, I also think that it's interesting to consider what might have been. Had Armstrong not arrived on the scene I have no issues imagining that we may be calling Jan Ullrich the greatest cyclist of all time. I think he had the natural ability and drive to win just as much as Merckx, and the Tour as many times as Armstrong.
But there's the kicker: Ullrich fell prey to "the Armstong complex". He was beaten by him once, crushing his spirit enough to keep him from winning the Tour ever again, so full of spite towards Armstrong that he was too motivated to ride properly. But that's the difference between Ullrich and other riders who suffered the Armstrong complex (see Heras, Beloki, Mayo, etc): all these riders are were talented enough to win the tour, but after being beaten by Armstrong they lost their drive and fell to the back pages.
Ullrich, on the other hand, had so much talent and drive from the get go that once he was beaten by Armstrong he fell the same length as these others, but because of his higher level he was still able to compete at top form. Ullrich: the supposed greatest cyclist of all time?
You're absolutely right - Popo is a lethal, awesome rider, and given all the focus on IB as the "man" for Discovery in the TDF, and Popo's superior form at this point in the season, you have to wonder if Pop can take the Giro, or at least be the leader of the Discovery team for the Giro.
Here's a scenario I like - have IB support Popo in the Giro and help him get the win while IB rides himself into shape to win the TDF with support from Popo. Then, Contador in the Vuelta for a sweep by Discovery of the Grand Tours this year!
Popovych - the new Armstrong? #2
Sometimes I wonder if I am watching a different broadcast than the rest of the world? Did anyone catch the performance of Alberto Contador? I think the entire Discovery Channel cycling team has been finally kicking in as a team this year.
While Yaroslav Popovych has been showing his true form this year in support of the team and his TDF training in the Classics, much like Tom Danielson, who also had a terrible disappointing last year, I just don't get the sense that they have that little extra fire in their belly to always rise above no matter what.
In today's Milan-San Remo race, Popovych attacked at the correct time and took a chance to win and showed he has what it takes to crank out the power when necessary and almost pulled off a win. I now get a sense that the talent is beginning to show in the entire Disco squad, but if there ever was a replacement (in form and courage) to Armstrong the name is Alberto Contador. The key terminology here is courage and will, which is why Armstrong won so many grand tours.
Alberto Contador attacked from over 20k and powered his way to a win in the final stage and the overall win in Paris-Nice. This is what everyone doesn't understand, what it takes to win a grand tour or stage race, stamina and courage. Knowing there is nobody that can beat you in the end.
At this level, all riders are good, but I am watching Contador for the big stuff. This is what Floyd Landis was missing, the courage to go beyond anyone, anytime, anywhere, regardless of that shady stage win last year in the TDF. Alberto Contador is ready to lead, not just by default, but because he is earning it. Just ask Levi Leipheimer, his teammate, who attested that he thought he would be the big guy at training camp this year and Alberto Contador blew his doors off the hinges.
Everyone needs to stop trying to make comparisons to the way others ride and start paying attention to the fire in their belly. Plain and simple, this was Armstrong's secret.
Popovych - the new Armstrong? #3
Do you even watch cycling? The only thing LA and Popo have in common is they were once teammates and they're both white. He has no time trial and at the end of the day he can't stay with the world's best on climbs. Do you really think that Bruyneel would have signed Basso as a domestique? Gimme a break!
Popovych - the new Armstrong? #4
I think what needs to be factored into the future success of Popo is the team's management actually backing his talent. He was always overlooked during his time on the team when Armstrong was around in favour of other US riders, and essentially rode himself into the white jersey at the Tour.
Now that Basso is on board I'd be surprised if Popo gets any support again this year. the guy's one of the classiest riders on the planet but is left to do it on his own - maybe this is where he thrives - but the Disco team needs to change it's attitude and start providing him with sustained support; not just as a back-up when the "big-guns" falter.
