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Letters to Cyclingnews - August 9, 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.
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Contrary to your report today, Rumsas' hematocrit of 44.6 actually is evidence that he has been on EPO in the past, since normal hematocrit for the majority of the population, particularly the totally healthy athlete, is around 39-41. Your statement that normal hematocrit is up to 54 is grossly inaccurate--a very small percentage of the healthy population has a hematocrit even greater than 45. The nature and tone of your reports appear to be helping mask from the public even obvious evidence that these guys are doping, and I think this is inappropriate and bad for the future of cycling. You've got a great site going, don't screw it up.
Jay Gehrig M.D.
I would like to express great regret that so many people (including even Eurosport) did not take seriously the explanation by both Edita and Raimondas Rumsas that some of the drugs were for their family member. The fact that was overlooked in most press releases is that Rumsas' mother-in-law has undergone a cancer operation in Italy (where she resides at the moment) and (surprise, surprise!) needs more medicine than a usual person. That's why countless jokes regarding this matter seem to be a little inappropriate. Even more so considering that the same ailing person has to take care of the three children of the pair as both parents, well, are busy (to put it mildly).
Another fact that was overlooked by most commentators is that such amount of drugs could not have been for one purpose. As in fact was stated by both by RR and ER. With Edita Rumsas not having a translator and Raimondas Rumsas words being misinterpreted by the press (example: "medicine was for his mother-in-law in Yakstenia" where Yakstenia (Jakstiene) is her name and not some kind of place) there is no wonder that the world knows only the more smelly bits of information although most of that information is worthless.
Although I believe that Rumsas should be considered innocent until it is proven that he is guilty, it is very hard not to lean towards the side of his guilt, given the circumstances surrounding the "Rumsas affair" and his continuing behavior. As both Mr. Rumsas and his wife are cyclists, they both must be fully aware that even having the type of drugs found in Edita Rumsas' car in her/their possession will imply guilt. If, in truth, her mother had need of these types of drugs (truly hard to believe given the specifics of their uses and the variety found), surely both Mr. Rumsas and his wife know and could make her understand the need for both of them to be completely unconnected to their purchase/transport?
Also, how many wives/girlfriends/significant others who have stayed with a competitor for the entire Tour would leave on the very day of that person's most significant triumph??
Unfortunately Mr. Rumsas has/is behaving as a guilty man. If he is truly 'clean' and believed that there was not any type of test that could prove otherwise, why would he not immediately go to be given every type of test available to prove his claim? The longer he puts off making an appearance the more it seems he is waiting for his system to clear whatever 'might' be in it.
My last thought, and to me what Mr. Rumsas is most guilty of, is he has proven himself to be a horrible, self-centered husband!!! His wife has been in custody since before the final leg of Le Tour de France, he certainly knew of this by the end of the day (according to all reports he disappeared almost immediately) and now, almost a week has passed and he has not seen, nor spoken to his wife! Other than silly statements such as implying they are holding his wife hostage to force his appearance, or that the drugs were for his mother-in-law (which implies he knew of them), he seems to have done nothing for his wife except to leave her to face this investigation without his support. Whatever comes of this mess, when it is finally over I sincerely hope Edita Rumsas rids herself of her sorry excuse for a husband!
Frank Strack makes the point that "As Americans, it is our duty to believe in one's innocence until that person's guilt is proven. "
The presumption of innocence protects individuals from the tyranny of the state. As American Jurors we must presume innocence. While I certainly believe that this is the correct view in a criminal proceeding, there are other issues at stake here.
Has anyone ever hear of a medical reason to give testosterone to your mother, or your mother in law? That, in and of itself, is patently ridiculous. Edita Rumsas's story simply does not make sense.
Others have said that Edita Rumsas is herself a cyclist, and the drugs may have been for her. Possibly. If you were the mother of 3 children, and your husband was a professional cyclist, would you take testosterone, growth hormones and EPO in order to win some minor women's cycling races, given all of the risks involved? And, when caught with the drugs, would you then try to implicate your mother in law? Again, this explanation is a lot more convoluted that the obvious one: Edita Rumsas supplies, not herself, not her mother in law, but her husband with EPO, testosterone, and growth hormones. It is the most logical explanation to fit the facts.
