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Recent letters

Australian readers have almost taken over this week's mailbox to express their disappointment in the amount of TV coverage of the Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under. Lesley O'Grady and Jenny Daly of the JCTDU organisation explain the reasons for the decision in terms of the event's promotion and media reach, but while these are great reasons from the promoter's point of view, I fear they won't entirely mollify cycling fans who simply want to see as much racing on TV as possible.

Most of the rest of the mailbag concerns drugs, as always, and the related subjects of Lance Armstrong's conduct in the face of French suspicion, and responses to Anders Jensen's letter about Rodolfo Massi. And there are enough letters in this batch that the usual wibble from me is superfluous, so I'll let you get straight to them.

John Stevenson
Letters editor

Coverage of JCTDU and Oceania XC champs
Drugs — Armstrong clean?
Drugs — draw the line
Drugs — Doping for a living
Drugs — they're cheats
Texan bunch law
US Postal and Rodolfo Massi
RAI Dernyrace

Coverage of JCTDU #1

I completely understand the initial reaction - mine was very similar (as a cycling enthusiast) until I too was explained the full reasoning. What we have to remember is that the Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under is an event run by Australian Major Events which is a department of the South Australian Tourism Commission - so, even though our priority is to run a top quality cycling race, we also have to aim at increasing tourism to South Australia. To explain further, I will add below a response written by our Marketing and Media manager, Jenny Daly, in regards to this exact issue.

I hope this helps to explain it from our point of view a little better - and hey, who knows, hopefully once Channel 7 have realised the potential they'll be able to give us more coverage in the future - fingers crossed!

Lesley O'Grady
Project Officer - Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under

From: Jenny Daly

Thank you for your email regarding TV coverage for the Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under.

I understand your initial reaction to the announcement regarding the television coverage. However, I should clarify for you that while the hours of coverage for 2001 have reduced, the audience that we will be reaching will indeed be much greater.

For example, the media coverage we received through SBS this year had the following audience:

January 6.00 pm - 10.00 pm = SBS Average audience 168,700

SBS Station Share 4.3%

This is in comparison to Channel 7 at the same time which showed:

Ch 7 Average audience 1,037,400

Ch 7 Station share 26.6 %

As you can see, the difference is huge. Whether the coverage is for 3 minutes or 30 minutes, the audience potential for the individual station remains the same. Better therefore that over one million people see it for 3 minutes than only 168,000 people see it for half an hour.

Further to the daily prime time 3 minute reports Channel 7 will also be screening:

  • news updates each evening
  • The 1 hour highlight package at 2.00 pm on 3rd February
  • The same package on C7 cable
  • The same package to Asia (potential audience of 100 million) through their Australian Television Service broadcast
  • Plus the daily updates will be beamed to each South Australian regional station (this is a first and is in response to critcism we received last year that not all regional areas could get SBS)
  • Free Community service adverts to Muscular Dystrophy, our official charity for 2001

On top of all of that, Ch 7 have also negotiated an extremely good rate for a 4 week national advertising campaign for the Tour. This provides an outstanding showcase for the event.

It is important to remember that the focus needs to be not only on the event as a cycle race but also as a tourism and State promotion - and Channel 7 provided us with the best means to facilitate this.

It can even be argued that having less television hours could well increase spectator visitation to the event - especially on a national level - and that is certainly a result that would sit well with us.

I should add that SBS were offered the opportunity to produce the 2001 coverage but were unable to provide the audience reach, the advertising package, the regional coverage or the Asian coverage that Ch 7 could provide - and Ch 7 provided all of the above at a considerably less cost than SBS were wanting to charge us!

Given that this is a broadcast that we pay for (as opposed to them paying us broadcast rights as per some sporting events) we need to ensure that we get the best value for money.

Having said that, I think that SBS did an excellent job of the 2000 event coverage. However, in terms of television reach, promotional opportunities and costs, Channel 7's package will provide a better opportunity for the event and for the promotion of cycling and South Australia.

Given that the Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under is an event that was recently named Australia's Best Major Event I am sure you can understand the importance of providing the best opportunity for the biggest audience possible.

Thank you for your feedback, and do I hope that you enjoy the 2001 event.

Kind regards
Jenny Daly, Marketing & Media Manager
Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under

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Coverage of JCTDU #2

"The big guns are loaded and ready to fire in Adelaide from January 16-21", says Nisa Schebella in your prelimiary report on the Down Under tour. It's a shame that for most Australian cycling fans the television cameras will be firing blanks.

