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Letters to Cyclingnews — May 9, 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 — Tour selection special

Letters continue to flood in about the Tour wildcard selection. Today, we'll put as many of them up as possible, in installments. Without further ado, here is the first batch

John Stevenson
Letters editor

Foreign teams should abandon
Selection process?
Virtual TdF 2001?
Sympathy for the Pirate
What about the fans?
Good Riddance To Pantani
New blood is good
Enabling mediocrity
LeMond's mistake
Pantani and Cipo not needed
Curiouser and curiouser
Pantani must ride
Selection won't help French
LeBlanc is right
Teams: 25 by 8?

Foreign teams should abandon

It would be great if the foreign teams would abandon the Tour, thereby stating that they do not wish to compete against such mediocre opponents. Some of those opponents havequestionable reputationstoo: Ag2R still mainly has the same management team as in the Casino period; and Delatour took on a lot of the '98 Festina team and want Virenque next year — where would that leave Bassons?

Anyone criticising CSC's selection should bear in mind that they did some good classics (especially Vlaanderen), that Leblanc owes a lot to Bjarne Riis (the continuation of the Tour '98?) and some guys who can make a good GC (Hamburger, Garcia) and some good stages (Sörensen, Piziks, Hoffman, Jalabert)

Bart Broex
Baarn, The Netherlands
Thursday, May 3

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Selection process?

I am as upset as the rest of you at the exclusion of more qualified teams for lesser ones. This has happened in the past and allowed great teams to develop. When this was done it was in the interest of globalising the Tour. This is something totally different this is LeBland making up for leaving lousy French teams in the past. The problem is that we are looking for an invitational process to have a restricted selection process. It won't and should not happen. What should happen is the process should make some sense. In this case it does BUT the sense is SO biased it assaults our sensibilities. The worst thing is the fact that LeBland probably does not care how we feel. Even if there was a major boycott of the Tour he would find an excuse to hide behind.

McKlingon
USA
Thursday, May 3

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Virtual TdF 2001?

Cyanide Studios' Cycling Manager computer simulation couldn't have come along in a better year. Now everyone will be able to simulate the 2001 Tour de France as it should be — with the best teams and riders in the world.

Just think about the uproar that it would cause if the French developers of this software intentionally left out Pantani, Cipollini, Dufaux, Zulle, Escartin, Tonkov, Van Petegem and all the others on the snubbed Division I Teams. Far fewer people would buy the simulation because it would be an unrealistic representation of reality.

I wonder how many of the French Division II teams will be represented in the final game? If it's all of them, then I suggest that someone buy a copy for Monsieur LeBlanc, so he can play his own virtual "Tour for France" next year and we can watch the real Tour de France.

T.K. Malone
USA
Thursday, May 3

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Sympathy for the Pirate

Could it be that Pantani is excluded from the Tour, because on several occasions he has commented on the doping — issue in terms like: "perhaps it s not a problem caused by a single cyclist — maybe one should be looking for more influential people."

I can hardly believe that his efforts on the road since '94 don't make him a worthy participant in this year's Tour. Actually I think he had a fair chance of winning it, considering the profiles of the stages.

In my opinion the man is perhaps the greatest climber the world has ever seen. The Tour this year will be different. Pantani is missing.

Carsten Fromberg
Copenhagen
Thursday, May 3

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What about the fans?

I read the pretext of Mr. L — M Leblanc for not having selected Mercatone. It seems that Pantani's condition was not good enough to be chosen. However, what about Jalabert and CSC? Jaja was injured early this season and has not gained any results this year. And so his team as well. It is true that Pantani did not finish his last Tour and races that followed. However, his battle with Lance and his victory at the 15th stage during the Tour 2000 were sensational. I who was there to see the Tour 2000 testify that all the mountain of Courchevel was covered with Pantani fans on that day. Didn't M. Leblanc see that scene from his official car? Or was he asleep?

