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Letters to Cyclingnews — June 28, 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

The Tour is imminent and debate continues about whether or not we'll see a genuine battle between Ullrich and Armstrong, and whether Casagrande will be a threat. Also today, a word about 'Breaking the Chain', and more about drugs, tyres, and encounters with pro riders.

John Stevenson
Letters editor

Breaking the Chain
Ullrich and legal action
Wim van Est's fall
Casagrande and Armstrong and the Tour
Ullrich
Armstrong
RAAM
Sew-ups vs clinchers
Drugs
Working in bike shops
Pro encounters
Saddle sores

Breaking the Chain

I just finished reading "Breaking the Chain", which I ordered specially from Amazon.co.uk. I highly recommend that all cyclists and fans of cycling buy this book, although I have to admit that I found it extremely depressing. Voet is not a spectacular writer and he fails to tell a truly captivating story, though his accounts do achieve his goal of painting an ugly picture of the sport. He seems to be careful about which specific names of riders he mentions and which he does not, which leads me to believe that some are friends and others he wishes to slander. I can only hope that everything in his book is not true, and also that his statement to the press that "all the winners of the Tour in the past 30 years were doped" is not true. It may be that doping is such a part of the culture of professional cycling that many doubt that any winner of a grand tour could ever be clean. However, if even half of the things in Voet's book are true, I can see why so many people have questioned the legitimacy of the wins by Armstrong, Simoni and others. Drugs are so much a part of the sport that without a radical change in thinking at all levels, change will not happen any time soon.

Colin Sandberg
USA
Tuesday, June 26

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As it happens, we've just posted a new extract from 'Breaking the Chain' in which Voet details the systems of accounting and testing used within Festina.

Ullrich and legal action

Does anyone know what became of the legal action Jan Ullrich was supposed to have brought against Der Spiegel in 1999? The paper alleged that Telekom had engaged in systematic doping, and Ullrich threatened to sue (or, as it was reported in CN, take "legal action"), but I can't find anything more on it in the archives. It would be a bit interesting, don't you think, to find that nothing had come of it, or that Telekom/Ullrich had settled somehow? After all, at the moment they are refusing to go to court over the accusations that Ullrich sold a stage win to Richard Virenque in 1997, saying they'd never dare descend to the accuser Bruno Roussel's level. Not that suing over doping allegations and suing over bribing allegations are the same thing, just that Jan and Telekom are certainly getting a lot of attention these days.

Philip Higgs
New York
Tuesday, June 26

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Wim van Est's fall

There is a book out by VeloPress called 'Maillot Jaune'. Basically a history of the Yellow Jersey and the men who have worn it. The story you are referring to is covered, and they included the photo as well.

Scott Lynch
Oakland, CA
Tuesday, June 26

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Casagrande and Armstrong and the Tour

I recall reading a few comments from Casagrande last week regarding his changes in the Tour. Especially this little gem: "I'm not as good as either of them in the time trial, but there is the uphill time trial and I can gain time (on Armstrong and Ullrich) on the climbs."

I wonder if he was paying attention to Stage 8 from the Tour de Suisse? Let's see now, uphill time trial, some of the best climbers from the Giro, very similar to Stage 11 in the Tour. End result, Armstrong absolutely crushed the competition by 1:25. Or just about 3% faster than the closest competitor. And this on a course that he hadn't even really scouted out ahead of time. Was Francesco paying attention to the Hautacam last year? Does he really think that he'll be able to take that much time out of Armstrong?

I'm certainly not ga-ga over 'Saint Lance'. But he's definitely building an extremely strong case for us to expect a dominating performance in this year's Tour. As for Casagrande's chances? Somewhere between slim and none. He'll do okay, maybe even on the podium. But Armstrong is ready for the Tour; Ulrich, well... They are the leaders of the Tour (provided Jan starts with something near his 97 fitness), everybody else is a notch below. If Armstrong can stay out of trouble, the Tour could be over very early.

