Letters to Cyclingnews – October 17, 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

EPO testing
Ullrich Worlds TT
Millar's TT Helmet
Wheel Regulation
Support Vehicles
Saddle Heights
High blood pressure and cycling
Podium Girls

Virenque #1

In response to Mark Zeh's remarks about Richard Virenque. Everyday there are riders racing and using banned substances. Are they admitting to it? No of course not. Virenque doped, held out as long as he could, got threatened with sever punishment and admitted his use. He got a 10 month suspension, quietly trained came back and won a prestigious race.
Why should that annoy you? The guy paid his dues (a 10 month suspension is pretty long). Are you pissed because your favourite didn't win? I hope he wins the World Road Race. I would love to see it.
There are guys getting caught with positive tests, (mind you Virenque never tested positive for ANYTHING) and getting appeals and beating the system on technicalities. What makes them different? I think Virenque's victory was one of training and hard work. I think as the UCI clamps down on the use of drugs that we will see a lot of once talented Grand Tour riders turn into very good one day riders. Thank you

Dave Hansen
Redondo Beach, USA
Thursday, October 11 2001

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Virenque #2

He who is without sin cast the first stone. Someone famous said that.

Reg Oakley
Thursday, October 11 2001


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Virenque #3

I once watched Virenque as a young rider with RMO take the yellow jersey in his first tour and was impressed with his career as it developed. I felt sorry for him when one of the greatest days he ever had on a bike was overshadowed by the Casartelli tragedy in the 1995 tour. The doping revealations and his subsequent refusal to accept any responsibility for his actions soured me on "Little Dick." I still feel he does not fully recognise the gravity of what he did. Perhaps because so many others did the same and didn't pay the price he did he feels singled out unfairly.

Steve Farris
Silver City, USA
Friday, October 12 2001

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Virenque #4

How people can say he has ridden so well I don't understand. Unfortunately I don't think the performances of one Richard Virenque can be taken seriously. The man has no integrity or concern for those he harmed. I don't believe he should have been allowed back into the peloton.

Michael Hull
Kincumber, Australia
Friday, October 12 2001

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Virenque #5

I have to agree with Mr. Mark Zeh's comments about Richard Virenque. I won't go as far as to say that I will stop following professional road racing if Virenque wins the world championships this Sunday, but I too was left with a bad taste in my mouth after having seen Virenque win Paris-Tours. It was a very impressive victory, no doubt about it.

Anders P. Jensen
Korsør, Denmark
Friday, October 12 2001


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Virenque #6

I can't seem to figure out which of the myriad possibilities makes most sense. If Virenque is now clean (and we've got to assume, given the scrutiny surrounding his case, that even he is not that stupid) and he beat the entire field in spectacular fashion at Paris-Tours, does that mean that a clean rider is now beating a doped peloton? Or does it mean that the peloton is also clean, and he was simply the best man? Was this some sort of "fluke" of circumstance, as successful suicide breakaways are often said to be? Is Virenque just that much fresher because of his suspension than the rest of the battle-weary bigshots? Could his escape have been allowed because others were somehow saving themselves for Lisbon? After all, he too has made no secret of his World Championship aspirations...

I agree with those who have said that Virenque is, on many levels, a disgraceful character and a poor ambassador for the sport. And I suppose that if I had my way, he wouldn't be riding anymore. Be that as it may, however, I also agree that, having done his time according to the sanctions laid out, he deserves as much a chance as anyone else. And so what we're left with is a ride -- a remarkable, gutsy, beautiful, exhilirating ride -- that no one would have expected, and that no one will soon forget. I keep returning to my original question, trying to wrap my mind around the possibilities, wanting so much to believe in some of the things that, ironically, Virenque himself made it so very hard to believe. If Virenque is clean and can pull this off, doesn't it follow that the peloton is also largely clean, and isn't this a cause for hope? Someone please show me what I am obviously missing before I get too starry-eyed.


Saturday, October 13 2001

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Virenque #7

Hi Martin

I could not have said it better myself, the fine words you wrote about Richard Virenque and his ride last Sunday. I have had Virenque as my favourite since he first appeard in the Tour de France, and when the Festina team "crashed," it was not a very god felling for me.
But now in the Paris-Tour when he rode it was treamendous. Regards.

