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Letters to Cyclingnews – November 1, 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

Virenque
Welcome to the Golden Age
World's Format
Grand Tours Duration
Ullrich
Coaches
Thank you
Wheel Regulation
Jose Luis Rubiera
Podium Girls
Poor old George
UCI Points
UCI Bike Weights
Vuelta at speed
John Lieswyn

Virenque #1

I just hope all the people condemning Virenque have never told a lie, broken the speed limit in their cars, gotten drunk, or taken any social drugs,because then by your own high moral standards, you should all be shunned by society. He lied, finally told the truth, was punished, served his time.
So either get over it, or stop following the sport. Maybe we should follow a few of the e-mail contributors around with a video camera for a week or two, and catch out a few hypocrites.

Jon
Australia
Thursday, October 25 2001

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Virenque #2

Craig,
You do the sport no service by saying 44 riders tested positive for banned substances at the Tour and then add the caveat that all but two had clearance. In essence then, two riders tested positive for banned substances and the 42 others had legal permission to use these substances. Do you remember the fiasco of J. Vaughters having to withdraw from the tour so he could take medication for his wasp sting? Or dozens of French journalists chasing Armstrong around France because he put a "cortisone" cream on his bum?

There are hundreds of substances found in almost every type of prescription and over the counter medication which are "banned substances". It does no one any good to insinuate that someone taking medication for a condition which they have been permitted to take, are taking performance enhancing drugs. It is this type of misinformed hysteria which fuels the witch hunts of the headline seeking trash press who have picked cycling to hound. Probably due to the fact that cycling is the only sport which tests for, or bans most of these substances.

My problem with Virenque was never his courage as a rider, he has amply demonstrated it over many years. I felt it was cowardly the way he dealt with the situation after the affair in the 98 Tour (note here I do not use the phrase "Festina affair" which is common, Festina was a good friend to cycling and stuck it out after 1998, if they have pulled out now I am sure it is in no small way connected to the fact that in cycling coverage Festina and Dope are intermingled constantly.

When Virenque learns to display the same courage off the bike he does on it, then he will be a "true" champion, rather than just a gifted athlete. It is time for us as cycling fans to recognise that the riders have a tremendously difficult job to be 100% certain they do not ingest "banned substances," and that they are human beings who just like all of us have physical or medical conditions that must be treated, sometimes with "banned substances". I for one believe the peloton is cleaning up. There will always be cheats in any sport, but I firmly believe in the character of the large majority of the riders.

Steve Farris
New Mexico, USA
Wednesday, October 31 2001

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Virenque #3

Alexis makes a good point. We all make mistakes when our livelihood is on the line. Just remember Peter who loved Jesus yet still denied him when the crowd got too close. So lets focus on the good and brave in each of us. Three cheers Alexis, Richard Virenque is a marvelous cyclist, not doubt about it.

Robert MacDougall
Hawaii, USA
Thursday, November 1 2001


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Welcome to the Golden Age

What a year 2002 is shaping up to be for American riders in Europe! Who can remember the days when John Howard was the only American professional in Europe? Now we will have American riders riding for not only the USPS team, but for four other Division I teams as well! Super Domestiques Bobby Julich and Kevin "Special-ed" Livingston supporting Super Star Jan Ullrich over at Telekom, my All Time Favorite Super Underdog, Jonathan Vaughters riding with Christoph Moreau and Florent Brard over at Credit Agricole, Up and Coming Levi Leipheimer leading the hard men of the Rabobank squad at the Giro, and "Super Fly-weight" Tyler Hamilton looks like the virtual big tour leader for Bjarne "Arms as skinny as Pipe Cleaners" Riis' CSC All-Stars! Ladies and Gentleman, Welcome to the Golden Age of American Cycling! I'm already giddy with anticipation...

There are so many unanswered questions about next year though... Who will Johan Bruyneel sign to compliment George Hincapie at Paris-Roubaix? How much longer can Trent "I rule Domestic racing" Klasna stay out of Europe? Can Marty "Redwood Legs" Nothstein make the transition to the road scene successfully? Has anyone noticed how the road scene in the US has increased in competitiveness exponentially in the last couple of years? (Over in the world of Mountain Biking, riders regularly skip world cup races to do the NORBA Championship Series...) Yes, it is a good time to be an American Cycling Fan!

