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Letters to Cyclingnews - February 27, 2009
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.
Please email your correspondence to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kimmage and Armstrong
Being from Ireland I'm feeling quite embarrassed and annoyed by Paul Kimmage's comments before the Tour of California. When are people like Kimmage and others going to give cycling a chance to stand up on its own legs again? Here we have a man who has returned to the sport to promote cancer awareness pretty much free of charge and by doing so to help silence his critics has even requested all his test results be posted on his site. The most tested athlete by all accounts, and still Kimmage is on this man's back all the time.
Would it be not more in line to write the odd time about the amount of work Pat McQuaid and the UCI are doing to try and combat this problem...no. And why? Because good news just doesn't sell newspapers and raise journalists' profiles. Everyone knows cycling has been riddled with performance enhancers but is it just not comprehensible to journalists that maybe the message is actually getting across to some people or is it that cycling is just an impossible sport unless you are doped to the eye balls. Everyone is aware of the cyclists on the Operacion Puerto list but what happened to the other supposed athletes that were on the list? Why isn't Kimmage and co giving the same effort to find who these guys are?
We are in rough times and constant negative press is going to lead to sponsors either withdrawing or not entering the sport. Are these guys not going to be happy until professional cycling is gone completely? It is obvious to me that the pro peloton is getting cleaner when all these guys who have served suspensions feel they can return and compete at such a level without having to rely on enhancers. If these guys have any passion or love for the sport other than lining their own pockets please try and help the sport other than dragging it down at every opportunity. It would be nice to see an equal amount of articles about the amount of negative results that these governing bodies find or the benefits Lance's return to cycling is having within the world of cancer research.
Kimmage and Armstrong #2
As one of those "around the world that has been affected by [cancer]*," and speaking for myself, I take no offence against Mr. Kimmage for his recent characterisation of Mr. Armstrong, and I surely do not appreciate Mr. Armstrong assuming the authority to speak for me - especially with such intolerant, hateful words that tell a man "You are not worth the chair you are sitting on".
Indeed, if even half of what has legitimately been alleged about Armstrong is true - the numerous firsthand accounts and sworn testimony of former teammates and associates, the test results, his conduct towards those who have spoken out about doping within cycling - then Kimmage's metaphor (and that's what it was, not any sort of insult to those affected by cancer) is appropriate, perhaps even understated. Armstrong has never credibly addressed these charges, choosing instead to respond with public displays of hostility that have now descended to the level of naked aggression with his brutal verbal assault on the very worth of another human being. However unwittingly, Armstrong makes Kimmage look like a prophet for having alleged revenge as the motive for coming back, since we have just seen the first score being settled.
At least in his exchange with Greg LeMond last September, Armstrong insisted that the press conference would not "go negative" since he meant to "talk about the global cancer campaign, the comeback to cycling, and the credibility in and around that". At that point, I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, but any credibility he might have wished to command is now gone, not only as a result of his treatment of Kimmage, but also for having reneged on a public promise to subject himself to "the most advanced anti-doping program in the world," which would be conducted in a "completely independent" manner, because "ultimately... we as fans must get back to enjoying the race and respecting the riders and their performances." (Perhaps the drama of Armstrong's press-conference performance is intended for the viewing enjoyment of cycling fans everywhere).
This time, he did not even try to conceal his contempt, which he had the gall to wrap in self-righteous, counterfeit outrage on behalf of the "noble cause" he purports to have come back for and those whom he professes to care about, but both of which he is brazenly willing to co-opt for advantage in his personal feuds. Such conduct is beyond the pale from a public spokesperson (even a self-appointed one) for any sort of worthy cause, and it lays bare the dark forces at work in this man - forces that may now be said to constitute an ugly blight not merely on cycling, but upon the fight against cancer itself.
*In my childhood, cancer claimed my father, and later on, my sister as well.
Saturday, February 21, 2009
Kimmage and Armstrong #3
The comeback of Lance Armstrong has been big news in the cycling world for the past few months. Whilst cycling has enjoyed a rise in profile due to the Armstrong effect I believe that it will ultimately be to the detriment of the sport.
