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Letters to Cyclingnews - March 20, 2008
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"Pro" Cycling Teams
Chris, I read your statement about teams claiming "Pro" who aren't. I think you are looking at the worldwide scale and not separating the US scene. Basically in the US any UCI registered team is considered "Pro", since most teams don't travel to Europe they don't need to be UCI Pro Continental and get that "Pro" tag, there is no extra benefits for the teams here. The old way the UCI had teams registered might have cleared this up a bit, with DIV 1, 2, and 3 teams. I think the UCI understands this because you see continental teams racing Tour of California, Philly, Tour of Georgia and Missouri.
In Europe continental team means a different thing since they are the lowest rung of the UCI registered teams there. I think it's unfair to call continental teams in the US amateur because the way the system is here. I rode for the now Defunct KodakGallery/Sierra Nevada Pro cycling team and although we were only a continental team, everyone on the team was paid, including mechanics, managers and soigneur's. I think a lot of US continental riders who are making a living on these teams might take some offense to your idea of "Pro". Remember Saturn? They were div 3 for years which is the same as continental.
Look at Rock Racing; do you think Cipollini would come back to race as an amateur?
Now out of the UCI registered teams in the US, there are always a few that most consider amateur since they have such a small budget, barely hang in races and no one gets paid, that certainly isn't pro. But just assume if they are a US team registered with UCI in the US, they are PRO. That's why we have the US PRO championships (only UCI riders on UCI registered teams), and no UCI registered rider is allowed to race in the elite (amateur) championships.
Hope that clears things up!
"Pro" Cycling teams #2
Although Richmond Pro Cycling may not be a UCI registered team, the riders are being paid a salary to race bicycles - therefore by definition making them "professionals." As it costs a reasonable sum of money to be a UCI team, they have chosen to use their small budget this year to build from the ground up to one day become an official UCI team. As a fellow Richmonder, I find it unfortunate that you are so offended by the title of "Pro" for athletes who are paid to compete that you would look to undermine 7 young men's dreams of racing bikes for a small sum of money. If you met the members of the team you would realize their hope of bringing a positive light on the sport of cycling along with volunteering with underprivileged youth. If you have a string of unexplained flats in the future, that is bicycle karma catching up with you.
When Eric Boyer says that the ProTour teams have no other choice than to ride the ASO races, he is not only wrong but he is also showing very little respect for the sport of cycling and its fans. The teams do have a choice. They can choose to ride the races that are governed by predefined, known rules and regulations; the very thing that makes it a sport and not just an event where 200 merry men are taking a bike ride for fun. It is pathetic that the ProTour teams have elected this person to represent them, unless all teams think the same way as him: screw the fans.
Even if the ProTour is not the greatest invention on earth, the AIGCP should work with the UCI to change it into something that is appealing to the fans: Because without fans, no commercials, no sponsors, no races, no teams, no riders, no cycling.
Show some respect for the fans Mr. Boyer, they are the very source of your salary. And right now, we are not amused!
My first recollection of this feud came with the advent of the ProTour and how the points were to be awarded. Prior to that time, it seemed like all parties co-existed without a lot of terribly visible friction. Also, at that time, it's my recollection that ASO (along with the Giro and the Vuelta organizers) seemed willing to negotiate with the UCI, but wanted more points to be awarded for grand tours. Didn't the UCI absolutely refuse? Didn't the UCI's refusal to budge on this point put negotiations at an impasse?
Clearly this is a power struggle and most of the letters I read on Cyclingnews seem to favour the UCI over ASO and the other grand tour organizers. While I recognise that there must be a governing body for international cycling, they (the UCI) need to understand that the Tour de France has been around for over a hundred years and the UCI is a relative newcomer. The UCI needs to respect all the grand tours for the prestige they've earned. I think if I were the head of ASO and the UCI marched in one day and tried to dictate the conditions of my time honoured race, and basically put it on the same level as the Tour of Qatar, I might be more than a little upset.
What is more than clear here is that we need adults running all the organizations. Right now it appears that baby ASO has cut its teeth and is biting while the UCI can only mouth toothless threats.
It seems to me that a good starting point would be for the UCI to admit the whole ProTour deal has been a complete flop, and make an offer to present something that works. I, a voice of exactly one, think it should be presented as a team championship, with the grand tours getting their due in additional points and prestige.
The problem with the argument that Astana 2008 is a completely different team from the 2007 Astana is simple.
Astana itself was a completely different team from Liberty Seguros and we see how well that worked out.
Maybe it is essentially the same team as Disco was last year, but shouldn't ASO have the right to make Astana prove they are a different team before giving them a third chance?
As far as all the arguments that they are going after Americans, if Levi wasn't on this team, how many people would be speaking up? Where is the outrage that Acqua e Sapone team is not getting invited to any of the big Italian races? Hopefully the ASO's detractors aren't being as culturally chauvinistic as they are accusing the French of being.
I couldn't help but notice Sylvain Chavanel's bold yet awesome pink Specialized S-Works BG road shoes in stage 3 of the Paris - Nice race. I assume these are one off's for him only? Any information you could provide would be great, the shoes are incredible!
I was shocked to read about the random dope testers' visit to Kevin Van Impe. To interrupt a rider on a holiday beach, or late at night, is damned annoying and inconvenient; but to turn up at a crematorium while a grieving young father is arranging for the funeral of his baby son, and insist on administering the tests... words fail me. What kind of people are these testers?
