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Letters for October 26-31, 2000

Vainsteins is worthy!
The Festina trial
Technology and the Hour
Australia's Track World's no-show
Disappointing 4km Individual Pursuit
Armstrong vs Ullrich vs Pantani

Vainsteins is worthy! #1

Well, well, well... I've just had an opportunity to read Mark Zeh's note (see October 13-18 Letters) and... what absolute bollox! Take it from one who was there on the day, that Vainsteins is as worthy a grand-champion as it gets... he didn't 'apparently' ride a smart race... he quite simply rode a smarter race than anyone else, all day he was tactically superb by letting the Belgians, Spanish and French squabble (as they did by not riding cohesively)... and, within a crowd of hundreds of thousands that were predominantly French (and thus would have loved a French winner), he was acclaimed a highly worthy victor in a race that was more a war of attrition than anything else... a race where the craftier the fox you are, the more likely the end triumph... he judged his sprint to perfection (as those who saw it live or on TV could only agree), nailed Tchmil's last kilometre attack with just a couple hundred metres to go... and zap, no one but no one could best him.

The de facto elite world championships weren't in Sydney... nope, they were held in Plouay and nothing in elite cycle-sport is de facto - thus, if the date which had been fixed for aeons didn't suit rider X, Y or Z - so be it... their choice... it was hardly as if it was a late date-change? On the day the elite formed at the front... as always occurs... thus who can tell if Armstrong or Ullrich (if they'd have ridden) would have had the strength on the day - Jalabert et al didn't, did they? In a race like that, only the strongest survive... so, instead of whinging inaccuracies Mark, how about applauding a bunch of remarkable athletes instead, riders who are able to last a season long as opposed to those who concentrate on just a handful of races?

Neil Storey
Surrey, England

 

Vainsteins is worthy! #2

Yes, Vainsteins won the World Champs. Yes, he was the best on the day. End of subject!

Some riders concentrate on certain races, obviously, so why take the shine off their victory even if they never won a race prior to that victory or after? History will remember them as the winner on that day!

Glenn Hore

 

The Festina Trial #1

Those losers testifying in the Festina trial should be put under the World Championships on the daily news page. The results of the track races are much more important than loser cyclists getting caught at cheating and us the loyal cyclists/web surfers that enjoy your site, such as I, do not want to surf past these articles to get at the results. Thanks for your time.

Kevin Scott

 

The Festina Trial #2

That headline "Virenque Cracks" is patently ridiculous. Except in courtroom TV dramas, people don't crack. He was either threatened with credible evidence (which we will now never see) or more likely was offered a deal. And what adult with an IQ in excess of 60 really thought he didn't dope? Of course he did. But I for one applaud him for denying the prying, totalitarian French authorities the satisfaction for so long. I wish he could have held out longer. Hopefully he got a good deal. Doping is between the teams, the UCI and the race organizers. They have to keep the fans happy. The French government (and any other government for that matter) has no business in this at all. It is a private affair. If the world's governments are in such a crusading mood, they could do a lot to fix the problem. They could start by discontinuing the protection of the UCI and IOC monopoly. Let alternative governing bodies start up and promote their own events and you'd see the UCI clean up it's act in a hurry. As long as the governing bodies are state protected monopolies, every form of corruption, including doping, will be the norm.

Joe Casile
Monroeville, PA, USA

 

The Festina Trial #3

Antoine Vayer said under oath that the way in which Lance Armstrong won this year's TDF was indirect proof that he had taken drugs. He went on to say "Lance Armstrong, averaging 54 km/h. I find that scandalous. That rhymes with nothing. It indirectly proves that he doped."

Past tours have been won by bigger margins and more completely dominated by individual riders. Does it "indirectly prove" that they doped also? Furthermore, I assume that he feels Jan Ullrich must also be doping. After all, he only lost the stage by 26 seconds.

The article went on to say that French rider Christophe Bassons did not believe it was possible to win a stage without being on drugs. Is Mr. Bassons implying that any rider who has ever won a stage in the tour was on drugs at the time? If that were truly the case, I would think a rider would have to take drugs to win any race and not just a tour stage. So, using that logic, any rider who won any race in the past few years is on drugs, right?