The verbal exchange between Lance Armstrong and Paul Kimmage in Sacramento was for me a big eye opener and gave me cause to reflect on the developments in professional cycling in the past year.
After Operacion Puerto many became disillusioned with the sport. It was clear
that something needed to be done once and for all to rid the scourge of doping
from cycling. Biological passports and increased out of competition testing
were planned. We all believed that we were heading towards a bright future and
that out of the darkness professional cycling would emerge as the quintessentially
There is no doubt that these measures have in a large part been effective. Many agree that last years Tour de France was one of the cleanest ever, previously invincible big names disappeared off the radar whilst young riders came to the fore winning races left right and centre. Previously 'untalented' riders began to win races. Cycling begins to seem more human again.
And then the suspensions start to end, one by one. Basso, Sevilla, Hamilton, Landis return, all unrepentant. We start to welcome them back, remembering the 'good old days' when they were fine bike riders, we forget how they did it. We begin to ignore the small guys. We are in danger of making the same mistakes again, didnt we believe after Festina that things would be different? That mistake took us to the brink, in these economically hard times we cannot make the same mistakes again, sponsers are too thin on the ground, cycling will be in immense danger.
Armstrong's return is a short term gain. Paul Kimmage was right to challenge him in that press conference, the focus used to be on anti-doping, now it is on Lance Armstrong, a rider whose achievements are beginning to look more and more hollow. "You don't have a patent on cancer. I'm interested in the cancer of doping in cycling. That has been my life's work! I raced as a professional and I exposed it. Then you come along and the problem disappears'' is what Kimmage said. It would be wise for cycling to heed his words.
First, Lance Armstrong's words:
"When I began to think about coming back, I knew that because there had been questions in the past, many of which we considered to be unfounded, I knew that there would be questions about performance. Like there are questions about all kinds of performance, if it's a 100 metre dash at the Olympic Games or if it's the 100 metre free style at the Olympic Games, people will question good performances, and I doubt that I can perform well.
But in the off chance that I do perform well, I didn't want to leave any doubt, and so I reached out to Don and asked him to oversee this program, to be completely independent, completely removed, for me to do whatever he asked me, I would do whatever he asked me to do. I think it's a landmark program. I think it's the first time where an athlete can actually be totally validated in the chance that he's successful.
In my opinion is that Don Catlin is beyond reproach. He is one of the foremost researchers in the Anti-Doping Movement. His CV is a mile long and I don't need to try to repeat it, but I have told Don and I told him last night and I will continue to tell him this. Don I have myself, I have my bicycle and I have my cause, you come whenever and however you want to come in order to validate these performances. And I felt like that was an important part of this equation as well."
I agree with Mr. Armstrong that today's fans question good performances - they have been given many, many reasons do so. Given that fact, I can appreciate why Mr. Armstrong wants to leave no doubt with respect to his own performances.
I agree with Mr. Armstrong that Mr. Catlin is one of the foremost researchers in doping detection techniques. I was excited to hear that Mr. Armstrong was prepared to do whatever it took to participate in a programme he described as "completely independent" and the first in which "an athlete can actually be totally validated... that he's successful." I was excited when Mr. Armstrong invited Mr. Catlin to test him "whenever and however... in order to validate [his] performances."
And so I was diappointed when, on February 11, Mr. Armstrong withdrew his invitation to Mr Catlin. Mr. Armstrong rejected the program he had very specifically and publicly asked Mr. Catlin to develop for the purpose of lending credibility to Mr. Armstrong's return to cycling. Mr. Armstrong said that the logistics and administration of the tests was difficult. Undoubtedly they would be for an athlete unused to the demands of anti-doping measures at the highest echelon of a sport already squarely under the public microscope. But for the most tested athlete in cycling history? Mr. Armstrong also said it was expensive. Undoubtedly it would have been for the vast majority of the peloton, most of whom are not rich men. But for one of the richest sports figures in the world?
Now Mr. Catlin is gone, but these questions remain, as does the largest one, which Mr. Armstrong hoped to settle by bringing on Mr. Catlin and putting to rest once for all the doubts about his performance: What is his true legacy in the sport of cycling?
All power to Michael!
