Letters to Cyclingnews – November 12, 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

Indoor Trainer
RunningRed Lights
UCI Points
Welcome to the Golden Age
World's Format
Grand Tours Duration
Jean Delatour's Comment
Race Tactics
Madison and Six Day Races
Wheel Regulation
Man Who Killed Technology

Virenque #1

People need to stop bashing Virenque. I was thrilled when he won Paris Tours. He hasn't done anything that the other big names in the sport haven't done, and he's suffered the most. People are saying Armstrong won the Tour because he trained hard, lost weight, improved his aero position etc. Don't you think all the Pros train hard, lose weight before the big races, use a wind tunnel? I'm not saying Armstrong is doping. I just wouldn't knock him if he was.

If the press is going to continue the doping stories about cycling, the public needs to demand the same drug testing on other Pro athletes that cyclists take. Do you think they test for EPO in the NBA, NHL or the NFL? Would athletes in other sports even show up to compete if there were drug tests post game? Most pro athletes are only tested out of competition. Would a bee sting stop Michel Jordan from playing? No he would get the injection and be back for the second half.

Paul Thoresen
Minneapolis, USA
Friday, November 2 2001

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Virenque #2

In response to "Jon" from Australia, who wrote "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":

I don't do drugs and I don't own a car, but I did get a little drunk this Friday. However, I don't believe that my doing so did any of my colleagues, who I was with at the time, any harm. I don't think any of them would have won any Pro bike races even if I hadn't had that big glass of cognac.

Some other guys might have won a bike race here and there, though, and made a little more money, if certain "stars" hadn't chosen to cheat in order to win.

I mean, come on! What the .... does getting a little drunk have to do with cheating at professional sports?

I look at the doping issue from the point of view of those who do not wish to use illegal, performance enhancing substances. If I was a professional athlete myself, and I lost some competition or other because my opponents were using EPO, or growth hormone, or steroids, I probably wouldn't like them very much. I would feel cheated.

And that's why I'm not very fond of certain members of the professional peloton. They're cheaters. And cheating your way to a podium finish at the Tour de France or whatever, is not a victimless crime.

Anders P. Jensen
Korsør, Denmark
Saturday, November 3 2001

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Virenque #3

Well Done Jon,
At last someone with some common sense. Richard Virenque has paid very heavily for what he did. Now can we please get on with enjoying the great sport of Cycling. Also when will the wingers lay off Pantani. Would you rather not have a great battle in the Alps next Summer, than constantly putting Marco down.

Alistair Bell
Sunday, November 4 2001

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Virenque #4

Richard Virenque, is one that you either love or hate, I do not hate him. He has made his mistakes and paid the price for them. To me his achievements have been awesome, multiple kom and stage wins. Yes I know that he was under the influence of EPO and the like, but as we have come to learn, it was a very small minority that wasn't influenced. So if everyone was playing on the same enhanced playing field, and Richard could still pull off big triumphs in the tour year after year, that shows how much class he has.

Just look at this year's Paris Tours, what else can you say, a gutsy determined show of strength without any influence other than to show the critics that Richard Virenque is back and that he can also win the big races clean. Allez Richard.

Dave Robins
Monday, November 5 2001


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Virenque #5

Admiro a Virenque. Fui un ciclista olimpico y mi experiensa me dice que no hay un cliclista competitivo full time que no se haya {dopado} en algun momento. El ciclismo porcer el deporte mas agotador del mundo esa es la concecuecia.

Pedro Barzaga.
Monday, November 5 2001


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Indoor trainer

Help! I live in the frigid north... (New York... upstate) and I am looking for a device that just came out on the market that is an indoor bike trainer that hooks up your TV and also provides feedback the bike. Can you help me please?
Thank you for your time.

Brian Wallis

Saturday, November 3 2001

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Running red lights

I read Gordon Dillow's article on drivers that are in a hurry and run through red lights. Believe me I can appreciate what he is talking about. I'm a 70 year old cyclist who is out there every other day riding 50 to 60 miles. I had one serious accident because of a driver running a red light. A lot of drivers have no consideration and don't realise how vulnerable we cyclists are. So please drivers look out for us cyclists and let us enjoy our rides without the fear of being hit.

Peter Tomaino
Laguna Hills ,USA
Saturday, November 3 2001

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UCI points

In response the question on the number of UCI points for the different races:

The points acquired by the riders for the different race classifications can all be found at UCI Web site, www.uci.ch. The rules are found along the left side of the Web page. Go chapter two, road races. The points are on page 45 of chapter two, or sheet 47 of 106. It's all listed out for the points for each race; some examples are 500 for winning a grand tour, 220 for an 2.HC, 70 for a stage win in a grand tour, 20 for each day in the lead in a grand tour, 70 for winning mountains or points in a major tour, 400 for the road world championship, 240 for the world TT, 240 for world cup races, 280 for the overall world cup. A rider gets one point for finishing 10th on a stage in a grand tour and 15 points for finishing a grand tour.

