Letters to cyclingnews

Here's your chance to get more involved with cyclingnews.com. 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

The untimely demise of the Linda McCartney team prompted several letters this week, some of which we can't print because they'd get us sued. To clarify a point that seems to have confused some people, as far as we know Paul McCartney has no involvement in the running of the food company that bears his late wife's name, and almost certainly had nothing to do with the demise of the team. He may be guilty of other things, such as inflicting 'Mull of Kintyre' on the world, but he seems to be blameless when it comes to the demise of the Linda McCartney team. Nevertheless, Tony Whitney has a solid point when he ask whether the way the McCartney name is being associated with a failure couldn't have been avoided.

It's natural to look for malice in a situation like this, but it's actually hard to find. Reg Oakley points the finger of blame at the Linda McCartney company, but that's also an unlikely target. Companies regularly run sponsorship arrangements for a certain time, then move on, and that's all Linda McCartney Foods has done here.

Anthony Pike speaks for many - including everyone here at Cyclingnews - when he wishes the riders luck in the future.

Lance Armstrong continues to be a controversial figure, with his handling of the French press stimulating letters both pro and con. However, not much new is being said in this debate, so we're going to end this discussion with some considered comments from Leonard Ke, and a couple of short letters from Matt Meyer and Spencer Dech. We'll give the final word to Anders Jensen, who started the ball rolling on this one with his original comments about Rodolfo Massi.

The Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under is still fresh in many people's minds. Fiona Bromley and Mike Renehan watched the event live and loved it, while Paul Rigby praises our coverage in combination with seeing it live. Shucks!

Last week Christer Johansson asked what Actovegin was good for. Ian van Driel did some digging and has a wealth of useful information on the subject, while Duncan Blake points out how it might help diabetics and Giulio Porta reminds us it's not banned. Actovegin may not be banned by name, but if it improves the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood, then it comes under the UCI's ban on blood-boosting products. However, if it works by improving the transfer of oxygen into the tissues this might not be covered, because that is arguably not blood-doping in the accepted sense. For the sake of simple clarity, we need a decision from the UCI.

Looking to stir up some debate, John Prince is dubious about the practice of top riders deciding which Grand Tour they are going to target.

Following on from news that a bill in the Texas legislature will limit the ability to ride in bunches, Raymond McCoy has a call to action about an even sillier bill requiring Montana cyclists to ride against oncoming traffic, one of the most dangerous things you can do on the road. We think the idiot responsible for this one needs to be beaten about the head with John Forester's 'Effective Cycling' until he changes his mind.

Finally, Lee Rognlie wonders whether we actually want cycling to become popular. Personally, I'm with HG Wells: "When I see an adult on a bicycle, I have faith in the future of the human race."

John Stevenson
Letters editor

Linda McCartney
Armstrong's Conduct
Go see the JCTDU!
Cherry Picking
Texans aren't alone!
Cycling coverage in the USA

Linda McCartney #1

I have followed the reports on this matter, almost with a feeling of "pinch me when it is over and tell me it was all a bad dream." However it is for real and must be awful for those at the center of things.

It does seem that the team management must have been half asleep to let things happen in the way that they have.

I do feel though that the biggest heap of excreta ought to be aimed at Linda McCartney Foods, expecting high standards of integrity from the riders regarding diet and no taint of drugs, followed with "we will drop you when it suits us."

Here's hoping a new sponsor appears soon.

Reg Oakley
Saturday, 27 January

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Linda McCartney #2

It's always sad to see the collapse of a professional cycling team, but the circumstances around the demise of the Linda McCartney squad are especially disturbing. The team made a surprisingly effective debut on the European cycling scene last season and it certainly looked as though they might be around for a few years. Even so, it was a little puzzling when they went on a hiring binge during the latter part of the year and I can't be the only cycling fan who was wondering where all the money was coming from (or, as it turns out, where it wasn't coming from).

