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Letters to Cyclingnews — June 26, 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

In today's mailbag: more defence of RAAM riders, including a letter from a five-time participant in the cross-country epic; a plea about nandrolone in supplements; lots of tales of encounters with pro riders, advice on watching races in Italy and the latest installments of the tyre debate and saddle sore advice.

John Stevenson
Letters editor

Nandrolone in supplements
Asthma
Pro encounters
RAAM
Seeing Italian races
Jan Ullrich
Sew-ups vs clinchers
Saddle sores

Nandrolone in supplements

If this study is correct, how does the average cyclist know? Do the manufacturers include it in the list of contents - what component of the ingredients is nandrolone found in ?

Is it possible to name these products without being sued to protect the innocent? Sure would like to hear from a medical expert.

John Andrews
Singapore
Tuesday, June 26

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Asthma

A "statistically high proportion of riders who suffer from a pathological condition," in particular asthma which is "a priori incompatible with the practice of the sport of cycling at a high level."

Strange... I had a respiratory infection induced asthma, several times, it went away, my doctor prescribed a cortisone based inhaler, he's not a sport medicine doctor, I don't think he even likes cycling. Many cyclist are prone to respiratory infections and those inhalers and decongestants are the way to go. But that does not constitute doping, it definitely did not improve my racing performance. I'm surprised they make a big deal out of it.

Giulio Porta
USA
Saturday, June 23

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Pro encounters #1

Back in early 1992, during the heyday of the Coors Light team, I was at an early season race in Northern California. I had finished my Cat 4 race, and, still clad in my team gear, I was watching my friend in his Cat 3 race. As I stood there, I noticed another rider roll up beside me out of the corner of my eye, but I paid no mind at first. After about a minute, my new companion asked (in an Italian accent) what time the Pro/1/2 race started. At that point, I finally turned to answer, and saw, in full Coors Light gear, Roberto Gaggioli, who was a pretty big name on the domestic scene back then. We chatted for a couple of minutes, and then went our separate ways. Just a couple of bike racers talking. In an era where even the local Cat 2s can be arrogant jerks, Gaggioli was refreshingly low-key. I guess roadies aren't all elitist jerks after all

Joe Lederer
Tulsa Oklahoma USA
Friday, June 22

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Pro encounters #2

I rode with Tony Cruz on group rides one winter when I lived in LA, and he is a fantastic guy; I am so happy to see his success.

On the subject of pro encounters, I have on occasion gone to the start of pro races in Europe, and have found most all the riders very friendly, even the Italians. Also it is a great place to see many of the top riders who are retired. I have had photos taken with many of them and they are almost always obliging as long as you are polite. I remember I was at the start of the big Dolomite stage in the '97 Giro when Tonkov was battling Gotti for the lead. I hung around the Mapei team van trying to get a photo of him before the stage. After everyone else was gone he came out and I saw my chance, but he rode off quickly the other way, I was on my bike and was about to follow when I realized he was going behind the bus for a pee! I allowed him his privacy and he saw and appreciated that, even with all the pressure on him and the race about to start he took the time to say a few words and pose for a photo. I think we sometimes don't realize how lucky we are to have such access to these world class athletes, it's one of the things that makes cycling a unique sport.

Steve Farris
USA
Saturday, June 23

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Pro encounters #3

I have had mostly good relations with pro riders. I live in Emeryville, Ca. and often run across Fred Rodriguez of Domo out training. He is one of the nicest people I have ever met in cycling. Fred always welcomes you to ride with him and he will talk with you for hours.

I also occasionally run across Julie Young of the Auto Trader team and she also very nice. I also race, and I often bring her Peet's coffee when I see her at races, because I know that it is hard to find good coffee when you're always on the road.

Having read Brian Abery's letter about some of his negative experiences with some pro riders, I think you have to consider timing. If you attempt to approach a rider just before or immediately after a race, that rider may be going through some heavy emotional issues about the race, and may not be in a good state of mind for talking. If you met that same rider a couple of hours after a race, they may be in a much better state of mind. However, I will also vouch for the fact that Tony Cruz is one of the nicest guys in the peloton.

