Letters to Cyclingnews – December 20, 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

Lance to enter Spring classics
Better than Lance
Starting grid at US 'Cross Nationals
Coastal Post
The best cyclist
Boring Tour
Ryan Bayley
Cadel Evans


What a concept. A team owned by cyclists! OUR team.

You have to hand it to those Aussies. They are difficult to like but not hard to admire.

This is a team that most of us can follow. Aussies obviously. But the Poms have Russell Downing and Sean Yates - everyone's favourite rider - well perhaps the other Sean. Even we New Zealanders get Scott Guyton and there is an American and Canadian as well.

I joined iteamNova.com last week and spent Monday lunchtime in the chat room with Scott Sunderland. Really interesting.

Full membership is $A200 and the exchange rate is good. For you in the US that is only a couple of big Macs and a Starbucks or two. For the UK a couple of vindaloos and a few pints of Guinness.

So come on join up. Who knows where it could lead. A pro team for the UK and I would love to be a member of that.

Colin Evans,
Auckland, New Zealand
December 19, 2001

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Lance to enter Spring classics #1

It's great that Lance will be riding the spring classics, after all cycling is more than just the Tour! However, in response to Mr Scott House, not everyone has to like Lance. I personally respect him as a great athlete, but I still do not feel compelled to like him. Do not get on your patriotic high horse when people of other nationalities go "Lance Bashing". He does not get singled out for special attention! Great riders from every nation come in for criticism from those that are not their countrymen, I see it in Mr Scott House's letter, he goes on to bash Ulrich, Pantani and the entire French cycling fraternity in one sentence. Defend your favourites by all means, but do not do so by bad mouthing other nations, or by claiming those who criticise your favourite also by definition hate your country!

Richard Burden,
December 13, 2001

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Lance to enter Spring classics #2

"WOW! Isn't it amazing that the Lance bashers are all non-Americans?!?!"
L. Scott House
St. Louis, USA
Wednesday, December 12 2001

Isn't that another way of saying all vociferous Lance supporters are American? If so, it infers that the vociferous Lance supporters are letting their nationality rule their heads. Me ? I think he is a superb rider with incredible skill and tenacity, and enough good sense to pick his races well. I admire him just as I have many of the great cyclists.

Like the greats of years gone by he is not perfect. This nationalistic based argument hides what it is really about; his bike racing, not his nationality.

Andrew Torrance
Wales, UK
December 14, 2001

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Lance to enter Spring classics #3

I'm extremely bothered by one point in Scott House's letter. You mentioned many American pro riders, but you failed to mention Kevin Livingston. How could you omit his name? You're from St. Louis, Missouri, Kevin's hometown (mine too)! Give your local boy some credit. There's more to St. Louis cycling than the "Tuesday night world championships" and the Gateway Cup. We have produced world class talent.

Jim Sullivan
Missouri, USA
December 16, 2001

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Better than Lance #1

Why is everybody so down on Simoni?

He rode a great Giro and his constant attacking and eventual stage win at the Vuelta helped make it the best tour of the year. I'm glad he has the guts to challenge Armstrong. We need a little drama to carry us through the long winter months (not to mention the first week of the Tour).

Someone with G.C. aspirations is gonna have to do some attacking this year. Win or lose, it will make for a more exciting Tour than Ullrich's handshakes and his slow-motion big-gear slogs 2 minutes behind Armstrong.

More than root for Simoni, let's all root for an exciting tour. And if Simoni can make it happen, more power to him.

Richard Wolter
New York, USA
December 14, 2001

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Better than Lance #2

Gee, what a lot of stuff people is reading into my letter! I don't recall saying that Gilberto Simoni was definitely a better climber than Lance Armstrong. I just meant to defend him saying what he did, not for everyone to start explaining why Lance hasn't beaten Pantani's record up the Alpe yet.

I know Lance Armstrong is great, but is he really a better climber than an in-form Pantani?

