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Letters to Cyclingnews – February 28, 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.

Langkawi: Saturn responds
Host housing families
Specialized's support of grassroots racing
Russell Mockridge's book
Rest heart rate
Pics of Obree
Olympic cyclo-cross
Nicknames
Hyde Park coppers
Hernias
Speed skaters cross training
Failure of cycling press
Domestiques
David McCann
Clara Hughes at the Olympics
Broken Hips
Recovering from a neck operation

Langkawi: Saturn responds

[Read original letter]

The Saturn Team was concerned when we initially had Malaysia on the calendar about the attacks (this was October/early November). Our government explicitly pointed out the Malaysia maybe one of the places terrorists would target (as stated in newspapers) and advised Americans not to travel there. When we were able to move ahead and work through that statement, it was mid November and the dates were still unconfirmed -- the race dates changed twice, During this time I was securing housing for camp (which requires a major deposit) as well as booking the time with the photographer, Universal Studios (in Hollywood) and the Saturn Corporate Executives.

By the time everything was finalized for our camp, the dates, much to our disappointment conflicted with the Tour. Saturn has had great success at this race and we were quite disappointed to not be able to return -- we hope to next year. This Tour is one of the most organized on our calendar and is a race that we have always looked forward to. Again, it was with great disappointment we declined the offer this year. We did however, make accommodation for Eric Wohlberg to race with his Canadian National Team at the Tour, but again with our camp dates ending on January 31 it was impossible with the travel to get the team, staff and equipment there.

Saturn Men will race overseas, (you will see us in Europe in April and May). We acknowledge that European racing offers us excellent preparation for Philadelphia as the courses and peloton are different from the US. However, you will not see the Saturn men pursuing points in Europe.

I hope I have cleared up any misconceptions.

Giana S. Roberge
Assistant General Manager, Saturn Cycling Team
Tuesday, February 19, 2002

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Langkawi #2

I too would like to commend cyclingnews.com on the excellent coverage of TDL and other international races as well (TDFuso, TofQatar, Vuelta a Cuba, and others). It's great to see cycling acting as a bridge between cultures. Keep up the great coverage.

I also agree that companies should look more seriously into promoting these races and cyclists from those regions. If done in a thoughtful way, this can not only help expand the markets for these companies, but will do a service to us all by promoting cycling.

Demian Godon
Tuesday, February 19, 2002

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Langkawi #3

I'm making this statement based on what I've read in the American press, but it seems that Al Qaeda members can easily move in and out of Malaysia because visas either aren't required or the laws aren't enforced. If that is the case, any American, whether it's the President of the country or Frank McCormack of Saturn Cycling, IS a legitimate target in Malaysia. Yes, there are many sleeper terrorists right here in the good ol' USA. the difference is someone is actively pursuing them in America. You can't say the same for Malaysia or many other countries throughout the world.

Also, does anybody think the USPS team shouldn't have hired private security for when they're in Europe? They would be idiotic NOT to do so!

Spencer Dech
Tuesday, February 19, 2002

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Langkawi #4

Mr. Be Nagela may be a bit unfair and judgmental.

The US Pro teams had a legitimate reason for being concerned in Malaysia as they did in Qatar. Should Mr. Nagela take the time to consider that being a "safe American", and being a safe American Pro Team of predominantly Caucasian cyclists with a high profile are two entirely different things, he may see that there is a difference.

Malaysia has had some fairly violent protests against the US position of late and while the threat against a low profile, non caucasian individual such as Mr. Nagela may be small, the threat to a high profile US group is substantial, regardless of national origin (notice the difference between origin and citizenship). And while the wildlife may be dangerous (just ask Paolo "Monkey boy" Bettini), I would argue with Mr. Nagela's suggestion that a "cow" would be considered less dangerous than the dozen or so groups on the Terrorist watch list that are in and about Malaysia.

It is a beautiful country, the race was super and as always very well run, But I would hesitate to call a group cowards without truly being in their place.

