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Letters to Cyclingnews July 4, 2001
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Recent letters 'Everything else' edition
The second of today's letters pages deals with topics not related to the imminent activity in France. Topics include: more information about 12 hour time trials; debate on the severity of the Mount Washington hill climb; podium girls and boys (yes, they do exist and we have the photographic evidence), and even more argument about the merits of sew-ups and clincher tyres.
Yes, clearly the British are setting 12 hour cycling records and not letting the rest of the world know. Andy Wilkinson indeed does hold the 12 hour record here with just over 300 miles set as I remember in his incredible 1996 season which saw him become the British Best All Rounder in time trialling distances over 50, 100 miles and 12 hours. This competition , and almost all recognised racing against the clock in the UK is ran by the Road Time Trial Council or RTTC , info on them at RTTC.ORG.UK.
British records are set on open roads but I think it is a little far fetched to say this is the reasons for these distances. More likely is the ussually flat terrain and the well surfaced A roads they are run on and the fact that riders like Andy Wilkinson are a class act. In fact Wilkinson's 24 hour record of 525 miles in the Mersey RC 24hr event of 1997 was truly amazing as anyone who witnessed it will testify, as is his End to End record (Lands End to John O'Groats, the furthest distance between 2 points on mainland UK.And Wilkinson set records for both a standard bike and a recumbent bicycle. As I remember covering the 872 miles in 1 day 16 hours on the later.) Finally as regards 12 hours an honourable mention to the time trialling stalwart Glenn Longland who in 1986 set the record previous to Wilkinson and became the first to break 300 miles, and yes that was pre tri bars or aero wheels.
Hope that helps clarify a few things.
12 hour TTs #2
Off at 1 minute intervals, no taking pace of any kind allowed, if caught you must drop back. The end must be within 25 miles of the start. Typical routes have an out and back route to start, followed by a mid race circuit which is repeated, and then a finishing circuit which is also repeated. Marshals are every mile on the finishing circuit and the final distance is calculated by calculating the average speed between the last two marshals and estimating the fraction of a mile that was covered. The events are run on open roads, and yes there will be a benefit from cars, that effect is impossible to quantify. On my local 12s in Wales the cars are so infrequent as to be almost irrelevant. The course record on that is 282.12 miles by Steve Edwards, Rhondda Valley, September 5, 1999, Welsh Championship, R12/95.
The current men's record is 300.27 miles by Andy Wilkinson , and the current women's is 277.25 miles by the late great Beryl Burton.
With reference to the letter on Mount Washington vs. climbs in the Rockies: The question of which is the hardest climb comes down to which factors are weighed most heavily. Mount Washington is steeper than the big climbs in Colorado and generally has worse weather. The western climbs are longer and involve altitude effects. However, there is one climb that puts them all to shame. Mauna Kea on the big island of Hawaii is a 42-mile ride rising from sea level to over 13,700 feet. While the first 28 miles are pretty easy, generally under five per cent grade, the final several miles are quite difficult. The last eight miles rise 4,500 feet, just under the rise for the similar distance on Mount Washington. In addition, the altitude effects are as severe as those in Colorado, perhaps more so, since it is difficult to get acclimated in Hawaii. There is a four mile stretch of gravel on Mauna Kea between 9,500 and 12,000 feet that is often loose and which is worse than anything else I have ridden. I have not seen Mauna Kea included on lists of big climbs. Perhaps this is because it is seldom done. At any rate, I feel that it is the most demanding climb in the U.S by a good margin.
Mt Washington #2
Why does everything in America have to the "World's biggest.." or the "World's Best..."? I think of the Baseball WORLD Series, and the World Superbowl of American Football (surely both sports only taken seriously by Yanks). Now they are claiming some hillclimb to be the "World's Most Difficult Hill Climb Event"
I've never seen it, so I can't claim that it is or it isn't, but then these guys have never ridden up Rawson's Rake in Lancashire, or the 50km long climb used in the Tour of Langkawi, so let's put it into a bit of perspective.
Mt Washington #3
With reference to the letter on Mount Washington vs. climbs in the Rockies. The question of which is the hardest climb comes down to which factors are weighed most heavily. Mount Washington is steeper than the big climbs in Colorado and generally has worse weather. The western climbs are longer and involve altitude effects. However, there is one climb that puts them all to shame. Mauna Kea on the big island of Hawaii is a 42-mile ride rising from sea level to over 13,700 feet. While the first 28 miles are pretty easy, generally under 5 per cent grade, the final several miles are quite difficult. The last 8 miles rise 4,500 feet, just under the rise for the similar distance on Mount Washington. In addition, the altitude effects are as severe as those in Colorado, perhaps more so, since it is difficult to get acclimated in Hawaii. There is a four mile stretch of gravel on Mauna Kea between 9,500 and 12,000 feet that is often loose and which is worse than anything else I have ridden. I have not seen Mauna Kea included on lists of big climbs. Perhaps this is because it is seldom done. At any rate, I feel that it is the most demanding climb in the U.S by a good margin.