In order to have a chance of catching an EPO user, you have to start testing 2 weeks before the event, something the UCI and TdF do not do. So the fact that Rumsas tested negative means little to me, because someone who knows how synthetic EPO works can time their intake as to avoid a positive test, while still reaping the benefits.
Certainly Mr. Rumsas is not guilty of a criminal violation. He was not caught with the drugs. And you cannot disqualify someone if they don't test positive. But sports, and the athletes who participate in them, should be run so that they avoid even the appearance of impropriety, especially when the current testing technology is very unreliable. Clearly this is something that Mr. Rumsas, through his association with his wife, has failed to do.
The UCI should have the authority to do year-round testing of athletes. Athletes whose conduct, vis-a-vis themselves or their direct associates, show impropriety should be subject to mandatory weekly testing, for a period to be set by a review board.
Looking at the photos of the podium finishers of the Tour De France it seems that Rumsas was not particularly a happy man. It seems that he already knew at that stage what had happened to his wife earlier. This is another story which highlights cycling's underworld. It has always been like this. They have been caught again, and the lies are starting. Drugs for a mother in law? To go from France to Lithuania you do not need to take the Mont Blanc tunnel to Italy. To go back to the home of Rumsas or/and the Lampre Team headquarters in Italy you do. Willy Voet has said that the quantity of drugs was too much for one person. Rumsas's wife followed him in the Tour's most difficult stages. She drove an unofficial car but no doubt encountered him at his team hotel, where all his teammates were staying. In all probability at least some of the Lampre team were doping. All doping tests were clean. The logical conclusion is that there were riders doped at this years Tour de France, but to the outside world everything is fine. Just as it always was apart from the odd mishap like this ...
Sorry if you think that I was criticising any of the riders. That certainly wasn't my intention. Personally, I think that both Jalabert and Botero brightened up the race (as did Boogerd, Aerts et al), and you are right, it did divert the attention from Lance "wiping the floor". That wasn't the point of the letter, and you probably know it.
The point about Botero is that he is a phenomenally strong rider who gets over the climbs (and yes, very quickly, much quicker than I could ever dream of doing) in a very high gear, and not a "natural" climber like Van Impe, Herrera or even Pantani (though maybe "natural" isn't the right word for him) who twiddle a low gear. Botero would probably admit this himself so I don't think it is wrong to mention it.
I wonder at Ja Ja's accomplishments. It's true that he is a champion and a legend.
Still, a scene that is burned in to my memory is that from the 98 Tour when he was fighting about the doping controls and the injustice "done to the riders". I remember him not getting his way in the attempt to stop the race so charging off the front, then abandoning. I also remember him refusing to be controlled in France or wanting to submit to the standards and quitting on his country and not racing there in protest.
I am not sure that any of this was good for the sport and, given his authority in the Peloton, think it was more an attempt to perpetuate doping than to help get rid of it. Celebrate the Palmares certainly and celebrate his ability. But like a few other Campionisimo, expect more from whoever takes his place at the Top of the Peloton in the effort to clean it up.
If you read this you are more than likely against Doping and are one of the people complaining about the lack of fight against it, yet you cheer JaJa and will miss him (as I will). Believe me, if the Fans of the sport could get it together and stop supporting those who will and have fought against controls, The UCI would do more to get it out of the sport.
While it's fun to compare riders who dominated different generations, like Anquetil, Merckx, Indurain and Armstrong, the only true thing we can say for sure is that they were (or are, in Lance's case) superb, dedicated, gifted athletes who worked hard to develop the skills required to win in their time. There are always many unsung heroes who were simply unlucky enough to be racing at their own best when someone like the afore mentioned were in their stride.
Poulidor comes to mind, as does Jan Ulrich. In Jan's case, it is safe to assume that if Armstrong had not appeared, he would have probably become the dominant rider of this period. The facts are facts, however, and in truth we are lucky enough to be observing a time when there are many riders capable of winning the big races. There is much more depth of talent in the peloton than at any time I can remember since I developed an interest in the sport in the 1960's.
