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Letters to Cyclingnews –April 04, 2002

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

Cipollini and Paris-Roubaix
Milano-San Remo Live
To the top of the Mont Ventoux
Lance Armstrong Article
Cyclists as second class citizens
Marcel Wust
Atrial Fibrilation
Raybestos Brakes Advertisement
Question Regarding knee patches
Roland Green winning the Canadian Athlete of the year
Morton's Neuroma
Lieswyn diary on Valley of the Sun
April Foolishness

Cipollini and Paris-Roubaix

First and foremost I would like to give my congratulations to Mario Cipollini. What a fitting champion for one of Italy's greatest races. Now the World Cup leader, him and his brand new team have been invited to "Paris-Roubaix." Seeing Cipo in the conditions that the "Hell of the North" offer should be a great treat since I can't ever recall seeing him dirty or suffering, and if he plans to defend his jersey then he will have to do both.(Visit the race gallery)

Doug Kouba
California, USA
Saturday, March 30, 2002

Editor's note: This letter was sent in before Cipollini decided to pull out of Paris-Roubaix, declaring it "too dangerous". So you won't see him or his Acqua e Sapone teammates getting dirty this year.

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Milano-San Remo #1

Mr David Watson of the UK has "strong prejudices" against sprinters such as Mario Cipollini, and against bunch sprints in a classic. The sprinters have Paris-Tours, he says, and one race is enough. But hold on, during Erik Zabel's reign in Milano - San Remo, how many times have the Paris-Tours been decided in a mass sprint exactly?

I say skip that dull made-for-Erik-Zabel-German World Cup-race, the HEW Cy'classics' if you want to lessen the chances for the sprinters, and lets have a British World Cup race back on the racing calendar. We need a good race in Britain. And besides, this year 44 riders came in with the same times as the winner in MSR, and last year, if I remember correctly, it was significantly less. That's not so bad, is it?

And even though the finish line being moved about a mile farther away from the foot of the Poggio bears part of the responsibility for the development of the MSR in recent years, I can hardly believe that's the whole story. There just seems to be more riders who are at approximately the same level in the classics. Remember the near-bunch-sprint in the Tour of Flanders the year that Tchmil (finally) won? That was scary! Now, why is it that there seems to be not 10 or 15, but 50 or even a hundred potential classics winners each spring? Hmm...it seems that the difference between the good cyclists and the great ones have somehow been lessened. Now how can that be...?

Anyway, I liked seeing Cipollini win. If there is going to be sprinters there at the end anyway, why not have the greatest and most charismatic road sprinter ever first over the line? MSR could certainly do worse. (Read full report)

Anders P. Jensen
Denmark
Thursday, March 28, 2002

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Milano-San Remo #2

Why has Mr Watson chosen Milan San Remo as a Classic not worthy of that status? He presents the recent sprint finishes as examples of why it is no longer a prestigious event. Yet in it's illustrious history, the results have been split nearly 50/50, with 47 sprint finishes, and 46 "non-sprint" finishes. There are other classics with even less demanding courses (Paris-Tours, HEW Cyclassics). And many more races seem to be ending in group finishes in recent years. Perhaps the dynamic of cycling is on a different cycle - the suicide breakaway of a few riders being chased down by a multi-team led peloton. Perhaps there is less variation in rider fitness due to more common use of power and heart rate monitoring technology, which results in better training. Drug controls could be causing less cheating, or limiting everybody to the same illicit gains.

Whatever the reason, this dynamic is bound to change in the coming years. We will certainly see a lone winner or small bunch finish on the streets of San Remo in the coming years. MSR is a classic not because of how it finishes, but because of it's rich history, and it is unique among the classics, which provide races for every type of rider. If all the classics favored similar types of riders, it wouldn't make for a very exciting competition.

So I say cheers to MSR and Cipollini, a sprint win can be just as enjoyable as solo win. (Read full report)

Chris Fabri
Chicago, USA
Friday, March 29, 2002

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Milano-San Remo #3

In David's words; "a classic should not end with a bunch gallop, it should be won by the strongest or bravest rider." I would venture that the Sprinters and their teams should certainly be considered strong and are the definition of brave. My personal dream (and Nightmare) is to be sandwiched between Tom Steels, Abdu, Cipo, Zabel and Zoot 400 meters away from a finish. One may be safer pedaling through a half dozen Cheetah wearing a Beefsteak Jacket...