What does surprise me is that the team was allowed to meet its end in such a shabby fashion. I realize that Sir Paul McCartney, recently named in some media outlets as "pop's first billionaire," has never had anything specific to do with the team except to send the odd congratulatory message when a win was posted, but his late wife's signature was, after all, emblazoned on the uniforms. With the McCartney name now being paraded so unflatteringly in the sports media of cycling nations, one would have thought that the cost of allowing the team to make a more graceful exit, say at the end of the 2001 season, would have made a very small dent in the wealth of Sir Paul. No doubt the full story will come out in time and maybe there's more to the whole business than meets the eye.

Tony Whitney,
Vancouver, BC, Canada
Saturday, 27 January

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Linda McCartney #3

With all its beauty and splendour , it's sometimes easy to forget the harsh reality: cycling is a business. I am of course referring to the McCartney Affair. David McKenzie and his team-mates should still be on a high from his win and their overall great ride in the TDU 2001. Instead they find themselves on the unemployment line, their short term futures in doubt. How many more times must riders be left high and dry before something changes? Good luck to all those riders and support staff whose lives have been turned upside down by the mismanagement of this great team in the making.

Anthony Pike
Melbourne , Australia
Saturday, 27 January

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Armstrong's Conduct #1

There's no doubt that Armstrong could handle the public relations side of this issue better. Perhaps he should consider hiring a PR person familiar with French culture for this and refer all comments to that person. That said, it is almost impossible for Armstrong to live and train in France. French law allows a lot more latitude for the police to investigate alleged criminal behavior than in the US The French press has more freedom in what it prints about a person than in the US. The constant threat to his privacy prevents him from committing to training and racing.

The situation deprives him of the tranquility a rider, with his expectations, needs to focus on racing. The tension between the French government and media with the riders was strong enough to cause Laurent Jalabert to live and train outside of France. He even avoided riding the French nationals, and his pulling out of the '98 Tour displayed his displeasure with the way the French was handling the drug investigations. Why shouldn't Armstrong be allowed the same respect as Jalabert? I firmly believe that illegal drug use should be eliminated from all sports, but sports should not be destroyed in the process. Let's not destroy cycling to eliminate illegal drug use... let's look for a way to eliminate illegal drug use without destroying cycling.

Leonard Ke
San Francisco, CA
Wednesday, 24 January

Armstrong's conduct #2

I'm not responding to any one letter in particular. Just a comment or two. It's pretty clear that some of the allegations by the French media are just plain ridiculous - that's common knowledge. However, I agree that Lance has completely mishandled the situation (not to mention the TdF where he made sure everyone knew that he "let Pantani win"). In this instance, he has a right to be pissed, but why blame an entire people because of the actions of a few? Show some grace and place the blame where it is due (the media), not on the French people as a whole. That's just childish. If we all did that, what would we think of Americans?

Matt Meyer
British Columbia, Canada
Friday, 26 January

Armstrong's conduct #3

There has to be a line to draw with the French media because they do not know when to stop, and Lance has done that by moving out of Nice and deciding NOT to race in France till July rolls around. There are very few people in this world who know what it is like to be ranked in the top ten in your sport, then find out you have a 50/50 chance of living, spit in the face of the grim reaper, and then eventually return to your sport better than ever. Lance's entire life has been about overcoming hardship, so who am I (or anybody else) to criticize his reaction to chronic accusations that he and his team are cheats?

Spencer Dech
Columbus, OH
Tuesday, 23 January

Armstrong's conduct #4

It seems I'm not making myself clear. I don't think anyone should let themselves be thrown in jail, and I'm sure nobody is going to break down Lance Armstrong's door in the middle of the night, especially now that he is selling his home in France and looking for a place in Spain. And besides, what do you want Armstrong to do? Purposely sabotage a legal investigation?

I was just looking for some civil conduct on his part, that's all, but all this talk about jailing people is obscuring the point I was trying to make. Do you take for granted that Armstrong has in fact doped himself, since you're so worried about him being carted off and tortured in some jail cell? Or do you just assume that the French will arrest him even if he didn't do anything?