Bellevue, USA
Tuesday, November 3 2001

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Welcome to the Golden Age #1

The only thing that bothers me is why are all the American riders split up? Wouldn't it be great to see Lance, George, Bobby, Kevin, Tyler, Levi, Fred and Jonathan all riding on the USPS team? Can you imagine the whole team riding for George and Bobby for the World Cup? Riding for Tyler for the Giro d'Italia, for Kevin or Jonathan for the TDSuisse, for Lance for the TDFrance and for Levi for the VEspana? And George and Fred both going for the points jersey in each tour? And all of them actually ride in the World's?!?! Now that would be a great team. Even if they all signed on different teams, it would be great to see them ride for the USA in the World's, wouldn't it? Why are these so disinterested in the World's anyway?

Bob Muller
Thursday, November 8 2001

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Welcome to the Golden Age #2

Yes, it is a wonderful golden age for American cycling in Europe, but it is an even more golden age, or should I be trendy and say a "platinum age" for the world. Look at all the riders from around the world performing at the highest level. Aus from Estonia, Rumsas from Lithuania, Hunter from South Africa, O'Grady, Sunderland, and McEwen from Australia, and the list goes on. Cycling is becoming a sport with worldwide participants. It no longer is limited to Western Europe. The sport and us as spectators gain immensely from this.

John Spevacek
St. Paul, USA
Monday, November 5 2001

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World's Format


Have you no pride? I would like see all professional racing return a national team basis, as it was in the old days.That might be a bit strong, but racing as a national team is a wonderful thing. I think it's great to see cyclists have the opportunity represent their country which is so rarely the case in this very international sport. You don't see soccer players intentionally kicking own goals when playing for their own country in order to help out their professional team!

Just because some riders appear have misplaced loyalties when it comes choosing between their corporate sponsor and their country is no reason abandon the idea of racing as a country all together. Other than the cases you mention there have been many other circumstances where in World championships and Olympics riders ride more for their trade team than for their country, one that springs readily to mind is the 2000 World 'Cross Championships. Whether this is due a personal feeling of loyalty or one that is imposed upon them by their employer, one can't be sure (I prefer think it's the latter). But I think for riders behave in this way, whatever the motivation, is deplorable and takes away from the true meaning of 'international competition'.

I know for most Australian cyclists (and other athletes for that matter), representing their country is the pinnacle of their career, whether this be at an Olympics or world championships or whatever. Even though they get paid more and might have more prestige when racing for a trade team, the strength of the bond they have with their country is much stronger than that can be made with a paper contract. One of my proudest moments in recent times for Australian cycling was seeing our team win the team relay at this year's MTB Worlds. Put all commercial loyalties aside for one day and race as a country is a fine and noble thing, and one that I would hate to see gone from our sport.

Sam Alison
Currently in the Czech Republic
Friday, November 9 2001

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Grand Tours Duration #1

In response to Phil's letter letting the riders take whatever they want. How about we run racing like Drag racing. We'll have normally aspirated riders for the law abiding and then the top fuellers for all the hitters - nothing illegal. I wonder which form of racing would attract the biggest crowds & therefore most of sponsors dollars ???

Friday, November 11 2001

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Grand Tours Duration #2

The overseers of the sport have a responsibility to look out for riders. Lots of riders start getting sponsorship and such in their teens. So they should start taking dope then, die by age 50 and who cares? All cycling fans should care.
Albert Raboteau
Saturday, November 3 2001

Grand Tours Duration #3

I agree with Phil in that the riders will take what they will in helping themselves, and would add that controls seem are a farce, but I don't believe that shortening the Grand Tours will do anything to discourage doping. Far more positives come from track and single day events than the big Tours. And nobody will convince me that Chasing a Lance, Jan, Virenque for two weeks in the mountains would be sooo much easier than doing it for three!

It's not the duration of tours or difficulty of the sport that promote doping, its the lack of punishment with real teeth. Nobody can convince me that with team doctors monitoring these athletes daily, that the team doesn't know what is going on.

Until doping hurts the team, the team won't control the riders! Could you imagine how hard Division 1 team doctors would work to clean up the sport should they face missing a Tour De France with a positive test? Could you imagine the reluctance of a Top ranked team to accept a multiple offender after that person had hurt the last team they were on?

