Letters to Cyclingnews July 7, 2001
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Recent letters Everything else edition
In the second installment of today's letters an interesting notion: is the women's peloton cleaner than the men's? Also, more letters about 12 hour time trials, tyres, meetings pros, big hills and those podium people.
I may be way off base here, but perhaps we should examine the issue of drugs within the women's peloton. It seems to be a rare exception for a woman to be found guilty of doping. In comparison, doping in the men's peloton occurs in epidemic proportions. Women are typically busy about the business of living up to their male counterparts. Especially in sport. All sports. If we examine why it seems to be LESS of an issue for women it is possible that we may discover why it is MORE of an issue for men. The probability argument is not acceptable. Don't try to tell me that more men race therefore more men dope. Is it psychology? Ego? Pride? Good old fashioned testosterone? Is there just too much at stake? Money? Contracts? Sponsorship? A lot of pressure builds up when the spirit of competition turns into "big business". Forget where the athletes get the products. I'm sure I could go downtown and score a rock of crack for cheap, but I don't. I'm one of those radicals that thinks cheats should be banned for life. It's drastic. But you have to admit, such drastic measures would clean up the sport right quick. Permanently!
There's a strong time-trialling scene in the UK, for good or ill, including many 12-hour events and a couple of 24-hour events. Andy Wilkinson holds competition record at 12 hours, 300.27 miles in 1996, and also spectacularly at 24 hours, 525.07 miles in 1997. The basic rules of UK time-trials are that they are run on open roads and riding must be unpaced - drafting will get you DQ'ed. Although it's true some short-distance time trials are run on busy courses where there is traffic assistance, this is less true for long tiring events like a 12. They tend to be run on quieter single-carriageway courses. Wilkinson's records are a true reflection of his athleticism.
Events like 12-hour time-trials are so dependent on weather conditions and the course used that, like marathons, it is inadvisable to talk about there being a world record.
12 hour TTs #2
Thanks to Jeremy Briggs for his clarification on the British RTTC 12 and 24 hour records. With distances of 300 miles and 525 miles achieved on open roads, it certainly puts in perspective the US's Ultra Marathon Cycling Association records over the same times of 272 miles and 533 miles (SET IN VELODROMES).
Ah, you should definitely use the sealant in your tires, It does add 20 grams but that is a small price to pay to avoid a flat tire. My theory with the leak sealant is that is should be used all the time but it should always be used when a race is important. The addition of 20 grams is a small price to pay compared to the investment in equipment, travel and training.
Sew-ups vs clinchers #2
In a 90 hr stage race (Tour de France?) a 1% difference translates into nearly a 1 hr lead. In a Tour de France where a rider wins by a "massive" 7 minutes the difference is .0012, A 6-7 hr one day race with one rider with a 1% advantage would result in a difference of nearly 4 minutes. The advantage may be small but when all else is equal it can be decisive.
Sew-ups vs clinchers #3
I'm not entirely certain where all the claims that tubulars are better than clinchers with regard to puncture resistance come from. Certainly you cannot pinch flat a tubular, but at typical road pressures I don't see how you can pinch flat a clincher either, short of riding straight into a 6 inch deep hole, in which case you should watch where you're going. Ride a mountain bike off-road with tyres at 35-40 psi for a while and you'll learn about pinch flats.
Either tyre is going to puncture from glass and road debris cuts, they are both similar (i.e. rubber, then casing, then tube) in construction, and some are stronger than others. It's not dependant on the type (i.e. tubular or clincher), it's dependant on the construction.
You can get clincher tyre/tube combinations that are lighter than tubular tyres, more than compensating for the difference in rim weight. You can certainly run tubulars at higher pressures, but you can commonly get clinchers now that can be run at 160+ psi, which lets face it, is as much as most of us will practically ride except in TTs on dead smooth roads. Personally I think clinchers are more practical than tubulars but I have no real opinion on which performs better - I know you can get good clinchers that will outperform cheap singles, and vice versa, it comes down to the individual tyres.
Basically though I think for most of us it doesn't really matter, as long as you're riding a bike then you're OK in my book.
Simon van der Aa
Sew-ups vs clinchers #4
First, a properly mounted sew-up should never come off the rim even when heated.
Second, I dare anyone out there to successfully get stopped without an endo after a fast front flat on a clincher while descending at high speed.
There is a reason why you can't legally ride clinchers on the track - they don't stay on the rim when flatted at high speed. Sew-ups, on the other hand, aren't going anywhere thanks to that gawd-awful glue that makes such a mess.
