Letters to Cyclingnews July 7, 2001
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Recent letters Tour de France edition
With the start of the Tour just hours away, our letters in-box has been running hot with tips for viewing the finale in Paris, more debate about the merits of Jan Ullrich and Lance Armstrong and their teams, and lots more. Let the games commence!
I am sure there used to be a prize of the rider's own weight in cheese. What has become of this and what about the jersey for the most aggressive rider (in the most breakaways)?
I think there is scope for a feature on the history of jerseys.
Well, to tell you the truth, Champs Elysees on Tour finish day is really, really crowded, from very early in the morning (like 7-ish) on. At least that was what was happening when I was there, since 1994. But if you install yourself on a spot not on the Champs Elysees but at the final K. mark on Rue de Rivoli for instance, it's much better. About the question how early on Sunday do the festivities start the same answer goes... early (about 8 or so). Is it just a complete madhouse? Just a lot of people.... Can you get close to the riders at all after the finish? If you know your way a little around, yes...and after the finish there will always be a defilé, teams riding the Champs Elysees.
Anita van Crey
Champs Elysees #2
Get there early! The road side fills up quickly. Also, it seems like certain strips along the Champs are restricted access (as one might expect!) so it can be somewhat tricky to get to the spot you want to once the riders enter the circuit (so, get there early!)
Champs Elysees #3
I was there in 1990 to watch Greg Lemond win his final Tour. Here are a few tips:
Assuming they do laps from Place de la Concorde to the Etoile, the grade is slightly uphill going toward the Etoile (Arc de Triomphe). Get there early and bring water, food and maybe something to lean or sit on. Also, bring a hat if the sun is shining. You could easily be standing there for several hours before the riders come, and if you leave to get a drink or pee you may not be able to get back to your spot. Try to get a spot on a street corner. I was near Place Montaigne (??) which offered a pretty good view. Perhaps the best place would be at the Etoile itself with a view down the entire Champs Elysees as the riders come up.
I arrived about two hours before the riders and the place was already thick with spectators. I was lucky to find a spot right near the barricade. I'm not sure how early you have to be there for the choice locations. Once the riders start to arrive it gets a little crazy, with people pushing and shoving to get a better view, so be prepared to get jostled. I didn't try to meet the riders, so I can't comment on that.
I think the local TV station has a giant screen at Place de la Concorde showing race coverage. That's where the podium and grand stands are too.
Champs Elysees #4
I was in Paris for the ’99 TDF finish. We arrived about 3-4 hours before the riders came by the 1 KM mark for the first time. Without a VIP pass, we were prohibited from getting any closer to the finish though we had a good view of the riders as the approached 1 km to go. They did have large screen TVs setup for the masses who were not fortunate enough to be near the finish. I suggest contacting a TDF tour company to see if you can purchase one of the finish line passes before you depart for Europe. Also, don’t go without an American flag. If Lance is in yellow at the end, you will really regret not having it. After the race is over, be sure to stay for the teams’ pass in review. The teams ride slowly by the crowds, one team at a time, for about 1-2 km past the finish line, so the fans can salute their effort. If you fight your way through the crowds, you can get a pretty good view and some awesome photo ops. Don’t wait until the race is over to start making your way past the finish line for the team review. Take lots of water with you. It will be really hot and the street vendors jack up the prices.
Champs Elysees #5
I've been on the Champs Elysees several times and I'm afraid I can't give a favorable opinion. You can see the riders whizz by if you get there several hours in advance and are up close to the barriers. In general, yes, it is a madhouse. In fact, when I was living in Paris I used to watch the stage on TV, rather than walk a few blocks to Etoile! Ridiculous, I know, but I wanted to see the race.
Having said that, it is fun to be there once in your life for the atmosphere, especially if an American is going to win. Try getting on a bridge over the seine or along the loop that circles the Louvre; maybe along the Rue de Rivoli. The pack has to slow down to negotiate Place de la Concorde, so that is a good spot.