Mt Washington #4
Yes I think Mt Washington is tougher than most of the climbs in the west. Yes Mt Evans is longer and higher but the steepness of Mt. Washington for 7.6 miles and also the harsh weather make it tough. After the 1999 race Taylor Hamilton stated that it is harder than any other climb he has done. He continued to say that there are no climbs in Europe that are harder. Look at the profile of Mt. Washington to some of the climbs at KOM.com. All climbs are the climbs you talk about are hard but I think Mt. Washington tops the list.
Mt Washington #5
For Mt. Washington, they based the "toughest hillclimb in the world" designation on real data, such as total average percentage grade and maximum grade (22%, which is at the top), as well as the fact that most of it is unpaved, and you normally have to fight severe winds and climate changes from bottom to top. Last year's event saw sun and 70° temps at the bottom and 40° fog at the top.
They compared the grades to every race course they could find - yes, even in the Alps - and the Mt. Washington Auto Road turned out steeper.
Mt Washington has the highest recorded wind speed on the planet (231 mph), and the way the auto road is set up, it's almost always a headwind.
Go ahead, tell me that's not tough.
Good point Ingrid, why should we miss out on all the fun. Next time you win at the Central Coast I'll be your Podium Boy! (Even if you come in last).
Podium girls and boys #2
Marc Madiot was once in a stage race in which, a little by accident , he happened to get to wear the best climber jersey. He had such a good rapport with the "jersey girl" on the podium that he did everything he could to hold on to that jersey for the rest of the race to get to talk to that girl - beautiful of course - and be pecked on the cheek by her.
Does not it feel good to be able to pack everybody in their nice little boxes? For example podium girls in the bimbo box. Or Marc Madiot in the male chauvinist box (where he happens to belong actually).
Podium girls and boys #3
Haha! Podium boys! Really? I'd like a photo, please....
Does Markus Schenkenberg help with podium presentations in the Tour of Germany?
Take a look at the pictures here.
Podium girls and boys #4
I can't remember the names of any of the races or any other details, but I do recall seeing podium photos from major races, I think from the early-mid 80's, and instead of two women there was one female and one male. Probably Dutch races. I think the Tour may have done this once or twice. I'm an open-minded guy, but it did look kinda... just not right.
Italian women's races have a history of podium guys, and a friend of mine, a female former racer, told me (with a dreamy smile and a far-off look in her eye) of the awesome podium hunks at some North American stage race where she was able to win a stage or two. I think they have to find really short guys though; some of those women are really tiny.
I've had the pleasure to meet two of my biggest cycling heroes: Lance Armstrong and Mario Cipollini. I met Lance in Greenville, SC after the stage finish of the 1996 Tour du Pont. I managed to get his autograph by the team car right after the stage. By the time he had signed my magazine, dozens of fans had gone by. He was still gracious enough to sign and thank me for coming out to watch the race. Later, my friends and I then headed over to the official race hotel to hang out and see some other Motorola guys (saw Sean Yates). While we were reading the race results that were posted on the wall, Lance appeared and asked us how we were doing. I was like "wow, I'm chatting with Lance Armstrong". But he's a really nice, down-to-earth guy. We talked about the upcoming Tour and if he planned to "sandbag" and just win a couple of stages or go for the overall. Looking back, his body was being hit with cancer at that time. That was weird to think about.
I met Mario Cipollini in a promotional appearance in Stone Mountain, GA. You could tell he was a star in the sport - very tall, very fit and had a presence about him. You could actually see how big his legs were through the suave, Italian suit he had on. He was a cool guy - signed a couple of posters and magazines and even had Roberto Gaggioli translate my copy of Winning magazine as he signed a picture of himself. People don't give the guy enough credit. Sure he doesn't finish the Tour - but who cares? He does a lot for the sport besides winning his usual 3-4 stages. I consider him a champion. The sport will miss him when he retires.
Pro Encounters #2
Tyler Hamilton lives here in the Boston, Massachusetts area when he's not in Spain. He moved back to his old hometown of Marblehead (north of the city and on the ocean) a couple of years ago but back when he still lived in Brookline (more directly straight west of the city) people would see him buzzing around the well-cycled roads in Concord and Sudbury during the winter.
