Letters to Cyclingnews - April 4, 2001
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Last week, Joris Verstappen asked why riders who crashed in Milan-San Remo weren't allocated the same time as other finishers in their group. Several readers wrote to say that rule only applied to stage races, but today Joris points out that in the past it has been applied to World Cup races because positions in World Cups mean important series points. Could someone who has a deep understanding of the UCI rulebook please clarify this for us?
Paul Rigby wonders why drug users are only detected when the police find drug stashes. That's a little harsh the testing system does detect riders, but you do have to wonder how many slip through the net.
Andrew Torrance points out the Ireland is almost free of foot and mouth, and the ban on teams from infected countries is entirely justified.
Definitions of 'sport' continue to engage our letter-writers. Tony Szurly and Martin Sparrow point out that the comparison made last time between riding round the block and playing 18 holes of golf on a championship course is hardly fair, and call for apples to be compared to apples. Regis Chapman and James Gehrig tackle the issue of the physical aspects of chess.
Finally Regis Chapman answers my question from last time about the balance between event services and prize money in races.
I already thought of the difference between road race and stage race rules, but then there is the case of the '97 Milan-San Remo race (see also: http://www.cyclingnews.com/results/archives/mar97/msr97a.html), where Jalabert, Sciandri and Museeuw crashed in the last meters. Jalabert and Sciandri slid past the line, still in contact with their respective bikes, but Museeuw came to a stop before he passed the line and stayed there quite some time, probably trying to get his head clear again. In the meantime another rider passed the line behind the first group. Yet Museeuw was ranked as the last one of the first group and the other rider some 20 seconds behind.
I can imagine it was pretty much impossible for the race directors of this year's Milan-San Remo to get a proper order with so many riders involved, but since it is a World Cup race, time differences, or rather the placings those time differences 'generate' are pretty important! For instance, Dmitri Konyshev and Geert Van Bondt were placed minutes behind the winner and were not even in the first 100 riders. If there had been a smaller first group they could have been in the first 25 if the rule had been applied, which would have given them some World Cup points, and these might come in handy later in the season, if (since we're talking hypotheticals) one of the victims had been a World Cup favourite!
I think the race directors didn't want to apply the rule, because it would have been too difficult and there were only six places left over with World Cup points, when the non-crashing riders crossed the line, with the maximum being 6 points, which doesn't really make a difference with 0 points. The race directors could get it difficult if the winner of the World Cup has only a couple of points more than the runner-up at the end of the season, and the runner-up is one of the victims of the Milan-San Remo crash!...
Why is it that the only way that they can find drug cheats is when the police find the drugs in the boot of somebody's car?
This week there were drugs found in the boot of the Selle Italia team. Why have none of these riders tested positive yet? I'm sure it's not because they have not used drugs.
Peter D Ashley is advocating that Ireland has allows unrestricted access for riders from areas affected by Foot and Mouth because "the Irish Republic is already infected". Ireland has had a handful of cases, as opposed to us Brits who have over 700. The difference is that the Irish government took it seriously in the beginning and was not as relaxed about it as our government. Ireland is not infected, a few farms in Ireland have the disease. I just wish our government had the guts in the beginning to take the measures that the Irish and the French have instead of all the pussyfooting around. Northern Ireland had one case, and is on the verge of being declared disease free.
To open up the countryside in Ireland to anyone who is even potentially carrying the virus would be an act of stupidity.
I have just read and enjoyed the letters and variety of opinions about the UCI's forward thinking for women's racing. Glad to know of the positive support for women from some quarters.
The guy who is wanting to put women's sport back in the dark ages needs to recognise that men have never had to climb and move mountains in order to race on a bike. In the past, attitudes to women racing, the value of their performance, and even their right to do it, have had to be challenged all down the line. Eileen Gray and her team of women in the UK fought to get women into the World Championships in the late 1950s. There were few women racing then: the East German and Russians were strong; we had a few French and Belgium females and the odd Italian, but the women's performances were just as exciting and valuable as any man's.
In the mid-1970s the American women started to drive the scene and things gathered momentum, but we had to wait until 1984 to be accepted into the Olympic Games, and then on the road only! Eventually we progressed to track sprint and pursuit. Then we got scratch and points race. Then we got TT... Bit by bit we were getting there! At last UCI (as well as other forward-thinking nations) recognise we have to progress, 'to catch up the men', to have equality in a better way.
To say we have to race as far as the men to earn equal pay is rubbish - but we are used to that and can rise above it! It's just fab that women can have World Cup events, Trade Teams and get on with racing in the same way that men can. God didn't create a superior race. Men aren't superior - just different and by size and design stronger than women. The writer who compared Longo's hour record with Boardman's got it right. Just who has the data to compare Longo's achievements with Eddy Merckx? Longo's career will stand up to any scrutiny, her achievements surpassed our own great Beryl Burton's, who in time trials surpassed many men... so come on, get real here give credit where it is due.
