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Letters to Cyclingnews April 19, 2001
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The question raised on Tuesday by Keith Connellyshould George Hincapie find a team that can support him in classics like Paris-Roubaix?not surprisingly produced a deluge of letter arguing both sides of the question. Hincapie has already made his feelings on the subject pretty clear in this interview with Odessa Gunn, and our letter-writers have covered just about every aspect of the debate, so further commentary from me seems superfluous. The 'George should stay' camp has its say here, while the 'George should go' party kicks off here.
On the broader issue of Paris-Roubaix, Gavin Atkins thinks George should have attacked earlier rather than waiting for the sprint. Given how strong Domo were, it's hard to see that tactic working. Chris Mitchell wonders just how many of the World Cups would really suit Hincapie, while Cathal Blake thinks total Domo-nation made for a boring finale. Conrad Allen thinks Domo manager Patrick Lefevre has earned a new nom de geuerre.
Brendan Quirk wants to pull discussion of breaking bikes back to the actual events of Flanders: did bikes break because of the early pile-up in the race? Ivo Miesen has a randonneur perspective on the issue, and, finally Richard Kirsch decries the lack of fatter tyres in the 650C size used for some smaller rider's bikes.
I have to disagree with Keith on his point about USPS being too weak to run both a Tour team, and a classics team. I think this year was just unlucky for the Posties. The same could be said for Wesseman or Dierckxsens or any of the teams that had no one in the break (Mapei!). Any team would kill to have strong men like Eki and Matt White on their Paris-Roubaix team. Sure it is not Domo deep, but I think USPS will come out looking better in the classics than Domo does in the tour.
The three decisions you might question are: not letting Frankie have one last go at Paris-Roubaix this year; not putting Christian was on the teamhe seems to be flying now, but probably wants to be un-hurt at LBL and Amstel; and trying to race in the US this year. The final piece was probably dictated by the Postal Service and other American sponsors, but flying Casey, Cruz and Leipheimer around the world probably does nothing for their legs. Let them be the ones to find new teams, be it in Europe or on American soil.
If Johan could find one more big sponsor, say if Nike ponies up a little more cash, think of this super team next year: Hincapie, Vandevelde, and Ekimov in the spring, Tyler for the Giro, Lance for the Tour and Heras for the Vuelta. Not even Telecom could match that...
Final take is this: If Lance decided to concentrate on the classics next year, letting Heras and Hamilton lead the tours, the spring line up of Christian Vandevelde, George Hincapie, Vjatceslav Ekimov, and Lance Armstrong is nearly as strong as Domo.
Should George join a real powerhouse like Mapei, Lampre, or Rabobank who did such a great job getting their men to the front and then supporting them? Should George ride for Bartoli, Dekker, Zabel, Van Petegem, or Tchmil? Lampre a team that will support him in the northern classics? Please. Is the combination of Dierckxsens, Barbero, Sciandri, Spruch, and Vandenbroucke going to be better than what he has now?
At least at USPS he can ride for himself with the able (albeit not great) help of Ekimov, Joachim, Vasseur, and Vandevelde. Leave George alone. If he wants to move on, fine; if he wants to stay, at least he will get a good ride in the US Pro Championships, which he wouldn’t get if he rode for Lampre.
The problems that George has at Roubaix are the same as every other favourite except riders on Lefevre’s teams.
Roubaix in weather like this is usually won by the strongest man left standing with 30km to go. What team other than Domo could figure on having more than one or two riders left at that point?
Don’t forget that for all their focus on the classics Domo’s spring was largely without success until Roubaix. The USPS has had a decent spring considering their lack of focus (see De Panne and Gent-Wevelgem).
I think it is a little harsh to say that Hincapie should move on from Postal just because he didn't win Paris Roubaix. I'm at a loss to think of any team on which George could have won. Domo was clearly going to win the 99th Paris Roubaix since they had four riders who each could have one in the final selection.
Think about it, even if George had been on Domo do you think they would have let him win?
To all who say that Hincapie should leave the Posties because he was left solo againt four Domos, I say, remember, there were many, many other teams not represented by any riders in the final selection. Domo was the strongest, smartest, and luckiest team in the race and that is why they Domo-nated. Hincapie was awesome to watch, and I do believe that if he hadn't flatted in the Arenberg, he and Peeters would have been away for good. I don't think we can blame the rest of the Posties for leaving him isolated, when 20-odd other teams had no riders at all in the fight.
