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Letters to Cyclingnews September 11, 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.
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S.F. Grand Prix
Thank you for your live reports which kept me aware of the status of riders in the S.F. Grand Prix. Without your reports, I would not have known what was happening in an event in which I was most interested. I thought surely some portion of the race would have been televised. Maybe next year?
I'm a 64 y/o grandmother and a recent convert to the sport of cycling, through my appreciation of Lance and his accomplishments, on and off the bike. Of course, this appreciation has grown to include all the Posties. Way to go, George Hincapie! I look forward to hearing more details about the race.
Mary Ann Kelley
After having previously read the French version of Willy Voet's "Breaking The Chain" ("Massacre à la Chaîne"), I have just finished reading the English version. Why, in the English version, have names such as Sean Kelly and Eric Caritoux been omitted and simply replaced with notations such as "a rider"? The names of the Festina riders in the mid to late 90s were all included, so why the omission of others? Surely it is the responsibility of the translator to reproduce the original version as closely as possible. If this is for legal reasons, then this is perfectly understandable, but then why is the French version still available? This smacks of an effort to make an example of the Festina team and to not draw attention to others. If Voet included the names in his original version, then they should also be included in the translation.
Leonard Zinn wrote a tech article about the use of altitude tents, and one fact that was particularly interesting was that they increased total blood volume, as well as concentrations of hemoglobin. I am sure there is a doctor in the house who might be able to further enlighten us about the particulars.
I think this just shows that modern training methods are in-tents - Letters Ed
I have an old Oscar Egg racing bicycle hanging in my garage. I estimate it to be 50-70 years old. I have been trying unsuccessfully for weeks on the internet to find some information regarding this brand. I would like to restore it, but am afraid to touch it until I know more about its history. The only thing I know about Oscar Egg is that he took some world hour records circa 1910-1914. What should I do? I cant find anyone who is familiar enough with this brand to supply me with any advice, or information.
Thank you for your time, and your response.
Does anyone have any experience or information on high BP and cycling? I am 59 and been racing and training regularly for the past 7 years including doing the climbs to Cat. 1 at this year's TdF. However while staying with friends in UK whose uncle was monitoring his BP, they took mine for something to do and it was high (170+/110+). I had this checked out when home and am now on Atenolol / Hypernol 50 gm per day for 30 days and have been told no exercise. This seems extreme but am obeying the doctor. At least my weight is coming down due to the diet!
I would have thought some aerobic exercising would be good for me - and cycling has to be the best for that.
Obviously I wear a HRM anyway so have a record of what the HR should be resting and normal and riding.
Any input welcome.
If Mr. Armstrong is so naturally "head and shoulders above the rest" what was he doing finishing six minutes behind, among many, his loyal lieutenant Rubiera on the first mountain stage in the recent Tour of Burgos and subsequently dropping out after the first lap in Zurich where his heavily-raced Tour rival manages a strong second. Regardless of the fact that he was out on the talk show circuit, meeting presidents, etc. his wife's journal (www.lancearmstrong.com/kc) curiously affirms "Lance has continued to train throughout because his racing season isn't over yet." To go from world-beater to very average in a short month seems perplexing.
I don't dispute Armstrong's extraordinary athletic capabilities. What's keeping him from demonstrating more often a modest sampling of that talent?
SSRIs like Buproprion can be prescribed to relieve chronic pain in patients, and often, that pain has no physiological basis. Essentially, it has been approved by the FDA as a pain perception-altering drug. A cyclist on an SSRI might have a higher pain threshold, which could theoretically enhance performance, but there is no such thing as a free lunch, as it might also have other effects that decrease performance. The IOC is probably justified in being cautious and banning it.