In the UK women have to want to compete on a bike, then support the current system (weak as it is) then challenge the cycling organisations for better provision and more opportunities outside of WCPP elite set up. But unless and until some sectors view women's racing in a better way, and encourage and support it at all stages of development, progress will be slow. It takes five years for women to get the same number of road races in the UK that men get in one year. Yes, we can race with them, but we need our own races at every level.
Robert Millar's pathway to trade teams was the right way at that time, but times change, and we have to change with them or get left behind. Impending governing body changes in the UK may go some way towards helping in 5-10 years time. Support women's racing - if you are in the UK join the WCRA.
I play Hockey with Doug and to use an example, let's look at the performance of the Australian Women's Hockey Team vs. the Australian Men's Hockey Team, it seems that the men have been unable to win an Olympic gold medal in recent years while the women have had great success. Believe it or not, men and women are built differently and hence there are certain physical limitations on women to perform with the same expectations as the men. This does not mean that women aren't performing but rather that the height of the bar should be adjusted in each sport.
If equal funding and prize money was offered to women's sports maybe the number of elite woman athletes would also increase. I am sure that even at your level you would have problems rising or even staying at an elite level with the money that is offered. Does Doug think that the men's hockey team should have funding withdrawn or reduced because of their poor performance at Olympic Games? If we were to organise a game between the men's and the women's side there is probably a fair chance the men will win, but which team is at the top of their level?
Doug Reynolds asks "any dolt can get on a bike and pedal around the block or city without a lesson, but can any dolt finish 18 holes of golf on a championship course without any instruction?", as if that is an indication that golf is somehow more challenging than cycling.
Both golf and cycling can be enjoyed as activities by the newcomer. Anyone can go to the driving range and whack around a bucket of golf balls just as easily as they can ride a round the block on a bike. But if you look at competitive sport, ask yourself this: how many "dolts" could ride a Giro or Tour mountain stage or stay upright in a 40mph pro field sprint? Marty Nothstein hosts a charity tournament, but you don't see Tiger Woods putting on a track keirin event!
I understand what Douglas is trying to say here but he has to relate apples to apples. Sure any dolt (meaning normal person) can pick up a bike and ride around a block, just as any dolt can pick up a golf club and hack away on a field or paddock. But comparing the challenge of completing an 18 hole competition course to a lap of a block or city is totally unfounded. Put it this way: which do you think Joe Public would rather do, a stroll around a challenging golf course, with the occasional worry of replacing lost balls; or totally demoralising themselves with pain and suffering struggling up Alpe d'Huez? Think about it. There's absolutely no comparison.
I have to agree with Winston Chow on this point. The former world champion, and patriarch of the sport Garry Kasparov recently lost at a big event to his protégé. He said the key difference was his protégé's physical training regimen. We like to separate the mind and the body, but neither can exist without the other.
The competitiveness of endurance sports is no different than in other sports. In cycling, my favorite thing about it is that you must hurt yourself in order to hurt others. Unlike 'arena' sports, where your job is to inflict damage on another.
Bike racing has also been likened to a chess match on wheels by better and more famous men than me. Should we consider the tactical ability apart from the sheer athleticism? I think not.
Also, cycling at a professional level is quite different from cycling like you and I do it. While it's tremendously physical, after a while, the emphasis becomes more orientated toward skill, tactics and determination than sheer physical physicality.
I don't agree with Mr Chow. By his reasoning, anything mentally taxing could be called a sport. Therefore, studying hard for days or weeks for an exam or term paper could also be a sport, and so on. Chess is a great and worthwhile endeavor, but it's not a sport. Cycling IS one of the most intense, exciting sports of all time.
John Stevenson's question about riders expecting entry fees to fund large prize pools may be answered by the following:
1) Racers have NO IDEA what it takes to put on a race, and make simplistic assumptions about where the money goes.
2) Most racers take for granted that all the services that are provided cost no money, or complain about lack of services (after all, they cost no money- what doesn't this promoter have them?!)
3) I think most people accept the fact that they will make no money, but they want to compete for a large purse. If they don't make it into that final group that will get the money, then they have lost nothing.
4) Most racers have an unrealistic view of themselves as people who are actually capable of being in the money at races, which is quite the opposite from the way it actually is. What is funny is that almost every bike racer I know is shocked when they do finish in the money, but if you ask them before the race, they think they have a real shot at it.
My view is that most race promoters do it right with a mix of services vs. prize money. Unfortunately, this large gap between perception and reality keeps bike racers from knowing this fact. The complaining about things being wrong with the race/course/services is as built-in as the "why-I-didn't-win" stories after races- is due to this as well.
I encourage my athletes to thank the race promoters and officials after races, so they can get to a dialogue with them, and understand that these people are humans who are usually as underpaid as they are for the races they attend.
The last month's letters