Jason Salkind
Emeryville, CA.
Sunday, June 24

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Pro encounters #4

As a follow-up to Brian's letter, while I didn't actually meet Antonio, I did meet his family while watching the Olympic Road Race last year and was very impressed with their friendliness and enthusiasm. Like you, I now keep an eye on how Antonio is going.

Regards
David Hatley
Sydney, Australia
Monday, June 25

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Pro encounters #5

Racing a crit series a couple of years ago, we had Henk, O'Grady, Magnus, Jeremy Hunt and quite a few of the Aussie domestic (now international pro's) racing. They gave me a good smashing in all the races!

Stuart Passmore
Australia
Monday, June 25

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Pro encounters #6

In my stint that covered 10 years of playing in the dirt, starting as a junior, I have seen it all. I remember seeing Rishi Grewal flat in the last 500 meters at a Big Bear NORBA national. As he walked up to the finish line, some spectators were telling him to run. He got upset and threw his water bottle at the spectators. Being an impressionable 15 I thought it was rather odd. Later (the same day) I managed to squeeze through the media press of around the then young John Tomac. I didn't have a pen, so Tomac kindly asked one of the media for theirs and signed an autograph. What a guy.

The funniest by far was at the Sea Otter Classic a couple of years ago. My friends and I were watching the pro's line up for the last stage. Norm Carter (friend, former classmate at the uni, and sometime training partner) was lining up for the start, and being the unstable Southern California boys that we are. We were screaming our heads of for Norm. We were saying 'Norm, Norm, Norm' and this Saturn guy rolls by, smiling and waves. Me and my boys get quiet and look at each other, 'Who was that?'. It wasn't till later that we realized that it was Saturn's Norm Alvis, another great guy. I am also proud to report that at this year's Sea Otter Classic, I was able to take part of Brad Buccambuso's descent into spending mindless hours watching girls shake their thing in MTV's spring break. Big up to Jelly Belly for hiring guys that are nice enough to take time and have a cold one with me after a races

Andres Aguirre
USA
Monday, June 25

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Pro encounters #7

Two years ago I took my daughter (then 13) to a dentist for braces to be fitted.

As we drove round the corner of the hotel in busy Orchard Road Singapore I noticed a Mapei bus parked out side. NOT the TdF-type Mapei bus but a small combi-style which is used to ferry company workers to and from the office or factory.

We walked into the hotel lobby to take the escalators up to the office floors and there was the entire Mapei squad from the Tour de Langkawi checking out ready to go to the airport.

My daughter is a fan of Tafi (and Cipollini) and recognised him even in a suit - so I took her over and introduced ourselves. The entire team , riders and managers, were politeness personified and took time out to chat and sign autographs before we had to get to our appointment and they had to leave.

Many years ago - 1964 in Sallanche - I was on holiday with my girlfriend to watch the races and we came out of our hotel in St. Gervais and there was the entire British pro team - Simpson, Denson etc. They too took time out to chat away.

A year before that Jean Bobet - the brother of Louison - came over to the UK and our club group met up with him at a race and he quite happily took time out to comment on our positions and training methods. I still have the photo taken by the late Jock Wadley of "Courier" magazine ( as I recall ).

So there are some good guys out there.

John Andrews
Singapore
Tuesday, June 26

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Pro encounters #8

My first visit to the Tour de France was in 1991, and, living in Jersey, Channel Islands (a mere 12 miles away from St Malo, and approximately 50 miles away from Rennes), we went to visit three 'etapes' of the Tour. Staying in Rennes for the Mauro Ribeiro finish, we then moved on to Quimper, for the finish of the next stage.

I was, at this time, a massive Motorola fan (Sean Yates - bloody good bloke!), and was desperate to meet the team. I sneaked into the 'village depart' on the morning of the stage, and caught Phil Andersen leaving a toilet (sorry Phil, couldn't resist it!), where he was promptly asked to sign my autograph book. I commented how he thought the race would go today and looking very psyched-up, he replied "I am going to win."

On I went to Quimper, thinking nothing more of it. Some six hours later, I again managed to sneak into the enclosure, only to find myself positioned within 25 metres of the finish line, and watching a small breakaway with some 5km to go on the large screen. Who should be in the breakaway but PA looking awesome and very frustrated (man-on-a-mission-type-frustrated, you understand)!