Apologies in advance to all our American friends and followers of Lance's return, but as an Aussie and a long-time supporter of Michael I am jumping with joy over his Tour of California result.
Ever since that fateful day while leading the TdF and crashing we have been waiting for the return of Mr Rogers at full power. Aussie cycling is a small community and we are blessed to have so many riders at the top level of road and track at the moment (mind you, there is a lot of fun imagining a future clash between Phinney and Bobridge). What a delight it would be for Michael to be at his best for the remainder of the season.
Wish we could have seen it live on tv... you guys are our next best thing!
Before everyone jumps on the doping bandwagon and assumes all deaths such as Nolf's are caused by doping please read the article from the University of Connecticut Health Center: http://www.uchc.edu/ocomm/newsarchive/news05/may05/youngathletes.html (you can also try to search Google for more articles on the subject of young deaths in athletes both right after exercise and while sleeping).
Basically it states that in some young athletes a heart condition can be difficult to diagnose and sometimes the first symptom is often sudden death due to the undetected heart anomalies. Granted, there are deaths that are drug/doping related but to assume Nolf was doping and died because of it is a stupid assumption, especially with no grounds to base your opinions.
So unless you have concrete evidence that points to drug use, I think it'd be more respectful to adhere to the wishes of the parents so they can bury their son in peace. And if it does turn out that his death was drug-related than that's the price he paid to play with fire. But until then, please keep your opinions on any alleged doping to yourself.
Frederiek Nolf #2
Two readers in the last batch of letters all but accused Frederiek Nolf of contributing to his own tragic death by doping. This is highly insensitive. Cycling may have a reputation for doping but it is wrong to jump to conclusions at a time like this.
What happened to Nolf was a reminder of how fragile life can be. People say that dying in their sleep at 21 is unnatural; unfortunately this is not the case. There are many reported cases of what is called 'sudden death syndrome.' Apparently healthy young people may suddenly die in their sleep or during physical exercise. Readers from Ireland may recall the case of Cormac McAnallen, the 24-year-old gaelic footballer who died suddenly in his sleep in 2004. The death was caused by an undetected heart condition. This is just one case of many and tragically many people die at a much younger age from the condition.
I believe Frederiek Nolfs' death was not suspicious at all. I also believe an autopsy would not have served any purpose other than to prolong his family's suffering. It is important to listen to all arguments before making such hefty allegations.
Frederiek Nolf #3
I strongly suggest those who believe that young people don't die suddenly of naturally causes learn about Sudden Arrhythmic Death Syndrome. The first I ever heard about it was when a friend died while running to catch a train, no warning, no danger signs, just toppled over with his heart failing to beat. SADS does kill young healthy people and it does not leave a trace. Please learn more before making accusations about the dead and the wishes of their family.
For more info visit http://www.sads.org.uk/ or look it up on Wikipedia.
Frederiek Nolf #4
I know of a young cyclist who died quite naturally of a heart attack at the age of 21, and a post mortem revealed nothing unnatural and that it was not uncommon and most likely hereditry.So to those who have written with pointed fingers, research your facts before making unsubstantiated speculations.
Frederiek Nolf #5
Actually there is a 'natural' cause for such deaths in young athletes. One such cause is Dilated Cardiomyopathy. This disorder takes it share of young athletes every year and some forms are likely to have a genetic basis. It is not common by any means but it may be more likely to show up in athletes because of the stress they put on their cardiovascular systems. An assumption of doping in this unfortunate young man's death is both unwarranted and incredibly insensitive. That said, I think an autopsy would have been useful to the family of the rider and to scientists who have been trying to sort out the cause of cardiovascular diseases that show up as fatal events in young athletes.
Frederiek Nolf #6
Mr Pedie and Mr Cowie write in their letters, "where else but in cycling...would [it] be concluded that (Nolf) died of natural causes?" and "young, fit sportsmen do not die naturally at the age of 21."
Their implication that Frederiek Nolf might have used drugs which led to his death is purely speculative, compounded further by baseless allegations of cover up. They have no evidence to support their claims, except guilt by association, or false analogy: Cyclist have died from using drugs; Frederiek Nolf was a cyclist; Frederiek Nolf's death was cause by drugs.