Also, I do not understand that the powerful red train was beaten by some French minor teams. Who decides that Saeco is a team for Giro? As a matter of fact, Cipollini brought "le maillot pour le Quatorze Juillet (jersey for 14 July festival)" or the Julius Caesar's jersey for the Tour and used to show off his special jerseys. Cipo was enjoying himself during the Tour and it is strange that the third party decides that the team is geared for the Giro. One thing sure is that the wild — card selection was decided due to very commercial, political and incomprehensive reasons.

The Tour used to favour French teams in the past, but this time, their decision went too far. As directors of Saeco or Telekom said, there is a big gap between the international sporting image of the Tour and its current provincialism. We know that sponsors or commercial/political aspects are important to maintain the race and there should be a lot of pressures from organisations or lobbyists. Even still, there is one thing that worries me. That is the absence of the fans in the Société's minds. Mr. Leblanc never mentioned about fans who are looking forward to seeing Pantani or Cipo during the Tour. Even if they are not in 100 per cent shape, it will be enough for fans if Pantani competes with Lance or Jan in the mountains or Cipo interferes with Zabel. There exists a difference of temperatures between fans and the Société. I recommend Mr. Leblanc to come over to Ohi — futo in Tokyo where Cipo fan cyclists are planning to organise a red train, all wearing Cipo's Caesar's jersey. The jersey that Cipo wore only once during the Tour in the past.

It seems that the Société has forgotten that even if sponsors or lobbyists are important, they will lose interest in the Tour if fans do not follow. It is not only those sponsors or commercial organisations that compose the Tour. There are riders who try to participate in the world's biggest cycling race by hard work and also fans from all over the world. By maintaining this triangle relationship, the Tour shall be the real wonderful race. The recent Société's decision only emphasised the commercial side and neglected other two factors. The triangle was completely off — balance. The results were a disappointment for riders who wanted to be chosen by a fair selection. And the most worrying thing is that world wide cycling fans were neglected by the Société. My only wish for Mr. Leblanc is that he will not be like some IOC members who are obsessed by money, money, money for the Olympic place selection.

I am not a fan of either Pantani nor Cipollini. I am satisfied that my favourite FESTINA and other teams had been chosen already. However, isn't it spectacular if Pantani competes with Lance or Jan in mountains? Or, don't you miss Cipo for beating Zabel or Dekker at 50m to go?

Nagako Furusawa,
Tokyo, Japan
Thursday, May 3

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Good Riddance To Pantani

Marco Pantani has demonstrated what a truly poor sport he is by his comments after learning of his exclusion from the Tour, "The Tour bosses are in the process of killing cycling," said Pantani. "My exclusion and that of Cipollini means the death of the Tour. I don't see any big names starting the race and the public wants to see exciting racing, not a trade show." Excuse me? No big names? Just who are these bums Ullrich and Armstrong anyway? Between them they can only manage three TdF victories, a Vuelta win, two world championships, and three Olympic medals, among other certainly petty achievements. Not to mention names like Steels, Jalabert, Zabel, Casagrande, etc. These guys couldn't wax my bike!

Marco Pantani needs to understand one simple idea. No one, NO ONE, is bigger than the race. Merckx came and went, as did Indurain, Hinault, and all the past heroes of the Tour. This is the Tour de France. If they want it to be the Tour of the French, so be it. It's their race, let them run it how they wish. Mr. Pantani, please keep your comments to yourself, we've seen your name in the media enough as it is.

Michael S. Marine
Setauket, New York USA
Thursday, May 3

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New blood is good

Mercury — Viatel should just keep up the good work. Its no surprise at all about not being selected. Fassa — Bortolo performed very well last year without Casagrande and they did not get selected till this year. I do not agree with Big Mat and FdJ's selection. I guess Alessio will also have to keep up the good work to also prove they are no flash in the pan either. I will miss the red train but it's time for others to shine. The Tour should not be so boring every year. Maybe these star riders will do well in the Classics and other not so popular races because they are not guaranteed a place in Le Tour. After Indurain won his second Tour I stopped watching I just waited for the videos. I was not going to watch another repeat of the Lance Legstrong show this year but now it seems that there may be some spice added. I hope Big Mat and FdJ realize how lucky they are and reward the fans with a good show. I'm sure they will. Good luck and good health to all the riders, July is around the corner.