Charles Manantan
USA
Tuesday, February 19, 2002

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Host housing families

I would like to thank - and invite others to thank - in this public forum, a long neglected key player in the world of bike racing: Host Housing Families.

It would be nice to hear from other racing cyclists who post regularly in cyclingnews about their positive experiences with host housing- Scott, John, Odessa- we want to hear your stories, too.

I have had the chance, over the last few years to be at some host housing with some athletes I was coaching. These people in host housing, in my limited experience, must be the nicest people ever for a cyclist away from home. Life on the road constantly is a demanding experience. One I am sure drains the sense of groundedness and stable life from our endurance athletes, bit by bit, day by day.

Host housing families- beyond providing a place to sleep, maybe some food, and nice, warm homes to surround us- tend to mother and father us and generally seek to care for us, in their own gentle way. By providing a mental space for athletes to refuge, especially at the end of long and hard races is one selfless service that cannot be underestimated. They try to give us back our sense of being grounded and at home.

How many of us are surly following a long road race, where we flatted and generally had a bad day? I know I have been, and the hosts surely see it all- crashes, crabbiness, and as well, delight in a good result. They provide this space for use regardless of our result and I thank them for it. You should too.

The families tell me that they simply love helping out, having the cyclists in their homes, sharing their athletic drive, energy and the overall experience- and it shows. It may be that the elite athletes grow to take the 'host house' for granted a bit over time, but I can tell you the hosts do not take US for granted. They track our results through the news venues and magazines, and silently wish well for us and our efforts for the whole season, until we see them again.

Credit that second wind at the end of a big criterium to the well wishing of the host housing families with whom you have stayed in the past. Now that cyclists are on TV more, some of them have the chance to see us there, they delight in it, and their contribution to your efforts.

They look forward to seeing us each year- and in opening their homes and hearts to us- a precious gift that cannot go unappreciated. Let's put aside simplistic and ultimately rhetorical silliness about who is better at what, and give thanks to those who help us so much, especially at the elite level.

Next time you are at your host house, talk to the people and you may find much more than a "good citizen", you may find a friend for life.

Regis Chapman
California USA
Tuesday, February 19, 2002

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Specialized's support of grassroots racing

I was pleased to read that Specialized sees the need to support US mountain bike racing at the level where most of us can, or would, participate -- the hobby-level weekend "grassroots" races (Cyclingnews, Sunday Feb 17). However, Specialized should not think that supporting the leviathan Sea Otter Classic (arguably the largest bicycle event in the United States) is anywhere close to "grassroots". The Otter wears more sponsor badges than a NASCAR fender and has a budget larger than all the other MTB races in California combined. Specialized should place its considerable influence in efforts to secure new venues, rescue old races, teach promoters how to create better events--things that would encourage me to finally buy a new MTB.

Wil Matthews
San Rafael Cycling Classic
Tuesday, February 19, 2002

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Russell Mockridge's book

I am desperately trying to find the book written by Russell Mockridge and John Burrows, "My World On Wheels", for my Dad (a former professional cyclist).

If anyone can help, I would greatly appreciate it.

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Sharyn King
Australia
sharynk@hotmail.com
Thursday, February 28, 2002

Rest heart rate #1

Barry, chances are that as you become more and more concerned with your resting heart rate, the higher it will get. Think about it, the slightest bit of tension or nerves when awaiting the result can jump your heart rate, relax, it is only one indicator of your fitness.

[Read original letter]

Nick
Tuesday, February 19, 2002

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Rest heart rate #2

I am not a physiologist, but I would point out that your problem is an example of why I like to coach in a holistic manner. It's not really possible to consider the athlete separate from the other stresses in their lives, for me, as a coach. These sorts of stresses add to the overall fatigue of the athlete.

Also, for a short time, I was a network administrator in a finance company. I found it to be the single most stressful position I had ever been in, due to the high stress Type A personalities that surrounded me there. I don't blame you for having a hard time there, either.

