Letters to cyclingnews
Here's your chance to get more involved with cyclingnews.com. 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. 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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David from Sweden wonders why Actovegin isn't on the UCI's banned list. As far as we can tell, Actovegin's effects as a performance-enhancer are unproven, so any team using it may be messing with riders' health for nothing more than an expensive placebo effect. Of course, if it is effective, then it's banned by the UCI's general prohibition on substances that improve blood function.
David also asks why the media treats Lance Armstrong with kid gloves. Well, oddly enough, being American and successful isn't a crime, and nobody has presented a shred of evidence that Armstrong has done anything we should go after him for. Some folks seem to think that Armstrong's success after recovering from cancer is suspicious, but he's not the first bike racer to fully recover from cancer - Tracey Gaudry beat leukemia and went to win World Cups.
Clayton Stevenson's defence of Richard Virenque continues to inspire incredulous response, like this one from Deborah Steiner. Meanwhile, however, here's Phil Siena leaping in to support Virenque. It's obvious that Virenque is a talented rider who has worked consistently at a single goal over the years - the KOM - but his recent admission of drug use rather taints his record.
Steve Miller points out that with or without drugs there is always one rider who is the strongest. This is the tragedy of drugs in sport, of course: if a few good athletes are using, then everyone has to, in order to compete.
Young Australian rider Giles Baudet already has a significant fan base in his home country his friend Matthew McGoon offers an insight into this up-and-coming rider.
Ken Getchell writes to tell us that stadium bike racing already exists in the form of the Professional Bicycle League, complete with cheerleaders, full contact racing and Marty Nothstein. Sounds gladiatorial to us.
Daniel Lloyd wants to know if there's a listing anywhere on the Web of a pro's training schedule for the year. We don't know of one but we've asked Scott Sunderland to give us his, so watch this space.
I too am a very worried cycling fan. The world of high tech drugs is accelerating at the same speed as computer technology. Meanwhile the UCI falls miserably behind in its attempts at controlling drug abuse. Recently we heard of a new name, Actovegin, a Norwegian product that is not on the UCI's banned list. WHY NOT?
I also wonder why you and other cycling journalists/ media are so protective when something concerns Lance Armstrong. Could it be that he is above the law because he survived cancer? Let's face it, the best thing that could have happened for the Tour was for Armstrong to win, the man that survived cancer fights back against all odds. Too good to be true for the Tour organisers, wouldn't you say? So come on, let's have an honest debate regarding the possibility of someone surviving such a severe form of cancer, and then going on and win a sporting event of such magnitude. Don't forget, we are talking about a three week long event. Surely after your body has suffered so much with the trauma of cancer you would suffer when it came down to having enough stamina? Why not ask the specialists in the field of cancer if it was humanly possible? Winning the Grand National I can handle, But the Tour de France?
I appreciate Brian Hawley's comments, but I have to remind everyone that if there truly was no doping in the peloton, then there would still be one rider who is the best. That rider may be able to lead the entire race. On some days, one rider may be able to give it his all and break away. This is all possible with or without doping. A rider who takes banned substances may improve his chances on any given day, changing the order of who is the best, but it is possible to win without doping. Perhaps Zulle was never a top rider except on dope.
I think many people are being extremely pessimistic about professional sports. I agree that there are illegal activities at the top ranks of any sport, ranging from doping to gambling to secret negotiations and contracts. This is because there is so much money at the top. However, many top athletes are in the sport because they excelled when they were young amateurs. Many have been tops their whole career. Is it the general opinion that these people started doping in grade school? No wonder I lost so many races!
Let's be fair and enjoy our top athletes' accomplishments. We shouldn't accuse people just because they are better performers.
