Letters to Cyclingnews April 24, 2001
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A truly mammoth batch of letters today, and way too many for individual introductions, so I'll keep my comments brief. Not surprisingly, Cathal Blake's letter last week accusing Domo of a "lame performance" and "cheap team tactics" inspired lots of letters, almost all of them pro-Domo, while still very sympathetic to George Hincapie's situation and full of praise for his strength and recent savvy.
Speaking of George, he and his crushing by Domo account for almost 75 per cent of the wordage in today's letters. He's clearly an immensely popular and likeable rider, even if he is silly enough to buy a car that won't fit in his European garage. Discussion continues to rage about his place in US Postal, and whether he should seek better support for the Classics from another squad. The Cyclingnews Reader Jury is currently split about 65/35 in favour of George moving on, and we've had plenty of general comments about the sprinter from New York and about Paris-Roubaix in general.
Flemish riders have traditionally dominated the Flanders Classics because they're familiar with the roads and the conditions, but Regis Chapman wonders if anyone else is a non-Flemish pave wannabe?
Christine Wnuk asked, "Who suffers most, Lance or Lennox?" After his recent world championship battering, you might have to say Lennox, but Glen Goddard has a nice one-liner on the subject, while Jeff Schmela compares bike racing and marathons from the suffering perspective.
Eric Snider appreciates the insight into the pros that Odessa Gunn's new column is providing.
Last week Richard Kirsh asked about fatter tyres in the 650C size. JR Warth and Bruce Lee have suggestions, while Andy Cheshire suggests swapping the wheels for ones built with mountain bike rims and using mountain bike slicks. That might work if the brakes on Richard's daughter's bike will handle the difference in rim radius. Measured across the bead seat of the rim, which is right behind the braking surface, 650C wheel is 571mm across, and a mountain bike 26in is 559mm. That's a 6mm difference in radius. If the bike has short brake calipers (as pretty much all race bikes do) then it may be necessary to use longer brakes too. Shimano makes a long-drop version of the 105 brake, and I'm sure there are others. New wheels and brakes might be hassle, but still cheaper than a custom touring bike.
Finally Robert Reed is looking for pictures of ONCE time-trial bikes.
Coming back on his own from five punctures is by no means a lame performance. There, you're talking about someone who really should have won! Riding in front for over 60 km and finshing fifth isn't either.
The rider who really won is the one who crossed the line first. In a truly American way, the guys finishing second, third, fourth and so on shouldn't be of any interest to you at all; all riders in the front group deserved to win though. Cycling is, apart from time trials, still a team sport. Domo is blamed for team performance, the same tactics that helped Lance win his Tours de Frances. Cycling remains a combination of tactics and strength. Domo had the power to be there, only then were they able to benefit from the situation. Add a bit of luck to that, and there might have been a great breakaway from George and Peeters, which Domo probably would have chased down. Should there be American quota imposed to USPS to make interesting Tours de France? (I agree with you: NO!)
To add to the discussion of George staying/leaving: Knaven specifically decided to not follow Van Petegem, to maybe benefit from the team's strength and win a big race, meaning a race like Gent-Wevelgem, Omloop Het Volk… or Paris-Roubaix.
And yes, a non-Domo victory would have been amazing. Probably however, the winner wouldn't get that much attention. Instead we'd be poring over the extremely poor tactics Domo would need to lose.
Domo's victory #2
The real winners of the Hell of The North were on the podium on Sunday. Domo raced a very good race, and have made a strong case for their existence as a separate team from the all-powerful Mapei. Too bad for George, who raced admirably.
If we applied that thinking to last year's Tour, it would not have been an American in Paris. Everyone knows that the "real" winner of the Tour was "Triple" Dekker, who was obviously the strongest rider without a "super-team" like US Postal, using "cheap team tactics" to get their man on the podium. Even our patron saint Eddy Merckx built teams based around his domination of the Tour and other races. That's why there are teams.
