Home  Tech    Features    Road    MTB    Cyclocross    Track    News    Photos     Feedback   

Letters to Cyclingnews — August 23, 2001

Here's your chance to get more involved with Cyclingnews. Comments and criticism on current stories, races, coverage and anything cycling related are welcomed, even pictures if you wish. Letters should be brief (less than 300 words), with the sender clearly identified. They may be edited for space and clarity. We will normally include your name and place of residence, but not your email address unless you specify in the message.

Please email your correspondence to letters@cyclingnews.com.

Recent letters

Former Soviet dominance
Mercury
Americans in Paris
Armstrong & the Vuelta
Armstrong vs Merckx
Armstrong on l'Alpe
Lance and the Giro?
Jan Ullrich
Chemotherapy
Cycle bashing
Cycling coverage
Short Wave Radio coverage
Commentary
Tour 1989: LeMond & Fignon
Four stages
"Breaking the Chain"
Lance's a spinner
Mapei rider down at TdF
'Rooting'
The Devil
Who's the best rider? A futile exercise
Danish Jersey wanted
Compliments on the coverage

Former Soviet dominance

Well, the state formerly known as Soviet has produced some awesome riders but its dominance is not as huge as Mr. Burke suggests. A nation's ranking is produced by the points of the 10 highest ranked individuals from that country. I suppose that if you took the points of the 50-60 best Italian riders you would get an amazing sum of UCI points. The correct position on the nations ranking for all the former Soviet countries would still be pretty good with a second place (9366 points on 21 Aug.) .

What I think is most fascinating though is the position of the small Baltic countries (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania ) -- 3 riders in the top 20 is spectacular considering to how small those countries are.

Kristian Hallsten
Sweden
Tuesday, August 21

Respond to this letter

Mercury

Is it just me, or do more people feel sorry for the riders of Mercury? First they are told that they can forget about the Tour (on dubious grounds).

Then they hit back with a great performance by Tonkov in the Dauphiné, showing that they are indeed a good team. Koerts wins the Dutch title, with just the help of Van Bon. After that co-sponsor Viatel goes broke. So now the riders don't get paid anymore. Isn't there some law in the USA that main sponsor Mercury has to pay all the riders now?

Then after not getting paid anymore they are also told that they won't be able to participate in the Vuelta, which means that especially Tonkov will loose a lot of UCI-points, which means that he will be paid less in the coming year. As a fan of Tonkov I really feel sorry for him. Then on top of it all the management decides to fire Gallopin. I suspect this has something to do with money.

Maybe it's time for the UCI to act properly and make sure that every team has enough money at the start of the season to fulfil all of its obligations, including wages and costs of races. Or do such rules already exist?

Peter Hoogervorst
Maastricht, Netherlands
Saturday, August 18

Respond to this letter

Americans in Paris

It seems rather unfair to critique riders of any country for focusing only on "their preferred Big Dance". Perhaps attention/fault lies with the market. American society focuses on the Tour; as a result US Postal, and Tailwind Sports hire riders to succeed in a race that reaches that market. Granted the Tour can reach several markets; however, Postal would be committing "marketing suicide" to create a classics super team like Domo (admittedly they did not get off to a good start in that venue this year) and can only afford to allow a few riders focus on races like Paris Roubaix. Many in the American public already voice concern over a "government organization" using "their" tax dollars to pay a guy from Texas "Millions of Dollars to ride a bicycle in Europe"

Unfortunately in order to satisfy the corporate machine cyclists are required to sacrifice significant portions of the season to do well in particular races that reach markets sponsors need in order to compete aggressively in the business world. With so much money being thrown at the spectacle cycling creates, the margin of error is very slim. Either the team wins or the team dies. This corporate environment coupled with advances in training have created this "new world" of cycling where cyclists are remembered more for their "specialized" contributions in particular events/styles than for the races they "didn't participate in".

But who cares -- we make the world the best we can. Basketball, football, and baseball are comparatively boring limited to "tiny nuances" in style of play compared to cycling. One doesn't see "marathon 24 hour Basketball endurance events" with teams created to do well in only those events -- it would seem silly to many. But for some intangible reason cycling is able to embrace as many different scenarios as the mind (barring the UCI) can think of.

C. Parks
OKC, OK.
Friday, August 17

Respond to this letter

Armstrong & the Vuelta #1

I agree that Lance Armstrong should be riding in the Vuelta to support Roberto Heras. Heras and Rubiera led Armstrong up the mountains and contributed greatly to his success, while most of his other teammates were languishing at the back of the pack. Heras probably sacrificed a top ten finish.

I'm sure that everyone that rode the Tour is tired including the defending Vuelta champion Heras. I do not think that should be an excuse. Also, most of the other USPS Team members that rode in the Tour will be riding with Lance in San Francisco and not supporting Heras in the Vuelta. I would think that your best riders would be available to support a contender of a major stage race.

Lance should not have talked about supporting Heras if he wasn't planning on sucking it up and doing it.

Mark V King
Thursday, August 16

Respond to this letter

Armstrong & the Vuelta #2

Lance seems to have forgotten it was the 4th place in the Vuelta that turned his career around again , followed by the other 4th places in the Worlds.

Sorry but it really smacks of Texas money buying support and then discarding it when it suits; which places a question mark on how hard will Heras and Rubiera work in next year's Tour.