Conrad Allen
USA
Thursday, May 3

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Enabling mediocrity

LeBlanc is enabling mediocre French cycling

While no one can argue that Mr. LeBlanc doesn't have noble intentions regarding French cycling, I think in the end that he may be doing them a disservice. He is telling French sponsors that they can achieve Division I exposure on a Division II budget. For some perspective, he should look back a few years to when the Chazal/Petit Casino team routinely benefited from a charitable selection. Then, to their shock, in 1996 they didn't earn a place. The sponsor learned that if they didn't field a truly competitive team, that they couldn't expect a place in the Tour. They increased their budget, obtained the services of Olympic Champion Pascal Richard and others, and thus was born the Casino powerhouse of a few years ago. If Big Mat and FdJ are handed liberal Tour berths, they have no incentive to achieve (or regain) Division I status.

Brian Roth
Dallas, TX USA
Thursday, May 3

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LeMond's mistake

Were I in the management responsible for Greg LeMond's participation with the Mercury/Viatel team, I'd want to have Mr. LeMond personally strung up and hung out to dry. Why? Because of LeMond's admission that he had done little or no lobbying with Leblanc to insure the team's selection. That little admission — — coupled with the fact that Mercury had planned a major promotional campaign to coincide with the team's participation in the Tour — — points to the business equivalent of missing the key break because you don't know how to read the race.

Let's face facts folks: cycling has always been a sport driven by sponsorship and business exposure. It doesn't take much reading between the lines to see that the inclusion of the extra French teams was done to shore up the sponsorship revenue stream — — not just for those teams, but also for La Société du Tour, which is looking at a pretty severe shortage in revenue (anybody want to sponsor the Yellow Jersey next year? I'm pretty sure that Credit Lionnais is leaving some space on the jersey available, and Coca Cola probably isn't a likely candidate to pick it up). We could argue a long time about this, but France is France after all, and Leblanc needs a French company to pick up sponsorship of that jersey.

In such a situation, it stands to reason — — especially given the intense behind the scenes lobbying done by the Lotto and CSC teams — — that had LeMond exerted himself a little more, Mercury would have stood a much better chance of displacing one of those d2 teams. As for the merits of Mercury's selection on cycling performance/potential — — there is meat to that argument, but Paris — Nice was in March. Who really gets excited about Pavel Tonkov? Why has Chann McRae been completely silent this year?

As for the actual selections — — they too are wonderful: look at the controversy they've generated. As for dropping Cipo and Pantani: both riders are past their prime and have somewhat suspect teams (both in terms of performance and possible substance abuse). And this brings up another issue: why not do something in addition to the team time trial to make the first week of the race tactically significant?

Richard McLamore
Abilene, Texas
Thursday, May 3

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Pantani and Cipo not needed

We don't need the little pirate or the pretty boy Mario. It would have been nice to see Mercury in the show, oh well. What this means is that Armstrong has more French to kick the crap out of during the Tour. Lets see how French cycling benefits from yet another ass whoopin at the Tour!

'Adhk30'
USA
Thursday, May 3

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Curiouser and curiouser

Bizarre! This year's TdF is shaping up to be a race not between the best riders or teams, but between the best riders and teams allowed to ride and the Tour organization itself. I shudder to think how this year's race will play out. Look for daily attacks on Lance from the French media. Look for midnight raids for blood sampling, while French favourites somehow don't show up on the "randomly selected" list to be tested (Virenque — — come on!). Look for more weird, jealous, Francophilic denouncements of Greg LeMond. Watch Riis suck up to LeBlanc (remember '98?). "It's not about the bike," either, unfortunately, mes ami.

