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Letters to Cyclingnews - April 13, 2007
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Thoughts on Flanders
The Ronde truly is a race like no other, separating the hardmen from everyone else.
Some interesting numbers:
At only 12:37, the deficit of the "stragglers" was just over 3% of the winner's time. No one who finished this race did so without busting his behind! (Of course, only 58% of the entrants finished.) Only one non-ProTour rider finished in the top 20. That rider, Wesseman (16th), was of course a ProTour rider last season. 41 out of the top 50 are current ProTour riders. By my count, 45 (add Wesseman, Commesso, den Bakker, and Giling) are current or former ProTour riders.
Only two North Americans (Tony Cruz and Tyler Farrar of the US) started. Neither finished.
First and foremost, what timing for Ballan! This guy is showing some formidable instincts along with the strength to act on them. Forza Alessandro!
How can you not feel for Hoste, after finishing 2nd three times and coming oh-so-close this year?
How can you not like Boonen, whether he wins or not? I love that this guy just tells it like it is. "I have to admit, it took my head out of the race when I crashed. Today, the strongest were ahead and I wasn't able to follow." Not "the crash stole my deserved victory" but instead "I lost focus and I didn't have it today." The guy has a palmares to die for, but he readily owns up to his own humanity without the excuses of many riders. We need more like him.
While many of the rest had plenty of excuses, how about Paolini, who crashed twice and still finished 3rd?
You gotta love the irony of a snow delay at a Virginia (USA) race the day before the best Flanders weather in recent memory!
Watch out for Cancellara! His TT skills won Roubaix last year, and his attempt did some serious damage at Flanders this year. If he can manage not to cook himself after one strong attempt the way he did Sunday, then Fabian is going to kick some serious derriere before April is gone.
What a race to kick off the Classics! April is in full swing, and I'm as excited as I've ever been. The season is on and that's what matters!
I couldn't help but wonder why there isn't some simple device to perhaps lock, clamp or snap bidons in place so they wouldn't vibrate out on bumpy descents. With all the high tech gizmos available in cycling these days, this seems to be an easily avoidable problem.
Tom Boonen commented in your news section that usually water bottles can be safely ridden over. Maybe so, but in my experience it takes a second or so for the brain to register what the obstacle in front of you is. And riding at speed in a group you only have fractions of a second to identify hazards. Braking or swerving in most cases would seem unavoidable.
In any case it seems that this problem could be addressed without necessarily doing away with the Kemmelberg or reducing the number of riders in the field.
Watching the crashes at Gent-Wevelgem, and noting how many were caused by ejected water-bottles, I immediately thought "Hey, I have the solution: Arundel bottle cages."
Seriously, in 3 years of riding, racing, and crashing (on a couple of occasions), I have never once had a bottle eject from an Arundel cage. For that matter, I have never seen a bottle come out of one-even when slamming through pot-hole infested dirt sections at 30+ mph.
Just an observation here, concerning the treacherous cobbled descent off the Kemmel the felled so many riders in Gent-Wevelgem. Sealing the surface of the descent sounds a bit extreme. Maybe we should take a look at the rolling water bottle that caused all the trouble to begin with. Then question the manufacture of that bottle cage on the soundness, engineering and testing of their design to hold the bottle securely in the first place.
That T-Mobile result is not only good for the team, it's good for cycling too. With the T-Mobile anti-doping policy and the number of tests done so far this year, I as a spectator am convinced they achieved the result clean. It's good to be able to say that with conviction!
C'mon Roger Hammond!
Finally someone has said it! I've always wondered why Popo doesn't groom himself to become a smashingly good one day race rider. He'd be better suited for this I fear. He should take after Stijn Devolder and Leif Hoste, who are both very good at this. There is clearly less money in this M.O., unless you are from Belgium and win every other race you enter (aka Tornado Tom).
Please explain how it is that European cities/towns/villages can afford to have the same international race year in and year out for the past century but cities in America need billions of dollar$ in corporate sponsorship but still can't manage to establish any sort of racing tradition?
Seth R. Hayse
Yesterday's U.S. broadcast coverage of the U.S. Men's Open Cycling Championships definitely qualified as a good news/bad news event.
On the good side of the coin, the race is a welcome addition to the US calendar. The course was interesting and given the nature of the finishing loops, spectator friendly. That a major network chose to show it (tape delayed) in virtually real time, devoting two and half hours of a Saturday afternoon schedule was unreal. The men's victory was well earned. It offered our sport exposure that it very seldom gets.