And let's not forget the ride that Ludo put in! Go ex-truck painters!
I agree with Keith Connelly. Hincapie has been the best classics rider from the US for the last several years. Armstrong seems to want to want to pick and choose his races and seems unwilling to help out for a classics victory. Everyone knows that a true champion will ride and win as many races as possible all year long. This is why the World Cup champ gets more respect than the Tour champ. George must really like the program at Postal.
It was kinda sad seeing George kill himself Sunday with no support when he really needed it. No doubt he was "the" man that day, and even if he and Ludo Dierksen worked together, it was a hopeless situation. Domo rode a brilliant race there is no doubt about that. Unless the Postal team is willing to spend a little firepower in the spring and give George the support he truly deserves, I think Hincapie would be wise to check out some options next season.
Keith Connelly is exactly right. I had some doubts about Hincapie but he has proven this year that he has the stuff to be a great Classics rider, and a team leader at that.
The Postal focus is the GC in the Tour, and they can't even give Hincapie someone for the sprint stages (many of which he could have won if he'd had a lieutenant to escort him in the final kilometres). So yes, Hincapie should move this year to another team
While Hincapie adds to the sprinting depth of Postal's current line-up, he isn't really supported in these Spring races that he has developed so strongly for. He's young and could, with the proper training, be a real force in the classics for a decade at least. He could get a lot more support from Postal or, as suggested, he would really bring a marketable element to a European team. In other words, I agree and good suggestion.
I totally agree with this letter. George Hincapie should move to another team that will be able to give him the proper support a rider of his skill should get (and deserves). The only thing that matters though: Does George agree with us?
I agree that it is time for Hincapie to move on. He is at the peak of his career and not getting any younger. The Oosties are set up for the Grand Tours. I am not aware how much longer Hincapie is under contract, but I am sure that he would be a valuable addition for any team interested in the classics.
I was thinking also about how George Hincapie could benefit from the support of a team more interested in the classics. Lampre would be good. Mapei or Fassa Bortolo might be even better. Maybe a French team could build an attack around George.
Like the editor said though, no team could have helped him this year. On paper, the Postal team looked strong to me. Domo was unbeatable this year seemingly.
Another team comes to mind now. A team with a habit of winning very often; Mercury-Viatel!
I was really pleased for George after his recent performances on the cobbles. He has finally achieved a glimpse of what he's capable of as a rider and has shown considerable maturity in the finale of these important races, taking responsibility for himself as the race pans out.
George I felt, needed to try and force the pace in the finale, instead of waiting for the sprint, which hasn't brought him much in the way of success of late. In these races, he did exactly that and has been rewarded with results, and props from the most respected in the sport. Domo's treatment of George showed a lot of respect.
Roubaix is a lottery, and you have to wait your turn. Team-mates help for sure, but nothing could have been done on Sunday to prevent the inevitable. Too many, however, and you might not get the chance - without his mates Museeuw might have got the win, and now be retired in perfect glee!
USPS finished one other rider, Joachim, and he was outside the time limit. Can't have support if the horses have spit the bit.
Said it before, saying it again; USPS is built for one race and one race only. The Classics and the Monuments are incidentals for them. It sells Hincapie short to assume he does not understand that simple truth.
Even then, which of those races suits him? Liege-Bastogne-Liege? No way. Amstel? Maybe. Zurich? Possibly, the Flemish lion has done well there, and no climber he. San Sebastian? Nope. Lombardi? Nope. So why build a squad around someone with the potential to be a factor in only half the World Cup events?
Congratulations to Domo for a very lame performance in Paris-Roubaix. Us Americans know who really won. Perhaps there should be some sort of rule against cheap team tactics or super-teams, like giving teams a Belgian quota, because it doesn't really make for interesting racing. A non-Domo victory would have been that much more amazing, but, as it is, I feel that Paris-Roubaix was not the exciting finale it should have been.
Will George Hincapie have to move to Domo in order to win Paris-Roubaix? Lance needs to ride Paris-Roubaix to pay George back for all his help throughout the years. Tyler got help in Dauphin Libere.
