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Letters to Cyclingnews — June 30, 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

Another mammoth mailbox (we're beginning to think that frequent letters pages just encourage you all!) with discussion ranging from the impending Armstrong/Ullrich showdown to working in bike shops and from drugs to meetings with pro riders.

John Stevenson
Letters editor

Ullrich vs Armstrong
Ullrich
Armstrong
Armstrong's Tour de Suisse mountain TT bike
Working in bike shops
Tour de France jersey holders
RAAM
Podium girls
Bassons
Breaking the Chain
Drugs
Pro encounters
Cancer saints
Ullrich's legal action
Sew-ups vs clinchers

Ullrich vs Armstrong #1

Until yesterday I would have been willing to entertain many writers' opinions about Il Kaiser's potential July fitness peak and ability to give Lance a run for his money in the TdF. That was before the final TdS time trial. Consider this: Armstrong and Ullrich are effectively matched in traditional, mostly flat time trials. Armstrong has edged Ullrich in the TdF; Ullrich bested lance in Sidney. Therefore the difference in Le Tour will come down to team support (both have strong, dedicated teams; USPS is clearly deeper than ever before with Heras replacing Livingston) and *climbing*.

Now look at the TdS time trial: in second place was Gilberto Simoni, coming off a massive fitness peak in the last week of the Giro, in which he dispatched an enhanced Frigo in the mountains, out TT-ed Olano, then rode a crushingly fast solo breakaway in the rain for a decisive stage victory. The man is an awesome climber, a vastly improved time trialist, and having the best year of his career.

Third was the USPS's number three GC contender (did I mention the team is deep this year?), Tyler Hamilton, another hugely effective climber (Tyler holds the course record for the Mt. Washington Hillclimb, the world's most difficult bicycle hill climb event, by almost 4 minutes), who went into the stage fresh, since USPS had not had to do any major lead-defense in the days running up to the ITT.

Neither of these superstar climbers could come closer than 1:25 to Lance, who stated after the race that he feels his fitness still has not quite peaked (i.e. he's right on course for mid-July). IMHO, the battle for 2nd place in this year's TdF will be the most exciting aspect of the race; I hope Simoni can hold his form and decides to ride, to make the contest a three-way matchup between him, Ullrich, and Casagrande. Lance has to be considered the pre-emptive favorite for the maillot jaune, however.

Alex Parker
Boston MA, USA
Thursday, June 28

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Ullrich vs Armstrong #2

Armstrong appears very strong, and I think he will again will the Tour. But his tendency to bonk is definitely a problem. With a little pressure from Ullrich, this could cost Lance his third win. His eating habits need to be improved
Sincerely

Vert Hallahan
Thursday, June 28

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Ullrich vs Armstrong #3

I think Lance should be very leery of Ullrich and Telekom. Several times in the Giro, Ullrich showed his incredible power at the front of the peloton. Zabel is making noise about being left out of the picture without his best lead-out man. Ullrich has trained very hard this year and is looking to quiet any detractors. I've got to believe that the peloton is getting sick of the interlopers from America seemingly winning at will last year. I think there will be attacks from everywhere: each and every team will be looking to challenge the yellow jersey team's resolve in leading and controlling the race. The team will be of particular importance this year. Postal has screwed with chemistry and runs the risk of the team imploding under pressure. Telekom could be so focused on winning the damn thing that they will be riding with increased strength from the get-go. I predict an epic competition for the win that will be decided in the last time-trial (stage 18?). Can't wait.

Jonathan S Smith
USA
Thursday, June 28

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Ullrich vs Armstrong #4

Ullrich will not win this years Tour. Y'all talk about his Giro performances. He had only a few top 3 finishes. And on one stage he lost over 30 minutes on a climing stage. Thats not very good.

Yall also talk about Jan training in the high mountains that the Tour will go. Well I hate to break it to ya Lance has done it and done it more than Ullrich. Lance is in ass-kicking form right now and he will win this years Tour.

Kevin Livingston is not the best domestique out there. He is a great assest to the Telekom train but not the best in the business. USPS had Roberto Heras and Tyler Hamilton what else do you want. I top 5 guy in the TdF GC and a top 3 Time Trialler. USPS is much stronger than Telekom could ever imagine being.

You talk about Ullrich's motivation, well think about Lance's. He knows he might have a fight on his hands this year so he has worked his ass off even more so than last year.

Josh
USA
Thursday, June 28

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Ullrich vs Armstrong #5

On Jim Sullivan's comment regarding Lance and Ullrich: "Lance really hasn't had to actually come back from a serious threat/deficit before." We know what happens when Ullrich finds himself in a deficit. He fails to come back. Witness the 98 and 2000 Tours.

John Haley
Nashville, TN, USA
Thursday, June 28

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Ullrich vs Armstrong #6

I think it's comical for Mr. Sullivan to suggest that Lance Armstrong has never been a "real yellow jersey" because he hasn't had to overcome time deficits or a "real" threat in the Tours de France he's won. Overcoming deficits or close rivals is a pretty narrow way to determine whether or not a rider is a worthy champion. The fact is that Armstrong has always come prepared for the Tour from day one, and he's ridden with tactical savvy to avoid losing time at critical points like the Passage du Gois. That's why he hasn't had to overcome deficits. Likewise, the apparent absence of real threats bears witness to the degree of Armstrong's worthiness as a yellow jersey. Merckx dominated the Tours he rode as well. Is Merckx not a "real" yellow jersey either?