It may also be to a change in sleeping patterns. I found that when I have had girlfriends in the past, I did not sleep as soundly. Especially if they are sick, making coughing noises and generally making life unrestful by their illness. I once coached an athlete who had a severe ankle problem, training sporadically, and was going to school and working, all at the same time. She tended to give up sleep, and after a while this became a habit. I could track her resting pulse lower or higher by her amount of sleep the previous night. I had a couple of weeks' worth of data on this - too show her she needed to stop shirking her sleep, especially REM sleep.

My advice would be to do a half hour of quiet concentration (some call it meditation) and deep breathing exercises. Remove yourself to a place where it's quiet, dark and will not be disturbed. For me, this works best by waking a half-hour early in the morning, then starting my day as normal. Then begin to try to hold on to that calm feeling all day.

Given this, I generally don't need a heart rate monitor to tell me that an athlete is fatigued. The athletes themselves normally communicate it in some form or another. Some of my athletes are conscientious like yourself about keeping logs and so on, but most aren't. One drawback of monitoring these parameters constantly is the focus on them to the point of worry, or mild obsessiveness- and this is why I don't insist too hard that my athletes keep logs of these things. Often, the data can take on a life of it's own in the athlete's mind, and I don't really want them thinking in this way too much.

Regis Chapman
California USA

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Pics of Obree

Graeme Obree was so much more than the "Superman" position. His original position that gained him international notoriety was on upturned drop bars firmly supporting his chest. How many cyclists have failed to beat the record and 24 hrs later make a successful ride? His original position was also outlawed by the UCI gang. Admittedly it was perfect for the track but memory tells me that in the time trial GP Eddy Merckx I think he crashed and the UCI deemed that he did not have enough control. Guess what, he introduced the superman position which had the ultimate expression with Chris Boardman erasing the hour record in Manchester in 1996. The UCI subsequently outlawed that position. Here's a website to showcase Obree: www.photophil.demon.co.uk/obree.htm.

Let's hope that Graeme rides his bike again, even recreationally smelling the roses. He certainly deserves our good wishes for a speedy recovery.

Barry Whitworth
Oregon, USA
Tuesday, February 19, 2002

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Olympic cyclo-cross #1

Despite being an avid bike racer, I'm fine without 'cross in the Olympics. In fact, I think there ought to be fewer events in the Olympics overall. There are seemingly endless variations of each sport, when the athletic ability and talents for each variation rarely differ.

I, however, would like to see BMX and downhill mountain bike racing included in the summer Olympics, as these athletes have tremendous skill and fitness and should be rewarded. The worldwide number of competitors in these disciplines is also much greater than the number of cyclo-cross competitors.

One final note--it will definitely cost more than a few hundred dollars to put on a 'cross race. Just to put on a local mt. bike race this past fall, we had to pay several hundred dollars to rent the race site, we had to pay another $300+ for an on-site ambulance and port-a-johns, and course marking supplies cost us around $80. We also had to pay $400 to NORBA for insurance costs, not to mention other expenses as well regarding awards and such. And this was just for a small local race with 150 competitors! Just imagine the costs involved in constructing a world-class 'cross course, paying UCI officials, and the like. Granted, this would be much cheaper than constructing a bobsled track, but the Olympics are already overpriced and not worth what you pay for your ticket price.

[Read original letter]

Drew Hall
Wednesday, February 20, 2002

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Olympic cyclo-cross #2

I cannot believe that the Winter Olympics has omitted cycling in all its forms from the program. Cyclo-cross would be greatly appreciated, as it is not hampered by adverse conditions inclusive of snow on the track and would be a big public drawcard against XC skiing - why not even introduce XC MTB to the fold?

My biggest concern however, is the transformation of the Winter Olympics into the X-Games (i.e. sytle points), which could mandate the inclusion of such events as downhill snow-biking and aerial competitions on bikes. What I would preferentially like to see, is XC MTB's with studded snow tires competing on the indoor speed-skating arena's - now that would be exciting, a bit like track with a greater degree of uncertainty !! Does the Findon Skidkids register with anyone?