As to getting close to the cyclists, that is better accomplished by going to the town where the stage starts the evening before. That's prime autograph time at the hotels. Even better is to catch the riders in a smaller town along the route. I imagine it's tough to get near Lance and the boys these days. It's always strategically better to seek out the lesser riders. In 1990 at the Giro I cornered Thierry Marie at his team car in Milan and we ended up chatting for ages. I told him I was a fan of his and he laughed at me, "You must be the only one here!"
Champs Elysees #6
The best place to view the race and the throng is from a hotel suite, rooftop or apartment, along the Champs Elysees. If this is your only chance to see a stage, then I suggest a spot at the top turn nearest the Arc D' Triomphe.
If you can get out into the countryside to see a stage, a day or two before the finish, you will gain much closer access to the riders, either at the start or at the finish. Once they get to Paris, its pretty hard, since all the good vantage points and good access are reserved for sponsors and VIP's, both of whom are out in big numbers.
Prepare for a long hot unforgettable day.
Champs Elysees #7
I went to France a couple of years back to follow the Tour and I found the best spot for the last day was one of the bars on the Rue de Rivoli opposite the Carousel. That way you can watch the race unfold on the bar's television and when you see the riders emerge from the tunnel you rush out with your chair, and stand on it getting a fine view of the proceedings. You might want to get there a bit early as they close the Palais Royal and the Louvre Metro stations. Also try the Belgian beer Horgarden ( I think), it is worth the trip alone. Enjoy Paris, I did.
Champs Elysees #8
My girlfriend has been there the last two years (While I'm home racing) and says that she'd show up at 8 AM and just hang out. That's allot of hanging out; I think they don't show up until 3PM.
Raymond F Martin
Champs Elysees #9
In response to Rich Linger, I would say that based on my experience in 1999 it will just plain be a madhouse with people lined up four or five deep on the Champs Elysees. I recall getting there around 3:00 or so and seeing the Tour parade go by to be followed a few hours later, it seemed, by the peloton. I still get goose bumps thinking about the USPS leading the way in on the first lap. It's a scene not to be missed. I was able to get within 20 feet or so of the riders as they came back around for the post race lap, but security will keep you away from getting much closer. Hope you have a great time, as for me I'm going to be at the top of l'Alpe d'Huez when they go by.
Champs Elysees #10
I was there last year. I watched the race on French television in my hotel room just a block or two off the Champs. That way you get to see all the race at least. Down on the Champs it's pretty crowded and if you are not there a few hours before the race comes by you will have to try to see over about two or three other people. If I were to do it again, I would try to get a seat in front of the outdoor big screen TV (and I mean big). There was one on the Champs toward the opposite end from the Arc. It was near where they present the awards. That way you could be outdoors, see the racers come by (every 15 minutes or so for about 10 seconds), and you could also see all the TV coverage. I don't know what it takes to get in that area. Maybe it's for VIP's or something. But if you can't get a seat, be prepared to stand. It looked like you should be able to get close enough to view the Champs and the TV screen. Anyway, get going several hours before the race. Check out the area and get in position....good luck.
Points can be deducted as well as seconds when a rider is fined for an infringement - such as pacing behind a car etc
I had a look a look at the Tour start sheet and saw that Rumsas wasn't in the Fassa team, I just thought it was a mistake, it is no mistake, he hasn't been selected. It's obviously political, It shows what a hypocrite and coward Ferretti is, the Frigo affair was bad enough but this stinks. Rumsas is 9th ranked in the world, in splendid form, a potential podium rider and his non-selection is a disgrace ,the Tour is poorer for it. I found out that he hadn't been selected by Fassa Bortolo in the Lithuanian daily Lietuvos rytas, Rumsas was quoted as saying he was " stunned " and that he had already had offers from other teams. It's Fassa loss and it won't help Casagrande in the Tour. Crass stupidity and cowardice on Fassa's part.
While trying to be as objective as possible, I am a huge USPS Fan, I have to give the overall edge to USPS. While the obvious aside, Lance Vs Jan, I think the USPS team is quite the stable! While Telekom has Zabel, Livingston, Wesemann, etc... I think USPS's Heras, Hamilton, and Hincapie talent has to have the edge! I cant wait for the Tour to start!