Mark Taylor
America, perchance!
Thursday, November 1 2001

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World's Format

There still seems to be quite a bit of controversy left over from the Elite Men's RR this year in regards to the Italian team tactics. Indeed, Lanfranchi chasing down Simoni and all. I haven't had the opportunity to see the video of this, but it does sound like it would be fine viewing. The situation reminds me of back in 1982 when the same thing seems to have happened to Jonathan Boyer at the hands of one Greg Lemond. Now, THAT video I have seen many times, and Lemond's explanation not withstanding, I never really understood what was going on there - although I believe they were no longer on the same trade team at this point (Lemond was with Renault and Boyer had moved over to SEM after 1981 as I recall.).

Which brings me to this question. Why, during the World's, do we have national teams? For example, why don't they just take the top 200 riders or so on UCI points, and let 'em have at it in their team colors like they do during the national championships. Let's face it, it's the employer who really carries the weight. Remember the Olympics last year? I saw three Telekom team mates not two Germans and a rider from Kazakhstan.

Just an ignorant observation. Any others?

Bryon Granmo
Thursday, November 1 2001

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Grand Tours Duration #1

So we finally have the great and the good of cycling confirming what we've all known all along; road cycle racing is too hard.

For the riders to compete week after week without recourse to illegal help is impossible. Either the speeds and gradients have to be reduced or a blind eye has to turned. Which of course begs the question, what about this years TdF?

I know that this will just run and run, but why don't we remove the grey area, if taking Creatine et al is OK, training at altitude is OK and sleeping in a hypobaric chamber is OK, why is the use of EPO not?

Let's be brave; let the riders take what the hell they want to. If they kill themselves so what?

Phil
UK
Wednesday, October 31 2001

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Grand Tours Duration #2

The fact that Hein wants to shorten the Grand Tours to two weeks shows just how much we need to get him out of the UCI. The man once claimed almost no one took EPO, not too mention blaming the high racing speeds and numerous crashes on Spinaci-type bars rather than the more likely EPO and narrow winding roads. If he really wants to eliminate doping he should put the UCI's money into developing a computer based cycling game, then no one will have to take drugs.

Chris Harnish
USA
Wednesday, October 31 2001

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Grand Tours Duration #3

Surely then they cease to be Grand Tours - Verbruggen will go down in cycling history as the man who killed technology and the biggest events of the calendar. Wouldn't proper testing and monitoring of the riders and teams be the best way to stop drugs - 15 days out of 21 days will just be a series of shorter races with no true winner.

John Andrews
Singapore
Wednesday, October 31 2001

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Ullrich #1

I read the results of a wind tunnel test Ullrich did. They discovered that he moves his head a lot. If he's wearing a traditional TT helmet, the tail of the helmet creates additional drag as it moves around behind his head. He is more aerodynamic without the helmet.

Mick Andrus
Thursday, October 26 2001

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Ullrich #2

I have heard that Ullrich did testing in a wind tunnel which showed he was actually more aerodynamic with a little cycling cap on backwards than he was with an aero helmet. Ullrich is also a rider who tends to drop his head a lot when time trialling. This totally negates any advantage which an aero helmet may bring. If you are a head dropped you're better off without an aero helmet!

Anna Millward
Melbourne, Australia
Sunday, October 28 2001

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Coaches #1

Kudos to you Regis for understanding what coaching is really about. Although I ride and race on a regular basis, I don't formally coach cyclists. Rather, my coaching experience is in the area of Nordic Skiing. My observations, after coaching in this area for a number of years, however, are similar to yours in cycling. Individuals who hire themselves out as private coaches to junior, senior, and masters level Nordic skiers have become the norm in my neck of the woods. A summer training program can costs as much as US$500-$700. This is currently so much the norm, that many high schools and clubs have a difficult time finding experienced individuals to to fill the coaching positions that they have available. Why? Because many "coaches" have found that through running summer and fall "training programs" for groups of skiers, they can make much more than they could ever hope to make serving as a coach for a high school or club. All too often the programs developed by these coaches are the same for nearly all their athletes. It appears that, when you are "in it for the $$$," your philosophy tends to be centered around getting the most dollars for the least amount of time.

