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Letters to Cyclingnews - April 20, 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 I sit here at 1 am in the morning reading Cyclingnews' coverage of the Paris Roubaix, I can't help but feel elation and delight as I read that Stuey O'Grady has won arguably the toughest and most prestigious one day race in the world. It couldn't happen to a nicer and more deserving person.
After all he has been through this year, and throughout his career with a number of frustrating podium places in le tour's green jersey and other classics, it has all culminated with this incredible victory. Not only this but the amount of work he has put into developing the sport in Australia, with his under 23 AIS squad, and on a personal note the prized that he signed for me at last year's Tour, makes you feel proud to be an aussie.
Congratulations Stuey, you've well and truly earned it, and may this go down in history as the greatest ever achievement by an Australian in cycling (that is of course until Michael Rogers and Cadel Evans go one-two in Le Tour!).
I watched the finale of Paris-Roubaix on the edge of my seat, hoping that Stuey's luck was finally going to hold out. I remember in 1997 standing on the roadside watching Paris-Roubaix where GAN teammates O'Grady and Henk Vogels rode their hearts out for Frederic Moncassin, but as so many times couldn't get any luck.
I said then he would win this race some day. Finally his hard work and heart have been repaid. I know in Oz you are all ecstatic over this breakthrough and here in the States we are as well. I can think of no rider I'd have rather seen win, and none who deserved it more. He's paid his dues time and again, and now finally has the reward he has so richly deserved. "Good on ya, Stuey"
I am SO HAPPY Stuart O'Grady won Paris-Roubaix! This is a guy who works so hard, putting in 110% all the time - it's about time he took a prize worthy of his efforts! Great job, Stuart!
I'm not going to wait until December. I'm casting my votes right now.
Best Ride of 2007: Stuart O'Grady wins Paris-Roubaix
I've been racing bikes and following bike races for more than a decade now, and O'Grady's classic coup makes up for all the doping (Festina to Phonak), the scandals (Puerto), the political power plays (ASO vs. UCI), the deaths and disappointments (Pantani, Ullrich) - basically all the things that bicycle racing is NOT. O'Grady is an all-around class act and his solo win at Roubaix was not only a perfect showcase of his talent but also a demonstration of what cycling should be. He took the cobbled cake, now the rest of the year is pure icing.
From Adelaide to Arenberg, you've come a long way, Stuey! Thanks for letting us enjoy the ride.
That quick bike change by Lars Michaelsen (CSC) to a setup with Zipp deep-dish rims, very late in Paris-Roubaix, while chasing a podium spot behind teammate and eventual winner Stuart O'Grady, only to instantly crash the moment he "hits" the next pave, sure looked like a marketing stunt gone awry to me!
In early spring CSC tested the deep-dish carbon rims on the pave and the word is these could not stand up to the pounding.
More recently, the high incidence of crashes by deep-dish wheel setups, as in Gent-Wevelgem, is being increasingly attributed to their stiffness and unforgiving nature.
A marketing solution? Convince CSC to have their second-place rider switch to deep-dish late in the race. If all went well Zipp could then have one of those glossy adds "Stuart O'Grady 1st place Paris-Roubaix on Zipp Team CSC aluminium wheels - Lars Michaelsen 5th (or whatever) on Zipp 404 carbons!"
Marketing guru: "Dang it - why did he have to switch then crash right on camera!?"
If there was a bonus offered I sure hope they still pay it to Lars for proving with his body, in his last race as a professional, that deep-dish carbon rims and cobbles don't mix.
In all due respect, Abilene, TX is not Gent! I have been to and through Abilene. I live in Houston. We have 10 times the potholes in this city and my bottles have never ejected either. I guarantee you mine would eject on the cobbles though!
Gent-Wevelgem and water bottles #2
Seeing as bidons are taking the blame for the crashes on the descent of the Kemmelberg, why don't the riders simply agree to jettison the bottles prior to the climb? They can't drink from them while climbing or descending a steep cobbled hill. Toss'em, get fresh bottles from a feed zone set up beyond the descent.