The thought of someone carrying a handgun during cycling is pretty silly. Leave it up to road cyclists to think of carrying a titanium one no less (why bother when you can get a polymer one?). You should never carry a handgun unless you have the means to fully control it and I wouldn't believe anyone who told me they could do that and ride a bike. If you do get into a situation where you find a handgun is necessary, it would mean slowing down, getting off the bike, getting the gun out, and aiming it. Given that your adrenaline is probably pumping at this point, you'd most likely need to use two hands to control the handgun. Anyone who is even considering carrying a handgun during a ride should ask themselves if they see themselves doing all the above things or if they think they're gonna be modern day Wild Bill's and shoot while on the bike (and possibly hit Grandpa and Grandma Smith driving home). If you are feeling so victimized that you decide to carry a gun while riding, you should either find a new route, ride in groups for safety, or stay home and ride the trainers. I road ride and I own a handgun. I couldn't possibly imagine combining the two unless it was some sort of mutated sort of biathlon. That would be kinda' funny actually, 'cross and pistol shooting (but only if it's with a Desert Eagle).
Cycle bashing #2
I may be old school, but a Silca frame pump with a Campy metal head is handy for aggressive dogs and drivers. Plus, it's cheaper than a pistol and you can fix a flat! ;-)
Cycle bashing #3
In response to Mark "Fishstix" Salmon's letter.
Mark, as a single speed rider your actions are somewhat suspect anyway. I however, as a skinny, Palm Desert dwelling, fellow Tri-A-Bike alumnus find that my best option is a well placed water bottle, followed by a bunny hop over the curb and down the side street to safety. Plus my cleats do not get scuffed in any way with this method.
Cycle bashing #4
I have long thought that it is appropriate and necessary to respond to the intentional threat of bodily injury from an automobile. It is so refreshing to see the above letters, and to realize that I am not alone. I get sick and tired of my riding buddies telling me to just go with the flow, and not get so worked up.
Cycle bashing #5
I opened my local paper recently and was horrified to see the following headline: "Local Cyclist Shot While Riding to Work". I live in a fairly rural area (Lancaster County, Pennsylvania - best known for its large Amish community). Apparently this man was riding to work at 5am - as he does every day - and someone drove by and shot him in the neck. He survived, but is of course still in the hospital. I do my daily training rides during my lunch hour, and try to avoid riding when it's not at least partially light out. But it really is terrifying to think that you could be next. As a side note, I used to carry a small handgun while riding when I lived in a rural area in Texas (Abilene). It was not for people, however, but for dogs. My first week there, I was chased by a large pack of strays, who probably would have torn me apart had I been unable to out-sprint them. I was so scared that I began carrying the pistol if I was riding out in the country. Honestly never thought of using it on people, but now that one of my cycling neighbors has been shot in the neck, maybe I should re-think it.
Duncan M. Granger
Cycle bashing #6
While I generally can't stand the abuse I receive from motorists, particularly on the rural roads in northern Colorado, I notice that the abuse seems to be a response to many of the cyclists who break the laws of the road on our group rides in my area. I've tried riding with several groups over the last few months but feel really intimidated by the fact that we can't obey the rules of the road. I enjoy riding with others, but when that means running stop signs in town, and forming a large blob of cyclists on roads with no shoulders, surely some motorists are going to develop a grudge! I think that if we are to continue riding in our area and develop positive feedback from the motorists (obviously not all drivers are going to change), then we need to change our bad habits also.
I think Martin Pearce needs to come back to real world, the reason there isn't an Australian pro team is because sponsorship is so hard to get and until cycling gets more media coverage the big sponsors aren't going to bother. They'd rather put money into a sport that is guaranteed worldwide coverage and results (Rugby, swimming, cricket, etc). More people play soccer than ride bikes in Australia and you've got soccer teams going to the wall due to lack of sponsorship. Like any Australian I would love to see a Aussie pro team but when you have the Linda McCartney team debacle, Mercury collapsing and apparently a few other teams struggling, a sponsor would not take the risk. You say $12 million, my god what would they get for that kind of money, probably not a lot. I'm afraid it's a catch 22 situation and that's life.
Australian pro team #2
I agree with Martin Pearce (letters, Sept 5), it would be awesome to see an Australian Pro Team in Europe - we've certainly got the cyclists and the cycling heritage to get behind one.
One point though - while it may be great to see a Div.1 team, maybe we should aim for a Div.2 team to get started, it would make the costs a little easier to bear. Bear in mind also that the sponsor has to be someone with product in Europe, otherwise what's the point in advertising over there - Dick Smith may not be the best choice, but Fosters, now there's an idea. They support the Grand Prix, cycling is a whole new audience for them.