Rodolfo Massi was accused of selling cortisone to his fellow riders (and some other stuff, too, I suppose, but cortisone I believe was the main issue). That would have been illegal.

The US Postal team is being accused of using a product called Actovegin. Actovegin is not illegal. Nobody is going to jail anybody over Actovegin. US Postal spokesmen have already said that they do carry Actovegin with them, and they haven't been arrested.

It seems, however, that this product falls under the "blood-booster" cathegory, and if so, the UCI would probably classify the (intravenous) use of Actovegin by riders as doping. But as far as I know, it is not - yet - on anybody's list of banned products, not the UCI's and not the IOC's, so why would anyone want to arrest Lance Armstrong, even if he did use Actovegin? (That's a rhetorical question, I'm really not looking for an answer.) [Actovegin is now on the IOC's banned list, but not yet the UCI's - Ed]

Anders P. Jensen
Haslev, Denmark
Wednesday, 24 January

Go see the JCTDU! #1

I agree with David Baxter's comments regarding the TDU. I've just returned from my third viewing of this great race and it just gets bigger and better!

Having watched the Tour de France last year, I believe the TDU is just as well organised and the spectator participation is amazing. Just speaking to all the non-cycling spectators of which there were thousands, makes you realise that it's a great spectacle full of colour, movement and aggression - they loved it!!

Now the organisers have to market it interstate, through cycle shops, triathlon clubs and travel agents.

Also, a suggestion: perhaps the organisers could hold an event similar to Velo Magazine's e'Tape du Tour where a stage is ridden by participants. It could be held on the Tuesday of the twilight stage - perhaps the Barossa Valley. It's a good opportunity to ride the full day's stage which is hard to do when the race is in progress. The entry fee proceeds could be donated to a charity.

I can't wait for next year's race!

Fiona Bromley
Wednesday, 24 January

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Go see the JCTDU! #2

I have been to the Tour De France and now I have been to the Tour Down Under. Don't tell everyone about the TDU or I won't be able to get all the good spots I got to see this magnificent race! The tent in Adelaide fantastic with up to date results, refreshments and the chance to see the bikes all the top teams use. I won't forget the three hills I stood on Sellicks, Willunga and Menglers and the finishes at Victor Harbour and Strathalbyn. Friendly locals and policemen always gave great directions to where we wanted to go. The only downer was that I could not see all the race due to work. Well done cyclingnews - great coverage and information.

Mike Renehan
Stratford, Victoria, Australia
Friday, 25 January

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Cyclingnews' JCTDU coverage

I have to agree with Simon van der Aa, your JCTDU coverage was fantastic.

We were in Adelaide on holiday, riding in the morning and the following the race on the road in the afternoon, we would always return to the hotel in the afternoon, log on to Cyclingnews and find out what really happened, blow by blow.

Thanks for the great coverage, see you there next year.

Paul Rigby
Sunday, 28 January

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Actovegin #1

Actovegin is a pharmaceutical product made by a Scandinavian company Nycomed. It does not appear to be used (at least widely) outside of Europe. I can tell this because if you search the world wide web for info you get back lots of pages which contain stuff like this "Actovegin¨ suurendab energeetiliste protsesside efektiivsust raku tasemel s›ltumata organi seisundist." Not terribly useful. So after much digging I have found out the following.

Actovegin is a derivative of calf blood. What Nycomed do is to take calf blood, treat it with substances that break down all the proteins and then exchange the salts and small chemicals with a defined mixture of salts by a process called dialysis. That's all very well but what's it used for? Originally Actovegin was used in the treatment of circulatory disorders. The product appears to help the blood work better in people whose blood is not flowing around properly. In particular, it appears to be able to improve the ability of organs and tissues in the body to utilise oxygen in blood. In addition, Actovegin is also able to improve glucose uptake, which has led to some work on using the product in diabetics, although it is hardly a mainstream therapy. It can also be used in the treatment of some skin diseases and is in fact approved by the German Society for Sport Medicine for that purpose in athletes.