Sew-ups vs clinchers #5
I might buy that clinchers could replace tubulars for most racing if it were not for the superiority of the wheel choices when using tubulars. I believe that tubulars do perform better, but convenience generally wins out over slight performance advantages these days.
Try a pair of Zipp carbon tubulars, some Fir Antara wheels or even a pair of ADA's, Lew's or Corima's. None of these wheels accepts clinchers (exception is the Zipp 404C, which is markedly heavier and the Corima all carbon clincher, which is untested, unobtainable and has pressure restrictions). These wheel/tire combinations are as much as a POUND lighter than the LIGHTEST clincher set up, they roll as well or better (with a Veloflex, Conti or Vittoria race-level tire) and they are arguably more flat resistant. Also, I generally find that tubulars are better at small road-surface vibration absorption - given construction methods, it is simply easier to manufacture a more supple tire using tubular construction.
The reduction in overall weight, perimeter weight and high speed air drag speak for themselves - this type of wheel is faster at speed, accelerates better and, due to the tubular tires, usually rolls over (corners) better.
Adhesive failure arguments are moot when a tire is properly mounted. Amateur mechanics need to learn the correct mounting methods or they are better off racing their clinchers. Rolled tires in fast criteriums are attributable to poor gluing methods, not a design flaw in tubular tire/wheel design!
There are some great clinchers out there and for many folks this is more than adequate racing gear (the new Hutchinson's are supple and grippy - I wish they would put this tread on a high quality tubular casing!). For anyone who is willing to buy the tools and learn the techniques, however, tubular wheels will give a noticeable and measurable performance advantage.
Sew-ups vs clinchers #6
I know you all probably want to see this issue put to rest until it arises again next year. But I want to make one more point. Several writers complained about pinch flats with clinchers. When I first started riding, I got them because after flatting (due to road debris) and fixing the flat, I didn't reinstall the tube properly (didn't insure that the tube was up inside the tire). After learning how to do that, I have not had any pinch flats.
Also, early on, I tried the ultra-light rim strips. However they did not hold well and I had tubes under inflation go through them and puncture on the ends of the spokes (something I suspect would not happen with tubulars). Uninflated, my tubes looked like a post-partum snake with 32 mammaries. So I went back to the standard cloth rim strips.
I found out that if I use better tires (say, above $25 US), I get fewer flats. That may have been because the less expensive tires I used were also light weight, and so perhaps a bit thin and easily penetrated by fine glass. Perhaps the more expensive lightweight tires use a better rubber? Or are thinner on the sidewalls, thicker in the contact section?
I would estimate that I get two flats a year now (all from road debris) averaging 5000 miles a year (I live in a large city, and have to ride 3 miles to get to the suburbs, then another 5 through the suburbs to the rural roads). Over the past two years I have not had to change a flat while out on a ride. The flats I had were from picking up a small chip of glass close enough on the way home that the tire deflated over night and I noticed it when I got ready to ride the next day.
Here In Atlanta where I live, we used to have the First Union Grand Prix (pro race through the streets of downtown Atlanta). I worked in the neutral support vehicle (this year was MAVIC) I was honored to be chosen by my bike shop to go pick Maynard Hershon up at the MARTA train station. Maynard writes for VeloNews and was frequent on the big pro race scene in America. I ended up escorting him around all weekend.
I was 16 years old and a local Junior racer and very star struck. Maynard liked talking to me and let me hang out with him, and fallow him around the hotel he was staying. I was privileged to sit with Davis Phinney, Phil Liggett, and Paul Sherwin. I talked to Phinney about racing as a Junior He was so nice maybe the nicest person I have ever met. It was also amazing to sit there and watch these guys drinking beer and just laughing about stuff other than cycling. As the weekend went on I got to ride with the Motorola team, which included: Lance Armstrong, Hincapie, Andreau, Julich and some others. On the '96 Olympic course we met up with Chris Carmichael, Ron Kiefel and some others. I remind you I was only 16, so I am ridding behind these guy in total awe. I was beside myself. All in all the weekend was amazing. I met so many people I can't remember them all.
The best part of the weekend came about a month later. When Maynard Hershon called my The Bicycle Link (my bike shop here) and told my manager Dave Hunter that I was going to be famous. I thought that meant that he was going mention me in one of his articles. But in the June 5, 1995 VeloNews back page, he didn't only mention me but wrote a whole article about me and my weekend. I was in shock. Maynard had taken a whole article to tell America about a star struck 16 year old who was just an average cyclist. But the people I met and the weekend I had watching pro cycling from behind the scenes has changed my life and I thank Maynard Hershon for that.