It is sad when the rider that you feel was the best or strongest does not win a race, but this is often the case. Smart beats strong, which in my opinion, helps to elevate it to the pinnacle of sporting achievement. If one does not like team tactics, consider a switch to off-road cycling, were the team plays much less of a role in the outcome, especially on any type of technical course.
Domo's victory #3
The idea that Domo's performance was "lame" is ludicrous. Domo rode a perfect race, as was borne out by the fact that they ended up with all three places on the podium. If Domo put up a "lame performance", what does that make US Postal's efforts?
Domo's victory #4
Domo was the best team and deserved the win. If you want to complain about boring team tactics you should address Milano-SanRemo, Amstel or HEW. Or maybe the most boring race (but greatest and most important) the Tour de France!
In past Tours, Postal hasn't contributed with any action as soon as Lance was in the lead, not even helping Hincapie in the sprints. I have seen Ullrich in Yellow do a lot more work for Zabel. Why not offer one man the last kilometer as leadout, leaving the rest of the team as 'bodyguards' for Lance? This is boring but I would never say they (Lanceand the Posties) don't deserve to win; it's the idea of the sport to have a strong team working for a strong rider.
The solution against 'Domo-nation' is to get depth in strength and compete with the best riders (bring on Lance and bring back Frankie!). Let's not yelp about unfair (even if boring) team tactics!
Domo's victory #5
By having four riders in the finale of the hardest Paris-Roubaix in years, Domo put in a really "lame" performance? By this logic I think we can conclude that Lance Armstrong's performances in the last two Tours have been absolutely pitiful, the way he won so convincingly. And the way he won using his team-mates to devastating effect on the mountain stages… it's just not cricket (as we Brits would say)!
Perhaps the only really strong Tour performances in recent times were those of Greg Lemond, especially winning by just eight seconds.
I'm in the "George should go" category, by the way. It wouldn't be fair to describe USPS as a one-trick pony, but one-trick thoroughbred might cover it. There's an obscene waste of talent going on in that team, and Hincapie would be well out of it. If language or culture is an issue, how about Mercury? At least they realise there's more than one race a year (two if you count the worlds), and I'm sure Van Petegem could be persuaded to trade help in Flanders for Paris-Roubaix.
Domo's victory #6
Bike races are very tactical on a team level as well as on the individual riders' level. True, Domo was the best team in the race. True, George was very good. I enjoyed his ride. But nothing in Domo's tactics was cheap, they were just the best team that day. Besides, if you have something against super-teams what about USPS in the Tour the France? Should they not be able to ride the way they do because they are good?
Being Belgian I hoped Johan Museeuw would win the race, but Knaven also merited his win just as well as Domo deserved their victory, simply because they had the best riders up front. As for not being exciting, everybody I know agrees that this year's Paris-Roubaix was one off the better performances this last decade, also thanks to George.
Domo's victory #7
I too believe that George Hincapie may have been the strongest rider in the race, and I wish he had won, but I think it's unnecessary to call Domo's team tactics "cheap" and suggest a rule against them.
If anything, Domo demonstrated exactly how team tactics should work. Get several riders in a break, have one attack while the others sit in. If the attacker stays away, he wins the race. If the attacker is caught, send another rider off. If you have enough riders in the break, you are almost guaranteed to win. This is true of races at the professional and 'weekend warrior' levels, and there is nothing cheap about it. Maybe the race wasn't as exciting as we would have liked but, if anything, Domo should be congratulated for winning and displaying great teamwork, regardless of who we wanted to win.
As for a "Belgian quota". Only two of the four Domo riders in the break were Belgian, Museeuw and Peeters. Knaven and Vainsteins (first and third place) are from the Netherlands and Latvia respectively. Besides, you can't fault a Belgian team for having too many Belgians.
Domo's victory #8
Domo-nation was achieved by two Belgians, a Latvian and a Dutchman. Belgian quotas — rubbish!