For most of us who can't get to Adelaide to watch the action live, we'll just be thrown the left-overs after SA and the rest of the world have feasted and dined. Isn't it better to ensure that people who really care about cycling are catered for first, and that the rest of the Australian public who might only glance at the action over their TV dinners be considered second. Advertisers want people who are glued to the set, not wondering whether there's something more to their taste on another channel.

It'd be great to encourage more Australians to take an interest in cycling as sport, but it's not going to happen overnight - so why pretend that it is? We took our kids along to see the Olympic road races/time trials in Sydney last September - one of the few free events - and the crowds weren't exactly bulging (we just shouted and cheered extra loud to make up for it). But if you'd offered every cycling fan in Australia a free flight and accommodation to be there it would have been magnificent.

Free, generous TV coverage of The Tour Down Under with commentary by Phil Liggett will have cycling fans barracking for their sport every time, and in attendance when they can. Neglect the Australian fans who can't be there and they might lose the enthusiasm.

Just one last thing. To the organisers of the Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under: You should be congratulated for getting it up and running - and attracting big international names - but please don't forget the reason why you got it going in the first place. Because you and your cycling friends couldn't get to the big races overseas. You didn't want to be left behind.

Well, neither do we.

Louise Hilton and Graham Schofield (again!!!)
Australia
Tuesday, 16 January

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Coverage of JCTDU #3

The subject's all over now (grrr), but I would like to take up the JCTDU media speaker on her fuzzy logic:

* This year I'll be watching one hour, in fact 45 minutes allowing for ads, of the race. Last year I watched three hours (no ads). Is that better coverage? SBS would show the Muscular Dystrophy ads as well, I'm sure. At least Phil Liggett is still calling the race.

* SBS had a much smaller share for their coverage but that was 168,700 who actually wanted to see the cycling. Channel 7 had 1,037,000 people who were watching the news. It's a considerable difference for advertisers and sponsors, and I grant you their needs are paramount these days or they don't fund the races. But, do you want people who love cycling or people who don't give a rat's to be watching? A race we can't see is a race lost to us and when it's as wonderful as the JCTDU, I'm very annoyed.

* The race coverage is now directed away from Australia to Asia and Europe. If only Australians could appreciate their own event and contribute to the growth of sport here without having to go to Adelaide. Why doesn't Channel 7 offer their mighty 3 minutes to viewers in all states, thereby taking advantage of all these extra people watching? It makes no sense to keep the 'State promotion' within South Australia.

* The tennis/cricket/Grand Prix coverage caters to Australian viewers, why should cycling choose a package which doesn't offer the same to its premier Australian event?

Cycling is traditionally a working-class sport - that means lots of fans and riders who can't afford to go to Adelaide and perhaps not even afford to be on the net. In this supposedly egalitarian nation, we should do better than this for our people. Shame on you.

Cathy Anderson
North Perth, Australia
Tuesday, 16 January

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Coverage of JCTDU #4

Long live SBS the only station to service the cyclist in Australia. SBS should be doing this Tour and selling the footage to Channel Seven or Nine then we cyclist could get our half hour and Seven etc could get their two and half minutes.

Maybe the South Australians just don't want the rest of the country to know about this event. After all they lost the gas guzzling grand prix and maybe they are paranoid that they will lose this event as well.

This is an international event and should be shared with rest of Australia as it happens . Surely this would be better advertising for the state of South Australia than being replayed at some obscure time slot in the future.

On a positive note thank you Mike Turtur for organising such a fabulous event and I genuine hope that the Tour is huge success and maybe in coming years you can put it on the road throughout other areas of Australia

Max Boyd Richards
Mentone, Victoria Australia
Tuesday, 16 January

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Coverage of JCTDU #5

In response to this letter I agree to what Cathy Anderson says about the coverage by channel 7. They haven't a clue about cycling, thats evident by the amount of air time the tour's going to get, fair enough there will be a bit more overseas exposure but we need to promote cycling here in Australia and having 5 mins worth a day isn't going to help our cause. Commercial TV stations in Australia are so bias towards traditional Australian sports(ie AFL,cricket,league and to a lesser extent tennis) also with the tennis starting today we all know whats going to happen there. After channel 7s woeful broadcasting of the olympic cycling the TDU organisers have done Australian cycling a huge injustice to all fans in Australia.

