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Letters to Cyclingnews - March 6, 2008
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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Zirbel and the "ride of his life"
From your article on the final stage of ToC:
"Sadly for Zirbel, the race organizers do not award a most aggressive rider award on the final day, choosing instead to honour a most aggressive for the week. That award, voted on by the assembled press corps, went to the entire BMC team for its defence of Scott Nydam's KOM jersey and presence in the breaks early in the week."
That does stink, because I was glued to the online coverage hoping he'd hold it out. Every time I feel like shutting it down in a race this season, I'll think of Zirbel's continuous never-say-die effort on this stage.
Moreover, I'll be one of the first to pledge $5 toward buying him his own most-aggressive rider jersey off the ATOC web site. He definitely deserves it.
I've been trying to find somewhere in the US or Europe to buy the sick helmets the British national team uses for sprints on the track. Don't know the manufacturer, but they have a face shield on the front of the helmet and make the riders look like Robocop. Any info would be greatly appreciated!
I have a question regarding Tyler Hamilton's exclusion from the Tour of California and continued investigation in the Operacion Puerto scandal. I apologize if this has been covered before.
Didn't he already serve his suspension? Yes, I know that "conviction" didn't come from Operacion Puerto, but all the evidence against him is from the time before his suspension.
Isn't charging him twice double jeopardy? Wouldn't this be like charging a man for murder using DNA evidence, then when he got out of prison saying "hey, we found the gun you used, we are charging you again?"
Plenty of people are talking recently about "the death of the sport" on the letters page, for reasons that we all understand well enough. But perhaps it is really the death of stage racing that we are talking about. I'm sure plenty of fans will be looking forward, with relief, to the start of the Spring Classics and some uncontroversial, enjoyable racing. Then Lombardy and the Worlds later this year.
Maybe, as the Grand Tours continue to lose credibility year after year, the "Five Monuments" and other one-day races will start to take their place as the real prestige events on the calendar?
But if the big sponsors decide to get involved where there is less risk, the sport may change.
Mr. Ball is the best thing that has happen to cycling for a long time and he wants to help the sport get better in every way. I salute the man and I can't wait to see Botero, Sevilla and Hamilton riding again alongside Cipollini. Thanks for bringing fun and a new point of view to the sport.
I agree with Glenn Murphy that Pro Cycling is dead. There is drug problem. That's not in question. But rather than going straight for the drug problem they're going straight for the throat of bicycle racing.
As a fan I believe that the various groups most especially ASO are abusing my time and I have decided to simply walk away from racing.
Professional cycling is bigger then Bruyneel and McQuaid. They have become too misled by their own self-importance. Paris - Nice is going ahead - UCI should not be trying to oust the organiser's preferences. They ought to be respected. They are for the long-term benefit of the classics. McQuaid should be replaced by someone who is humbler and who has the genuine interests of cycling and its development at heart. The last person we need is a dictator who throws his weight around in public.
I wonder if anyone else is bothered by the UCI policy towards Frank Vandenbroucke. In case no one else noticed, he was suspended in 2002 - 6 years ago! Will the rest of his life be subject to mistakes he made back when everyone was supposedly making the same mistake?
I'm growing very weary of the almost evil attempt by authorities and even journalists to try for what is essentially a lifetime ban for the likes of Vandenbroucke, Di Luca, Hamilton and others while at the same time telling us that "everyone was doing it."
Let's get this straight - I absolutely detest doping of any sort. I also realize that it has been around since the dawn of ALL sports and that while we must treat it with vigour we must also be absolutely fair - something that has obviously been missing from the mix lately.
At this moment I am thinking that if we cannot see a sense of fair treatment of racers I'm going to have to stop following what would be little more than a selection of riders from a limited pool of those considered politically correct.
I have been reading Cyclingnews daily for over 4 years now. And I am growing tired of all of these stories about doping and all of the fighting between ASO, UCI, the Giro and whatever other outfit you can think of. Who cares anymore about Operation Puerto, and who took what EPO, or whatever drug is out there. All of this sucks. Can't we all just get along? And stop killing this sport we all love. ASO UCI stop it, the pro teams if you have guys on your teams who dope stop it, if you are pro's like you say you are, act like it. Beside's it is about the bike. Hell I am going for a ride on my bike.
One thing we as cyclists must remember, When Tour time comes in July, we expect to see pros doing there jobs providing us with entertainment for 3 weeks. When you watch a hockey game on TV you get entertained, you don't watch it only to have some guy tell you 'that guy doped.' This whole ASO thing is ridiculous and will only result in damaging cycling as a whole. What we need to remember is that it is entertainment, and do we really want to end that?
Would someone please explain to me how legitimate can a Tour de France victory really be without the defending champion. A victory in the race is somewhat hollow for the person that wins it if the best aren't there. Why didn't the ASO make known their intention to exclude Astana earlier than this? Surely this is a decision that would take some time to make. If they knew about this after the TdF 2007, why did they wait until riders signed contracts, made plans, etc?