I'm not so naive to believe that there is no drug use in the professional peloton. However, I don't think every rider that wins a race or specifically, a tour stage, is using drugs. I think it is completely irresponsible for people in their position to make accusations that they cannot prove. Is it completely impossible that cyclists might actually be winning races without drugs?

The web site is great. Keep up the good work.

Brian Morrill
USA

 

The Festina Trial #4

Antoine Vayer's sense of logic is stupefying. He creates a new category of "proof" when he says that the way Armstrong rode the Tour is "indirect proof" of Armstrong being on drugs. I guess that's a warning to all riders to underachieve or else be found "indirectly guilty" of doping! Vayer goes on to say doping is rampant in cycling and all winners are dopers. Let's see... let's assume there are 14 nine-man teams in a race, for a total of 126 riders. At the end of the race, there is one winner and 125 losers. If the winner is doping like Vayer asserts, that is a ratio of 1 in 126 or 0.8% of the peloton doping, hardly "rampant". Indirectly speaking, of course.

Leonard Ke
San Francisco, CA USA

 

Technology and the Hour #1

I would like to pen a response to Mr. Gallagher's Bike Rules. I concur that UCI has a long way to go before broaching the idea of reality that most cyclists endure. However, there is no onus on anyone to buy more expensive lighter aero equipment. Unless we are blessed to ride at the envelope of human ability, I do not see why conventional technology is such an albatross.

Mark Combs

 

Technology and the Hour #2

What is the point of the hour?

The UCI seem to think it is a way of comparing the ability of riders who are from different times. A definitive comparison of the current champion with those of years ago. What complete and utter tosh!

Improvements in bike design are only one of the improvements we have seen since Merckx set his incredible record. We have seen improvements in diet, training, coaching, medicine, psychology, clothing and position. The UCI really are demonstrating their complete ignorance of what goes to make up an all round great rider by concentrating on one aspect of bike riding. The hour record is all about setting the bar as high as it will go at that time. Things will continue to improve in all sorts of ways outside of the bike, if they follow the same logic,surely the UCI should ban these? The UCI is trying to set the conditions such that in 50 years time we can say who was the best? A laudable aim, but way off the mark. Would anyone compare Carl Lewis and Jesse Owens in that way? Moser beat Merckx' record 16 years ago. If the UCI is so sure that its decision to halt bike design is right, why was it not done 16 years ago?

They seem to simply stifle any innovation in bike design and rider position. The sport as a whole is being held back by the governing body. A governing body who will allow all aspects of the sport to advance except those that it can see with its own eyes. So, keep the improvements out of sight of the UCI and you will be all right?

Andrew Torrance
Wales, UK

 

Technology and the Hour #3

If the UCI is wanting to streamline certain areas of bicycling, maybe they should look at banning rider to car communication via earphone. By removing this it would make racing more competitive. Also, I have just read Lance Armstrong's book and he had his heart rate monitored by his team car. Talk about taking the guess work out of cycling!

Glenn Hore

 

Technology and the Hour #4

Am I in the extreme minority when I say that I think that the UCI is doing just fine, and the best that they can in preserving the sport of cycling?

When I say this, I'm referring mostly to the rules that have recently been made concerning frame design and bicycle weights. The UCI has been trying to simplify the frame designs so that frame modifications and materials are not the focus of cycling. Rather, the cyclists themselves will be the focus.

With the current rules governing frames and components, there will never be the assumption that one rider out-climbed another because their bicycle was lighter. The same can be applied to aerodynamics and time trials: There is no need to buy a $10,000, or even a $3,000 bike, since performance will be similar to that of a standard aero frame, wheels, and bars costing $2,000 or less. I like that, and I think it's fair. And I think that the UCI is doing the best that they can in preserving the interest in cycling in countries that don't have the money to build exotic bikes.

There have been a few cases of disqualification of cyclists that have used bicycles that are outside the rules. In most of these cases, the bicycle had nothing to do with their performance, and there were many outcries about how the riders were cheated. However, any rule must be enforced to the letter, or the rule cannot be effective. Those cyclists and their directors should have known better.

I'm comfortable with the rules, and the bikes that I have are manufactured (and for the most part, mass-produced) by companies that know the rules, and deliver bikes that are within them. I'm not a retro, and I enjoy modern frame materials that allow a comfortable ride. I like my shifter/brake levers too, and the frame that I raced on this year was up-to-date, light and modern. It's one of the best bikes that money can buy, and it cost less than $2,000, partly in thanks to the UCI.