Andrew Stevenson
Sydney
Monday, 15 January

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Coverage of JCTDU #6

I agree with Cathy Anderson's letter about the so called "coverage" of the Tour Down Under. It never ceases to amaze me the haphazard way in which cycling continues to be given so-called coverage by the commercial channels. It seems to me it comes down to money, here we have professionals that are prepared to travel half way round the world, to get in some quality miles, that no doubt will make a difference in the months to come. Then what are they presented with, someone who can't pronounce their names, let alone know what the team's sponsors do, and they have no absolute idea as to the background of the rider and their history.

I for one feel that Australian cyclists and their supporters are being given a raw deal. If only cycling was given the same saturation coverage that tennis seems to have. Who cares if the "Woodies" won some backwater tournament, in the middle of no where, they would be given ample exposure in local papers, trumpeting the success as heroes, and world champions. When on the exact same day an Aussie rider wins a stage in a "Grand Tour", all that he is rewarded with a small snippet, usually with his name spelt wrong.

SBS has shown the Australian viewers the numerous escapades, and sacrifices that riders have had to endure for too long, with hardly a word mentioned as to their efforts. What are we to do, we (the riders, supporters) are literally pulling our hair out and screaming out for more justice!!!. There was the classic example of commercial coverage at the Olympic road race, as the decisive break went, came the words we all loathe, "We'll go to a break." I nearly threw something at the TV, and hurled some colourful expletives as well. I hope that Channel 7 do the TDU justice, and the highlight package is worth waiting for, or else I will be left no option, than to put pen to paper and give them a serve. Channel 7, we will be watching.

Matthew Mcgoon
Brisbane Qld.
Monday, 15 January

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Coverage of JCTDU #7

What a joke. I also cannot believe that we will only get to watch a highlights tape. I enjoyed the SBS coverage so much last year that I ordered the video! The TDU will become just another event in my mind that I'll only read about in these pages. Too bad. I won't travel to S.A one day if I'm no longer interested in the race. Unless it rains I'll also miss the 2pm weekend highlights tape cause I will be out riding...

Tony Winterbottom
Woollahra NSW, Australia
Monday, 15 January

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Coverage of JCTDU and Oceania XC champs

Firstly , It was very frustrating to go through the TV guide and find out there was no daily highlight coverage in SBS. Why would Channel 7 even think about covering the race when the coverage for the Olympic Road Race was appalling. To add insult to injury, South Aust. fans have a 3 min. daily highlight! I say do what the Commonwealth Bank race did and have 2 channels having the TV rights ie. SBS and ABC.

Lastly, I went to the Oceania XC championships last Sun. but the NZ team wasn't there and were going to turn up the weekend after! Wondering who stuffed up there.
Nevertheless, the day was filled with good racing and I had the chance to race using the Olympic course. Now, if only I could overcome the fear of falling in God's gate.

Anton Rivera
Sydney, Aust.
Monday, 15 January

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Drugs — Armstrong clean?

Much as I want to believe in him, Lance Armstrong is not doing a whole lot to reassure his supporters that he races clean. In the '99 Tour, and even in '00, I was prepared to believe, and did believe, that he'd completely transformed himself as a rider by dropping 20 pounds and training hard in the hills. I forced out of my mind comparisons to Bjarne Riis on Hautacam -- the other long-time rouleur turned superman climber -- when Armstrong toyed with and then destroyed the grimpeurs at Sestriere. And it's also true that the benchmark mountain men, Pantani, Virenque and others, have been gravitating (literally) back toward the mean of climbing ability for reasons not unrelated to the new 'cleaner' French racing.

When challenged by the (parochial, biased) French media at his midrace press conference in '99, Armstrong insisted that he wouldn't be racing, training or living in France if he had something to hide. And now --- he's not racing, training or living in France. Even us parochial, biased Americans have to admit that he's not acting like a rider with nothing on his conscience. As soon as the investigation got rolling, he announced he'd quit the Tour and move to Spain -- maybe Texan defiance, maybe a legally prudent evasion of personal jurisdiction. Then the sponsor stepped in to say he'd defend in the Tour -- but France vanishes off his schedule. Then Lance starts cavilling about possible tampering with the urine tests -- as if in anticipation of positive results. And now Cyclingnews reports that the reason for the Spanish campaign is that it's "better for our training" -- well, there are two ways to take that as well. Is it the riders or the Actovegin that keep better in the mild Spanish climate?