In response to Clayton Stevenson's letter of Monday, November 06, I would like to know what exactly he is crying about? He says he has complete disgust for Richard Virenque's treatment over "the whole Festina affair" but is also indignant that "Zulle got off virtually scott free". In my book that paints him as a Virenque fan who is not interested in justice and cannot face the music of his fallen hero. I would like to explain the obvious here. Virenque was ostracized by the other (guilty) riders, and the UCI, and the TDF, BECAUSE HE WAS GUILTY. Because he chose to lie and hide while his teammates came clean, were they supposed to admire him? Maybe they should have seen him as the more superior man he was; after all, lying to his fans and sponsors and keeping his salary up made him superior to his teammates who did their time and cleaned up their acts, right? I should have seen that truth before now, right?
As far as Frankie Andreu criticizing Virenque, Andreu is a seasoned veteran who has never in his 11 years as a pro tested positive for banned substances nor been accused of doping by any remotely credible source of information. Furthermore, he is an American cyclist, and for any American to achieve in cycling they have to try basically twice as hard as most Europeans to turn pro. I am not insulting Europe when I say this, rather the insult is to America. The USA has very limited cycling initiatives for youth and juniors, few amateur and Nationally based pro teams, and only one Division One (although the latest points may make that two Division One) team(s). For a country of that size and population, these facts are more than a disgrace.
And finally, yes, I do believe that some riders use incredibly rigid training and dedication to replace doping for achieving results. And no, I don't think I have blinders on regarding modern cycling.
It was nice to read a letter about Richard Virenque that didn't refer to him as "Dicky" or go on about all of his supposed sins against the peloton or sport in general. In the English speaking world there seems to be a bias against Virenque that ratchets up any quirk into ‘jerk of the year' status. Scott Goldstein laid out Virenque's TdF results in relation to what his competitors were doing and let the chips fall where they may. About time.
I feel that Virenque is disliked by many English-speaking people (can't vouch for other languages) because he is a big fish in a small pond. The guy is an above-average cyclist who has maximized his potential through hard work and played his cards well enough to cash in on his celebrity at home. But… he's a Frog, you know? Well, where is the crime in that? To me he always seemed to be a good team player who gave as good as he got. The Festina team started out pretty ragged but grew to be a one of the best, most cohesive teams in the peloton. Some of the credit should go to Virenque (spare me the drug gibes). How many former teammates of Virenque have crossed him off their Christmas card list? Not many is my guess. Gee, he also brought new fans into cycling - housewives! What a jerk?
Special mention should be made at this time to the deleterious effects to Virenque's reputation (in the English speaking world) that have been created by the reporting of the English magazines Cycle Sport and Pro Cycling. I have been reading Cycle Sport for several years now (before it was widely distributed in the US) and have been amazed at the bias that drips out of every paragraph written about Virenque in that mag. We know the Limeys think the Frenchies suck, but how about giving us cycling fans a break from your thousand year culture war?
If you get pro cycling news from Cycle Sport (who doesn't?), you still read (between the lines) that Virenque is a no-talent nitwit. Sad. As far as Pro Cycling goes, I have limited exposure to its content. I did read its internet wrap up of this year's Tour de France stage 16, which Virenque won. My jaw dropped at the sophomoric insults that were directed toward Virenque AND HIS FANS. Are people outside of England dopey enough to not see the venom that taints reporting such as this? The cyclingnews reporter was on the ‘Reeshard sucks' bandwagon too. It was an editorial as much as it was a race report.
I wish Richard Virenque well in his future. I hope he rebounds from his drug mess and lives a satisfying life.
In response to Kyle Kuykendall's letter about cycling and the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, there is a team bike racing league in the USA called the PBL that races in arenas, and has cheerleaders. I only just found out about it myself, so I'm no expert, but according to their website they use mountain bikes, on astroturf, on a hockey rink sized track, with contact allowed and Marty Nothstein (Olympic gold medallist) raced with them this year. Anyway, their Philadelphia Liberators team apparently uses local strippers as its cheerleaders, has live bands and gives free beer to paying spectators of legal age.
Purists may snicker, but it's a formula that seems to have worked for German Six Days for years now - right down to the contact between the sprinters. If you can believe the team's public relations, they're drawing 1,000 to 2,000 paying customers per event, so maybe Kyle is on the right track. But then again, he insulted NASCAR, so maybe we can't trust him after all (just joking Kyle, everybody is entitled to their opinion - even if it's wrong). Personally, I plan on catching one of the PBL races this coming year to check it out. Maybe I'll like it, maybe not - but they DO have cheerleaders.