James Marsh
USA

 

Technology and the Hour #5

I see the website does not yet bring the news of the successful attempt of Chris Boardman. But of cause it's still night down under.

Being able to follow the HOUR entirely at EUROSPORT TV with the comments of Danny Nelissen and of cause "dinosaur" Patrick Sercu, the famous compatriot of Eddy Merckx, I also got tired afterwards, not in my legs but in my hands. I "had to" write down all the intermediate lap times and the current average of speed. Never before in history TV VIEWERS had such a great opportunity to follow such an event so thoroughly.

And indeed as the HOUR progressed the most unexpected fact became reality: it became a narrow escape for Chris Boardman with a great finish.

Frankly I have to give Chris Boardman more credit now than some 4 odd years ago. Not withstanding the fact that I know that it's for sure that his World Hour Record of 1996 is intrinsically and relatively better than his today. As we now know he is not in his best physical condition due to the indirect effects of his bone disease and he is of cause 4 years older.

Therefore his World Record does not stand the slightest chance of surviving for long. But that does not matter.

Chris Boardman, by another rider (I know not the name at this moment) singled out as the "last clean rider in the peloton", deserves the greatest admiration, firstly still for his extraterrestrial World Hour Record of september 1996, although under "extraterrestrial circumstances" but mostly for the courage of attempting the World Hour Record of Eddy Merckx under almost similar technical circumstances.

KNOWINGLY, that on his very last day of his sporting career he would be become a normal human being after all. The Super man, named after his super man position no longer exists!

TODAY is a great day, because not only do we know since some time, that the "entire" CYCLING WORLD as we already knew for the ATHLETICS WORLD, at least I did, in the last decennia primarily was based on FRAUD, either based on drug-enhancement or technical enhancement.

The great Chris Boardman could not succeed the 50 km barrier. Four years ago there were scientists speaking of the 60 km barrier as a possibility!!!!

For the first time in history in SPORTS the Relativity Theory of Albert Einstein proved to be wright.

On september, 6th 1996, Chris Boardman travelled away from earth as a superman in extraterrestrial waters. He finally returned some 4 years later.

But we as the earth inhabitants are 28 years older (1972-2000)

After his World Hour Record in 1996 I considered myself as the greatest adversary of the circumstances on which his record was made. And therefore I could not give him the utmost admiration.

Well, I am a fan now.

Frans Rutten

 

Technology and the Hour #6

After Chris Boardman's superb swansong at Manchester on Friday the debate will no doubt rage over the UCI's ruling on bike technology.

The UCI had largely ignored advances in bike technology until an 'unknown' upstart from Scotland, called Graham Obree, came and smashed the Hour record on his home made bike.

Annoyed that this 'unknown' guy had obliterated Moser and Merckx from the record books, they set about banning his bike and riding position. However, Boardman and Rominger are hardly unknowns in the cycling world so what did the UCI have against them?

In defense of the UCI, I agree that the focus of cycling should be athletic endeavour, not aerodynamic technologies. After all, the fastest times recorded on a human powered bicycle are on a recumbent bike with egg-shaped aerodynamic fairing. Why not allow these bikes to attack the hour record?

The UCI has to state clearly what defines a legal bicycle, across all disciplines. Why apply different rules to the hour record and those of the 4000m pursuit.

It is a pity the UCI did not anticipate these developments in bicycle technology. It's retrospective actions only make the sport of cycling look rather foolish and backward looking.

No doubt discussions on this topic will continue, but for the time being, congratulations must go to Chris on a brilliant effort. I look forward to one day seeing a certain Mr Armstrong at the Manchester Velodrome (on a UCI legal bike of course!).

Sean Bolton
Swindon, UK

 

Australia's Track World's no-show

The World Track Championships have just concluded in Manchester without the participation of an Australian team. Considering the level of taxpayer funding provided to the sport in recent years this situation is totally unacceptable. In accepting this money the officials of Cycling Australia must also accept the obligation to provide the best possible representation for Australia at the highest level. I can't imagine any other sport (at the Olympic level) not bothering to turn up for the World Championships. What was the point of all the training camps in Germany, Mexico and the USA if they don't result in an Australian team capable of representing the nation on the international stage? Was it all just a self-indulgent wank at the expense of the mug taxpayers?