There is a big difference between the "all American" 1999 team and the mercenary line up now developing.

John Andrews
Singapore
Thursday, August 16

Respond to this letter

Armstrong & the Vuelta #3

I think Lance deserves sometime off. I don't doubt that Heras was important to Lance in the Tour but who was the one dropping Jan and riding time trials to win. If Lance hadn't won would you be critical of Heras? I believe Heras knew what he was getting into with Postal and his role. I also think he knows he doesn't need Lance's help to win, let us not forget Lance did not win the Tour alone. Give credit to the rest of the Posties, I think they can do it without Lance. I want to see Heras win the Vuelta but I also want to see Lance continue to win the Tour and in this day of selective winning in cycling one only has so many matches to burn so use them wisely and with Lance we may see 6 in a row.

By the way, does unexpected twins on the way account for anything?

Bub
USA
Friday, August 17

Respond to this letter

Armstrong & the Vuelta #4

If it is true about the sponsors pressure, I think that is a good excuse. After having read "It's not about the Bike" I realized how much some of Lance's sponsors supported him. We may talk about what Lance "owes" his teammates, but what about what he "owes" his sponsors who stuck with him while he was dying, when his own team (Cofidis) dropped him.

Dave Sandifer
Arlington, MA
Tuesday, August 21

Respond to this letter

Armstrong & the Vuelta #5

In response to all the criticism on Armstrong not supporting Heras in the Vuelta, if I were Heras the last thing I would want was Armstrong helping me! The Vuelta is Heras' race and having Armstrong there would be a distraction as all the media attention would focus on Lance. Plus Armstrong has demonstrated that he has the skill and strength to beat Heras in a major stage race. If Lance didn't win there would be tons of speculation that Lance "let" Heras win. Who wants that kind of talk?

Also, don't forget the probable reasons Heras joined Postal: He gets the first class training that Lance benefits from, he gets a very strong team to support him and, most of all, he gets paid a boatload of money! The last reason is actually probably the main reason why Heras joined Postal. The comments that imply that Heras "sacrificed" himself in the mountains for Lance and therefore Lance owes him are, in my opinion, silly. Heras was paid very good money for his support in those mountains. I also think it's pretty clear that the riders who leave Postal are doing so because they can make more money on other teams.

I personally don't think that Heras was ever let to believed that Lance would ride in the Vuelta with him and I don't think that was ever used as an enticement no matter what speculation may occur. That info is only privy to the parties involved.

Charles Chow
Houston, TX
Tuesday, August 21

Respond to this letter

Armstrong & the Vuelta #6

I never actually heard Lance say he would be in the Vuelta to support Heras (not that he didn't say it, but I never actually saw a quote). Still it is a shame if he implied or said it and didn't follow through. Heras and Rubiera where stellar and came to the front long after Livingston and the big T were in the sack. But the payment may be more in knowledge and conditioning than having Lance as a lead up.

I wouldn't say that the departure of some Posties is due to the focus on Lance. I recall in other sports that a true star makes the people around him look better (case in point: Livingston who is not and won't be a leader). Ice hockey (sorry for those of you who have no idea about the NHL) Produced Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemiux who had several players become "ALL STARS" when playing with them, only to be launched into obscurity when they left (although with lucrative new contracts for other teams). Best of luck to Tyler, and he rest who leave, but don't hold your breath waiting for the big win (Hincapie aside who should leave to a classics team). You never know who will be the next Bobby Julich, Great rider when the bunch pays no attention, but as soon as they have to have the focus and perform as a favorite, nothing...

Charles Manantan
Phoenix Arizona USA
Tuesday, August 21

Respond to this letter

Armstrong & the Vuelta #7

As much as America is fawning over the recent achievement (notice no plural here) of Mr. Armstrong, and well it should; he has shown his true colors in deciding not to support Heras in the Vuelta. Until Armstrong makes a year's effort of competing in at least two of the three major tours as well as a healthy sampling of the classics, he will always be thought of as great TdF rider, but a half hearted (or do I mean selfish?) team mate. This man is no Sean Kelly.

For those of you who can't understand Europe's less than enamored view of LA; this should bring your view into focus.

L.S. Paden
Saturday, August 18

Respond to this letter

Armstrong & the Vuelta #8

Reading all the Armstrong correspondence on the subject of Vuelta is quite amusing. Armstrong should do this, Armstrong should do that. I'd like to pitch in my 2c and state that in my opinion if Armstrong has enough say about his schedule he should do exactly as he pleases. If the case is that he has to or needs to listen to his sponsors and team management, well he better does, or else there won't be the same Armstrong next year or in the years to come. US Postal had focused their entire season on TdF, I am sure Armstrong feels some agreement with what the team (the owners and managers) want him to do.

Yes, it would be nice to see Heras/Armstrong cooperation in the Vuelta, but in the long run, in the grand scheme of things, his racing in the States will do a lot more for the sport here.

Paul Szymkiewicz
Durham, NC
Tuesday, August 21

Respond to this letter

Armstrong & the Vuelta #9

True, it was reported early on that Lance would ride in support of Heras in Spain. I also think it would be quite a show to have a rider as dominant as Lance was in France ride to support a teammate.

However, with all the whining about what Lance should be doing in September, what does this say about the rest of the USPS squad and our belief in them to assist?