I suspect Jan Ullrich will bring his "A" game to this year's Tour. He may even put time into Armstrong. If so, I predict we'll see a dimension of Armstrong that will impress and cement his stature as a champion.

Jon Kortebein
Crystal, MN
Thursday, June 28

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Ullrich vs Armstrong #7

Lance seemingly won the Tour de Suisse without much trouble. He also pointed out that his team placed 3 in the top 4 of the Time Trial. What other Telekom riders have you read about lately, getting similar placings in 2.HC Category races? None.

The point?

Team vs. Team:
US Postal is undoubtedly stronger than Telekom as a whole. US Postal has riders for all Le Tour requirements: climbers for the mountains (including last year's Vuelta winner), a classics winner on the flat (Hincapie), and proven TT specialists (Ekimov, Hamilton - who can also climb). Telekom is an extremly strong team, but aside from Zabel (who probably will ride for himself and the green jersey, anyway), who do they have?

Man vs. Man:
I think its fair to say that Lance and Jan are pretty much equals physically, but again Lance is undoubtedly superior in the determination department - he races consistently, doesn't get fat in winter, and even places well in races he uses as preparation. He prepares methodically all year with one ultimate goal - yellow in France. Ullrich can't control himself in the off-season and has to race a lot to lose weight.

As for that lame comment about Lance never having to come back from a "real" deficit/threat, that's because no one has been able to challenge him in France for the past 2 years, including Ullrich. Lance had no problems overcoming a 2:30 deficit to win in Switzerland, with apparent ease.

I think this edition of Le Tour will be every bit as exciting, hard-fought, and close as the recent US Presidential elections. But I must put my money on Armstrong. He's shown consistent form in first-rate events throughout the year (2nd at Amstel Gold, 2nd at Classique de Alpes, 2 TT wins and GC Overall at Tour de Suisse), while Ullrich has yet to step onto the podium (with all due respect), AND has the better team. I hope he doesn't prove me wrong.

Chad Smith
Austin, TX
Thursday, June 28, 2001

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Ullrich vs Armstrong #8

Does anyone really think Kevin Livingston will be a better support rider in the mountain than Roberto Heras?

Richard Bayman
USA
Friday, June 29

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Ullrich vs Armstrong #9

For Chris Hulse to state that Kevin Livingston is the "best" domestique available is ridiculous. He didn't have to work for anyone in the Giro and finished over 2 1/2 hours back (and one hour behind Ullrich). He never attempted to be a factor in any climb. It seems to me that having a Vuelta winner as your new top domestique (and who placed fifth last year) and also another top domestique who was 12 places (and 27 minutes) higher last year than Livingston would be two individuals I'd much rather have (Heras, who was 5th @11:50 last year and Hamilton in 25th place). For that matter, I would think that having Rumsas and Belli as domestiques for Casagrande for Fassa Bortolo or any one of several ONCE climbers for Beloki make for better domestiques than Livingston. He may provide some help but Ullrich better rely on Guerini and Vinokourov much more. I would like to eat my words, but Livingston has shown NOTHING since leaving Postal Service.

Herman Kooymans
Atlanta, GA, USA
Friday, June 29

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Ullrich vs Armstrong #10

In response to Jim's Letter, I'm 100 per cent convinced that Ullrich, in consequence of all the hard training that he is doing, he's going to show everyone starting with Lance how strong he can be. We also must take in consideration the team that lance is having this July, Roberto Heras just to name one but the strongest one, but I'm still convinced Ullrich finally after several years WILL RACE AS HE KNOWS!

And I like to response to Lance Armstrong's last January declaration: "Face it I'll probably Win!"....Lance: Do you think you are racing this year with the same Jan Ullrich of 2000? face it you probably won't be back.

Lets watch them destroy themselves in the Alps. The best will survive and I think Ullrich won't die.

Fernando Tavera
Mexico
Friday, June 29

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Ullrich vs Armstrong #11

A suggestion that this Tour could be over quickly if Armstrong avoids early trouble is complete rubbish. Both Armstrong and Ullrich are meticulously prepared, highly motivated, and armed with powerful teams. The course layout depicts a "fight to the finish" race with critical mountain stages and individual time trials sprinkled throughout the duration of the event. This will be a clash between two great rivals in their prime, producing a sporting spectacle that has not been witnessed in a very long time. The Tour 2001 will be a magnificent battle!