Laurie Cousins
Sydney, Australia

 

Disappointing 4km Individual Pursuit

Once again, the UCI have messed around with the rules with disappointing results. I speak of the World Championship 4km Individual Pursuit, although it might as well be renamed the 4km Time Trial; that's what it has become now that the semi-finals have been dispensed with.

The qualification is already a time trial although, with 8 progressing to the next round, it's no longer as crucial to the final outcome as it was. Jens Lehmann clearly realised this and did just enough to ensure his progression. The quarter-finals were all farcically one-sided affairs as the top four competitors showed that they were a class apart. But catching an opponent (Lehmann & Steinweg) wasn't enough to win; these guys had to carry on and post a time. Imagine if Lehmann had been obstructed by Sosenka, causing him to lose time and qualify third! We would have had lapped riders dictating the destination of the rainbow jersey. Disgraceful!!

I have huge sympathy for Rob Hayles who was unable to challenge for gold only because his time in the quarter-final was marginally inferior to that of Stefan Steinweg. The German followed the Brit in the quarter-final running order giving him the advantage of knowing what time to beat, and he rode accordingly. By the same token, I have sympathy for the viewing public who were denied the one close race that could possibly have been staged in the series -- Hayles v Steinweg.

This race format is called a "pursuit". We have two riders on the track, head to head, and the faster rider is the winner; once qualification is complete the clock should no longer matter. To quote Justin Lucke, the UCI continue to have their collective heads rammed deep inside their collective rear ends. Please -- give us back a format where riders actually race against EACH OTHER rather than the clock.

Brian Hooper
Surrey, UK

 

Armstrong vs Ullrich vs Pantani

Reading the arguments of the many correspondents who seem to feel that the only reason Armstrong repeated in the 2000 TdF is because Ullrich and Pantani were not in shape makes me wonder if I watched the same race. The primary evidence for the prosecution appears to be that Ullrich beat Armstrong twice in Sydney, and I will get to that later. About Pantani one can only wonder. In the current climate, there appears to be no possible scenario in which Pantani can defeat either Ullrich or Armstrong -- he simply isn't versatile enough a cyclist.

Ullrich, on the other hand is, so the position is at least credible and must be addressed. Here's my case for the defense: first, it's an old story by now that Ullrich rolled (pun intended) into the Tour out of shape, but that's the way the strudel crumbles. A true champion wouldn't behave during the off season as if every meal were his last. If it takes Ullrich, who is clearly a remarkable talent, until August to ride himself back into form, too bad.

The season commences in March, the Tour in July. Second, it is true Ullrich rode like a demon in Australia, but it is hard to conclude too much from the road race, which like all one-day "classics" is as much a crap shoot as it is anything else. This isn't meant to detract from the win but to note that on this day Ullrich rode perhaps smarter and faster than the field, Armstrong included. Beyond that, who knows? The time trial, of course, is different, although I would contend that if Armstrong hadn't decided to test the crash-worthiness of his equipment in that horrible training accident just before the games, the outcome probably would have been different. As anyone who has ever had a serious head or neck injury knows, just getting back on the bike, never mind training for the Olympics, is tough enough.

Winning a bronze medal in the Olympics with a vertebral fracture is, to my mind, nearly impossible to fathom. Would a fully healthy Armstrong have won? Hard to say. (I think so.) But the contest certainly would have been interesting. Finally, let's stipulate that both Ullrich and Armstrong are among the greatest of contemporary cycling champions. (Pantani lacks the ability to ride the "race of truth"; until he can, he's second tier -- at best -- in my book.) My sense is that so long as Armstrong wants to win the TdF, it will take a superhuman effort to beat him. He's been through hell and back. As his book makes patently clear, his focus and ability to prepare properly (Ullrich take note) are extraordinary. Telekom is no doubt a great team, but the 2001 version of USPS might be even better, at least so far as stage races are concerned. If Ullrich is going to topple Armstrong, as the next winner of the TdF, he will need to be at the top of his game at the beginning of July, not sometime in August. Can he do it? I, for one, am especially eager to see him try.

Steven Marks
Rockville, MD USA

 

Index to previous letters

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