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Doping continues to inject life into our mailbag, with Brian Hawley questioning the wholesale acceptance of some riders claims of cleanliness, and a couple of letters we can't publish because they name too many names or are unnecessarily hostile. This is a vital subject, but please let's keep things civil.
The performance of 19-year-old Giles Baudet in Australia's Commonwealth Bank Classic drew praise from Cameron Webster and Jon Coulter, while Scott Goldstein has a lesson in the recent history of Richard Virenque for everyone who thinks Virenque has declined since the 1998 Festina bust.
In the ongoing technology debate, Ian Dyer wonders about the safety of earphone radios
Finally, here's Kyle Kuykendall with some ideas for getting the attention of the Great American Public focused on cycling.
What makes people think that their particular hero isn't on drugs? Is there some kind of allegiance we have with certain riders that makes us believe whatever they say? I have no proof that any particular rider is or is not doping, but I wouldn't be so sure that he isn't. When you have people that are actually involved in the racing community saying that they suspect a top rider is using, and ambiguous statements from team managers claiming the team wasn't using anything on the UCI banned substance list, you have to start questioning the situation. Zulle says he can't go more than 10 days (on the leader board) in a stage race without doping, maybe we should listen to someone that has been on EPO, has admitted to the use of EPO and is telling us the effects of EPO. I think we all need to be a little more objective and not let our heroes cloud our perceptions of what is actually going on in the European peloton.
Brian D Hawley
I definitely agree with Cameron Hill about Giles Baudet. To come 10th overall for a 19 year old is exceptional. Watching him during the race, he rode very smart and strongly. As a junior cyclist myself, it's seeing young riders such as Giles competing against international riders that inspires me, and not so much the pro riders themselves. Australian cycling has a closed shop mentality which is not good and needs to be changed. I've seen plenty of good riders not seen by the academy or institute of sports. I also hope he doesn't become the "one that got away". Well done to Caravello for giving him a ride.
Also do you have a Caravello mail address?
Best of luck Giles.
I thoroughly agree with Cameron Hill's letter regarding the young 19 yr old Brisbane rider, Giles Baudet. Coming 10th in your first Bank Race in your first full season of road riding is something that only someone with a special talent can achieve. It possibly points to a bit of ignorance on behalf of Australian selectors that Gilles is basically unheard of especially when you consider that this kid is one of the nicest, most genuine blokes you can possibly meet. Rip their legs off GiGI!
Peter Bolton has not been paying attention to Richard Virenque and his performances in the Tour De France when he says that Richard is a different rider today. Peter claims Richard used to "dictate the race", display "explosive power" and so on. This is simply not the case. Take a close look at Richard's KOM titles:
1994: As a non-threat to the yellow jersey, a young Richard goes on a big solo adventure over several big cols in the Pyrenees, grabs a huge lead in the KOM competition and then defends for the remainder of the race. He rode well on the other big climbs in the Alps, but generally just hung with Indurain and took points where he could. Note that Ugramov and Pantani both beat Richard soundly in the mountain TT at Morzine.
1995: After losing FOUR MINUTES (like everyone else) to Indurain on the climb of La Plagne, Richard hangs with Miguel's group (generally) in the Alps and (when he's no threat to yellow) goes on a big solo adventure (a spectacular day) in the Pyrenees, crossing all of the days big cols in the lead and builds a huge lead in the KOM.
1996: As a perceived yellow jersey threat, Richard is unable to pull off any big adventures. He doesn't do particularly well in the Mountain TT (12th place), he has no stage wins, he can't hang with Riis when he attacks at Sestriere or Hautecam, but he climbs consistently every day (4th at Les Arcs, 3rd at Sestriere, 2nd at Hautecam) and wins the KOM.
1997: Now a major yellow jersey threat, Richard's major move of the race (another "big day out" on the hardest day of the race) is chased down by Bjarne Riis who is working for Jan Ullrich. Overall, Virenque rides well, but only "dictated the race" on his big day to Courchevel.
1999: Richard is allowed to ride the Tour with less than two weeks notice and thus has certainly had a less than ideal build up. Nonetheless, he rides consistently, doing what it takes to win ("sprinting for every overpass" as one journalist put it) and wins a fifth KOM.
In 2000, Richard was thwarted not only by a very strong and deserving Santiago Botero, but by a very strong and agressive Kelme team who attacked the race with a plan to win the KOM. If Botero hadn't won, it would have been Otxoa. These guys were great and Richard ended up third. Winning the KOM at the Tour is NOT about being the best climber. I think everyone would agree (myself included) that Pantani is a better climber than Virenque. Pantani, however, has never been better than fourth in the KOM (other than his second place when he won the GC in '98) even in years when he wasn't going for the GC, he wasn't even in the top 10.