Bennett Cox
Walnut Creek USA
Friday, June 29

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Ullrich vs Armstrong #12

"Lance really hasn't had to actually come back from a serious threat/deficit before."? Cancer and a less than 20 per cent chance to live? I think a deficit in the Tour pales in comparison. Lance's dedication to performing at a top level is much more admirable than Ullrich's "tired of placing second in Tour". Even Lance admits that Ullrich's natural talents are exceeded by none in the peloton, it is his mind and lack of dedication that will ultimately hold him back. I'm not saying he can't win the Tour, I just think his mental preparation will not be ever right for a true champion. Do you think if he wins he'll be just as motivated for the next TdF? What would happen if he placed second once again after all of his increased training in 2001? He's gone from saying "I can beat Lance because I don't think he can improve over last year's performance" to "Lance won't have it so easy in this year's Tour" to "I'm not a favorite, just a contender". To me, Mr. Ullrich leaves a bit to be desired, but I do hope that the Tour is tightly contested between him, Armstrong, Casagrande, Beloki, Moreau and perhaps Millar and Vaughters.

Michael P. Wong
Alameda, CA USA
Friday, June 29

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Ullrich #1

One more post from me regarding Jan Ullrich and then we can all sit back and see who is right and who dropped.

First off, let's get one thing straight: Jan Ullrich is a fantastic rider. He has done amazing things in his career, some of which don't get as much attention as they should, such as:

1) Finishing a mere 1:41 behind Bjarne Riis in the 1996 Tour after spending the whole race working for Riis
2) Destroying the field by more than three minutes in the St Ettiene ITT in 1997
3) Winning the Olympic RR when he was the hot favorite (this one has received plenty of attention, but it is worth mentioning anyway)

A fantastic rider, when in poor condition, is still better than most. To win the Tour de France, you have to be the best of the best. Chris Hulse mentions Jan's "several top five placings throughout the Giro". Actually, Jan had two 3rd places in flat sprint finishes in the Giro. This means nothing for a guy who is aiming at the TDF. On almost all of the important stages (TTs and Mountains) Jan finished in the 60th-88th position, with his best finish in a stage of consequence was 32nd (8 minutes down on Simoni) in stage 20. Jim Sullivan points toward Jan's magical "Black Forest Training that got him second last year" I think that Jim (or anyone else) will have a tough time naming a TDF winner (in the modern era) that showed up to the TDF with no significant race results in May or June and won it. In other words, got in shape to win the Tour by training on their own.

A lot has been made lately of how "well" Jan Ullrich has been going in his preparation for the Tour this year. The consensus seems to be that Jan was "going terribly" last year and this year things are much better. I thought it would be interesting to check the facts. The following are the stages of each of Jan's build-up races last year that didn't end in bunch finishes and Jan's results:

2000 Midi Libre May 16th-21
Stage 4 ITT: 66th @3:18
Stage 5 Mountain stage: Finished in the Gruppetto @ 31:47 Stage 6: Abandonded

Tour of Germany, May 26-June 4
Stage 3 Mountain stage: 44th @ 15:27
Stage 7 ITT: 9th @2:33

Tour of Switzerland, June 13th-22
Stage 1 TTT: Telekom wins
Stage 4 Hilly stage: 7th @ :53, 2nd on GC Stage 5 ITT: 3rd @:16 1st on GC
Stage 6 Mountain Stage: 16th @1:55 1st on GC Stage 8 Mountain Stage: 18th @ 1:57 4th on GC Stage 9 Mountain Stage: 20th @ 8:47 (came in with race leader) Overall GC: 5th @ 2:07

Looks to me that things were progressing quite nicely last year. I would have to conclude that last year was looking better than this year as of the end of the second week of June. Unless, of course, you consider leading out a bunch sprint to be an equal achievement to leading an Hors Categorie Stage race after the ITT.

Scott Goldstein
Thursday, June 28
USA

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Ullrich #2

I also believe that Jan will be in top form for the tour following a well monitored preparation. He is by far my favorite rider on and off the bike and would love to see him on top of the podium in Paris. My wife and I will be following the tour on our bikes for a month holiday in France so I will be cheering him on from the side of the roads. I have never been a fan of Lance but respect him for accomplishments and what he has done for the fight against cancer.

James Neil
Wednesday, June 27

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Armstrong #1

It may be that Armstrong is at his best relative to the others when it is cold and nasty (Oslo, Sestriere, Hautacam) and not quite so strong when the day is hot (JouxPlane 01), Texas notwithstanding. I don't know what it was like at Crans-Montana yesterday. Ullrich likes it hot. I'm rooting for Lance, especially after seeing his chest x-ray from 4 years ago.

Eric Olsen
Juneau Alaska
Wednesday, June 27

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Armstrong #2

Armstrong has no weakness?

It was either his DS (Johan Bruyneel) or his trainer (Chris Carmichael) who recently said that Lance could improve his sprint - witness Amstel Gold this year. To win the overall at a Grand Tour, a good sprint is about the only talent you don't need. So it's not really a weakness in relation to the goals he has set for himself (with the exception of Amstel, and possibly the Worlds).

Duncan Granger
Lancaster, PA
Thursday, June 28

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Armstrong #3

I can identify a weakness in Lance, his arrogance. Maybe he will pay for that.

Bjoern Kraemer
Marburg Germany
Thursday, June 28

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Armstrong #4

Lance Armstrong has weaknesses just like any other cyclist, however to exploit his weakness you must be just as good or better than Armstrong to do it. I'm looking through the Tour 2001 line up and I don't see any names.