Just visit the Domo website to see the national champions on that team.
Domo's victory #9
I'm not quite sure how a one-two-three-five finish in Paris-Roubaix can be considered "lame". While I would have loved to have seen George Hincapie win, it just wasn't possible. And yes, "we" Americans do know who really won. Servais Knaven of course. He did cross the finish line ahead of every other cyclist, did he not?
As for "cheap team-tactics", what would you propose Domo-Farm Frites do? I can just imagine Patrick Lefevre radioing his boys in the break, "Alright guys, since we have four of you in the break, it just wouldn't be fair if we won. So why don't you just let Hincapie have it this time."
Compiling the best possible collection of riders is part of the game. There's nothing cheap about that. If you don't win, then you don't have sponsors. And if you don't have sponsors, you don't get paid. Professional cycling is a business, just like any other. I see nothing wrong with the excellent riding of the Domo team in Paris-Roubaix. If you were in the saddle of Knaven, Museeuw, Vainsteins, or Peeters, I imagine that you would go for the gusto in the same manner that they did. Too bad George didn't win, but c'mon, get over it.
Domo's victory #10
The race was awesome. Domo made for very exciting racing. I loved seeing Museeuw's second comeback in as many years. Him and Vainsteins (the world champion, mind you) controlling a race like that, that's boring? Tactics are tactics. That's what teams do. It's a team sport. And as an American I do know who the real winner was. It wasn't Hincapie. The guy who won deserved it. He has made all the sacrifices and he suffered like hell. His name is Servais Knaven. Don't cheapen his achievement. Can't you feel good for a man who had to wipe away tears as he lifted his cobble trophy?
And while I'm rolling... Hincapie would be wise to seriously consider any good offers that come his way. And you know what? I'm sure that he will. He is a man with his own dreams, his own aspirations. Sure, he's not a rider who will play heavily in the World Cup, but he could really do well in a lot of the great single day events. I don't think he'll be satisfied with a career that doesn't test these possibilities.
Another side of this whole "will he leave?" thing is, will Postal build up support for Hincapie? The poor guy is left to his own devices in most of the Tour sprints. It's a shame, I think he could win quite a few Tour stages before he hangs up his wheels. And, of course, I think Postal might find some American sponsors willing to help create an American team that is a legitimate threat in the Classics as well as the greatest race of all, the Tour.
Domo's victory #11
Domo must be congratulated whole-heartedly for a wonderfully dominant performance at Paris-Roubaix. They showed that, despite numerous obstacles (Johan Museeuw punctured several times, Vainsteins had to change his bike, and so on) they still had the tactical sense to send a rider with George Hincapie through the Arenberg cobbles.
This might in fact have been their only blunder. George almost certainly would have won had they stayed away, but unfortunately for him he punctured at the wrong time (is there ever a right time?). Once set up in this situation, and with the Cofidis team having two riders yo-yoing off the back, Domo were the only team with any riders who could dictate the pattern of the race with team tactics (cheap or otherwise - it makes no difference).
As it happens the other riders left who could do anything about it didn't help themselves either. Hincapie and Dierckxsens never really worked together to try to get rid of any of the Domo riders. Weseman could have helped here, but he had his own problems with his shoe-plates. If you were in the same position as Domo you would do almost exactly the same. Sending one of your riders off the front and letting others chase him is the oldest tactic in the book and is used in just about every race you see. Usually you don't see it as prominently displayed as you don't normally get 50 per cent of the breakaway group from one team, with the rest individuals, but it all boils down to having the advantage of numbers.
Had this been USPS or Mercury-Viatel showing dominance I have no doubt that a lot of your readers would be now writing their praise for a magnificent team performance, myself included.
I have no doubt that Hincapie was one of the strongest there, but that is not always enough in this sport. This is a team sport with individual winners, so team tactics always plays a part. As for super-teams - can not USPS be called a super-team when le Tour is on?