Richard Nilsson
Malmoe, Sweden
Saturday, October 13 2001


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Virenque #8

Since 1998, my opinion of Virenque has also been rock-bottom (and I used to be an admirer of his), not just because he took EPO, but because he took so long to admit it, unlike the rest of his team. I think he is a disgrace to cycling, and I was very disappointed that Domo gave him a contract. I was not best pleased therefore to see him in the break with Jacky Durand (about whom I will say nothing), but thought it would come to nothing. Nevertheless, in the last K I found myself cheering him on - that was such a fantastic, exciting, gutsy ride that I cannot begrudge him the win. I hope he did it cleanly, I think he probably did. It does make a very unfortunate statement however - that you can take drugs, get a bit of a punishment if you have the misfortune to be discovered and then come back again to the sport. I was enormously pleased that he was well out of the medals in the World Championship - that really would have been a travesty.

Mischa Borris
Monday, October 15 2001

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Virenque #9

Once one of my mountain heroes (after Big Mig), Richard really disappointed me during "The Festina Affair," but what a come back! I am sure most people can forgive Richard when he "gives" himself like that. One of the finest races this season must be Paris-Tours. Call it guts or courage or whatever, it was a great achievement, and it takes a Lion heart to do things like that; and so much the better that this French lion is with the same team as my preferrred lion (the flemish one).
This is "Merci et allez Richard," it is also thanks a lot to Patrick Lefevre for providing the scope (he did not get a World Champion or too many wins this season, but Domo got the finest wins!).

Winni Nielsen
Gilleleje, Denmark
Tuesday October 16 2001


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EPO Testing

Hi Steve
I am in total agreement in what you have written, and for a very long time now I have pondered over the possibility that the UCI really don't want cycling fans to know just how doped the Peleton is.Lets take this year's World Championship for example! I can guarantee that if it was proved that the winner had been doped, then you the public will not hear of it until next year, which by then it's already too late. Remember when Brochard won the Worlds? Just how long did it take the UCI to say he had been doped?? But was his title taken away? No it was not.

Friday, October 12 2001

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Ullrich Worlds TT

Jan Ullrich's Worlds TT effort was stunning. He went from 10 seconds behind Millar (2 seconds ahead of Leipheimer) at 32.5k to 6 seconds ahead of Millar (over 24 seconds ahead of Leipheimer) at 38.7k, 16 seconds gained on Millar (22 seconds gained on Leipheimer) over the last 6k. That is a world class effort if there is one, and performed against time trial specialists as evidenced by their performances in the Vuelta. Hats off to Ullrich!

Eric Snider
Toledo, USA
Friday, October 12 2001


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Millar's TT Helmet

I noticed in the Vuelta that David Millar was wearing the same aero-helmet as that of Lance Armstrong. I was under the impression that the helmet was made specifically for Lance because he has a scoliosis arch in his back. Looking at previous photos of David time trialling, there doesn't seem to be a "hump" in his back. Does anyone know the reason behind David changing helmets?

Eddie Han
Saturday, October 13 2001


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Wheel regulations

I have not heard about wheel legislation out of the UCI, but it wouldn't be a surprise would it! There is a simple solution to this supposed problem of technology proliferation and its costs. It is called homologation aand even lawnmower. Simply put, for a product to be accepted for competitive use in certain events, the product needs to be produced in a minimum quantity and available for "general consumption" by the public. This would mean that, for the most part, any bicycle used for racing would need to be commercially viable and on sale. Provisions could be made for"custom" versions of production product to meet the sizing needs of professionals, but the basic product would still have to be saleable. This would pretty much eliminate things like the corporately funded US GT/EDS $ multi million dollar bikes (which kind of started this whole thing), while allowing technology to advance within the cycling world. This system would also work for wheels as well.

My understanding is that the UCI wants cycling to be a physical contest, unaffected by technology. While it is my personal feeling that bicycle racing is a physical contest that is always affected by technology (that is why we don't call it running), a homologation system would make all technology pretty much accessible to all riders and countries, regardless of economic situation, while still allowing the technology of cycling to advance, with a minimum of Byzantine rules.