Like you, I have never charged for my services as a private coach. I have also been told by colleagues and friends that I am crazy to spend my time coaching young adults regardless of their current ability or future potential. The reason I began to coach young skiers a number of years ago, however, had nothing to do with wanting to earn a second income. Rather, its foundation was based on my belief that after racing for a major ski manufacturer for a number of years, it was time for me to give something back to the sport. In addition, I get a lot of enjoyment interacting with individuals who have similar interests as me and a kick out of seeing the progress that my skiers make over the years...progress not only as Nordic skiers, but as cyclists, cross-county runners, track athletes, and most important, as people. Getting an Email from a former skier now in college letting me know of her success academically and as a runner is a far greater reward than a few extra dollars that will quickly be spent.

Please continue to stick to your values. You are not the only only out there with such a philosophy. Here in Minnesota, the cycling team for whom I currently race (which by the way includes a number of coaches from various sports) recently decided it was time for us as a group to give something back to the sport. Fund raising this past year enabled a deaf cyclist who had recently lost his father to a heart attack to attend the world Deaf Olympics in Rome, where he competed in both the road race and time trial. From this year on, one or more junior cyclists will be sponsored by the club each year to help defray the costs of their racing and equipment. In addition, they will receive free coaching and training from one or more of the individuals currently riding for the team. Based upon the small turn out of junior cyclists at most events in the upper Midwest over the last few years, it is clear that if we fail to give back to our sport in the manner in which you have as a coach, we will soon lose an entire generation of cyclists.

Brian Abery
Apple Valley, Minnesota
Friday October 26, 2001

 

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Coaches #2

Reeg,
Don't despair! I whole heartedly agree with much of your analysis of the difference between coaches and trainers - and with your idea that many "coaches" seem to focus too much on the performance side of their job. I love cycling, I love bikes and bike racing, I even sometimes love bike racers. I live in a small out of the way place with almost no connection to the wide world of cycling. I have and will continue to help anyone who comes in my door wanting to learn how to race without charge. I am not the world's most knowledgeable coach or trainer, but I try to keep up to date with developments, I have decades of experience and no matter that others somewhere else may know more, here I have a vast storehouse of knowledge to be passed on to novices in our sport.

I once was the only racer for many, many, miles around this area. In the last 20 years we here have introduced dozens of new people to the sport, (I can actually go on a "group" ride every week, unheard of here even 10 years ago). We have mobilised a small and completely cycling ignorant community to put on and support one of America's finest races for over 15 years. (The Tour of the Gila), I lose money at it every year. I don't know what the difference between a coach and a trainer is, but I do know that around this country there are plenty of people just like you who are devoting massive amounts of time and energy to our sport with no thought of personal gain. So if it seems different in your area, don't worry, coaching for the sake of the athlete and the sport is alive and well.

Steve Farris
New Mexico, USA
Wednesday, October 31 2001

 

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Coaches #3

Regis,

The fact that money changes hands does not make a coach or a trainer something different or lesser, as your use of punctuation would indicate. I am a Coach, not a "Coach". It sounds like you have a tremendous gift of being financially able (which is directly linked to the time you can afford to spend) to help out athletes at all ability levels without cost to the athlete. THAT IS BOTH EXTREMELY HELPFUL AND ADMIRABLE! But it also sounds like maybe a highly recognisable and also extremely qualified Coach or group has perhaps given some of your key riders a scholarship that they chose to take. Welcome to competition!

This stuff (cherry picking top athletes) has been going on in countries where Cycling is much more popular than it is here in the USA. It goes on every day in Basketball,as well as other sports. I think it is an example of evolution and advance in our sport and I think it is great!

What is important, is the help that the rider is getting be the best he can get and unfortunately, you or I may not be it anymore! It is easy to be the top guy in our field when our field is the size of a postage stamp. But as the sport grows, so grows money, and that promotes the growth of talent and ability of both the riders and the support staff. The real test for you and I as volunteer coaches is to provide the athletes with the best we can give them and put them in a place where they can move on to better things. If you or I happen to be the best, more power to us!

Bottom line is that the one on one you give is highly valuable (also note that you and I are not Chris Carmichael, and you and I are probably both Coach and trainer because we have to be). What goes around comes around, if you are good and I have heard that you are, people will find you. Riders will realise that and will be back if they feel that someone was just in it for the money, or they do not progress beyond what you can give them. The question is, will you still be there for them when they come back?