Domo's victory #12
You cannot blame a team for doing their best, and you cannot blame Lefevre for being a genius when it comes to his beloved Paris-Roubaix.
Yes, I agree that George should change teams. USPS will never build a team for the classics as long it is Lance's team. Maybe Armstrong should consider riding in a support role in Paris-Roubaix, the way Lemond used to.
George should move #2
Please! George needs to help Lance win another Tour and then move on. He was by far the strongest in Paris-Roubaix and received exactly no help from his Postal team-mates. If George had been on Domo or Mapei he might have taken home chunk of pave. When you know you can win and are still young enough to do so, why continue to kill yourself for others? The way teams are coming and going these days, George may be on the next super-team and may be the next Museeuw. I just don't think Postal will be that team.
George should move #3
Kurt Kuckein talks about bringing another big sponsor into the US Postal camp, and I personally believe domination of the sport to such a degree would be harmful. It is true that Mapei were a super-team last year, but they never managed it in the big tours; US Postal should not just buy the whole sport.
This approach is bad, because it would give us what we see in athletics, where the United States dominates, leaving the other countries to scrap it out for the minor placings. I thought that the 2000 racing season was fantastic, with the highlights being Lance's Tour victory, Museeuw in Paris-Roubaix, the phenomenon that will be David Millar during the first week of the Tour, and the long-awaited revival of Kelme.
Sadly, the Spanish team is now decimated after the Ochoa tragedy, and Heras deciding that money was all that mattered. I believe that no team should be able to purchase more than one major Tour winner, because it just unbalances the scales. We all know that any team can win races as long as it has money, but what is more impressive is when a squad like Kelme becomes victorious against the odds.
I hope I have put my point across fairly, and I think that it is good that we now have teams to support like in other sports. This is shown by Americans liking US Postal and Lance, and Britons liking the now defunct Linda McCartney team and Cofidis's David Millar. There is nothing wrong with being patriotic, just don't let it harm the whole sport.
George should move #4
I feel that Keith is right, it is truly a shame that George has had to battle by himself against these strong teams in the major classics. Of course we also have to note that Ludo and Weseman did not have any team-mates around either near the end. However, George has now made a statement that he is a serious contender for the World Cup and the major classics. His strength on Sunday was truly impressive and his time has come. In addition to his strength as a rider he seems to be well-thought-of by those that are running around on cycling's insides. It would be interesting to see how successful George might be at Mercury. Hate to get that rumour started.
George should move #5
I absolutely agree with Keith on the Hincapie situation. To have no team-mates with you after the very first section of pave is almost embarrassing. Postal is holding him back. He is not even allowed to contest sprints in the TDF. If he went to another team, he could be a major player in every race he does.
George should move #6
USPS could replace him. He's not really a stage racer, and with the right support he'd be a Classics force to deal with.
Let's not forget, Rome wasn't built in day. Postal is building a classics team, as evidenced by them keeping Slava and the additions of White and Cruz. What is a Tour stage? The equivalent of a classic? Pretty close. So much talk lately of Domo-nation. That was one race. What about dominating all three Tours, and the classics? It could happen. Armstrong for the Tour, Heras for the Vuelta, bring in Chan for the Giro, and George for the classics. The 'Dream Team' of cycling. Wishful thinking maybe, but I think the American Wave in cycling is coming full force. For George to leave would be like Kevin leaving. As long as Lance is riding the tour, Ullrich will never win. Why leave to lose? Bottom line: George needs to stay.
George should stay #2
I don't agree with the opinion that if George "hadn't flatted in the Arenberg, he and Peeters would have been away for good." Peeters would have sat on George's wheel and would not have helped. George would have run out of steam and the Domo express would have won anyway. But with the exception of the Tour de France, George is not only allowed to go for lots of wins, he is given help. With the salary he is getting and the endorsements, why go anywhere?
