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Letters to Cyclingnews August 14, 2001
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Doping coverage vs cycling coverage
Yesterday my copy of the glossy magazine about bicycle racing that we in the USA and UK prize almost as much as cyclingnews.com. arrived. This particular issue was supposed to profile the Giro d'Italia, and after OLN's incredible live coverage ( the Tour was even better ) I was looking forward to the article.
Unfortunately, the article in question spent so much time covering the now infamous San Remo police raid that it gave me the impression that there was a bike race in Italy that just happened to take place the same time as a drugs bust.
Does anyone else feel that this preoccupation with doping by journalists now threatens our sport? I certainly do. I am not in favor of doping of any kind. Having raced briefly in Belgium, I am aware of how brutally hard this sport is, and how complex the problem is. Money + competition + human nature = temptation. It is that simple. Not everyone gives in to temptation.
Anyone who has followed cycling for the last four years knows, in depressing detail, the extent of the doping problem in cycling, EPO test or no. We do not need a grand tour reduced to 4 pages of text about a drug raid with a sidebar stating that Gilberto Simoni won.
Maybe I am dreaming, but what we need is more racing coverage! Giants of the road fighting epic battles on the roads that are the shrines of our sport. Let's move past the innuendo and gossip, punish those stupid enough to get caught, and celebrate the magnificent spectacle that is bike racing.
Lance supposedly uses a 39/23 as his lowest when in the Alps and Pyrenees.
Prospero B. Gogo, Jr. M.D.
Lance's a spinner #2
Hate to say it, but from what I understand, Lance usually runs a 11-23 cassette, with a 39 in the front. Also, I remember hearing that after Alpe d'Huez, he wished that he had a 22. He does have an amazing stroke, but he is going that fast up the mountains that he doesn't need anything bigger. I would tend to doubt that anyone is running 11-21 in the pack, and not many people could pull off having a cadence that high, which is why not many pros become spinners. For the normal cyclist, this is a little hard to imagine (especially coming from a guy who loves his12-27).
Lance's a spinner #3
Yep, Lance has revolutionized the sport alright. Instead of stomping on gears like a leadfoot at 60-70 RPM on the flats, he flies by at 110+. He climbs out of the saddle at 80-90+, which means he climbs at a higher RPM than most riders do while spinning. Admittedly, he pays a price for this. While he always has fresh legs, he puts a vast amount of lactic acid in his system. The upshot of this is that he has to train harder at higher RPMs to keep his lactic system in check. Basically he is saving his lungs and blowing out his cardiopulmonary system, which is the exact opposite of most riders. As a strong club rider, I take a lot of kidding on long hilly training rides from macho racers who insist on taking every hill on their biggest gear. Yeah, it sure looks good, but after about 30-40 miles they start to look at my touring gears with envy. I just don't see the point in blowing out your legs on tiny gears. I spin out of the saddle at a higher rate than the racers, so I can climb for a long time. I don't pretend to be able to sprint and accelerate with them as in race conditions, but I am content to stay with the pack on the hills. I am sure Lance pushes big gears, but relatively speaking, I bet they are not huge by pro standards. At any rate, whatever he rides, he knows how to save his legs, while the other racers don't seem to have caught on --- yet.
During a recent conversation about the tour, my friends and I wondered if there was a story behind all of the people who are dressed as "devils", particularly during the mountain stages.
The teams competition is determined by the time taken from the team's top three riders in each stage. Their times are added together and multiplied by three to give the time for nine riders.
Please allow me to respond to David Watson of the United Kingdom. First, I did not say that Americans were taking over professional bicycling (although they may yet). Therefore, his references to Eugeni Berzin and Tony Rominger, neither of whom has won the Tour, are neither here nor there. I said that, or rather asked whether, Americans are taking over the Tour de France.
Second, while it's true that the six American Tour victories in the past sixteen years belong to only two riders, Greg LeMond and Lance Armstrong, it's also true that each of their victories was causally independent of the others. What I mean is that, having won the Tour once, a rider gets no edge or advantage in another. When LeMond began the Tour in 1989, for example, he was one of 200-odd riders. That he had won the Tour three years earlier gave him no advantage. If anything, it was more *difficult* to win again, since everyone knew that he was the rider to watch. But he won again. He beat all the others. Mr Watson is trying to make it seem as though Americans have won only two Tours in sixteen years. That is sleight of hand. On six different occasions, in six different races, with riders from many countries, an American emerged victorious.