Andre Duszynski
Adelaide, Australia.
Wednesday, February 20, 2002

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Nicknames #1

One more nickname to submit, after watching her in spring training in Arizona and racing the early season races in the southwest, and her performance at the Montreal World Cup in 2001 I submit. Genevieve "Terminator" Jeanson. (I would use "cannibal" but that name is already taken)

Steve Farris
New Mexico, USA
Wednesday, February 20, 2002

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Nicknames #2

Regis Chapman can be informed that a list of riders' nicknames does exist on the web. Tom James' excellent website hosts it at homepage.ntlworld.com/veloarchive/riders/nicknames.htm

Patrick Hansmeier
Wednesday, February 20, 2002

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Hyde Park coppers

I am chuckling at the thought of British Bobbies on electric bikes - not exactly the Pacific Blue cycling image!

John Andrews
Singapore
Wednesday, February 27, 2002

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Hernias

While I don't think anyone other than Marc can know for sure what caused his hernia, I can give some observations based on my own experience. I am a cabinetmaker who raced the bike from the late 1960's to the late 1980's, with even a few years as a cat. 1. I still ride "training" rides with friends for my own fitness and enjoyment, and two years ago I had the operation as well.

My hernia was caused by the difficulties of my trade (handling tons of lumber and plywood) though I can't say exactly when it occurred. But I was told by my doctor not to ride the bike for a few months. I of course wanted to ride much sooner and tried within three weeks, which was painful and in retrospect sort of dumb. But within six weeks I was back riding four or five days a week, doing twenty to thirty mile rides.

My body told me what I needed to know, which was to adjust my position so that I was comfortable. I lowered my saddle a full centimetre and raised my bars, though I eventually ended up riding a smaller frame with a shorter top tube and stem. My ego was bruised, as I hadn't changed my position since my racing days, but it finally occurred to me that I didn't need to be aero any more, I just love to ride and I needed to be comfortable.

I also eventually changed saddles to a cut-away type, which though it offended my sense of tradition, I really like now. Suffice it to say, make whatever changes your body tells you to so you can ride. If you just can't find any position that's comfortable, give it a while longer, and maybe try a Concept Two rowing machine to keep fit in the mean time. But don't give up. Two years later I can still feel a tightness and a little pressure in that area, but with stretching and riding it improves a little all the time. Best of Luck

[Read original letter]

Jeffrey Joiner
USA
Tuesday, February 19, 2002

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Speed skaters cross training

I noticed in your news today that you mentioned Stephen Bradbury should take up cycling. In fact, many speed skaters use cycling to increase their fitness during their off season.

One of Bradbury's team mates at the Salt Lake Winter Olympics, Richard Goerlitz, covers over 400km a week during our winter months in preparation for the Northern Hemisphere winter - which is the international skating season on top of ice sessions and weights programs.

Many skaters make the transition to track and road with some success - perhaps cyclists should look at going to the ice to increase their anaerobic endurance and sprinting ability?

Matthew Lucas
Sydney, Australia
Thursday, February 21

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Failure of cycling press

The final scandal of the Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City involving cross country skiers and the use of the drug darbepoetin illuminates the facade of reporting currently practiced in the cycling world. Headlines in VeloNews, Cyclingnews, and other cycling periodicals blare that the trial of Dr. Michele Ferrari is an attempt for "cycling to come clean" - what a joke. The fact is that the "big drug" that is being discussed at the trial and in the cycling press, EPO, only confirms that the cycling federations, and more importantly, the cycling press is not interested in really exposing the doping that is going on in the peloton.

The use of EPO in cycling is at least a decade and a half old - have no other drugs with performance enhancing attributes been developed by pharmaceutical companies? The cycling press would have us believe so, yet, we have to hear about dabepoetin from NBC or CNN, the most generic of news sources, instead of the specialist cycling reporters and editors that our subscription and advertising dollars are paying for.

It's easy to sympathize with the cycling press, however, because doping is bad for the industry that they are dependent upon so they, like the team sponsors, turn a blind eye to doping until someone gets caught. This strategy unfortunately will result in a cycling fan base that will turn away from racing and towards the mellower, recreational aspects of cycling. At a time when cycling is poised to take on a higher level of visibility in areas outside of Europe, the upcoming reports of fraud and scandal could disastrously set cycling back another 20 years.

