Letters to Cyclingnews June 23, 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.
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Sometimes it seems that pro racers get too preoccupied with the job in hand and forget that it's a good idea to be pleasant to their fans. We kick off today with a letter about an encounter with a racer who took the time to look after a fan, and made a 10-year-old boy's day in the process.
It seems the Race Across America has fans after all, despite the letter we ran a couple of days ago. Several readers have written to defend the race and its riders. Also today, more letters about Jan Ullrich, VDB, Genevieve Jeanson, sew-ups vs clinchers and the latest installment in 'more than you ever wanted to know about saddle sores' with some solid advice on prevention of these pesky inflammations.
After reading recent Cycling News letters, many of which focus on the negative aspects of the sport ranging from drug use to saddle sores (ouch!), I thought it might be time for a little change of pace.
This past spring, my family and I took a our second "spring classics" trip to Europe to watch the Tour of Flanders, Ghent-Wevelgem, and Paris-Roubaix. The trip was sensational and we were able to observe bicycle racing at its best. My 10-year old son, who is a big fan of the sport, spent time before and after every race attempting to get the autographs of his favourite racers. Some, such as Peter van Petegem, were very obliging. Others, who will remain un-named but were mostly Italian, were not (could it be that drug use makes for a less than friendly cyclist?) What sticks in my mind about the trip (and of course my son's) was an incident that occurred right after the finish of Ghent-Wevelgem. Being from the U.S., we were thrilled at the finish of George Hincapie and my son wanted to wait by the team bus to hopefully get George's autograph. Little did he know that George wouldn't be back because he was being asked by medical personnel to provide a urine sample and had other post-race obligations to which to attend. Waiting for other riders to come over to the team bus or exit from it after changing, we found ourselves standing next to a woman and her children who appeared to be the family of one of the U.S. Postal riders. As she watched her children, my son attempted to get the autographs of some of his heroes. Matt White spoke to my son kindly and obliged him in a very gentlemanly manner. All of other "Posties," we saw, however, ignored his requests and refused to even say thank you as he congratulated them on a great race. V. Ekimov even pushed him aside. At this point, my son's face was one of dejection and what had begun as a beautiful day appeared to be ruined.
As we continued to wait, a U.S. Postal rider, Antonio Cruz, stuck his head out of the door of the team bus and told the woman and her children who had been standing next to us that it was all right for them to come in to bus. Not more than 15 seconds later, Antonio and his wife appeared at the door of the bus with a U.S. Postal cycling hat for my son. Apparently, Antonio's wife had observed what had occurred. My son's emotions did a total "about-face." His reaction was one of pure joy. For the remainder of our trip, that hat was either on his head or no more than 3 feet away from him. Today, it sits on his bedpost, when it's not on his head, and is faithfully worn by him every time he goes to watch me, his father, race. As we read Cyclingnews together each evening and check out race results, my son now doesn't first ask where Lance Armstrong placed, or how George Hincapie rode, but rather, how Antonio Cruz raced.
Antonio, I don't know if you read Cyclingnews and doubt whether you or your wife even remember the event, but I want to thank you for your little act of kindness. It made our trip a special one for my 10-year old son and resulted in your having a couple of additional fans for life. Thank you.
Plenty of readers must have good and bad experiences of meeting pro riders. Let's have your tales of pro encounters.
I seek your and your readers advice regarding going to see a race in Italy at the end of September (assuming they're not still trying to figure out their "ethics" code). I'm going to a wedding outside Florence on September 28, and am planning on flying into Rome the week before. Here are the races scheduled in Italy around that time.
9/22 Giro del Lazio
I'm leaning toward the Giro del Lazio, outside Rome. Here are my specific questions:
1. Can anyone recommend one of these races?
2. I've never been to a European race before, can anyone give me specific advice on how to get the most of the day? Like when to get there, how best to see the most riders, how to figure out where to stand, etc. Or will it all be obvious if I just show up?
I disagree with fellow Bay Area reader Noel Murphy.
When I lived in Florida, I rode with Rob Kish once with my friend Mike McConnell, who introduced me to cycling. He was pretty amazing. Yeah, he didn't go all that fast, and he wasn't all that talkative, but you had to respect a guy who rode from the coast 100+ miles to meet you for your 120+ miler, and then rode back home on a Power bar and two (small) water bottles. And apparently, he did this most days. Also, going slow for a long time just HURTS! You know what I mean.
