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Letters to Cyclingnews — June 21, 2001

Here's your chance to get more involved with Cyclingnews. 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

Yesterday's letter about saddle sores clearly touched a nerve with many readers who have offered a range of solutions to this uncomfortable problem. Also in today's letters, we've had a wealth of information about asthmas and corticosteroids, lots of opinion in the age-old clinchers vs sew-ups debate, praise for Cipo and lots more.

John Stevenson
Letters editor

Watching the Tour
Cipo
Ullrich
RAAM
Asthma & corticosteroids
Drugs
Drugs and MTB
Genevieve Jeanson
Giro vs Tour
Saddle sores
Sew-ups vs clinchers

Watching the Tour

In response to two letters asking about watching the Tour.

Look at www.tourisme.fr/us/annu/indmap.htm - this gives you a regional map of France. You can search by town or click on the area of the map you want to visit to see all towns in an area. Go in further to get the contact details for the Bureau de Tourisme for the town, and telephone numbers of hotels. You will be unlucky to find a hotelier who speaks no English at all.

Anything in a 20 mile radius of a start or finish will probably be booked - but you never know.

The roads that form the race route are closed at least two hours before it passes through. If there is a more direct route between start and finish, this road may be closed too, for use as a service road.

Someone wanted to see Stages 5, 6 and 7 - good choice. The team time trial (5) is a great spectacle. Find out the profile of the race, and find a hill or a tight turn. If you want to see a mountain stage, you have to get up there EARLY and take a picnic. Be prepared to park your car and walk a bit to get to a good spot.

The police will stop cars, but if you're on a bicycle or a motorbike, they will not be so hard on you. I remember asking a Gendarme (nicely) where we could leave our motorbikes and walk to see the race. He waved us through the roadblock and suggested somewhere. We parked in the street outside someone's house, and the owner came out and insisted we park on his garden, where the bikes would be safer. That would not happen in Britain.

Tony Bevan
UK
Wednesday, June 20

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Cipo #1

Cipo is the undisputed most successful rider currently racing. He has well over 150 victories in his long and colorful career. He is the first to admit that he is a sprinter, not a climber or a GC rider.

If you notice in the articles in the cycling mags whenever a new rider joins Saeco, they have nothing but praise for Cipo's work ethic and dedication to his training regimen. And his rivals all say the same thing. He is a true professional.

As for his flamboyant style, he (as well as every other professional cyclist) is paid by his sponsor to get the sponsors name noticed. And Cipo has put the Saeco name on the international map for anyone who has watched a pro race.

Everybody has their roll in the team. When was the last time you saw Armstrong contesting a bunch sprint, or Zabel in the lead group in a stage in the Alps? Cipo is paid to win bunch sprints, something he has done with more success than anyone for a long time.

In my book , there are not many other riders who are more gracious, generous and better sportsmen than Big Mario.

Chris Petrick
Portland, Oregon,USA
Wednesday, June 20

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Cipo #2

I agree. Perhaps it is Cipo's decisions to drop out of races where he has no chance of winning that has kept him healthy and fast for so many years. It is his goal to win races, plain and simple. By not subjecting his body to countless mountain stages, he has prolonged his racing career to the fans' enjoyment!

Mike K.
Denver, CO
Wednesday, June 20

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Cipo #3

Susan Pickens said: "I doubt we'd ever see Cipo doing support work for other team members". All I can say is: Get a tape of the 1997 Giro and watch it, you'll see plenty of support for his teamate Gotti who went on to win the race.

Brian Roth
USA
Wednesday, June 20

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Ullrich #1

All this talk about Ulrich's form is a load of crap. Last year Ullrich looked terrible before the Tour and placed second, again. This year he is not terrible. The Giro was probably the best thing he could have done, regardless of his placing. Although, it would be nice to see an on-form Ullrich more than once a year. At least Armstrong has consistently looked good in races from April through July, and last year even right through to the Olympics.

So many questions have me anticipating the Tour this year.

Of all the contenders trying to beat Armstrong, Ullrich is the most realistic. Armstrong at his best might be a slightly better climber than Ullrich at his best (has Ullrich been at his best since he won the Tour?), and Ullrich might be slightly better against the clock. Of course, this year has a mountain time trial - this might allow someone lower down the food chain stay in contention (Casagrande?).

Will Telekom stay with Postal in the TTT? Can Ullrich afford to lose any time?

One factor might be that Ullrich seams to get stronger as the Tour goes on and Armstrong seams to wear down. Will UlrichÕs participation in the Giro change this?

This might be UlrichÕs year. He must be sick of second place.

Armstrong is as focused as ever, even with the wife expecting twins. Will he be able to end this Tour in the second week?

Stages 13 and 14 look insanely hard. Big time gaps will result between the contenders and the also-rans. Postal replacing Livingston with the Kelme guys will certainly help. Will Livingston be able to make a difference for Ulrich?