Who cares if American rugrats are to become cycling fans? The sport of cycling is too hard to participate in because of the effort required for people who are largely sedentary. Whippet-like physiques are most common. As for being fans, again the sport of road cycling requires a level of effort from the potential spectator that precludes fans who are used to being fed their entertainment on a platter. Cycling will always remain a truly great sport, there is no need to try to cater to a particular uninterested section of the world market. I say, let them have their beer, noise and cheerleaders for we have sweat, effort and bicycles. Besides, I can't think of any riders named Chip, Skip or Rip.
John M. Jones
This letter is response to Jon Coulter's letter about Giles Baudet. I know Giles quite well, and he is a quiet, unassuming person who would rather let his legs do the talking. When he left Brisbane around March of this year he didn't know what to expect - going to a foreign country, new language, different style of racing and so on - but he stuck to his guns and performed far above expectations.
We kept in contact via email, and from the letters I could pick up the usual scenarios: missing the Brisbane weather, missing not talking to anyone in English, and basically missing Australia. But he shone through like the gritty tiger he is. He certainly turned some heads, and had people asking, "who is this guy?". Oh yes, GiGi had arrived!
Don't get me wrong, not everything went his way, he also hit the usual negative scenarios: the peloton riding off ahead, being unable to close that gap, and watching slowly as it widens. Eventually the rubber band snaps, and you're at the wrong end. We've all experienced that haven't we?! Giles certainly got some awesome results when you consider the culture shock that might have unsettled someone of less caliber, as the Italians say the boy showed ‘grinta'.
Soon enough everybody got wind of this Aussie, showing the French how to race. Imagine that - someone from down under showing up the French, and on home soil! That's like a Frenchman coming to Australia, to play rugby league and being voted MVP. Well GiGi, you have come through, and as for your ride in the Bank Classic, that just put the icing on the cake!! Kick back, have a few beers, and have a well earned rest. Before Giles left Australia, I told him, "you'll either come back shattered - or you'll make the cover of Cycle Sport, and FHM in the same month" Maybe I can get him to sign both, and in years to come, watching the Tour on SBS, there's that man again. Stranger things have happened. Forza, GiGi. Forza!
Do you knew of any sites where I can find out exactly the sort of training the continental pros do? I have read every scientific training book there is and I just want to see a schedule from a full time paid rider. E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The legitimacy of the French press suffers a blow each time they come up with unsubstantiated stories, like the recent accusations of drug use by the US Postal team. When a "respected and legitimate" news source like "Le Canard Enchainé" makes an accusation, and the rest of the French media picks it up and makes it news without presenting any proof, their motivation for doing so becomes very suspect. That they waited until 4 months after the Tour to report this very serious charge adds to the suspect nature of their accusations. Is there anyone who can justify these charge? If this situation continues, the damages to the riders and the great races will reduce cycling to a minor sport. Then what will the French press destroy next?
Anyone know how he's doing?
Mike & Sandi Cummings
Last we heard he was holidaying in Australia - when we hear some more we'll let you know. Ed.
Any doctors out there?
I thought that low body fat in women could lead to osteoporosis, and Chris Boardman is suffering from a similar disease. Boardman has retired because the drugs that are needed to fight the disease would fall foul of the anti-doping rules. Fair enough. But how many others have had this in the past and simply taken the drugs regardless? If the low body fat of the pros makes them susceptible to this disease, then I cannot believe that Boardman is unique. I would appreciate a more informed opinion than my own on this, does any one have more info on the relationship between low fat and bone wasting diseases?
I wanted to say thanks to the folks at cyclingnews for your intro to track cycling
One of my trail friends wound up kissing a concrete pole at 40mph during a track event and that really left an impression on me as to the validity and dedication required in this sport. Not to worry, his dental implants are better than the originals!
The last month's letters