Zabel is know as Mr Milan-San Remo. Will directeurs sportifs have names of races too? I vote Lefevre to be dubbed Mr. Paris-Roubaix. Sorry Mr. De Vlaeminck.
I cannot vouch for who suffers more Lance or Lennox, but Sean Kelly once said that the difference between a professional rider that wins, and a professional rider that makes up the numbers is the ability to suffer just that fraction more, all things being equal. I guess Kelly would know a thing or two about suffering and being the cause of it!
(Now living in Sydney, Englishman Colin Sturgess was professional world pursuit champion in 1989 and therefore also knows at least a little about sufferingEd)
I was re-reading some of my back issues of Cycle Sport recently and there was a very interesting article concerning Deutsche Telekom star Udo Bolts and his participation in the Iron Man Triathlon challenge in Hawaii last year, some four weeks after he completed the Tour De France. This article certainly brought home the pros and cons of participating in such an event.
The article defined the events that make up this competition and how Udo felt doing each event and his overall impression of the event, from an endurance perspective.
Udo said that although the Iron Man competition is physically tough the Tour is both physically and mentally tougher because the Tour lasts three weeks, rather than the 10 hours it took him to complete the Iron Man event.
For myself, I've competed in both boxing and rowing, as well as cycling and each event requires different qualities and aptitudes. Both rowing and cycling are physical endurance events. Boxing requires both physical endurance and mental toughness. It is impossible, in my opinion, to compare fighting for a world boxing title to competing in the Tour, as regards toughness. Both events require participants to suffer, but I don't think that you can measure which event requires more suffering.
Does withstanding a right hook from Mike Tyson suggest that you're tougher than beating Miguel Indurain in a 25km time trial ? Both activities require different aptitudes. To withstand a punch from Tyson (and to continue to fight) requires not only mental toughness but it also physical fitness: To beat Miguel Indurain in a time trial also requires mental toughness and a high level of physical fitness.
I can say that, at level which I participated in all three sports, boxing was the toughest. But perhaps this assessment is too subjective to apply as a rule of thumb.
Enough personal anecdotes about recreational riders and their broken bikes! Let's get back to the origin of this thread of letters: bikes breaking in the Tour of Flanders. Has anyone considered the fact that there was a massive high-speed pile-up early on in the race? In these sorts of crashes, bikes tend to break, whether they're made of super-light space-age wonder-metal or industrial gas pipe. That's the central question here: Did Bortalami and Peers break their bikes in the Ronde because of the crash or not?
Woyteck raised some points about which I've been thinking and tinkering for quite some years. As an avid randonneur the quest for a light, comfortable and reliable bike is always ongoing. Four years ago I simply designed my own frame, went to a frame-builder, and had him build that frame. With some tinkering and bodging I managed to fit everything necessary to take me through Paris-Brest-Paris qualifiers, London-Edinburgh-London and Bordeaux-Paris. It's interesting to see that some framebuilders in the Netherlands (Avaghon, van Herwerden, Snel and Gazelle) are now marketing the same sort of frames for cycle-touring and commuting. Road-orientated triple chainsets were hard to get some 10 years ago, nowadays Shimano and Campagnolo both market them for almost all groups. Dynohubs have made night riding a lot easier, and potent battery systems ease the life of commuters.
Still lots of things can be improved, but the big guys are slowly getting the message and start to market stuff for mere mortals and those looking for an extra challenge.
Along these lines I have had a terrible time trying to find a 650c tire in width greater than 23mm. Apparently, the manufacturers think that only triathletes use 650c tires. They must be unfamiliar with the untapped market of smaller men and women that are avid riders. My daughter is going on a loaded tour this summer and intends to use her road bike (I was not about to purchase a specific touring bike). I couldn't find a 25 mm let alone a 28 which would have been much better for loaded touring. Fortunately she is a good rider, however, as an intelligent and caring parent, I see the need for a more stable tire for this type of event. Unfortunately, Continental, Michelin and so on do not see it as I do. If they could be persuaded to produce even one batch I am convinced that this would find an untapped market. Time usually tells. In this case I do not think that we will get the chance to see.
The last month's letters