Anyway, Phil won, and I was ecstatic! I ran down to the team-cars, where I saw the Motorola team car. Dag-Otto, Sean, Andy H, Steve B, Urs Zimmerman (remember him, everyone?), and DS Jim Ochowicz were all there. I even managed to get a banana of the team. They gave me a set of postcards, and all autographed their own card, even Frankie Andreu! Bloody awesome!

I later saw a documentary on the team, and they had been planning to get Phil up to the stage-winning position that day anyway! Good plan, Och!

So, there's my tale. I have since been to see two more Tours, in 1999 and 2000, and I hope to make it to my second Worlds in October (Romans - you were quite spectacular last year in St Brieuc!)

Great web-site - keep cycling everyone!

Simon Matthews
Monday, June 25

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RAAM #1

The top riders, such as Clavedetscher and Chew -- not to mention Cassie Lowe -- could hold their own in any good regional elite USCF race. Rob Kish and Mark Patten are hardly Category 5 racers, as anybody who has ridden against them knows. Jock Boyer did not win RAAM easily. He won by only a few hours, and afterwards he called it the hardest event he ever did. Several faster crossings than Boyer's have been made, notably by record-holder Pete Penseyeres, who also holds the 12-hour time trial record, if I'm not mistaken. Lon Haldeman is also a tremendous athlete.

Paul Evans
Waynesboro, VA
Friday, June 22

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RAAM #2

RAAM may seem silly and hard to understand, but that doesn't diminish the athletic abilities of some of its contestants.

Growing up in Pittsburgh, PA., I spent many days riding and racing with Dan Chew -- 12th at 1986 USPRO Championships and presently 3rd in this year's RAAM. Dan and I road this May in flat Ohio and I can confirm that his power output is still quite high. Though he may not accelerate or climb as before -- he is 38 after all -- I am certain that the Noel Murphy's of this world wouldn't last too long on his wheel.

In the 80's, I spent a season racing in Switzerland and often saw the name Andrea Clavadetscher on the results sheet. At age 40, Mr. Clavadetscher is putting his youthful speed to good use as he leads the RAAM field.

Dan and Andrea were feared riders in the 80's and 90's because of their speed and strength. I'll venture say that it's Noel's personality and attitude that cause other riders to fear his presence.

This is not to say that RAAM in anyway approaches the heights of the TdF. But, it's certainly not the least of races found on this web site. Continue providing RAAM updates.

Jim Fedako
Ohio USA
Saturday, June 23

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RAAM #3

I guess I'm one of those "kooks" Noel Murphy was referring to. I finished five out of six tries at RAAM for '89-94 with a best finish of fourth place in under Nine days. The year I placed 4th and broke nine days Rob Kish still beat me By 17 hours and Bob Forney was just behind him followed by Aussie Gerry Tetrie. It is worth noting that the year before I qualified for USCF track nationals and was a cat 2 cyclist (and am to this day). I guess you could say I rode on both sides of the fence and have a perspective few have. In all those years I did Ultra's I was racing crits, track, road races too. Those guy's who beat me in my prime are simply ultra racers and they smoked the course. I couldn't believe how fast they could ride. Those "kooks" you are talking about can ride a bike a long time with little or no sleep and and compete at the same time.

Also worth noting is Jonathon Boyer did not win easily in '85. Michael Secrest was breathing down his neck the whole way. Ask Boyer how "easy" winning RAAM was. The next year Pete Penseyres entered RAAM for the express purpose of kicking Boyer's ass and Boyer didn't make it (commentator for Goodwill Games instead). Rather than get discouraged Pete raced, then won by a huge margin and demolished Boyer's transcontinental record and he did it on the exact same course Boyer used the previous year. That record from '86 RAAM still stands with a 15.5 mph average. That's a 3100 mile crossing of the US and he slept less than and hour and a half a day on average.

Pete was a USCF racer and I think he still is. He was also over 40 years old then. Oh yeah those boring RAAM telecasts you refer too won several Emmy Awards when broadcast on ABC's Wide World of Sports. And lay off Lon Haldeman too. That guy is one of the finest people on the planet and a man of honor and integrity… and I wish I had the bucks Skid Lid probably paid him for wearing that "goofy Skid-Lid" helmet. Goofy helmets fit real good when they are filled with cash.

