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Letters to Cyclingnews — September 5, 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

Jonathan Vaughters
David McKenzie
Sponsors' "club" against doping
Bupropion on IOC prohibited substance list?
Marco Pantani
Better=Cheat?
Tour climbing times
Lance Armstrong and the Vuelta
Canadian Cycling coverage
OLN TV coverage
Cycle bashing
Eurosport -- An Alternative?
Jan Ullrich
Eddy Merckx
Richard Virenque
Tour 1989
Velodromes world-wide
Where is Cipo?

Who pays Post Office?
Schmoo RIP

JonathanVaughters

In response to Mark Taylor's letter: That's about what I do. I don't put many eggs into the TdF basket, and my contract is usually signed after the Dauphine. Maybe someday, I'll do a good Tour, but in the mean time, just keep hoping I win the Dauphine , or the Tour of Catalunya , and yes I'll be gunning for world TTs this year...

J Vaughters
Monday, September 3

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David McKenzie #1

It's David McKenzie here. I was just having my Cyclingnews fix for the day and saw my name in the letters column. So I read the letter from John Jeffrey... It's great to know I have support out there. It really does go a long way and keeps me motivated. I've just returned from Tassie tonight where I won the "Tatts Cup" series. I've decided to make the "Sun Tour" a bit of a goal and hopefully a contract will follow for next year.

Anyhow keep the fingers crossed.

Dave McKenzie
Australia
Wednesday, August 29

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David McKenzie #2

What Australia needs in a Division 1 Pro Team. Maybe there is a business man out there who has the ability to put it all together. Companies like Fosters have been pouring money into European event sponsorship for years now.

How good would it be to get O'Grady, Vogels, McEwen, McGee, White, Rodgers, Sunderland etc together in the one outfit? Then have the Team ready for Cadel's transfer to road cycling. Then include some proven Euros like Voigt, Backstedt and a couple of good Colombian climbers plus one or two big names that have the points to ensure the Team makes it to Division 1 and contract Jalabert to guarantee that the Team gets a wild card start for the Tour.

A budget of $12 Million should do it... Team of 25 riders all up. This would solve the problems around Australian riders not getting picked for the Tour and being left in no mans land for contracts.

Maybe Dick Smith should take this on instead of balloon and helicopter adventures or Big Kev could expand into Europe? What is interesting is that I have never seen or heard anyone say 'Why doesn't Australia have a pro team?' I believe its the answer to our sport's struggle in this country for support and credibility.

In fact, why isn't Cycling Australia trying to get this happening?

Martin Pearce
Queensland, Australia
Thursday, August 30

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David McKenzie #3

I agree completely with John here. David McKenzie is an excellent rider, and last year I was a big fan of him and the whole Linda McCartney team. It was a great shame that the team could not continue this year, but he even won a stage of the only race that the squad took part in. With other team members going to big teams like Banesto and Lampre, I am genuinely surprised that David could not land himself a contract with a first division team, or saying that, even a second division team. This guy has actually won a stage of a major tour, and that was with a team that was supposedly far weaker than all the other squads. He joined his current team, GS Ficonseills, with the allowance that were he given a better offer, he could leave the team whenever he wanted.

I really can not understand, when Australian sport is flourishing, why a successful rider can not get a team. Look at the exploits of Stuart O'Grady and Brad McGee in the Tour, and one can see that Australia is becoming a real cycling force and will grow in the coming years. I was at the final stage of the Tour this year, and was talking to some Australian fans who were in town to hopefully see an O'Grady stage win and green jersey, but they were very unaware of McKenzie, but when we got talking they had some recollection of him, and I think that is the same as everybody else.

With teams like CSC-Tiscali and Phonak wanting to get places at the top of Division One, incase a new 'top team's club' is developed, I think that any Director Sportif worth his wage would see that a man as fit as McKenzie, and as cheap, would be an excellent purchase. He might not be overflowing with UCI points, but with a good team that is willing to work for him, and some more daring break-aways, McKenzie could win some big one day races like Gent-Wevelgem or Paris-Tours. McKenzie appears to be a rider who is very similar to Jalabert, and although it is unlikely that we will see a rider of Jaja's class come around for another few years, McKenzie is nonetheless capable of winning some of the events that Jalabert has been successful in.

Ed Alexander
Atworth, England
Wednesday, August 29

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Sponsors' "club" against doping

CSC managing director Asger Jensby's proposal that sponsors refuse to sign riders who test positive for three years [cyclingnews.com 8/28/01] threatens to make an unfair situation worse, without resolving the problem of doping. Don't misunderstand, I firmly support efforts to eliminate doping from cycling. Unfortunately, Mr. Jensby's proposal 1) adds nothing new to cycling's "war on drugs," 2) fails to allocate responsibility for doping fairly, and 3) is, probably illegal in the E.U and U.S.

Mr. Jensby's proposal is unlikely to be effective because it, like all sanctions to date, attempts to deter doping by placing all responsibility with riders. Riders face a tension they cannot resolve alone. Sponsors and directors tell them to produce results or their contracts will not be renewed. If they test positive, however, they are sacked. Mr. Jensby's proposal does not resolve the tension riders face over being unemployed because they are either "uncompetitive" or "doped." It ups the ante of getting caught, but it does not alter sponsors' and directors' demands to "win races, or else."

Mr. Jensby's proposal is just plain bad because it aggravates an already hypocritical situation. Sponsors and directors have an interest in winning races just as riders do. At the moment, however, they bear none of the responsibility for doping. Sponsors get brand recognition and directors attract sponsorship, when their teams win races. Yet, when a rider tests "positive" he feels the consequences much more directly than does either the sponsor or the director. Mr. Jensby's proposal would make this situation more unfair. Under his plan, if a rider is sacked for doping, sponsors and directors would no longer have to worry about him winning races in another jersey for at least three years.