George should stay #3
US Postal worked tirelessly for George in just about every race he has ridden for years despite his complete lack of results. I can't imagine there being too many other teams with such patience. He has it good where he is and should stay.
I couldn't agree more about George Hincapie, all he needs is team support and especially a good lead out man and there's no end to what he could do.
Hincapie in Paris-Roubaix #2
I understand that it's a team sport and that Domo used team tactics but it was kind of like watching a mugging.
Hincapie in Paris-Roubaix #3
It would be unfortunate for Hincapie to have to leave Postal but he does deserve support. Even other riders have commented that he was one of the strongest or was THE strongest in Paris-Roubaix, Tour of Flanders, and, of course, Gent-Wevelgem. Surely Postal could afford to expand their roster enough to surround Hincapie with a few good classics riders? If not, he should move on. Maybe he could do better by Mercury. For my money, the Classics offer more interesting racing than the Tour anyway.
Hincapie in Paris-Roubaix #4
Andre T is getting a bit long in the tooth after a superb career; do you reckon George would surrender his citizenship and take up the torch now Lotto have realised points mean prizes in the Leblanc lottery?
Hincapie in Paris-Roubaix #5
The great thing about George's success in the Classics this Spring is his maturity. We've known for several years now how strong he is, but now he's beginning to make decisions on the road that make winning consistently possible.
I assume that this maturation will also inform the decisions George makes about his team situation in the near future. As a team leader, it is George's foremost place to demonstrate his ability (nicely done at Ghent and Roubaix) in terms of results, in order to bargain for a better support system from the Posties next year. Remember, two years ago they wouldn't have hired a Vuelta winner as a lieutenant for Lance. So it will be interesting to see how George asserts himself and his needs after the Tour.
One final thought, it is also during the Tour that we will surely see that US Postal will sorely miss the guts, durability and team leadership smarts of Frankie Andreau. Had he ridden at Roubaix this year, I think we'd have seen George on the podium! Andreau will not be easy to replace.
Hincapie in Paris-Roubaix #6
There is no way Lance will ride Paris-Roubaix to support George. Maybe after his Tour streak is over and he is in the waning years of his career, but The Hell is too dangerous to jeopardise a potential Tour champion in a support role. Too much can happen.
As for the race this year, it's really too bad Hincapie flatted in the Foret d' Arenburg. Had he led out of that section of pave, as it looked like he was going to do, and paired up with Peeters it is likely that Domo would not have been able to stop the pair building an insurmountable lead. In this case George could have at least placed on the podium. But we will never know. That's racing. You put yourself in the best position to win and you hope for air in your tires. You don't always get both.
As I was falling asleep last night, I was thinking about the Paris-Roubaix, and what went wrong. I mean, how was it possible for Domo to control everything in such a superb way? The way I see it, is, that they controlled it, because Dierckxsens and Hincapie used their behinds to think with instead of to sit on the bike. For the last 100-120km they were the two to take all the turns in the group. When everything broke in the Arenberg Forrest, with Peeters subsequently attacking, they should just have sat up. Two men against four Domo guys - how could they event have thought about riding under those conditions? They should have known, they were never going to make it. Instead they should have waited for the group behind to come up, and even the numbers.
Do any of you dream of riding the pavé like a true Belgian Flahute, like a DeVlaeminck, a Van Steenbergen, a Godefroot, or a Museeuw - Kings of the Belgian-Cow-Patty-Cold-Muddy-Suffer-fest?
I know I do. I always wanted to be like those riders. I could have, I think. It's not unprecedented that a foreign rider like myself could do it. The Brit Sean Yates, the Canuck Steve Bauer, the Italian Bartoli. I know that learning to ride cobbles from a very young age is likely a key to doing so well, and but knowing how to ride a huge gear for many fast miles is right up my alley.