It is interesting to note that even when the cycling press reports about that old stablehorse, EPO, not too many questions are asked. The new EPO testing procedures were calmly accepted by the press as a "major step towards cleaning up the sport" with very little follow up. The questions that should have been asked are: how does the test detect EPO? [through detection of chemical tags inserted in the EPO] What if there were no chemical tags in the EPO?

Rumors have reached even the navel-gazing United States that there are chemical tag-free batches of EPO available from sources in Eastern Europe, thus nullifying the new EPO test. There have been rumors of other drugs like darbepoetin for years, but none of these drugs are mentioned or investigated by the press to any visible degree. Is the cycling press telling us that they have no friends in the peleton that they can talk to about these allegations? What about the recently retired riders who are pursuing careers outside of cycling? What about the American cyclists who are literally infiltrating the peleton in increasing numbers? Can we find no one to talk even anonymously about their new experiences and the new pressures that they must be under, to take the injections or get out of the race? Are idolized riders only "technically" telling the truth: "I don't dope" meaning "I don't take anything that's _currently_ on the banned list".

Until the cycling press starts asking these hard questions and getting some real answers, we can only be so enthusiastic about reading the race reports - there are too many questions in the back of everyone's mind.

Tom Lewis
Monday, February 25, 2002

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Cyclingnews editor Jeff Jones replies

Cyclingnews has always reported on illegal drug use in the peloton. You may remember the Festina scandal in 1998? We had the most detailed and up to date reports on the web. Since then we have continued to report on new drugs and drug tests, and there is no pressure from advertisers not to, although some readers complain that it's interfering with the cycling coverage. I don't think you can describe us as "not interested".

I have always criticised the French EPO urine test, as it only has a 3 day window, whereas the effects of EPO lasts for weeks. The criticism started in 1999/2000 when the test was developed for use in the Olympics. I'll leave it up to you read through the articles via our archives http://www.cyclingnews.com/archives.html and search tool (google.com works quite well for that).

Explanations of how the test works are given on more than one occasion. The EPO test relies on the fact that there are slight differences between artificial and natural EPO, although there is no specific chemical tag inserted into artificial EPO to make it detectable. Other parameters in : the person's blood profile also change when the balance is upset, and blood tests are used by the UCI to confirm an EPO suspect.

EPO may not even the drug of choice any more, but a number of people tested positive for it last year. People still test positive for steroids too.

As for NESP, two examples last year (scroll down the page a bit):

http://www.cyclingnews.com/results/2001/oct01/oct10news.php http://www.cyclingnews.com/results/2001/nov01/nov13news.php

There was also a debate about it in the cyclingnews letters page last year.

NESP may be a more powerful drug than EPO, but it is purely artificial and has a half life three times as long, so it is easier to detect.

Finally, yes there are plenty of rumours about the drugs going around in the peloton. To print whatever we hear would be rather irresponsible.

Domestiques #1

Regis, I wholeheartedly agree!

When I was just getting into to cycling (mid 70's) TI Raleigh was the team I loved, and Henk Lubberding was my hero. Why? He did not win a lot - although he did win the white jersey in the 78 Tour, and Gent-Wevelgem, and did have the fortune of wearing the Yellow jersey, along with some other smaller races. The reason? Jan Raas: World Champion. When he finished the race after winning, the first person he hugged-Henk! Why you ask? Well Jan was in a break, representing Holland alone in the break. Peter Post told Henk to bridge the gap, and help out Jan. So... what did he do. He bridged the gap, alone, and at one point they say he was riding at 60kph! "I could not have done it without Henk!" Since then I was a fan of his, and of the domestiques that pull the "chemin de fer", just top be dropped and finish alone. It takes a special sort to be able to get back on the bike knowing you are going to be left for dead on the back of the pack, stage after stage.

Henk, I've got a bottle for you, any time you need it... but could you slow down so I can give it to you?