Back in August 1998, I came across him for the first time on a warm, sunny late summer afternoon. I had just stopped at a coffee shop in downtown Concord and was just getting back on my bike when this guy in full USPS kit and Trek USPS issue bike rides by. I didn't get a good look at his face so I couldn't tell who it was.
There's something that you have to understand about clothing around here. I know that attitudes are different in other parts of the world, but around here if you wear too much Euro-pro clothing while riding, you look like a total poser, complete "wanna-be", a real "goober" as we say here in the States. Yeah, maybe it's snobby but that's the way it is around here. So here's this guy in the full outfit, and my first thought was, "Either this guy is for real or he's really full of himself." He was going in the direction I just came from but I didn't have anything important going on that day so I decided to try to catch up to him.
Yup, he was for real and it was Tyler. This was the year that he first "showed" himself as able to do battle with the greats with an incredible TT during the Tour. He had just returned from Spain where he had spent some time in the hospital due to food poisoning. He was just getting back on the bike and was out spinning that afternoon. We talked for about ten minutes about the Tour and what he was going to be doing over the next few months. I guess that since I was fairly new to the sport at the time, I was expecting an obnoxious professional football player attitude from him. Nothing could be further from the truth. He was very approachable, very cool, really a pleasant guy. He wished me luck in my race the next day and I split off and rode home. I got third place in that race so maybe the good wishes rubbed off on me!
Mitch, I think my comment on the 'Saint Lance' sentiment was wide ranging because I found, as I was writing, that I had broad feelings on the topic. I didn't like the simplistic idea of Lance I saw being bandied about, so I connected with the Saint Lance sentiment, and with the race I saw on that weekend, well...
As for Lance, I have raced against him, coached riders who benefited from a junior series named for him, sat at El Tour De Tucson dedication dinners for him with former teammates of his, knew other cancer survivors (athletes, cyclists, and non-athletes), knew some who didn't survive, watched with interest his career as a junior, as a triathlete (even before I was a racing cyclist), seen and heard many interviews, articles, and other information on his career.
To state it more simply than I did in the first post, I find him to be a remarkable person and athlete for the way he has responded to his various adversity. Cycling training and racing is but one adversity of many in life, although considerable. Most people face far less adversity, and respond to it not nearly as well. In ways I am jealous of those opportunities, gifts, difficulties, and in other ways wouldn't have wanted his trip for the world.
I try to inspire the his kind of dedication and toughness of spirit in the athletes I coach. Personally, I have for a long time wanted to know the contrast and perspective to normal life that severe staring-certain-death-in-the-eye adversity CAN grant, as I have had the thought is would change me for the better. My great-grandmother had this transcendental quality about her, and she had a lot of illness, strokes, and death on various operating tables, but she lived on until she was good and ready to die.
I find the path pointed out by the media to be far too simplistic- Cancer Survivor/Tour Winner/Worshipped By Millions/Teammates/Everyone. Inside those slashes is a world of intense complexities and background, and it is that I wished to bring forward and elicit discussion on. Lance, it seems to me, has risen above much more than his cancer- He has risen above his more petty,childish frailties that we all saw to show a deeply grounded example, and to lead the best men in the hardest events and sport in the world in the finest and most worthy fashion.
I hoped to be a bit controversial in my initial presentation, but found I had many more thoughts than even I had counted on about the topic. I hope this clears up my intent.
"Obviously clinchers are used occasionally in Europe due to sponsorship obligations."
I'm sure I remember reading about 10 years ago or so that one of the tyre companies (Michelin?) were specifically designing clinchers for at least one of the big teams (ONCE?) for use in the mountains to stop tubs rolling off the rim when the glue melted due to heat being generated in the rim during braking on long Alpine descents.
Sew-ups vs clinchers #2
I have been riding tubulars exclusively for 35 years. The few times I've ridden on clinchers I've usually gotten a pinch-flat. Tubulars are the safest and most reliable way to ride. I don't even carry a spare when I ride; I just watch the road for hazards and crud.
Tufo tires are not sew-ups! They aren't sewn together like Conti's or Vittoria's. The casing is sealed and vulcanised so there's no stretch or deformation. Because of this, they can withstand higher pressure and that reduces rolling resistance and increases speed.
Tufo's sealant does work! I flatted a track tire and put some in. The leak stopped and the tire was rideable at 220psi.
There are now three kinds of tires: clinchers, sew-ups and Tufos
Sew-ups vs clinchers #3
Another bit of data here: a poll recently taken on a US website for "serious" cyclists found that 87 per cent of riders used clinchers. I'm willing to bet that many of the folks who write into forums such as these to voice opinions about tires have never ridden tubulars in their lives. Wouldn't it be nice if we could actually separate those who are blowing smoke from those who have actual experience to draw from. It is very hard for me to imagine someone who cannot feel the significant difference between the two types of tires.