Scott Lynch
Oakland, CA
Tuesday, June 26

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Ullrich #1

Scott Goldstein makes a reasonable, albeit cynical argument regarding Ullrich and superstars who are not as driven as the Lance Armstrongs and Michael Jordans of the world in general. But I tend to believe that a rider might actually be sick if they say they are. I also am a huge Ullrich fan, and I think he deserves that admiration. Since winning the Tour in '97, he's stood on the podium for each Tour he's participated in while being on a team that also devoted resources to winning the green sprinter's jersey- something which Telekom may not be concentrating as much on this year if they don't send Zabel's favorite lead-out rider, Gian Matteo Fagnini, in favor of sending Ullrich more support. He's won another of the three major European tours in that time (the Vuelta) and medalled in the Sydney Olympics.

Part of being a fan of a rider or athlete or athletic team is supporting them and believing in what they say and do during up and down periods. I don't think that any Ullrich or Telekom fan can deny that Ullrich has a tendency to put on the pounds in the off season. Thankfully though, everyone just doesn't start liking whoever is statistically best at a given point in time. Sports are interesting because of the rivalries and the European-American, Armstrong-Ullrich rivalries are two of the most interesting in my opinion. If some fans seem blindly devoted, more power to them. They might make stupid groundless arguments from time to time, but the sort of passion that they brig to sport makes it more fun.

The Tour will decide who is the best rider on the road currently. I'll be pulling for Ullrich.

Chris Highley
Boston, MA, USA
Tuesday, June 26

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Ullrich #2

In response to Mr. Goldstein's prediction that Lance Armstrong will roll into Paris sans threat from the German superstar Jan Ullrich I believe this is wishful thinking. First of all Jan Ullrich knows how to peak. Secondly, pro cycling is not a sport where you can win all the time. It is not criterium racing in America where you can have five month peaks; the level of competition in pro cycling is so high that you can't race and win everything. Jan Ullrich knows what he is doing, he had several top five placings throughout the Giro; it was not his intention to win the overall. I think you will see an in-form Ullrich battling it out with an in-form Lance. Who will win is not guaranteed. In addition for all you know Jan Ullrich could be winning the Tour de Suisse right now as well. It is important to remember that there is more than one way to skin a cat. Subsequently, nobody is better at whipping himself into a Tour contender than Jan Ullrich. On top of everything else Kevin Livingston is the best domestique available.

Chris Hulse
USA
Wednesday, June 27

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Ullrich #3

What is Jan Ullrich doing now?

After improvement during the Giro, he went to the Pyrenees and trained on the high mountains. Then he did the same in the alps. He has rode all the mountain routes for the tour, and rode them hard. One observer said Jan had a "hollow look" in his face, meaning he's thin. Now Jan is training around his home in the Black Forest.

Last year Jan's training wasn't too good. He only did the Black Forest training. And that alone was good enough for him to get 2nd in the Tour. Now, he has done a 3 week tour (Lemond rode a horrible Giro in 89, before he won the Tour and the worlds), trained hard on all the mountain routes (he has noted important corners, steep stretches, and so on that could make a difference) and is doing the Black Forest thing again, that as I said, got him second with that training alone last year.

Jan says that he is sick of being second. He is super-motivated. I think this will be a great Tour (with Ullrich coming out on top). It will be interesting to see if Jan gets the yellow jersey in the alps. In 97 he showed that he can defend it well. It would be interesting to see how Lance would react/race if he is a minute or two behind a "real" yellow jersey. Lance really hasn't had to actually come back from a serious threat/deficit before.

Jim Sullivan
USA
Wednesday, June 27

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Armstrong

Can anyone identify a weakness in Lance Armstrong? I can't.

Rob Delfosse
Livermore CA
Tuesday, June 26

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RAAM #1

I think that most bike racers are working something out in their head while in the saddle. It seems to me that RAAM contestants should take some time off the bike and seek a professional therapist.