It is also safe to assume that if the best riders of past generations were riding at their best today, they would lean towards specializing in whatever race types they were best at, or they would not win consistently. So really, just sit back and enjoy following our lovely sport at a time when it is near it's best potential for accomplishment and entertainment.
The problems that exist today have always existed but because of how media
is run these days, it is far harder for lesser riders to cheat today than it
ever was. Personally, I support the efforts of any rider who hangs in there
and does his (or her) job, and even occasionally comes up with a spectacular
result. As for the Armstrongs and Indurains and Merckxs, they are always the
icing on the cake and deserve all the rewards we shower on them.
Forget A&S. What about Coast? Even a Simoni-less Saeco is better that Delatour or AG2R.
The justification that "The French teams [that don't belong in the Tour] attack early and often" is without merit. They attack early because that is the only time they can get publicity. If they wait until the teams with the yellow, green or polka-dot jerseys' begin to control the race, their attacks will go nowhere.
Jalabert attacked the whole race. If these non-deserving French wildcards were so prone to attack, why didn't they have rider's with him on these attacks?
I'll except CA out of this analysis because they are a good enough team that Moreau could have made a push for the podium if the they would have had better luck.
As for Armstrong and Indurain, I cannot forget when Indurain caught a passed Armstrong in 1994. I know Armstrong is much better than he was back then.
Armstrong vs Indurain #2
Responding to Dan Steinbach's letter "Armstrong vs Indurain", I agree when he says that it is impossible to compare riders from different generations. Apart from this it might be clear that Indurain's cycling stile was totally different from the stile of Armstrong because he didn't attack in the mountains because he just didn't need to do it (he only had to maintain the distance with his rivals, due to the enormous advantage obtained in the time trials). The few times he attacked in the mountains he beat easily his enemies (remember Hautacam in 1994 or La Plagne in 1995).
So, what I think is that if Armstrong and Indurain had ridden at the same time
in order to reach the victory in the TdF, Indurain and Armstrong would have
competed different, because in that case both of them would have had a great
enemy the one in the other (neither Indurain in the past, nor Armstrong in the
present have had an enemy similar to their own size). Nobody knows, but probably
we could have seen Indurain attacking more frequently in the mountains (as Armstrong
does), or maybe Armstrong would not like to humiliate his enemies so often and
he would have been more conformist (as Indurain was). The only thing I know
is that we will never see it (what a pity!), but fortunately we enjoyed Indurain's
era in the past and we are doing the same with Armstrong in the present (and
in the future, I hope). They are inimitable, and for this reason they will be
in the history of the Tour forever.
Armstrong vs Indurain #3
The mental exercise of "Armstrong vs. Indurain" can be easily played out with Jan Ullrich cast in the mould of an Indurain-style rider. Ullrich time-trials as dominantly as Indurain did, and climbs by churning big gears at low cadence (as though time-trialing his way upwards). Ullrich's and Indurain's attacks in the mountains always was some sort of big-gear grind which wore down the other riders. Furthermore, Jan & Big Mig (even Bjarne Riis, Abraham Olano, Alex Zulle) have similar physiques - tall and strong with long muscular legs. And Jan was expected to dominate the Tour because of his similarities to Indurain (and ended up with four 2nd places & a win).
Armstrong has proven consistently that he can defeat this mould of rider - by time-trialing at high-cadence and climbing/attacking at high-cadence. If Indurain went head-to-head with Armstrong, Armstrong would likely win in such an exercise. But, you would have to also account for team strength. Mig's Banesto vs. Lance's USPS? That would be a fun one to consider.
My eight year old has been gamely learning the Tour de France jerseys and their competitions. In the middle of OLN's coverage the other night, he recited them all. Then he looked at me as I stretched my old bones out and asked, "Dad, what's the jersey for the oldest rider?"
Well, son, I guess that would be grey.
But he's right, from a viewer-demographic aspect that is clearly the missing jersey.