There is an alternative to solutions like Mr. Jensby's that seek to eradicate doping by increasing the penalties on riders. Put responsibility for doping on all those who demand results. I suggested in a letter in another publication [Cyclesport August 2001] that, if the UCI deducted, say, 1000-1500 points from a team for each "positive" drug test, attitudes toward doping would change immediately and drastically. Sponsors, directors, and other riders could not afford to let team members jeopardize their chances to compete in World Cup Races and the Grand Tours. Team winnings might be pooled to buy EPO tests, rather than EPO.

Finally, I suspect Mr. Jensby's proposal violates E.U. and U.S. anti-trust and competition laws. The UCI, on the other hand, can decide how it gives or takes away points that it creates.

John Leslie
Berkeley, CA USA
Thursday, August 30

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Bupropion on IOC prohibited substance list?

Being a person who has taken Bupropion (also known as Zyban, an anti-smoking drug, at low concentrations and Wellbutrin, an antidepressant, at higher concentrations) I am stunned to find it on the IOC prohibited substance list. Of all the things I experienced through a year of taking Wellbutrin I would never have classified it as a stimulant. At high concentrations it had side effects of tremor and weakness, as well as lethargy. These are hardly the side effects of a stimulant. And I was certainly not having my performance improved by taking it. Quite the contrary, since the lethargy left me on my couch too tired to touch my bikes. Maybe IR17;m missing something that those wise men at the IOC have discovered? If the athlete needs this medication for his mental health (can anyone say VDB?) let them take it, but it certainly isnR17;t going to make them go any faster.

Charles Wilson
Tulsa, Oklahoma
Sunday, September 2

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Marco Pantani

I am a very big fan of Marco Pantani, but I do somewhat agree with you concerning his sometime "Me" attitude. But, I think, if you were on top of the World like he was, and were totally humiliated as he was, you might just have a have a different view point concerning Marco. I personally think Marco Pantani, has been done a great disservice, at the hands of a overly exuberant Prosecutor, under a system of law in Italy that gives the accused very few rights. Consider for a moment the fact that Pantani won both the Giro and the Tour in 1998, and led the Giro in 1999, before being tossed for a high haematocrit rate. During all this time Pantani never tested positive for drugs, and believe that the Tour and Giro leaders are tested and tested and tested again. Never positive, why is this. Is Pantani a doper? Then why did he never test positive? Pantani is a great champion, and this was all taken away from him and his good name was stolen, in a system of law that I would hate to be prosecuted under. It is nothing like our system here in the States, and the prosecutors are all powerful.

Maybe if you looked at it from Pantani's point of view, you might find a little understanding into his mental state. But mark my words Pantani will come back, and hopefully we will be able to see Lance and he, battle it out in the mountains, we have also be robbed of their possible battles in the mountains when they are both on top of their games.

Vert Hallahan
USA
Wednesday, August 29

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Better=Cheat?

Here's how Robert Holmes can believe that Armstrong is clean in the face of his "statistics" that he cites in his letter: By doing his homework, gathering ALL the facts as opposed to just those that seem to support one result, and using his brain to draw his own conclusions rather than those presented to him by one obsessed reporter like David Walsh. Lets examine Robert's "statistics" and make up our own minds:

Armstrong vs Virenque on Courchevel: First off, comparisons from one Tour to the next are of limited value for a variety of reasons including weather, stage profile, position of the stage in the Tour, and race tactics prior to the climb. These factors were fairly similar between 1997 and 2001 with the notable exception of the fact that Virenque was out on his own all the way up the 20ks of the Madeleine and most of the descent prior to his start of the Courchevel climb, where Lance enjoyed some shelter from the front group prior to the climb. Still, to draw the conclusion that Lance is "boosted" because he beat a guy who was "boosted" is absurd. Miguel Indurain put a whopping 5+ minutes into Virenque (as well as Bjarne Riis and many others) on the La Plange climb in 1995, so does that make Indurain a "booster" too? It does if you follow the absurd logic that states: "If a rider is better than everyone else, he must be cheating"

Armstrong on Alpe d'Huez: Yep, Lance rode 38mins and LeMond/Hinault rode 48 minutes. Did you know that Hererra did the climb that same year (1986) in 41:50? That's right! he beat Bernard Hinault by over six minutes! Hererra must have been a doper! Remember that LeMond and Hinault broke away quite a distance from the final climb and thus hit the bottom of Alpe d'Huez under quite different circumstances than did Lance (and Hererra).

Vayers "Analysis": Time to use our brains here. Vayers "1kg = 21 meters @ 50kph for an hour" is (IF it is true) is about as irrelevant to a climbing discussion as it could be. If you have never climbed a difficult climb for nearly an hour, I'll fill you in: 2.2 pounds will make a lot more than a 69 foot difference at the top of the climb. Weight isn't that important on flat ground, but is very important on a climb.

The problem with logic like Robert's and David Walsh's (better=cheating) is simply that some people are extraordinary. Some in the media would have us believe that all athletes are more or less the same and the "guy who wants it most" wins. It ain't so folks. Some of 'em are just better than the rest (and some of those train their asses off and thus achieve greatness). Could Lance Armstrong be a dope cheat? Sure he could be. Everyone could be. But to suggest that he is a dope cheat because (and only because) he is head and shoulders above the rest is simply absurd. Throughout the history of cycling there has almost always been one rider head and shoulders above the rest. Comparison against a rider's current peers is the only thing that counts. Lance Armstrong is head and shoulders above his peers at the Tour. However, before him we had Jan Ullrich (97 and 96), Indurain (91-95), LeMond and Hinault (85, 86) Fignon, Hinault and Merckx before that etc.