They would have to know that some riders would make the TdF the highlight of their season. Where's the justice for the riders? How can the AIGCP agree to contest Paris-Nice or the Tour if Astana has been excluded from competition? Clearly the ASO is not concerned in the least bit if the sport of cycling grows as long as their financial interests are safe. Race organizers own their races in the same way that pro sports team owners own their teams. If a pro sports team in any other sport tried to do this crap, whether it be MLB, NBA, or NFL, that team would be put in its place by that sanctioning body straight away.
Since the UCI is the sanctioning body for cycling and falls under the umbrella of the IOC, why are they not disqualifying riders from the Olympics if they participate in non-UCI sanctioned events like Paris-Nice? Maybe they should.
ASO vs. Astana #2
I think Mr. Rollin misses the whole point: this is not the Astana of 2007 or 2006. This is basically the 2007 Discovery Channel team ASO is throwing out the window, riders who won the race and finished first and third overall. This "Astana" team (2008) has put the most money on fighting doping within its organization this year. As far as I know, under Johan's watch, the US Postal/Discovery Channel/Astana team has not excelled in all their races and pushed the sport of cycling into the mainstream, but has remained drug free, with no positive tests whatsoever!
If that is not enough to show an impeccably clean "history of doping," what more do you want Mr. Rollin? Please do me a favour and sit with the morons at ASO and UCI who are systematically destroying this sport and wallow in the same crap. ASO who lets Rabobank and High Road (formerly T-Mobile) race in its races just to give the finger to the UCI even though these teams have been implicated in numerous doping and drug-related activities.
The ASO/UCI is destroying rider's careers just to prove who can come out on top. As for me, I refuse to watch the Tour or the Giro without the new "Astana", and I urge everyone to do the same. I'll be enjoying riding my bike in the mountains of southern California in July, cheering on Levi, Contador, and everyone else who has gotten the shaft the last few years in whatever race they are involved in.
Long live Astana and down to the ASO/UCI.
I for one wish these talented riders would wake up and realize that they hold the cards: draw up rules and regulations and force both the organizers and the UCI to abide by them!
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
ASO vs. Astana #3
Response to Mr. Antoine Rollin,
I think the fans of Astana or any other non biased person looking at the exclusion of Astana from the Giro and the ASO races are politically motivated not image motivated because: Like it was said before, what about the other teams that caused problems in the Tour last year and years before that. T-Mobile, aka Deutsche Telecom, aka Team High Road, have caused embarrassment to the Tour for years now. Cofidis had Cristian Moreni taken out of the tour in handcuffs, kind of embarrassing too, don't you think.
Also relating to Bruyneel, the biggest embarrassment to the Tour is to have a winner admit to doping and win the Tour, Bjarne Riis, who is still allowed to direct a team? Come on, how can that be, Team CSC, the darlings of cycling has one of the biggest cheats running the team and they are all clean? If Astana is out so should Cofidis, CSC, High Road and why not Rabobank, how bad is it to not know what you riders are actually doing or where they really are! So let's see, the Giro includes LPR with Di Luca getting all kinds of negative attention for his activities, but still in the Giro last time I heard. Astana has an anti-doping plan as good as CSC and Slipstream. Let's let the system work and allow the teams that paid for a Pro-tour license race and allow the science to catch the cheats.
ASO vs Astana #4
The US is the world's largest market for the type of bicycles ridden in the grand tours. Ignoring the requests of this market will have a negative overall effect on those races. Sure the race will go on, ASO will make money, and the sponsors will get the same return they got on their investment before 1999. However, 1999 changed the grand tours and cycling's fan base.
Sure the history of bicycle racing in Le Tour was for decades predominantly a European affair. However, 1999 awakened a market that had been sleeping for over a decade, along with the millions of dollars that had been waiting to be spent. I am not sure that the manufacturers who have used the Tour's popularity with the largest luxury consumer market in the world as a launching pad for their product will continue to support a sport that has abandoned that market. Just like every other nationality in the world, we like to watch our guy do well. With two of the three riders from last year's podium missing, including the current malliot juane, the title "Greatest Bicycle Race in the World" is presumptive at best. Prudhomme is taking bicycle racing back a decade, back to exactly where he wants it.
ASO vs Astana #5
I think Antoine Rollin has forgotten that ASO has accepted teams other than Astana who have histories of drug use. Where is the fairness and balance in this? ASO is simply being hypocritical and playing Franco-cyntric politics. I think that the Tour of California will eventually become the most desirable race for pros.
It was Festina and the French in 1998 that broke the back of trust in cycling and as long as it was French riders winning (i.e. Virenque 7 time KOM) the ASO didn't care. In fact they loved him and idolized him he was invited back no less!
Now the bitter French organizers have hamstrung the UCI which is the only recognized world federation. I say ban all French teams from the Olympics revoke all license from riders who participate in unsanctioned UCI events.
It's not for the ASO to say who does and doesn't participate. Maybe they will finally have a French winner of Le tour, it seems more like a detour to me. All I see in this is a power struggle going back to the ProTour and the reticence of the organizers to play nice!