It will be very hard to control the race on stages 15, 16, and 17. It will be a hard time to have the Yellow Jersey. The big men will have to roll-up the kilometers.

That last time trial on stage 18 might determine the eventual winner, but I suspect it will already be over by then. Unless a climber comes up big in the early stages, then that last time trial could be exciting (is there a climber that could ride away from Armstrong?). It would be quite a race if Armstrong and Ullrich were still close on GC at this time trial.

What about Moreau? Maybe the French will finally jump across into the fast lane, although it seems unlikely.

WonÕt know until July.

Michael Smith
New York, USA
Wednesday, June 20

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Ullrich #2

Matt Jennings is (and he is not alone, there is quite a bit of Ullrich worship out there these days) viewing Il Kaiser's performances in the Giro through Telekom pink colored glasses. Let's have a reality check:

1) Matt is correct, Jan wasn't in the gruppetto on every little climb during this years Giro, but he was in the gruppetto on every big climb! He came in with Cippolini virtually every day that was hard.

2) Yes, he led out some sprints for Hondo. Big deal! Fabio Sacchi does that every single day for Mario Cippolini and no-one is touting Fabio as a Tour winner. "How many times has Mr. Armstong done that?" In the US pro Championships in 1998 Lance drove the peloton like a locomotive for about an hour at the end of the race to help George Hincapie win. How about 1999 on the Plateau de Beille for Vaughters? What about last year when Lance did a huge amount of work (in the mountains, BTW which is a lot harder than taking a 35 second pull in a flat sprint) for Tyler to help him win the Dauphine.

3) Jan was a "no show" in the 2000 Vuelta? Check the results. Jan was sitting in fourth place after stage 12 when he left the race to tune for the Olympics. Sure, he wasn't going to win La Vuelta but he was in good shape quite obviously. In the 2001 Giro after 12 stages, Il Kaiser was in 67th place almost a half hour down and barely eight minutes ahead of that renowned climbing superstar Jeroen Blijlevens.

4) "look where Lance finishes on GC during those one week stage races he does in June"??? Remember Lance winning the Plateau de Beille stage in the Route du Sud in 1999? Remember last year in the Dauphine, Lance turned in a second place in the prologue, a win in the ITT, a second place (to Tyler) in a tough mountain stage, on his way to third overall? This year, at the Tour of Switzerland (so far) he has only won the prologue TT. Check back again after the mountain ITT.

5) Ullrich will be the factor in this years Tour? You bet! if he works his butt off and suffers like a dog, he will be the man to beat... for second place.

Leading out a few sprints doesn't mean you are in shape to win the Tour de France. There are plenty of guys who can go really fast in a flat finish (Mario Cippolini, for example) that don't have a prayer of a Grand Tour win. Going fast on the flats even in a TT (Wasn't Jan beaten by Marco Pantani in the Giro ITT on his way to 63rd place, BTW?) doesn't mean you can win the Tour (ask Abraham Olano) You have to be able to climb and climb every day with the best climbers. Don't be looking for Jan to "pull a Lemond" and win the Tour in July. Miracles in cycling are the result of lots of suffering and hard work (ask Lance and Greg). Lemond rode poorly in the 1989 Giro, but he suffered every day and rode himself into form. (Correct me if I'm wrong but I think he was third in the final ITT.).

Here will be a reality check on July 7th: Lemond won the prologue in the 1989 Tour. He arrived in shape and won the race. Jan will not be in his best shape and will not win. Not a chance.

Scott Goldstein
USA
Wednesday, June 20

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RAAM

Please devote no coverage to the RAAM, one of cycling's silliest events. It was a stupid event when it started twenty years ago, populated by strange cyclists with the tunnel vision necessary for such devotion to one event. It continues to be an obsure event with countless examples of absurdity. The poor quality of the field was demonstrated in the one year that Jacques Boyer entered and won easily.

I've sat through the boring television coverage on more than a few occasions over the years, hoping for some improvements. And i've been disappointed each time. The cyclists dont appear to be particularly healthy, fit, or experienced. I have a hard time believing that folks that appear rather pudgy and soft have really trained to the extent required even by Category 5 racing in the U.S. Its a collection of odd-balls that dont deserve mention. That the current race director is Lon Haldeman, the goofy Skid-Lid-wearing race winner of the earliest RAAM's, speaks volumes. And to look at the start list confirms that it is the same ageing group of kooks from years gone by.

I'll skip any mention of the 2001 RAAM in CyclingNews and ignore any production televised on cable. If Jacques Boyer comes out of retirement to show the wierdos how to ride in 2002, perhaps i'll have a look. But i know that he probably has the good sense not to bother......


Noel Murphy
San Francisco
Wednesday, June 20

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Asthma & corticosteroids #1

There has been a lot of recent comment on asthma and sports. It seems that this debate springs up in some form every few years. As is often the case when discussing this issue, a possible reason for the increased number of asthmatics in sports is overlooked.