I don't understand why everyone has to defend poor Lance every time someone suggests that he might not be the best ever at everything he does. He has been the best all-round for three years, no doubt about that, but does that mean that there can be absolutely no-one in the peloton who climbs (or for that matter time-trials) as well as he?

Anders P. Jensen
Korsør, Denmark
December 15, 2001

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Better than Lance #3

All this " Lance is king" and "No way can anyone beat him in the mountains" stuff is getting a little tiring. The Lancemaniacs are forgetting one important thing about their man: that early in his career he was derided by the Euro press for his cocky attitude.

So why can't someone else like Simoni or Ullrich be confident? Why would anyone spend so much time preparing for something that they don't think they can do? Confidence is one of the things that sets the great athletes apart from the rest of us. I'd prefer to see someone say they are going to win, rather than just give up.

Also, in case you forgot, Lance did beat Simoni in the Tour de Suisse, but Simoni already had raced a three week tour flat-out. With fresh legs it will interesting to see what happens. And Lance's results after the Tour were not so impressive either. Give Simoni a chance. Or should we just hand the next four Tours to Lance because "he's the man"?

Steve F.
Denver, USA
December 16, 2001

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Better than Lance #4

Dear sir,
While I share your thought on the fact that Lance is one of the best cyclists of the moment on the road, to say that he is THE BEST cyclist is a bit exaggerated (see "de Amstel Gold Race"). I don't think that if he were to ride "De Ronde van Vlaanderen" or "Paris-Roubaix" he would pulverize the opposition.

The same counts for cyclocross or mountain bike, etc.

Goutsmit Dries
December 17, 2001

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Very well said. Tafi is Tafi. A great classic rider! Tafi is the best in the classics while Armstrong is the best in the Tour de France. So, let's don't try to compare apples to oranges, please.

Jairo Santana
December 18, 2001

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Starting grid at US 'Cross Nationals

The promoters of the Supercup have said that the call-ups have gotten out of hand for cyclocross races. The only way to get called up according to them is to gain UCI points which only go to the Top 5. How is one supposed to do that starting in the second or third row, or even last row? Even with the call-ups, the first part of these courses have been incredibly narrow, resulting in the inevitable first lap crash, usually by the called-up riders.

Why not do what is common in cross country running races? A very wide start area that is not a part of the regular course. A start line where at least 30-40 riders could line up and go 50-100 yards to the first corner would give at least the tiniest bit of a chance to the riders not called up and shorten the inevitable cold intro period before the race. The good guys are probably going to win anyway, why give them a head start by always starting on the front?

Kirk Albers
Boston, USA
December 14, 2001

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Coastal Post #1

Hear, hear Justin Lucke, Russ Freeman and Michael Sylvan! Having read Terri Alvillar's rant from her ivory tower in the last letters section I was appalled at such narrow mindedness, and unfortunately did not have the time to write an appropriate letter such as yours in response.

Many of the trails I frequent are used far more highly by mountain bikers than hikers, horse riders or any other user group, so by her standards we should try and ban those that diminish the majority's enjoyment of them. However, that tack is not taken because peaceful coexistence and mutual enjoyment of the trails is a far more beneficial attitude for all involved.

Sure, we all come across other trail users who don't display appropriate respect for their fellow outdoors lovers and the environment as a whole. The solution is to try and educate these misguided souls rather than to go around try to create blanket bans against whole groups of people who are given a bad image by a few miscreants.

Also, I wonder what inspired this obviously non-cycling woman to vent her spleen on a cycling web page, did she aim to inflame the responsible mountain biking public? Or is it possible she simply wanted us to correct her uninformed views?!

Sam Alison
Czech Republic
December 14, 2001

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Coastal Post #2

Thanks to Justin Lucke for his extremely logical, rational, well thought out and well worded reply to the earlier post by Terri Allivar. Justin has said exactly what I (and I'm sure many other people) think - that the trails are for all, and a correspondingly the solution that is found must benefit all, not just one group or another. And his last paragraph was superb. Thanks Justin.

Michael Silvan and Russ Freeman also made some excellent points. It's what we need - balanced debate, not heated rhetoric.

