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Letters to Cyclingnews - June 29, 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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"The Flying Scotsman"
Read the book, seen the film, where can I get the tee-shirt! I have absolutely no connection with Mr Obree except for my admiration of his fantastic lifetime achievements and the help he received from his wife and few real friends. I sincerely hope that his story will now continue happily ever after.
The book was an extraordinary, extremely moving, outstanding and thought-provoking insight to Graeme Obree, to his skills and thoughts. It made me re-think my "self". Thank you, Graeme.
Today I was fortunate to witness the UK preview of the film. Never have I spent such an enthralling, moving and silently received "reprint" at a cinema. Congratulations to all for this superb rendition of Graeme's story! It had only enough variations by Hollywood to widen its' appeal to non-cyclists. In portrayal it captured all the emotions and excitement which, if it had been "Rocky Nth" or any other box-office hit, would guarantee Oscar-listing for best everything awards.
When this story hits your screens I recommend that you see it - until it arrives go get the book. I will almost guarantee that you will read it until you drop because you will find it most difficult to put it down until tomorrow because it is enthralling.
His is a life story which needs to be appreciated and a life which should have been recognised and helped without Graeme having to fight his demons!
Is there any particular reason why Fabian Cancellara’s world time trial champion jersey has rainbow bands which don’t meet up on the sides? It seems a little silly that such a special jersey can’t be made to be aesthetically pleasing!
In response to Jon Holmes’ letter, Saul Raisin’s story is certainly a great one. From the moment he regained consciousness, all he thought of was getting back on the bike, and his subsequent phoenix-like return to health is the stuff of legends. But there’s also another great case that involves the very team that took a chance on Lance Armstrong.
Alberto Contador, like Raisin, had a life-threatening crash. Contador’s accident resulted from a massive aneurysm which knocked him off his bike during the Vuelta a Asturias in ‘04. His embattled Liberty Seguros team stuck by him through his year-long recovery period. Refreshing, given that Cofidis unceremoniously dumped Lance when he contracted cancer and refused to pay for his treatments. Maybe it was because Contador’s team was sponsored by an insurance company.
At any rate, he was more fortunate, and he had the support of his team right up until it folded. Now he is, very appropriately, on Lance’s former team, he has won Paris-Nice in spectacular style, and is ranked #10 in the ProTour at the age of 24, with plenty of opportunities to improve on that position in the latter half of the season. Besides which, he’s so much fun to watch, I will drop everything to catch any race he’s in, much as I have for Bettini and Vinokourov in recent years. Armstrong was only interesting to real gearheads in the Tour de France – anywhere else; he was little more than flashy pack fill.
The real heroes #3
I am in fact a fan of LA as a cyclist, not as a person. That being said I must give kudos to his organization Livestrong. They are apparently a great group giving support to cancer patients and their families. If he achieved nothing else in his life but winning 7 TdF’s he'd just be another great athlete. The good his group has done will live long after he is gone.
Yes Saul Raisin is an inspiration but so is Lance Armstrong. Not just for his athletic prowess but for what he has done since retiring.
B Johnson sent an interesting query from Tokyo, asking how the climbs are categorised. It's very historical. In the early years of the 20th century, a French newspaper called L'Auto published information for drivers, advising them which mountain passes could be taken by which motorcars.
Those climbs that most cars could tackle were categorised as 4; it needed extra horsepower for Category 3...and so on up to Category 1, which only the most powerful engines could handle. Beyond that there were climbs reckoned as "Hors Categorie", which drivers were advised not to attempt. When L'Auto ran the earliest Cycling Tours de France (to publicise the paper) they stuck to those categories. Another interesting bit of cycling Trivia - L'Auto was printed on yellow paper, hence the Yellow Jersey. I love history!
Categorised Climbs #2
To make it short: no there isn't something like a CCC (climb categorizing committee). Race organizers just decide out of thin air what kind of category they give to a climb. Sometimes they forget what happened in the past and they rate a certain climb as a 1st category, while some years earlier they rated the same climb as a 2nd category. An example of this can be found in the 11th stage of the tour 1998 and the 12th stage in the tour of 2002 Both stages were the second consecutive stage in the Pyrenees and featured the same five climbs. Yet you see that the third climb of the day is ranked cat. 2 in 1998 and cat. 1 in 2002.