I had the opportunity to spend a few days with the Fassa Bortolo team at this year's Tour. Riding in one of the support cars, I observed that the Coke water bottles contained water, as they were handed out without explanation or searching for ones with any indication of different contents. We handed out the majority of bottles to our own riders, but never hesitated to give them to other team's riders without explanation of the contents- and the one I tried was water only.
Energy drinks were handed out in prepackaged single serving containers- I seem to recall that it was Extran- but could be mistaken, or in the form of gel packets. We didn't hand out any cans of Coke, but I saw lots of riders getting them from other cars- seems like they typically took them ~15 minutes before the beginning of a climb, late in the stage.
Basically, USP were the most aggressive Team, particularly in the mountains.
But it was a war of attrition rather than one of attacks. This had a quite devastating
effect on the other GC riders particularly the ONCE boys. I also have a sneaking
suspicion that once through the Pyrenees, lance could have attacked anywhere
he wanted to. He'd have torn the race, and most of his own team, apart in doing
so. The glory of another dramatic stage victory should be weighed against the
risk of losing the Tour if it goes pear shaped!
21 stages. The rider that wins the most stages wins the Tour. Just think, a real race every day. Probably won't work, but I am to numb from the Tour de Bore to figure out why.
Who cares how many abandons he has? Let's not confirm the rumours about Australia being the world's biggest bunch of knockers. Just enjoy watching the riders while they are there. They certainly made Kirsipuu work hard for his stage win, one of my favourite of this year's Tour.
Well done Jaan, and I hope we see another Jan back next year.
It puzzles me why the Tour crowds at the final stage on the Champs Elysees are kept so far back from the race. On TV it often looks like hardly anyone is there, as most of the course seems to be a bike fan exclusion zone.
This contrasts quite sharply with the rest of the race, where you can reach out and touch the riders (if you really must...)
Anyone know the reason for this?
If there were an award for the best cycling photograph of the year, I would want to nominate the shot taken by DJ Clark at the Commonwealth Games.
It provides a great feel for the event and captures a great performance.
I've just read Richard Sweet's account of his 3rd place in the Cascade Cream Puff 100 riding what he calls a 'singlespeed'. Would this be a hardtail MTB with just one gear? Any pics? What combination of front chainwheel and rear sprocket? Presuming the gear must be pretty small for climbing, how does this affect your speed downhill or on the flat?
First, let me offer a brief note of congratulations to Cyclingnews.com for their outstanding coverage of the sport in general and of the recent TdF in particular! Next, a question/request for information. I'm planning to be in Spain/ south-western France during the end of August and early September. I was considering spending some time around the Girona are based on what I have read that a number of pro-cyclists reside there during their Euro-stays, and that they must know a good thing when they see/find it in terms of weather, riding etc. Can anyone verify that is a pretty good area for cycling and or vacationing? Please respond via this column. Thanks in advance for any advice!!
Not only did McGee get the Gold but his time of 4:16 is only 4 seconds short of Boardman's Superman time of 4:12. The Superman position was clearly faster than the current legal position.
This is a truly world best performance! I hope he rides at the worlds!
Well done to Graeme Brown for winning the Commonwealth Games 20km Scratch Race. Unfortunately, the event itself was marred by the latest bit of UCI meddling. There's a new rule that, if riders have gained a lap, then they have to be separated near the end so that they can contest the finish alone. The result was that, in effect, we saw a 15km scratch race because Graeme Brown, Huw Pritchard, Tony Gibb and Lee Vertongen had to swing up to allow the rest to sprint for the minor places before leaving the track clear for the leaders; then the medals were decided in a 4-up match sprint. So, about 16 minutes of attacking action, then several minutes of lull to sort everyone out, then a couple of sprints. Complete anti-climax if you ask me. All the excitement was killed stone dead. Plus no chance for anyone to attack in the last few kms. Hey UCI!! Stop messing!!
Thomas Delfosse is among the many hardened Virenque haters out there that seem to enjoy holding on to their closet full of bottled anger at Richard for his involvement in the drug mess of the mid-late 90s. Nothing can be done about these guys who are determined to hold Richard to a different standard than all of the dozens (maybe hundreds) of riders who doped in the 90's.