Is Lance the only hope for Heras to stand atop the podium in Spain? What about the other riders that struggled in the Tour? Why can't they step in and help Heras?

As for Hincapie or any other rider on USPS riding in the shadow of Lance, I didn't see a performance in France that strongly indicated they should have been doing otherwise. USPS started the Tour sick, injured or became so by the time the TTT was finished. That is not to say I don't think they are all world class and deserve their moment of glory.

But Lance (and all the others) is a contracted professional with obligations in places we will never know fully. To say that 'fatigue' is shorthand for 'politics' is a bit myopic and unfair. Indeed it may be politics. But if those politics show Lance in front of US crowd with the money sponsors of USPS watching and that makes they keep the money flowing, go for it baby. There's enough trouble with major cycling sponsors in the US (Mercury?), if Lance spending time in S.F. in September helps US cycling and Pro cycling in particular, lets stop whining.

And to all those really upset about Lance not riding in Spain, if this race were in or within and hour of your home: would you boycott? I didn't thank so.

Stephen Sadler, C.Ped.
Austin, TX
Wednesday, August 22

Respond to this letter

Armstrong & the Vuelta #10

I am also disappointed in Lance's decision not to help Heras in the Vuelta. I think he is an out an out liar, because during the Tour he kept saying he would go to Spain and help Roberto Heras in his Tour (i.e. the Vuelta). As far as I am concerned he is just a selfish person who is just looking out for numero uno. Heras should have never signed with USPS and sacrificed himself as he did in the Tour this year, for example when Lance lost his food on one of the descents off a mountain and Heras had to go back and get him food and drink from the team car.

This is how Lance says thanks.

Claude Lassigne
Port Moody, B.C., Canada
Sunday, August 19

Respond to this letter

Armstrong vs Merckx

I'm not sure I agree with all Patron said. I don't see Ullrich riding the Spring Classics to win. He rode the Giro only as training, not to win. Let's not forget that Armstrong is a former World Champion, a two time winner of the Tour du Pont and has won a major one day classic. In addition, he won the Tour of Switzerland this year. Cipo rides stage races to win stages and then drops out before the mountains. Does Pantani ride the Belgian Classics to win? I agree that today's riders aren't as complete as riders of the past. But let's not Criticise them too much for going along with today's system of racing and their sponsors interests. I'd love to see Armstrong win enough other types of races to be considered on the same level with Merckx or Hinault but maybe the fault lies in our trying to compare totally different times.

Paul Snider
Thursday, August 16

Respond to this letter

Armstrong on l'Alpe

Somebody was commenting that past Tour winners wouldn't have waited after a rival's crash. Jan did that at Vuelta 99, waiting after Galdeano crashed. and Indurain certainly wasn't known for taking advantage of somebody else's misfortunes.

Bjoern Haake
Thursday, August 16

Respond to this letter

Lance and the Giro?

Lance can ride the Vuelta or not, it's his decision. Think about this: In Lance's first two Tour victories he suffered one bad day in the mountains each. In his third victory he suffered no bad days. So what was the difference? Everyone says that Lance took his training to another level for this year's Tour. Certainly riding all of the mountain stages numerous times was key in his preparation and something different from what he had done in previous years. But do you know what was also different? In 2000 Lance's season was considerably longer as he prepared for and competed in the Olympics. Before his other wins his previous season was much shorter, consider '98 and '99. My theory is by stretching out his season and remaining competitive longer in 2000 it helped him in his training for 2001. In this light I personally would like to see Lance ride the Vuelta.

However I'm sure Lance and Chris Carmicheal know what they are doing. On a side note I would love it if Lance decided to forego the Tour for one year and peak earlier for the Spring Classics and the Giro. He could conceivably win the Tour of Flanders, Liege-Bastogne-Liege, and Amstel Gold. These are his types of races. And then move into the Giro where he could easily trounce Frigo, Garzelli, DiLuca or even Pantani. That would rule.

Mark Taylor
Fort Irwin, California
Monday, August 20

Respond to this letter

Jan Ullrich #1

Shadows and light in photographs have a big impact on how things appear. To compare the "cut" of Ullrich's thigh muscle from two photographs taken from markedly different angles and lighting conditions is unreasonable, not to mention the fact that his shorts might have been of different manufacture, construction, material.

We love Jan, but the only thing that can be proven thin by these two photographs is the argument...

Matt and Amy Johnson
Venice, California USA
Friday, August 17

Respond to this letter

Jan Ullrich #2

Scott Goldstein is on the money. When Jan rode the Tour in 97, he was riding for Riis and almost rode the whole Tour off his wheel on the first day in the mountains just while riding tempo. By the second day the Telekom director let Jan ride for himself and he but time into Pantani and Virenque on the climb to the finish! When we see Jan climbing like that again, Lance will have a real fight on his hands.

Ann Jabour
Sunday, August 19

Respond to this letter

Jan Ullrich #3

I must say that I agree with Scott on this issue. As with all endurance sports there is a peak that must be hit - but the longer that you spend just below that easier it is to step up to peak performance. I find it hard to believe that it is best to come into the Tour as you are coming into conditioning for the first time. I would like to see Jan ride some early season races to a good standard and then rise his level gradually for the tour. I believe that he will ride better like that.

Also in 2000 Jan did the Tour while just getting into condition and then what an end of year he had. Jan was unstoppable in Sydney.