Let me start off by saying that this Tour will be a great battle between some of the finest cyclist of our time. This, of course, will hold up only if no major doping scandal is going to interfere with sports. Well, I'm not quite sure about this. Anyways, let's put this issue aside for a minute. There is a lot of speculation going on about the fitness of Jan Ullrich and Lance Armstrong (hell, what about Casagrande, Moreau, and Beloki?). What really surprises me is how many people overestimate the shape of Armstrong. They claim that he even hasn't found his peak yet. How can one tell, if one do not have any information on his lactate levels at submaximal performance, pulse and other worthy physiological parameters. To me it seems that the excellent results he has achieved during the Tour de Suisse points to the fact that he is in super shape. Now the question will be how to conserve it until Tour start and into the third week of the Tour. Usually, one is rarely able to conserve peak form for more than two or three weeks every 10 months or so. Two years ago he raced the Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré where he took eighth with around six minutes behind the leader. He placed only fifth in the TT. This was only three weeks ahead of the Tour which he eventually did win. So my guess is that he may have peaked too early this year (by two or three weeks).Thus I've some doubts whether Armstrong will be able to sustain his tremendous performance that he has demonstrated at the TT during the Tour de Suisse for the coming weeks in France. In case of Ullrich, I think we don't know a lot either. Though his slow build up over the last 4 month seems to be, intuitively, better to peak during the Tour. So I'm tempted to give Ullrich a better chance to pull it off this year.
I can't believe that someone would make a statement that Lance didn't take the Olympics in 2000 seriously. He was hit by a car a few months prior to the Olympics and fractured a few vertebrae in neck. He still managed to recover enough to win a bronze medal in the Olympic ITT. With Lance in peak form from the Tour, and barring the injury he would have more than likely taken the gold medal in the Olympic ITT. As far as giving respect to Jan Ulrich, I think Lance has shown respect for all of his competitors. Lance is a class act that everyone in the sport should follow. Lance will again win the Tour de France in 2001.
The answer to Mr. McCombs' letter isn't to attack Ullrich but rather the phrase "serious drug inquiries" The inquiries into Ullrich's "drug use" are just as specious as the French investigation into Armstrong and USPS. It is one of the major problems these days, reporters make baseless accusations and everyone reports them and gives them a substance they don't deserve. I think that a large percentage of the "doping" stories in the press are baseless and unfounded and eventually will be unproved. The 80 some odd people who are mentioned in the "Giro affair" will result I would bet on less than a dozen actual "cases" which will be prosecuted. While this is too many we must also put it into the big picture. Where almost everything on the UCI prohibited list can be freely taken by athletes in almost any other professional sport with impunity, either because they are not considered illegal or unethical or the users have no fear of being detected. While we shouldn't condone cheating we also must put everything into perspective, cycling is doing more than any other professional sport to take this problem head on and should receive some recognition for their efforts rather than a constant litany about cheating and cheaters, and a parroting of specious, baseless, drug allegations whether against our hero's or their competition.
Philip Higgs has asked what were the results of the Telekom-"Spiegel" affair. For those who are unfamiliar with the topic, in June 1999, one of Germany's leading news magazines, "Der Spiegel", accused team Telekom of systematic doping, going so far as to print an actual doping plan telling what drugs to take and when to take them that they received from someone somewhere. The article was vague about its sources and naturally angered Telekom, who took the issue to the courts. An article about the "Spiegel" article can be found at
The archives of radsport-news.com also contain the following article: http://radsport-news.com/news/tele-do3.htm. This article reports on the court's decision to grant an injunction against "Spiegel" at Telekom's request. The decision to grant the injunction, was reached very quickly after the magazine's initial accusations, and forbid "Spiegel" to disseminate allegations that Telekom was systematically doping. It was also not allowed to allege that every Tour rider was using EPO since 1996. Other points upon which the magazine made its argument were also forbidden by the court. These points are not enumerated in the article, however.