Gent-Wevelgem and water bottles #3
Regarding the crashes caused by ejected water bottles on the descent of the Kemmelberg in last week's Gent-Wevelgem, Chuck in Chicago suggests that bottle cage manufacturers be asked to explain why their cages will not hold a bottle securely. The answer is pretty simple - the cages being used are not designed for use on the cobbles.
A wimpy-assed 25 gram carbon cage might be fine for a TT or smooth road stage, but it is very poor choice for a race like this, and the riders and/or their mechanics should know better. Everyone knows that 20 mm tires or superlight rims would be totally inappropriate to a race like this, so why doesn't the same logic extend to bottle cages? Beats me. Spend eight or ten bucks on a TA steel bottle cage. Problem solved.
Gent-Wevelgem and water bottles #4
Will any of these guys ever figure out that a 10gram little road water bottle cage doesn't work on the cobbles. Here's three words that will never let this happen again: King titanium cages. These are the only cages to use for mountain bike racing. $50!
I think the Pro Tour teams can afford to put two on each bike for the classics. I have owned the same one for 10 years. Couldn't even guess how many MTB races, training rides, flights over the Pacific this thing has survived. Bottles don't come out of them, ever, unless you pull it out.
I know most ProTour teams have sponsors that supply the water bottle cages, but come on. Safety and function should come before advertising.
The difference, as I understand it, between the cases of Unibet, FDJ and Lotto, is that FDJ and Lotto are ONLY available to the public within their own countries. It is impossible for a Frenchman to buy a Lotto ticket without physically going to Belgium and vice versa. Whereas Unibet is an Internet gambling enterprise, available to all.
I'm not sure about the legal ins and outs, but assuming you agree that localities have the right to regulate gambling in their areas, it is really exactly the same situation as we have here in the U.S. Here each state has its own lottery monopoly and/or designated gambling towns, like Las Vegas or Atlantic City. Las Vegas casinos can advertise anywhere, but they can only accept your money IN Las Vegas. And the U.S. has cracked down hard on Internet gambling operations by making it nearly impossible for them to collect money via the banking system.
So when France and Belgium say that it is unlawful for Unibet to advertise to their citizens (and thereby encouraging them to break the law again Unibet accepting bets from them), I think that's perfectly reasonable.
What is NOT reasonable or acceptable is the fact that this only came to light AFTER Unibet had been racing in both countries for years before anteing up the investment to join the ProTour. The whole situation should have been prevented in the first place.
I wonder what excuse the Grand Tour organizers would have used if it were a different team that had been granted the 20th ProTour slot? Then they would not have had a convenient reason to exclude a team, and it would have been easier for all the ProTour teams to take a united stance and say we won't race unless you take all of us. (Which I still think they should do for races outside France and Belgium, where Unibet is legal.)
Unibet/FdJ/Lotto - Help! #2
FDJ is the state lottery of France and Lotto is the state lottery of Belgium, but Unibet is a wholly commercial enterprise from France.
Technically - and I presume legally - state lotteries have some reciprocal sponsorship agreement, after all it is best for all to maintain the status quo - if the French don't allow Lotto, then the retaliation would benefit no-one.
Unibet on the other hand are 1) a lone entity and 2) not endorsed by the French government. Daniel Davis makes an excellent point about AC Milan though - there appears to be more maliciousness than transparency in the treatment of Unibet. Which is a pity because ProTour budget sponsors don't grow on trees - just ask Giancarlo Ferretti, who probably still weeps into his espresso over that Sony Eriksson thing.
In response to Chuck Elkins' comments about the US Open TV coverage: the idea that 2.5 hours is "overkill" for an event in which "not much seemed to be happening" is consistent with the stereotypical American lust for instant gratification and oblivion to subtlety.
The phony McCycling that Elkins would prefer may, indeed, draw in more viewers - but not the kind who will eventually clamor for the real deal (in all its unsatisfying subtlety), or who will learn to respect cyclists through an appreciation of their sport's richness. For that, we need to get people on bikes, not couches.
It is actually pretty simple. Most Americans do not watch cycling, are not into cycling and certainly will not fill the streets for cycling as they do the traditional American sports (baseball, football, basketball, etc.). I would say most people who follow sports do not follow cycling.