In conclusion - lets see Jan at some early season races.

Steve Ferry
England
Monday, August 20

Respond to this letter

Jan Ullrich #4

Marco Pantani set the record for Alpe d'Huez in 1997 of 37' 35" though it is difficult to compare this time with Armstrong's 38' 01'' because of differences in stage profiles and differing levels of fatigue beginning the climb. But a comparison of Jan Ullrich's time in 1997 of 38' 22'' compared with his 2001 time of 40' 00" may suggest that Ullrich had a better power to weight ratio in 1997.

S Wright
New Zealand
Monday, August 20

Respond to this letter

Jan Ullrich #5

Great pictures. But just look at the face from 1997 and 2001 - chubby cheeks give it away. Most diets you get to lose weight from the face first.

Surely the simplest way to try and beat Armstrong is for Jan to go back to the 1996 and 1997 records and follow the same program. But he'll still have to learn to really kick away rather than grind people off his wheel.

I watched this one in 1997 like Scott and without Jan it would have been boring in the extreme. Watching the Stage when he had two groups of Telekom riders away down the road we all thought he was going to attack and leapfrog between these groups - but he never had the chance to do so - but the heart was there for all to see.

John Andrews
Singapore
Tuesday, August 21

Respond to this letter

Jan Ullrich #6

Outstanding pics of Ullrich climbing steadily while still in the saddle as Virenque is laboring out of the saddle to keep his wheels a moving. Jan still has a lot in him to carry on for years. I would love to see him train seriously all year and come into the 2002 TdF in tremendous physical condition and make the 2002 TdF edition even more memorable. We can only wait and see and hope for a great upcoming years' TdF!

Lou Frankel
USA
Sunday, August 19

Respond to this letter

Chemotherapy #1

I agree with your perspective on the suffering aspect of the chemo treatments. But I disagree with "this is what make's Lance great". Lance is great for a lot of reasons not just because he knows how to suffer. Lance is smart, dedicated, awesome, a hero, unbelievable, I can go on forever. He is the best in the world and will be the best for years to come. Lance is great for hundreds of reasons!!!!

Jody M. Martinez, #1 Fan
USA
Friday, August 17

Respond to this letter

Chemotherapy #2

I'm a cyclist and have just been through the same regimen of chemo as Lance has. Chemo gives new meaning to suffering and Lance can suffer better than anybody in the peloton due to chemo. When you go through chemo, your blood counts are down, you're nauseated, you throw up, you feel as though you've been hit by a Mac Truck and once you get up another one hits you. Chemo is being seasick, drunk with a hangover and the flu all rolled into one, 24 hours for 5 to 7 days straight. No relief even in sleep, if you can get any. No, because of chemo, Lance knows how to suffer more than anybody and therefore can push harder, longer and faster. His pain threshold is much higher than most and therefore so are his times.

I'm no Lance Armstrong, but I know when I cycle, I can suffer better than I have before. Given the same rides and races I've done in the past, I know I can do better because I know the meaning of suffering. I hope to be cancer free as Lance once my cancer treatments are completed. But I do know one thing, cancer made Lance a better rider through being able to suffer better and it changed his body as well. At the same time, I don't think anyone would do this voluntarily.

Steve Doo
Gilroy, CA USA
Tuesday, August 21

Respond to this letter

Cycle bashing

Thought you might like to know about an incident involving a group of cyclists at Kurnell in Sydney Australia on the weekend of 18-19 August.

The Kurnell loop is a popular little ride often used by many international and Olympic level cyclists and triathletes that are from the southern suburbs of Sydney. Unfortunately it also harbours a group of young hoodlum residents who plainly hate cyclists.

On Saturday last, a group including international level triathletes Craig Alexander and Jason Metters were 'buzzed' by a carload of young males who hurled abuse etc. This group of males then proceeded to their home address which unfortunately was in the path of the cycling group.

As it turns out, the group of young hoodlums were drunk (it was only 10am) and one of their number hid behind a parked vehicle, and with Metters approaching at 40km/h plus, 'shoulder charged' him, knocking him from his bicycle. He fell heavily and skidded for about 8 metres before hitting a parked car. The assailant, laughing with his buddies then threw the beer bottle at Metters who was semi conscious on the ground, picked up the cyclists dislodged water bottle and threw it at his head hitting the mark, before then also walking up and kicking him in the head for good measure.

During the assault, the assailant was repeatedly yelling 'f-----n c--t cyclist'! and words similar.

Jason suffered head, back, leg and other injuries and his MBK bicycle from his French Triathlon Club was severely damaged.

Luckily, Police investigated the matter and the offender was arrested shortly after, still drunk and charged with assault occasioning actual bodily harm.

This is the latest in a number of incidents involving this same group of males from Kurnell.

I was wondering if anyone else worldwide has any other horror stories?

Regards, Tony
Cronulla Australia
Monday, August 20

Respond to this letter

As well as horror stories, I'd like to hear stories of successful legal strategies for dealing with such bozos. What information do the police need, and how do you go about pressing them to do something about it?

Cycling coverage #1

Andy Stokes writes, "The decision to devote a mere four pages to a major race such as the Giro was not just a slap in the face to the organizers of the event, but, to race fans as a whole... The culprit, along with the preoccupation with drugs, is the obsession with the Tour de France."