During each normal day, the sedentary individual puts very little strain on any of their body's systems, including the respiratory system. It is therefore far more likely that any borderline ailments might never be exposed by their lifestyle. However, the athlete puts his/her body under tremendous stress on a daily basis. This stress can expose ailments (not only respiratory) that might go undiscovered for an average person's lifetime.

This is not to say that some athletes are not taking advantage of the system, but it stands to reason that athletes will have a greater prevalence of many ailments as compared to the general population, particularly if you exclude the excessively unhealthy and restrict the comparison to merely average individuals versus athletes. The aggregate numbers do not tell the whole story and citing them as definitive proof of cheating without examining each individual case is problematic and not at all fair to athletes that suffer ailments for both genetic and environmental reasons.

Eric Barber
Los Angeles, CA
Wednesday, June 20

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Asthma & corticosteroids #2

My pharmacology text list the actions of corticosteroids as:

1. Increase the synthesis of and blood levels of glucose - This provides the body with
energy it needs to combat stress caused by trauma, fright, infection (two weeks of a
stage race?) and also leads to one of the many dreadful side effects - diabetes.

2. Alters the levels of cells in the blood:
increases: red blood cells (and thus hemoglobin), platelets, neutrophils
decreases: other infection fighting white blood cells - causes decreased ability to
fight infection.

3. Reduce inflammation (redness, swelling, tenderness, etc.) - this is their major
therapeutic use and why patients with asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, and hundreds
of other conditions use them.

4. There are many other effects that are mainly unpleasant - diabetes, stomach ulcers,
severe bone loss, muscle wasting, etc. They also increase growth hormone
production.

We are taught in medical school that they are drugs to be used with great care because of all of the side effects [with the exception of the inhaled steroids that don't have as many side effects (or performance enhancing abilities) because they aren't absorbed well into the blood - they mainly reduce airway inflammation in asthma and other conditions]. I hope this has helped. Please don't hesitate to ask if you have any other questions.

Andrew Dunn
USA
Tuesday, June 19

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Asthma & corticosteroids #3

Asthma medicine will not help a non-asthmatic. I have severe asthma and race for the US Duathlon team. Many endurance athletes develop asthma that would have otherwise gone un noticed (that was my case).

As long as you started the wishing here, I wish I had a fully functional respiratory system (it's only 85 per cent of average volume for my size): I'd be a world champ. I have to fight very hard to maintain form within the constraints of the disease- it really frys me to read uninformed crap like your post that assumes I've got and edge from the medicine I take. I spend significant out-of-pocket money to go to a sports medicine specialist who has the knowledge of what I can and can't take. And all this just for the joy of being able to breath 85 per cent as well as the average person, not the average athlete, not the world class athlete. You try racing while breathing through a straw!

Further, the requirements under IOC rules (which underlay pretty much all sanctioning body regs) are that we notify our national governing body of the medicines we're taking. I have to do that each year. If Ullrich, or any other asthmatic for that matter, notifies his governing body, then they're legal.

Raymond F Martin
USA
Wednesday, June 20

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Asthma & corticosteroids #4

Mr Higgs asked what exactly are corticosteroids and what do they do. Basically, corticosteriods are a general class hormones made in the cortex of the adrenal gland. Corticosteriods can be further broken down into the categories of mineralocorticoids, glucocorticoids, and androgens.
Androgens are "sex hormones" that act much like testosterone (which is secreted from the testes), and are produced in very small quantities by the adrenal cortex. They are anabolic in nature, and excesses of this type of corticosteroid leads to "masculinization" type syndromes, especially in women and pre-pubital males. Certain synthetic anabolic steroids would fall into this category.

The primary mineralocorticoid produced by the body is aldosterone(responsible for 90 per cent of all mineralocorticoid activity in the body), the other player being cortisol, which has less mineralocorticoid activity but is produced in much higher quantities. Mineralocorticoids, especially aldosterone, effect several key systems of the body. They are key in renal activity, promoting sodium reabsorption and potassium secretion. Basically, excess aldosterone will lead increased sodium and water reabsorption (which can ultimately lead to increased arterial pressure and thus hypertension), and decrease in potassium (which will result in muscle weakness from alteration of nerve function). Decreased mineralocorticoids would lead to incresed potassium (which will cause weakness of heart contractions, arrhythmias, shock, and death). They can also effect sweat glands, salivary glands, and intestinal absorption in the same way (increased sodium absorption while removing potassium). The main synthetic mineralocorticoids are used in cases of addison's disease (atrophy of the adrenal cortex), along with a glucocorticoid if necessary.