Michel van Musschenbroek
Georgia
Monday, 25 Feb 2002

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Domestiques #2

LeMond rode many times in support of his team-mates at other races. He supported Gilbert Duco-LaSalle at Paris-Roubaix and Kvolvosol at Tour DuPont (I hope I spelled the Norwegian's name correctly).

Armstrong supported his earlier Motorola team-mates too.

Tondeleo Hookah
Thursday, February 21, 2002

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Domestiques #3

Regis' list named a few of the world's champion domestiques... but he missed one of the bests in recent times. Let's not forget Mr Neil Anthony Stephens! He was one of few workhorses to compete in -- and complete -- all three 'Grand Tours' in 1992 during his premiere season with ONCE. He is a rider who rose through the ranks after years of hardship and commitment (can you say "Zero Boys"?) and he never lost his passion for the job.

Neil (and all the others), I salute you. Cycling is a working-class sport in most parts of the world, and fellas like Neil Stephens are true working-class heroes!

Rob Arnold
Publishing Editor | RIDE Cycling Review
Wednesday, February 20, 2002

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David McCann

Does anyone out there know how Ireland's national road and ITT champion David McCann is progressing in his team search? I tried to contact Ireland's cycling federation and have had no luck. My family are big fans and we would like to see if we could help him in any way. Does any one out there know how to contact him or maybe his manager?

Reed
Sunday, February 24, 2002

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Clara Hughes at the Olympics

While watching the Olympics last night, I saw cyclist Clara Hughes take bronze in one of the speed skating events. Has anyone else competed at this level in both cycling and skating?

As someone who once won a "best facial expression" prize at a local hillclimb, I was impressed by the expressions of the cross-country skiers. It looked as if they were experiencing a similar level of pain to Jacky Durand in the last 5km of long breakaway. Have any well-known cyclists competed in cross-country skiing, or does the skiing require too much upper-body bulk for the combination to work?

Andrew Salmon
London, UK
Monday, February 25, 2002

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Broken Hips

Sorry for the delay, just saw your letter. Sorry to hear about your injury. Hopefully, I can answer some questions you may have. I broke my hip in '98 and had a compression hinge, a rod , plate, and a few other screws put in my right hip. My injury was very complicated and my recovery was long. However, before my injury I was a Cat 3 (Female) and last year I made it to a Cat 1. I was told that my cycling days were done and to forget about racing. I didn't. Last year was my first year back racing and I just returned from a training camp in Mallorca with about 1100 miles in 18 days. I'm doing a lot of the N R C Events with some racing in Europe as well. I do have arthritis and it does hurt but I get better at dealing with it all the time. Overall, my recovery has been incredible. I guess I just wanted to tell you not to give up. I have even crashed (racing) and everything was okay. I could give you more information if you need/want it, just let me know... I had a million questions probably just like you and I'd like to be able to help you out.

Shawn
Thursday, February 21, 2002

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Recovering from a neck operation

I have just undergone an Anterior Cervical Disectomy (slipped disc removal of my C6-7 vertebrae disc) and was looking for some information from somebody preferably Cycling related Physio, who has treated or been associated with such an injury. My History of racing is competing in Scottish Grand Prix races and some Premier's with a dabble in Mountain Bike Races. I have been a competitive cyclist for the past 10 years and have always stretched and eaten correctly and had no neck or back problems before.

I am a very frustrated person having been out of any physical activity all of last season because of trying to find out the problems with my neck and the symptoms I was experiencing. Restricted neck movement, Chest Pains, under my left arm and sternum, Racing heart rate, difficulty swallowing and sore shoulders and tingly left arm and hands. I would occasionally have head rushes and dizzy spells also.

I was forced to take out Private treatment just to get an MRI scan done of head and neck as no Doctor would believe my symptoms, They put it down to Stress at work and tension headaches. And the results of the scan speak for themselves. I know I will not be back on the bike for some months now but any information to make my recovery easier would be appreciated

I look forward to hearing from somebody who knows what they are talking about.

Evan Hawkins
Midlothian Race Team, Scotland .
Tuesday, February 26, 2002

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