If you can't accept the fact that one athlete can simply be better than the rest, you should abandon sports as entertainment. If you do not, you will always have to suspect (and mentally disqualify as a cheat) the best athlete from whatever competition you are watching.

Scott Goldstein
USA
Thursday, August 30

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Tour climbing times #1

Some quick notes on 'Tour climbing times,' Hinault and LeMond rode the Alpe like a club training ride in '86. The Fignon climb in '89 was tactical, and at this stage of his career he was not a great climber. Miguel Indurain would never have survived one attack from Armstrong on any HC climb.

Andrew Turco
Somers, Ct
Wednesday, August 29

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Tour climbing times #2

To Robert Holmes who can't understand how Lance could do anything better than doped riders while being clean himself:

Training, training, training. In response to how he could do so much better than an Ullrich in his best shape in recent years, Lance said that when he was on those climbs when the snow was still pretty darn deep he never saw the guy taking the same approach to training. Lance spent long training camps on those climbs.

And though I don't know as much about the history of training in cycling, I would venture to say that riders from the past did not pay as scientifically exact attention to physical matters such as heart rate and lactic acid thresholds. Lance has many people on his personal team guiding him in these matters and in matters of diet and exercise and stretching.

Obviously, people like you just do not for whatever reason want to believe that anyone could combine talent and discipline to such great effect. You have obviously not been face-to-face with your own death, and if I really said what I thought of the David Walsh's of the world, you'd be very offended.

Bridgette Fleming
Florida, USA
Wednesday, August 29

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Tour climbing times #3

First, the strides in technology, nutrition, and training are leaps and bounds ahead of information 5 years ago giving a distinct benefit to athletes trying to compete and recover. Example, I have found racing with integrated shifter levels has always been faster than racing with down tube shifters.

However, there is a maxim in professional sports: train at sea level and rest at altitude. Unfortunately, this is something very hard for most people to do. But for people like lance Armstrong, countless competitive swimmers, triathletes and others, they have the advantages (i.e. ability to pay for) of pressure tents and chambers that allow them to sleep in environments that simulate being at altitude.

The benefit of altitude training is that while EPO changes your haematocrit levels, altitude training increases haematocrit levels and changes other blood chemistry making your haematocrit more potent that if it was simply increased. The combination of blood chemistry changes is where you see many athletes gain advantage over other competitors. As a side note, Dr. Ferrari, who was part of the Giro scandal, is among the experts on altitude training.

Further, Lance and US Postal have the advantage of doing training recon rides on the course. As someone who has raced in college and now competes as a triathlete this is one of the most valuable things. My speeds are always greater when I have ridden the course previously and the more recently I have done so the better. One learns where every part is that drains speed, where you can push, and where to take it easy -- other teams don't have that advantage and in races where seconds matter US Postal benefits.

Regardless, we sit here as armchair critics of these athletes, and view them through the lenses of our experiences, our knowledge, and the opinions of others and try to humanize them for our own understanding (i.e. saying: how can he be better than the others). Sometimes people come along that astound us. For us, their level of dedication is unattainable, their motivation incomprehensible, their discipline too exacting and we try to drag them down to our level. However, the winner of the Tour every year is the person who can reach down the furthest into their own well and still pull up a full bucket. Sadly, I dare say, many of the riders who are in the Tour are people who's wells aren't very deep and dry quickly (granted they are deeper than mine). Some one like Lance, because of personal tribulations, has a well that runs very, very deep. He works hard and I prefer to abide by the maxim: innocent until proven guilty.

Chris Socha
USA
Wednesday, August 29

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Tour climbing times #4

Let's look at the logic here

1.) The elapsed time required to traverse a given climb has decreased over time. Try to think of one sport where records have stopped being broken.

2.) Lance climbed Courchevel faster than previous cyclists. On a hill climb during a given race, many things play into the winning time, bike weight (has a much greater affect than on the flats), temperature, humidity, previous day(s) race, current standings, team members, etc. Comparing times for such an event would appear to be a poor approach to assessing whether someone was taking performance-enhancing drugs.

3.) Growth hormones positive affect on performance and the fact that it is undetectable. Are you suggesting that Lance is the only one who might be using this product because of his race results? If Richard Virenque used EPO might not he have also used growth hormone? If so, why doesn't he have the best time since he would have had two performance enhancing agents working for him?

4.) If we erase the last few years of cycling, Big Mig was the dominating cyclists, can we assume he was on performance-enhancing drugs based on his dominating race results? And what about Merckx? Talk about a dominating cyclist, he must have had a strap on IV full of amphetamines during his racing career. Sorry, but this makes no sense to me.

If there is a performance-enhancing drug, which significantly improves ones performance and is not detectable then I submit that riders other than Lance have access to it. So the same question still exists, why is Lance better?

Kevin Dortch
L.A. Ca, USA
Wednesday, August 29

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Tour climbing times #5

Marco Pantani was about 30 seconds faster than Lance Armstrong up the Alpe d'Huez in 1997 when he won ahead of Ullrich at his peak. The 1997 edition of Pantani was a fairly good one even though he just came into racing from an injury, but not nearly as good as the Pantani of 1998 or 1999. He would have crashed his own record to pieces if he ever got the chance to do it. Lance Armstrong's climbing this year was about as fast as that of Pantani in 1995 when he beat Indurain. But Pantani never attacked from the bottom as Lance did. He had a more climber-like progression, and just left his opponents one after the other. A climber like Pantani will never come again. If he just can leave all his troubles behind and concentrate on training and racing, he will once more prove that in the mountains he has no opponents. He showed some glimpse of it in the 2000 Tour winning 2 stages although he wasn't even close to his former climbing condition.