I'm puzzled by Mr Watson's defensiveness. I wish someone with a better grasp of statistics than I have would run an analysis of the Tour and determine how likely it is that Americans won six of the past sixteen Tours, given their participation level.
Third, Watson says that "Neither Armstrong nor LeMond have won because of anything inherent in American cycling or its coaching methods." We don't know that. That's what we're trying to find out! If indeed it is antecedently unlikely for one nation to have won so many Tours, as I believe it is, then we can *infer* that it is attributable to "American cycling or its coaching methods" -- or perhaps to something less tangible, such as American ingenuity, hard work, focus, or determination to succeed in a competitive environment.
Americans in Paris #2
Mr. David Watson is quite correct in pointing out that Greg LeMond's and Lance Armstrong's successes in the 1986, 1989, 1990 and 1999, 2000 and 2001 do not indicate some sort of dominance of professional cycling by Americans. While their success is understandably a source of pride for Americans, it is not an indication that Americans have "taken over the sport." In defense of those of us who are in the US, however, it must be noted that in the course of the year, the Tour de France is probably the only race Americans hear about or might conceivably know who has won. Our media simply does not cover professional cycling, whether the races are in America or anywhere else in the world. Many Americans don't know that there is an entire season of racing from February to November.
Mr. Mark Williams hypothesizes that Americans have adopted the One Race Policy and only focus on winning the Tour. This is a charge that was laid at the door of Greg LeMond with partial accuracy. After his gunshot wound and recovery, he simply was not able to maintain form to do more than focus on a small window of peak fitness. Naturally enough he chose the two most important races of the season: the Tour de France and the World Championships. Prior to his gunshot wound, however, an examination of LeMond's palmares reveals second places in Milan-San Remo and the Tour of Lombardy and possession of the Super Prestige award (predecessor to the World Cup) which reveals that he was a contender in races throughout the season for the first half of his career as a pro. Similarly, an examination of Lance Armstrong's palmares finds him in possession of two Classics, a World Championship, second places in no less than six World Cup races, etc.
It is quite clear, however, that Armstrong's preparation and training are very openly centered around the Tour de France. Mr. Williams is therefore, I think, much more correct in his critique of Armstrong. It is, however, a critique that must be leveled at other riders such as Indurain, Riis and Ullrich, to speak only of the modern era. Mr. Williams is quite inaccurate when he describes Indurain as competing in Flanders or Paris-Roubaix; while he road some of those events (not L'Enfer du Nord, however), he did not ride them to win or even have a good placing. He rode them to prepare for the Tour. The pure climbers have always focused on the Grand Tours because those are the races that have a parcours suited to their abilities.
However, I would point out that it is now normal for professionals to focus on a few specific events rather than seeking to be able to win from one end of the season to the other, with the exception of those few chasing the World Cup. Few riders, if any, can win Classics like the Tour of Flanders or Milan-San Remo as well as Grand Tours. The racing has changed too much to permit this. There will probably never be another Eddy Merckx or Bernard Hinault, able to impose their domination in any race they choose. These men were unique creations. Even Anquetil and Indurain do not compare to Merckx and Hinault. Times have changed, the expectations of sponsors have changed, the method of preparation (training as well as doping) has changed. The acceptance of failure has changed as well. Sean Kelly has talked about the possibility that he could have bettered his 4th place in the Tour by preparing specifically for it, but that he felt he could not take the risk of not racing hard in the Spring Classics. For him the risk of pinning his season on the Tour and failing was too great; for Jan Ullrich and Lance Armstrong, it is an acceptable risk. I think this is also indicative of how racing has changed in the past 20 years.
I cannot believe that Armstrong will not be riding the Vuelta. I really would have figured that he would have at least tried to help Roberto Heras defend his title in light of all the effort Heras put into helping him win the Tour this year. I guess I just don't get it. I realize that there may be some fatigue involved with all of Armstrong's post-Tour appearances and travel but the Vuelta doesn't start until early September. I would think they would have planned on that. I don't think there is anything better in cycling than a team leader helping a teammate win a race as a thank you for past efforts. I guess we won't see that this year with Armstrong. Too bad.
Armstrong & the Vuelta #2
I agree with John Andrews. Maybe he was misquoted, but I thought Lance said earlier in the season that he would ride for Heras in the Vuelta if Heras worked for him in the Tour. It would be a great show of class for Lance to follow through on this promise, and inspire great loyalty on the part of his teammates for next year. The comment that if Lance does ride the Vuelta he'd want to win (for himself) was very disappointing to me.