It looks like we're bound to have a year where some of the major races will be missing the ‘real' talent as it was before the ProTour.
As a cycling fan I am completely annoyed with the ASO power plays like this that continue to harm the sport! I remember back to when the teams with the top talent were in doubt of participation. (i.e. Cipollini, world champion at the time and arguably the best sprinter ever, having his team left out because he wouldn't kiss Leblanc's ass) The argument was given that he was on a "2 week holiday" in France, and wouldn't finish the race.
From his past appearances it's obvious to see that it was always a successful two weeks, and while his personality and stunts would always add to the positive vibe of the Tour, even more important was the fact that his team would keep the first week safe by stringing out the bunch sprints. I wish I could make that much cake "on holiday!"
Armstrong wouldn't kiss Leblanc's ass either, which in my opinion contributed to their relationship turning sour. Fortunately, replacing Discovery/Postal with a wildcard was never an option since the doping accusations never held weight. Unfortunately, it looks like Leblanc has had his ego surgically transplanted into Prudhomme. It seems a lot like career politicians here in the USA where most of them are worthless but have a lot of influence. Hopefully Prudhomme will prove to have a healthy set balls and do what is right for the sport.
Fast forward to today: Unibet, a ProTour team, becoming a pawn in the whole ProTour/Grand Tour dispute, and ASO damaging the sport yet again by picking Agritubel for Paris Nice. No offence to Agritubel, who wouldn't take the entry, but has anyone looked at how they performed? I haven't heard a peep! Dead last in the teams competition, and poor individual stage results. They are a Professional Continental team, and performed as one would expect when up against the ProTour teams.
The definition of wildcard from Dictionary.com is as follows: "of, being, or including an unpredictable or unproven element, person, item, etc." Why elect replace a proven element (Unibet) with a wildcard? It's painfully obvious that the only logical basis for the decision would not be sporting in nature.
I appreciate what the UCI is trying to accomplish, and as a bystander and fan of the sport I hope they can work with the riders and the power they bring to the table to find a solution that will accomplish the same goal. If you're a pro rider and you're reading this, you should think about the fact that next year you could be out of a job or a nice pay increase if Unibet goes away. Stand up and be counted - there has been no better time!
Kudos to Unibet - the management of the company - for hanging in there and not pulling the plug on the sponsorship of our sport!
I agree that the conflict between these two organizations is unfortunate for our sport. Each side has displayed a certain amount of adolescent spite (at least in public statements - who knows what goes on behind closed doors) that in itself reflects badly on the merits of their respective cases. However, I support the concept of the ProTour for sound business and professional reasons.
Professional cycling, like other major sports, depends heavily on sponsorship for its continued existence. Before investing untold millions into sponsoring a team, I can understand a sponsor wanting at least some baseline guarantee to secure its investment i.e. the publicity of guaranteed participation in certain high-profile races. (Pity poor Unibet.com! Even if they get to ride in ASO events – doubtful - they can't even get the publicity.) I think the two sides could compromise perhaps on the number of riders per team - 7 instead of 9, with certain substitutions allowed in the first two weeks for serious injuries) - that would open room for one or two more teams without crowding the field to dangerous proportions.
There are plenty of races out there that allow all levels of cyclists to show their mettle. I don't think that's the point. Like so much else, what it comes down to is money and who gets it. It would be great if there were enough for everyone, but this is the reality we live with.
It's been interesting to watch the spectacle that is professional cycling. After the TdF last year, I was left with a bad taste in my mouth. Is Floyd a cheater? Are they all? It made me wonder if they weren't all juiced up; some were just better at masking and hiding the evidence than others.