Kristian Krogholm
Norway
Thursday, August 30

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Tour climbing times #6

Regarding Armstrong's faster climbing times compared to the "EPO" generation, perhaps you should look at two factors. First and foremost, training. Armstrong trains like no other champion from the past. He spins smaller gears on a climb than even Indurain, and that, coupled with his natural strength which is much greater than someone like Virenque (one of your comparisons) means he should be able to climb at a much more rapid pace. He also scouts these climbs during the spring, riding each of them many times. His preparation is much more scientific than we have ever seen before...almost robotic. When he hits the bottom of a climb, his cadence, wattage and course knowledge have all been fine-tuned for the moment. Fignon, Virenque, even Indurain, never trained like that.

Also consider the race at the moment. Armstrong's great climbing times have come while attacking. When LeMond and Hinault rode the Alpe in '86, they had a huge lead on the chasers, and rode at Hinault's slow pace. Indurain never attacked on the Alpe. Fignon was a physically beaten man that day in '89. Armstrong's attacks come on the first day of mountain racing, when he is fresh, and he is always on the attack from near the bottom, which will make your time much faster. Fignon attacked 4k from the top in '89.

You might also consider that Armstrong, as hard as it is for some to admit, might just be better that those guys. Ever think of that? I'm sure there were those that doubted the performances of Merckx before giving in.

Craig Miller
Dallas, TX
Saturday, September 1

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Tour climbing times #7

In response to Robert Holmes letter asking how Armstrong is putting in such brilliant times. I would wholeheartedly support his incredulity. But not so much in the 'there's no smoke without fire' approach, but "why the hell is he not going for the hour since he is in such brilliant form?" The man is now putting up times that are up there with the all time greats, better in many cases . Who knows what next year will bring? He may have a loss of form (he is human after all). So I do not understand the logic of not going for the hour. He is really throwing away an opportunity by not seizing the moment.

Andrew Torrance
Wales, UK
Thursday, August 30

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Lance Armstrong and the Vuelta #1

Armstrong is not going to the Tour of Spain. Apparently, he more or less promised Roberto Heras that he would in order to help him (Heras) retain his title there. On one hand, I agree with the people who feel that he and his team should refrain from making promises is they're not going to keep them. On the other hand, Armstrong is obviously not just "taking it easy" after the Tour, his form at the moment is simply -- well, lousy. What good would he be to Heras in his current state?

I don't believe for a second the idea that Heras would rather not have him along, because Armstrong would "steal the spotlight" or something like that. Come on! Armstrong finished behind Andrea Tafi on the mountain stage in the Vuelta a Burgos! And the retired after 30 kilometers of the Meisterschaft von Zürich!

Lance Armstrong is not going to Spain, and as unsportsmanlike as that may seem, it makes perfectly good sense considering the circumstances.

Anders P. Jensen
Korsĝr, Denmark
Wednesday, August 29

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Lance Armstrong and the Vuelta #2

If Lance cares so much about the U.S., then why doesn't he compete for the U.S. title? I guess he doesn't care that much. Instead, Fred Rodriguez is the best cyclist in the USA, he is our champion.

Joe Chipuk
Austin Texas
Thursday, August 30

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Lance Armstrong and the Vuelta #3

In response to L. Allen's letter entitled "Armstrong & the Vuelta #5", Allen asserts that "Armstrong raced in Vuelta in 99 and the Worlds in October of 99. In both races, he finished fourth."

Armstrong raced in neither. In October '99 Armstrong was back in Texas, with his wife and soon-to-be-born son.

Armstrong got 4th in the 1998 Vuelta, along with the 1998 World RR and World TT Championships.

Steven L. Sheffield
Monday, September 3

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Canadian cycling coverage

Regarding Lou Frankel's letter about OLN's Tour coverage. Count yourselves lucky! Here in Canada we get OLN Canada on digital cable, but aside from the Tour coverage (which they picked up from the US) they cover not a single minute of road racing OR MTB. Not even the Canadian mountain biking championships. Apparently the nerds at OLN have decided that in Canada, we'd much rather watch lumberjack competitions, dog shows, infomercials, and strong man competitions instead of the Vuelta the Giro and NORBA. Their reasoning is that the stuff they air has a big audience. Of course it does -- it makes up about 90 per cent of their schedule. Meanwhile, the Luk Cup Buhl, NORBA and the world cup MTB races have come and gone.

In fact, cycling seems to have disappeared from Canadian TV. TSN, CBS and RDS used to show MTB sometimes (even if it was a week later), and TSN handed its Tour coverage to OLN. Even though there are races right here in Quebec, no one even so much as has a camera crew out there. Canadian athletes have been getting crapped on for not doing well internationally, such as in the Olympics or in the recent track world championships. But when they DO well, like Roland Green, we ignore them! We must be the only country in the world with no cycling coverage on TV, even though we have six sports networks. Canadian broadcasters should be ashamed of themselves! We have some great athletes and no one even knows who they are.

Well thank heaven for Cyclingnews.com and for our neighbors. Thanks to their satellite, we'll actually get to see the Vuelta, which they have agreed to tape for us!