Bill Corliss
Park City, USA
Tuesday, October 16 2001

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Support Vehicles #1

According to Peter Vordenberg, who used a Mavic neutral support bike in the Saturn Classic in August of this year, the bike was made by Independent Fabrications and painted bright Mavic yellow. His hilarious story can be found by clicking on "General Features" under the heading Cycling Resources on the left hand side of the Cyclingnews Home Page. It's worth the read. As for how they have all the right sizes... well this time, they didn't!

Duncan M. Granger
Lancaster, USA
Friday, October 12 2001

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Support Vehicles #2

I can only speak for 1999, but for the US races (Redland, Sea-Otter...etc), the spare bikes were a mix of Specialized M frames and Independant Fabrications steel, all Mektronic equipped. It was more than a little amusing to see the look on one racer's face, desperate for a spare bike after a mishap, hop on and realise he had no idea how to shift the thing as I shoved him back into the the race as the peleton came flying.

T. J. Hoeffel
Oakland, USA
Friday, October 12 2001


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Support Vehicles #3

SR Jones was wondering who made the bicycles on the neutral support cars...

While I was at le Tour this year, I got a chance to look at the stuff atop the Mavic car from about 3 feet away. The bikes were Cannondale CAAD4 frames (distinguishable by the tubing and rear seat stay design) with pretty generic Shimano parts. The most intriguing thing were the pedals: toeclips with straps. My guess is that if you're desperate enough to climb on the neutral bike (has anybody ever seen a rider do this?), you'll be happy with whatever you can get.

Chris Cleeland
Friday, October 12 2001

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Support Vehicles #4

In reply to S.R. Jones enquiry about who actually makes the bikes used by Mavic and Shimano tech support.

I was at the prologue in Dunkirk this year and had a good look at the bikes on top of a Mavic support car. The frames were Cannondale with Time forks and kitted out with Mavic wheels and group sets (naturally) although a couple did have some rather battered looking Dura Ace bits on them. The majority were fitted with Look Ergo seatpins and all of the bikes looked pretty well used. Maybe they are old Saeco bikes resprayed and pressed back into service. Interestingly a number of them had toeclips and straps fitted.
A year or so ago Cycle Sport magazine (I think) did a feature on the support cars and if I remember correctly the mechanics couldn't recall ever having to actually give a rider a bike. They also reckoned that the quality of modern wheels is such that they have to change wheels much less than they did a few years back, even on the Classics such as Paris-Roubaix. Hope this info is of interest.

Dom Stewart
Sigma Sport Pro Cycle Shop, UK
Tuesday, October 16 2001

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Botero #1

The letter about Botero brings up an interesting point. I am reminded of what a coach told me years ago. The coach basically said that if you are a good sprinter/climber/time-trialist, focus on that and the rest will follow. He cautioned that if one is a good sprinter and you spend too much time trying to improve your climbing, you often lose an edge with sprinting and only improve slightly at climbing. Since the fellow is a very successful coach with his own palmares, he probably knows what he is talking about. Perhaps this is the case with Botero. To improve his OTT, he likely added a lot of power. Maybe the sacrifice is a bit more weight and less snap for the major climbs. Bear in mind, that at this level of sport, a one per cent decline in climbing speed versus a one per cent faster TT is a lot.

Bruce Lee
Redmond, USA
Friday, October 12 2001


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Botero #2

I can explain with some detail what is going on. Santiago Botero was part of the 2000 TDF TDF Kelme Team (although he's been with Kelme for about four years), with the only purpose being to support Heras and Escartin during the team time trial and maybe during some mountain stages. From the beginning of the race, Botero was not in contention for any title, so he started the prologue as most domestiques do: not forcing to much to save up for the hard next three weeks they had ahead.

After losing time in the first week (working for Heras and Escartin, as he had to), he found himself in better form and attacked with Erik Dekker to regain some of the time (nearly 5 minutes) he had lost earlier. The KOM jersey came as a result of his solo win in Briancon, after which he regained over two minutes. He then found himself in a good GC position (8th), which he would defend until the end of the race. He showed that his form was not of a support rider, but rather of a team leader. If you carefully look at his TT in 2000 TDF, they actually improved as he was in a better GC position, as he became with Heras team co-leader.

If you explore Santiago's origins in cycling, you will find that he has been mostly a time trialist (a discipline which now Colombians are learning to master), and not a pure climber. He began in mountain bikes and then he tried the track. He was Colombian 4.000 meters individual pursuit record holder (I am not sure if he still holds the record, but if not, he can surely break it now!).