I find such a mindset disturbing and destructive because it makes all cyclists guilty of drug use simply because they are cyclists. Anyone who thinks that way probably shouldn't bother follow cycling at all. The fact is that young people, seemingly in perfect health, DO die in their sleep of entirely natural causes. I am not a doctor, but I've read of many very fit people who died suddenly. Marathoner Ryan Shay collapsed and died in 2007 while competing in the U.S. Olympic Trials. The cause of death was attributed to an enlarged heart, which is fairly common among endurance athletes. An enlarged heart combined with other hereditary factors could readily explain Nolf's sudden, sad death.
Yes, we know that cyclists have used drugs and sometimes died as a result. In the late eighties, there were reports of young Dutch & Belgian cyclists dying in their sleep, deaths attributed to the blood-thickening effects of EPO. But this fact does not necessarily mean that Nolf's death was caused by EPO use, or anything else, and we should respect his father's wish to forgo an autopsy - without casting doubt upon them.
A young man has fallen in the prime of his youth, and a father has lost his son. Let his father mourn, and Frederiek rest, in peace.
Frederiek Nolf #7
Whilst suspected doping as a cause of death is the clear inference of your two letters about Frederiek Nolf, it is neither the only nor even the most likely conclusion. Sad to say, but extremely fit young athletes do die of natural causes, primarily from what's termed Sudden Cardiac Death resulting from a number of structural cardiac problems created or exacerbated by the sort of exercise regimes required by top-level sport.
Basketball, American football and football (soccer) all have well documented cases of highly trained, apparently healthy players who have died suddenly due to catastrophic heart failure, either during or after exercise. Some studies indicate that the average age for such deaths is in late adolescence, 17 to 18 years, corresponding to new peaks in training load and physiological changes - 21 is not out of that ball park.
If there's anything to be suspected it's that the UCI may have to embark on the sort of program that Scottish and English football has trialled, which is monitoring junior athletes for arrhythmias and other structural defects which can lead to SCD.
The last shoe (macher) has dropped. Finally! Let's not ask, "What took so long?" Obviously, Mr. Schumacher was not able to get a note from his mother this time, so we have a verdict, which we have to assume the UCI will uphold. This is good for cycling..
Risking looking like a total 'Cycling News fanatico' (my wife gave me this word), I am not afraid to say that you guys stayed on this story, for the longest time, and have done a wonderful job in delivering the news. It is February. The Tour was in July. I don't think this would be such a big story, if it wasn't for Mr. Schumacher and all his self-serving lip speak, but it has all been very interesting and I appreciate the effort that has been made to get the CORRECT information.
Personally, I am trying very hard to welcome the dopers back to cycling, but I am stuck. Here are some very special cyclists, who could have been good under any set of conditions, but they wanted to win so bad that they cheated. I don't have a problem with the person but the behaviour can never be excused. I do not see the value in having these men as a part of the peloton again.
Can't we get rid of doping forward and backwards? Do we always have to be confounded by cheaters, past and present? The Tour of California has grown to be quite an event here in the US. The racing has been the very best and very interesting in every stage thus far, but all the time the announcers are always asking, sort of, "Where are the dopers?" Are the dopers coming up? Have they fallen back? Have they fallen down? I do not like it. I just want to see Mr. Cavendish come over the line first.
nd Mr. Leipheimer? Gee! The guy has perfect form, even when McCartney tries to block him off the road. Can we have any more understatment and humility? He is a wonderful guy and he's not doing any dope, so I don't care what he says. He is most, if not all, of the time, crediting someone else with something good and not in any way being self-serving. All of this goodness makes me want to vomit, of course, but as Thoreau says, "Goodness is the only investment that never fails."
A few thoughts about the Operacion Puerto Affair. From what I know of the 200 bags of blood seized in the Fuentes Laboratory only a few riders were given a suspension. That includes Basso, Scarponi, Jaksche, and a few more. Ullrich ended his career. And all the other implicated riders and athletes from other sports (soccer, tennis) simply got away with that! Well I think this is unbelievable and unacceptable!
