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Letters to Cyclingnews - July 3, 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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Mapei & Verbruggen
I just read Mapei is pulling out of sponsoring pro cycling. Cannondale is ready to pull the plug, too. They're both sick of the lack of progress in fighting drugs. What is the matter with the people at the UCI running this sport? Drug scandals are killing cycling at a time when it's ready to go global. With all the American and Australian riders coming in, world-wide interest has never been higher. Yet Hein Verbruggen refuses to really do anything about drug testing. Major sponsors are pulling out, others are publicly questioning their participation, the Giro and TdF are plagued by drug scandals and on-going inquiries. The winner of every race is looked at with suspicion, fans are disgusted and all the press wants to talk about is drugs. Wake up, Mr Verbruggen. This guy is clueless. Sure drug testing is expensive, complicated and time-consuming. But it's pretty cheap compared to the alternative: turning pro cycling into a joke. Enough with the lame speeches. Listen to the riders, the sponsors and fans and save this wonderful sport.
Mapei & Verbruggen #2
There are some major unresolved issues here.
1. If probenecid doesn't conceal anything in the quantity found - why wasn't there a further investigation, especially when the whole team was going to the roadside during the race.
2. What were the results of Squinzi having the whole Mapei team checked out?
3. Regionally this will be terrible for cycling - Mapei have put so much into Asia and Australia to develop the younger riders.
4. Where is young Cadel in all of this? I expected to see him lined up for the TdF -even if only to blood him for the first 10 stages.
Even the Mapei foyer here in Singapore has jerseys and bikes won by the team
and they supported our blind tandem team through 1999 and 2000 for the Olympics
preparation and participation.
Mapei & Verbruggen #3
Certainly we have seen some silliness out of Squinzi and Mapei over the years (My favourite is when Mr. S said, "you can't be in the top three of a major tour and not be doping," while he had Tonkov in the top 5 at the Giro).
That being said. Mapei has given us some of the best that cycling has had to offer. They owned the Classics with a host of riders that, regardless of where they end up, will be remembered for their best days as part of Mapei. The Lion, Bettini, Tafi, Steels, Bartoli... only a fool would argue the quality of the riders or the Palmares of that team.
This is perhaps the biggest bombshell to land on the UCI in it's history. Not saying that it's the biggest event in cycling history but, given that the sport is at it's pinnacle in world wide popularity, loosing Mapei is an undeniable indicator that the UCI is failing to produce a product that is viable in the eyes of the people that support it.
This is not the dark days of yesteryear when our heroes and their handlers could easily have two faces, the face of the super human athlete that they show the public, and the filthy underbelly that they could keep under wraps even in the face of positive testing. Information flows more freely now than the old guard of cycling (and some of the new) would like and it empowers the public to know what their heroes are really like. The super efficient communication that occurs today also places the names of these corporations hand in hand with the Pantanis and Simonis of the World, and it is foolish for them to spend millions on bad press. Some companies may try to capitalise on the bad press (Like Cannondale's head man who thought that his address on Simoni and Doping was the perfect opportunity to include information on his High quality, technologically advanced bicycles and great attention to customers). But for most companies the sport has become so bad that the old saying that "any publicity is good publicity" no longer applies.
The loss of arguably the best sponsor in Cycling (tip of the hat to a struggling Kelme who is the oldest) should be an indicator that the UCI is failing. Failing to provide a structure that promotes the sport for the long run. Failing to provide the incentive to it's members to clean the sport up. And although it's power is great, the UCI is Failing miserably to apply it for the better of the sport and the athlete it represents.
We all know that we are known by the company we keep. The phrase "tell me of his friends and you will tell me of the man" applies to us all. As difficult as it is to walk away from a good friend, Mapei feels that they have no choice, because the UCI and Cycling are bad company. At least they held out longer than Festina, TVM and Deutchbank.
Mapei & Verbruggen #4
I read with embarrassment your news section regarding UCI President Hein Verbruggen's comments published in the June 28 edition of La Gazzetta dello Sport regarding the decision by MAPEI boss Dr Giorgio Squinzi to cease sponsoring of one of the worlds top trade teams.
His unnecessary criticism of a sponsor who has invested over $100 million in the sport over ten years is unacceptable. Surely Mr Verbruggen's job as UCI president is to encourage new investment in the sport, especially at a time when sponsors are sensitive about the still commonplace doping scandals. His bitter comments about MAPEI will send future sponsors and their big-money budgets packing Ð straight into a sport without cycling's drug-tarnished reputation.