I have also ridden with Mark Patten (who is riding RAAM right now) some, and he also did not go all that fast, either, but I tell you I suffered going for 8 hours at 22mph in ways I hadn't recalled doing some years ago when I raced. It was funny that I could drop him at will, simply by accelerating, but he never did slow down. I can't recall a time when I felt more like a wheel sucker than those two days from Belmont to Monterey. I actually had to stop completely about a 15 miles from home, because I simply couldn't pedal anymore. I walked to the store and called for a ride home.
Maybe I appreciate that more because it's how I started riding- loads and loads of hours- but I think it has a good deal of merit, and many cyclists are into that.
For example, in Italy, they have a lot of races of the long/endurance type. They are called Gran Fondos and many, many cyclists of all ages participate. One of the best of these was a rider whom I had dinner with when I was there. Both he and his wife were in their 40's and she consistently placed in the top five for events I would probably not volunteer to ride. I was told that Gran Fondos are by far the most popular of the cycling disciplines for non- or former racing cyclists.
Cyclists are sado-masochists to a large extent, and long endurance riders really epitomize this. Frankly, I prefer the touring/long distance cyclist in temperament than the average racing cyclist, who tends to be a bit arrogant, in my experience.
RAAM is just another sport, who are you to dictate what appears in a public website, if you don't like RAAM, simply don't watch it. To not appreciate the level of fitness and suffering the participants endure is simply arrogance on your part, even if you don't like it. Humans are genetically prone to push their bodies/endurance in many ways, just because you don't agree with one particular way doesn't mean its wrong or stupid.
If the cyclists don't appear healthy, fit, or experienced, why don't you enter the race and show them up. You ever raced the RAAM, I am wondering where your evidence for a statement is since you've never been in their shoes to know what its like
I have never done the RAAM, but I respect the individuals who do enter it, for whatever their reason is.
Why is it a silly event? Because its not attended by the big time cyclists, because of the "kooks" who ride it? The "kooks who ride it , in my opinion, are patrons of the sport. They aren't' dopers like Pantani and Frigo they don't ride for gobs of money, they aren't spoiled pro athletes, they are regular people who love cycling and show their love for the sport in a gruelling event. I watch the coverage and am awestruck that these people do this race and try it year after year. Just to get in the race one has to be an accomplished cyclist; marathon cycling distance in a certain time- farther and faster than I ever care to ride at a stretch. This event may not be sexy enough for the mainstream but it surely doesn't need to be shunned by the cycling media.
Noel, pull your head out of your proverbial and give the participants in RAAM some credit. I'm not from the US but I have done a lot of similar riding there (i.e. long distance touring) and let me tell you, it's not about just physical fitness, it's about mental stamina. And what I did does not even come close to what they do. Maybe Cat. 5 racers could beat some of these guys in a 40 mile race. Probably not. Who knows. But what about the next 40 miles. Then the next. Then the following 72 lots of 40 miles. It's a different kind of stamina. No-one would doubt that your average SAS or SEAL team member is mentally stronger and physically tougher than Michael Johnson, but I've got no doubt who would win over 400m. Same way that Marty Nothstein would make Lance Armstrong look like an amateur. Speed isn't everything though.
If you do even a simple bit of research (check out www.raceacrossamerica.org), you would know that just to qualify you have to ride 425 miles in a day. Assuming you rode for 24 hours without stopping you would still have to average almost 18 mph (nearly 28kph) for the entire trip. I know of NO Cat 5 racers that would be capable of that. The people that do a race like this have a mental capability to hurt themselves far in excess of 99.999% of the population. Another fact. RAAM length - approx 2900 miles. Tour de France length - 2160 miles. RAAM time - 10 days. Tour de France time - 22 days (including two rests). Can't find a total climbing figure for the tour, but for RAAM it's just under 100,000 vertical feet (almost 4 Mt Everests). I'm not trying to compare the two races, I'm trying to provide a perspective of just how tough this race is.
Once you have gone out and raced 2900 miles ON YOUR OWN with no drafting allowed, then if you still think it's silly I'll respect your opinion. Until then, keep your thoughts to yourself and maybe let the rest of us who find this kind of thing inspiring enjoy it. If you don't like it, then don't watch it. Maybe instead of sitting through the "boring television coverage" you could get out and go riding?
And before you ask, yes I do race (road, track and MTB, short distance and endurance), I tour, and I respect anyone who rides a bike, sets themselves targets and does their best to achieve them. Maybe you should do the same.