Joe Chase
Austin TX
Thursday, June 28

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Armstrong #5

He opens his mouth about the French press, thus giving it credibility. He should just shrug them off as sensationalist grocery store rags and leave it at that. He should be wary of alienating his French fans. Who knows what they are capable of. Vive Le Lance!

Brian C. McEvilly, D.C.
Fairfield, CA
Thursday, June 28

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Armstrong #6

I believe that there will be a new card game created after this years TDF.

The game will be called, "What excuse can we use this Year to explain losing to Lance Armstrong?"

The rules have already been played out in the press and media so we all know how to play. BUT, just in case, lets try a quick round: Player 1 yells out the situation:

Situation: Losing several minutes to Lance in the Mountains after using a whole damn year threatening to teach him a lesson.

All other players make up the most ludicrous excuse possible:

My weight is not good this year
My tummy aches
I got the flu
My Mother hated me
My Father hated me
I hate me
The whole world hates me

Come on everyone!

Mark Combs
Friday, June 29

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Armstrong's Tour de Suisse mountain TT bike

Does anyone know what bike Lance Armstrong used in the recent Tour de Suisse mountain time trial?

I'm assuming he used his "conventional" road bike configuration, unless he did a "reverse Marcel Wust" (i.e. start with a time trial bike for the flat and switched to a road bike for the climb).

Carlos Remedios
USA
Wednesday, June 27

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Working in bike shops #1

Working in a shop can really interfere with a race schedule, it would be a rare thing for you to find one that allowed you to race on a Saturday when they are probably at their busiest. Standing on your feet for 8 hours is also not conducive to fitness, at least the type you will want if you intend to compete. You either will end up being a good bike shop worker or a good racer, it's a rare thing to have both going for you

Mark Pubols
USA
Wednesday, June 27

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Working in bike shops #2

You are not being very clear here. You can not find a bike shop or you can not find a job in a bike shop. There is a big difference. I own bike shops. If your difficulty is in finding a job in a bike shop, keep asking, because bike shops are everywhere. Please keep in mind that bike shops are retail sales and service operations and not just places where employees hang out and talk about cool bikes and bike racing all day.

If your difficulty is that you can't find a bike shop that meets your expectations please keep in mind that most bike shops are sweat equity businesses that are run and owned by individuals who love our sport. They put in long hours and struggle to sell into a market where a great majority of the public does not accept cycling (stats show 90 per cent of us do not patronize bicycle shops) and where the cycling enthusiasts can buy most of what we sell at or near dealer cost. Consequently, bike shops operate on a small sales-per-square foot basis and an even smaller margin. Most provide such a modest return that their owners wouldn't stay without a love for bicycles and for the sport of cycling.

Since one of the hardest thing for bike shop owners to do is to find capable adult employees who understand cyclists, can keep up with the technology, and are willing to work retail I wouldn't think finding a job would be difficult. If your difficulty is that you can't find a job in a bike shop that fits your image of what a bike shop should be you might consider looking at a shop as a business and asking yourself what the owner might look for in a prospective employee. Perhaps you might give your attitude a tune-up before you start asking for a customer's money on behalf of a bike shop owner.

John McCombs
USA
Wednesday, June 27

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Tour de France jersey holders

When was the last time the winner of the TDF also held the Green Sprinter's jersey and the Polka Dot Climber's jersey? I seem to recall that Hinault did it, but I may be mistaken.

I occasionally hear Greg LeMond referred to as America's "greatest ever" cyclist. Should Lance prove strongest in the TDF, and win his third straight, how much stronger does the argument become that he should inherit that designation?

Ronald Adolph
USA
Thursday, June 28

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RAAM

Comparing RAAM racers to Cat 5s? Crazy. Personally helping Mark Patten get ready for this years RAAM, I know he is no slouch. In fact, the last few weeks leading up to RAAM, Mark raced 1 TT, 2 Crits, and 1 Road Race. In those races (Masters 35+, he is 40) he earned two 1st and two 2nds. He has also won or placed in the top 5 in several races this year. If RAAM is not a bike race, then the Ironman is not a triathlon and the Boston Marathon is not a run race. It takes a very unique individual to race in RAAM. It also takes a very unique individual to do a Keirin and bump and grind at 40 mph. To each his own.

Farid A. Abraham
Velo Sol, Los Gatos, California
Wednesday, June 27

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RAAM / 12 hour time trialling

Having read Paul Evans's letter about RAAM, I was intrigued. I thought that 12 hour time trials were a particularly British thing. In fact the big season long time trial competition, the British Best All Rounder, requires all entrants to do at least one 12 hour time trial. Most mere mortals manage over 220 miles, decent club riders do around 230-260 miles, and the best do above 290 miles. The current record is 300 miles in 12 hours with the start and finish within a few miles of each other (I forget the distance now, 5 I think). Is this similar to what happens in American 12s? It feels kind of depressing that the best riders can keep up the same average speed for 12 hours that I manage in a 10 mile race!