Simon van der Aa
If I may add this to all that's been written about David McKenzie... I was the race announcer at the defunct Tour Trans-Canada (September 1999), in which McKenzie was wearing the Linda McCartney colours, and I was also on duty in the Grand Prix de Beauce three months ago (UCI 2.4), when David came back to Canada with Ficonseils.
Man, what a gap between those two set-ups! A year and a half after seeing him race under the supervision of the great Sean Yates, it was just a pity looking at him and his mates working with the very low-budget third division GS Ficonseils Swiss team. I mean, their soigneur had to run around the feed zones every day making sure she'd recover the empty bottles, as she was running out of them and didn't have the allowance to buy new ones... There you had a former Giro stage winner riding for a team unworthy of his talent, yet David, who also felt a little homesick at the time, managed to win the fourth stage in a sprint, and ended up 15th on final GC (Henk Vogels was the overall winner).
The night after Beauce, David was telling me how he hoped for the creation of a top level Australian team, and how he urgently needed that boost in his prime years as a pro.
So, what's the point here ? Well, once again, I just needed to add my bit to all the good things that have been said about this outstanding pro cyclist. How can a gentleman with his talent, professionalism, dedication and contagious laughter be unofficially unemployed? Beats me!
I would think that a 2000 Giro stage winner of Italian, French or Spanish nationality, to name those few, who be under contract with a solid team up until the end of the 2002 season. At the time the Linda McCartney set-up came undone, only a few lucky ones were able to relocate, as most major teams had already settled their rosters. It seems unfair that McKenzie was laid out cold.
For him and for other excellent Australian riders (look out for "survivor" Matt Wilson now!), the idea of a first division Aussie team recently alluded to by Martin Pearce is appealing, although it shouldn't be the only solution for "Macca" to race amongst the best again.
Hey friend, good luck in the Sun Tour, and yes, we're all keeping our fingers crossed for you.
Everyone states that Lance promised to ride for Heras in the Vuelta. Where is this stated? Did Lance say this in an interview? Did Heras? These guys make a lot of money and they know their roles on the team. Heras was brought to the postal team to support lance and he is well paid for his services. In every statement that I have read from Heras, he talks about learning from lance, not a "I ride for him and he rides for me" relationship.
Jeff Jones responds: I have had a pretty good look in our archives and couldn't find any such statement. He did say during the big TdF interview that "I would like to go to the Vuelta and ride in support of Heras, but it's 50-50". This issue have been started by press speculation when Postal signed Heras that Heras would help Armstrong in the Tour in return for reciprocal assistance in the Vuelta, but as far as we can tell this was never stated explicitly.
To say that Jan Ullrich has declined since he won the Tour de France is ridiculous. His record in the Tour de France is incredible (2nd, 1st, 2nd, DNS, 2nd, 2nd). If Lance Armstrong had missed the Tour this year for whatever reason, everybody would be saying how Ullrich had returned to his form of '97. Also don't forget Ullrich's other achievements (Vuelta, Worlds TT, Olympics). He has not declined at all, it's just that in July Armstrong is even better than he is.
What has happened to José Azevedo of ONCE? Did very well in the Giro (fifth overall) but was left out of ONCE's team for the Tour and is now also not in the team for the Vuelta's?
João Santa Clara
In the '80s there was a rated R cartoon movie called Heavy Metal, where a boy picks up a nuclear marble and is transformed into superman, that is what I think of when I see Lance.
I think big track sprinters should try what Lance did, transform your body and you will be able to climb
Responses to R. Holmes recent letter questioning the incredible performances of Lance Armstrong in Le Tour this past year have put forth a number hypotheses as to why this might be the case. New training methods, greater knowledge of the course, perfection of a "new" technique (i.e., high cadence pedaling), and a sense of determination beyond that of those who have come before him are all plausible reasons we have had the opportunity to view such amazing performances. Please add to this list genetics, and focus.