So, it's their job. But I would not, could not, have done what they did. Even if I had been so crass as to follow him to the crematorium, I'd have gone back later, as Kevin suggested. I'd have laid my job on the line and hoped that my bosses had some human decency. I'm left wondering what the Cyclists Union might have to say about the incident.
Kevin van Impe's doping control #2
I just want to send my commiserations to Kevin van Impe and his family and friends concerning the death of his son. What an incredible lack of sensitivity shown by the anti-doping controllers who even went to test him at the crematorium.
We lost our own son three years ago, and the behaviour of other people still causes us some bewilderment even now.
We all know that cycling is a wonderful sport, but some things are more important even than that.
The van Impe's are owed a big apology and they must feel awful. It is a long journey that they have only just started as well.
I wish them lots of luck and all my sympathy.
Kevin van Impe's doping control #3
It takes a "special" kind of anti-drug controller who thinks nothing of pulling into a crematorium parking lot, tracking down his target in the administrative office, and insisting that peeing in a cup right now is infinitely more important than making final arrangements for a deceased infant.
Did the guy really think this was some kind of elaborate ruse to get out of testing? Could he truly think of no other way to handle the situation? This is insensitivity bordering on sociopathic. Not only should this controller be fired, Kevin van Impe should be suing the pants off him for emotional distress. Is there nothing right with professional cycling these days? Sickening. Absolutely sickening.
I hate to say it, but Cadel Evans' win on Stage 4 of Paris-Nice was terrible. Is he ever going to go to the front on a climb? Sure Gesink got the yellow jersey, but it was apparent that he wasn't about to "gift" the stage to Evans...mainly because Evans didn't do any work!
To come around Gesink in the last 25 meters was weak. I hope this does not foreshadow a similar performance at the Tour, which would be "deja vu all over again" - and completely boring.
Cadel Evans at Paris - Nice #2
I was not at all impressed with Cadel Evan's ride on the Ventoux today. Taking a win is fine but in cycling the great riders have always done so with panache and style showing respect to their fellow riders. By sitting on Gesink's wheel for goodness knows how many kilometres without sharing any of the work, Cadel should have done the right thing in the sprint for the line and let Gesink have his moment. I hope that the rest of the peloton notices this behaviour and gets him to rethink his strategies in time for la Grand Boucle. If he wins the Tour riding in this way, he may gain a yellow jersey, but he won't gain many fans.
Regarding Charles' letter about Tyler Hamilton, Operacion Puerto, and the ToC:
1. Hamilton was not suspended for blood doping during the Olympics - his Olympic
tests were thrown out because his "B" sample was frozen, rendering it unusable
Too bad ASO denied Astana a start in Paris-Nice especially after Cadel's win atop Mont Ventoux today. How epic of a battle could there have been between Cadel, Levi, and Evans? Would this not have fed the fires of anticipation for the Tour increasing its fan and commercial base? ASO needs to put an asterisk besides the winner's name of its races denoting not all of the best riders nor defending champions were allowed to start.
Cadel may have his Tour win this year but it seems it will be a shallow victory.
In regards to the letter that was posted last week by Ainslie MacEachran:
It's not beyond comprehension that an officer would fall asleep behind the wheel. Not any more incomprehensible than a normal citizen falling asleep at the wheel. The officer will probably lose his job. And yes, he will probably face jail time. But I think it's wise to seriously examine our reactions to this incident and truly evaluate if our attitudes towards this situation are influenced by a general dislike of law enforcement.
It's sad when any cyclist is killed by a motorist. It's a sad situation for everyone, mostly for the cyclist's families and friends, but also for the officer himself. Let's not make more of this incident solely because this incident involves a peace officer.
Keith Rutherford and Cyclingnews,
Evidently "trying everything he could" didn't and hasn't worked out too well for LeBlanc and the ASO. Richard has had unlimited press credentials since his retirement at the Tour. He's also been at the relatively exclusive "Village" regularly before each stage which is one of the ASO's main PR ventures to keep sponsors happy. The fact remains that Richard has been a veritable "cash cow" by and large through his continued worship by the average French spectator. For the ASO, this is huge. While the Tour is increasingly becoming more international, the average French spectator still represents an extremely valuable demographic to ASO's bottom line at the end of the day. Through TV ratings and the sponsors they attract, which when you look at them, largely cater to the French - go to the official site and see for yourself. I truly doubt LeBlanc's sincerity in wishing to exclude Virenque. Getting rid of him would have been suicide for the ASO, but of course, publicly, they can't be so open-armed without looking extremely hypocritical.
When you compare his treatment, post-retirement to that of say, Bjarne Riis, who wasn't allowed at the Tour at all last year. I think the bias becomes quite evident as well as the underlying financial motivations of the ASO which both very much at the foundation of the current debacle.
It should be pointed out that it was actually the team that approached the UCI with the offer to not bring VDB to ProTour races.
However, if the UCI see fit to issue a rider with a licence (and take their money), the rider should be allowed to race.
I am a big fan of David Millar, but his new position of esteem with Slipstream at the forefront of change further highlights the hypocrisy of the UCI and the VDB situation.
UCI hypocrisy #2
Damn right, let VDB ride! Damn, he served out his suspension for affairs that happened what, 6-7 years ago. There are a number of popular riders who continue to race despite current implications. Why is VDB singled out? Again, no wonder he has had mental health problems; the UCI will not cut him a break even though they allow this luxury to more popular riders.
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