Pro encounters #2
One of the beauties of the sport of XC Mountain Biking is it's accessibility at this early stage in it's life. I was at a national series race in Victoria, and it's just great to be practicing, warming up and then racing alongside people like Cadel Evans and Mary Grigson. I chatted to Cadel while we were dawdling around before the start, he was very friendly. Of course, the only time I saw him during the race was as he lapped me heading up the big bastard of a granny climb, but hey, I can truthfully say I've raced against the World Cup champ!
My other experience was with some of the Saeco team when they were here (Australia) for the Tour Down Under. We were riding through the Adelaide hills on a hot January day the weekend before the Tour when some of them rolled past, including Salvatore Camesso, Alessio Galetti, Fabio Sacchi, Biagio Conte and Jorg Ludewig. They gave us a big arm wave and said "get on", so we thought why the hell not! On the descent down through The Gorge (a short but fast descent) some of them started to pick it up and a couple of us went with them. For the next 15k we were swapping off turns, attacking and counterattacking with and against them, and generally having fun. Of course we all knew they could ride us off their wheels at any time, but I think they enjoyed it as much as we did. With their halting English they conveyed to us that they were enjoying their stay and the good weather and that they liked my Italian bike. After we had finished we went back to the Tour village where they gave us drinks and a water bottle. Galetti and Sacchi went on to both win stages - I like to think that the training with me and my friends was what gave them their little edge!!
Simon van der Aa
Pro encounters #3
Last year, Erik Zabel was vacationing in New York City and the newsgroups were abuzz with rumors about where he was and how to find him. I was commuting home over the Brooklyn Bridge when I see a guy in full pink Telekom kit and pink Pinarello at the entrance to the bridge. My first thought was simply "poser" as there are plenty in NYC, but then I remembered that Erik was supposed to be in town - plus, the abundant tan (better than any NYC tan in May) and lack of body fat clued me in. So, I stopped and asked him for an autograph (forgot to congratulate him on his World Cup status at the time - STUPID STUPID STUPID). What was unusual was that I had something to ask for an autograph. I rarely carried materials to and from the courthouse, but as I was changing jobs soon, I actually had a backpack with pen and paper. Went and raced the local training crit that night - I wanted to go fast, but sadly the speed didn't rub off...
Pro encounters #4
September 1989. Zanesville, Ohio, USA. The finishing circuit of the A to Z Classic road race. Fans were five deep and I stood on top of a trash bin looking at the rare sight of Greg LeMond's rainbow jersey in America. People were going crazy! Everyone had a poster, most did not get it autographed. I started racing bikes the next spring.
December 2000. Gold Coast, Australia. As a visitor you are surprised to be able to ride, race and have a latte with Pro's like Robbie McEwen and Daniel Aeschlimann. Down to earth guys who shared their experiences in the peloton and gave me much needed inspiration in these times of scandals and negativity surrounding cycling.
August 19,2001. Omaha, NE. USA. I will promote my first Criterium, hopefully not the last. Wish me luck.
I've raced up both Mt. Washington and Mt. Evans, and aside from that fact that they are both hill climbs, they are very different races. Mt. Evans is long, Mt. Washington is short, Mt. Evans is high, Mt. Washington is steep. Mt. Washington will favor the pure climber. Mt. Evans will favor the power rider (for a strong rider, much of the course can be done in the big ring). Because the two climbs are so different, people will differ on their relative difficulty. It's a matter of individual talent and personal riding style.
Mt Washington #2
This is purely subjective and based solely on my personal hurt o' meter. Having actually climbed them both, I can say that Mt. Washington is one of the most difficult climbs I've done in this country and probably surpasses Mt Evans for general nastiness. I raced the Mt. Evans event twice in the 80's and nearly passed out at the summit in sub 40 degree temps and mist (hypoxia comes a bit quicker at 14,000 ft.). I rode Mt Washington several years ago and was blown away at how bloody nasty it is (have they paved more of it?). Gradient plays a big part, as Mt. Evans isn't that steep until after Echo lake, and even then it is not that bad. But Mt. Washington, aw jeez....
That said, I am pretty sure one could find an even more difficult ascent in the western US. The shear number of obscure (some dirt) road passes in Colorado alone should easily net something nastier than either of these climbs (try the southwest corner).
On the continent, I am voting for the Mortirolo in Italy. I found it harder to get up than the Stelvio, Alpe du' Huez or the Galibier. I've heard good (?) things about the Alto de L'Angliru (Vuelta Espana) and have yet to get up the Fedaia (Giro d' Italia - the Marmolada).
Here are some pictures of podium "boys" during a Men's professional road stage race. During the Tour de Langkawi, one of the stages happened to fall on a holiday in which women were not able to show themselves, therefore forcing the race organizers to have podium "boys".
The last month's letters