The col the Télégraphe was ranked cat.1 in 2005, cat. 2 in 1998 and didn't get any ranking at all in 1996 and 1993 (because the race organisers considered it to be a part of the Col du Galibier). In Paris-Nice (organised by the Société du Tour de France) there are some climbs ranked as cat. 1, while they would only receive a cat.2 if they were climbed in the tour. Why this sudden promotion? Because they are the most difficult climbs in that specific race and therefore deserve the cat.1 label in that race.
But difficulty isn't the only factor taken into account when deciding how to label a climb. A few days ago Franck Schleck won the stage to Malbun in the tour de Suisse, which finished on the Triesenberg. This climb is 14km long and has an average gradient of 8% (length and gradient comparable to the "hors categorie" l'Alpe d'huez), yet it only received a 2nd category ranking, the same rating as the Arlbergpass (7 km at 7%) climbed earlier that stage. It seems that the organizers of the tour de Suisse favours the elevation of the summit out of other factors such as length, average gradient, maximum gradient or total height difference.
In the tour of Italy, the organizers use five categories: 1st, 2nd, 3rd, "cima coppi" and "finish". Cima coppi is used for the climb which reaches the highest elevation (regardless of its actual difficulty), the "finish" category is used when a stage finishes on a "real" climb (I bet you didn't see that one coming).
So a finish in San Marino (7.5 km at a gentle 6%) gets the same rating as a beast as the Monte Zoncolan (10km @ 11.9%). When deciding on which category (1, 2 or 3) to attribute to "regular" climbs the giro-organizers seem to favour steepness more than other factors. In 2002 the Côte de Saint Nicolas (1km @ 11%) received 2nd category, while it's just a hill - a 3rd category at best in the Tour de France.
To make a long story short: if you want to compare the difficulty of climbs, just make use of www.salite.ch, they have a catalogue of more than 9000 climbs. They also explain how they acquire their difficulty rating, which seems to be very important to Mr. Johnson. (Warning: degree in advanced mathematics is necessary to understand their calculations).
No Devolder for the Tour? I'm scratching my head at this one.
Devolder had a fabulous Tour de Suisse, finishing on the podium, time trialing and climbing very strongly. Not one or the other, but both. Everyone could see that.
Who did he leave in his wake: Cunego, Frank Schleck, Kloden, Simoni, Marchante, the list of names goes on. Damn big names. I'd be surprised if Paulhino, Noval, or Vaitkus could hold his wheel right now. And he's battle tested, at 11th in last year's Vuelta, ahead, I might say, of Contador and 22 mins. ahead of Gusev. What more does a guy have to do? There are many teams who would be falling all over themselves to have Devolder on their Tour team this year.
And Zabriskie held in limbo vis-a-vis the CSC, after a fabulous Dauphine where he climbed the best he ever has? Of course, everyone knows he can time trial, to say the least. So, he fell off his bike in the Tour. Accidents happen. I can recall Bjarne Riis's last tour, where he throwing his bike in the ditch during a time trial. That was propitious, wasn't it, Bjarne? It'll be laughable if they put in Cancellara ahead of Zabriskie: so he time trials 30secs faster if he's lucky, and falls behind Zabriskie by half an hour on each mountain? Let me see.... Let's do the math.
Come on guys. It almost makes one think some of these team directors are run by superstitions and tea leaves than their brains. Be men and be just to your riders who clearly deserve it.
Dirk de Vos
Boring? Vino? Not sure what you are looking for, but Vino is just about the most exciting cyclist out there. Last year's Vuelta rivalled any grand tour of recent years for excitement.
When most of the world's best line up and battle in the most prestigious race, it will be exciting, regardless of whom they are. Unless one is looking for reasons to be negative.
Tour de France, boring! #2
I can only agree with John Spidaliere's opinion about the Tour likely to be boring as hell. Everyone can make an easy guess at how it's going to look like: Cancellara taking the Prologue, McEwen will take a couple of sprints, while 'GC favourite' Vinokourov will try not to give up too much time to the grimpeurs in the mountains, so he can finally build a lead in the TT's.
Honestly, I've never been over-enjoyed with the prospect of Vinokourov winning the Tour. If this is going to happen, the main reason will be the absence of tight competition, which is pretty much like it was at the Vuelta last season. Come on, he just won that race because the only real adversary, Valverde, cracked on the decisive day, and Kashechkin, yeah well...