He's right, but the obsessors aren't the magazine's staff.

Stokes and others may find this surprising, but in the print world, the size of an issue depends not on the amount of news but on the amount of advertising. You could have World Cup events every day in May, but if the advertising dollars aren't there to support it that month, your favorite magazine will be pretty skimpy.

Because the American public focuses so heavily on the Tour de France, advertisers do too. Thus, big thick July issues, and relatively thin issues in May, June and September.

At most American newspapers (such as the one I work for), the pages are planned ads-first. What's left is called "the news hole" -- i.e. the space to be filled with news. From the publisher's perspective, the ads are the content, and the actual articles are the window-dressings.

Jack Beaudoin
Portland, Maine
Monday, August 20

Respond to this letter

Cycling coverage #2

Good points, Jay. Except we need to upgrade the quality of the coverage personnel.

The sport itself is the sole attraction fans feel for biking.

Sponsors, national or international control groups and the media are all greedy. They do not understand competition between cyclists. Their eyesight is filtered by a profit and loss prism.

Perhaps the best return to biking as a sport is the formation of an association of riders controlled one hundred percent by riders. Bikers alone understand the sacrifice to individually be better than others. Remember? It's not the color of my bike or the logo on my shoulder that makes me a winner. It's my talent and training that enables me to beat you. What I'm on is six hours of my bike every day!!

I'll sacrifice my $2,500 Cannondale to whip anyone in my age group but I wouldn't let a single official or writer suck on my water bottle. This is whispered: this is the attitude of the future!

Riders can easily get rid of doping. This may sound simplified but it's true.

Mo Joyce
USA
Thursday, August 16

Respond to this letter

Cycling coverage #3

I don't know about coverage in the States, Australia or elsewhere. It can't be worse than in the UK. The BBC include doping scandals in every news bulletin on the sports channel, Radio 5 live, and some even appear on the TV news bulletins. The Tour aside, cycling isn't mentioned. It is amazing: British amateurs win major events in Europe or David Millar achieves another win... no comment. There is an epic race, like the Paris Roubaix this year: not mentioned. The Giro is going well... and it gets a mention on every bulletin... only when the drug raid takes place. And in 2001 Bo Hamburger has probably received more publicity through the BBC than any other rider, the Tour apart. The British media reflect the BBC: the bigoted viewpoint seems to be a major hindrance to a positive image of the sport in the UK.

By the way, I think it's a little premature to suggest that Millar has no chance of winning the Tour: he is young, he can time trial and he can climb. It will be only in three or four years that his realistic prospects will be seen...

Tony Lyons
UK
Sunday, August 19

Respond to this letter

Short Wave radio coverage

I live in the States, but I am leaving in Sept. for a two year stint in Peace Corps-Tanzania. Does anyone know of English speaking short wave radio stations that broadcast ANY cycling events, especially Le Tour?

I don't think I live without hearing the voices of Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwin for two years, "Its going to be desperately close I think..." or "Look at the face of pain on that young man..."

Joe Chase
Monday, August 20

Respond to this letter

Commentary #1

Nobody should disrespect Phil Liggett. If anyone had half the knowledge of cycling that Phil has, they would be a fanatic. When Phil can get the names of Cedric Vasseur and his father Alain confused, you know he has been around the game for a long time. Phil brings the emotion and passion of a great and addicting sport to our TVs.

As for Paul Sherwin, he has raced with legends of our sport, was PR guy for Motorola, so he knows his stuff. The coverage this year was great, at least 2 hours a day and live, what more could you ask for? Compared to the coverage that ABC used to do with Sam Posey and Al Trautwig. Egad, it brings chills to my spine. I think this is where the phrase "the superbowl of cycling" came from.

Being from Canada, we get no classics coverage, except for Milan san Remo (in Italian) and the Giro(also in Italian), so any cycling on TV is good. So I'll always be happy when I hear Phil and Paul's voices on the race call.

Dave Robins
Brampton, Ontario
Sunday, August 19

Respond to this letter

Commentary #2

Someone help me!

I envy many of you as I live in the small town of Brooklyn, NY where pig-faced, hoagie-eatin’ losers at Time Warner Cable have decided that I shall not have the OLN, regardless of how much I am willing to pay for the privilege. I spent the first two weeks of the Tour in France on my honeymoon (with a wonderful and VERY understanding wife) and the Eurosport coverage made-up for the days that I could not see the stage in person (almost). Then, when I arrived to the US, my heart was broken. Long live any dot-com who brings me live info.

Don Jones
Brooklyn, NY
Tuesday, August 21

Respond to this letter

Commentary #3

Bob Roll's "Tour day Frants" is still annoying. More so if he knows the proper pronunciation. Don't get me wrong, I like Bob Roll and admire him a lot, he was a very tough cyclist in his day.

Just don't get me started on Varsha. OLN couldn't have chosen anyone more inappropriate. Now he was annoying!

Maria Labbé (No relation to Kenny)
USA
Monday, August 20

Respond to this letter

Tour 1989: LeMond & Fignon #1

A few comments in response to Scott Montague's letter regarding Greg LeMond.

Ever since LeMond won the 1989 Tour there has been "controversy" over the outcome. No doubt most of what needs to be said has been said, but I will add my views anyway.