Andrew Torrance
UK
Thursday, June 28

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Podium girls

Congratulatory greetings on all of the incredible information that you bring to us! However, if I may suggest one additional piece of information to provide us readers? I've noticed that throughout the major tours, the podium girls seem to be just as exciting at finish line time for me than the actual race results. Is there any way we could get a little news on these wonderful beauties? They just always seem so happy and unperturbed by the sometimes soggy, rain-drenched, sweaty racers that cuddle up to them and spray them with champagne.

David Calabro
Seattle, WA
Thursday, June 28

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Bassons

It would be great for Christophe Bassons to get to the "right" team that wants to reflect his commitment to getting the sport "clean". It seems unfortunate that he can not find peace within the sport we all love. I would wish to express my encouragement so that he continues his difficult path, hopefully with the goal that in his career the "playing field" is even, and *all* feel that the peloton is "clean".

It takes great strength to be an outsider or the minority, but strength can be gained from the support of the cycling community as a whole. I hope that somehow a message can be communicated to Christophe to finish a fight that he may have unknowingly started, and finish it with resolve for the betterment of cycling.

John W. Senkier
Santa Cruz, CA USA
Thursday, June 28

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Breaking the Chain #1

I have also read Willy Voet's book and Bruno Roussel's account of his time as Festina team manager in Le Monde .The bad mouthing by Jan Ullrich and Virenque and my hero Lance saying Voet is a bad man does not wash. Remember Willy Voet said all along Virenque was doping and had the records to prove it, sadly not in the English edition. And it was only 2 years later that Richard admitted it in a court of law. So when Willy and Bruno say what went on at Festina doping and stage buying I know who I would rather believe .

Bernard Slater
UK
Thursday, June 28

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Breaking the Chain #2

I read with interest today (Thurs) the letter regarding Willy Voet's book. How can a real fan digest the slander he's written without so much as a question mark over his reliability? He was underhand enough to be party to the practice of drug administration in the Festina team, so how can his word be taken as that of a gospel writer now? And on that subject, I can think of at least two reasons for him to spread lies regardless: money; and an attempt to bring down others by way of a bitter resentment for the sport that made a criminal of him. As somebody who loves our great sport, and looks forward every year to Le Tour, the toughest, yet most beautiful test of athleticism in existence, I won't just believe a man in his position who tries to tell me it's all fake. Finally, the French entered the '98 tour with their best hope of a home-grown winner since 1984, in Richard Virenque, the runner-up to the then mighty Ullrich the year before. Why, if supposedly every tour winner for 30 years has been doping, did the authorities eject Virenque and turn a blind eye to Pantani and Ullrich, who both fall into the guilty category if Voet's claims are to be believed?

Paul Winks
Thursday, June 28

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Drugs

I feel the need to respond to Eric K's letter. I am bothered by what I see as his growing American mentality that we live in a completely victimized society. Why on earth would we want to hold manufacturers liable for what ADULT (remember, adult = responsible, or at least it used to) consumers do with their products? It's bad enough dying smokers are trying to cash in on the results of their own actions and choices, and never mind the pathetic debate to punish gun manufacturers for the results of media-hungry lunatics, but EPO was originally manufactured to assist individuals with kidney failure, so that hopefully they could stay on dialysis until transplants became available. That does not sound like the act of hardened criminals to me. The current blood boosters you refer to which are still in clinical trials are hopefully going to assist persons with leukaemia and other hemolytic illnesses. That criminals (and that's what people who cheat and break laws are, even if they are also famous) choose to seek out and exploit these products is in no way whatsoever related to the manufacturers, and implying that they are only enables all of us to be sidetracked from the real problem at hand: greater punishment for dopers. It is also in my opinion outrageous to suggest that cyclists, or any adult athletes for that matter, don't always know all the facts about what substances, especially medicinal ones, they are putting into their bodies. If it is actually true that they don't, then they are too stupid to be competing in the first place.

Deborah Steiner
Pittsburgh, PA, USA
Friday, June 29

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Pro encounters #1

This is the story of an almost encounter. In the mid-1980's the Coors Classic started in San Francisco. In one of those years, a day or two before the start of the race, I walked over to the headquarters hotel at lunch from my workplace As I was strolling around the lobby, wondering if I could find some press material, Bernard Hinault, a woman and a boy (I assume his wife and son) strolled through the lobby and out onto Market Street, a major San Francisco thoroughfare. I followed them at a discrete distance for a few blocks until I was near my office. No one stopped them, and I thought that it must be a rare experience for him to be able to walk peacefully with his family through the heart of a city.

Based on the fact that he seemed so relaxed, I thought that he would be treating the race as a vacation. As I recall, he was competitive the whole way; I'm not sure if he won it, but he did take a few stages.

Alan Forkosh
Oakland, CA
Wednesday, June 27

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Pro encounters #2

I had the pleasure of meeting Nicole Freedman (US National Champ & Olympian) twice. We both lived in the same area (near Stanford University, in Palo Alto, CA). The first I met her was on the road, coming back from our respective training rides. She's friendly, totally casual, and very fast (though she wasn't riding fast with me that day, which I appreciated). We are both Stanford alums, so it was nice to ride around the Stanford area (great riding) with her.