Bicycle racing has it's great ones in all facets; Climbing, Time Trials and, unfortunately for David, Sprinting. It is an unbelievable thrill to watch the fastest men in the world hurtle toward the line, lead by shattered team mates that are still able to hold 50 - 55kph. Just when you wouldn't think anyone could possibly go any faster, out pops an extremely select group of Mad Men in a display of pure power that rivals anything in the sport for effort, and excitement.

Should we guarantee that the strongest man on the day win by having all races end with or immediately after hill climbs? Should we just shut down racing in the rest of the world in favour of Time Trials (as the UK had done, much to the dismay of it's racers)? Hell NO! I would venture that over the terrain covered. Even sprinters can be the strong men of the day.

The classics have something for everyone. The mix of races keeps things interesting. I love watching the best do what they do, But not every race needs to be a six hour drudge ending with a guy covered in mud, or soloing across the line. Sometimes it's nice (and it is great for the sport and exposure) to have a huge, flashy, egomaniacal, mad man in zebra stripes and big "bug-eye" glasses ripping across the line to the screams of Women (and men) and the flash of camera's. (See pictures from the race)

Charles
USA
Friday, March 29, 2002

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Milano-San Remo #4

David,

The reason Milan-San Remo nowadays finishes in a bunch sprint is because riders are now more competitive. They train through the whole winter season and come very competitive for the early season classics. Ten years ago, there were a selection on the Poggio or the Cipressa, but not anymore. That has to do with the level of competitiveness rather than being a classic for the sprinters. Hey, we need classics like Milan-San Remo as much as Flanders. They should give opportunities to sprinters too, not just mountain goats or flatlanders. That's why the Tour de France is not all mountains!!! And you should acknowledge that Cipo has been the greatest sprinter in the last 13 years. It he were an American or British, I am sure you wouldn't be criticizing him for winning an "easy" classic, and don't compare Zabel and Cipo, they are different riders and both great!

(Read full report)

Jairo Santana
Mount Rainier, USA
Friday, March 29, 2002

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Milano-San Remo #5

To David Watson' UK, Sunday, March 24, 2002.

Maybe you didn't like the 1990 Paris Roubaix that ended in a sprint finish there either....1 cm between Planckaert and Bower. Maybe you didn't like the 2001 Gent-Weveglem that ended in a sprint finish there either....1 cm between Hincapie and Van Bon

Maybe you should just realise that great races have to change and not everyone is going solo off the front for the win.

The start of Paris Roubaix has been moved to Compiegne, some 100km to the north. Was that a bad thing? Changing the parcours to fit the needs of the spectators is not the answer....the answer is sending people off the front and taking out the radios and TV's from the directors cars and letting people race, and let races develop instead of having someone tell you what everyone else is doing.. (Read original letter)

Rich Visscher
Denver, USA
Friday, March 29, 2002

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Milano-San Remo #6

David Watson's letter is absolutely ridiculous. Sprint finishes after seven hours of riding are one of the aspects of cycling that make it so incredible to watch. The set up (Poggio) and finale to San Remo are epic. It is only one race of hundreds throughout the season. If he doesn't like it, I'm sure there will be hours and hours soon to come of riders trickling over the finish line spread out over 30 miles in stage 31X of the Tour de Whatever. Why can't you appreciate cycling for the many different types of races we get to participate in?

Don't discount Cipo's win either. They guy trained like an animal this winter without going around bragging about how he will give another rider fits in this race or that. It takes an extremely gifted athlete just to finish in the main group at San Remo, much less stay within striking distance over a climb at 300k. Look back at the history of many of the Classics. Many, many of them ended in spectacular sprint finishes. Long solo break away bore the hell out of me, but I don't go around trashing the race for causing it. It is the riders who make the race - not the course. Get a grip. They don't call them Classics for nothing.
Way to go Cipo!