What we need is a governing body with Balls! er Guts! ( Not saying that only a man has the ability to govern...)

Charles M
Phoenix, USA
Tuesday, November 6 2001

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Grand Tours Duration #4

Here is a suggestion from an armchair critic that may have been made already by others or may be flawed in ways I am unaware of. This suggestion, though, would solve two problems: (1) boring tours with huge pelotons strolling along together for the first 100 miles, day after day; and (2) gripes from the teams on the bubble that did not make it.

My suggestion is to limit team size to five or six riders and increase the total number of teams to 30-36 (no team time trial, of course). No single team would be able control the race. They simply could not cover all the breaks. Doesn't big, strong team tactics place a greater limitation on the potential success of individual efforts? With more teams from lower in the rankings with very little lose, there would be more attacks, break-aways, suicide break-aways, but with a greater chance of success. Each day of a grand tour might become more like a one-day classic.

The second benefit would be that a tour like the Tour de France could include all their lowly ranked French teams yet still include the Saeco, Uno-Mercatone, Mercury type teams. This type of a grand tour might be much more competitive and exciting - every single day. And it would keep Phil and Paul on their toes trying figure out who some unknown rider from Team Podunk is who has broken away at the two kilometer mark.

Steve Williams
Saturday, November 3 2001


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Grand Tours Duration #5

Re: Phil's asinine comment relating Grand Tours Length "Let's be brave; let the riders take what the hell they want . If they kill themselves so what?" Let them be brave or let them be stupid? If we let the cheaters cheat, then only the cheaters will win, and men who don't want sacrifice their health and safety will no longer be competitive. Duh.

Steven Zdawczynski
Boulder, USA
Thursday, November 8 2001


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Jean Delatour's comments

It's kind of ironic read Michel Gros' comments on the selection of French teams into the Tour de France. I still firmly believe last year's selections were a complete travesty, one that I hoped the UCI would try deter in this year's Tour. Had it not been for the famed 35+ minute break, no one would have heard the names Bonjour or Cofidis in the top 10. It seems a bit weak justify inclusion on the basis of a fluke.

But the one comment I really focus on is Gros' comments on the importance of the Tour French teams and how some of these teams may not survive absent an invitation. Wasn't Mercury in this very same situation last year with the major exception of having the cycling prowess deserve a slot? As Jean Marie LeBlanc spoon fed Tour invitations French teams that should have never been on the slate, he stated that his decision would have no effect on the fate of Mercury as they were excluded. Guess you were wrong on that one, n'est pas Jean Marie?

I think it is poetic justice that the French teams should face extinction. If they really want a Tour slot, maybe they should try earning one. Unfortunately, like in the case of Mercury, it seems that nationality is more important than ability.

Andrew Gilbert
Monroe, America
Tuesday, November 6 2001


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Race tactics

Does anyone out there know of a book in English other than Edward Borysewicz's "Bicycle Road Racing" that covers the topic of racing tactics? Can I please have the title, author and ISBN number?

Please email with suggestions degama@foxall.com.au

David de Gama
Tuesday, November 6 2001

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Coaches #1

Laws of supply and demand ensure that for-profit coaches meet the needs of their clients. But speaking as someone who has been the lucky beneficiary of good, "free" coaching, I can say that there had better be a special cloud in heaven reserved for the men and women who give back to cycling as volunteer coaches.

I have been competitively cycling for three years and have been coached by John Allis and Ed Sassler for that entire time. John and Ed are somewhat legendary here in Boston for their commitment to the development of novice cyclists. Based on the dozens of people who I personally have heard speak reverentially about them, I'd bet they have drawn hundreds if not thousands of people into our sport (John has been actively coaching for 25+ years). Depending on your personal priorities, you may value money more highly than the admiration of others, that's up you.

But I want comment on what it is like have someone take me under their wings. It feels incredible! As I developed a passion for my sport, Ed and John helped me transform that enthusiasm into better pedaling mechanics, better cycling skills, better on-the-bike positioning, better on-the-bike training, better weight training, better tactical understanding, better personal and team results... The list goes on but you get the picture.

John and Ed broadened and deepened my enjoyment of our sport immeasurably. And cycling is more important me than any other sport has been (I think of myself as a cyclist, whereas I never thought of myself as a squash player or tennis player). As a result, I received a gift from them I can never directly repay. The best I can do is try to share with others my enthusiasm for cycling and what they have taught me. I feel very lucky to have John and Ed as friends and coaches.

Paying for their services might not have affected the quality of the advice I received, but undoubtedly it would have affected my feelings for them, for our relationship, and for our sport.