Hopefully these problems will be resolved the world over (we have the same issues here in Australia) and we can all enjoy the outdoors in our chosen way.

Simon van der Aa
Hobart, Australia
December 14, 2001

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Coastal Post #3

Well, well, well. The last two weeks of "letters" have offered some very interesting discussion of the problem of conflicts between mountain bikers and other trail users here in N. America(and I imagine worldwide). I would like to add my two cents worth to the mix and hope that those reading this discussion will do more than merely try to defend their own viewpoint, but instead will take the best from everyone's comments and try to figure out a way we can all enjoy the outdoors in the manner we prefer.

I have been an avid cyclist for over 30 yrs, I have ridden tens of thousands of miles as a "loaded" tourist, even more thousands in road racing and training, and began riding mountain bikes in 1982. I have also been a very avid hiker and backpacker since the mid 1960's. In 1988 I began my 4th and current career as a professional trail contractor. In the last 14 yrs. I have been all over the US in many National Forests, city, state, and county parks building new, and maintaining old trails. For over 25 years I have also been involved in multiple environmentalist causes and programs including those sponsored by both the Sierra Club, and IMBA. I mention all this to establish the fact that I have seen this argument from nearly every side and as in every controversy find that each side has it's valid arguments.

Terri's original letter which sparked this debate was typical of many enthusiasts in that it provides a one dimensional view of the issue, and admits to no validity in those who hold opposite view points. I was impressed with Justin's response detailing the legal issues involved which I admit he is much more informed on than I am.

Justin's argument towards the construction of illegal or as the USFS characterizes them "user built" trails is, however, off base. What was permissible a hundred years ago is no longer valid. Russ's response was good too in the way it emphasized the fact that the majority of MTB trail user's are very responsible, friendly, accommodating towards other types of trail use, and want the basic benefits from trail riding that hikers get. Russ however falls a little short when he criticizes the Sierra Club for not doing the amount of trail maintenance work as the IMBA, this is simply mis-information. I have many criticism's of the Sierra Club, but they have done far more trail maintenance work than the IMBA.(of course they have been around over a half a century longer). Not that I have anything against the IMBA, they have done more for mountain biking than anyone I know of, and do a wonderful job of both giving back to the trails and lobbying for trail access for bikes.

I do agree with both of these responses in the fact that the majority of the problem of attempts to limit MTB access to trails comes from over enthusiastic enviro-nazis who seem to have the feeling that their way of using the forest is the only right way. In a land which celebrates freedom and diversity this is nothing less than un-American in my view. As limited and close minded as these people are they also have some valid points to make which many cyclist's are unwilling to acknowledge.

While I don't claim to have any fix all solution to the problem it is obvious to me that unless all parties are willing to acknowledge some validity in the other's position then we will not move forward in a constructive manner.

Bikers must acknowledge that despite their arguments to the contrary MTB's do have a greater impact on erosion and trail degradation than hikers. I see that constantly in my work. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that more than a small percentage of mountain bikers do seem to feel that rules don't apply to them. Their riding techniques and style do unnecessary damage to the trails and give their opponents plenty of ammunition in attempting to ban them from trails.

IMBA is going a long way towards reducing this problem with it's trail maintenance and responsible riding programs but unfortunately they at present only reach a small percentage of trail users. More mountain bikers need to support IMBA programs if they expect to keep their present, or expand their current level of trail access. I would like to see a greater attempt to get hiking and cycling organizations to meet with each other to discuss both the points of friction between them, and the areas of mutual agreement that they can cooperate on.

One of the biggest areas of conflict is the way interaction occurs on the trail. As a biker I know that at times it can be very difficult to encounter hikers on the trail and not startle or in some cases actually frighten them. As a hiker I know how disconcerting it can be to be casually strolling along in the woods, peaceful and calm and have a cyclist suddenly appear from nowhere moving (even uphill) at a much faster speed.

Everyone needs to acknowledge that we all have rights to the trail. Hikers need to be educated to understand that it is much more difficult for a cyclist to avoid them than the opposite. Cyclist's need to understand that though they may be miles from anywhere in the woods there could be someone in the trail just around the next corner or over the next hill and ride accordingly.