John Dally
Seattle
Thursday, May 3

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Pantani must ride

A Tour without Pantani is inconceivable

I have lived in Italy for years and might not be objective. But I have followed cycling closely since Pantani did some serious damage to Indurain at the Mortirolo in Giro d`Italia 1994. Since then Pantani has been the jewel of Italian cycling and the one and only rider who can really touch the feelings of the 'tifosi' around the world with his fearless attacks and his ability to drop everyone in the mountains when he is in shape. Last year, he was clearly not in shape, but nevertheless he won two mountain stages and set the Tour a light with his fights with Armstrong. This year he would be much better trained, and with all those mountains, I believe he could be the only one capable of beating Armstrong. This will not be, and I will find something else to do this summer than watching the Tour on TV.

Kristian Krogholm
Tønsberg
Norway

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Selection won't help French

French cycling is not going to be served by inclusion into the Tour. French Cycling will be helped by having talented and well trained French cyclists. Perhaps there is a silver lining to this most grey of clouds that has looms over this year's Tour; the French teams will show how little depth there is and their poor results will, once and for all, show that merit matters not pathetic provincialism and hypocrisy.

Daryl LeBlanc
Ontario, Canada
Thursday, May 3

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LeBlanc is right

I would guess that LeBlanc is thinking that Mercury needs to cut their teeth this year and perhaps do the Tour next year. Maybe Mercury should have aimed just for the Giro this year.

Pantani? Good riddance. This guy has had so much drug controversy around him. The sport can do well to move away from those types.

Cipollini? How many Tours has he actually finished, eh? As to the selection of the French Division 2 level teams, Big Mat, et al, it's the Tour Committee's party and they get to call the tune, even if it is a mistake.

Bruce Lee
Redmond, WA
Thursday, May 3

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Teams: 25 by 8?

Although I may not agree with some of the more reputable teams being harshly omitted from this years Tour, what Jean — Marie Leblanc has done for French cycling and its sponsors is quite understandable. The selection of eight French teams in the race ensures that these sponsors will indeed keep pumping money into these teams for the next season, maintaining more French professional cycling jobs. The race is French with live daily broadcasts and although we cannot ensure that these riders of the French teams will finish, they will be motivated for their sponsor and should animate the race to show their colours in front of the cameras. As the Tour is not an race run by the UCI, the Société du Tour de France can do what they like in regards to their team selection policy and after last year's backlash of the team selection by the French teams of Jean Delatour and Big Mat, Mr Leblanc has demonstrated his willingness to help French cycling improve beyond its mediocre position.

As the Société du Tour de France knows in the case of French sponsors, that it is imperative to ride the Tour, Mr Leblanc might improve this sometimes farcical selection by increasing the number of teams in the Tour to 25, whilst reducing the number of riders per team to eight, which would bring 200 riders to the start line — the same as the UCI Road World Cup Races. Although this may be a problem logistically, more sponsors will be drawn to the fact that they may be able to race the biggest annual sporting event in the world, keeping jobs for cyclists, French or otherwise.

Edilberto Pangilinan
Melbourne, Australia
Friday, 4 May

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Part Two of Tour Wildcard reactions

The last month's letters

  • May 3 — Tour wildcard reactions
  • May 1 – Tour de France: CSC & Pantani wildcards, Domo's P — R victory, Hincapie, Postal's ambitions, Australian TV, ONCE on Klein?
  • April 26 – Domo's P — R victory, Hincapie, CSC & Pantani in the Tour?, Camenzind, Who suffers most?, Fixies across Asia
  • April 24 – Domo's P — R victory, Hincapie, Would — be Flahutes, Who suffers most?, Tyre sizes, ONCE TT bikes
  • April 19 – Hincapie: Stay or go?, Paris — Roubaix, Who suffers most?, Breakages, Tyre sizes
  • April 17 – Hincapie, Breakages, Women, Who suffers most?, Tour of Sydney, Custom Shoes
  • April 12 – Breaking bikes, Grass roots, Women
  • April 10 – Breaking bikes,What is Sport?,Women
  • April 5 – Sunderland, F&M, What is Sport?, Women, Peugeot jersey
  • April 3 – Milan — San Remo, What is Sport?, Women, Race Services vs Prize Money
  • Letters Index - The complete index to every letters page on cyclingnews.com