The English speaking journalists were unequivocal in their praise of LeMond, but across the rest of Europe there was, and still is, the feeling that LeMond's win was something of a travesty. The reasons for this are not hard to find. Fignon rode an attacking race, having already won the Giro, he tried to take the race to his rivals, he showed fight, panache and bravery. LeMond sadly did no such thing. He produced one remarkable time trial, but spent the rest of the race using other riders rather than committing himself; I believe that in America the word for a rider like LeMond is a wheelsucker!

LeMond truly was a wheelsucker of the first rank. His disgraceful and shameless performance on the stage to Villard de Lans (where he relied on Delgado and the PDM team to limit his loses to Fignon who was doing what a real Tour champion should do: taking risks and attacking) is reason enough to disqualify him from the category of great Tour champion. There was some irony when a year later LeMond accused Indurain of sitting on during the stage to Luz Ardiden; one assumes Indurain was modeling himself that day on LeMond. LeMond was a talented rider, of course, but his manner of racing was not what the sport deserved from someone of such ability. Incidentally, it is pleasing to see that Lance Armstrong does not ride like LeMond.

I think it is interesting to note how insecure LeMond always seems when interviewed, always feeling the need to defend and justify his achievements, rather than letting them speak for themselves. In his persistent self justification is the suggestion that deep down LeMond knows that the manner of his victories leaves much to be desired.

Speaking of drive to be the best and so forth (as Mr Montague does) I suspect that LeMond never imagined before the 1989 Tour that he could win it, his comments after first taking the yellow jersey early in the race implied that he did not expect to be able to defend it. What allowed him to defend it was the presence of Delgado: some minutes behind because of a lapse during the opening two days, and willing to tow LeMond, whilst still hoping to pull back time himself.

I do not think the aerodynamic bars and such were an issue, where LeMond "cheated" was in not riding in a manner befitting a great champion and in racing in a cowardly and mean spirited fashion. Fignon did not refuse to use tri bars out of "hubris" as Mr Montague claims; he didn't use them because at the time there was little evidence that they conferred any advantage on riders; after all not only LeMond but also Hampsten and Yates used them at the Tour in 1989 and they hardly set the world alight with their time trials.

Make no mistake; the moral victor in 1989 was Laurent Fignon. Anyone who watched that race as a sporting spectacle must surely come to the same conclusion. LeMond's defenders seem to back him simply because he was American, or in Britain because he was English speaking. Perhaps it is the limited tradition of cycling in the English speaking world which explains their celebration of LeMond. In countries with longer and richer cycling traditions he will always be regarded with suspicion and rightly so.

David Watson
Essex UK
Monday, August 20

Respond to this letter

Tour 1989: LeMond & Fignon #2

Fignon was not arrogant, he was conservative -- he was in the lead and he chose not to take any silly chances. LeMond was second by 35 seconds (50 seconds was what he gained on Fignon in the time trial to win the tour) and he chose to take a big chance and go for the win even if it might cost him a 2ed place finish in the tour. I was proud.

Jim Cravens
USA
Sunday, August 19

Respond to this letter

Tour 1989: LeMond & Fignon #3

Set aside the tri-bars, the aero (or not) helmet, the ponytail in the wind and consider where both riders were at the start of the finale. Striking distance was LeMond's ally, but Fignon knew better than to waste away his lead. Laurent's first error.

Being so close at that stage means that both were riding tremendously. Advantage to both and a joy for all spectators. Final and most important point that has been overlooked was riding style. Does anyone remember the race footage and the commentator's comparisons? It was LeMond in focus, in a time trial position, seated, spinning efficiently while Fignon was mashing, rocking, standing, and trying to power his way to Champs Elysees. Tri-bars and helmet weren't even needed because Fignon panicked. He tasted the victory too early and lost focus. Maybe LeMond just psyched Fignon out.

Find the footage (of the whole 89 Tour) and enjoy a great winter workout on your rollers. I was jacked for LeMond, but at the same time sad for Fignon who was splendid. It was a great race, with two (and more) great riders, but all riders are but mere athletes and you gotta have game when it counts.

Robin Hood
Monday, August 20

Respond to this letter

Four stages

I'm not going to take anything away from Hinault/Merckx, they we're great champions. Hinault did win 7 stages in 1979 (I must have missed addition 101 in 1st grade); however, that Tour had a prologue plus 24 stages (of the 24 stages: 4 individual time trials, 2 TTT). Hinault won all 4 of the ITTs in 1979, he won all 3 ITT's in 1981- tremendous achievement! I'm not taking anything away from Hinault, he was awesome. What if Indurain had 1 or 2 more It's in his tours, how about Armstrong, give Ullrich another one in 1998 (he put almost 7 minutes into Pantani in the 2 It's of the 1998 Tour - he was 3:21 behind Pantani at the end). Most of these great champions that dominated the Tour It's during their wins rarely lost. Indurain was a little off his game in a mountain IT, but he only lost won flat one in his prime (Rominger '93). In fact, Rominger in 1993 was very impressive from a stage win perspective:
2 Alpine stages (1 mountain top finish at Isola 2000) 1 IT win (on flat course beating Indurain in his prime) 2nd by inches at Pla d'Adet (Pyrenean mountain finish) after setting the pace up the last 10km to a wheel sucking Jaskula.