Beyond the name Lance Armstrong and maybe Floyd Landis, I would guess the average person who follows sports in America would not be able to name another prominent cyclist. I am a huge cycling fan. I follow it, TiVO VS. every Sunday and even have some races on DVD. I think it is a great sport and am hoping that someday its popularity will grow to the point where there are pro races in every state. Tour De USA! What a cool tour that would be!
Racing in America #2
Simple, the general public doesn't care about cycling. Look at any city that has had a major sports team win a title in the NFL, NBA, MLB or even the falling NHL. They always manage a parade shortly after the final game that closes down their city and thousands of fans show up in the middle of the day. People who are inconvenienced by the parade just deal with it, probably saying "hey we won the Super Bowl!" more often than not.
I can't tell you how many local races I have marshaled or ridden where people are furious at any delay caused by cyclists-sometimes driving onto the course or refusing to slow down and let the pack go through. Yet these same people would be thrilled if their local high school basketball or football team won the state title and had a parade. Cycling will never eclipse the big time sports in the US - the machines are already in place to keep the big dogs on top. So promoters will always face an uphill battle to get any event scheduled that comes from a fringe sport.
Racing in America #3
The biggest expense for more US promoters is the cost of police to control the roads and block off traffic. Here in Europe, there are some police doing the escorting and road control, but a majority of it is done by volunteer motorcycle riders. After that you have most intersections which are blocked and controlled by a volunteer who works for either nothing or a beer and sandwich. Right there you have a major cost savings for the race.
Also, a lot of the major races are on TV here in Europe, either locally in the country, or across Europe on Eurosport. This makes it much easier to sell the sponsorship which is needed to run these races. Plus the tradition aspect of it all makes the logistical red tape of dealing with cities and municipalities a lot easier. They want the race to come to their town. It's free publicity and good for the economy.
That is the simple explanation ... still, US racing is not that bad off, but just going through a hard time with sponsorship due to Lance's departure and the image of doping and cycling.
Why does USADA think that retesting Mr Landis B samples is necessary to examine whether the IRMS procedure is faulty? In order to test the IRMS equipment and procedure a properly designed experiment should include: a urine sample with a known amount of c14/c13, a urine sample with synthetic testosterone metabolites, and a urine sample with natural testosterone metabolites, and a urine sample free if any testosterone metabolites (if possible).
These types of experiments should also be done in independent WADA facilities and blind of one another to rule out or confirm that the French lab is a source of testing error. Mr Landis B samples are one big unknown and retesting them will likely only produce more confusion. For example, if all the B samples test positive for synthetic T, without scientific control then Mr Landis can easily suggest the IRMS testing procedure is faulty because his ratio of testosterone to epitestosterone was normal. Perhaps the USADA arbitrators should be less arbitrary in the questions they pursue. Only when an experiment is properly designed can it reveal meaningful information.
In response to Mr. Schmalbach's letter (April 9th, 2007), could someone please explain, physiologically or otherwise:
1. How ONLY Jan Ullrich (or other Op. Puerto culprits) are the one(s) harming cycling by not confessing. Some in the audience would submit that Mr. Armstrong is an equal detrimental representative of cycling. Your reference about Mr. Ullrich who apparently seeks "the praise, approval and validation from the public he so obviously craved" could easily apply to Lance. Remember, Lance has had books written, multiple colleagial confessions (one was Mr. Andreu (see his court confessions), and a positive EPO result from 1999).
2. How Lance could not only beat, but routinely play with and destroy, all top 40 TdF contenders for the last seven years of the TdF when the majority of those losing riders have tested positive or been seriously implicated in using enhancing techniques. Surely you don't believe Lance is innocent given the prevalence of cheating, or, believe one of his explanations that he wins because "most riders are born with six cylinders but I was born with 12!" I may only have four cylinders but Heras, Ullrich, Mancebo, Contador, Landis, Hamilton... clearly they all have 12.
3. How is it that riders employed under Postal/Disco teams, saved the vilified Andreu and Vaughters, never test positive until after they leave?
Please educate me. By the way, although I feel that Mr. Ullrich was one of the most graceful, humble and well-liked champions in the last decade I am cognizant enough to know that he is guilty.
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