I understand these things and have no problem keeping my riding under control and politely acknowledging hikers when I encounter them, just as when I am hiking I have no problem stepping to the side of the trail for a few seconds to allow cyclists to pass. For years I have done the same when encountering horses though I feel that "horse people" are by far the worst of trail users. (They constantly and totally disregard trail regulations, they do little to "give back" to the trails, and they cause by far and away the most damage per user of any other group.

Of course this is the same generalization that some use to attack cyclist's but after many years of experience I feel justified in this criticism not because all horse people are that way but because a very large percentage of them are).

As a cyclist I am forced to admit that many of these facts are true of mountain bikers as well. A very large percentage of cyclists are rude to other trail users, ride far too fast and irresponsibly for conditions, do real damage to the environment, and are constantly making and using illegal trails. I find many hikers are antagonistic to me when I'm on my bike even though I do none of these things, they are already conditioned to dislike cyclists on "their" trails.

If we are ever to come to mutual understanding over the various uses of trails then we all have to "walk a mile in the others shoes" instead of insisting that "we" are right and "they" are wrong. There is no "we" or "they", we are all humans, who have equal rights to enjoy our lives in the ways we prefer. It is up to us to respect those rights whether we agree or disagree with the others exercise of those rights. We have equal responsibilities as well to try to work out solutions which allow all groups to interact with the least possible negative impact on the other.

Instead of finger pointing and name calling we should spend our energies on solving these problems. As the most recent group of trail users it is incumbent on mountain bikers to educate other user groups, like it or not we are the "new kids on the block" and can only expect acceptance if we educate others, and do our responsible best to accommodate other well established user groups who we should be working with, rather than against to preserve and protect that which we all desire, preservation of and access to our great outdoors.

I guess that was more than two cents worth but I just came back from two weeks in the wilderness and have a lot of pent up conversation.

Happy Trails,
Steve Farris
New Mexico, USA
December 15, 2001

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The best cyclist

Dennis Rodman worked diligently long after he got his first world-championship ring, in fact he has 5 and is, as far as I know, the only person to have more than one from two separate teams. Which domestique, now or in the past, has ridden with the most TDF or World Cup champions? Is there a guy out there who can just make wins happen?

Paul Knopp
Lincoln, USA
December 14, 2001

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Boring Tour #1

I'd add two more reasons why the Tour (or indeed the Giro & Vuelta) are rarely boring.

1. If you're actually present at a stage - the whole atmosphere, the enthusiastic crowds, the commercial hoopla, the sight and sound of bikes you could never afford and riders who's cleats you are not worthy to clean. 2. If you're watching on TV, the beautiful scenery, the fascinating little towns and villages, castles, chateaus, etc.

I agree with Scott - treat it as a spectacle, don't concentrate on who's first across the line.

Chris Whiley
December 14, 2001

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Boring Tour #2

Just to add 2 or 3 cents to Stuart Press's points regarding how hard/(un)interesting the tour was in the sub-modern era. Drugs. In order to ride 15 hours a day for days on end, you'd need something in the order of 60 cups of Turkish coffee and a good pound or two of cocaine. And with no drug tests, you could add whatever else you wanted to that cocktail- Ginko Biloba or whatever.

I used to have a Colombian cycling coach (name withheld) who would tell stories of competing in Europe in the 'good old days' which always involved smoking marijuana before a race. Someone would attack during the race and he'd tell everyone in the peloton, just chill out, let him go (man). I'm sure he was feeling no pain and could ride for 15 hours or so. Quite honourable, wouldn't you say?

These are the good old days right now. If I want to watch some weird marathon endurance event, it better include leeches being pulled from Lindsey Richter's derrière.

As for a weird theme cycling race today, I suggest "Head-Cases: Head to Head:" Pantani vs. VDB vs. Berzin vs. Hampsten vs. well, I don't know, someone else that's commonly slandered on these pages. Oh yeah, Cipollini.