Especially Paris-Roubaix, more than Liege or the others. When I ride, I seek out places like this to ride on. Biggest gear death grind at 30mph and can hardly control the bike. Wonderful stuff. I have ridden mountain bike trails outside Boulder on my old road bike (once with a fixed gear, too!) to simulate the experience.
I have heard that the worst part of the whole Belgian experience is not the single problem of wet or cold, or the taste of cow dung never leaving your mouth, but the combination of all three. Even though I am not a fan of wet cow dung, it still would make the whole thing seem more epic, and I like that.
I have heard a more appropriate term than Flahute is Flandrian or Flamand. Flahute is apparently the French description of a Flemish person.
Contemplating the bike-handling skills of the pros and riding a Paris-Roubaix always makes me think of the following experience.
I lived in Boulder some years ago, and I was out training with a couple juniors. I was standing at a dirt road intersection, when I saw an amazing thing. In the distance, a rather fast-moving cloud of dust appeared from below one of the hillocks in the direction of the dirt road. I assumed it was a car. This was a very bumpy dirt road with inch sized gravel rocks where the asphalt began, where I was standing. I was sure the car was going too fast for that kind of road.
A bike rider appeared at some considerable speed. I'd never seen anyone go so fast on a dirt road. I recognized a pro outfit, but I hadn't expected to see such a sight come from that direction. Many riders passed us that day on the asphalt road, pros included, doing motor pacing, and so on. The rider nonchalantly turned the corner, leaned over like he was doing a criterium, got onto the normal road, and continued off away from us towards the hills. He didn't appear to notice the difference between the dirt and the asphalt, and he didn't slow down at all.
The rider was Roy Knickman, in his Coors Light colors. After that, I searched out many dirt roads to ride on, but I always got flats (like every couple of miles, it seemed), and so it took away from my enjoyment of those rides. Seeing that demonstration left an impression on me I have not forgotten. While I would not call Roy a Flahute - and don't mean to take anything away from him - I can hardly imagine what Godefroot's skills would be like!
Much later, I would race in Italy for a short time, where they apparently came to a complete stop for each corner, and I was confused- wasn't I supposed to take this plain asphalt corner at breakneck speed?
Before I see the Tour in person, I want to see the spring classics.
I suffer every day on big tours that are televised but only momentarily when I watch a boxing match.
Lance or Lennox? I am a bike racer (six years) and a marathon runner (past three years). Winning a bike race is hard. Running a marathon fast is hard. The two are fundamentally different events, and both hurt a lot if done at a high level. In the same way that you prepare pasta and steak differently, you have to prepare your body differently for each event. I have tried to do both well at the same time and failed. I have prepared well for both types of events and done well at each. If you want to excel at a sport, suffer in training. If you want to bike fast, suffer when you ride. If you want to do a marathon fast, suffer while you run.
A fit athlete who is prepared to suffer will reach their limit in either event. And as Kelly said, the one who can suffer more is better. Lance and Lennox are capable of preparing and suffering more than any other athletes in their two sports.
Wow! I don't know if I am more interested in the stories or in the very idea of being interviewed by such a beautiful woman who, as much as she tries to make us think otherwise, can really climb with Tyler Hamilton. Good interviews, good stories. Stories like that about world class riders motivate me to ride and race hard, even if I may be no better than local class.
Blackburn is now making tires in the sizes you want. I work at a California shop, and read this in Bike Retailer News. I wish your Daughter good luck on her tour!
Hutchinson used to carry a 650 x 23 in their line up. I suggest approaching your local shop and having them check in to it for you.
Surely it would not be out of the question to fit light mountain/hybrid bike wheels in 650 size, and equip them with city slick type tyres from Michelin, Continental or Specialised to name but a few. I am quite sure that they produce tyres in 30 - 35mm section which should be more than adequate for the use.
I am looking for pictures of ONCE time-trial bicycles. I also want to know the equipment that are on those bicycles. If anyone has the information that I need please feel free to e-mail me.
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