Little did I know that she was living in a van, parked in the driveway of a Palo Alto house her friends shared. The sad truth is that Palo Alto is one of the most expensive places to live (on this planet), where $1000/month rent will allow you to get a single room in a shared house (if you are lucky). It's also sad that I often see $5000 bikes on the road, while hard-working cyclists like Nicole had to sleep in a van. I myself was struggling financially, and so I could relate. Fortunately for Nicole, she won the Nationals later on, and got herself a sponsorship that helped her get a roof over her head.

The second time I met Nicole was on a commuter train (from Palo Alto to San Francisco), where we could take bicycles aboard the train. She and a friend were preparing for a mountain bike ride in Marin (north of SF), and she totally remembered me! National Champion & everything. What a great person, a great character & a great cyclist.

Jack W.
Bay Area, CA, USA
Wednesday, June 27

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Pro encounters #3

Okay, so maybe this doesn't count, because it's a story about a "retired pro encounter", but I'll give it a shot.

I went over to Italy this spring to ride with Andy Hampsten, as part of his Cinghiale Cycling Tours. The trip exceeded all of my expectations in every aspect - the food, the wine, and especially the riding. This was due in large part to the tour guides, which included Andy himself, as well as two other retired pros, John Weissenrieder and Julia Ingersoll.

I can not say enough about the graciousness, encouragement, good humour, and excellent advice that I got from all of them (as well as from the guides who AREN'T retired pros - Linda Hampsten and Mark Mahan). They all have a passion for cycling, and are willing to share what they know with anyone else who is interested. And Andy's just a nice guy, plain and simple - there's no better way to put it. He loves bikes, loves telling racing stories, always has a smile on his face, and is originally from Grand Forks, North Dakota... which isn't TOO far from Canada... so how bad of a guy could he be?

Jamie Puumala
Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada
Thursday, June 28

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Pro encounters #4

I got to meet Frankie Andreu just a few weeks ago at my first road race. He is a local hero here in Detroit and shows up to club events like this all the time. I got the nerve to approach him and I was glad I made the effort. He was super cordial and took the time to chat about the US Pro Championships he just got back from.

Of course the batteries in my camera croaked but he said to just catch him at the next race. I wanted to get some shots of him smoking around the course with the CAT 1-2 guys too, but watching was treat enough.

Erik Van Name
Detroit, MI USA
Friday, June 29

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Cancer saints

I bring this up because of Scott Lynch's letter that mentioned "Saint Lance". I agree with the sentiment of that statement.

Not to take anything away from survivors of any major illness, but isn't the worship of these cancer-surviving athletes going a bit far?

I was at Nevada City this weekend, and Ernie Lechuga won. I was very happy for him, even though he beat my buddy into second. I actually was shocked, as I didn't know the story until they announced it on the podium. Still, the reverent tones the announcer used to compare Ernie's prostate cancer with Lance Armstrong- is this going too far?

Lots of people have cancer, and go through hell to recover from it, or not. I know a guy who recovered from cancer who rode at the local bike shop. He has scars from his brain surgery and everything. Still, there are many kinds of life-threatening illnesses and injuries. LeMond's recovery for me is the same as Lance's recovery from cancer.

While this seems to be mentioned in passing by the press, Lance's always seems to be held as "the greatest comeback in all sports." What is the difference between this an LeMond's problems?

Is it because of cancer being so common? Almost everyone knows someone with it, or who died from it, a loved one or someone. Is this what touches this nerve? Is it the secret wish that OUR loved one would have survived and gone on to embody the best in athletes?

I understand his leadership ability within the team, and the awe and respect that his team-mates have for him. Still, I was around during the time he wasn't "Saint Lance", and he seems to thankfully matured in his leadership perspective a lot. Looking death in the eye can do that, provided you have the inclination.

Still, his life has really been a charmed one, athletically speaking. We all know about his triathlon awakenings and his brusque attitude until the cancer. Yes, I know a bit of the sadder parts of his life story, and about his single mom raising him. I know a bit about those difficulties myself. And while that environment raised a winner in me as well, I don't see the need to raise him up as high as we seem to. Much of his talent comes simply from the genetics- this is undeniable.

For me, he is nothing more than an athlete who is not wasting the opportunities that talent and timing provided him. That is itself is so rare as to merit my respect. His tenaciousness and reserves of strength from his facing death are remarkable. But he's not a saint, and I posit any of you, given that same talent and circumstances could rise to the occasion as he has done.

I think that Lance himself has said that he identifies himself first as a cancer survivor, and second as a bike rider. It is in this spirit that I mean my comments. I have met many others who have faced death and come away changed for the better. In fact, I expect it to change people for the better. For me, this experience, hard as it was, was a gift to Lance as well. And one cannot say he is not well compensated for his efforts, monetarily and otherwise. Who wouldn't like to be rich, famous, genetically gifted, have a gorgeous wife AND have enough life perspective to properly enjoy it all?