The decision was a temporary injunction which prevented the spread of any more information, presumably because the magazine could not lay any facts on the table, which is what Telekom requested. A verdict and examination of the validity of "Spiegel" having printed its article would be reached later in court.
On February 2, 2000, Telekom and "Spiegel" settled out of court, according to this article: http://radsport-news.com/news/spiegel.htm. According to the article, the details of the agreement reached were not made known beyond the following two items: Walter Godefroot would withdraw his charges to have the magazine retract its article and Werner Franke, a doping expert who brought forth many allegations- apparently with little concrete evidence- in the affair, would not in the future make allegations about the Telekom riders.
Apparently Jan Ullrich also had brought charges of his own against the magazine and he too let them drop at this point in time.
Several people have made the point that Armstrong has not assimilated to the Euro peloton, and that he has dictated the terms of his success by "bringing American cycling to the peloton..."and so on. While I applaud all his success, in cycling and in life, I would take exception to the notion that somehow he has ignored the existing Euro racing structure, or as some might put it, brought some other style to bear on the Peloton. He merely took time to understand and learn from it after his amazing recovery from cancer. I salute this wisdom and I understand where it came from.
As for LeMond having benefited by the strength of certain team he rode for, in both 86 and 89, he was either battling the internal politics of Hinault, or riding essentially without team support, as in 89. With support like that he was lucky to finish a Tour, let alone win.
I suggest that anyone who would say, at this point in history, that LeMond takes a back seat to Armstrong in any aspect of cycling has not been around very long. If you have any doubts, look at footage of the 1990 World Championships.
And, one footnote. In terms of "epic" single day stage wins, no American has shown the same "forte" as Andy Hampsten in the 88 Giro, and the Alpe D'Huez in 92.
The 1989 Tour is remembered largely for LeMond's incredible final TT and his battle with Fignon. But that Tour had some interesting parallels with 2001; a TTT and a mountain TT later in the race. Pedro Delgado lost 2:40 right off the bat by showing up late for the opening prologue, which obviously attracted a lot of attention and would have been commented on even more had it not been for LeMond's victory appropriately overshadowing everything else. Delgado closed down a huge gap in the mountains to finish on the podium, but simply lost too much time earlier in the race. And if memory serves, four-plus minutes of that gap were accrued in the TTT, proving that the TTT does have the potential to create large gaps between GC contenders. And perhaps also to restore the fortunes of riders like Julich and Vaughters, whose team may be strong enough in the TTT to boost their overall placings considerably in the long run.
Armstrong vs Ullrich #2
I am hoping to see an exciting Tour this year. While I usually do not favor one athlete over another ( I usually just enjoy the drama of a well fought contest ), I cant help but have a special admiration for Lance Armstrong. It is definitely not a nationalistic pride, but more than that I am impressed with his character as a person. One of my favorite Lance stories is when he won the Worlds in Sweden as a very young man, and was asked to meet with the King, when he showed up with his mother, she was asked to wait behind and Lance was prepared to leave at once saying that "I don't check my mother at the door"
I hope that Jan and Lance are both on form and prepared to "have at it" and may the best rider prevail. This is going to be something else, don't you think?
Armstrong vs Ullrich #3
I have noticed the same thing and had a few thoughts on it, I believe it is for more than one reason. One is that it is a difference in style between Europeans and Americans. Another is that many people feel a closer personal connection with Lance than with Jan, especially Americans who do a lot of the writing to the letters column. Personally I do it because I have met Lance and not Jan, I feel comfortable calling Armstrong, Lance because I feel a personal connection that I don't feel with Ullrich. I think Ullrich is a great athlete and I respect him, but do not feel the personal connection I do to Lance. I also noticed in Italy in the sporting mags and papers Armstrong is referred to usually as "Lance " or even "Caro Lance", whereas Jan is always Ullrich. In France Lance is almost always "Armstrong", I don't think too much should be read into these things, they are mostly differences in style and perception but not forms of disrespect.
Armstrong vs Ullrich #4
OK, now they are almost ready for their first pedal stroke.