One letter writer came closest to discussing the issue of genetics in stating that one or two riders in just about every generation seem to be better than their peers. Yes, doping may be the reason for this in some cases. But in a sport such as cycling some individuals will always out-perform others simply because the genetics they possess (in combination with all of the other factors mentioned) allow them the opportunity to do so. Regardless of the time and effort we put into training, the food we eat, our technique, and determination, the large majority of us will never come close to equaling Armstrong or any other professional rider with respect to our performance. Just as there are genetically-based differences between those of us mortals and professional riders, there are genetically-based differences between professional riders too. (Why did Armstrong contract testicular cancer while most cyclists never have to deal with this disease?)
Some years ago, I read an article in a cycling publication on Miguel Indurain. The article gave Miguel's maximum heart rate as 198 bpm. That in itself is not amazing. What dropped my jaw was that his anaerobic threshold was stated to be 192 bpm. What this effectively means is that the guy could perform at approximately 96 percent of his maximum heart rate without going anaerobic. How many cyclists/readers, regardless of the type, intensity, or quality of training they do could produce numbers that even come close to this? The point is, genetics makes a difference and some individuals are more genetically gifted than others.
On the point of focus; it should be remembered that Armstrong, for reasons with which people may agree or not, really has a single focus. Performing well at the Tour. All of his training, all of his energies are focused on this one event. This focus is far beyond that of just about any other cyclist, including just about all of his contemporaries. Jan Ullrich, who is quite focused on the Tour himself, is still racing and will compete in the upcoming world's. Lance is basically done for season and I might suspect already readying himself for what he and many others hope will be Tour victory number four in 2002. Does this make him a better cyclist than those who race from March until October? At least at the Tour this seems to be the case. Is he a better overall cyclist than those who currently race or in the past raced the Classics in April, the Tour in July and the world's in October. This is quite a bit more debatable. Coming from the U.S., a country in which most people believe that their is only one cycling race a year, may actually be an advantage for Lance in this case. Could he restrict himself to a race schedule similar to the one he currently keeps if he was Italian, or French. I'm not certain, but it would surely be far more difficult if those sponsoring him desired for his name and, of course, their product to be in the public eye for more than 21 days in July.
Tour climbing times #2
David Walsh's method of accusation bears a striking resemblance to the methods used historically in inquisitions and witch hunts, with no less effect. It starts with the general Premise that one cannot do "A" without doing or having done "B". There are no hard questions about whether the Premise is absolutely correct or capable of proof. As in this case, a few pieces of circumstantial evidence may be offered to prove that it is such a clear and common truth that it is beyond question. This is enough to convince many people that the accused must be guilty, effectively shifting the burden of proof to the accused. In this case, it appears to end the trial because the science of cheating precedes and outpaces the science of testing. There is no way to prove innocence. But, with any accusation it is appropriate to analyze the validity of the premise upon which it is based.
David Walsh's premise that Armstrong could not perform the way he does without cheating is just like Armstrong's innocence - incapable of proof. There is no direct physiological evidence that Armstrong's performance is beyond natural human capability. The comparative evidence to past greats does not scientifically account for differences in, among others, diet, training regimen, racing schedule, use of altitude tents, use of wind tunnels for cyclist-specific training and bike design, chemotherapy's potential effect on power/weight ratios and team strategy. Without this analysis, there is no underlying support for the premise, and no real case against Armstrong. It leaves Mr. Walsh to cast shadows with innuendo, statements of self-proclaimed cheaters, and like his predecessors in inquisition, with a wink and a nod.
Mr. Holmes asks how he can believe in Armstrong's innocence, but the real question for all of us is whether we should render judgment when there is so little real proof? Clearly, the answer is no.
One of the key differences between LA early 1990s and now is that he weighs significantly less now. This helps him very little on the track, while the reduced power hurts him. Conversely, the decreased weight is more important than the loss of power for a long climb, as long as the weight change is optimized, which I suspect it is due to the amount of analytical assessment that has reported gone into LA's training. Finally, there are a variety of psychological advantages that also may help LA. When you know that you are the best, it is possible to push a little more out - call it a combination of pride, incentive etc. My own experience is that I always worked my hardest on climbs. I just raced as a Cat III US rider for a couple of years and also ran marathons. I could always beat people on climbs that would beat me on the flats because that is where I place my own reputation. Time trials are referred to as the "race of truth," but Lance (and others) has shown us both how to use your team in the mountains and also how these climbs are the race of truth.