Steve Mysko
Foothill Ranch, CA USA
Wednesday, August 22

Respond to this letter

"Breaking the Chain"

The problem with Voet's book is, that it is somewhat difficult to separate speculation and hearsay from what Voet knows for a fact, either through personal involvement or a true source. There is no doubt that Voet's book is being promoted on promises of containing scandals and other juicy stuff. Now, I do not doubt for a minute, that Voet could have written a shocking book about doping in cycling based on his direct personal experience alone, but perhaps his ghostwriter had him convinced, that he needed to take it further than that.

The quotation from Voet's book in Jeff's letter is a good example. It does not represent any specific insight whatsoever, and it is exactly the same type of comments you heard about Lance in earlier TdFs: If Lance can show such strength in the face of teams using doping, he must be powdered big time himself (which I happen to believe he was and is not). As for whether Bjarne Riis was doing EPO in '96, the fact is that we will never know with certainty. Neither does Voet know - he is just making us aware of his personal guess.

The Danish press nearly killed Riis' reputation a couple of years ago, when he answered a question on whether he had ever used dope by saying: "I have never been tested positive", which was not really the answer the journalists were looking for. Ironically, however, Riis' answer was (unintended) prophetic in the sense, that in the current sports and media environment, this approach is becoming the standard approach by riders (even Lance grew tired over last winter from repeating again and again that he was clean, and eventually challenged the tabloid portion of the French press, and some of the court officials, by switching to the "Prove it - or shut the f*** up"). I think you will see more of this "legal" approach in the years to come.

Finally, Hamburger's association with CSC-Tiscali is not decided at the discretion of Bjarne Riis, but rather through a contractual clause, that stipulates termination of contract following a doping sentence from either the Danish National Sports Federation or UCI. I understand this type of clause to have become standard for most teams. This also means that CSC-Tiscali will have to take Hamburger back after him being acquitted - otherwise CSC-Tiscali could in turn be sued by Hamburger on reasons of contract breach.

Henrik Groth Petersen
Boulder, CO, USA
Friday, August 17

Respond to this letter

Lance's a spinner #1

According to Chris Carmichael, Lance's high cadence transfers the stress of climbing from the leg muscles to the cardiovascular system. This reduces the stress on his legs and allows him to produce less lactic acid and to clear what he does produce. I've tried to spin at over 100rpm on the flats and when I can it works great but it will take me a while to retrain my system to that style of riding.

Paul Snider
USA
Thursday, August 16

Respond to this letter

Lance's a spinner #2

Having watched Armstrong soar through the Alps and Pyrenees, form the comfort of one's armchair, one can only contemplate with awe the extent of his stamina. A big man, he scorns best the ravage of lactic acid by making more (and more fluent) pedal strokes in what is only a slightly smaller gearing than that nearly all of his contemporaries. A man of Mario Cipollini's weight, he is more than capable of scaling the Alps alongside Marco Pantani!

So what makes him different? God-given talent? EPO? Determination? No. Preparation, and concentration thereof. Such levels of domination have been achieved by other athletes, albeit only at the culmination of utter sacrifice, something which Armstrong seems to actually enjoy. The average club cyclist and indeed pro, cannot fly like Lance because they don't train hard enough- or concede enough out of their human quality of life to achieve his level.

What Lance does is not "granny" his way through the Alps on larger cogs than Messrs. Ullrich & Beloki. In reality his pedaling action is more precise, more efficient and more of a joy to behold than anybody else. As the Golf-swing of Tiger Woods is a divine product of Luciferous toil, Armstrong's pedaling prevails because he deserves it! I hope he wins 10 Tours!

Alastair Knowles
Scotland
Friday, August 17

Respond to this letter

Mapei rider down at TdF

The person involved in the accident you referred was not a rider, but a photoreporter who was not in the area reserved for the press. Luckily the accident had not bad consequences.

Sassi Aldo
MAPEI-Quick Step Press Office and P.R.
Italy
Monday, August 20

'Rooting' #1

Hey, my riding partner makes me "pull on the front" all the time while he's "rooting" for me from behind. All that pulling on the front sometimes makes me "bonk"!!

(silly Aussie boys!)

Dante 9
Louisville, KY, USA
Friday, August 17

Respond to this letter

'Rooting' #2

Sacre blue!! I have just read Ted Arnold's very interesting account of his adventures with the Bikestyle TdF trip. It appears that the whole bus was "pulling for Stuey". Rooting for Lance, pulling at the front, pulling for Stuey, cyclingnews.com risks becoming R rated!!

John Phelan
Australia
Wednesday, August 22

Respond to this letter

'Rooting' #3

I appreciate John Phelan's linguistic lesson. But two things. First, I speak American English, not Australian English. The word "root" does not have the sexual connotation in the former that it has in the latter. (See Eric Partridge's "A Concise Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English".) Second, Partridge says the sexual meaning of "root" is "low Australian". Come up out of the gutter, man.

Keith Burgess-Jackson, Proud Speaker of High (American) English
Fort Worth, Texas
Friday, August 17

But Keith, we like it down here!

Respond to this letter

The Devil #1

Imagine going up Bear Tooth Pass from Billing to Yellowstone Park as fast as you can. You could win a race, of finish within enough time to stay in for tomorrow's next stage. If only you had it together. But today is difficult. Your legs shake and your heart is beating wild. Not a good day. Maybe you puked a few kilometers down already. You're" biting the handlebar" as we say here in Montreal... Alone. You must be in hell!