The AIGCP and the teams are showing a complete lack of regard for the sport and the riders. A no-show by the ProTour teams will mean that no one will watch the event and therefore no one will broadcast it. ASO simply cannot afford that scenario and their brinkmanship will fall flat if the AIGCP and the riders show some courage and stick together.
The AIGCP continues to show how little spine it has as an organisation, allowing ASO to run the sport on its own terms, and those terms exclude everyone but themselves. Shame on the AIGCP and shame on the riders for not seeing the strength they have, strength they refuse to implement.
And ASO did something very similar to the Paris Dakar rally in January.
All ready for the off and about one day before the start it was cancelled as ASO had reservations about safety in Mauritania. All the competitors were ready to start. If I was a sponsor there I'd be very miffed.
ASO are not having a good year, still neither is anybody else it seems.
Certainly the big money over the last 20 years or so has probably not helped, sponsors want results, seemingly at any cost but do not like it when things go pear shaped.
I've followed the Tour every year since I first discovered it as a schoolboy in 1963. I still do so but with sadness about what goes on behind the scenes.
I am a recreational rider, and a firm believer in controls and regulations to stop misuse of performance enhancing drugs by professional cyclists. As we all know these actions are primarily directed to the riders that use these drugs, and not to the related innocent participants such as the companions of such riders or the team they happen to riding for, unless they are willing participants in deceiving the truth.
As I understand it, during the Tour de France 2007, team Astana acted in good faith the instant it became aware of the possible substance use problem and voluntarily withdrew the implicated rider without any hesitation. Now team Astana has been prevented by ASO from participating in the 2008 events, such as the Tour de France, which they privately own.
This is a case were the participant team, its directors, riders and sponsors are well committed to counteract ill effects of drug misuse, no matter how late in an event it happens, and with complete abandonment of the profits they would other wise derive benefit by keeping such actions secret.
It looks to the whole world that ASO instead of welcoming and saluting team Astana, it was not pleased with the honest and up-front remedial actions taken by this team during the 2007 event. Why will this be? Could it be that the ASO organization wants to be informed beforehand before any such actions are taken? If so, the only obvious conclusion, is that they want to coerce participating teams into not reporting such occurrences, with the blatant purpose of keeping them secret, and this should be denounced for what it is:
A cowardly act of coercion to prevent teams and riders to from taking public actions or reporting drug misuse during the execution of an ASO event.
In my view, by not letting this team participate, ASO is sending the wrong message to all teams participating in ASO events, unless, this is exactly what they want to achieve. In fact they (ASO) are telling teams and riders that it is better to keep drug use violations secret if discovered during an ASO sanctioned event. This in itself is a devious action of promoting performance enhancing drug use, which will prove disastrous when later discovered, and at the risk of greater public relations damage to cycling in general.
In the wake of all pressure on cyclists to behave ethically, perhaps it's time we held sponsors to the same standards. Health Net recently lost a case in which it cancelled a woman's policy while she was undergoing chemo therapy. Further it was revealed on ABCnews.go.com that "Health Net was rewarding employees with bonuses based on the number of cancellations they got. Employees were asked to meet cancellation quotas and were also rewarded based on the amount of money they saved the company. Bates' lawyers argued that Health Net had saved more than $35 million by rescinding policyholders between 2002 and 2006." Are these the kinds of sponsors we want rebuilding cycling's tarnished image?
In the on going dispute between ASO and UCI, the ProTour teams had it all in their hands to finally end this battle. By refusing to participate in the Paris-Nice, they would have sent a message to ASO and RCS that the UCI is governing the sport of cycling, not ASO and not RCS.
But no. None of the other ProTour teams have the balls to stand up to ASO. Rather they see that now ASO has eliminated three of the toughest competitors and so they want to race. This is so pathetic and the only looser here is cycling.
Thank you: CSC, Caisse d'Epargne, Rabobank, Cofidis, Silence-Lotto, Gerolsteiner, Euskatel and all the other teams for being so short-sighted and self-contained.
The latest rounds of ASO vs. UCI have been both entertaining and irritating at the same time. Why does the UCI feel the need to market the sport so much by using the ProTour? Shouldn't that be the organiser's duty to bring popularity to their events? The TV and sponsorship revenues should take care of marketing the sport. The UCI should stick to their original intent...a governing body.
If a ProTour team sends their B-team to an important event (like the Giro), what good does that do for the team sponsor and the event organiser? If a team wants an invite, then they should earn it by good past performance and riding clean. I feel for the teams and organisers, whose fate seems to at the whim of an organisation who appears to be losing focus of their mission.
I think that the UCI should back down from the ProTour and make other changes to bolster interest in the sport...relaxing their regulations on the TT bikes, bike positions, cut the weight bike limit down a little, and protecting the rights of the riders by not letting the A-test results being made public! I don't want to hear about a doped rider until they have definite proof of guilt. It's getting pretty disheartening.
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