Armstrong & the Vuelta #3
I note with disappointment the recent news that Lance Armstrong will not participate in this year's Vuelta a Espana.
I am generally a supporter of Lance, and was rooting for him in the Tour. However, I also remember the powerful support he received in the Pyrenees from Robert Heras (and Rubiera as well, for that matter). It seems only proper to repay that support by turning around and helping Heras defend his Vuelta title, no matter how fatigued Lance might be.
I must take issue with the comparison between Eddy Merckx and Lance Armstrong (and Miguel Indurain and Greg LeMond and...) which I see as a sign of a larger problem. Having been a fan of cycling for many years now, I am annoyed by the rush to proclaim any winner of the TdF as the 'world's number one cyclist'. Anyone who follows cycling knows that this is simply not the case. Armstrong is placed very high in the UCI rankings (an organization that most people watching the CBS Tour coverage do not even know exists). It is a shame that Casagrande, Zabel and others will not receive the accolades that they deserve.
It is a matter if personal opinion, but I believe the Giro to be a more difficult and competitive race - and a race that CBS will not televise.
Eddy Merckx was a fluke of nature. No one will ever dominate the ENTIRE racing calendar as this man did. Even if Armstrong wins 6 Tours, his career will still pale in comparison. I am as impressed as anyone with Armstrong's comeback and he deserves the recognition most certainly. I feel that Merckx's success, even in the smaller races that did not have the name recognition as the Spring Classics and the Tours, is proof of his competitive nature. More and more, riders are selecting their racing calendars be it the Spring Classics or one, maybe two, of the big Tours. It is a shame as many fans attend a race only to see one of the stars pull off the road after 60 km, get into a team car and later make comments as to how well his 'training' is going.
Do I blame Armstrong for this? No, not at all but I think this is proof of the influence of the large American companies sponsoring teams. Imagine the pressure on a rider to win THE big race for all those companies with all those millions of dollars on the line.
Anyone who has watched the cycling classic "Superstars and Water Carriers" knows exactly where I am coming from.
Armstrong vs Merckx #2
Since Merckx retired, only one rider has come anywhere close to emulating his feats - Bernard Hinault. And if you want to compare the palmares of the two you will find that Hinault won approximately half as many stage races, half as many classics and important one day races and half as many time trials.
Throw major stage race stage victories and well, not even the Badger stands comparison with Big Ted. OK the sport has changed, but the will to win of the top guys hasn't. The major thing that sets Merckx (and to some extent Hinault) apart from the rest is the desire to win EVERYTHING. I bet Eddy Merckx never even lost a game of tiddlywinks - the man truly earned his status as the best biker and perhaps the best sportsman the world has ever seen.
Armstrong vs Merckx #3
I think Armstrong is a magnificent rider and I greatly admire him, BUT, how well do you think the world's greatest riders would fare with the European public and their sponsors if they all decided to do nothing but train for one race? Think about that: Jan Ullrich, Francesco Casagrande, Jalabert, Pantani (well, okay he seems to be doing that anyway), Zabel, Chippy... I mean we could just turn every race into a preliminary warm-up or a consolation prize for the Tour. The bottom line is that all Lance has to do is win the TdF and he is a hero for his team and the American public. That's great, but in Europe you can't just blow off the whole season like that. You actually have to do more than one race seriously. Also, Lance rides to win -- at most -- the TTs and the first stage of the Alps and the Pyrenees. So, perhaps the greatest rider of his generation actually tries to win on just 4 or 5 days. I think he is a great TdF rider, but I don't know how he would fare if he were a working pro like the Europeans. The stress on a European pro like Ullrich has got be 10 times more than rider like Lance. I love Lance, but I don't think he is a complete pro by the standards of his peers.
Just read in the Internet versions of a couple of Danish newspapers, that Bo Hamburger was acquitted by the Danish National Sports Federation's doping committee on the charges of using EPO. The issue driving this decision was apparently the stuff-up in the Swiss UCI lab, where the first B test was negative, whereupon the lab on their own initiative did a second B test, that came out positive. They then communicated the result of the second B test as the result of the B test, regardless that this extra B test is neither mandated nor submittable under UCI's own test regulations.