Why did Valverde get away with it? Because he's Spanish? He always declared that if anyone would ask for a match of his DNA samples he would agree to it. Because he was sure no one could do that! Now he is surprised that CONI did the match. I think someone from the UCI or WADA should find a solution quickly or he might get away with it again. I believe that if you are guilty in Italy and Germany then you should be also in Spain and USA. Why no one seems to back up CONI's action. Why did any rider express disbelief? I am really curious about how it will end.
I just read the article from 24 February about Frank Vandenbroucke. I cannot believe his audacity and his arrogance. To state that he won with honesty because the other riders were all doped is completely ridiculous. I think most people are about 5 or 6 when they learn that "two wrongs don't make a right." To continue on with that mindset and even have regrets that he wasn't given a chance "to be a pioneer, to try out new doping products first" makes it clear that this man is part of the sickness that is killing this sport.
He gives the impression of being a rabid dog - frothing at the mouth for a new drug to make him faster. Well, there is only one thing to do with a rabid dog and someone from team Cinelli-Down Under needs to take that step before he infects other. What a disservice to other riders. What a disservice to amateurs and fans. What a danger for future riders. Frank, you need to head back under the bridge (Broucke) you came from!
Are you sure this wasn't supposed to be an April Fools report? I had to check the date. Unbelievable.
Thanks so much for publishing VDB's perspective on one part of his career in the late 90's. He was honest about racing at the elite level, using dope, among many others using the same "resources". I always thought that Jan Ulrich would be a rider that would come forth with this type of honesty, (apologies to Paul Kimmage). But Jan had too much to lose I suppose, like many others do.
With regard to your story about the UCI changing the rules again.
I was watching the Flying Scotsman last night on DVD. It seems we will be going through all this hoo hah again, only instead of one rider being singled out and affected it will now be component manufacturers who are already facing tough times under the current economic circumstances. Businesses will collapse and jobs will be lost all to take the sport a few steps backwards. Nice one, UCI, very public-spirited.
Why can't the rules on bike desgn be simple, such as the bike must be powered by the legs and the riders head should be in front of their hips. For me, some of the most exciting times in cycling were pre-1997 when designers had a relatively free hand and came up with some beautiful bikes and interesting ideas. I wonder whether Bernard Hinault would have been able to use his clipless pedals or Greg Lemond his tri bars were they faced with the luddites in charge today. And where would we be? Going a lot slower for a start...
Aero rules #2
Why would any race official allow an aero bike in the prologue stage of a stage race and then decide to enforce a (new) rule that would ban the bike on another stage of the same stage race. Decisions like that are reasons why officials sometimes have problems earning respect from racers, directors and mechanics. Can we get CONSISTENCY at least within one seven-day stage race? Drop the drama, since you didn't start the stage race by enforcing the rule. Did any directors protest the prologue results because there were some 8:2.25 sections in the race? Is seven days of consistent officiating too much to ask for?
Finally a debate on American mountains... I have wondered about this for a while. I believe that the "Alp d'Huez of America" is in fact close to where I live (where else would it be?).
I submit: the road up Mount Humphrey's outside of Flagstaff, Arizona. It is about seven miles long, it dead-ends at the "Snow-Bowl" ski resort, and it has some very long, very steep grades. It starts around 7000 feet above sea level and ends at around 9000 feet! Toughness: 10/10.
First, let me say thanks to Michael Ball. Thank you, Mr. Ball, for investing in cycling. Thank you for giving cyclists like Hamilton and Mancebo (who have served their time or never even been charged with anything but innuendo, respectively) the chance to continue to prove their merit on the road. I'm glad that these guys are out there. (And ditto for Landis... here's hoping for better luck with the rest of the season!) Also, thanks for the stellar kits; Rock's got style.
I would also like to offer my less sincere gratitude to race radio. Thank you, race radio, for making the races so much more stable. I hate finishes like the ToC's Stage 2. I hate not knowing what's going to happen and I cringe when I see such a brave solo effort come to fruition. I hate having to worry about anything other than how close to the finish line the break will be caught and which one of the day's pre-ordained favourites will win.