But is it only Lance vs Jan, come on, there are so many riders there who have an amazing potential. Who really heard of Beloki before the Tour last year, or of Jan before he helped Riis to win the Tour, there are so many guys coming up and so many "wannabe" Leaders who are telling us every year how good they are prepared (Jalabert, Julich). Lance will go in there with an awesome team for the TTT, Ullrich has guys around who will pull him over the mountains, Beloki has both :-)
And to sad that the best domestique in the world has to work for an other guy. Because Tyler definitely would have the potential to finish on the podium.
Forecast: Postal will kick butt in the TTT, but Lance has the form of his life now (see the TDS), if he will have two bad days in the last week this year it will be too much. Ullrich, Beloki and Moreau and I am sure some "new" guys too will there then.
Let them roll now :-)
see ya in three weeks
Armstrong vs Ullrich #5
Reading the letters on Jan Ulrich and Lance Armstrong I came to the conclusion that the whole discussion is to strongly focused on winning or losing the TDF. A podium finish in the TDF cannot be seriously considered as losing; everyone who actually does some bike riding himself knows that. In this respect both Jan and Lance are great riders. Lance because he won the TDF twice and the world championship once and Jan because he accomplished four podium finishes (one win) in the TDF, one Vuelta win, he is Olympic Champion and was ITT World Champion. I think we have to owe our respect to both of them for being the great riders they are. And remember who ever will win the TDF this year, the second and third will not be losers. They will have been beaten by a very small margin (6 min. on 90 h total riding time is only 0.11% difference, that is 1/100 of a second on a 100m dash for example).
Armstrong vs Ullrich #6
There is a lot being said about Lance and Ullrich. Seems so easy to overlook that Lance was hit by a car shortly before the Olympics. And he still did really well (better than all us schmucks who sat home and watched on TV.).
I disagree with your picking Armstrong over Lemond. Armstrong has not shown the versatility of Lemond at racing different disciplines year-in and year-out. Sure Armstrong is dominating presently in the TdF. Where was he in the giro? I don't recall him ever starting the giro. If Lemond had not had to ride for Hinault in 85 he might have done better than third. After that he then helped Hinault win the Tour, taking 2nd in the process. In 86 he got 4th in the giro, second in Tour de Suisse, and 1st in the TdF. Then he placed a respectable ninth in world championships. In 84 he placed third behind Fignon and Hinault, Fignon being his team-mate and preset as that team's, Renault, winner. Which demonstrates a quality that Armstrong will never show, the ability to work for another rider. If Hincapie could get Armstrong's help he would win Paris Roubaix. Lets see if Armstrong has the ability to win, not just start, the world's after his almost assured third Tour victory. The statement regarding Armstrong's "blowing apart" the peloton is just stupid. It seems intact, EPO not withstanding. Maybe a little Rollerball is what this guy needs. I think riders should be assessed by their complete careers and not by how much hype can generated today by advertising. There is a sport(?) for people who just have to call people the best to soon. It's called WWF wrestling. LeMond's record does better in comparison to the benchmark, Eddy Merckx, than accomplishments of Lance.
Armstrong is a great rider and will probably do many more great things. But he needs to do them first before he can be called the greatest.
LeMond vs Armstrong #2
These types of comparisons are often futile. One, because we will never know. Two, times were different. Lance is clearly one of the most talented riders of all time. But Lemond was first. He broke the sound barrier for the Americans so to speak. He won the Tour under incredibly difficult circumstances. Now Lance carries on in his footsteps in what we may someday be able to call a tradition. It's obvious that Lance can go
LeMond vs Armstrong #3
In response to Mr. Parker's letter:
LeMond's mystery condition is I believe called "mitochondial myopathy, " which interferes with the muscle's ability to produce energy substrates. As I recall it's exceedingly rare and not well understood.
LeMond vs Armstrong #4
Lemond had "mitochondrial myopathy". I only have a BS (no pun intended) in Biochemistry, but I understand that to be a garbage term to describe failing energy transport systems in the mitochondria, the fat burning energy production part of every cell.