Simon van der Aa
Noel Murphy's contention that the RAAM competitors are not as well trained as a Category 5 racing cyclist is beyond absurd. These competitors are highly trained, and in spite of the fact that they are not competing in the type of cycling Mr. Murphy likes best, I doubt they would have much trouble dispatching a pack of novice racing cyclists. Most of them would probably do quite well against fairly experienced road racers in a race of suitable distance. What's more, in thinking about Mr. Murphy's tirade, it's hard for me to understand how any cyclist cannot have at least some admiration for what these folks are capable of. Next time you ride 100 miles, stop and ask yourself if you could belt out another 300-400 that day. Probably not! They do that day after day.
Like Mr. Murphy, I am not particularly interested in ultra-distance cycling, but I would not request that Cyclingnews drop its coverage just for that reason. Just because Cyclingnews covers it doesn't mean any particular individual has to read about it. I wonder if Mr. Murphy reads every article in his local newspaper, every time?
Frankly, I think Cyclingnews should endeavour to cover all the events its name implies. Where is the coverage of cycleball and bicycle polo, anyway?
I care about his personal life, I enjoy reading about the VDB drama, keep up the great work Cyclingnews!
I thought Rominger suffered from allergies and Ullrich's asthma medication is noted in his health book, so the quacks and officials know about it.
Yes, I agree, may there please be no slandering of the great super-Mario. I hope to see no invectives directed at Frigo either, from anyone. Best I know, Frigo was quietly working extremely hard as a domestique for years. Many incredibly talented and fanatically dedicated riders will shine less than Frigo has. The temptation to use a little illegal "insurance" must be overwhelming when a racing cyclist has come into such rare and exquisite form.
In his letter, Scott Goldstein fails to acknowledge that Jan Ullrich was sick for a large part of the Giro, as was his team-mate Livingstone. No doubt this affected his performance.
Ullrich will show up for the Tour in form as his preparation this year has been much more professional than in years past. And given that he manages to stay in good health- a factor which has hampered his preparation for the Tour in the past- he will certainly be a match for Armstrong, who Goldstein implies will be the outright winner without any competition with the statement "[Ullrich] will be the man to beat... for second place." Seems like there's quite a bit of Armstrong worship out there also...
Scott Goldstein's letter needs a bit of fact correction. My differences in opinion would take to long to spell out here. Nonetheless . . .
I believe LeMond placed second in the final ITT of the Giro in 1989, not 3rd.
LeMond did not win the Tour prologue in '89. I believe he finished 3rd behind Breukink and Fignon.
While I agree that team tactics probably played a part in the size of the lead Genevieve won by at Montreal, I have to say that I watched a head to head duel between Jeanson and the entire Saturn squad at the very mountainous Tour of the Gila this May. I was on the support moto that followed the break and the first chase and watched Genevieve literally destroy the entire field(read the reports on cycling news) Each day Kim Bruckner or Lyne Bessette were the last to be able to hold her wheel, but despite Saturn having by far the strongest team, Genevieve managed to put nearly 15 minutes into Lynne by the finish, I followed the Saturn women as they chased the solo Jeanson each day and they gave it their all, Jeanson was just too strong. While I don't agree with some of the blatant Jeanson chauvinism of some of the letters it is apparent to me that at present she is on some incredible form and will be a handful for the rest of the women's field at any race. I agree that she is too young for a race of HP's duration and difficulty and I applaud her managers for recognizing that fact and not pushing her too far, too soon.
Genevieve Jeanson #2
I agree completely with Jeanson's coach choosing for her to skip Idaho for the same reasons that must be obvious to everyone. She is too young to undertake an event as long as Hewlett-Packard. No 19 year old male would ever tackle a corresponding Grand Tour. Three years ago in North Carolina we witnessed a 16 year old unknown by the name of Jeanson demolish a regional field at the Tour de Moore. Now she can demolish at will an international field. What is the hurry? In America everything must be more, more, faster, faster, now, now...My compliments to her handlers and to Jeanson herself.
Last week in Cycling News there was a short story on the anniversary of Wim van Est's fall into a ravine while he was wearing the yellow jersey in the 1951 Tour de France. Some years ago I remember seeing a photograph of a cyclist being hauled up a cliff on a rope made from tyres, I presume that this was Wim van Est. I am really keen to obtain a copy of this photograph for my private use. Can you, or any of your readers, help me find a copy of this photograph.