Rick Kent
rkent@austintri.com
http://www.austintri.com
Saturday, June 23

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Unless there are two Pete Penseyres, he recently raced the Vuelta Mazatlan in Mexico

RAAM #4

The RAAM riders are elite, world class athletes in the ultradistance cycling discipline. These men and women are tougher than nails. There are few Cat 1 racers who could begin to follow a RAAM athlete on a 24 hour ride, never mind Cat 5s! For my part, I recently finished in the prize money in a UCI World Cup road race, a mere 72 mile, 3 hour effort. However, I could not keep up with 2000 women's RAAM champion Cassandra Lowe in a mountainous 200 mile ride last April. And for Cassie, 200 miles is just a warm up!

Like Regis, I have ridden with RAAM athlete Mark Patten. While Mark is an ultra-distance specialist, he also is quite capable of finishing in the upper half of USCF racers in such short events as a 20km ITT. To suggest that these RAAM riders are in some way less athletic than riders who prefer to race around a city block for 45 minutes is simply absurd.

Joy Shaffer
Cupertino, California
Monday, June 25

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Seeing Italian races

Rebecca asked: "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 just returned from a trip to Italy where I was fortunate enough to see the last stage of the Giro in Milan. Here's what I've learned:

1) I'm not familiar with the races listed but the best race to see would be one that has a circuit type finish. This allows you to see the riders more than once; they go by quickly! Try and get a spot along the final straight so you can see the sprint. Also, make sure you're going to see the racers BEFORE they cross the finish line...

2) Get to the viewing area early. For the Giro, I arrived about an hour and a half earlier than the racers were scheduled to arrive. I walked unhindered down the course, across the finish line and was able to choose the best viewing spot. Also, depending on the race size, there's always other activities going on which, to me, is part of the experience.

3) Look for the following when choosing a place to stand: (a) If there's a big screen TV make sure you can see it so you can watch the racers when they're not in view. Another trick - if you see shots from the air on the TV then there's a helicopter flying over the group - this gives you a clue where they are on the course. (b) Stand a couple hundred yards after a corner on the outside - because the riders are going fast chances are they'll come out of the corner wide and stay on the outside of the course. (c) Check rail height - near the finish line they tend to be higher making it tough to get a good view. (d) Proximity to where the team buses are parked.

4) After the race finishes, make your way towards the team buses and you're bound to see the riders going back to their buses.

5) The Italian fans were very nice, be friendly and you'll have a great time!

At the Giro, after walking around and taking pictures I found an uncrowded spot at the 300 meter mark on the finishing straight. I could view the big screen TV so I knew what was happening when the riders weren't in view. My spot was about 300 meters from a corner which pushed the peloton to the outside so they were literally 5 feet from me, almost hugging the fence - very cool. The riders did 8 laps so I had a chance to see them up close and the expressions on their faces - they were working hard.

By luck, after the finish I walked onto the course (with everyone else) and ended up right in front of an opening in the fence in which all of the riders had to go through single file to get to their team buses. I was able to see some big stars who rolled right by on their bikes.

Steve
USA
Sunday, June 24

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Jan Ullrich

Jay Schrotzberger has pointed out that Greg Lemond did not win the Prologue TT in the 1989 Tour and that he was second, not third in the final ITT in the 1989 Giro. Well, he is correct (that's what I get for getting my information about the 1989 Tour from Sam Posey and not from Cyclingnews.com). However, the point remains the same: Greg hammered himself into shape during the 1989 Giro. He started badly, finished well (even better than I recalled), started the TdF well, and went on to win (and only just).

Chris Highly writes that "Ullrich was sick for a large part of the Giro" That's right! He suffers from a rare condition known as "Superstar Bronchitis" It is related to "Superstar Influenza" and "Superstar Knee Pain". Pantani has also had many bouts of these ailments. These conditions pop up sometimes overnight only affecting former winners of Grand Tours and other big races. The diseases have no outward symptoms other than the mysterious inability to stay with the best on tough climbs and in time trials. Ullrich also was suffering during the Giro from a bad case of "Get too fat and don't train correctly in the off-season" sickness.
The eyewitnesses that I spoke with remarked that Jan looked really fat and "awful" lagging behind Cipollini on the tough climbs in this year's Giro. These astute observers (like myself) have seen Jan Ullrich close up when he is fit. There is a big difference.