David Sem
San Antonio, USA
Friday, March 29, 2002

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Milano-San Remo #7

David,

While I'll share your sentiment about the current race becoming a forgone conclusion I'll submit that IF a sprinter's team can get him to the line in good enough shape for him to win, then he and the team deserve the win. This nonsense about non-deserving prima-donna's winning sprints without expending the effort you deem necessary is cycling snobbery. Tell you what... I'm a cyclist and a climbing specialist. I'd agree that the course should include the old mountain passes that were steeper & more difficult. Certainly if someone like an Erik Dekker or even (gasp) Jackie Durand gets away (and can stay away) solo then they deserve to win. The same with a small groupetto getting away and holding off the sprinter's teams. But to make the race just as predictable as it currently is would be just as boring and un-sporting.

As a last comment Cipollini is 35! He might be a primadonna, and you might not like his style. ...But to beat other younger, stronger men and teams such as Telecom et al you've got to want to win. Cippo wants to win he's no longer in it for the big $ and publicity Cannondale guys - he's had to resort to zebra stripes and his own fitness. While I might not like the zebra stripes, my hat's off to the guy for improving his fitness. Who knows maybe you'll find respect for him yet if he's able to make the grade in one of the so called "true classics".

Mike
Friday, March 29, 2002

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Milano-San Remo #8

In response to why the Milan - San Remo (MSR) seems to be dominated by bunch sprints and why the distance is no longer enough to make the race selective, there is one pretty simple and non-controversial issue: Pros nowadays train FAR more intensely in the winter than in the old days. The old days of MSR, when the great riders beat everyone else to a pulp were also the days before the majority of the peloton was racing all out in January in events such as the Tour Down Under, Tour of Langkawi, and Tour of Qatar.

Back in the day, the 'experts' advised taking much of the winter completely off. Back in the day, a lot of riders were doing MSR as their first race of the year, and like Lance Armstrong many just finished in the pack while the either very talented or early trained riders won, despite probably being under-trained and overweight. When everyone was over-trained and underweight, the phenomenon like Merckx, Kelly, et al were natural winners.

Nowadays, riders are showing up in far better condition, so it is logical that more riders will make it over the Poggio together. MSR isn't really to blame. The tradition of it is part of its charm, as Paris-Roubaix has its own charms that ought to be maintained. Besides, one bunch sprint race out of the year of more selective World Cup races adds variety. If nothing else, it gives the chance for a different kind of rider to wear the World Cup jersey for a little while, at least.

Just my 2 lira.

Garner Woodall
Washington DC, USA
Thursday, March 28, 2002

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Milano-San Remo #9

In response to David Watson's bashing of Milan-San Remo and Cipollini:

I find it admirable that Cipo' has made a focused effort in recent years to improve his climbing ability and thus give himself the opportunity to use his real weapon. I agree that he is not as well-rounded a racer as Zabel, but so what? You don't hear any complaints that Simoni or Pantani can only win if the race goes uphill. What makes a sprint win any less admirable? If you believe that the sprinters do nothing until the last 200 meters, I recommend reading Fred Rodriguez's journal recap of MSR (www.fredrodriguez.com/journal). The battle starts well before the finish - even for the sprinters.

Why should the route be changed only to alter the type of finish? Could it be that there aren't any riders in the peloton strong enough to stay away alone. Bettini got close, but didn't have quite enough. Paris-Tours is supposed to be a"sprinter's" race, but Virenque won it last year by creating the opportunity that gave him the best chance to win.

The character of MSR is changing, and just because attacking solo on the Poggio worked 10 or 20 years ago, why should that be the only acceptable way to win now? The rider that wins is the one who creates the best opportunity for himself. When Tchmil won MSR, he attacked with 1K to go and surprised the sprinters. Good for him! He created a situation that gave him the best opportunity and it worked. This year Cipollini (and Zabel in previous years) created the situation that was best for him, and no one else was strong enough to overcome it. Congratulations, Cipo'!

Eric Fraer
Pasadena, USA
Saturday, March 30, 2002

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To the top of the Mont Ventoux

Mr Filip Smets asks whether the Tour riders will be going all the way to the top of Mont Ventoux on July 21st of this year. Yes they will, or at least I assume they will, since the finish is on the Mont Ventoux itself. They usually have the finish line just before the observatory's parking lot on the very top of the mountain at 1,912 meters.

Oh goody!! (Read full Tour preview)

Anders P. Jensen
Denmark
Thursday, March 28, 2002

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Lance Armstrong Article #1

I loved your article on Armstrong. Good pointed questions that did not settle for simple answers. I learned a lot about a guy I thought I knew a great deal about. Keep up the great work.