Charles Manantan
Arizona USA
Thursday, November 1 2001

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Thank you for the wonderful coverage!!!

Thanks to all of your correspondents for the always timely coverage of professional cycling. As we in the Midwest start dragging out our indoor trainers and preparing for the indoor training season, I just wanted to look back and acknowledge the job done by Cyclingnews. In the events that transpired this past season -- first the foot and mouth disease that seemed was going to damage the start of the season for you in Europe; to the ugly and horrific events in New York City Sept. 11 -- it has been a blessing to turn to cyclingnews and the world of cycling as a glimmer of hope for the world. That things will go on. And here's to the season past, and with a blessing from the Gods of Cycling, we will move into next season with renewed hopes and aspiration -- remembering that sometimes winning is overcoming all the obstacles and challenges and riding on!!! May we all step over a bike and settle into the saddle next year with a little more joy for just being a cyclist and getting in another ride!!!

Bill King
USA
Tuesday, October 30 2001

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Wheel regulations #1

I have to agree with Charles M. Pro cyclists excluded, the majority of cyclists (amateur racers included) are carrying extra baggage, read flab. As for the Speedplay 4.8kg bike.... It looks ugly and I would rather ride a beautiful "heavy" bike, than a lightweight freakshow any day. I will concede that "beauty is in the eye of the beholder". Full marks to the UCI for its noble intentions, misguided as they are. No one I know watches the tour, or any of the World Cup or classics races to drool over the bikes, the appeal lies in the human drama played out between the competitors, the course, and the conditions. The technology is a sideshow. If Armstrong had been riding last years TREK or even the original OCLV it wouldn't have changed the outcome of this year's tour.

Gareth Summers
Auckland, New Zealand
Thursday, October 25 2001

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Wheel regulations #2

What would be useful would be to know the weight limits on the top end bikes. I am 75kg and am getting disillusioned from finding out that fewer and fewer of the "pro team" models have the strength to carry my weight for even riding - let alone racing. Is this why so many bikes break these days after crashes or on pave in the pro peloton ?

John Andrews
Singapore
Saturday, October 27 2001

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Wheel regulations #3

I agree with Charles and Lance, it's not about the bike and shouldn't be. I applaud the UCI's efforts to put limits and standardization on equipment. I have always found when watching motor racing (I admit to liking sports other than cycling), one of my favorite events is the "Race of Champions" series, where all drivers compete in identical vehicles, because then it is "all about the driver". I don't think we need to go that far in cycling, but we definitely need some sort of control. I also agree that manufacturers generally put marketing "new" products far ahead of safety.

Steve Farris
New Mexico, USA
Wednesday, October 31 2001

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Jose Luis Rubiera

Now that was good reason to read the letter section of cyclingnews. A amazing analysis of a interesting case in the pro peloton, beats 10 letters discussing if Virenque was a worthy winner or not. Keep up the good work

Jonas Ahlgren
Sweden
Friday, October 19 2001

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Podium Girls

This must be an American thing...complaining about beauty on earth known as the Female. In this case, podium girls? Someone's wife must be behind this.

Podium girls are a major part of cycling and as long as I can remember they've been a part of the tradition. A good one I may add. Do you see 2nd and 3rd sharing the podium with the winner?? No. I myself love podium girls and think they need to shown.

America may be ahead of the world in many regards, but such comments are old. Thanks for showing podium girls!!!

Anthony Westby
Malta
Saturday, October 27 2001

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Poor old George

You have to feel sorry for poor George Hincapie, don't you! First he has to bust a gut all season in all weathers (though to good effect, it has to be said), then as if coping with all that Northern Europe can throw at him wasn't enough, just when he crawls back home for a spot of well earned rest, he gets accosted by all manner of toothless crones whom most of us 'proper' bikies would run a mile from (News, Oct 25).

Still, Pro that he is, he makes the effort to look pleased. Bravo, George, it must have been hell. Mind you, this would never have happened in Sean Kelly's day. Any floosie who wanted the Iron Man's attention would have had to train with him for 200k in driving rain over the cobbles before being allowed to distract him.

Today's races obviously aren't hard enough. Over to you, Mr. Verbruggen.....