Lance's outrage, if that's all it is, is misplaced -- doping is a "trendy story" because it's a huge problem; the Tour faces the loss of its sponsors if doping isn't cleaned up; and no-one should be above suspicion when they change so dramatically and display that kind of total, unwavering dominance over 200 other world-class athletes. It certainly is not the case that France has been soft on French riders or teams, so he can't put this all down to national prejudice.

I agree with the writer who reminded us that cycling heroes still suffer heroically even if they dope, and Armstrong has thrilled, amazed and inspired me on and off the bike his whole career. But I also liked what Julian Barnes wrote in the New Yorker this summer: when you watch Lance screaming up the cols, you want to know what you're seeing. Sport is spectacle, but that's not all it is. And when Sebastian Lopez points out in Virenque's defense that other, non-athlete professionals cheat to get ahead, he misses the point: we love sports because here, at least, there is structured competetion. We like to see success and know that, for once, it was fairly earned.

Lance battled heroically with cancer, and nothing could possibly detract from that victory. But he could have retired after Paris-Nice his first year back and been no less of a hero.

Isaac Wheeler
New York, NY
Wednesday, 17 January

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Drugs — draw the line

How many "shortcuts" do we tolerate before we no longer condone them? Where do we draw a line for unacceptable behavior and define something as cheating? Most importantly, how de we condone such actions that are detrimental and thereby force competitors to "ante up" and subject themselves to the potential health dangers and legal implications? If we are to believe riders like Boardman who claim to be clean, then are they not at a disadvantage compared to those who take the risk to dope? How many pros or potential pros don't get contracts because they choose to ride clean, or worse yet, choose not to even try to eke out a meager living as a pro, knowing that if they choose to ride clean that they will not attain star or near-star status? I know firsthand those types of decisions, I don't think that Otero does, otherwise he would not be speaking like he did. He would not be speaking of sitting & crying as Virenque rode into the yellow jersey.

As for the claim that Delgado did not win the Tour because of drugs. Why then did he use them? To win by a larger margin? NO! He did do it to win, there is no other reason. Certainly dope can't make a champion out of a nobody, but it gives an edge over those who don't dope (or don't have dope or a doping program that is as good). Perhaps worst of all is the drug culture that this perpetuates. As pointed out by another letter-writer, more and more juniors are being subjected to and expected to dope or view it as a requirement to do well. It has hurt the sports image, damaged sponsor relations, done injustices to those trying to ride clean, and damaged rider health, including that of juniors.

Jakob Helmboldt
Richmond, VA
Thursday, 18 January

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Drugs — Doping for a living

Recently much has been discussed about the use of dope in cycling. Many people discuss the moral aspects of dope use, the medical consequences, and so on. As a young rider with professional aspirations, these issues do not rate as highly on the scale to me as getting a contract, and making a living. To even pursue a pro career in cycling enormous sacrifices must be made in the way of school, job, and personal relationships. In making such a big gamble one has a lot to lose if things don't pan out. This combined with the level of humility and pure suffering cycling can dish out has been enough reason for many a pro and amateur to dope. \

Riders who have made this sacrifice sometimes have nothing to fall back on, and their entire livelihood depends on having their contract renewed to ensure a spot on the team next year. The moral and medical issues just aren't important to these people who aren't as talented as Lance Armstrong or Bartoli, but I agree that they should be, and that a rider should stand on his own athletic abilities. Before attacking these riders on a moral level, one should take a moment to try to understand why a rider would dope.

john k
[No details supplied, apparently from the University of Wisconsin - Ed]
Sunday, 14 January

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Drugs — they're cheats

I'm willing to bet that Virenque had another good cry when his ban was handed out. Honestly, aren't you sick to death of these whining prima-donnas who think that rules are there for everyone else but them? King-of-the-Mountains,Tour champion or just plain darling of the Champs-Elysees crowd, whoever they may be,they are still cheats, and should be treated accordingly! There's no place in our sport (or any other) for them.
Regards,

Steve Tracy
Tachikawa, Japan.
Sunday, 14 January

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Texan bunch law

I am quite dismayed by a law such as the one proposed in Texas. I am not sure what to make of it, is it protect cyclists or is it just to give cars more room on congested roads? If the state of Texas want to put through a bill such as the one proposed then they should consider what cycling has given them of late.

I mean of course Lance Armstrong, perhaps someone should bring this matter to his attention.