Good for you Michel, I hope you are successful at whatever level you are trying to reach. I am so glad to see this debate on the letters page. I too am considering returning to active cycling after a few (too many) years away, and the information and opinions expressed are all useful stuff . Personally I always preferred sew-ups, but in my day there was only one half decent clincher (cant remember the make, maybe Michelin?) and it was prone to punctures. The other reason I like this debate is - no drugs! just bikes!
Sew-ups vs clinchers #2
My experience is that sew-ups are nicer to ride, but not nice enough to warrant spending hours gluing them and mucking about in the garage when you could be out on your bike. Also carrying a spare puts me right off. For lazy people like me I recommend a pair of the 23mm black Axial Pros as they ride comfortably, last a few thousand miles, grip in the wet and best of all, scrub up nicely after a few hours in the rain.
>From looking at photos and going to the odd race I think a high percentage of the pros still use tubs for big races and time trials. I think it comes down to your tyre sponsor. US Postal, Telekom and Saeco use tubs and are sponsored by Hutchison, Continental and Vittoria. I think the Michelin sponsored teams use clinchers all the time, and have been doing so for a few years - I remember an article in Cycling Weekly with a photo of a 140psi Michelin clincher with red gummy strips to grip the rim wall on a Carrera team bike. I also read that Continental sponsored teams were being given clinchers for training and sew-ups for competition.
If you really want to check whether Lance, Jan or anyone else is using tubs, just check out the next 'out training with...' Hello style photo shoot in the magazine of your choice. You just need to check for the decaying spare taped under the saddle.
Sew-ups vs clinchers #3
I feel strange on sew-ups after riding clinchers in training all the time. They feel too tall, and my balance is thrown at the exact moment I want absolute confidence in my handling skills- before a race.
Excepting time trials, I would never again ride sew-ups for racing or training.
The reason for me is that my method of gluing makes it so that it's nearly impossible to get off the rim- even when you want to. So, changing one on the road is out of the question.
Plus, there is the expense of sew-ups. Lots of people feel opposite me on this, but here's one guy who will never roll a tire!
Sew-ups vs clinchers #4
The arguments in favour of sew-ups are diminishing as the clincher manufacturers improve their products. Now all you get left with are an (arguably) smoother ride and higher permissible pumping pressures, which marginally help rolling resistance, and small weight gains. The arguments against are manifest: cost, availability, reparability, maintenance. If you aren't a sponsored rider with a support team carrying spare wheels, repairs are a mare. Better stick to clinchers, the better examples of which are so close to tubbies as to make no difference. Remember, Indurain always rode clinchers in the mountains!
Sew-ups vs clinchers #5
I find it interesting that the perception still exists that sew-ups cost more than clinchers!! I use $15 Vittoria Formula Uno tires to train on and race on CXs or Clement Criteriums (which cost less than $60). Comparable clincher tires cost at least that much and you still have to buy a tube!! If you want even less expensive trainers, get some Goma Italiaís for less than $10. Canít beat that price. I donít even bother fixing a cheap trainer, although if a CX punctures and there is ample tread left Iíll take the 20 minutes to patch it. Clinchers have come a long way, but hey will never be sew-ups and they are not any less expensive anymore.
Sew-ups vs clinchers #6
I use clinchers for training and sew-ups for racing. I like the feel of the sew-ups because they hold so much pressure. But last year I road the clinchers in a weeknight crit. The course had a bad back stretch, real choppy. You couldn't avoid bad sections on most laps. I was surprised at how poorly the clinchers performed on these bad patches. I hadn't really tested them like that in training because there was never a need too. After that I've ridden that same race many times on sew-ups and it still surprises me how much better the bike feels with them on.
Sew-ups vs clinchers #7
I've been around the game for over forty years and I've seen a huge improvement in clinchers. They used to be utterly awful. One particular kind never used to wear out the tread. No, the walls always failed first. For general cycling I'd go for the modern clinchers every time. Nice and light and lively enough for all but top class racing.
For racing, I much prefer tubulars, or singles as we call them Down Under. The overall combination of rim, tyre and tube is lighter and believe it or not they are more puncture resistant. I have scarcely ever punctured in a race while using good singles. There is one proviso to that. You must have the finest racing singles, equivalent to the top of the range Vittorias. Cheap singles are plain horrible and I could tell some horror stories of base tapes coming unstuck and other dangerous things. One advantage of singles is that in a crisis you can ride quite fast on a flat. Remember Olano's World Championship win?