John Rudge
UK
Saturday, October 27 2001

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UCI Points #1

Can someone tell me how the whole UCI points thing works for road racing.

For each UCI category of race 1.1, 1.2......2.1, 2.2....., how many points are allocated to the different place-getters? And how many riders are given points for each category of race? Cheers

Brendan Lynch
Melbourne, Australia
Saturday, October 27 2001

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UCI Points #2

Guys,

First off thanks for the great Web site, it is compulsory reading every day.

One suggestion for your site, would be the addition of an FAQ page, as I know I for one often get asked a few standard questions and sometimes I am not sure how to answer them. A few questions you could start with are:

* How do the UCI points work, particularly for teams, and how does this relate to Team Divisions and entry to different races?
* How are hills/mountains classified, and how do you calculate how steep a hill is in percent?
* How is the World Cup decided, that is how many races is it run over and how many points do you get for placing?
* What is the weight limit for a bike?
* etc...

David Hatley
Sydney, Australia
Thursday, November 1 2001

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UCI Bike Weight Regulations

This was brought up to me by a small woman rider I am now coaching.

Male bikes are very, very light. The fact that employees (and former employees) of bike shops often have access to some pretty nifty equipment at cut-rate prices gives her an advantage in this area also.

The UCI Weight Limits for a rider aren't with respect to their body weight. For example, she may be able to safely race and train on a bike much, much lighter than the one I ride- I am a full foot taller and nearly double her weight- the UCI doesn't seem to have considered this.

So, for me, a 20 lbs. bike is reasonable, as a top pro, I may be able to afford a bike of 16-18 lbs. While she may be able to easily and safely ride a bike similar in weight to that of Bryne's bike shown on your site. I wonder what thoughts people have on this. Thanks,

REEG!
USA
Monday, October 29 2001


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Vuelta at record speed

I know the reason behind David (Millar) changing helmets......

He wanted to look mean in the Vuelta TT - having already sorted out his full finger gloves and new skin suit David felt all that was missing was a sweet helmet - and Lance was kind enough to help him out.

David enjoyed riding with the helmet so much that he has stuck to using it

......and people say women are picky about their clothes!

Frances Millar
London, UK
Tuesday, October 30 2001
(Frances is David's sister)


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John Lieswyn

Congratulations! John Lieswyn is clearly the best diarist in the business, the poet laureate of wild men with bidons. Better than Frankie Andreu in his day. Imagine how much damage he could do with an inside view of a Grand Tour ... Telekom ought to give him a ride in next year's Tour.

Peter Niesen
Germany
Tuesday, October 29 2001

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The last month's letters

  • October 25 - Virenque, Pietrzak, Ullrich Worlds TT, Coaches Wheel Regulations, Support Vehicles
  • October 17 - Virenque, EPO Testing, Ullrich Worlds TT, Millar's TT helmet, Wheel Regulations, Support Vehicles
  • October 11 - Tribute song to Lance Armstrong, Podium Girls, High blood pressure, Saddle Hieghts, Santiago Botero
  • October 2 - High Blood pressure, Saddle hieght, Podium Girls, Vuelta, cycle bashing, Oscar Egg
  • September 20 - Vuelta, cycle bashing, Oscar Egg, Bupropion, climbing times
  • September 11 - Altitude tents, high BP, attacks, Oscar Egg, Bupropion
  • September 5 - Mckenzie & Vaughters respond, climbing times, anti-doping, 1989, Pantani
  • August 29 - Pantani, Vaughters, Where's Cipo?, McKenzie, Velodromes, 1989, Armstrong
  • August 23 - Vuelta, Mercury, Ullrich, Soviets, 1989 again
  • August 17 - Doping, Armstrong, LeMond and The Devil
  • August 14 - Tour, Armstrong, Chemo, Vuelta, Doping, Rooting, & more
  • August 8, part 2 - More about the Tour, and more
  • August 8, part 1 - Tour reflections, chemotherapy, commentary, commercials
  • July 31 - Armstrong, Ullrich, Rous, Hamilton, Drugs, Canada
  • July 18 - Armstrong on l'Alpe, Cycling Manager, food, 35 minutes, commentary, Men's World Cup, Schmoo, van Vliet
  • Letters Index - The complete index to every letters page on cyclingnews.com