Then, 2001 was a year of change for Santiago. Although he was named by many "experts" the number one contender for KOM, he had no interest in that classification, as he was looking for a better GC position. He was now a team co-leader with Oscar Sevilla. But Santiago's climbing ability suffered as a result of him moving from Medellin (a city nicknamed "The Mountain Capital of Colombia"), located at an altitude of around 1.800 meters, to a city at sea-level altitude in Spain earlier this year. However, he was able to improve his time trialing skills. He placed 6th. in the prologue (best ever prologue for a Colombian rider), losing only a few seconds with Armstrong and Ullrich. He placed in the top 10 in the other two time trials. In the last time trial from Montlucon to Saint Amand, he experienced mechanical difficulties with his handlebars and with one of his wheels, forcing him to change bicycles. He still placed 8th!. And of course, you saw what he did on the Vuelta a Espana.

I do not have the details on his training (and if I did, I probably wouldn't comment on them). But the truth is that Santiago, now a Bronze medallist in Lisbon in the individual time trial (also the best-ever finish for a Colombian in professional world championships), is a complete and very powerful rider who has consistently shown to be one of the top in the world. I am sure that with his class (as a rider and as an individual) he will give a lot to talk about during the 2002 season.

Andres Felipe Angulo
Friday, October 12 2001

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Saddle Heights

I Goldsberry's comments October 4

Although saddle height is a matter of personal preference, I generally agree with Goldsberry.
I have myself undergone the same problems as he has. I can see that many riders have their saddle too high. But it is not easy to avoid this trap, because in many bike magazines you get the idea that the saddle should be adjusted as high as you can sit on it.

A lot of riders also emphasise this. This is subject to a lot of discussion amongst riders, and it is easy to think: it must be so also for me. But, riders who test it out, might find out somewhat quite else.

If you are a recreation rider or so, it takes some courage to adjust the saddle and stand for it, as Goldberry does.

Ove Viggen
Kongsvinger, Norway
Wednesday, October 17 2001

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High blood pressure and cycling

RNow, let's get this clear. Not everyone has the ability to do away with hypertension. Some of us are not that lucky. This is called essential hypertension, since most physicians do not know the cause(s). It affects at least 80% of the population. Genetically, if your parents both have hypertension, and if more than one of your grandparents have it too, there is very little chance that you and your siblings might escape this. Granted, it would be best if you follow most of the reccomendations mentioned here since diet and lifestyle changes will help. The objective here is not only to lower blood pressure, but to do away with drugs as much as you can. I can
tell you from experience that drugs like Atenolol, a beta blocker used for high blood pressure and rapid heartbeat control, will in fact lower aerobic capacity in my case, according to published references, by about 20 per cent Imagine the kind of impact on your road cycling performance! Not to mention trying to keep up with the peloton. So yes, losing weight, exercising and diet changes plus other lifestyle changes (stress, smoking, etc) can help battle hypertension. But it is not guaranteed.

Fernando Barcelo
Friday, October 12 2001


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Podium Girls #1

Here is some additional evidence to add to the podium girl discussion:

A friend of mine once asked Marcel Wust (stage winner in all three Grand Tours) which race had the best podium girls. His response? "La Vuelta definately!"

Scott Goldstein
Friday, October 12 2001


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Podium Girls #2

Hey Gerry, lighten-up. Great racing is always accompanied by great backdrops. Mountains, valleys, and podium girls.Bring it all on.

Michael Smith
New York, USA
Thursday, 11 October 2001

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Podium Girls #3

As a female cycling fan, I don't object to anyone ogling podium girls (or should that be podium women?). After all, I can always feast my eyes on the podium boys ... Erik Zabel, Erik Dekker, Oscar Friere, Paulo Bettini, etc, etc.

And did you see Jan Ullrich at the TT Worlds when he was changing to go on to the podium? What a body! In case you missed it ladies, check out the Telekom Web site at http://www.team-telekom.de/ Look for the story entitled Telekom-Star feiert seien Weltmeistertitel, 12.10.2001.

June Willing
Glasgow, Scotland
Saturday, October 13 2001

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The last month's letters

  • 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