Vino is definitely great in one day races and also good in shorter stage races like the Dauphiné, but a Tour de France champion in my opinion needs more than that.
Armstrong regularly destroyed his adversaries both on the climbs and in the TT's, whereas this year, Vino is simply lucky that the big guns (Basso, Ullrich, Landis) are out for whatever reasons, some have decided not to show up (Simoni, di Luca, Cunego), others have been bought out of the way by his Astana team (Klöden) or simply don't have what it takes to win a three week stage race (Sastre, Pereiro, Leipheimer, Danielson, et all.)
Be honest, in the era of Armstrong vs. Ullrich, Vinokourov would never have had even the slightest shot at winning more than a stage or two.
Hopefully, at least a surprise like Schleck or Schumacher is going to pop up, so we don't have to switch off our TV's by halftime.
Just my opinion, others might see it differently.
Tour de France, boring! #3
You cannot be serious! Wondering which domestique is going to win Le Tour? These guys are hardly domestiques. Maybe it seems like we went through a super-era with Lance, Jan, and Basso beating the tar out of everyone else (regardless of what drugs they were/were not using), but there is still a lot of tour royalty on the road.
You mention Vino and (strangely, as I don't think he's proven himself to be in the same category) Leipheimer; but what about Kloden? He BEAT Basso in 05. Or Sastre, who can apparently ride three grand tours in one year, putting the non-CSC favourites in extreme distress for Basso in the first and still finishing fourth in the second and third. Even Zabriskie, that merry clown, that TT extraordinaire, who can now climb, too.
And what about the riders who are just starting to put their mark on the sport? The Schleck brothers (what a gene pool!), Alberto Contador, and the shaggy Thomas Dekker? I suspect we will one day see a podium composed of these names, and that day is not far off.
I think that the above cyclists are domestiques in name only--any one of them has immense grand tour potential. I am eagerly anticipating a Tour being hotly contested by a dozen or more high calibre riders. Vive Le Tour!
Marc, I have to agree with your clear view of misplaced nationalistic pride, and how it only serves to blur the true facts. Tom Simpson achieved a lot - but he did so with the help of drugs.
We have to wake up to these facts, even if all the other riders were just as guilty. To live in denial about an all too obvious situation, will only result in cycling being ridiculed by the general public. Those people, who don't care about the mainstream opinion, will have to accept that sponsors will pull out of the sport, and cycling will die a slow death. We all have to accept that sportsmen worldwide, irrespective of their nationality have to pay the price for doping, because it is a disgrace and cheats honest people of glory.
What a bold move by the UCI. I think it is a great idea. The teams that support this plan are showing themselves as having nothing to hide, and the rider’s even more so. Their willingness to sign such an agreement should only indicate their own desire to be clean (such will be the interpretation). But what of those that comment against it. Why would they? Oh yes....personal rights etc. Well, employers have the right to ask for blood test, and fire employees for drug offences. No, sorry, they don't usually get to work for a year while the appeal process is played out. Why else then?
Why then would they object? Here is the answer: money. Clearly many of the riders have shown that they have no conscience, and continue to dope, so, money is the only thing that matters to them. Having to give back money, because they cheated, will hurt them and cause them to cry out foul.
Riis, has already said come get the jersey; it is in a box at home. But he certainly did not offer to give back the millions he earned as a result of the doping. IF he had offered all of the money back, well, then I guess we would have witnessed sincere regret.
Michel van M
Anti Doping Charter #2
In response to Chris Madden's letter, I would say true if, and it's a big if, there was a reliable, unbiased and fair anti-doping apparatus, including compensation for riders unfairly accused by the UCI, results leaked to the media, questionable laboratory practices, and it goes on.
Clearly, there is no such system in place and the riders remain subject to the whims of the UCI and WADA. They need a strong rider union and a negotiated contract with the UCI so that when riders are accused or test positive there is a clear set of rules and procedures that will be followed, because the union will back it up. As it is now, how can riders trust the UCI when they are accountable to nobody?
Anti Doping Charter #3
I am sick of hearing that doping is a European specialty. I have raced professionally in Europe and in the USA, and let me tell you this: if there is one place where sports have passed the point of no-return, it is the states. There is an invaluable level of corruption due to stake, TV coverage and sponsorship.