I don't think it's fair that cyclists should have to rely on their wits and instincts. I'm sure you've read the reports about the confusion in the peloton about how much of a gap Mancebo had built up. How is that fair to the cyclists hanging out in the bunch? racing should be all about power meters, effort carefully measured and expended in doses, and - most importantly - the DS in the car with a calculator measuring the time gaps on race radio. Just a big equation, really. It's only civilised.
Finally, thanks Astana, for making all the Grand (and some of the minor) Tours such sure things. I don't know if we even need to run them anymore. I'd prefer not, that is a lot of additional stress in my life... not to mention the hampered productivity at work as I follow the stages via live feed. I think it's a lot less stressful for the cyclists, too.
Imagine how comforting it must be for Contador, Leipheimer, Kloeden, Horner, Armstrong, Brajkovic, Rubiera, Popovych, and Zubeldia to know that they don't have to race AGAINST each other, competing for the overall, but WITH each other. That way, they can all quietly crowd in to the top ten and still claim the honour of having one of their teammates win the overall. I'm already excited to see what promising young talents Astana will pick up this winter from their feeder teams in the ProTour.
Cycling should take pride for their fight against illegal doping over the past 40+ years! The program for professional cycling, although not perfect, must be considered far superior to that of other professional sports.
Money is the motivating factor. Ok, success, but with success comes money, and the money in Major League Baseball is huge. I find it naïve when people are surprised to find doping in any US professional sport. These athletes have too much at stake and until recently there has been little to no regulation.
As for Alex Rodriguez, I don't think MLB had a policy against steroids during the period he tested positive. If this is correct then he would not have violated any formal policy. He will lose money, there are rumblings about his current records and his future hall of fame status, which is ludicrous. Who knows what stuff other athletes took and when... going all the way back to Babe Ruth!
Alex Rodriguez took a voluntary and confidential drug test for which there was to be no consequence. The information was "leaked" and now he is and will pay a consequence. He should file suit against the offending agency for loss of future earnings. He also came clean (well, sort of)... he didn't demand to re-test or request an independent lab review the B sample (yet)... he obviously doesn't follow cycling.
Competitive athletes always try to improve performance, hopefully legally and within the guidelines of their sport's governing body. Even though this weekend's $10 criterium will have its share amateur dopers... cycling is way ahead of the game.
Drug use in baseball and cycling #2
Timothy Shame of the USA, in his letter of February 12th, touched on the A-Rod steroid use in baseball. I would like to add to Mr. Shame's excellent letter. You see, I put a lot of the blame for drug usage in sport on the fans. Before you scream, please hear my reasons.
First, as a young man growing up watching American style tackle football, not Soccer or world football, players who weighted 275 pounds or more were considered fat. Now days, we have entire offensive and defensive lines that average over 300 pounds, with many hitting 325-350. When something like this happens, polls results show that fans simply do not care. It is all about winning. Fans do not care what players do as long as their team is winning. Results, 300-plus pound linemen blow 275 pound linemen away.
Baseball players who are much larger and more muscle bound now than in the past. Even as far back as the 1970's you did not see this huge baseball players. So, big homerun totals, homeruns that used to travel 415 feet were considered long homeruns. Now days, there are many that have gone 450-500 feet on average. When I see a small, 5 foot 8, 185 pound baseball player hitting a baseball over 425 feet, something is very, very wrong. Those type of small players used to hardly ever hit a ball over the fence. Now days, everyone is hitting these massively long homeruns. This is what fans want. This is what the fans come to see. Their football team crushing others and baseball players hitting balls a mile.
Since the testing of baseball players, you see the totals of homeruns have dropped. I remember Sammy Sousa being a skinny guy hitting a few homeruns, then getting big in size and hitting massive homeruns. Then with testing, he got skinny again. That was because Sammy could not use steroids any more. His homerun totals came down, and Sammy was gone from the game. Everyone cheered when Sammy and Mark McGuire were hitting massive homeruns. McGuire on average was hitting balls 450-500 feet No one wanted to hear they were on steroids.