Philip Stanford
Littleton, USA
Sunday, March 31, 2002

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Cyclists as second class citizens

In response to Julia's suggestion of testing cyclists before they hit the streets, well look at all those car drivers who passed a test and drive like lunatics. People who give cycling a bad name by dodgy riding don't do so because they lack ability, they just lack consideration. A problem hardly unique to cycling, or even our roads.

Sean Lally
Devon, UK
Thursday, March 28, 2002

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Marcel Wust #1

Unfortunately, the very classy Marcel Wüst is no longer a competitive cyclist due to the horrific injury he sustained. But you can't keep a good man down and he seems not only to have come to terms with the loss (there was a great photo of him with his family at a costume ball and he was dressed as a pirate with an eye patch!) but he has acquired a management position at Team Coast, I believe. So, at least intelligence and charm can get you somewhere if you can no longer see well enough to sprint.

Leslie T. Reissner
Thursday, March 28, 2002

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Marcel Wust #2

Russ,

Unfortunately, Marcel Wust will not be returning to the peloton from the eye injury he incurred in a criterium after the 2000 Tour de France. However, fear not for Marcel, as he has landed on his feet with Team Coast as their public relations/communications manager. In fact, he got his first taste of life outside the peloton, but still in cycling with the now defunct Festina cycling team last year. In any case, with his command of four languages, he should be of immense help to the multi-cultural composition of Team Coast.

Cary Brown
Toronto, Canada
Friday, March 29, 2002

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Atrial Fibrilation

I read recently that Eddy Merckx is now suffering from atrial fibrilation (irregular heart rhythms, where the heart can beat faster than normal). I also recall reading that an Australian track cyclist had fibrillation shortly before competing in a final at the Altanta Olympics, so it appears that young and old, fit and not so fit can have this heart condition. However, I have not been able to find out much information about atrial fibrilation and the effect it has on athleticism and cycling in particular.

About three years ago I first noticed peculiarities in my heart rate when I wore a heart rate monitor. It started with flutters where my heart rate would jump up to 200 bpm from say around 120 on a training ride. (I initially attributed this to the interference of power lines). Some time later I began to notice that half way through a ride my heart rate would climb 20- 30 bpm higher than normal and stay in this range for the duration of the training ride; and stay higher than normal for 30 minutes or so when I got home.

I saw a heart specialist and had stress tests and found out that I had atrial fibrilation. Since I rarely used a heart rate monitor while racing, it explained why in the last season my performances had dropped markedly; I found that half way through a race I was "bonking" and naturally put this down to not enough training and old age! (50).

The doctor advised that I "take it easy" and put me on atrial fibrilation medication (Sotalol tablets,40 mg twice daily).

I only ride recreationally now and my heart rate is around 47 at rest and around 130 maximum. (Previously, when fit it was 55 and 170 max. in other words fairly normal). Secondly, my fitness level now is probably less than average for my age, when a few years ago it was at a high level for my age. Thirdly in spite of "watching my diet" I have put on a lot of weight and wonder if the medication has slowed my metabolic rate significantly.

Have other cyclists reading these pages any personal experiences with atrial fibrilation? Do they still train/race and have they also experienced a marked decline in fitness and problems keeping their weight down? I would be very interested in hearing what they have to say. I have tried reducing the medication, but when I do I go into fibrilation within 2 kilometers of a ride and tire very quickly.

Eric Leese
Brisbane, Australia
Saturday, March 30, 2002

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Raybestos Brakes Advertisement

We see the driver fiddling with a CD, drinking coffee, glancing at a note under his mobile, and looking around rather than concentrating on the road. The trouble is, most viewers of this advert will see nothing wrong; these are all things that drivers do while driving, this is all normal and acceptable. The only thing missing was the driver reaching for his mobile and taking a call (also considered normal these days)!

Sadly all these activities distract the driver from concentrating on the road ahead, as he pilots his potentially lethal lump of metal at high speed. But this lack of concentration is also considered normal, fueled by the car manufacturers as they add more and more gizmos within vehicles to further distract, and by governments who fail to make it illegal to use mobile phones while driving. Meanwhile, accidents on the highway increase and cyclists and pedestrians continue to be killed and injured.

It's interesting that cyclists were used as the "obstacle". Why not another car? Perhaps a horse and rider? Or would that make our driver look less like a victim?