The MAPEI company made a decision to invest a great deal of money in a cycling team and, like any sensible business, it made sure it got the best return on the investment by creating a highly organised and very successful trade team with a winning formula. MAPEI's legacy to cycling is not the criticisms of Mr Verbruggen but the positive influence it has had on the organisation, professionalism and strategy of every trade team in the last ten years.
Hats off to Dr Squinzi for his sponsorship, lets congratulate him on MAPEI's vast number of successes, and remember some of the great racing moments that his riders have entertained us with.
MAPEI, please come back soon (and bring others with you!).
I am dismayed to see that Hein Verbruggen is criticizing Mapei's decision to withdraw from the sport of cycling, and is casting personal aspersions at Giorgio Squinzi in his open letter published today in La Gazzetta dello Sport.
Dr. Squinzi and Mapei have funnelled approximately $100 million (US) into the sport of cycling since 1994; they have developed many star riders; and except for this year's unfortunate events at the Giro d'Italia (with regards to Stefano Garzelli's non-negative test for Probenicid) have been on the forefront of the anti-doping movement within professional cycling. They have been the single largest sponsor of the sport of cycling for the past decade.
What has Mr. Verbruggen done for the sport of cycling other than go on vacation during the Festina affair, and constantly attempting to absolve the UCI from any blame with regards to the problems in the sport.
Instead of criticizing Dr. Squinzi for withdrawing Mapei's money from the sport, Mr. Verbruggen should be trying to figure out some way to convince Mapei to stick around. This is not the first time that a big-money sponsor has decided to withdraw from the sport during Mr. Verbruggen's watch, and it is likely that it won't be the last time either ... and yet Verbruggen just sits on the sidelines and does nothing.
Yes, the withdrawal of Mapei will be bad for cycling, but Hein Verbruggen is doing far more to harm the sport because of his sheer inactivity.
It is time for a change at the top of the UCI leadership. It is time for Hein Verbruggen to step down and let another, more visionary leader step forward.
Steven L. Sheffield
Verbruggen must go #2
Hein Verbruggen's letter regarding Mapei's pull out of cycling is all the proof anyone needs that he should be removed and that the UCI needs a fundamental change in attitude that puts it's concentration toward the sport and the riders rather than power and self promotion.
Hein's suggestions that Mapei were an unknown entity before cycling is silly. Mapei has been in business for quite a while and has been as praised for their business practice as its team has for its sporting dominance. Further comments to the effect that Mapei used cycling for self promotion are accurate. And what the hell do you expect from a 100 million dollar sponsorship Hein?
As I have said in the past, sponsors and companies (like people) are known by the company they keep. We have seen some key companies leave cycling because it has not been something that people want to be associated with. Regardless of Hein's childish response, cycling has grown weaker by the loss of several major sponsors. And only some last minute wrangling had kept the tour from loosing major sponsors too.
Sponsors are supposed to gain from publicity, while the UCI is supposed to simply be a governing body to help the sport clean up, grow and get stronger.
If anything, Hein should be happy that he has a job. Should he be judged the way these business leaders are judged, who thinks for a second that he would still be there after losing so much? Both the sponsors and the followers of cycling are your customers Hein, and you are losing them.
You should be pointing a finger, however it should be in the mirror, not at Mapei.
Have to say that I disagree with Brooks Lawrence (letters, June 26) and his comments on the USPS Tour Team Selection. Bottom line - the team is there for Lance, no-one else, and win number four.
This isn't some flag-waving US cyclist convention. This is very serious business (just look at the price of Tour success, or lack of it, for BigMat, Saeco, Jean Delatour, and Aqua et Sapone).
USPS rightly is one of the biggest budgets in the sport, and has already (excluding any further successes by the them) done more for American cycling than any other team, save 7-Eleven or Motorola.
As well, the comments regarding the Team Time Trial are misinformed. In 1989, Greg LeMond (remember him?), won the Tour by eight seconds. Eight seconds. Minutes are lost by better riders in the Team Time Trial. That's a Tour won or lost, a career made or saved - an objective failed or achieved.
I was surprised about Christian. Rode a good Tour last year - until the Team Time Trial! Remember that fall!? Oh my, wonder if that had anything to do with his non-selection...