Thoughts of quitting go through your mind.

Then, there is a voice. You raise your eyes where they should be; up the road. The devil is yelling at you, waking you up! Running beside you barking incoherent cheers through his ice-covered beard... !!!

In my opinion, these people dress up in the difficult mountain passes to represent "hell". There is one particular bearded folk we mostly see doing that. A crazy fan, no doubt. Anyway, climbing at high altitude under a hot sun feels like wearing a long lead coat that just solidified on your shoulders, and I easily suppose you can imagine how difficult that same mountain pass can be in the snow.

In fact, and especially while racing, any really tough climb in the best conditions is hurting.

So, there comes in the devil, pretending to be tormenting the cyclists as they struggle past! Good humor helps while in hell, I suppose...

Sébastien "must be something wrong with my bike" Lamarre.
Montréal, Québec.
Thursday, August 16

Respond to this letter

The Devil #2

I recall reading somewhere that Didi the devil lived in the former East German Republic and was not allowed out to watch international cycle races. He used to listen to coverage of the big races on the radio and would become excited as the peloton passed under the "devil's cloth" into the last kilometre. Supposedly he had a lot of time to dream about going to watch the big tours and when the Iron Curtain came down he was finally able to. I'd say he has probably more than made up for his previous lack of spectating.

Marco Framboli
The David Duffield Fan Club
www.addiscombe.org
Saturday, August 18

Respond to this letter

Who's the best rider? A futile exercise

I get a little worried about people suggesting that one rider is the best because he won the TdF. "Class" is exhibited in many ways; Sean Kelly, Jaja and Museeuw for example. These guys are/were not great Tour GC riders, but they have/had as much class as Armstrong. Don't get me wrong Armstrong is a seriously good rider, but take a look at Museeuw at Paris-Roubaix caked in mud, riding his bike over cobbles as if it were on rails. Jaja this year for the KoM and Clasica San Sebastian and Kelly the other classics king. That is talent pure and simple. People admired de Vlaeminck just as much in the Seventies for his classics skills as they did Merckx. De Vlaeminck made a very tidy living out of cycling, his teams valued him highly. Different types of riders, but still utter class to pull in the sponsors.

Riding (suffering like never before) L'Etape du Tour this year made me realise just how hard the mountains really are, and because of it, I get a lot more out of the mountains stages. I now know just how incredibly good all the riders have to be, just to avoid the Broom wagon. However, if cycling were only about the TdF GC or mountains, it would be a very dull sport indeed. For me, a city center crit, Six-Day or a one-day classic can be just as much fun to watch. However, different riders are needed for different races.

I say enjoy watching all the riders, in all types of races not just those that last three weeks. I think it is more rewarding. This year's Paris-Roubaix, Jaja's Clasica San Sebastian or some vintage stuff in "A Sunday in Hell" to see what I mean - the tactics, the bluffing the calculated risks the riders employ. All different, all great races and the Sport is all the richer for it.

Christian Pearce
UK
Sunday, August 19

Respond to this letter

Danish Jersey

Here is a vain question, but I will ask anyway. I was on a ride this weekend and observed a very cool bike jersey that is basically a Danish flag. I asked the guy wearing it where he came upon such a great shirt, and he said that he acquired it from another guy on the Danish Masters team after Nationals last year.

I can't find a Danish Masters web site, or anything that would allow me to get such a shirt. I have surfed high and low, all to no avail. Do you have any ideas?

Brian Bennett
brianbennett@northwesternmutual.com
Wednesday, August 22

Respond to this letter

Compliments on the coverage

Who else has coverage of the death of Willy Vannitsen? Nobody but Cyclingnews.

Thanks again for the continuing excellent coverage.

Regis Chapman
California, USA
Sunday, August 19

Respond to this letter

The last month's letters

  • August 17 - Doping, Armstrong, LeMond and The Devil
  • August 14 - Tour, Armstrong, Chemo, Vuelta, Doping, Rooting, & more
  • August 8, part 2 - More about the Tour, and more
  • August 8, part 1 - Tour reflections, chemotherapy, commentary, commercials
  • July 31 - Armstrong, Ullrich, Rous, Hamilton, Drugs, Canada
  • July 18 - Armstrong on l'Alpe, Cycling Manager, food, 35 minutes, commentary, Men's World Cup, Schmoo, van Vliet
  • July 13 - Tour music, commentary, Virenque, Rous on Lelarge, Women's peloton clean? Mt Washington
  • July 10 - Watching the Tour, comparisons, Millar & the media, Rous on Lelarge
  • July 7 – Tour letters:Watching the finale, Armstrong vs Ullrich, USPS vs Telekom, Aussies, Giro suspects, Euskaltel
  • July 7 – Other letters: Women's peloton clean? "12s", Mt Washington, podium girls & boys, Pro encounters, tyres
  • July 4 – Tour letters: Armstrong vs Ullrich, USPS vs Telekom, Aussies, Giro suspects, Euskaltel
  • July 4 – Other letters: "12s", Mt Washington, podium girls & boys, Pro encounters, tyres
  • July 2 – Armstrong vs Ullrich, "12s", pros, tyres, drugs, bike shop work, podium girls
  • June 30 – Armstrong vs Ullrich, pros, tyres, Voet, Bassons, RAAM, podium girls