The primary glucocorticoid produced by the body is cortisol. The effects of cortisol are widespread and varied, some dependant upon the level of cortisol present. It stimulates gluconeogenesis (breaking down proteins into carbohydrates by the liver), while also decreasing the rate of glucose utilization by cells in the body. It decreases protein synthesis and increases protein catabolism (breakdown) throughout the body (except the liver). It decreases amino acid (protein building blocks) transport into cells. It mobilizes fatty acids from adipose (fat) tissues as well. During times of stress and/or trauma cortisol will be secreted by the body (why or if this is of benifit to the animal, except in severe disease, is unknown). At high levels, it can increase the production of red blood cells somewhat by an unknown mechanism. Cortisol is also a potent anti-inflammatory (its primary medical use). Basically, cortisol can block the early stages of inflammation before it really gets started or it can cause rapid resolution of ongoing inflammation. Its effects on inflammation are widespread to the point of suppressing the immune system (a sign of excess cortisol would be decreased circulation of lymphocytes, eosinophils, and widespread atrophy of lymphoid tissues, which can lead to increased chance of infection, even from otherwise controllable pathogens). These anti-inflammatory effects are the effects of cortisol that make it a key substance to use in controlling allergies and asthma. There are many commonly used synthetic glucocorticoids available.

So, as you can see, the term corticosteroids is rather broad. What does this all mean in terms of athletes? First of all, it means that saying that someone is using corticosteriods could mean a wide variety of things. Anabolic steroids (testosterone-type), glucocorticoids, and mineralocorticoids are commonly used in the medical world and have a variety of legitimate applications. If you were treating asthma or allergies, glucocorticoids would be a legitimate choice in many cases. If you look at the basic list of what glucocorticoids do, the one that likely sticks out is increased red blood cell production. But this occurs at high levels, and the other effects of glucocorticoids would make this of limited benifit in an athlete (remember, glucocorticoids have a catabolic effect on the body, breaking down muscle, which it would seem would not be what you would want to happen in an athlete).

The bottom line is that if an athlete is using a corticosteroid, the majority of reasons to do so would seem to be completely justifiable, so don't jump to conclusions.

George
USA
Wednesday, June 20

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Asthma & corticosteroids #5

Having suffered from aggravated bronchial and lung conditions, treated by inhalant corticcosteroids, I can't imagine trying to compete, much less breathe without them. They say that there are a high number of "asthmatics" in the peloton, but it goes beyond there. The numbers of asthma cases increases each year amongst the general populace. We can thank pollution, horrid weather, increases in allergens, second-hand (and first-hand) cigarette smoke.... the list goes on.

I think that seizing prescribed medications, not asking for the certificates, and then throwing names out to the wolves (press).. was nothing more than grand scale posturing by the Italian Government. Should we shoot Armstrong for using cortisone cream on his saddle sores? Or perhaps we should throw US Postal out of the Tour because they had Activogen (a blood oxygen enhancer) amongst their medical supplies (it was for a Diabetic assistant I believe). I mean it had been reported all along that Ullrich was taking medication because he was sick. Aggravated by the cold and wet weather conditions. Sheesh.

Susan
USA
Wednesday, June 20

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Asthma & corticosteroids #6

Inhaled corticosteroids are the most effective anti-inflammatory drugs used to manage asthma,which is a disease involving narrowing of the airways in the lungs.This narrowing can be in response to asthma triggers,such as allergens,but it can also be demonstrated by virtually all those engaged in high level aerobic exercise,where the airways become irritated and inflamed due simply to the intensity of the flow rates in the airways.Nearly all athletes will show substantial decreases in late expiratory flow rates after intense exercise,and the physician may then make the diagnosis of EIA,and prescribe inhaled bronchodilators (B.D.)and steroids to maintain airway patency during exercise.Often a 20 per cent improvement can be noted after a simple BD is given.Who wouldn't want to breath more easily at the end of a long event,when lining up for the sprint?This problem of airway narrowing during severe exercise is a universal physiological response,and is documented objectively by many studies involving computerized pulmonary function testing and diverse athletic subjects.

Bob Benedum
Durand, WI
Wednesday, June 20

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Drugs #1

In response to the myriad of opinions about drug use in cycling and the bad image it has developed, one should step back and examine the nature of medicine in Europe, the United States and generally in the industrialized nations. I, nor any observer of the sport, can not make definitive charges regarding whether an athlete is doped or clean especially in the larger context of western medicine. The rules regarding banned substances are usually reactionary and designed to create an illusion of an amateur ideal, an ideal out of place with the exigencies of the professional circuit. This ideal would mandate that the champion of any strenuous event be the athlete with a genetic make up that is not susceptible to allergies, infections, low blood sugar, mineral deficiencies or has inadequate thyroid/liver/kidney function. He might not be able to outclimb all of the competitors or outsprint them, but he would be the last one standing. Is this what we want or place value on for our champions? Doctors and the individual riders are allowed to regulate their bodily functions in what is for them a necessity, because cycling is so hard. Do I, as a recreational cyclist feel unfairly cheated when I fall back from a group because I bonked due to inadequate preparation?

Adequate and efficient preparation are always performance enhancing. The difficulty begins when the opportunities to utilize medicine are inequitable or so experimental to have potentially long term side effects. Modern (western) medicine is no longer an herbal tradition but an ever-changing pursuit of the quick fix. As much as we benefit from medicine, we are victimized by this double edged sword.