Karl
New York
Monday, June 25

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RAAM #2

I personally have ridden with Danny Chew and other RAAM competitors several times over the past 12 years and I can tell you comparing any RAAM participant to a Cat 5 racer is truly an absurd, weird, and kooky mental exercise. After spending several sedentary years away from the bike I was inspired by the television coverage of the Giro last year and got back into riding toward the end of the summer. In less than two months, and while still very pudgy and soft relative to RAAM riders, I won a Cat 4-5 criterium.

Could I have lasted 30 minutes at the pace required to win RAAM? Of course not. I couldn't hold a candle to those guys. The fitness and endurance needed to compete in RAAM is far beyond the limits of 99.99% of the population, Noel Murphy and myself included. I have no desire to ever compete in RAAM but I do respect and admire the tremendous athletes that not only contemplate such an extraordinary feat, but do it.

Dave McComas
California
Tuesday, June 26

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RAAM #3

A correction: Chris Harkey of DeFeet-Lemond holds the 12 hour record, not Penseyres.

Henry Corley
USA
Tuesday, June 26

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Sew-ups vs clinchers #1

It is refreshing to see so many people expressing themselves on a very personal matter. The majority of you agreed with my own suspicion that sew-ups were smoother in feel. A comment was made that most of today's riders do not ride them simply because they are not aware of the difference and haven't been given the knowledge, which explains the abundance I witnessed. The ease of use of clinchers is considerably better, no debate needed, but that did not address quality of ride. Yes the evolution of the clincher is wonderful, however everyone always compared them to sew-ups, so why go for imitation when you can have the real thing. For training I will continue to use my clinchers, but, messy as they may be, I think for a set of race day wheels, I will invest in some nice tubulars. Tubasti, anyone?

Oh on a side bar. If you ever suffer from saddle sores which are just from wear, and your skin is (pardon me) raw use Desitin. It is a children's cream for diaper rash, and if it can soothe a screaming child it will help you.

I would like to thank everyone that replied and offered me insight, it is greatly appreciated, and thank you to Cyclingnews, for allowing us to have a place to have this type of forum. It truly is wonderful.

Michel van Musschenbroek
USA
Tuesday, June 26

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Sew-ups vs clinchers #2

Here's a perspective on the clincher vs sew-up issue. Having raced bicycles "professionally" for 20 years, and witnessing the transition from sew-ups to clinchers I think I can speak from lots of experience.

To me the "rule of thumb is"

1. If you have lots of money, only race on the best sew-ups.
2. If you have a limited budget, go less expensive sew-ups (I race on Continental Sprinter 250s)
3. If money is an issue, go with the best clincher rim and tire combination.

Notice, I favor sew-ups over clinchers. Here's several reasons why:

Acceleration effort: a clincher rim is inherently heavier at the circumference, due to the need for a bead catcher to hold the clincher tire in place under pressure. This means that the clincher rim is harder to accelerate than a comparable sew-up rim.

Prove it to yourself. Take two wheels of equal quality and have someone hold each wheel by the quick release so the wheel spins freely. Then grab the wheel by the tire and try to spin it as fast as you can. Notice the effort it takes to spin the clincher wheel over the sew-up wheel. Now translate that effort into what it takes your legs to "spin" the rear wheel through a series of chain and gears via the hub (vs the rim) and you can see how a clincher wheel will require more effort in a race with accelerations through corners, etc. This may be less apparent in a Road Race, but you get the picture.

Cornering: A sew-up tire is round and glued to the rim, while a clincher tire is open on one end. I believe that a sew-up tire therefore enters and exits a corner more easily than a clincher. I find I can better execute a fast corner (and feel far safer) on a sew-up vs a clincher. Maybe there are bicycle tire tests proving I am wrong, but it sure seems this way to me.