Given the extremely high value of the A test it is probably safe to say that EPO was involved, but yet again the rider got of the hook based on technicalities.
If one consider the amount of prestige that UCI has invested in the EPO test, it is amazing that they do not exercise more control over the few labs, that, at this point in time, can perform these tests (maybe the prestige aspect was what inspired the lab to the second B test..). Anyway, Bjarne Riis will reluctantly have to take Bo Hamburger back into the CSC-Tiscali squad, and have already acknowledged that, but I would be surprised, if Hamburger got any high profile assignments in the remaining part of the season. A contract renewal is understood to be out of the question, and Hamburger is quoted for indicating that he will be riding for a Spanish team next year.
I am looking forward to the reaction from UCI on this one :-)
Henrik Groth Petersen
I find it totally hypocritical that Bjarne Riis wants to fire Bo Hamburger for EPO use. Please do not misunderstand as I am against doping no matter what, butů to quote from Willy Voet's book:
"Remember Bjarne Riis's stunning win on the Hautacam climb in the 1996 Tour de France. The Dane, who was to win the race, literally played with his rivals before obliterating them. And the haematocrit levels of his rivals, certainly at Festina, had been blithely boosted to about 54 per cent. His exploit was as perturbing for those in the know as it was spectacular to the uninitiated."
Jeff Van Nest
Let me make this clear right off the bat. Chemotherapy is not a training aid! OK, now here's my armchair theory. Feel free to blast it full of holes when I'm done.
Lance Armstrong would not have won a single Tour without having gone through chemo. He was a very good one-day rider, and became a great stage-race rider because of it. Lance has always had a tremendous amount of focus and drive. His bout with cancer focused it and put an even keener edge to it. But he was limited in the Tour by his body structure. Now I'm sure we have all tried to change our structure to some degree (trying to lose weight, lifting weights, etc). But we also know that even incremental changes can take a very long time to become measurable. Imagine how long it would take to lose as much weight as Lance did and adopt an entirely new style of riding. As many people have stated, chemo breaks you down to nothing. When you recover, you are starting with a clean slate. And that is what made the difference.
Lance had the opportunity to re-build his body in the way that he wanted. Just think. He had a great deal of knowledge of what it takes to be a Tour rider. He had Chris Carmichael providing expert coaching advice. He had Merckx in his corner providing advice. And he most certainly had the drive to stick with his plan. He could have gone back to riding the way he was accustomed to. Pushing large gears, relying on strength, and growing back to the size he was before cancer. But he made a choice to ride a different style. And he was able to do it from an absolute minimal base. While he was training to ride at a higher cadence, his body was being built around that style. His body wasn't really being 're-built' since, at that point in time, his previous body didn't exist anymore. He continued with his new riding style, optimizing his body at the same time.
Most people would have gone back to the style of riding that they knew. My theory is that Lance made a decision to do something different. I've heard cancer survivors say that they were given a new life. I think that they are given a new body as well. I believe that Lance decided to take advantage of that fact and built himself back up into a different rider. Something that probably wouldn't have been possible if he hadn't gone through the chemo first.
In any case. It certainly was an awesome Tour. And I have gained a great deal of admiration and respect for Jan Ullrich. He could very easily have resigned himself to a second place finish after the first few mountain stages. Instead, he kept attacking, knowing that he couldn't crack Lance, because that is what he was he came to do.
Mr. Armstrong is a freak of nature, one that we in our life time may never see again. People talk about him as a role model, and hold him as a god in their fight. I cannot relate to the torture that cancer must be, and hope that know one has to go through it. But it is a human defect, and so is the defect that people will do things to get themselves better, whether it be for health or sport. Read the Willy Voet book. It is scary that this whole organization that we support as cyclists could be tainted with numbers estimated to be 90 per cent of pro riders in terms of doping. The most horrifying thing about the turmoil around Mr. Armstrong's great achievement is the letdown that would effect all the people who hold him as a sign of strength. I say find it in yourself, his strength inevitably came from within.
I'd like to apologize for the dismissive tone I took toward Armstrong's chemotherapy in a recent letter, which provoked some justifiably angry responses. I did not want to suggest that chemotherapy represented a desirable training regimen, although my snide comment about Ullrich certainly warranted that interpretation. I meant to say that Armstrong's ordeal helped him to find a physical and (perhaps more importantly) a mental resolve that he had lacked before. This is not to dismiss his suffering, or to attribute his victory to it -- it is credit him for being strengthened by the experience.