Marlene Blanshay
Montreal, Quebec
Friday, August 31

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OLN TV coverage

I wholeheartedly agree with Lou Frankel's letter regarding the OLN coverage of the Tour this year. First and foremost we had daily coverage in the USA for the first time that I can remember. Secondly, Bob Roll has ridden and completed the Tour on several occasions. In my book, he can pronounce 'Tour day Frantz' any darn way he pleases. And lastly, I've heard offhand that Bob Varsha really was infected with Tour fever this year, which can only mean that he will become more and more knowledgeable each race that he covers. Let's remember that each person that we bring to the team only helps our cause as cyclists. Kudos to OLN. I can't wait to see the Vuelta daily instead of having to wait for the darn video!

Matt Covert
Boston, MA, USA
Wednesday, August 29

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Cycle bashing #1

The stories of cycle bashing makes me recall a situation a friend related to me once.

This fellow was commuting to and from work in Denver, Colorado. Apparently, one day while at work, the weather changed and fairly heavy snow was falling by the time he left to ride home. Being on a road bike, this was a bit sketchy, but, though slow, he was making progress. At some point, a "redneck" passed a bit close, splashing him with slush while screaming at him to "get off the road!"

This upset my friend.

As it turns out, traffic backed up and my friend caught up to the redneck, now stuck in the traffic jam. Still being worked up over the earlier confrontation, he parked his bike, approached the car, rapped on the windshield and told the driver not to abuse cyclists. And, to drive home the point, he snapped off the windshield wipers and tossed them into a snowbank! He then got back on his bike and continued on his way, knowing that this "redneck" was now stuck to deal with wiper-less car on a very snowy night!

Bruce Lee
Redmond, WA
Wednesday, August 29

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Cycle bashing #2

They do make titanium pistols, but the best option is a Keltec .32 caliber, lightest (6 oz. unloaded) thinnest (.75") .32 in the world, they claim. Construction is composite frame, steel slide and barrel, very simple firearm, cost approx. $290. They also make a very light, thin, 9mm, but it is much larger then the .32 caliber.

Jad Sutton
USA
Wednesday, August 29

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Cycle bashing #3

Sorry, to hear about your incidents. If you think that is bad you should come down to Texas. Not only are drivers bad to cyclist 90 percent of the roads do not have shoulders. As far as guns, yes I have encountered a couple of riders that ride with them all the time. When I lived in Arizona 6 years ago I remember seeing this guy with a holster over his jersey -- just to make sure that everybody saw it.

William Liberato
Thursday, August 30

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Cycle bashing #4

I am sorry to hear that you do not feel that road users in the US show sufficient respect to cyclist and even resort to violence. I have been living in Manhattan now for a year and a half, having grown up in England and having lived in Spain for eight years and I do not share your opinion. I rode in England when I was a teenager and ride whenever I go back. People there drive twice as fast as they do here, they give you no space, they show little to no respect and I honestly feel unsafe on my bike there.

When I moved to Spain the situation was even worse and events such as the Ochoa brothers accident attest to it. An up and coming rider called Antonio Martin was also killed some years ago on the very same stretch of road I used to train on in Madrid. I eventually gave up riding when I was in Spain, probably due to a lack of clubs, events and the generally higher traffic related risks involved riding there. I started again when I moved to Manhattan.

I can now honestly say that I feel safer riding here in New York than I do riding anywhere else. I cannot comment on the rest of the US. I train nearly every day in Central Park and often go over the George Washington Bridge to New Jersey and upstate NY for longer training rides. I feel safe and I believe that motorists here generally show me the respect I expect.

Having said all of that, today I took my first "traffic tumble" as a limousine cut me up and knocked me to the Manhattan asphalt -- the exception confirms the rule, but I was lucky not to get hurt!

Marcus Gregory, An Englishman in New York
USA
Friday, August 31

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Cycle bashing #5

Yes, most of the major firearms manufacturers have at least 1 titanium revolver in their product line. I am not sure about semi-autos but you would probably want a revolver anyway; more tolerant to the occasional melted Powerbar goo.

Frederick Sawyer
USA
Monday, September 3

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Cycle bashing #6

All you guys around the world need to grow a spine and fight back. I live in Orange County Ca. More idiots per capita than any where else. After about 10 years of cycling in OC I've averaged 6 fist fights a year with a@# hole motorists. Don't get me wrong...I'm not picking fights and I'm very curious when necessary and do know the art of restraint. But I will defend my life with force when it is threaten by someone with a car. A lot of what they do IS intentional and If they want to try to kill me do it with your hands and not a 3500 lbs hunk of steel. Most will pull over thinking " hey I'm gonna kick the guy in the tights' ass". Once they do they realize that stopping to confront an angry guy who's legs are the size of tree trunks and whose heart rate is already at 175 was a bad idea. This is a worst case scenario. There is a lot more shouting but every once in a while I will throw down! The key is getting your shoes off fast!

Mark Salmon
Fullerton Ca.
Wednesday, August 29

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Cycle bashing #7

Yes, Smith and Wesson makes a .38 caliber revolver called the Airweight in aluminum or titanium. It's a popular gun for police officers like myself to carry strapped to their bullet proof vest or on the ankle. It also fits nicely in a Camelbak.

Chad Gagnier
USA
Wednesday, August 29

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Please, no letters about the pros and cons of firearms in general -- Letters Ed

Eurosport - An Alternative?