Inherent weight: a clincher tire if also heavier intrinsically because of the necessity of the "bead". The extra weight translates into harder acceleration effort (see above). Because of the extra rim material for the bead, the rim tends to be heavier. Finally the inherent strength of a sew-up rim is stronger and lighter because of its "D" cross section.

Flat tires: I have found that I tend to get more flats with clinchers than with sew-ups. Those dreaded "snake bites" only seem to happen with my clinchers. Of course repairing a sew-up is such a pain, but with less flats, its less of a problem too.

Ride: Most clinchers I have raced on have a harsher ride. This may be a design consideration or the fact that most cyclists use butyl tubes in their clinchers. For my spare race wheels which are clinchers, I use latex tubes which seem to give a softer ride.

Clearly clinchers have come a long, long way. I remember a race I did when I was still a category 4 rider. I couldn't afford a second set of race wheels. Before the race started, someone was doing a wheel check where they tried to peel off your sew-ups to check for a proper gluing. As he attempted to peel off my clinchers he said, "Clinchers?" I heard a surprised hush of "Clinchers" from the riders around me! "Yeah, clinchers," I replied. This was in 1981. Needless to say I quickly dispelled all rumours that clinchers were affecting my performance as I decimated the field and won the race!

Today's clinchers are lighter, faster, stick better and ride better than the clinchers of old. It comes down to which do you like better and what hassles are you willing to put up with. Sew-ups are definitely more of a hassle to repair and glue on, but I much prefer racing on sew-ups for all of the above reasons.

Glen Winkel, Ph.D.
United States Postal Service Masters Cycling Team
USA
Tuesday, June 26

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Sew-ups vs clinchers #3

I have been racing for 12 years and have seen the steady improvements in clincher tires. In the late eighties Michelin was the only manufacture to produce a clincher with reasonable performance however it was not adequate for racing and almost everyone I raced with used clinchers for training and tubulars for racing.

Twelve years later, I still use tubulars for racing. Clinchers have come a long way and can now be used for racing with much success, but they still do not have the road feel or handling performance of a top line tubular. Yes tubulars are expensive, and yes they are a hassle to mount and repair. However, I feel the superior road feel is more than worth it.

I may be going out on a limb here, but I have a suspicion that many of the riders who are opposed to tubulars have just dismissed them off hand without having actually ridden them. They say they are not worth the effort and that clinchers are more than adequate. I agree that they get the job done they just don't do it as well as tubulars. If all the clincher advocates would actually try tubulars I think we would see a number of converts.

And don't dismiss the weight advantages. A tubular rim is always going to be lighter than a clincher rim and a clincher/tube combo with the same weight of a good tubular is very fragile.

Long live tubulars. I just wish a manufacture would come up with a better way to glue them on. How about industrial strength double faced tape?

Troy Mault
Boulder, Colorado
Tuesday, June 26

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Sew-ups vs clinchers #4

Where can I find the Goma Italia $10 sew-ups that are mentioned here?

David Moss
USA
Wednesday, June 27

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Drugs #1

An organization of competitive riders is the only answer to today's illegal drug use by a few cyclists. Team and personal sponsors, ancillary team and personal staff, professional medical personnel and local, national or international federations often seek answers detrimental to competitive sports. There exists today sufficient competitors, active and retired, with adequate communication resources to wrest control of any sport from its tainted officials. History is dominated by competition distorted through corruption and greed of officials. Let the media report the race. Not the face of complacent officiating being conducted solely for the sake of officiating.

Mo Joyce
USA
Tuesday, June 26

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Drugs #2

Maybe its just me, or my ignorance about the testing practices, but it seems ridiculous to me that the teams, cyclists, race officials, governing bodies and all the rest of us have to wait so long to see test results for doping. If the protocols for testing are so delicate or time-consuming they can't be performed in a reasonable amount of time (hours or days, not months or years) then new ones need to be developed.