Richard Hill
USA.
Tuesday, 16 January

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US Postal and Rodolfo Massi #1

I must agree with our Danish Friend Anders Jensen about Armstrong's childish behavior over the French investigation of the US Postal team. Take for example his recent public statements about France and the investigation, particularly an interview published in USA Today and widely reported and commented on in the French press in which he said that it was unfortunate that the greatest cycling race in the world was held in France. Such pronouncements have not only further alienated French cycling fans but have revealed a shade of the former, pre-cancer Lance Armstrong whom I and many here in France found to be an arrogant and haughty young man with little class.

I am disappointed in his petty reaction which includes totally revamping his pre-Tour racing schedule to avoid France entirely and suggestions that he would sell his home in Nice and move to Spain. I am especially disillusioned since I so admired his performances in the last two Tours and felt that through his victory over cancer and his determination to come back to win two successive Tours was a major achievement worthy of a great champion. But for great champions to remain just that, they must also acquire dignity and class. It appears, at least in my book, that on that account Armstrong still has a ways to go.

Roger Stevenson
Lyon, France
Thursday, 18 January

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US Postal and Rodolfo Massi #2

Anders Jensen suggests that lance Armstrong has elected to "choose" his races in France based on drug issues and French attitude. After having won two Tours quite decisively, and still motivated and backed by a first class team, I think Lance is in position to choose the races he and the US Postal Team feel will give them the best return on their expended resources. Outside of a few very good spring classics in France, Le Tour is THE race in France or any country on this planet.

I confess that I am not familiar with the details of Rodolfo, but if he was exonerated, good for him! I hope to see him blasting down the Champs this July!!

Bruce Martin
West Orange, NJ USA
Wednesday, 17 January

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US Postal and Rodolfo Massi #3

Anders P Jensen brings up an interesting point. Because of the past couple of years and the revelations that investigations have brought, the cycling community should be ready to be scrutinized. Fine. I guess we can live with the big brother for a little while. However. Massi's career will never be the same and he will never benefit from the asking fee he could have commanded, had he won the KOM jersey, but that is okay now, according to you, all charges have been dropped, and he should be happy competing on a Div II team. He was WRONGLY accused and jailed. So I guess Lance or anyone else should just let themselves be thrown in jail. I somehow thought it was innocent until proven guilty. And if the authorities had done that Massi would forever be in the books as the winner of the polka dot jersey of 1998.

So again I say. Stop with the accusations! Bring me facts or nothing! It is killing the sport!

Michel van Musschenbroek
Georgia.
Monday, 15 January

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RAI Dernyrace

I have just read in the January 2001 edition of Wieler Revue about the demise of the RAI Dernyrace.

The Amsterdam RAI Dernyrace was a very unique event. Seeing some of the world's best professionals racing for 130 km at over 50 km/h, was a great spectacle. The RAI offered good money, was well organised, had large crowds, and had live TV coverage which drew in the sponsors.

I feel sorry for the organiser, Harry Mater, having been totally let down by the UCI. Sure, the RAI is an invitation only event, but whoever rides still has to try and win. By the way, aren't 6 teams 'invited' to do the Tour? In 1995, the RAI had 1.3 status, in other years it had a special 1.S category. Why is it different today that it shouldn't deserve any UCI points?

The UCI is on a fast track to having absolutely no credibility. The hour record rules have dumbfounded just about everybody, they keep fiddling with the dates to the classics, and their charter for all cyclo-cross races to be held on 'drag strips' have the purists shaking their heads in disbelief.

The UCI seems to be going the right way to frustrate the hell out of promoters, spectators, and the riders. I can easily foresee the day when the post-Tour criteriums in France, Belgium and Holland, will be ordered to stop. If the current crop at the UCI continue with their apparent agenda, we may as well all pack our bikes away and take up golf. Heaven forbid!

Grant Edmonds
Melbourne, Australia
Thursday, 18 January

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The last month's letters

  • January 11-13 –Drugs, Virenque, TDU coverage, French media, wooden bike
  • January 6-10 – Drugs, Coverage of Tour Down Under, books & videos
  • January 1-6 – Drugs, USA coverage, favourite books & videos
  • December 23-31 – Injuries, Drugs, USA coverage, TTT
  • December 19-22 – Quo vadis?, drugs/money, US cycling, TDU, gears, TT's
  • December 7-18 – US Postal, Trofeo Barrachi, cycling's profile, Baal, wanted
  • December 4-6 – Videos wanted, Trofeo Barrachi, doping, UCD NORD87
  • Letters Index - The complete index to every letters page on cyclingnews.com