Sew-ups vs clinchers #7
Several of the follow-up letters mentioned that some pro teams are using clinchers. They seemed to imply that that is a good reason to think that clinchers are (nearly) equivalent in the relevant factors to sew-ups. Let me throw a cynical monkey wrench into those gears. No one suggested that the pro teams that ride clinchers are doing so due to the endorsement checks of the manufacturers. For a parallel example, do you think the top soccer players in the world are wearing Nike or Adidas or Diadora or whoever's shoes because the player thinks they are the best shoes?
Given that there is a market of cyclists in the world, the manufacturers have a need to get as many pro teams using their products in a very visible manner. We all (or most of us) like to go faster. If we see the pros on Michelin (or whoever) clinchers, some of us will be motivated to get a pair so we can ride like the pros.
One question for curiosity (the answer to which does not, I think, settle any debate): what sort of tires are on the wheels carried by the neutral wheel support crews?
A second question for curiosity: where can I buy a BMW station wagon painted yellow with MAVIC decals all over it?!
Hi there, well I batheÖ no just kidding. I got them also when I started putting in monster miles. I was riding about 450-600 a week. I would suggest making sure you're in clean shorts every ride and especially if you're doing two rides a day. Also if you're showering pre-ride make darn sure your nuts are dry and you may also try a talc powder such as Dr Scholl's for it has a little anti fungi fight to it, but dust lightly for this could chaff you also. Also if you're a racer or a rider who hangs out lots after rides this can be a trigger too. As soon as you're done racing, riding... get out of your shorts and get air to your crotch region. As far as the boil-like saddle sore you have now I would go to the doctor as it can or could turn staph. Do it just to be safe if you have insurance. Most saddle sores don't tend to be boil-like with a head. But the main thing is, when you're done with the ride get changed into ventilating shorts.
Saddle sores #2
I agree, it sounds like a boil, not a sore. Remember way back in the late 70's 'when some company came out with "The Seat." I think this was the fist attempt at a gel racing saddle. The covering was plastic and the gel was not very firm. Well, I just had to have one. After about one week, I had 3 saddle boils. I went back to my Brooks Pro leather, and about two weeks later the boils were gone and I didn't do anything to them except the saddle change. Take it for what it's worth.
Saddle sores #3
I have no advice about treating these since I never get them. Prevention is the key.
I have been riding 3-4 thousand miles every year since 1972. I am 6'3" and currently weigh 320 lbs. (I've never been below 250 since '72). Obviously I don't spend much time out of the saddle. My typical ride is between 15 and 30 miles.
Among my four bicycles there is a variety of saddles: a Brooks Professional on my '78 Raleigh Professional, a stock Schwinn Traveler padded saddle, a hard plastic saddle that someone gave me, and a slightly padded saddle on my Nishiki Colorado mountain bike; among these there isn't a lot of difference in my comfort. I will say, though, that the recent saddles that come with a center cutaway are more comfortable than any others I have ridden. Even so, it's a good idea to spend a few seconds out of the saddle periodically.
I believe the reasons that I don't develop saddle sores are:
1. proper stem length and seat and handlebar adjustments, 2. my choice of gears/cadence, and 3. I and my clothing are clean when I get on the bike.
1. Proper seat and handlebar adjustments should allow the arms and legs to support a lot of the rider's weight. These height and reach adjustments are a matter of good advice (mine came from the old Bike World magazine) and some experimentation. The seat shouldn't be too high -- you shouldn't rock back and forth; the stem should be long enough to let you stretch out a little bit -- this moves your weight forward and off your tail (helps with the aerodynamics, too). I got lucky with these adjustments over my first couple of years of riding. I've made no significant changes in my general bike set-up since 1975.
2. The choice of gears/cadence is simple: provide enough resistance at all times so that the legs support some of your weight. Fast spinning reduces the resistance and supports less weight, slower spinning raises the resistance and supports more weight. I spin between 75 and 80 rpm typically. For me, at least, that is comfortable and sustainable. On climbs, my cadence is such that a short burst of speed lifts me off the saddle.
3. Regarding cleanliness: There will always be some minor chafing during a ride. Being clean keeps germs from getting a head-start. If there is noticeable chafing before a ride, grease up lightly with triple antibiotic ointment.
I hope this helps. It works for me -- even with my great weight -- so it may be worth considering.
Let me know if it works for you.
Saddle sores #4
Many good suggestions were given for treating and preventing saddle sores, but the best one of all went unmentioned: Wash that area with soap and water after every bowel movement, no exceptions. If you adopt this practice you will never go back to using paper alone.
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