Don't the companies that produce the drugs have ways of tracing the effects of their drug? Didn't they have to analyze the effects of the drug before receiving FDA approval, or what ever? Come on! You can't tell us in this modern world of nuclear medicine that it takes two or three weeks to analyze a urine test. This should be something which can be done overnight. The athletes shouldn't have to wait so long to get results.

It seems to me this continuing delay is what causes the perceptions that an athlete is cheating. It's no wonder they get pissed when accusations are aimed at them. It is the beginning of a freaking year long process to clear their name, and when they do, no one covers that.

I do not like the idea of doping (not cause its dangerous, but because it is cheating), and I wish you could just say "well if they are not doping then it shouldn't matter how long the tests take", but the situation is that there are cheaters, and the UCI has set out to catch them. They should either come up with a better way of catching them, or stop trying. Because these half measures, which allow so much speculation, and take so much time, and can be corrupted by so many outside forces are tearing cycling apart.

Adam Nemmers
Springfield, MO
Wednesday, June 27

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Drugs #3

I feel I speak for many Americans, who watch, race and also do both. The problem I have is the "busts" put all the riders (who where "busted) in trouble. OK, well I feel that if they want to clean it up shouldn't we do something to make the manufacturers liable for some of this and account for how these teams get products that are still in Phase3 trials? I speak of when I hear of Hemopure and rsr related products. To me I can see how riders may be given substances. Yes, they may know it's a performance-enhancer but do they always know the whole facts and does this give reason to overlook how people get hold of such products?

Eric K
USA
Wednesday, June 27

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Working in bike shops

I like competitive cycling, and I like reading cycling magazines. I'd like to work in a bike shop but I haven't found one yet.

Ian Black
USA
Wednesday, June 27

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Ian, from my experience as a bike shop grommet, mumble years ago, the trick is to hang around a bike shop till the owners decide you should do something useful around the place rather than making it look untidy. It worked for me!

Pro encounters #1

When the 1994 Tour had its team time trial at Calais, I and numerous team-mates got the ferry over to pay it a visit. Hanging around the square outside the town hall there we saw that many of the teams were setting out on warm up rides. So Colin Langely and I decided to have a ride down the course and get a close up view!

First team past was Carrera, doing a steady 28 mph, with just retired Stephen Roche sat on the back. We settled in behind their team car and followed for 5 miles or so. Then they turned round in the road and came back.

No messing this time, just let the team overtake and straight on the wheels with Roche. No one minded, and we did 5 or 6 miles chatting to him about his new holiday venture and the like, and Colin asked him what he thought of his position on the bike. What a nice guy Roche was. The last mile into Calais we pushed our luck and did some turns with the team - they just smiled at us! And then it was time to turn off and back to reality. Good day though.

I could tell you of the time the year before when, also at the TTT, Poulnikov warming up got in our group and chatted up the girl with us! But that's another story.

Richard Hare
USA
Tuesday, June 26

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Pro encounters #2

I'm writing to clarify my initial letter with respect to a negative experience my 10-year old son had with some U.S. Postal riders this spring at Ghent Wevelgem. I did not mean to insinuate that all pro riders are jerks. Like the rest of us, some are great people and some are not. One of the points I was trying to make is that professional riders (and other athletes as well) have a responsibility that goes along with their salary and celebrity - a responsibility to their fans. Why? Because this is the reason that sponsors are willing to fork over millions of dollars to support teams. Spending a minute to give a young fan an autograph can make a fan for life, a fan who will in all likelihood remember not only the rider but the team and sponsors for whom he is riding. My son's experience at G-W cannot be attributed to his approaching riders too soon following a race for it was forty-five minutes to an hour after the riders had finished and changed into their warm-ups that he first approached them. If the reaction, or lack thereof, he received was only from one rider rather than a number, I might chalk it up to an individual having a bad day. But this wasn't the case.

I want readers to know that my family has also had some great interactions with riders over the years. Last year after L-B-L, for example, Bobby Julich spent five minutes with my son taking about racing with him as if he was a colleague. He even suggested that we take a picture of the two of them together. I have also observed several European racers with only a limited command of English spend the time to try to communicate with my son when he requested autographs, even though it would have been easier to just sign the piece of paper and walk away.