His trainer is also taking his opportunities, as we all know. But Chris Carmichael is not a saint-by-extension either. Many seem to place him first in the line of coaches worthy of merit. Frankly, as a coach, it takes so much less work to develop an athlete like Lance who is so naturally gifted than one who does not possess gifts is such abundance, or one who refuses to recognize his gifts with hard work.

Regis Chapman
CA, USA
Friday, June 29

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Ullrich's legal action

I wonder how the European justice system handles things like slander. Here in the states, a private party injured by defamatory statements can bring a civil lawsuit seeking damages, and a public figure can recover if the statements were known to be false (as opposed to merely repeating gossip).

Can Jan Ullrich actually file such legal action in Europe?

Rob Ransom
Columbia, SC
Friday, June 29

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Yes, he can. The details vary widely from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but all European countries have some sort of civil laws regarding defamation.

Sew-ups vs clinchers #1

Back in the 80's when clinchers started to make some headway in racing circles, it was commonly said that tubulars were better, but clinchers were rapidly catching up.

Fifteen years later, during coverage of this year's Giro, Bob Roll said that tubulars are better, but clinchers are rapidly catching up.

With such rapid progress, what will they be saying in 2016?

Jonathan Clymer
USA
Thursday, June 28

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Sew-ups vs clinchers #2

If you gave Lance or Jan a pair of heavy clinchers and me the best sew-ups in the world, I would loose. Point being, he or she who trains hardest wins, no matter if they are on clinchers or sew-ups.

Jared Zimlin
FLA, USA
Thursday, June 28

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Sew-ups vs clinchers #3

The only inexpensive sew-ups on the market are TUFO's. They are machine made and the least expensive model in their line is as straight and round as the most expensive model. For most of us, the inability to purchase a decent, inexpensive sew-up drove us to use clinchers for training.

Sew-ups should be the only tire for triathletes since they must change their own tires. I'm amazed to see serious athletes spend a huge amount of money on equipment, travel and entry fees and then ride on clinchers. There are no other area of a bike where weight saving is more important than the rim and tires.

James Cushing-Murray
USA
Thursday, June 28

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Sew-ups vs clinchers #4

Its very simple none of the sew-up lovers has ridden in the New York area. Its no contest clinchers are the only economically way to go (Glass) and Michelin Axel Pros are the best clincher around here even if you race around here. I was originally from Connecticut and rode tubulars but now I only ride clinchers. You have to adjust to the area that you live. To paint a picture with that broad a brush is narrow minded.

Dan Weaver
NY, USA
Thursday, June 28

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Sew-ups vs clinchers #5

I began riding bicycles back in the late '70s. My first serious road bike (Fontan--Peugeot PX10 knock-off) came with sew-ups. So began a life-long love affair with the tubular lifestyle.

I never appreciated all of the superior ride qualities of tubulars until well after I made the switch to clinchers. I quickly became used to riding clinchers (mid-eighties) and never stopped to compare the two. Then one day I borrowed a Canadian-made bike to try out, not realizing it was equipped with tubulars. Whoa--I felt the difference in the ride right away--that sweet, cushy, in-control, hollow feel that only tubulars can provide. BUT--I did not realize at that time that I was riding on tubulars--I assumed everyone had made the switch to clinchers by that time. I turned the bike back in, amazed at the ride quality, and puzzled over the difference in the ride (they were both Reynolds 531 steel). This actually amounted to a "blind-test".

About 3-4 months later, I purchased a set of used tubular wheels to use for racing. I only bought them because they were dirt cheap. After mounting new Clement Criteriums and putting them on my bike and riding--whoa! I experienced an epiphany of sorts--suddenly, my bike rode just like the Canadian bike I had tried! I went back to the bike shop and found out the crucial difference--the Canadian bike was on tubulars. I immediately began experimenting with switching back and forth from the best clinchers on the market (at that time) and my tubular wheels--the difference was very apparent to me. Tubulars were clearly superior in every way except cost and convenience.

So I started training on clinchers and racing on tubulars. This was fine except that I spent at least 85 per cent of my saddle time training. I began longing for the feel of the tubulars during my extended training rides. I began to resent the harsh feel of the clinchers. Then I had a spate of flats on the clinchers, and because I now had two sets of tubular wheels, decided to do some training rides on my old set of tubulars. Once I started doing that unthinkable thing, I became truly converted. Why, I reasoned, should I go through my riding career training on nasty wheels? 85 per cent my time on the saddle was not enjoyable--am I a masochist? No!

I sold my clincher wheels and never looked back. I have not owned a set of clinchers since 1988 and have no regrets. Yes, I have tried the new breed of clinchers--the very best of them (Vitts, Vreds, Michelins--no, I haven't tried the VF clinchers) have improved to the point of riding as well as a set of cheap $12 tubulars, in my opinion. I feel truly sorry for the vast majority of riders that have not even tried tubulars and probably never will. I gave up trying to convert people--the marketing forces are much too strong. I have learned to live with the expense and inconvenience of the tubular lifestyle--I buy my glue in bulk at the local hardware store (no, not Fastack) and know where to buy the best and cheapest tubulars (by the dozen). On average, I have less flats than my clincher-riding companion riders at only a fraction more $$ than they pay. It is well worth the money. I once took the Gold Medal at the Maryland State Age-graded ('93) TT on a tubular that flatted 2 miles before the finish. I was able to continue riding, fishtailing all the way to the line. The rim was completely undamaged. Try that on a clincher!