Nathan Drake
Boston, USA
Saturday, November 3 2001


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Coaches #2

Well met, Steve. I am glad know of another person giving tirelessly the sport. Your letter reminds me of Richard DeBernardis in Tucson. He is amazing in his enthusiasm and ability organise and mobilise. If you are anything like him, then I can't wait meet you one day.

I have heard of your event for years, and I applaud your ability organise events. This is something I have never attempted and I appreciate my best athletes having an excellent event go . If only you could do something about that altitude....

Saturday, November 3 2001


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Coaches #3

Charles, intrinsic in my parenthetical was the idea that I have noticed many people calling themselves coaches were in fact, not. I am glad to know that you can be a coach and still charge money. The parenthetical obviously does not apply to you. Also, one coach may be a trainer to some and a coach to others. I realise this. I have been struggling with this money question for some time, especially at this time of my life. I still struggle with it, and hope one day that I can coach without worry for my own expenses or my family's.

The reason cherry picking upsets me, is that I don't think that they are actually doing a better job with those athletes than I myself could. None of my athletes has chosen make a move a coach like that at this point. I would LOOOOVE coach the National Team. I would not view the job as a nine to five job, and would push the organisation to its fullest support and develop athletes, from the bottom up.

Yes, my athletes have gone away national teams and pro teams, but usually they come back. And of course I am always here for them - and I think they know this. Also, I know that I am at my best as a development coach, but am slowly moving my abilities up the ladder. I have never coached a full European pro, for example. My complaint is that along with their return at a later date - I hear a variety of complaints about the system and coaches in place and the various indignities ("they looked at me like a piece of meat") they suffered along the way. I have heard resident OTC athletes say that the only good coaches were the volunteer coaches who come in for selection camps. I cannot imagine that this is the sort of situation we wish to maintain.

Some of the things said and done my athletes by these "top coaches" is so far beyond my understanding of what coaching means, it only serves to invalidate their contributions for me. Worse, these words can end the careers of young athletes- including mine. How dare these people call themselves coaches. Now, I know no one is perfect - certainly not me - but I thought I should speak out about this. I have seen athletes who were contributing significantly their National Team, for example, routinely ignored by the federation's results Web pages. I have seen a consistent tendency toward deification of a certain athlete over others who are contributing. All of this tends to sidetrack or end the cycling progress of so many promising athletes. So many, that I now prepare my athletes mentally for this treatment once they leave for camps and so on. I will say that this has improved recently, however - some who were around during this older era remain.

I wish that simple licensing could solve the problem. Being qualified means many things many people, but for me it means have a real empathy for the athletes, a deep passion for the sport and it's ability show young athletes the way of success in life, and having something significant contribute the next generation. I find that many aspects of an athletes development are routinely ignored by those who would choose. I have heard a phrase "judging athletes without emotion". What is the point of this? It is an impossibility in any case. It would be better state what the rules are in advance, so people know where they stand. Simply saying "stand and be counted" is not a solution.

Lastly, I notice a competition among coaches which baffles me. Supposedly, we are all in this for the same reason, so it should be easy empathise and understand the contributions of other coaches. My own difficulty in understanding other coaches' philosophies and actions has led me ask these questions in a public forum.

In my view, the dialogue between coaches should progress from "who are you," "what famous races have you won" and "who have you produced" "what do you have say" and "what do your athletes say about you?". What about asking questions about key relationship and communication skills you have? How well do you set expectation in advance? What about asking questions about how well regarded you are among the families of the athletes you coach? What about the role and importance of the mentor in the lives of young athletes? How about some measurement of how good you are at fulfilling this role? How good are you at resolving negativity in the relationship with your athletes? These are all completely forgotten subjects among coaches and those who would "certify" them. Why?

Also, I find that many 'coaches' are sort of nameless and faceless among the families of athletes, and that their involvement constitutes the sort of relationship of a contractor who works on their house, or their plumbing.

Thank you for your replies.

Saturday, November 3 2001


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Madison & Six Day Races

I follow road cycling, but do not know much about the Olympic Madison or six day races. Can someone please explain them? I remember my father talking about seven day races in New York in the early 20th century. Are these the same type races? Thank you for helping educate one more American the another part of the great sport of cycling.