Scot Montague
Dallas TX
Tuesday, June 19

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Drugs #2

As a late-comer to the "drugs in cycling" debate I hope I am not simply re-stating prior comments, however the issue is indeed complex. While the riders, team directors, and team doctors must own up to the responsibility of taking/advocating the use of performance enhancing drugs, what are we to make of the "fan culture" that demands super-human efforts?

Did anybody care when we "didn't know" that cyclists were taking drugs? The disturbing truth is that many fans WANT to see records fall and rivalries created-it helps sell the drama of sport. What the fans do not care about, often times, is the rider after his/her cycling days are over. We comfort ourselves by saying, "hey, those folks are well compensated" and that is true-but it is easy to be a critic on the this side of the television screen.

I am simply suggesting that the issue is far more complicated then claiming that "doping gives an unfair advantage" or "doping is dangerous" or that "doping is immoral".

Matt Masucci
USA
Wednesday, June 20

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Drugs #3

I applaud the actions of the Italian and French police!

The drug culture exists and those who deny or condone it in any small way (riders, managers, federations and fans alike) are the ones destroying our sport, not the actions of the police. So what if we lose a few sponsors during this painful period - the long term "health" of the sport is what matters. Anyway, to those who have raced and doped and maybe raced against me at some point: Well done on your "victory"! You cheated and you won. You are a champion. Me? I'm just a loser who enjoys riding my bike.

Greg O'Hara (formerly Dublin Wheelers)
Switzerland
Tuesday, June 19

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Drugs and MTB

In response to Adrian Vizzari, would you consider a bunch of grown men that play in the dirt for a living clean, or drug free?

On the serious side, at this moment it seems that international MTB racing seems to have less of a drug problem. However, can we forget the one year suspension of Giant rider Lenny Kristenson? Ask your local pro about those '98 worlds in Canada, about people running up and down the halls at 3am the night before the cross country.

I had a short stint as a semi-pro, and the only banned substance that I saw used was probably more harmful to preformace than helpful. It was mainly used up in Northern California events, and is inhaled via a water pipeÉ

I think there may be use. I think that there is less temptation to use because mountain bikers have a 2-3 hour lactic acid love fest, and then have a week to recover, before doing it again. They don't have to race day-in and day-out over sick distances. This, would think, would result in a higher percentage of 'clean' racers.

Andres Aguirre
California, USA
Wednesday, June 20

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Genevieve Jeanson #1

To the reader who asked why Genevieve Jeanson wasn't going to ride the HP Challenge.

Considering how dominant she is, it's very easy to forget that she's still only 19 years old. At that young of an age, the stress of a 12-day event might be a bit much, especially when you look at her take-no-prisoners and no-lead-is-big-enough tactics. If she rode that one the way she rides all her other races, she would probably fry herself for the rest of the year.

My own opinion is that she should wait two more years before attempting this event. At that point, she'd be 21 and much more mature, physically. Remember, Greg LeMond didn't complete a 3-week tour until his fourth year as a pro, and it wasn't until his third year that he was contesting the GC at the Dauphine Libere.

Jim Burlant
Mesa, Arizona USA
Tuesday, June 19

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Genevieve Jeanson #2

Good point Suzanne.

I love both these cyclists (for their abilities) and feel that Lyne could give Jen a real go for her money. It was pretty obvious that Lyne was looking out for Anne's interests. The tactical aspects of a race are too often overlooked. And yes, we often place too much pressure on our athletes, specially those from Quebec. I think Lyne and Jen will both be around for a long time to thrill us with their riding.

Micharel McMurray
Guelph, Ontario, Canada
Wednesday, June 20

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Giro vs Tour

In my comments about Simoni, there were no "slams". Simoni is a great rider and he rode superbly to win the 2001 Giro. Tony Rominger, Alex Zulle, Laurent Jalabert, Ivan Gotti, Abraham Olano, Pavel Tonkov, Andy Hampsten, Gianni Bugno are/were all fantastic riders. It is not a slam on them to say that they couldn't win the Tour. It is just a fact. The best rider of any given era is the guy who is going to win the Tour. The guys that win the Vuelta and the Giro eventually run up against the giants of the sport at the Tour de France and fail. Yes there are exceptions, notably Pantani in 1998. But I won't bore you with the details nor risk starting another elaborate thread, but Pantani's win (a climber's win) is not something that is likely to be repeated by Pantani (or any other climber like Simoni) any time soon.

Richard Burden has made a wonderfully bold statement that Jan is going to beat Lance by 5-10 minutes this year in the Tour. I wonder what evidence Richard is relying upon to make such a statement. Seems to me that head to head when both are in form, Jan and Lance seem fairly evenly matched. 2000 Tour final TT: small win for Lance, 2000 Olympic RR: small win for Ulrich. And...this all presumes that Ullrich can regain the form that saw him win the 1997 race (might have won the 1996 race too!). Time for Ullrich (and his fans) to wake up and realize that 1997 is starting to look like ancient history.