There may also be a role for greater mental discipline during a climb. On the flats, especially for the Hour, the effort is constant and the speed is constant. On climbs the terrain varies and keeping the optimal effort is harder to do. Also, it usually is optimal not to do the exactly same level of effort at all times, but to work at the highest rate on the steepest pitches. This is one of the places where preparation - repeatedly climbing the important Tour climbs ahead of time - adds to the advantage.
Finally, keep in perspective the time differences that are being considered here. Lance won the Tour by 6+ minutes over some 3500+ km, and was better by 4+ minutes in the hundreds of kilometers in the mountains. This is a very small percentage difference. The differences between champions and the others have usually been cited as being 90 percent psychological. While this number is far too high (Frank Shorter, the US marathon Olympic champion - and second the other time to an East German that was admittedly assisted by "drugs" said that if you want to be an Olympic champion that you need to pick your parents carefully), it is also part of the explanation of the difference between the rider that gets 99.9+ percent from him- or herself and the others who get only 99.7 percent (I also do not buy the phrase 110 percent effort, trying too hard hinders performance). Thus, as several writers have noted, someone is going to be the best at each point in time. Being the best is not evidence of being artificially assisted, even if they are beating others who are so assisted (I could take all the drugs technically available and not hold candle to any good Tour rider, and I am probably in the top fraction of one percent of the population).
PS I appreciate the efforts made on this and many other topics by the wide variety of writers appearing on this site.
Marco Pantani is one of the great characters in cycling. He should be applauded because of what he has achieved, considering what he has been through. Accident, Giro '99 etc. One of the great moments was when he passed rider, after rider to win a mountain stage in the '99 Giro. We will all miss him if he no longer continues in cycling. As for being a cry-baby, I wonder how all of us would be able to cope with the accusations and pressure, Marco Pantani has had to put up with. Finally what happened to innocent until proven guilty? Does Alex Zülle put up with the same crap? No, I think some people want Marco to be guilty, so they can continue to make copy. Why let the truth get in the way of a good newspaper article.
Marco Pantani #2
In response to Vert Hallahan, Pantani never tested positive because he was never tested for EPO. High haematocrit is a result of EPO use, but until recently neither the UCI nor any of the national cycling federations tested for it. As one of Shakespeare's characters once said, "Methinks he doth protest too much." I used to have a lot of admiration for Pantani - no more since his high haematocrits. If he had a naturally high haematocrit, as some riders do, he could have obtained a waiver from the UCI for the 50 percent limit (I believe Jonathan Vaughters has one, as do a few others). So his high haematocrits seem to be unexplained by any natural reason. My admiration will return, should he obtain some respectable results without a high haematocrit or positive EPO test (although the current EPO test can only detect use in the last few days, so a negative does not rule out that the rider used in preparation for an event).
Duncan M. Granger
Can anyone think back to the music used for the 1989 TdF on Channel 4 (GB). The music I have in mind was used to run as a background for the 'Race so far...' sequence showing the ups and downs of the LeMond/Fignon tussle prior to the final phenomenal time trial.
I wrote to C4 ages ago but they were unable to come up with the name - although they said it was by Pete Shelley (presumably of the Buzzcocks). I still have the program (and the music) on VHS tape but have always wanted to get hold of the music if it is / was on CD. It's a great bit of music, predominantly lead with (what sounds like) horns, has a nice tempo and is quite distinctive - if that's any use.
I have gradually pulled together some of the music used as backing tracks and want to compile it for my own use onto tape.
Any clues? I'd like to be inundated with replies - someone must know the piece.
Thank you to the knowledgeable people in the cycling world that wrote regarding my response to OLN's tremendous coverage of the Tour de France. I look forward to being fortunate to have a neighbor with a satellite dish who is recording the 21 days of the Vuelta. I look forward again to great daily coverage. those than can't get this OLN coverage, eat your hearts out, and those that do get it don't you dare complain of a thing.
OLN coverage #2
After having gone many years with little or no coverage of events that I care most about, I am enormously appreciative of the coverage provided by OLN. As with all televised events, I would have different choices of what I would like to see at various moments (OLN does a good job of keeping updated information on time gaps, but this is one thing that I would like to see even more of), but the coverage is good and probably getting better at a faster rate than my recently upgraded standards.