Doping is everywhere, from high school football to pro baseball, gymnastics and of course cycling. Come on 7 times in a row. Do you think we're that stupid?
France has been the first federation to tackle doping and is on the way of succeeding with the introduction of longitudinal follow-up and criminalization of practices 10 years ago.
Anti Doping Charter #4
Madden I hope your letter was meant to be tongue-and-cheek. If not, you must work for the UCI or Dick Pound. I completely agree that the sport needs to be cleaned up. However, the lack of fairness in doping prosecution is far beyond ridiculous. The UCI/ WADA are the police, prosecutors, judge, jury, and executor. Furthermore, they do not follow their own rules, procedures and protocols.
The riders have few rights, and those they do have are tramped at will (see anything associated with Dick Pound). This system is ripe for corruption. Not to mention, it is run by the French who have a history of corruption, right? One rider wrongly convicted of doping is one to many, regardless of nationality.
Also, the timing of this demand is not lost on me. It is deliberate. Two weeks before the biggest race of the year the riders are told to sign it or stay home and, the UCI “forgot” to mention this in a meeting with the riders’ organization two weeks ago.
This is blackmail. The riders need to get their acts together and form a strong riders union like MLB. So when the UCI pulls this sort of stuff they can stand up and threaten to boycott the race. Let’s see how popular the TDF is with a bunch of French clubs racing in it.
Anti Doping Charter #5
The anti-doping charter isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. I assume that all ProTour riders’ contracts include an anti-doping clause (feel free to correct me if I’m wrong). So in essence, all ProTour riders have already signed an agreement not to dope. The fact that we still have dopers in the ProTour peloton indicates that signing a piece of paper does nothing to stop dopers.
The anti-doping charter does add a couple elements that ProTour contracts do not have. For starters, a penalty of one year’s salary for any rider who is caught doping. Hardcore dopers that have yet to be caught will most likely believe that they will not be caught in the future. Therefore the odds of them having to pay the penalty are slim (in their minds). They also believe that the dope increases their chances of winning a big race and all the fame and fortune that follow. So, the benefits of doping and winning outweigh the potential consequences. This provides little incentive for hardcore dopers to stop doping.
The other thing the charter adds to the mix is a commitment to provide DNA to Spanish law enforcement officials. I’m not entirely familiar with Spanish law, but if it is similar to US law, a search warrant from a judge is sufficient to compel a suspected criminal to provide DNA. If this is the case in Spain, then the anti-doping charter adds nothing that the law doesn’t already provide.
The key to reducing the number of dopers involves, providing penalties for all parties involved. Threaten to ban an entire team from the ProTour for 4 years, and you’ll see all the teams become more proactive in preventing doping. It’ll also add a ton of peer pressure for riders to race clean. I believe there should also be an educational component to the war on doping. The UCI and teams need to make sure that all riders are aware of the health implications of doping. Such education won’t have a huge impact, but it should help some.
Anti Doping Charter #6
By signing the UCI document "Riders' commitment to a new cycling" a person declares "to Spanish Law, that my DNA is at its disposal". Anyone who thus signs away every strand of DNA in every cell of their body is surely a fool. Further, I am puzzled as to whether the "cycling movement" is the round-and-round thing I do with my legs, or does it include out-of-the-saddle side-to-side movements as well.
Is this really a serious legal document? Finally, the opening gambit "I do solemnly declare ..." is so close to the words Harry Potter uses to open up his "marauder's map", that I wonder if the words "mischief managed" will make everything on the sheet of paper disappear. Until the teams start getting penalized for bringing doped riders to the start, this UCI document might as well be blank.
Nicholas J. Salmon
Anti Doping Charter: Addendum #7
Here here to David Brunk's comments. Until the UCI and WADA have foolproof procedures it is unreasonable for riders to be asked to sign up to asymmetric penalties. Coverage of the Landis arbitration showed that the current WADA process has more holes than a crochet tea pot cover. Broadly I think the anti doping charter will help, but it's not likely to stamp out doping completely, particularly at lower levels of the sport where significant financial penalties are uncollectible. It may however make successful cyclists think twice.
Sadly unless junior and espoir cyclists get good qualifications and have job prospects outside cycling, doping will continue. I find it hard to condemn someone who did everything they could to avoid stacking shelves in the local supermarket. Perhaps the solution is that only those with 5 GCSEs at grade A-C or the equivalent should be allowed a pro racing license?