I find it to be absurd that a select few have said that chemotherapy is a way to improve the performance of an athlete. In Lance's case of cancer, the chemotherapy did help him in the performance called living life a second time.
I lost my father to cancer fifteen years ago. He was 6' 3" tall and weighed in at 260 pounds. I witnessed first hand at the age of 12, the effects of chemotherapy and radiation on his body. Cancer did not kill my father though, it was an overdose of chemo which caused him to have a heart attack. At the time of his death, he weighed 165 pounds. He did not get a second chance at life. So I dedicated every moment of my life on and off the bike to my father. Chemotherapy is not a performance enhancer, it is a second chance at life.
Let's not be too critical of Bob Roll.
I am being picky, but in his letter Dave from Cambridge 1) ended a sentence with a preposition, 2) substituted 'your for you' are, and 3) used the subject I without a corresponding verb. You're a guy who has spoken and written a fair bit of the English language (or at least I assume so), and I think you should know better.
Anyway, I don't mean to be rude, but I feel like this applies to most of the letters about Tour commentary. Stop being picky! I'm tired of reading every armchair commentator's complaints about Phil Liggett not pronouncing every rider's name correctly or Bob Varsha not being the world's most astute cycling observer. The OLN coverage was not perfect, but it was awesome, especially compared to what existed before it.
I think that all of us who watched OLN's Tour coverage ought to email them and praise them for their commitment to cycling, instead of spending so much time picking it apart.
So much to say. My sentiments, like those of the other writers, is give OLN a break. As for all of the tifosi in America, we know we'd watch the OLN coverage if it consisted only of a TV camera pointed at a TV in a European studio. OLN is trying to create a broader appeal. Bob Varsha is head and shoulders above Adrian Karstan. The commercials? The price of the show. By the way, Runawayshoes.com was a Postal spot. We're paying Lance's salary by watching it. But, what's the deal with that gruesome Jacinta and that electroshock gizmo she was pitching? Very creepy.
Some other nits. Bob Roll was great, albeit a little wooden. Not to plug another website, but his musings on the OLN site were brilliant, and reveal a very complicated and intelligent man who, unfortunately, doesn't always come across that way on the air. As for his "Toor dee France" (rhymes with pants), having watched OLN's coverage of the Giro, and listened to Bob's flawless pronunciation of various Italian, Spanish, Flemish/Dutch names, as well as Italian regions, cities, and villages, I have to conclude it was an affect, the reason for which is known only to Bob.
I was inclined to "dis" Kathleen Murphy at first, but a cycling acquaintance noted that his non-cycling wife found her spots the most interesting, answering many of the questions on the collective uninitiated's minds, which answers we aficionados know and take for granted. For all of OLN's coverage, we should thank them and our lucky stars that it was there for us and pray that it's back next year.
As for Lance and doping and LeMond, the VeloNews website had a very well written and insightful analysis of training with altitude tents which, in my opinion, offers a reasonable explanation of both Lance's affiliation with Dr. Ferrari, and explains in part, his results.
As I've read all the letters about Bob Varsha and the TdF race commentary, I've felt that at least one aspect of the issue hasn't been discussed. It's speculation on my part, but it seems to me that during each stage, Phil and Paul were busy recording their commentaries for the TdF tapes to be sold by WCP (a big money-maker, I'm guessing). Phil never made a transition to or from Bob Varsha during a stage, but always did so before and after. As well, each of Varsha's returns to the commentary sounded as though he was watching the clock for an agreed-upon time to switch back.
My conclusion is that Phil wasn't available to handle the commercial breaks as he did for the Giro, and that another announcer was hired to perform that task. I'll know more when my TdF tapes arrive, but I think that OLN is to be commended for an absolutely terrific summer of bicycle race broadcasting. I'm a recreational rider who as learned an immense amount about racing in a very short time. Now, for the Vuelta ...
I watched the Tour on Eurosport in a Spanish hotel which for some reason simply provided the live with NO commentary from anyone.
It was brilliant! With the sound up high you could hear the bike wheels turning, the riders talking and the crowds cheering - and there were plenty of captions to tell you what was going on.
In future I wouldn't want to watch it any other way.
Hey Vert - Did you know that the Mercury Mountaineer has the most headroom in its class and seats 7 adults comfortably? Plus it can go faster than your bike, so you'll be able to chase down that Runawayshoes.com guy that much more quickly.