On the flip side, however, unless you were a diehard fan it was overkill. I found myself wishing that they had done an hour highlights show. I tried to imagine a non-biker watching the show. Frankly, except for a few minutes (e.g. the final breakaway on the cobble stone climb) not much seemed to be happening. The weather was some of the most interesting part of the broadcast. It reminded me when the running boom was at its height and TV would show marathons. A guy running down a street isn't very interesting to a non-runner.
I don't think the broadcast is going to draw large numbers of new fans to cycling, in fact, it might have done just the opposite. I'm not even likely to sit through another show like that. I'll tape it and fast forward to see the real action. Obviously, advertisers are not going to like that very much.
One other comment; a bored Bob Roll showed up to do the color commentary. He acted at times as if this local event wasn't important enough for him to prepare and to give true insights into the race and the racers. Bob Eustace worked very hard to make the broadcast interesting and to cover for Bob's disinterest.
Also, if they covered the women's race I missed it.
I may have missed something along the way and so this may seem like an ignorant question to some people out there, but I need an explanation: why are the Grand Tour organisers going after Unibet under the guise of promotion of gambling laws in Belgium and France when there has never been a whisper about Francaise des Jeux or Lotto operating in other European countries?
Surely when FdJ goes to Belgium they are in breach of the Belgian law; similarly Lotto must be in breach of the French law when racing in France. It seems strange to me that Unibet isn't making much of a noise about this considering they are the only team on the receiving end of these so-called legal arguments. If they can't ride anyway, what have they got to lose in putting a couple of other teams off-side?
I find the fact that the French courts have upheld a decision by ASO to exclude Unibet.com from French races a little hypocritical. I didn't see AC Milan being excluded from playing any competitions in France for their bwin (Bet-To-Win) logo on their jersey, in fact they played French team Lille on French soil at the end of '06, bearing the bwin logo for all to see.
Would the French have the nerve to enforce this stupid law in football against such teams as AC Milan? Why pick on this team now when the Belgian Lotto has sponsored cycling since 1984 without anyone complaining?
Maybe it will take a sport where money, rather than French stupidity, rules to make someone realise how stupid this really is.
Lets all boycott watching/attending the French races and focus our time and money on countries that are actually putting the interests of our sport first.
Most of the first letters to come out about Bjarne Riis after the accusation of prior doping were immature and short sided. I know, I almost submitted one myself. I thought 'what a hypocrite.'
After further reflection, I believe Bjarne used some type of doping. He probably feels bad about resorting to doping to win the Tour, but is doing his best to change the climate of the peloton. What he is doing is the right thing for cycling and all sports.
I am a Discovery fan rather than a CSC fan, so I now look at Johan and wonder what is going through his mind. Maybe he does not want to be as aggressive as Bjarne because he does not want to be a hypocrite. Maybe his decisions are strictly financially motivated. Who knows?
One thing is obvious, the sport is changing. Cycling is being cleaned up. It will take years to get rid of the old mind set (Festina and Kelme) and replace those people, but it is happening. However, we will still have doping scandals - there is no way to eliminate the people who will do anything to win, or the people who get desperate to regain what they had one or two years ago.
Bjarne Riis #2
Frank states, quite correctly that Riis and Armstrong have both claimed "I have never been [sic] tested positive." However, that is not the same as saying "I have never used illegal performance enhancing drugs or tactics". Saying "I have never tested positive" is like saying "I have never been booked for speeding". Doesn't mean I haven't been caught speeding, nor does it mean that I have never sped. I believe Armstrong has unequivocally denied using illegal methods. But my point here is the semantics of the phrase, not the veracity of the orator.
As the head of a company that analyzes and improves work practices based on best practices across industries - including the pharmaceutical industry - I am confounded by the report that the same lab in Chatenay-Malabry will be responsible for analyzing Mr. Landis' 'B' sample in pursuit of finding errors in their testing method.
Surely, I am missing something. While accredited by WADA, the French lab's testing method itself could be flawed. But compared to what methodology? Variances to the lab's own protocols would undermine the validity of the test, but of even more significance would be variances between the testing process followed by the Chatenay-Malabry lab and some other WADA-accredited anti-doping laboratory (ADL).
Even if an individual followed all of Chatenay-Malabry's testing procedures, because of a self-admitted lack of standardization of process and protocols across all WADA-accredited ADLs, the French lab's process itself could be flawed. This being the case, an outside audit would show that the proper procedures were followed for that lab, but the test result would still be unreliable when compared to other ADLs.
Since the authorities have four or more urine samples, to conduct a truly fair test and to eliminate every party's ability to call to question the test results, the test would have to be done completely blind and each sample would have to be tested by two or more ADLs.