Richard is a rider who likes winning the KOM and knows how to do it. He, like most climbers, has great days and not so great days. The key to winning the KOM is taking advantage of the good days and limiting the damage on the bad ones. He's done it 5 times and been close twice. Is he is significantly weaker today than in the past? I don't know. Ask Jan Ullrich if he thought Richard was weak when Virenque dropped Jan on the Joux Plane this year. (does Peter Bolton remember the old "explosive" Richard failing no less than five times to drop Ullrich on the road to Courchevel in 1997?) Ask Roberto Heras the same question about Richard that day.
Don't believe everything you read in the media, Peter. Look at the facts and make up your own mind.
I agree with Doug Mitchell's assertions regarding technology. In addition, I would like to throw this one into the ring and hear your thoughts: I saw a picture the other day of the aftermath of a crash in the Tour of Spain. Of the dozen or so riders that were picking themselves off the floor, half had ear-phones in. I was taught a long time ago that balance is controlled from inside the inner-ear what happens when your team manager is shouting at you via your radio?
Remarkably, we silly Americans are still wondering what it will actually take for our dear and beloved country to embrace what, to us, is more than a sport but a philosophy, religion and favorite superhuman pastime. It has been suggested that cycling "needs more exposure," that we should "start kids off at an early age and teach them the ways of the force," that "we should promote cycling in our communities through charitable efforts." With all due respect, these ideas are all helpful, but none will ever see cycling to the (in my opinion overinflated) grandeur of other American sports such as baseball, American football, basketball, hockey... even the ever-popular international soccer or golf (now there's an oddity).
It can be said that nearly every sport in the world likely has some level of community outreach. Did helping the Girl Scouts with their cookie sales win the Chicago Bears their following? No. Youthful participation? Granted, there are many kids out there without bikes, but just how many do we need on two wheels before the notion kicks in: Gee, this might be a good thing to do for sport? And finally, exposure? I don't seem to remember any non-cyclists going ga-ga over Greg Lemond's cover read it COVER appearance on Sports Illustrated so many years ago. These are necessary building blocks, but they will not win over the American public. So just what is it that will take our sport to the next level?
In a word: stadiums. Not velodromes stadiums, grandstands, sky boxes. Ever see 80,000 people gathered at the finish of a 5K road race? I can think of an Atlanta 10K that comes close, but it only happens once a year. However, in my little town of Athens, Georgia, there are routinely 80K PLUS crazy nutso fans brightly clad in their favorite team's colors all gathered into a concrete marvel that is Sanford Stadium. Georgia football is big stuff. Would it be so big, though, if the fans had to actually walk to follow the action? If the only glimpse of their hero quarterback was when the clock ticked zero or if they had to run like the wind just to stay alongside their team's running back, would the fans really come out in such numbers? Nope. And here's another question: if beer sales were banned at games would we see quite the level of enthusiasm to which we have grown accustomed? I do not think so.
The same can be said for all other abovementioned sports as well as others: Nascar (ahem I have two choices: right or left...which turn should I make? Duh) gymnastics (though I doubt beer sales would affect their turnout I take my hardbodies straight-up, no chasers), track and field... get the point? Golf is perhaps an oddity at best. If the golfers ran to where their balls landed I might take notice of this popular "sport," which to me is more of a game of billiards with wind and water thrown in. Got alcohol? PLAY BALL!! Got easy access for an inherently sedentery society with increasingly large hind-quarters? PLAY BALL!!!
Here's my thought on what to do: hold exhibition mountain bike races on the infields of Nascar tracks, hold closed circuit road races on Formula 1 tracks (that also can be built on the infields of Nascar tracks), have cyclocross be the 9th hole entertainment at golf tournaments. In other words: take advantage of structures and cultures that are already in place and grow like an invasive weed into the minds of the football fans, the baseball fans, the basketball fans (arguably the most intelligent of the three) and the Nascar fans (arguably the antithesis of intelligence). Fund the sport with ticket sales like no velodrome has done since the 1920s.
If we continue with thes aforementioned "grass roots" effort, we likely will be standing 50 years from now looking back wondering why nobody lets us grow. We instead must be aggressive. All due respect to certain political candidates, noone is going to just hand you 5% of the vote. You have to take it and until you do, you don't get to play with the big boys.
The last month's letters