Scott Goldstein
USA
Wednesday, June 20

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Saddle sores #1

All I do for saddle sores is slap some vasoline down there when I go for a ride, make sure I scrub it real good when I'm done riding, and never, ever wear the same shorts twice. It'll go away after a couple weeks if you do this.

JMD Voigt
USA
Tuesday, June 19

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Saddle sores #2

stop riding!
Well just for a little while.Apply something like Assos Chamois Cream or exactly that. It has stuff to stop the itch, stickiness, pain and a topical antibacterial agent to speed healing. Next take a long look at your saddle and how it's shaped versus where you're chafing. Then take a look at your pedaling dynamics.Are you rocking? Rest is good for saddle sores let alone your fitness. And p.s. don't pop them, it makes it worse.

Barry Johnson
Salt Lake City, UT USA
Tuesday, June 19

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Saddle sores #3

Vert, sounds like you've got an infected hair follicle (folliculitis). If it keeps returning the infection is quite deep and won't go away without you staying off your bike for maybe a couple of months, unless you take some treatment. See your doctor, who should provide you with a course of antibiotic treatment (tablets) that you may need to take for a couple of months plus an antibiotic ointment.

If you've got a less serious infection antibiotic or antifungal ointment does the trick.

If it is a minor infection methalyted sprits works ok.

To stop getting an infection in the future pay more attention to hygiene, wash the area after a ride and only wear shorts once before washing, take them off asap.

Get some treatment, stay off the bike for a week for the treatment to start working, then go back on the for short rides until the sore shrinks/doesn't hurt.

The last resort is an operation to have it removed if it's really bad.

Frank Mackin
Bolton, UK
Wednesday, June 20

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Saddle sores #4

To reduce pressure on an existing saddle sore, cover it with a "corn cushion" (small latex pads with a hole in the middle, sold in various sizes at most pharmacies). To reduce the ongoing occurrence of saddle sores, use a chamois creme (Chamois Butt'r is one brand sold in North America) or a Vitamin A & D creme. Make sure whatever product you choose is waterproof.

Instead of chamois or vitamin creme, I use a non-cycling product called Bag Balm. Its original purpose was to prevent chapping and cracking on cow's udders. It contains lanolin and a mild antiseptic, and is inexpensive. Much favoured by randonneurs and ultra-cyclists in Canada and the U.S.

Alan Thwaits
Mississauga, Ontario, Canada
Wednesday, June 20

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Saddle sores #5

They are more likely clogged sebacious glands (sweat) that are causing you grief. Use a hot compress on the affected area and always change shorts after rides. I also recommend using a cream like Utter-butter, chamois cream or the best yet Assos chamois cream. Also make sure that your shorts are snug and not too loose in the crotch area.

Stefan Berggren
Waterloo, Wisconsin
Wednesday, June 20

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Saddle sores #6

Hey Vert - That doesn't sound like a saddle sore, it sounds like a boil. I know, you don't care about the technical terminology as much as the fact that the damn thing hurts. If it is of considerable size and redness I would get it lanced (insert your own Allez Lance joke here) by a medical professional. For saddle sore prevention wear good shorts, wash them after each ride, and use a lubricant (Chamois Butter, Udder Balm, etc.) to reduce friction. Good luck, Vert!

Kevin Powers
Minnesota, USA
Wednesday, June 20

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Saddle sores #7

Okay, this isn't pretty, but here goes: you need a butt doctor. My wife is mine, God bless her! The sore must be emptied, any --horrors-- ingrown/in-sore hairs removed by tweezer. This may go on for 1, 2, or 3 days, butt it works. Also, use a good anti-bacterial ointment.

Absent a willing partner, then a real doctor will do.

Jay Perley
USA
Wednesday, June 20

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Saddle sores #8

Vert-- Wow, six years cycling and you just got your first saddle sore! I've been dealing with one lately myself. My favorite short-term solution is Dr. Scholl's callous cushions--they're large round doughnut shaped foam with adhesive on one side. Surround the sore with that and it will begin to heal. You should also look at all the reasons why you might have gotten it in the first place--saddle, shorts, etc. Noxzema works nicely as a preventative solution.

Ron Matross
Minnesota
Wednesday, June 20

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Saddle sores #9

My advice on saddle sores is three things:

1) Use top quality shorts, and have several pairs, so that you only use them once between washing. Line drying in the sun also probably helps dry and sterilize.

2) Use chamois creme. The Assos creme is good. It helps cut down on friction, chafing, and heat.

3) Salt water soaks. Salt is a good disinfectant. I live next to the ocean, so I get in the water at least once a week.