Alison Kenney, who also watched every last second of TdF coverage. Go OLN!
Others in recent history who won four stages (last 25 years). I'm not including any of those prologue-like stages that we're part of "a" and "b" stages on the same day (these pretty much ended in the '70's)
Hinault in '79 - 4 stages
Freddy Maertens in '76 - 6 stages + 2 prologue-like stages + 10 days in yellow (finished 8th)
Merckx usually won a bunch in all of his wins
It's really about culture. And not just French culture, but an Old World vs. New World way of doing things. Let me give a parallel example from a very different slice of culture: wine. It was a shock to French cultural sensibilities in 1976 when California wines won a major comparison tasting organized, in Paris no less, against top Bordeaux and Burgundy wines.
The French made wine the way they had always made it: techniques were handed down from grandfather to father to son, and they worked because , well, because they always had. They didn't know why it worked, just that it did. California wine makers had no such tradition to draw upon. Instead, they went into the chemistry lab and learned the details concerning how grapes, soil, climate and care interact. What they came up with was in the same league with French wines, yet different.
Similarly, the Old World training method for cycling was to do it the way it had always been done, drawing on a culture handed down and copied for generations. Do whatever past champions did. And for a long time it worked. The American approach, with a nod to Moser, is typical: don't be bound by tradition, but go into the lab, break things down, figure out the way heart, legs, lungs, bike and different levels of effort interact.
The French have learned a lot from California wine making techniques, and sooner rather than later they'll learn from New World training techniques as well. But they'll do it while retaining a sense of something handed down, something with a connection to a rich past. In the mean time, the New World way of doing things strikes many people as "cold," "scientific," "calculated." It lacks elan. It hasn't yet been taken up in an Old World way. But it will be. In wine, there's room to argue about whether California or Bordeaux styles are better, which is in part a matter of personal, and cultural, preference. In the Tour de France, on the other hand, only one rider can finish first. Which tends to make the vindication of one style vs. another appear more absolute.
By the way, how do people who think of the pre-cancer Lance as a "one-day" racer explain his pre-cancer victory in a 2.1-ranked race? Probably the way people who think of the pre-cancer Lance as a non-climber explain Beech Mountain -- they can't.
Years ago there was a pretty good prize for the Lanterne Rouge. In addition to that, the Lanterne Rouge could count on a little bit of start money for showing up at the post tour Kermesses. Those days are over though.
David, Bethesda, MD: 1983 NY state Road champion.
As an American, I am a big fan of both these outstanding riders. I first developed an interest in cycling by watching LeMond defeat the Europeans at their own game, and now enjoy just as much watching Armstrong (on the excellent OLN) crush Ullrich, et al. I would like to add though, that LeMond's suspicion seem warranted to me. If one looks at the strong circumstantial evidence against Ferrari (and his fellow Italian Conconi), one finds a clear possibility that these two were instrumental is developing new blood doping techniques during the '80's. Look at the mysterious notebooks found with many riders' names. Look at the results of the Italians through the late '80's and early '90's after many decided to take these two on board. Look at the drug menace in this year's Giro. Look at the lack of results for Italians in the Tour where drug testing has been more stringent. Look at fly-by-night success stories like Berzin and Gewiss (save the excellent Argentin). All this does NOT mean that Ferrari is a master doper and that Lance is guilty of doping. It does mean, though, that suspicion is rightly placed and that Lance should temper is "I've never tested positive" mentality. Of course he's never tested positive. Few ever have for EPO or for the other brand-new drugs now available that always fight the curve on blood doping. I want to believe that Lance, and the sport, is clean, but it's difficult.
Lets open up a can of worms here.
LeMond only won the '89 tour because he used tri bars and no one else did. He should never have been allowed to use them - it should have been clear to the authorities that he knew he would gain an advantage and the equipment wasn't to my knowledge, generally available at the time; so any advantage was unfair.
Tri-bars have proved to make a significant difference and I would argue that the Tour de France - the biggest sporting event in the world - should not, and should never have been, a test bed for new innovations.
I wouldn't want to take anything away from LeMond's time trials that year or indeed his incredible recovery from shotgun wounds. To even be in a position to contend the Tour was a huge feat indeed. But, he's lucky that it was'89 and not '99 (given the UCI's attitude to innovation by '99) and also that the Tour authorities were somewhat anti-Fignon at the time. Note that Fignon and others were prevented from starting with tri-bars in subsequent time trials that year - a case of the UCI shutting the door after the horse bolted.