A dedicated European cycling channel would be nice but there is a way to get it now. If you live in Europe you get a satellite receiver and dish (I have a Humax) and you get your installer to fit two LNBs pointing at Astra 19 East and Hot Bird 13 East and you can get all the cycling you want. I get all 3 big tours either on Eurosport, German(ARD/ZDF) TV or Italian (RAI) TV plus all day coverage of the Henniger Turm on May 1st and the Hamburg World Cup race from start to finish. All the World Cup races are broadcast on RAI plus the small races virtually every week. Teledeportes TV on Hotbird covers all the Spanish races, I saw all of the Tour of Burgos albeit recorded at 9pm. Check the teletexts its all there. Total cost 2 years ago around 250 English pounds and I am informed it will last me a long time.

Bernard Slater
Yatton, UK
Wednesday, August 29

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Jan Ullrich

Concerning Jan Ullrich in the '96 and '97 Tours vs. the last two years, and the relative decline of his climbing ability, perhaps the most direct comparison you could make would be his time on Alpe d'Huez this year, vs. his time in '97 following Pantani. He finished 42 seconds off of Pantani's pace in '97, and 1.59 off Armstrong's slower pace his year, yet climbed the Alpe in the same manner, i.e. chasing both years.

In addition, he has never looked as smooth and powerful as he did on the '97 climb to Arcalis, where he held the bottom of the handle bars and basically time trialed to the top. I have searched for a possible explanation, because logically Ullrich should have improved over this period. He has experienced no important injuries. His overall decline is reminiscent of Fignon who succeeded at the same age, but Fignon had the knee problems. Anquetil had a great success at the age of 23 followed by three years in the wilderness, even Merckx never climbed with the same ease after '69, but his relative struggles in climbing are attributed to the derny accident. None of them had to deal with a rider like Armstrong, and if Lance wasn't there, Ullrich would be winning these Tours with ease, in the manner of Anquetil '61-'63 or Indurain, just sitting on the leaders in the mountains. Perhaps the loss of five -- ten pounds would make the difference, or a more imaginative attacking style. Historically, there has never been a more efficient rider than Lance Armstrong in the last three Tours, and Ullrich just had the bad luck to fall into the same era.

Andrew Turco
USA
Wednesday, August 29

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Eddy Merckx

Mr Keith Richards is free to believe that Eddy Merckx never used drugs during his career, but one can't say that because he only tested positive once, and under doubtful circumstances, he wasn't using anything. He might not have been, sure, but did Richard Virenque ever test positive for anything? Did Dufaux or Zülle or ... well, take your pick. Sadly, never having tested positive doesn't have a thing to do with being doped or not. Wish it did.

Anders P. Jensen
Korsĝr, Denmark
Wednesday, August 29

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Richard Virenque #1

I'd like to clarify that I don't hate Richard Virenque. "Hate" is a very strong word and I can say in all honesty that I don't hate anybody. However I would say that I "dislike" Virenque, in particular I dislike his racing tactics. When I first saw him perform well in the Tour de France (I think he won a Pyrenean stage), I thought that he was a great talent -- climbers always seem to enliven the race and it appeared that he had great promise. However I became disappointed in the way he won the five or six polka dot jerseys, even with an unassailable lead he would sprint like heck to win the remaining hill or mountain primes. Frederick Moncassin is quoted as saying that Virenque was a show off.

His tactics earned Virenque no respect in the bunch and this lack of respect is probably a main factor why no one would work with him when he had a chance of getting the Yellow jersey later in the 1997 Tour. Maybe he was hired to win the KOM jersey, in which case, mission accomplished, but I think with much less showmanship and playing to the crowd, he would have done better on GC and perhaps even won a Tour de France.

On second thoughts, given the revelations about systematic doping in the Festina team, and admissions over the last year, perhaps it's not even worth discussing what might have been?

The point I was trying to make about the future, is that it would be interesting to see how he gets on without EPO use. I predict that he will win a stage in the Vuelta. I won't like it, but that's the way it goes.

On a different topic -- Four CONSECUTIVE stage wins in the Tour -- as recently as Super Mario in 1999. OK one of the stages was because Tom Steels was relegated for dangerous riding, but not bad nevertheless.

The most victories in one Tour that I have found was eight by Charles Pelissier in the 1930 TdF, including 4 consecutive. Has anyone ever won more in one Tour?

Patrick Douglas
Leeds, England
Wednesday, August 29

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Richard Virenque #2

I would like to give a small reaction to comments of Peter Janssens. What has Virenque done? He was just the most prominent figure in the biggest doping scandal in recent years. What has he done to Patrick Douglas or myself? He has defrauded the sport that we watch and love. Seeing the promo clip of his mountain top win in the TdF ahead of Ulrich where he kisses his index finger and points to the sky like "I'm #1" makes me sick. He isn't number one and never will be in my book.

James Wilson
Columbia, SC USA
Thursday, August 30

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Tour 1989 #1

I really would have wished for a tie between LeMond and Fignon in 1989 as they both deserved to win. We know that Guimard made the mistake of asking for permission for innovations from officials before using them, like for the delta handlebar which was refused as too aerodynamic, while LeMond just went ahead used his tri-bars and won (same method as used by Moser in Mexico on the hour).

It is also well known that Fignon could not sit properly on his bike that last day due to a really bad saddle sore. LeMond, without a team, rode very intelligently in that TdF and I would certainly not call him a wheel-sucker for it. Fignon was also known for his arrogance, however he was not so arrogant as to believe he had won the Tour after the 17th stage in l'Alpe d'Huez where he took the yellow jersey, 26 seconds ahead of LeMond. So the next day he attacked again on the short stage to Villars-de-Lans, afraid that 26 s would not be enough for the downhill TT of the last day. The day towards Villars-de-Lans, 18th stage, Sean Kelly handed the Tour to LeMond. Even fighting the wind alone Fignon was building a huge lead against LeMond, Delgado, Theunisse, Rooks, Kelly, Lejarreta, Alcala, over one minute gap if my memory serves me right, until Kelly started his bit at the front of the LeMond group.