Why did the flower delivery guy drop his cargo? Did the nasty cyclists frighten him too? Is he someone who could also benefit from Raybestos pads, perhaps on the palms of his hands?

"At a moment like this..." says the voice-over. That is, when some damn cyclists, who should stick to parks and bike-paths, rather than cluttering up the highway (which are only intended for cars and lorries, right?) are about to get in your way. Thanks Raybestos for reinforcing the stereotype that cyclists are annoyances who should be banned from the roads.

Brian Hooper
Surrey, UK
Thursday, April 04, 2002

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Question Regarding knee patches

I would be eternally grateful if you could tell me what the pros are wearing on their knees that look like large bandages with the center cut out?

Cheers,

Lou
Thursday, April 04, 2002

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Roland Green winning the Canadian Athlete of the year

In your recent story in the news section, it was mentioned that Roland Green had been voted Canada's male athlete of the year at the Canadian Sport Awards, this should come with a clarification. These awards are open only to Canada's elite amateur athletes. Evidently in Canada, cycling is still considered an amateur sport(and Olympic sport). In a poll of Canadian sports writers done a little earlier, conducted by Canadian Press(a Canadian wire service), Roland Green could do no better than sixth or seventh from my recollection (got one first place vote, and several seconds & thirds). The winner was Canadian golfer Mike Weir. Obviously Roland Green had a much better season than Mike, but the sport here in Canada is mostly ignored. If I recall, Lance Armstrong won a similar award around two years ago that Roland Green just won, for the best US amateur athlete (as in Canada, the US regard cycling as an amateur and Olympic sport).

Steve Wong
Brossard,Canada
Monday, April 01, 2002

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Morton's Neuroma

I am attempting to gather information on a foot condition, better known, I believe, in the running world as Morton's Neuroma. Are there any cyclists out there who have the condition, how are you managing it and, if you have had the surgery removing the nerves, how have you made out? I wouldn't mind being contacted directly at I am attempting to gather information on a foot condition, better known, I believe, in the running world as Morton's Neuroma. Are there any cyclists out there who have the condition, how are you managing it and, if you have had the surgery removing the nerves, how have you made out? I wouldn't mind being contacted directly at mehozi@aol.com.
Thanks.

Mark Hozempa
Wilkes-Barre, USA
Monday, April 01, 2002

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Lieswyn diary on valley of the Sun

Rob Ransom says "he should speak with the organisers face to face..." And how does he know I didn't? In fact I sat down with the promoter for 20 minutes in his car, one more in a long stream of disgruntled team managers and riders. I stood for half and hour discussing ways to address the problems ("propose concrete solutions") with Jim Copeland (Saturn manager) and a race official. The point of my article was to encourage people to think of safety first. Watch a rider die as I did at Arlington, or hear of a fatal head on collision with a semi in another category (Bele Chere). As for T.Arsenault's comments and in defense of the organiser, the VOS had few major cash sponsors so most of the entry fees went to paying for police support at the road race ($18,000).

John Lieswyn
USA
Friday, March 29, 2002

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April Foolishness #1

Absolutely classic guys. Keep up the good work.

Scott Damman
Yeti Cycles USA
Monday, April 01, 2002

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April Foolishness #2

Thanks guys for the biggest laugh I've had in years. Although Cipollini winning in sandals is a bit far fetched, Erik winning a mountain stage isn't. I'm sure Mr Vandenbrouke will disagree with the dog laws, but I'm also not too sure the Tchmil age thing isn't made up....have you had a close look at his face???...all those wrinkles...hmmmmm. thanks again for the most informative and funny site on cycling on the Web.

Pete Savage
Australia
Monday, April 01, 2002

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April Foolishness #3

I loved the "News" articles on April Fool's Day. It was great fun. I can tell that you have a sense of humor as well as a love of cycling.

Keep up the great work!

Chris Bondurant
Little Rock, USA
Thursday, April 04, 2002

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April Foolishness #4

Re: Special News Edition of April 1, 2002

While innocently reading your perfect sequence of April 1 stories, I changed from curious to incredulous and finally to delighted. I'm still laughing out loud in front of my computer screen.

Once again you've earned your spot as my homepage.

Peter Crimmin
Boston, USA
Monday, April 01, 2002

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