Raymond F Martin
Most of the things ascribed to differences in 'feel' between bikes and components are down to acoustics: the way the bike transmits and absorbs vibration, both in the audible range and below. While it's unarguably important that a bike should feel pleasant to ride (or else, why bother?) it's a reach to say that nice 'feel' correlates to higher speed. There's some classic data here that shows neither design has inherently superior rolling resistance: the details of tread thickness and compound matter. JS
Sew-ups vs clinchers #4
You can afford to train on tubulars Vittoria Formula Unos. $15 mail order. Learn to reapir them too 20 minutes total time is not bad if you ride $40 tires.
Sew-ups vs clinchers #5
If you do the math, the difference in energy required to accelerate a bike + rider -- including the angular acceleration of the wheels -- the advantage of tubulars is quite small. One letter claimed a difference of half a pound of rotational mass between a set of tubulars and clinchers of similar quality and strength. Even in that example, the difference in force on the pedals to accelerate a bike and rider totaling 170 pounds is on the order of one percent. I wonder about riders who can "immediately feel the difference".
Sew-ups vs clinchers #6
As well as the difference in acceleration there is a significant difference in the way a sew-up handles because it is free to move left and right on the rim in response to cornering forces where a clincher (actually wired-on not clincher which is different by the way) is locked to the rim. For comparison think radial tire vs. bias ply on cars it is kind of the same thing.
As far as the difference being too small to notice, as my daddy once said-there ain't no difference that don't make a difference.
Sew-ups vs clinchers #7
I ride tubular tires that fit on clincher (in my case Mavic Open Pro) rims. They work excellent. I have 'em at 160psi and recently I had a flat. My front tire was punctured by a 1inch nail that went trough both the top and the bottom of the tire. I filled it up with a liquid latex solution, reinflated the tire and I was on my way again. Never will I ride clicher tires! Ever.
Rico de Wert
Sew-ups vs clinchers #8
I regularly ride the dirt farm roads in Boulder County to avoid breathing in auto exhaust and to build character on the bike. I ride all roads at 140 psi clinchers and very rarely flat. In my experience high pressure prevents flats. The best flat preventative is to get your weight under 155 pounds.
Sew-ups vs clinchers #9
Pros do use clinchers, and a lot more than you think. I personally know of a number of pro teams who ride on Michelin clinchers at least 99 per cent of the time (AG2R, Bonjour Toupargel, Delatour, Francaise Des Jeux, Lotto-Adecco, Alessio, Panaria, ViniCalderola-Tacconi, Sime-Telecom, Jaztel, Saturn, 7Up). At US Nationals, Saturn won both the men's and women's TTs with clincher fronts (their rear disc wheels were sew-up rims so they had to go tubular there), and they won the women's national road race on clinchers. The Tour of Flanders, Fleche Wallone and Criterium International were all won on Michelin clinchers this year, and even Paris-Roubaix in '97 was won by Guesdon on clinchers (more Michelins). So don't tell me that clinchers are only used "occasionally" in Europe. Every year, more teams switch.
Face it: tubulars are dead. There have been no significant advances in tubular technology in decades, yet clinchers keep improving year after year. As evidence of that, Michelin, who made arguably the best sew-up ever (the Service Course -- just ask anyone on last year's Mercury team), stopped making tubulars entirely because the market has all but disappeared. They don't even make them for the pros anymore.
I do think you can combine racing with a job in a bike shop. You had best get with an employer that understands racing and the demands it places on a person, someone who is willing to allow you the time off to race and train. As I stated before, most shop employees do not make good racers, there is too much conflict regarding time. There are exceptions and it can be done, just don't get your hopes up too high.
If you want to get a job, you can often take courses offered by local clubs, repair co-ops and collectives. These will give you the basic experience to land a job. You can also read a lot about repairs and there are several good books out there to be had. Practice on an older bike that you aren't too worried about messing up. Finally, try and find an owner that shares some passion about the sport, there is nothing worse than working for a person that does not ride themselves and consequently fails to understand the basics of what goes into bicycling.
As for selecting a prospective employer, check 'em out. For example, are the brakes adjusted properly on the display bikes? Are they glad to see you in the first place or do they ignore you when you walk in? Those points should tip you off as to who would make a good employer.
I enjoyed working in bike shops and some of the best times in my life were spent working in them. On the other hand, having the choice to go out on a weekend ride or putting in some racing reminds me that I don't miss it all that much.
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