I had always wondered why Kelly suddenly started doing LeMond's job. There was nothing in it for him and his PDM teammates Theunisse and Rooks. I had to come to the conclusion that the isolated and team-less LeMond spoke to Kelly about how nice it would be to make a new addition to his house and Kelly agreed and handed the Tour to LeMond. Funny nobody seems to remember that episode.

François Siohan
Switzerland
Thursday, August 30

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Tour 1989 #2

"[Laurent] Fignon was a crybaby and had no character", Mr Richard Clayton of Atlanta, Georgia, writes. I don't want to go into the Fignon vs. LeMond-debate (I think Delgado should've won!), but come on! Laurent Fignon might have cried when he lost the Tour in 1989, but he was (and is) certainly no crybaby, and, like him or not, he had ten times more "star quality", ten times more panache, than the sympathetic, easy-going Greg LeMond.

Anders P. Jensen
Korsĝr, Denmark
Wednesday, August 29

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Tour 1989 #3

Just a quick note about the Tri-Bars. I don't know if Fignon has access to them during the 89 Tour. All I can say is, I sent him a pair of Profile for Speed and he used them to shatter the course record in the Grand Prix d' Nations. He used that pair of bars I sent to him. Bill Powers, owner of Profile at the time, called me to give me the news.

Stuart Laing
Tempe AZ, USA
Wednesday, August 29

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Tour 1989 #4

I have enough respect for Fignon to know he has the maturity to accept his loss to LeMond. He certainly has the panache not to blame everything from LeMond "wheel-sucking" to LeMond's use of "unfair" time trial bars for his loss. I'm also certain Fignon has moved on with his life, as can be seen with his stewardship of Paris-Nice.

Mr. Richard is entitled to go on and on about how LeMond was not a true champion, and I suspect he'll be railing against LeMond 50 years from now. And that's a pity. Richard is doomed to believe that it is panache that should be rewarded the maillot jeune. Many riders rode the Tour with panache, from Chiapucci to Jacky Durand. It is an admirable quality, but not a reason for wearing the yellow jersey. He also misses completely the drama that is the Tour. He misses the notion that the Tour is a reflection of man confronting and triumphing over adversity. That drama is what makes each Tour so memorable. In 1989, the drama was LeMond confronting his ability as a cyclist. The drama was about self-doubt. He almost died from his gunshot wounds. He developed tendonitis. Physically, he was not the same. He was "damaged goods" and finally signed on with the ADR team, a team that was designed more for the Spring classics than for grand tours. In the 1989 Giro, where he was trying to find his form, he was getting dropped in the mountains, losing massive time. Self doubt loomed large. But there were positive signs as well. He had beaten Fignon in every head-to-head time trial that year, including the time trial from Prato to Florence in the Giro ( which Fignon won). LeMond used aero bars in that TT, and Fignon could have too.

(In fact, the first use of aero bars took place in the Tour de Trump, by the 7/11 team. For the Tour, 7/11 brought in Merckx to argue for the inclusion of the bars, which the officials did).

So the situation was: 1. LeMond was not the same rider physically as the one in '86. 2. His ADR team was very weak in the mountains. 3. His strength was in time trials. To counter 1. and 2., he had to ride smarter, not harder. As for 3., he had to improve his superiority there to gain as much time as possible.

That was what he had to do. That is what he did. I'm sorry for Mr. Richard if he doesn't see that.

As for examples of panache, look at his victory in the '83 World's.

Leonard Ke
San Francisco, CA
Thursday, August 30

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Tour 1989 #5

There is one reason, and one reason alone why LeMond won and Fignon lost the Tour 1989. Fignon did not use any aerodynamic materials (bike, helmet) in the final time trial, LeMond did. Research showed that Fignon would have won the Tour if he had only put on an 'egg helmet'.

Bert Saarloos
Netherlands
Saturday, September 1

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Tour 1989 #6

I am a great fan of asking "what if" about the 1989 Tour. However, it seems as though all this discussion about whether LeMond was truly stronger than Fignon, or vice-versa, misses the bottom line: both men were clearly weaker than Delgado, who would have won had he not foolishly lost almost ten minutes during the first two days.

Sebastian Lecourt
Napa Valley, CA
Wednesday, August 29

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Tour 1989 #7

To quote one of sports great characters "....you cannot be serious!" Fignon falls into the McEnroe camp in terms of personality; he was a real asset to the sport and one of the last truly flamboyant individuals in the peloton.

his attacks in the 1989 Tour, and in subsequent Tours, Worlds and Classics, when he was in the twilight stage of his career, demonstrate quite clearly his tenacious attacking style. And who could ever forget Fignon as a young man, successful in two Tours despite the presence of all time greats Bernard Hinault, Zootemelk and the like. Don't forget his Giro win either.

Fignon's palmares is probably equal to LeMond's but so little is said about him. I'm such a big fan I even named my cat after him! And the cats a star too...

Keith Richards
Leeds UK
Wednesday, August 29

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Velodromes world-wide

Hello Chuck and Cyclingnews.com, I read your letter with great interest. I am part of a small group that is trying to save the 200m, wooden, indoor velodrome in Burnaby, BC, Canada from closure by the City Council and Parks and Rec Board. The velodrome is now closed and has been for 4 months, but it is looking at demolition in the near future.