Extravagant? Not really. I'm the same way about my beer--life is too short to drink Budweiser (or the equivalents)--I'll stick to the microbrewed stuff, thank you. Some things are not worth the compromise. Living the tubular lifestyle and loving it,

Keith Shuey
Baltimore, MD USA
Friday, June 29

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Sew-ups vs clinchers #6

Glen Winkel tells us that a bike accelerates faster with sewups than with clinchers. Glen is an outstanding rider and has a doctorate in anatomy. You don't get a doctorate science and be ignorant of mathematics. However he is spreading the mythology of bicycling when he says things about acceleration that are only true on a level so low that it is not significant.

Certainly if you hold a wheel and spin it you will immediately tell a difference between a heavy wheel and a light one. But wheels do not operate by themselves - they are connected to bicycles and riders. The ounce or two that a sewup saves over a heavy racing clincher means nothing when compared to the bike weight of 20 lbs and the rider weight of his own 140 lbs (wink, wink, nudge, nudge).

Surely I can tell the difference when riding on sewups and I do feel more comfortable corning hard on them, but this isn't because of measurable performance differences in the two but because of personal feelings. Tour de France stages are commonly won on clinchers these days.

Sewups are difficult to repair and are expensive. Perhaps racers on the very top level don't have to worry about getting glue all over the place and letting tire glue age for a day or two after mounting sewups but the rest of us most certainly do. There simply isn't a good reason to use sewups anymore.

Not that I don't have a couple sets and every now and then I'll take them out because they DO ride heavenly. But then I'll get a flat and remember that a clincher tube would be fixed in 5 minutes as good as new while the repair to the sewup will require an hour of my time and the repaired sewup will never be as smooth as the new one. At least the way I sew it won't be.

Tom Kunich
CA USA
Friday, June 29

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Sew-ups vs clinchers #7

Troy Mault writes:

"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? "

Such a product has been around for years, "Advance Tapes" in Leicester UK has manufactured "Tub Tape" since at least the 80's. I have my own personal "stash" here in San Diego and use it should I puncture whilst off riding in the hills.
Works very well, very quick, and very clean

Shaun Wallace
USA
Friday, June 29

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Sew-ups vs clinchers #8

In 1998 I was lucky enough to talk Bob Roll into going on a mountian bike ride with me. Just for kicks he brought Greg Lemond along. During our ride we had the shortest conversation on sew ups vs. clinchers I've ever heard. Bob looked at me and said " I used to skip meals to afford good sew ups". Greg just nodded. Topic closed.

Mark Salmon
Fullerton CA
Friday, June 29

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Sew-ups vs clinchers #9

I've been riding tubulars for 20 years for racing and day tripping. Nothing beats them for comfort (soft ride) and handling. I tried clinchers once and it felt as though my wheels were made out of concrete (a la the Flintstone's car) rather than rubber. The ride was so harsh that I immediately gave them up.

Jim Boyd
NYC
Friday, June 29

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Sew-ups vs clinchers #10

I am reminded in this discussion of comparisons of a few things

1) How traditional our sport is, and therefore how much that colors our perspective. There is lots of wisdom dispensed in the cycling world about a good many things- saddle height, crank length, handlebar width, etc. Much of that is pure myth and bunk, and really depends on the rider's perspective alone. I am certain I have my own myths that I am foisting onto my protégé's, but I would hope they would evaluate these things for themselves.

2) The difference between full-suspension mountain bikes and hardtails. I noted once that a famous mountain bike pro had to be convinced by his team that full-suspension was faster. They did this by doing a time trial on the hardtail and then the same course on a full-suspension.

Of course, the full-suspension was faster, but the rider's perception of this was the opposite- he was certain that the hardtail was faster, because it 'felt' faster.

3) An old mechanic of mine talking about frame materials and the difference between them. This is back when all the new frame materials started to be used commonly: Ti, Aluminum, MMC, etc.

Her comment was to "let 5 or 10 lbs of pressure out of your tires, and then feel the difference between aluminum and steel."

4) How trend-driven our sport is now. In recent years, our sport has become more trendy, mostly thanks to the bicycle industry adopting modern marketing methods. Now, stiffness is all anyone really talks about, and you are considered somehow 'retro' if you have a different view. Even lightness is a fad - an expensive one at about $1000 a pound lightened. Think about TT bikes, one of the least-used and most expensive bikes one can own. I sort of wish for the days of the TT bike being the climbing bike again, but even this was before my day.

Perception is not ALWAYS reality.

I guess for myself, I never let myself ride sew-ups long enough to tell any real difference, because I was so freaked about how different the bike felt under me.

Regis Chapman
CA USA
Thursday, June 28

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The last month's letters

  • June 28 – Armstrong, Ullrich & Casagrande, pros, RAAM, sew-ups vs clinchers
  • 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