No, LeMond was not the moral victor in that Tour and I would suggest that the way he stole a march on others was cheating in much the same way that people view use of 'supplements'. Laurent Fignon was not only the moral victor in that Tour, but also the rider of the year, perhaps even the decade.
Chapeau Laurent, the last truly charismatic champion of the Grand Tours!!
I knew Greg pretty well. We were both Juniors (he's 3 months older than I am). I've talked to him a number of times and been in about a dozen races with him. He's a very nice man and always an honest and fair competitor. However, I think he's just feeling like his legacy is being obscured by Lance's historic performances. Greg's still a great man with a great history. No one is perfect.
David Bethesda, 1983 NY state road champion.
What is wrong with Greg LeMond? He appears to be acting more like his namesake French newspaper than an ambassador of American cycling. It is impossible to quantify how much respect I have lost for him over one statement in the press insinuating drug use by Armstrong due to his connection to Ferrari. I know he didn't say it, but he didn't have to. His meaning was clear. And his statement about sour grapes rang very hollow.
What's really funny is that the same questions could be asked about LeMond. After all, he won the Tour de France without any team support. A Herculean effort, to say the least. One might say humanly impossible. And what about the rumors surrounding Guimard? Perhaps we should make the same association relative to LeMond that he makes with Armstrong and Ferrari. Perhaps we should all "not comment" any further on LeMond's record given his relationship with Cyrille.
For Armstrong to dope would just be stupid. Most of the chemicals that would improve his performance would also improve the performance of any residual cancer in his system. He's already seen death once, and I don't believe he would trade his life for a TdF victory.
What's really a shame is that America had the possibility of having two cycling heroes. With LeMond shooting his mouth off and sounding like a jealous step-child it's hard to see him as a hero, regardless of his accomplishments. LeMond has done more to diminish his own reputation than Lance would have done.
Cyclingnews.com should be rightly proud of its international reach in the English speaking world. This Australian-based site has many regular correspondents, especially from the USA. Given that it's an Aussie based site, I feel that it's only fair that I provide some cultural training to Keith Burgess-Jackson from the great state of Texas. Keith please don't root for either Lance, Jan or any other cyclist in the peloton, save that for your wife, partner, mistress, lover et al.
John Phelan, Aussie Bloke
It is clear that professional bicycle racing has set a standard for reducing/eliminating the use of "performance enhancing drugs." And, the media, makes every infraction (or suspicion of infraction) a "cause celebre." Cycling gets denounced as a drug ridden sport, when that is not completely true.
To be sure, nobody should be using or abusing drugs to enhance their athletic performance. But, let's get real. Professional cycling is one sport among many with multi-million dollar/year athletes. What if a group of testers showed up at another professional sport and subjected the athletes to the same stringency of testing? Would the Basketball, Football (European and/or American), Baseball, or other athletes test negative for UCI banned substances? I, for one, doubt it.
I fear that we would find that professional athletes across all sports and around the world use/abuse these drugs to get that "edge over the competition." Of course, it would not be a 100 per cent test. The naturally gifted athletes and those with high ethical standards would be "clean." The rest would be questionable at best. Why? Because those contracts that allow them to make a living from their sport demands higher and higher levels of performance; and, if you are not among the gifted few, you might be tempted to use something to give you that "edge over the competition."
Unfortunately, we have come to the point where winning is all that counts. It is sad that we don't recognize everyone from the Maillot Jaune to the Lantern Rouge, all of whom completed the race. For, it is the journey itself that matters. We forget that the purpose of the journey is to find ourselves.
George N. Wells, CPIM
I am currently planning my Portuguese holiday for October, how do I find out about the routes for the TT and RR?
I have recently realized a very disturbing problem with my pedaling stroke, I've found that when I ride very hard, such as up hills, and when Iém really tired, my heels drops. I first realized this when I got some pictured back from my first race of the year, I have since tried to stop, but even though I can train with out letting my heel drop, once I race hard it all seems to go through the window. Could it be I donét have the cleats on my pedals set right? Do I need to strengthen my calves? Any feedback would be appreciated. I would also like to say thanks to all the guys at Cyclingnews, you put together a great web page, ités my fave bike news web page for sure. I check it all day long just waiting for those results! Keep up the good work!
The last month's letters