The track itself is in quite good shape but the roof on the facility needs replacing in the next year along with other building deficiencies. There are various plans out there from an engineering firm ranging from $600,000 to $1M and non of these plans include cycling to continue but rather make more space for other multi-sport courts. The City has sited safety as the issue on the track, but having ridden quite a few tracks world wide I find Burnaby as safe or safer than most. There has been a bad history between the City and a few groups that have run the track in the past but for the past 18 months the ship has been righted and there was financial stability found with lottery grants.

At this point we are looking for more help with any ideas on Government funding and we have made a recent proposal to run the facility as a Development training center under the Canadian Cycling Association or PacificSport Group who head regional/national training centers in BC. This training center idea would allow for track programs for school kids and new riders while continuing the racing/riding program. Many of Canada's top track cyclists train on Burnaby with the National team having used Burnaby for a winter training site the past two years. The idea of a different track surface is intriguing as the surface of the track now is difficult to repair due to the original construction methods. It is also interesting to note that the largest and third largest cities in Canada are or will be velodromeless from a country that has a rich heritage in track cycling. Any ideas would be appreciated and any more information on this new composite surface would be nice.

Jeremy Storie
Canada
Monday, September 3

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Where is Cipo?

The following is pasted straight from the Saeco web site. Does that help? I found this but I've not seen if he did in fact race, or what's up next.

Press release: 21/08/2001

Cipollini back at the 'Bernocchi' on Thursday

The much awaited return to racing by Mario Cipollini will take place on Thursday at the Coppa Bernocchi race. Since winning stages at the Giro d'Italia, Cipollini had only ridden a few criteriums (in one of which he recently hurt his wrist). The Tuscan sprinter will use the Bernocchi one day race to test his form and so decide with the Saeco team, his race programme for the rest of the season.

Carole
Adelaide, Australia
Sunday, September 2

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Who pays Post Office?

In response to C. Parks: The general activities of the U.S. Postal Service are not funded with tax money, and have not been since 1982 when postage stamps ceased to be a form of taxation. They are funded with revenues generated by the U.S. Postal operations themselves.

The following is courtesy of About.com (http://usgovinfo.about.com/blpostalservice.htm):

"According to the laws under which it now operates, the U.S. Postal Service is a semi-independent federal agency, mandated to be revenue-neutral. That is, it is supposed to break even, not make a profit.

In 1982, U.S. postage stamps became "postal products," rather than a form of taxation. Since then, The bulk of the cost of operating the postal system has been paid for by customers through the sale of "postal products" and services rather than taxes."

There are a few exceptions to this however. A few areas, albeit far from cycling-related expenses, are funded by tax money:

"The USPS does get some taxpayer support. Around $96 million is budgeted annually by Congress for the "Postal Service Fund." These funds are used to compensate USPS for postage-free mailing for all legally blind persons and for mail-in election ballots sent from US citizens living overseas. A portion of the funds also pays USPS for providing address information to state and local child support enforcement agencies, and for keeping some rural posts offices in operation."

That is roughly $.55 from each of the 174 million working-age adults in the U.S. (Year 2000 data per Ameristat, August, 2001), for some worthwhile activities.

Ronald Adolph
Wisconsin, USA
Wednesday, August 29

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Schmoo RIP

I only heard last night that Schmoo had died and feel a lot more gutted than I thought I would.

The bloke was loud, very loud and he was an expert at winding people up. He wound me up plenty, but for the number of times that I hated his outspoken viewpoints and rules to suit himself, the good of the man and the help he gave me during my years of cycle racing outweighed that plenty.

Easily some of the best days of my life was when I joined the Schmoo's cycle club, the amount of times he lent us the van to go to races was unbelievable and if there was no race on somehow he would know of a little obscure race in the back of beyond that we could do and what a buzz to turn up there with the team and the mad colors we wore:-)

Schmoo also raced and I'll always remember after a race and talking to the other riders or even spectators, they would mention Schmoo and his jelly babies. He always raced at a leisurely pace and ended up helping people with mechanical problems and making sure they were well fed:-) Although he would nearly always finish last, by the end of the race so many riders had met him, conversed and sampled his jelly babies, he was the star of the day!

Very colorful, very outspoken, an expert at winding people up but an absolute ambassador for the sport of MTB and Cycle X.

I was part of the Schmoo's Cycle team for a while doing MTB racing and one day I tried Cycle X, I loved it but the races were not in my opinion as good as they could have been. I told Schmoo and other members of the cycle club about the races and how good they were and Schmoo got right into it, he raised the profile of the sport in Wales to very organized racing and traveled up and down the country to improve the sport and make sure that Welsh cyclists had a say (in his case this was a very LOUD say).

The Schmoo's cycle club and shop will keep going and the memory of Schmoo will live on. He loved cycling and was at the start of MTBing in the UK, I always remember that he brought a video to one of the club meets of the 88 or 89 series and it was Schmoo's v Raleigh with the maddest thing being the MTB advert saying something like -- Schmoo's cyclists use the cool suspension Flexstem stem, you know it makes sense :-)

He lost a fortune sending his team to compete at the world races but that was Schmoo, wherever you were or whatever the place there was one thing for sure, Schmoo would know the exact times for every cat of race, who was racing, the riders likely to win, how many were racing in each cat, the latest cycling add on that would do well, plus he'd have a huge bag of jelly babies and would also etc, etc, etc -- he was a walking encyclopedia for the sport of MTBing/Cycle X:-)

Nigel Saunders
Swansea, Wales
Wednesday, August 29

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The last month's letters

  • 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