Ben Berto
CA, USA
Wednesday, June 20

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Sew-ups vs clinchers #1

I'm a 35 year old Cat 3/Masters racer. Although sew ups may be more costly, and more of a pain in the butt, nothing feels sweeter through the corners than a pair of Velo Max Sew ups! If you were not racing, I'd say stick with the clinchers. I get support from a local shop, so I don't pay retail but if I did not I'd still go with the box rim and sew ups.

Crowboy
USA
Tuesday, June 19

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Sew-ups vs clinchers #2

Clinchers have come a long way since you last hung up your bike. I've found two I really like due to the tubular range of air pressure they allow. Vredestein Tri-Comps and Panaracer Stradius. They allow 145 and 150 psi in 700*23s and the Tri-Comp has an almost tubular quality ride. The downside is they wear quick! Tubulars are still the ticket if you don't mind the hassle of gluing and can patch them. In the end, you'll be pleased with the ride of the new clinchers and may want to have a set of tubulars for racing, if that's your bag.

Gerald Greene
Kennesaw GA
Wednesday, June 20

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Sew-ups vs clinchers #3

With the advancements of clincher tires in this day and age, they are almost as responsive as tubulars. I say almost, because a tubular tire and wheel will almost always be lighter and more responsive/forgiving than a clincher tire and wheel. Tubulars if you know the proper maintenance and mounting procedure can bring a lively feel to a bike. However with clinchers such as Vredestein and Continental, used in conjunction with a box rim and latex tube offer a very similar ride. I say buy a race wheelset with tubular tyres on them and a train with a clincher set. One recommendation is to use Vredestein Fortezza tires, they rock like no other tire you will ever ride on.

Stefan Berggren
Waterloo, Wisconsin
Wednesday, June 20

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Sew-ups vs clinchers #4

In response to Michel van Musschenbroek's letter, here is my two cents' worth. I used to race only on clinchers, initially because I had only one set of wheels but continued once I bought a race wheelset. I used Michelin Axial Pros, since they were the best I thought. Then, I bought a pair of Mavic Ksyrium wheels for singles. The difference between the singles and the clinchers struck me like that between chalk and cheese - the singles pump up harder, don't squish around underneath you when under pressure (eg when out of the saddle), you feel the road surface better due to less rubber in the tread and they corner at least as well if not better than clinchers. Obviously, all that is partly a function of the tyre brand and wheel type - my singles on the Ksyriums are Vittoria Corsa CX. I also have a set of Corima Aero singles (using Continental Competition 22 singles) and find the same difference in feel. The bottom line - there is absolutely no way I would go back to clinchers for race wheels. Singles must add about 10 per cent to my performance I reckon. If you buy good singles (my Vittorias have a kevlar belt in them - the Contis seem to be bullet proof anyway), then you shouldn't find punctures an issue (unless of course you ride through lots of glass/thorns).

Alex Sceales
Australia
Wednesday, June 20

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Sew-ups vs clinchers #5

Most of my racing friends (and retired racer friends) use both, but they save the sewups for races and "fast" days. I have three sets of clincher wheels and 1 set of sewups; I'd use the sewups more except for the cost and the hassle of fixing flats - you get a smoother ride, better acceleration & cornering and better pinch-flat protection for the same weight (although for sheer rolling resistance a good clincher might be better). Almost all the pros still race on sewups, but they train on clinchers when they're home (and paying for the tires themselves).

Louie Pyfer
USA
Wednesday, June 20

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Sew-ups vs clinchers #6

I've been racing since 1974 off and on, and know all about your "equipment" dilemma, but on the subject of tires I might be able to clarify a few of your questions. I get this question a lot from the young racers coming up who have only known clinchers. Clincher tire technology has improved dramatically since the days when Micheal was racing. The top level clinchers offer much better adhesion and ride quality than they did in the 70s and 80s, as well as much lighter weights than were once available.

With this said I still greatly prefer "tubies" for racing applications. They still offer lower weight at the outer perimiter of the wheel, and the cornering and ride quality is still unapproached(in my opinion) by clinchers. One of the main reasons clinchers have taken over from sew-ups, especially at entry level racing, is that most of those pimply faced 17 year olds that you see working in every bike shop haven't got a clue about sew-ups, very few people in shops nowadays know how to properly mount and repair sew-ups so you are pretty much left to do it yourself and the knowledge of how to do these procedures is slowly dying out among younger racers because they think it is just too much hassle and the performance advantage is not worth the trouble. Sew-ups are also generally speaking more expensive (although the new generations of racing clinchers are amazingly expensive), and much more difficult to maintain. All this said, I and most of the riders on my club use sew-ups while racing. They are still unsurpassed for racing, and another major advantage is the ability to put 20-60psi more pressure in them for some applications, thus greatly reducing rolling resistance. If you have the money and don't mind the hassle of gluing the tires then I say go with the sew-ups you won't regret it.