I watched much more of the Giro than I had thought that I would, in part to better understand a grand tour. I like the lead trio of reporters and, while Bob Varsha is not as interesting to me, certainly a significant component of this has to do with his role in the telecast. In loyalty to the broadcast, I do not tune away from the ads like I do in almost any other telecast; however, the broadcasters should realize that many of the viewers will watch a lot of the coverage and overly repetitive ads quickly lose their appeal, and hence their value (I don't even remember the product in the ad where the fellow runs onto the field...). By contrast, during last year's Tour, Steve Larsen was on a large number of times for Mongoose, but with some variation in the spots and with some interesting footage. I even found myself cheering for him and disappointed that he was left off of the Olympic team (and he recently won an Ironman-format triathlon by turning in a sterling bike leg and running an adequate marathon).
I do find myself wishing that OLN would expand coverage (and decrease the time lag in showing) of the important road races, but I think that I understand the strategy of consistent coverage of MTB events (they are shorter, closer to home, and repeated coverage at the same time slots educates viewers and encourages return viewing).
I have a collection of profiles of the Giro and Tour but I have not been able to find the years 1970 and 1980. Can anyone help?
Jose Maria Matarranz
OK folks, I've achieved my aim!
When I wrote my first letter on this subject I opened it with words to the effect of 'lets open up a can of worms...' I was mischievously probing to see just how deep feelings might run on this, without ever wanting to get too serious about it all. I didn't really expect people to care so much!
What does appear to be clear is that bike fans in the States think far more highly of Greg LeMond than do Europeans; at least amongst CyclingNews' readership. So, apologies for raising the hairs on the backs of 50 percent of the US' cycling population. I do hope no-one will come to look for me tooled up with a titanium/carbon fiber shooter, slung in a Kevlar belted holster!
A more serious point is that cycling has to be about the rider not the technology and I don't think the UCI should ever allow this situation to develop again. I don't ever want to witness another debacle such as LeMond's bars, Moser's back wheel or Obree's egg position again - it is not what the sport is about and it devalues a riders achievements very considerably.
We can't turn back the clock and make Fignon win, nor can we take equipment back to the Merckx era but I don't believe that the introduction of Tri bars, disc wheels and the like has added anything positive to the sport. What the UCI could do is impose a blanket ban on any new products until they have been tested, approved and made readily available to all riders before being used in a race. Especially in a race of the Tour's stature.
Whatever is said about Fignon's failure to use tri bars on that fateful day, I maintain that LeMond won because of the advantage gained by his use of them. And that is my last bit of mischief on the subject.
Tour 1989 #2
I have watched this sport very intensely for the last twenty five years, and it is not possible to not deserve to win if you are that close. Both Fignon and LeMond deserved to win, and I wish Fignon had won another Tour before he retired, but you can't change history.
You can make the argument that LeMond was not the strongest rider in the race, which he wasn't, or that Kelly gave him the Tour, which is an unfair accusation, but the fact is LeMond won. I'm from the States, but to be honest, Delgado was my favorite rider and I was pulling for him, so I'm not defending LeMond because I was a fan. Neither Fignon nor LeMond should've won the Tour that year, but they did. In 1989, Delgado was far and away the best rider in the Tour, and probably the world, but he blew it. I don't think he is the rightful winner because it was his fault that he lost. Anyone who thinks otherwise was either not watching the race or would just not admit it. Fignon could've used triathlete bars, but he didn't. Both were and still are deserving champions.
T. O. Duff
Tour 1989 #3
Of the thousands of men who have competed in this event during the last near-century, there is such a tiny fraction of them who have won a stage - and an even smaller fraction of them who have won the race. To denigrate the achievements of any competitor is pretty small potatoes. Remember not only how tough it has always been just to finish a Grand Tour, but also how many good riders don't even get the chance to enter the event - whether from political decisions like 2001 or earlier individual and team exclusions. Saeco and Mercatone-Uno are certainly not the first teams to be deliberately overlooked in the history of racing.
The last month's letters