While logistically cumbersome, the process would be easy to coordinate and would be far less costly to all the parties involved (and to the sport) than it would be to deal with the fallout resulting from an uncertain and fallible testing process.
WADA should demand that all samples (including several non-suspected samples) be immediately surrendered and blind-tested by an objective, third-party laboratory (WADA-accredited or not) with the understanding that the samples will be divided for redundant testing by multiple labs.
Why can't WADA and all of their accredited anti-doping labs get their act together?
In response to Mr. Press' letter about what legitimate reasons would there be for taking blood from a normal individual and storing it. This is a common practice for some people who are expecting surgery in the near future, as the scares about hepatitis and HIV being contained in blood from blood banks has risen over the years. Some patients choose to go into the doctor once or so per week, have blood drawn and stored for them, and then use their own blood during their surgery.
Now, with nine bags of it in Fuentes' cooler, I highly doubt that Mr. Ullrich was storing this up for a possible future surgery. But as aforementioned, there are reasons, real reasons, to store one's own blood.
Taking blood #2
Regarding the attempts to say that the blood means nothing in a fridge. Alone they are absolutely correct. If someone just happened upon a cyclist's blood in a refrigerator, this would indicate nothing.
Here is the problem that Jorg, Jan and their 'people' would like us to forget though. Initially the code names which noted specific doping protocols, schedules, payments made etc. were attacked as not being conclusive enough to identify a specific person. Now you have a bag of blood with a code name and a DNA match.
Now you work backwards: If "Son of Rudy" means Jan on the bag, it means Jan on the damning documents. The attorneys I think can only be grasping at straws hoping that the notoriety of the positive DNA test blinds the public to the previously only circumstantial evidence.
Now in a Criminal Court there could still be technical issues that could save Jan. The number of blood bags missing etc, can all be technicalities that could prevent a conviction based on "beyond a reasonable doubt", simply because the evidence could be precluded due to poor storage, handling etc. They wouldn't have to claim it isn't his blood, or that he was framed, only that proper procedures were not adhered to that would permit the evidence to be admitted in court.
Sporting bodies though have lower levels of evidence and more flexible evidentiary rules similar to civil hearings though. Criminally, Jan may still be able to live out his days in Switzerland producing the next generation of Ubercyclist with his wife without a care in the world, but sporting wise he is finished.
More importantly, the praise, approval and validation from the public he so obviously craved has been thrown upon the trash heap. The only thing that could possibly salvage some of this is if he came clean. May be he only doped near the end of Armstrong's reign, in a desperate attempt to win one last yellow jersey as his career too entered its twilight years and he found it increasingly difficult both mentally and physically to gain the form and weight of his glory days in time for July?
If this was true, such a confessional could help him, and cycling. Instead he, as throughout his career, takes poor advice, but this time it harms not only his own career, but all of cycling.
If only this story was an April Fools' joke... This stuff has been so not funny for so long.... Tyler, Floyd, Jan; and Lance's never-ending list of accusations that pop up whenever someone wants to make a buck and a headline... who knows who's guilty and innocent - it hardly seems to matter any more.
It just gets harder and harder to believe that there's anyone out there not cheating. It's almost as depressing as the stream of news from Iraq.
Ullrich DNA match #2
Bravo Mark Crosby (NJ, USA). Well said! In my opinion, Basso & Co. must now be thrown out of the sport too. Otherwise it's just a farce (as always). But I guess the wonderful legal people will prevent us from cleaning this mess up.
By the way, I only very occasionally catch up on cyclingnews.com nowadays because I am truly disillusioned with the sport. For example, when David Millar starts winning again, I am looking to heaven and thinking, hmmm, it IS possible to look people in the eyes and lie again, it really is, isn't it?
Why should we believe him when he says he's now clean? We have no obligation whatsoever to believe him. We know how cycling ticks and it is all about "no positive tests", not "no doping". I am not pointing a finger at Millar in particular, it's just an example of where, we the fans, reserve the right, to be suspicious! We are the people that make this sport commercially viable.
But I just don't buy it anymore. Let down too many times by my "heroes". I even threw out about 10 years of old "Cycling Weekly" magazines recently, I used to treasure those. But it's all nonsense. There were front pages celebrating our stars' heroics, stars who subsequently "tested positive". Tut tut. What a farce!
Ullrich DNA match #3
I couldn't agree with you more. The evil Discovery Team wanted Basso and suddenly he was exonerated of any implications. It's all about the $$$! I remember the fanfare surrounding Lance Armstrong when he retired (The Scott Peterson of Cycling) and now look what's happening to Jan. It's a pity. And all Floyd can do is give the O.J. Simpson defense of mishandled evidence. My head is spinning.
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