Steve Farris
Silver City, New Mexico
Wednesday, June 20

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Sew-ups vs clinchers #7

You are right, tubular tires do still have a better feel of responsiveness than today's modern clinchers. Clincher tires have improved greatly, thus lending to alot of the pro teams starting to use them. I don't know the percentage, but I am sure it has grown over the years. I do know that most if not all riders in the grand tours still opt for tubies for the feel and safety of a slow leak of of tubular rather than the potential explosive failure of a clincher. I personally have tried both and although I like tubulars, I ride clinchers mainly due to ease of installation. I just don't have the time to stretch and glue tubulars. This would also cut down on the amount of overhead for the team mechanic and I think that could be on the some of minds of some pro teams, especially those with smaller than average budgets.

Jeff Paul
USA
Wednesday, June 20

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Sew-ups vs clinchers #8

I belive that there are some teams using clinchers, specially since Michelin proved theirs were equal to sew-ups, but the best rides use sew-ups, for one good reason: the rims are lighter, and the sew-ups are still more confortable, and have a greater pressure, so a less rolling resistance

Henri Gabrysz
USA
Wednesday, June 20

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Sew-ups vs clinchers #9

The answer to your question is easy!

The clinchers of today are lighter and faster than when you were racing. VeloFlex out of Italy manufactures clinchers, which weigh 120 grams and are as fast as tubs. They are handmade and feature a Kevlar bead.

The other reason is price! Clinchers are fast less expensive than tubs and easier to put on and so on.

I would say that over 50 per cent of the pro teams use clinchers!

Benoit
Wednesday, June 20

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Sew-ups vs clinchers #10

Michel van Musschenbroek had a question about sew-ups vs clinchers.

In my experience (track and road racing) sew-ups did seem to offer better response but they were normally more expensive and not as practicle as clincher when it came to punctures.

I did however use sew-ups for racing on the track where punctures where less of an issue for me. On the road I found fold-up clinchers (especially the 'open sew-up' type) offered me the best of both worlds. You normally get a lighter weight tire than the conventional clincher and a similar ride to the sew-up but without all the hassle of repairing a sew-up.

I hope this helps.

Terence Gilbert
Michigan, USA
Wednesday, June 20

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Sew-ups vs clinchers #11

There are few teams on clinchers. They have gotten better, but there is still no comparing. Tubulars are far and away better in all aspects. Your local folks are probably using them to save money. That's fine, but not something I'd consider when buying racing equipment. For what it's worth, go tubulars, and go Conti tubulars.

Raymond F Martin
USA
Wednesday, June 20

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Sew-ups vs clinchers #12

I race sew-ups and I train on clinchers. The two main reasons I race sew-ups are:

1) I also have been racing for a number of years. I took a few years off and then started back in. At that time I had to make the transition from 6 speed friction shift to 8 (now 9) speed STI. So I had to buy new race wheels. All 3 of my old sew-up front wheels work just fine regardless of the shifting changes, so I saved money there and just bought a sew-up rear wheel. I didn't want to mix sew-ups and clinchers in case I'm in a race with no support. I'd rather not have to deal with carrying both inner tubes and spare tires. 2) I just rode a race that was 3 laps of a 12 mile loop. They were paying 10 places - and only 7 riders started. Half way into the first lap, I flatted. No support vehicle. No spare (I thought about it at the start but decided not to!!!). But because it was a sew-up, I could ride it 6 miles to start/finish, change my wheel, and finish the race. There's no way you could ride a clincher that far at any reasonable speed and not fall over or have anything left of the rim.

My wife races on clinchers because the shop where she works loans them to her.

In general, I think the clincher technology is improving to the point where the top of the line clinchers ride almost like sew-ups. Given the small differences in performance, the convenience of clinchers (easy to reach inner tubes, no gluing, cost, etc.) makes the decision to go with clinchers much easier.

Craig Farrell
St. Louis, MO USA
Wednesday, June 20

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The last month's letters

  • June 20 - Drugs, saddle sores, VDB, clinchers vs tubulars, Frigo, Ullrich, Jeanson
  • June 13 - Part three: Drugs & Giro (lots more), Montreal WC, Giro vs Tour
  • June 13 - Part two: Drugs & Giro (lots), Giro vs Tour, Ullrich, TdF '01, Radios, ONCE on Klein?
  • June 13 - Part one: Drugs & the Giro, Belli, Ullrich, radio TT, Giro vs Tour
  • June 7 – Special Giro raid edition
  • June 6 – Simoni, Belli, Ullrich, 'Massacre à la chain', radio TT, Giro vs Tour, back surgery
  • May 31 – Back surgery, Cipo, Tour vs Giro, TV coverage
  • May 29 – Telekom tactics, Back surgery, Cipo, the Tour, Shaving, Giro, Mroz kit
  • May 22 – Genevieve Jeanson, Scott Sunderland, Shaving, Tour selections, Euskaltel kit wanted
  • May 15 – Genevieve Jeanson, Shaving, The ultimate fixie, Tour wildcard reactions
  • May 9 – Tour wildcard reactions, part one; part two
  • Letters Index - The complete index to every letters page on cyclingnews.com