So, I hold fans accountable also. If we demanded clean sports, then the games would clean up. If we quit buying a team or player's merchandise, that would clean them up. Teams and players make millions off these sales. But, we fans, if we want clean sports, have got to stop supporting sports that cheat. I certainly have done my part. I no longer buy sports merchandise, T-shirts, player's jerseys, etc. I simply refuse to give my money to drug cheats. I guess it has to do with integrity. Someone must have it. If the players don't, then I guess I have too.
I would like to call your attention to the recent passing at the age of 91 years old of Harry Hill who rode in the 1936 Olympics, those known for the record breaking runs of Jesse Owens. Hill was the oldest surviving male medal winner of those games. Furthermore and quite fantastically, Harry Hill set the World Record for Miles Per Hour on a Velo-Track at 25 miles in 1937. How incredible it is that at the age of 80 years old, he sought to match his feat only to come up 1.5 miles short! That has to be inspiration for a lot of us old-timers. Other aspects of his life show he was a true cycling hero. Please see this link for more: http://www.burytimes.co.uk/news/radcliffenews/4103768.Goodbye_to_a_true_cycling_superstar/.
Seeing the crowds at the Tour of California was great. It gives us hope that bicycle racing in America is still on the rise. It gives validity to the sport that many of us love. It also brings to light a growing problem in the world of cycling, no I am not talking about doping, I am talking about a problem that is far more reaching and one that is potentially harmful to our beloved sport and favorite riders. I am talking about the "runners", those morons that run beside the riders and try to steal the show.
These runners are an international problem. How many of you cheered a couple of years ago when they showed the scenes of the motorcycle running over the runner at the Tour De France? I do not normally wish harm on others, but I was out of my seat cheering on that one!
This year at the Tour of California we witnessed more close calls and more poor judgment from these runners than ever before. Did anyone else notice the shirtless wonder cross right in front of Jason McCartney's wheel as he went for some KOM points? This is prime example how a race may be compromised by a runner taking out a rider.
Let's band together and propose a worldwide ban on the runners. I love the fact that at most races we are not caged off by barriers, and close access to the riders is part of what makes bicycle racing the greatest sport there is, but the runners are going to ruin it for all of us. If one of these horn wearing-sumo-wrestling-Elvis idiots takes down Levi, Lance, Jason or god forbid a leader's jersey, organisers will be caging off the tops of our beloved climbs.
I would like to see a fleet of motorcycles, manned with whiffle-ball bat carrying passengers, riding about one minute before the peloton. The "Enforcers" will be responsible for spotting anyone who remotely looks like they might want to be a runner and then whack! Whack! Whack!
I know my ideas may be going to the extreme, so let's start by discouraging anyone from running nicely and if that does not resolve the issue then let the WHACKING begin!
Watching the Amgen TOC on tv, I noticed that the per-capita clown population on the roadsides increased exponentially as the geography tilted south. Is that because there have been so few stages 'down there' and hence the greater excitement? Or is it representative of the different attitudes and personalities contrasting with northern California?
It appeared the excitement put some riders in danger, adding to the already extremely high injury risk at the race this year. It was so sad to see Mancebo, Feriere, Kirchen, Jaques-Mayne, Omer Kem, and others break bones during the competition. Next year, all roads on the 'So-Cal' route should be fenced?
I do believe next year's route will favour southern California in order to improve the probability of better weather. February racing in 'Nor-Cal' is playing weather roulette. And the fans sure are excitable there.
Not that anyone in the UCI will actually read this, but what about implementing a radio policy similar to the one in place for American football? In the NFL, each team can designate one offensive player (usually the quarterback) and one defensive player to wear helmets fit with radios so they can communicate with the coaches on the sidelines about play calls and general strategy.
What if each team in the peloton could designate one or two of their riders as radio carriers to serve as the link between the cars and the riders? That way, the directors could tell one of their riders that they need to press the chase of the breakaway group (or about a safety hazard), but it would still be up to that rider to communicate with the rest of his team.
No radio #2
How refreshing - limited radio contact for stage one of the Tour of California. While the weather was foul, racing based on gut instincts rather than radioed instructions was wonderful. Radios have taken some of the fun out of racing and the lack of radios on this stage exposed some deficiencies in the tactical nous of some riders and teams.
Monday, February 16, 2009
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