One final note and follow-up. Last Sunday, only a few days after my initial letter appeared in Cyclingnews, we received a telephone call. Since I was unavailable (out for a long ride) my wife took the call. The gentleman on the other end of the line was Antonio Cruz's father-in-law (or father; my wife was unclear on this point). He had read my original letter and took the time and effort to track us down and make a long-distance telephone call to say he was sorry about my son's experience and would do what he could to see that he received some autographs from team members. Just reinforces my opinion that good people raise good kids and that Antonio and family are great people.

Brian Abery
Minneapolis, Minnesota
Tuesday, June 26

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Pro encounters #3

Speaking of St. Gervais, in 1992 I was at the finish of a TdF stage part way up the Mt. Blanc, won by Sean Kelly I believe, and after the stage I was overtaken by two Motorola guys. Steve Bauer and then neo-pro Frankie Andreau let me follow their wheel down the hill about 8km to their hotel. All traffic was stopped by the Gendarmes along our descent making it a quick and exhilarating ride, to say the least. As a souvenir, an officiale water bottle, and a great memory.

Bill Stephens
Sausalito, CA
Tuesday, June 26

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Pro encounters #4

I worked with someone who rode and finished the Tour of Italy. and he was very helpful and full of advice, no matter how slow I was. I think the guys who truly have the legs know it and don't have to be jerks.

Anthony Stephens
USA
Tuesday, June 26

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Pro encounters #5

Although I am more of a fan than a competitive cyclist, there is one time that I can remember coming in contact with some pro riders. Back in the late 1980's, some friends and I travelled to the town of Santa Rosa, Ca. to ride the Sonoma county Multiple Sclerosis Waves to Wine pledge ride. On hand, volunteering their time for the occasion were professionals Davis Phinney, Connie Carpenter, and Olympic speed skating champion and Tour competitor Eric Heiden. It was great to hear stories and responses from these great athletes during our dinner Saturday night. The next morning some of us were lucky enough to get on their wheels as they road out, and powered by pure adrenaline, accompanied them up the road a bit. Along the way all three were friendly, honest, and open to freely dispensing knowledge concerning our great sport. After hammering past the first food stop the three and their group began to get warm, and the kid with the knobby tires eventually was off the back, but I was left with a memory I will treasure forever.

Mike
Pacifica, CA.
Wednesday, June 27

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Pro encounters #6

Years ago at the I-really-wish-we-still-ran-it-here-in-the-U.S. Coors Classic, oh, I think it was 1984 or 1985 (I don't remember exactly), I watched a crit stage that ran through Aspen, Colorado.

This was a year when Bernard Hinault and Greg LeMond raced the Classic, and after the Aspen race I watched to see what hotel they were staying at. Once they'd entered their rooms, I promptly camped out practically on their doorsteps. I was incredibly nervous - seeing these guys "in real life," let alone getting an autograph, would be a dream! After a solid 1-2 hours, they both emerged out into the hallway where I was. I half-expected to be brushed off, but they both were very, very nice and agreed to autograph my Coors Classic guidebook! They had just finished signing when - bonus!! - Steve Bauer emerged from an adjacent room, and he autographed it too! We didn't exchange more than a few words, but then I was a tongue-tied teenager in awe.

I had my heroes' - and a few of the most successful cyclists ever - autographs, and with that all I could do for a few days was walk around in a daze.

Cliff McArthur
San Francisco, USA
Wednesday, June 27

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Saddle sores

Bag Balm. Don't know what's in it, but us trackies have been using it for years.

Chris Echelmeier
Boulder, CO USA
Tuesday, June 26

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The last month's letters

  • June 26 – Nandrolone, pro encounters, RAAM, sew-ups vs clinchers, saddle sores
  • 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