Jim Brooke
Forest Hill, USA
Wednesday, November 7 2001

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Wheel regulations #1

Hear! Hear! Finally, someone tells it like it is. You have my deepest sympathy, Mr. Andrews, except since I weigh more than 100KG, the problem is even worse for me! Of course frames, wheels, tyres, etc, are TOO weak and fragile! What to do? Don't buy them! Purchase more durable frames! Manufacturers such as Cannondale, Trek, Raleigh, Diamond Back (as well as most custom builders) make touring and cyclocross frames which by design are stronger and therefore longer lasting than the new 1KG "folding" (haha) frames. Add some stronger wheels and thicker tyres and you're set for life! If anyone gives you grief about riding a touring frame, tell them the benefits of not having to replace a frame on a yearly basis. OR, tell them it's a cyclocross frame. After all what is a cyclocross bike? It's a touring bicycle with the rack removed! Let's see: longer wheelbase, slacker angles, bigger tires, lower gearing, Canti brakes......hmm, sounds like a touring bike to me!

Woyteck A.Morajko
Saturday, November 3 2001

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Wheel regulations #2


There is a number of very nice steel bikes still being made by various bike companies, using tubing such as Reynold's 854, Dedacciai 01 and others. Personally, I have two steel bikes, one to train on (E Merckx Corsa) and one to race (somewhat newer E Merckx Corsa 01). Both are strong enough for my 72kg, but EM and others still make bikes using Columbus Max tubing, which should be strong enough for anybody. Apart from being absolutely beautiful to ride with the same geometry as the so-called pro bikes, another thing is that both bikes are very classic looking and often get comments from people who ignore the latest fat-tubed super light aluminum bike standing next to it outside the coffee shop.

Peter Lenz
Perth, Australia
Thursday, November 8 2001

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Wheel regulations #3

If you were to consider building a set of race wheels purely for criterium's. What factors would you consider? Can we have a discussion on:
1. Aero or box section rims (the added weight or rigidity)
2. Stopping properties of different rim materials.
3. Flat spokes against DT's Revolution spokes
4. Radial against cross spokes
5. Does tying and soldering stiffen the wheel
6. Alloy against brass nipples (does the weight really make that much difference)
7. How many spokes (durability against wind drag, don't forget all those corners)
8. High-low rear hubs. Do they even out the spoke tension?
9. How about hubs

David de Gama
Tuesday, November 6 2001

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NORBA National Schedule

This is just a gripe here, coming from a former mountain bike racer who gave up the sport because basically, in the USA, NORBA is just no good.

So they came out with the schedule for next year of National races in the USA for mountain biking. There are only five races! Why is this? We, the country who invented the sport, can only support five National calendar races? This is insane! We need more races, and we need more people step up the plate put them on. I would try myself, but, as I said, I'm too disillusioned with the state of mountain bike racing in the USA even want try. I switched road this year, and have been better off for it.

Here is an example of why mountain bike racing in the USA is floundering. Last season, I went a race. Same day registration, with the late fee, cost me $55.00 dollars. For one race. Most road races; $15.00 dollars. So I raced. I came in 5th. My pay out; two inner tubes, and a frame pump. I came in 11th in a criterium later on in the season, and won $75.00 dollars. When it comes pay outs in mountain bike races in the USA, most of the races, they give you some useless item some shop owner donated the prize bin that they have had around their shop for years on end, and couldn't get rid of. Road racing, you receive that thing everyone can use, money. People putting on mountain bike races should take notice. Lower the entry fees, and start giving out money as pay out, and more people will ride in your races.

I know I'm not the only one of this opinion. Most of my team mates have switched over in the past year or so road racing from mountain biking for the same reasons voiced above. Also with Lance Armstrong winning the Tour the last few years, road racing has enjoyed a lot more of a high profile than mountain biking. Sure, it was great see Alison Dunlap win the World's this year, I was excited for her, and for the USA in general, but not a lot of people knew what happened. And that's too bad, because Alison seems be a class act all around, and I say, nice work, and thank you!

Now that I've thoroughly expressed and griped, this letter has gone on long enough. Don't get me wrong, I still love mountain biking, and I still enjoy the sport. We, as a whole nation, can no longer compete with the rest of the world in this sport (once again with the exception of Alison Dunlap's victory this year and her otherwise stellar season once again), and that's too bad. I mean, Americans did create mountain biking and all, and now we can't even compete on a world level for the most part. It just stinks...

Tom Arsenault
Chapel Hill, USA
Wednesday, November 7 2001

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Man who killed technology

Verbruggen saved cycling. From the technology perspective: its about the legs, not the bike, giving everybody a steel Colnago with 32 spoke wheels would be just fine with me, and the racers as well likely. Ask the Credit Agricole riders how it feels, have a carbon fork snap under you. If you want technology, join the HPV crowd, who ride 100 km/h instead of 45km/h, however nobody cares.

M Visser
Sunday, November 4 2001


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The last month's letters

  • November 1 - Virenque, Golden age, Worlds Format, Coaches,Tour Duration, Ullrich
  • 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