So what do we have here? A product that can increase oxygen and glucose delivery to exercising muscles. Sounds like a great performance enhancer! Who needs EPO! Furthermore, it is approved for use in athletes for skin disorders and can be used to treat diabetics. So all you have to do is have a diabetic in your team or support crew and you have justification for having it around.

A final note. The standard Actovegin treatment involves injection of 250ml of the stuff into a vein daily. I would say that any healthy person who allows daily injections 250 ml of calf blood extract on the chance that it well help their athletic performance is f**ing mad.

Ian van Driel
Melbourne, Australia
Friday, 26 January

[Editor's note: Ian van Driel is an associate professor in the department of Pathology and Immunology of a large Australian medical school. ]

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Actovegin #2

Although I don't know exactly what Actovegin does, people with diabetes have bad arterial and peripheral blood flow, hence the ischaemic diseases they suffer like coronary heart disease and retinopathy, and the occurrence of gangrene in elderly diabetics. My guess would be that Actovegin helps with this, but that said it's a pretty expensive cure, for a very small aspect of a very commonly withstood disease.

Duncan Blake
Thursday, 25 January

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Actovegin #3

Regardless, Actovegin is not a banned substance. Cyclists will try anything that is legal to ease the pain. Six hours in the saddle? That seems to me that to be the problem, I am a master cyclist and love the sport, and I think I understand it: cycling does not have to be that way, but it is not for me to decide.

Giulio Porta
Saturday, 27 January

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Cherry Picking

The new European season is almost upon us now, so here's a thought just to get things going.

I'm not at all sure I am keen on the tendency for the top riders to select from the Big Three European Races just one that they are going to take seriously.

I think the season should be taken as a whole, and riders who choose to ignore the Giro in favour of the TdF for example should carry a time penalty into the race with them.

Really great riders ought to be able to compete across the season.

John Prince
Tuesday, 23 January

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Texans aren't alone!

Cyclists need to be made aware of another dangerous bill that is being proposed in Montana. This one would require bicyclists to ride in the left lane, facing traffic, when outside city limits. This bit of especially mushy thinking was also apparently inspired by complaints of cyclists "holding up" traffic (how much traffic can there be in rural Montana?) and causing drivers to have to move to the left to pass. Go to the Share the Roads web site for more details and who to contact.

What's next? How many cyclists, runners, walkers, and others will have to be killed or maimed before SOMEONE starts to get tough with drivers who think getting behind the wheel is a right instead of a privilege, and involves acting responsibly? How many kids will die because a macho moron ran their slow moving school bus off the road while making a dangerous and probably illegal pass? I realize America has created this monster with its love affair for cars, but there are just too many drivers now who are reckless and a threat to every other user of the roads. MADD made driving drunk socially unacceptable. Maybe it's time to start a similar organization to make driving dumb also unacceptable.

Raymond McCoy
Sunday, 28 January

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Cycling coverage in the USA

Galen Miller made some great points. I hope the general population never catches on to cycling! I'm scared to see what influence Outdoor Life Network's cycling coverage may have on our beloved sport. Yes, I love the coverage but beware. I began golfing in the early 80s. In the nineties, golf became mainstream and grew immensely. Courses are overrun, over-priced and it's just takes too long to play a weekend round of golf nowadays. I maybe play 3 rounds a year now, only on weekdays. All these golf newbies don't understand the rules and courtesies of the game and have thus diminished the experience and trashed courses. I pray everyday cycling doesn't become mainstream. I in no way long for crowded, overrun, trashed trails and a bunch of idiots doing it just because every else is. Protect the peloton! Keep cycling a secret! Support your local bike shop, maintain the trails and be courteous to other trail users.

Lee Rognlie
Thursday, 25 January

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The last month's letters

  • January 19-23 – TDU TV coverage, Armstrong, Texan law, Cannondale's new bike, Actovegin
  • January 14-18 – Drugs, TDU coverage, US Postal, Texan law
  • 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
  • Letters Index - The complete index to every letters page on cyclingnews.com