Then the '07 season was about to begin. It all became so clear. We have the UCI and ASO, among other race organizations, showing the maturity of five year olds at the playground. When the ProTour rift became a spectacle, it all changed for me. The only real men in this sport are the ones that we never see. You know, the mechanics, cooks, bus drivers, etc
The ego's that run the UCI, WADA, and head the major races are all ex-athlete ego-maniacs that can't stand one another and must always look for ways to one-up each other. For instance, (and Floyd has mentioned this many times) who are the big names in futbol that are implicated in the Operacion Peurto affair? I haven't seen any, has anyone else? I could be mistaken, but their names aren't all over the papers like Ullrich and Basso's were. Why?
Most of the other sports are run by business professionals who understand that their product, their sport, is paid a massive disservice when unproven scandal is constantly headline material. Professional American Baseball has gone through this a few times and has yet to recover from its prior lockout media nightmare. Is it even America's past-time anymore? I watch more cycling than baseball.
How am I to believe the credibility of anything the ASO, UCI, WADA, etc have to say about any topic, any rider, any thing, when all they seem to be good at is picking playground fights. If they don't clean it up soon, they won't need to worry about it, because there'll be no one left to hear the newest problems that have come up. No one will care, because we'll be too busy watching baseball.
It is already clear that ‘cycling at two speeds' is still an unfortunate part of our sport. If this is the price of money coming into sport and the ProTour, then we can do without it. When will those like the UCI, or race organizers do something serious about tackling this problem?
One would have thought last year would have been a wake up call to all those involved in professional cycling, but it is clear that many involved in running teams regard it as ‘old news'. Why do the media not follow the stance taken by www.cycling4all.com, and ignore the sponsor name of those teams still working, or suspected of working, outside the rules and regulations?
For those who have any doubts about the scale of the problem, consider the performance of the French and German pro teams, T-Mobile and CSC. These are the teams with a known anti doping policy and federations who support their actions with regular checks. These teams, and some others would be well advised to ride their own events, outside the badly considered ProTour, as one French pro has suggested.
When can we hope to see fair competition, justice for the clean riders and their sponsors, removal of the criminal element and excitement for the fans!
In response to John Schmalbach re: tin foil hats. I have it on good authority that when riding the shiny side is more aero.
In his letter dated March 18, 2007, Phil Costic notes Tyler Hamilton's "dismal performance" in the Tireno Adriatico. Only the team strategists can answer Phil's question. However, it is not unknown races for top riders to act as domestiques and let other team-mates excel. This way a top rider can rely on great team support during major races such as the Tour de France.
Tyler Hamilton #2
He got the flu, like half the other riders in the peloton. It's not some ‘I'm off my drugs now so I'm normal' conspiracy, so don't go there. You'll see him at Tour de Georgia and the Giro, and I suspect when he wins something, instead of raising his arms, he'll put a tourniquet on and dare anyone to draw blood from his veins. That'd be quite the statement now, wouldn't it?
Tyler Hamilton #3
I gleaned the following details from cyclingnews race coverage of Tirreno-Adriatico.
Stage 3: Hamilton was involved in a crash at 175km with 5 other riders, Ivan Basso was involved in another crash.
Stage 4: Ivan Basso DNF'ed due to problems from crash on Stage 3.
Stage 5: "American Tyler Hamilton (Tinkoff Credit Systems) continues suffer from the flu that's been making its rounds in the peloton."
Stage 6: Hamilton abandoned after a crash earlier in the day.
Of the original 8 Tinkoff riders who started Tirreno, only 5 made it through the 7th and final stage. Tinkoff DNFs were Tyler Hamilton, Pavel Brutt, and Ruggero Marzoli.
Total race numbers: 172 riders started on Stage 1, 36 abandoned throughout, leaving 136 riders to finish on Stage 7.
Tyler Hamilton #4
He is 35 years old and has just returned from a two year ban. You can't expect to be at your best within such a short period of time of training and racing.
Tyler Hamilton #5
The Tinkoff team all seemed to catch a bug, (I'll restrain myself from making any drug related wise cracks) but Tyler decided to stay in to pick up some form, see link for March 19th latest news.
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