Besides, overall the team looks buzzing. Roberto and 'Pink Floyd' (I like that one!) are on great form, Pena and Rubi are superb riders, and I expect Rubi to ride a great TTT; as will Slava and George. Padrnos and Joachim are proven Domestiques, and will be great support through the short sharp stages that will be a feature of this Tour.
As regards Chann - yeah, sure, he's the US Champ; but he's not the Tour de France Champ. 'Don Corleone' George (don't like that one, Brooks!) is a trusted lieutenant of Big Tex, and has ridden and completed numerous Tours - what about Chann?
Who knows what went on at Philly? For sure, George was the USPS choice, and things probably didn't go his way on the final climb. Chann may have been riding in anger, but lest we forget he was picked-up from the whole Mercury thing last year, and given a chance to ride the Vuelta.
I bet he wasn't complaining about which races he rode or not when he was given the one year contract with USPS for this season. He will probably ride the Vuelta, and bet he rides a storming World's (as he did two years ago).
One thought: Chann has now generated a lot of publicity for the people he is supposed to have been annoyed with. So, who's got the last laugh now?
One could argue that, with no real challenger for Armstrong's crown this year, perhaps they should have sent in some of the lesser (but as able) riders, and saved the likes of George and Landis for the Autumn Classics.
But, commendations to the team - you don't set out to achieve a primary goal, and suddenly change that goal before you've even had the chance to achieve it.
Directeurs sportifs Bruyneel and DeMol have a good track record with their team, and I reckon that they will prove strong and right again. If not, I guess Brooks will remind me to eat my words!
US Postal Tour selection #2
I have a message for Mr. Lawrence and others, who think US Postal should have put more Americans on the Tour team: Get over it! This is the strongest team Postal has ever put in France. I too was surprised when VandeVelde was not selected. He showed good form in Spain. But when you look at the selections, it is hard to argue. Pavel Padrnos was brought in to replace Ekimov. Ekimov came back in great form, so USPS decided to take both to the tour. Although some may disagree, I think Pena is a no-brainer. He is a good time trialIst, solid on the flats and he can climb. As far as Benoit, USPS showed some loyalty to a rider who has been with the team a few years. He is also in good form and the tour starts in his country. George and the mountain men (Heras, Chechu, and Floyd) are slam dunk choices.
US Postal Tour selection #3
Lighten up "Brooks." The USPS team for the Tour is picked with ONE purpose in mind; Help Armstrong win the Tour!
The selections take the TTT into account, support in the high, and the ability to protect the Jersey day in and day out during any conditions.
After three consecutive victories I can't think of a DS who has a better handle on picking the team than Johan Bruyneel.
The depth of the Postal team is also a testament to Bruyneel's ability to spot and foster talent from the pro peloton. To whine about not enough Americans being on the team is short sighted and foolish at best. Go Postal!!
US Postal Tour selection #4
First of all, McRae did not outright "win" the race in Philadelphia. He came in second to Mark WaLters of Canada. He is the National Champion by being the first American across the finish line that day. A great ride no doubt, and let's not forget that he was set up huge by Michael Barry and a little self sacrificing by U23 World Time Trial Champion Danny Pate. In the end, Hincapie didn't have it, that day, and McRae had the firepower to push it until the end.
Now as far as Tour selections for Postal, yes, they are an American team, but that doesn't mean they have to take all Americans to the Tour with them. Hincapie is a proven Tour performer, and has had his best season yet this year in the Spring Classics. He has finished the Tour many times, and has proven invaluable to the team through the entire race. The same can be said for Ekimov, who made a return to the team just recently, and will no doubt provide a huge and strong motor on some of the flatter stages. McRae while being the new National Champion of the US, is not a proven performer in three week tours. Heras, Rubiera, and the others are. Christian VandeVelde was left out, but let's face facts; he has not had a good season thus far.
Postal's Tour line up is chosen for one purpose as we all know. To win a fourth consecutive Tour de France for Lance Armstrong and US Postal. That is their goal every year since he won his first, and will probably continue to be the goal until he decides to hang up those wheels. And to this end, they will take to the Tour whoever is going to ride the hardest, and protect Lance Armstrong the best.