Anti Doping Charter: Addendum #8
I agree. Riders have rights and should have procedural due process. In fact, they should have a remedy in the event the accusers turn out to be wrong and as a result have defamed the rider's reputation as the French lab did when it falsely accused Lance Armstrong of doping during the 1999 Tour. The riders should unite, and what would happen if most riders boycotted the tour?
Not to keep harping on the subject but I had to touch on this bicycle options thing one more time. I had to add that I had tried out compact geometry bikes and besides the fact that they are made for climbers I find that at 2 meters tall I have enough seat post sticking out of the frame that: 1) either the frame cracks where the seat post meets the frame or 2) the seat post itself feels wobbly. Have you guy seen the size of the head tubes on the larger sized compact frames? They are reminiscent of Frankenstein.
As for the letter claiming that very powerful professional riders are on compact frames, just ask Tom Boonen what his problems have been since his team switched over. They certainly seemed to have trouble fitting him comfortably on one.
With all the recent news about past champions admitting to not riding clean and to the efforts of the UCI and the Tour de France organisation to stamp out doping, there is one factor that seems to me that might compel riders, teams and sporting directors to take a more honest approach.
If major sponsors decide that they do not want their brand to be associated with cycle racing because of the negative publicity this must surely be the wake up call. Without sponsorship, major events will cease to exist and professional cycling will suffer in the long term. The recent examples of Liberty Seguros & Phonak might be a sign of things to come.
First of all I would like to state that it is only out of the kind of sick curiosity that causes motorists to slow down on the highway in order to view an accident that I still read letters and articles concerning doping in any sport. To be contributing one of my own is rather puzzling even to me to say the least, but that is neither here nor there. That being said, I am rather concerned at the damage we ourselves do to our sport of choice.
By ranting either for or against the newest anti-doping initiative from the UCI, taking sides either for or against one athlete or another’s' credibility in the doping scandal of the week, or contributing to the incredible amount of exposure that doping in cycling garners when compared to most other professional sports by doing exactly what I am doing now in writing this letter, we stand to lose at the very least the kind of television and news coverage that most of us devour readily for sheer enjoyment and/or motivation.
If you happen to reside in the USA like myself (as well as quite a few other places that aren't as enamoured with cycling as our friends in Belgium), there is precious little coverage as it is. I read far more in my local paper about doping allegations concerning Lance, Floyd, or Tyler than I do race results.
I would wager that not a single one of my neighbours has even heard about the Giro, Vuelta, or any of the classics or lesser stage races. Nor do they care unless an American wins and captures there attention for about as long as it takes to finish their morning coffee.
So I beg you, for all of us, let's at least consider the possibility that the UCI, WADA, USOC, and the Pro-Tour's riders and teams 'unions' can settle this with a little less input from the screaming masses. They certainly don't want to lose the valuable sponsorship and consumer dollars that the sport generates, and neither do we. Unless you would rather see professional cycling wither up and blow away.
I am in favour of clean sport. I also think that there is a big difference between a professional athlete and a group of U18's at the local criterium. However I haven't seen any little league baseball players mysteriously turning up with heads and arms as big as Barry Bond's and I doubt that too many young cyclists are likely to start dropping IV's of Pot-Belge before their next collegiate race either.
We do need positive role models for the next generation, and I believe we have them. To find them just look in the mirror. Let the professionals, those both on and off the bike; deal with the doping for now. They are headed in the right direction. There is no sweeping it under the rug now. Stop buying the tabloid trash about Lance, Landis, Pantani, etc, lest we encourage other 'authors' to follow suit.
Most importantly enjoy the spectacle of our professional athletes performing well beyond anything we might hope to obtain whether we were doped to the gills or not. Because if we aren't careful, we may not have the chance to enjoy it for much longer.
You cannot compare a time trial in the Vuelta or this year’s Paris-Nice with a time trial in the Tour de France or the World Championships (where Millar was doping).
Different courses, different times of the year, different conditions, etc. Otherwise, you can look to the Tirreno-Adriatico and declare that Schumacher should win this years WC Time trial or maybe Thomas Dekker (since he beat Savoldelli in the Tour de Romandie).
Maybe Millar has to actually train harder and watch the television less compared to a few years ago.
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