On a side note, did Berzin ever have one of those uncomplimentary nicknames that journalists always give cyclists? The St. Petersburg Scone or something?

My money's on Vandenbroucke. He's my favourite.

Madison, Wisconsin
December 15, 2001

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The only thing that I can say is that he is certainly one of the most talented riders (top 3) of his generation.

Strange things are going on with him but once his head is clean he will surprise everybody. In the coming season he will be very good and next season he will be top. It was super how he won Liège-Bastogne-Liège. The same year he finished the world championship with a broken wrist!

His comeback will surprise everybody and he will be better than before


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Ryan Bayley

Your recent interview with Australian keirin World Champ indicated that, because of his phenomenal leg speed, he chose to ride an 86 inch gear at that event.

This seems impossible. I'm a decent track rider, and when I race I am often riding the lowest gear in the bunch. I usually stick with a 90, but sometimes I'll use an 88. Oh, and needless to say I'm not as fast as Bayley.

I think it would take phenomenal leg speed to ride a 90 or 91 in the keirin at World's, and it's my understanding that a lot of riders at that level will ride gears around 94. Is there anyone out there who can confirm or refute this notion of Bayley riding an 86 inch gear to the rainbow jersey?

Christopher Moyer
Illinois, USA
December 15, 2001

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Cadel Evans

A few years ago I saw a young bloke, at a national round of the mountain bike series here in Australia, taking the field apart in the juniors. I told everyone then and have continued to tell anyone who will listen, This kid will be the first Aussie to win the Tour de France. Through the years he has progressed and has done nothing to convince me I'm wrong. The kid has everything, he's a tactician, he climbs like a goat and can time trial with the best and now he is riding with arguably the best road team in the world. Go Cadel.

Dave Arnold
December 18, 2001

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The last month's letters

  • December 13 - VDB, Lance to enter Spring Classics, Eurosport Cyclo-cross coverage, Boring Tour, I'm better than Lance Armstrong, Coastal Post
  • December 10 - VDB, Lance in the classics, Coastal Post, Racing in China, Better than Lance Armstrong, Derny Races, Running Red Lights
  • November 29 - VDB, Lance in the classics, Bart, Bad Aussie news, Better than Lance Armstrong, Derny Races, Running Red Lights, National Championships
  • November 22 - Transfer News, Great coverage, NESP, Recovery from back surgery, Better than Lance Armstrong, Indoor Trainers, Running Red Lights,
  • November 16 - Transfer News, NESP,Tour du Faso, Better than Lance Armstrong, Indoor Trainers, Running Red Lights, Golden Age, Tour Duration
  • November 12 - Virenque, Indoor Trainers, Running Red Lights, UCI Points, Golden age, Worlds Format, Coaches,Tour Duration, Delatour
  • November 1 - Virenque, Golden age, Worlds Format, Coaches,Tour Duration, Ullrich
  • October 25 - Virenque, Pietrzak, Ullrich Worlds TT, Coaches Wheel Regulations, Support Vehicles
  • October 17 - Virenque, EPO Testing, Ullrich Worlds TT, Millar's TT helmet, Wheel Regulations, Support Vehicles
  • October 11 - Tribute song to Lance Armstrong, Podium Girls, High blood pressure, Saddle Hieghts, Santiago Botero
  • October 2 - High Blood pressure, Saddle height, Podium Girls, Vuelta, cycle bashing, Oscar Egg
  • September 20 - Vuelta, cycle bashing, Oscar Egg, Bupropion, climbing times
  • September 11 - Altitude tents, high BP, attacks, Oscar Egg, Bupropion
  • September 5 - Mckenzie & Vaughters respond, climbing times, anti-doping, 1989, Pantani
  • August 29 - Pantani, Vaughters, Where's Cipo?, McKenzie, Velodromes, 1989, Armstrong
  • August 23 - Vuelta, Mercury, Ullrich, Soviets, 1989 again
  • 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
  • Letters Index - The complete index to every letters page on cyclingnews.com