Scott D. Pryde
It is true that L.A. has done more for the sport in the U.S., but if you could put Armstrong, Ullrich, and LeMond in a Tour together with all three at the peaks of there careers, I think LeMond wins every time. Greg LeMond was perhaps the most talented cyclist that I have had the opportunity to watch. Sure LeMond was nurtured by the strongest team in the world at that time, but he also had to get there and be recognized at a time when American Cycling was far behind what it was when Armstrong came onto the scene. I remember when LeMond and Hinault devastated the best climbers in the world on the Alpe d'Huez stage of the 86 Tour. Or how about when LeMond won his second Tour with one of the weakest teams in the race and at a time when most people thought his career was over.
Brian E. Simons
Australians not in the Tour !! Everyone knows that to ensure a place in the Tour you have to change your Nationality to French, like Christopher Jenner, a New Zealander. And guess what country gets all the UCI points that Jenner wins, France not New Zealand.
The answer to why Iban Mayo is not riding the Tour is a relatively simple one. He is considered too young. I do believe he will be riding the Tour l'Avenir however, and am sure he will be "laying the smack down" on the roads of France. Best thing about Mayo apart from being a good bike rider, he is a genuinely nice guy as well.
I concur. It's too bad that Mercury did not make it to this year's Tour and that French politics got on the way of having two American teams in the race.
As for Iban Mayo not making Euskaltel - Euskadi's Tour team, I can only speculate that his form might have peaked already or that he is not prepared to complete a demanding three-week race. The tough Pyrenees come in towards the end and Euskaltel will want to have a full crew there to do well in front of its Basque fans. No worries though, the rest of the team looks very good and I am sure they will give us a few pleasant surprises. In my opinion, the ones to watch are Haimar Zubeldia (second in last year's Dauphinee Libere and winner of Bicikleta Vasca), Iker Flores, David Etxebarria, and Alberto Lopez de Munain in the TT.
Juan Blazquez Ancin
Although I am no expert in the matter I think Euskaltel's reasoning may be based on Iban's age. As he is only 23, the full length of the Tour and the fact there is quite a bit of ridding even before the road goes up would suggest they respect his abilities enough to bring him along more slowly. Sometimes riders are brought in at this age with the specific plan to have the rider withdraw at a certain stage of the Tour. I think Euskatel is going to go into this Tour with both barrels blazing when it hits the climbs, and have enough depth in the team to do so without Iban. I feel that we will see Iban develop into a premier rider of the future, with the act of "patience" in his development being a true show of "respect" to his cycling future.
I also feel that the other members of the Euskatel team have been recharging their batteries so they can give their all come Tour time. Time for the "warriors in orange" to show themselves for the "festival in July"
Just an opinion. Cheers!
Euskaltel-Euskadi is saving Iban Mayo for the Vuelta. I also regret this very much.
I believe Leblanc said "proven to be pursued" then he will oust them. So far we have seen no proof, but even so, what if someone is "proven... to be pursued... in relation to Italian doping laws"? What exactly does that mean? If you're called in for questioning is that being pursued in relation to the Italian doping laws? Even if you're being questioned about someone else's alleged use?
It is all very nebulous and , I'm sure, quite upsetting to the athletes.
Giro teams under suspicion #2
Being mentioned in a report and being "pursued" by the Italian legal system are probably not the same thing in TdF's eyes.
Raymond F Martin
Last year I listened to the Tour (in English) on the Eurosport website. I haven't checked to see if the webcast will be repeated in 2001.
Radio Tour #2
The following link is for a Spanish radio station (in Spain) that transmits the last hour of the TdF in Spanish via Real Player. Depending on your Spanish, you can follow the excitement live, with emphasis on the Spanish riders.
Hinault won a "career" trifecta, but never all the jerseys in the same year. Merckx in '69 is correct for a single Tour trifecta. And even though the wearing of the green jersey began in 1953, I have a source showing Gino Bartali winning a Tour points competition in 1948 to go along with his Overall and King of the Mountains win that same year.
The last month's letters