However, we can set his facts straight. "Since he quit EPO, he hasn't come close to the climbers jersey". In 1999, with less than 3 weeks notice that he would be allowed to ride the Tour, Richard WON the Climbers Jersey at the Tour. The next year, he placed third behind a very strong duo of Kelme riders (Botero and Otchoa), and in so doing won a very difficult mountain stage that saw Armstrong crack, and Richard ride away from Jan Ullrich and bridge to Roberto Heras on the last climb of the day, the Joux Plane. Not too bad. This year, he was climbing poorly relative to the best, but did what he had to do to win a tough stage of the Tour. So...the post EPO Richard has 1 KOM win, 1 third place and two big stage wins on tough mountain stages in the Tour.
And lets take a close look at Richard's ride on Mt Ventoux this year. How "weak" was the "post EPO" Virenque? Well at 7K to go Richard had 4:44 on Lance Armstrong's group. Shortly thereafter, Lance attacks and hammers to the summit to finish 2:20 down on Virenque. So in a bit over 6K, Lance put 2:24 into Richard who had been in a break for 196 Kilometres (not too bad a ride by Richard, I think). Compare this to Joseba Beloki, who sat behind his teammates ALL DAY until he made his attack on Lance at 7K to go. Lance put 1:45 on Beloki during this same distance on the road....and Beloki was chasing Lance in a group with Pradera, Basso and Rumsas, not riding on his own in the famous wind of Mt Ventoux, like Richard was.
Looks to me like, even when riding (by his standards) badly in the mountains, when the time came to ride like a champion, Richard did just that. Of course, we have already had the Virenque haters dig into their closet of rage and pull out "yeah he rode well on the Ventoux.....he must have been doped that day!"
Some people need to just let it go.
I just don't get it - he didn't mean to take cocaine, so it's OK ? It seems to me that I seen numerous racers serve suspensions for ephedrine showing up due to taking a cold medicine. How is this different ? The guy was positive for cocaine - Ban Him !
Believe me, Menchov is not the star at iBanesto. Juan Miguel Mercado is 'the man' there now. This was planned (to keep him out of the Tour) very early in the season so that Mercado could concentrate exclusively on the Vuelta, where he will be iBanesto's leader. Let us not forget that Mercado is only 23/24 yrs old. Mercado will make his Tour de France debut next year in 2003. I believe very strongly that Mercado is a future Tour de France winner. Perhaps even the next Indurain.
Pros ride bikes to sell them for manufacturers, not because of the ride or other blah blah blah involved. Manufacturers are not making a marketing push for steel, so you don't see it.
But there are several pros on the new high temp / low weight steel (like Columbus Foco) in the peloton. the deal is that the bikes get rebadged to look like the aluminium ones they are trying to sell.
If manufacturers wanted to market steel, you would see riders on it.
Where are the steel bikes? #2
In response to the "where are the steel bikes" query - many teams use steel bikes for the classics - Telekom for one. Cycle Sport mag reported this in the spring classics issue (Weseman interview, last year? -for the cobbled classics). Also take a real close look at the pictures in any mag or website (pref CN!) - smaller diameter tubing in frames is a tip off - and thin curved forks -Mapei uses steel forks in Roubaix. Teams will use any equipment that will help their riders in a race - even if it is "unofficial" See Jan Ullrich using non-Campy wheels (Lightweight by Cees Beers) in the Tour last year - Lance Armstrong used the same wheels the last 2 years, but USP's sponsor is Mavic).
They may dress it up to look like standard team issue... But that's marketing, why would you want to buy a US$3,500 TdF alu-carbon team frame if they really ride steel? Or why would Lance, Jan or any other top pro drag a 19lb steel bike up a Tour col when they can ride a 14.5 alu-carbon bike? Pay attention to what you see and where you see it and you'll notice plenty of variation in team equipment - ride what you like at home and don't worry about what teams ride. Steel gets into tech articles because it's affordable, rides well and is reliable. l can think of many reasons to buy a bike but those are right at the top of the list.
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