I used the term "Ullrich Worship" to describe some fans' rather blind devotion to Jan Ullrich. The word "Worship" implies adoration beyond what is based upon facts. Blindly ignoring the facts and seeing what you want to see is where things cross into the "worship" mode from merely a "fan" mode.
Sure, I am a Lance Armstrong fan. However, if Lance is getting left behind by Cipollini on a climb barely 3 weeks prior to the Tour de France I wouldn't be going around trumpeting that Lance is in great shape and is the hot favorite to win the Tour. I like Jan Ullrich as a racer as well. He is a fantastic rider who when he is on form is amazing, and when he is not on form, he doesn't quit. Remember Jan in 1997 when he was tearing up the Tour of Switzerland on his way to 3rd overall? He rode well in that race and went on to win the TdF. Fast forward to 2001. 1) What is Jan doing now? 2) Who is tearing up the Tour de Suisse? 3) Who is more likely to win the Tour de France?

Twelve days until the rhetoric ends and the answers begin.

Scott Goldstein
USA
Monday, June 25

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Sew-ups vs clinchers #1

Eric Snider is basically correct in his assumption, but it must be noted that for the publicity to be any good the riders must do well. To do well, the riders must be on the best available equipment. Take for example, the "Fuji" bikes Mercury were riding last year. Although they weren't actually Fujis, they would have helped improve the sales of these bikes. Or Chris Boardman's "Look" time trial bike at the Olympics in Sydney. As a volunteer working in the team pit area, I witnessed this bike's transformation from a plain, but obviously custom-built bike into a Look. Why did he do this? Because he believed that by riding this bike, he would have a better chance of doing well. My point is, if a team thought that the tyres supplied to the team were actually going to hinder the riders, rather than help them, they wouldn't use them. They might use some tires which look similar and were marked as if they were another brand, or just buy their own tyres.

Bill Alphington
Adelaide Australia
Saturday, June 23

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Sew-ups vs clinchers #2

I have worked with Mavic, Shimano, and Rolf neutral support crews and all three currently use clinchers in the US support teams, although I did see tubulars on the Mavic crew's wheels at P-R this year. In the 80's the Mavic neutral support in US used tubulars but all are now on clinchers, this is because they are much less of a hassle for the mechanics and much easier to repair between stages in a stage race. Many of the pro-teams I have seen at races in Europe ride tubulars in races even though they are sponsored by clincher manufacturers. I have even seen tubulars "doctored" to look like the sponsor's product! If you find that yellow Beemer let me know, I'd like one too

Steve Farris
Silver City, New Mexico
Saturday, June 23

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Sew-ups vs clinchers #3

I remember reading in Cycle Sport that the Mavic neutral support crews used a combination of clinchers from Hutchinson & Michelin for virtually every single race they support. The only exception they make, is for Paris-Roubaix where they used tubulars to give them the extra cushioning that they need.

Steven Ford
Cambridge, UK
Sunday, June 24

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It has to be said that 'what the pros use' is a very poor argument for or against any product. Pros appear to use what they are paid to appear to use. Even if you can find out what they actually use, there may be reasons beyond raw 'performance' for the choice, and with high-quality tyres in particular the difference in rolling resistance and grip between one tyre and another is trivial for the most part. Genuinely low-performance products — like a Specialized's grey 'Ummagumma' rubber of a few years ago — don't tend to be available for long. — JS

Saddle sores #1

Perhaps you can use a Noxzema product. I've never had saddle sores with the use of this type of gel.

Har Url
USA
Monday, June 25

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Saddle sores #2

Here's a great way to ensure you keep things clean when out on the road or travelling: carry some baby wipes in a resealable bag (eg. zip-loc). You'll never go wrong with them since they take up very little space in the jersey pocket (folded flat) or in your duffel bag. They do a great job for the pre-race "Go-Hut" visits.

Marc Langille
USA

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The last month's letters

  • June 23 – Antonio Cruz, Italian races, RAAM, saddle sores, tyres, Jeanson
  • June 21 – Watching the Tour, Cipo, drugs, saddle sores, clinchers vs sew-ups, Ullrich, Jeanson
  • June 20 – Drugs, saddle sores, VDB, clinchers vs sew-ups, 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