US Postal Tour selection #5
Re: Chann getting shafted from the tour. You have to wonder about the behind-the-scenes dealings at Team USPS. Remember when Marty Jemison took the stars-and-stripes jersey in front of Hincapie a few years ago? Marty was pretty much black-balled out of the sport. I hope the same doesn't happen to Chann.
There's a bike shop in downtown Dublin on the north side of the Liffey river, a couple blocks west of O'Connell Street. If I remember correctly (and it's been about 8 months), its called Dublin Cyclery. In any case it's easy to find, and even though it's a small shop it's packed with high-end bikes and equipment. A good place to start if you're interested in what Dublin has to offer cycling wise. Good luck with the traffic, too.
Cycling in Dublin #2
There are plenty of teams and clubs based in the Dublin area. I am a member
of one of Ireland's largest clubs, Swords - McNally Joinery. We have three weekly
spins and a club race every Wednesday evening Our web site can be found at www.swordscc.com
Cycling in Dublin #3
Good riding depends on where you'll be staying. I'll assume you'll be somewhat central. First, there's wind. Lots of it near the coast. Prepare to be blown about.
Sunday morning is when all the clubs meet up to cycle (don't say "ride", it has a different meaning, and if you did it with another woman, your wife would not be pleased ;-). When I was there, I met up with a small group of friends for an 70 miler down in City Centre behind the Four Courts around 9am. There's a nice shop on the north end of City Centre just west of the main street. They can give you details on clubs. They can probably also tell you about any racing that might be happening in Phoenix Park.
On the north side near the coast is a nice road that winds all the way up to Howth (say "hoath") and past. Howth has a nice climb on it, and you could do laps around that and get yourself really toasted.
Head south towards Bray. I can't recall the name of the road off the top of my head (my Dublin Ordinance Survey map is at the office), but there's a nice cycling path along it if you don't fancy riding with the traffic. Head back out to the coast and get to the Vivay Road--Bono has (or at least he used to have) a house along there. It's narrow and hilly and a blast to cycle.
Once you get out to Bray (incidentally, you can also take the rail out there, although I don't think that bikes are generally permitted) you can head further south towards Greystones (next town beyond Bray, then turn inland and head to the hills towards Wicklow Gap. The TdF stage ran right through here, and, at least two years ago, you could still see names painted on the pavement.
You might also consider checking out the "links" section of http://www.irishcycling.com. Whatever you do, don't think that just because it's warm here it'll be warm there. Bring a rain jacket, arm warmers, and the like because you NEVER know.
To the comments about Simoni being a drugged rider etc, I would only ask Mr House if he subjects all food to a detailed laboratory analysis before he eats it? If not, should he lose his job for trace amounts of stimulants in his blood? It would only seem fair to live to the standard you are setting for others.
The solution to the current drug problem is actually rather simple. The UCI
needs to adopt a reality television approach to bicycle racing. Each team willing
to contest the world cup events will be issued everything needed to complete
the entire season. Food , clothing, bikes, you name it. If it didn't come from
the UCI it is contraband. Each team will be assigned housing in a monitored
dorm similar to the Olympic village. Cameras everywhere including team cars
will allow complete transparency. Meals will be prepared institutional style
on trays and randomly distributed amongst the athletes. Nothing goes into an
athlete that did not come from the UCI. Prior to being allowed to begin training,
riders will be subjected to a six week quarantine during which blood , urine
and hair will be collected every day and tested to establish a base line. No
chance for spiked food or 'supplemental' errors. Everything will be controlled
and anyone who fails to follow the rules is out for life. What could possibly
Regarding Dynepo, and indeed all commercially produced drugs which can be used as performance enhancing rather than their original intent, surely the answer is simple; the pharmaceutical company that produces it should be obliged to put something in the drug to make it easily detectable. Of course they will say that it is difficult, costly, etc, but since there is currently a feeling that large pharmaceutical companies are exploiting the third world, they should want to be seen doing something positive. Therefore if sports organisations, especially the Olympic organisation started a campaign they would be forced to agree. If we do not succeed in this, we will start moving to the nightmare scenario where some unscrupulous people will breed champions through cloning and genetic engineering.
One way to reduce the motivation for the use of banned substances is to increase the availability of information related to legal performance optimising practises. There are surely various legal and natural ways of promoting red blood cell production and an adequate supply of performance related hormones, not to mention a wide range of other issues such as recovery. If an ignorant athlete thinks that banned substances are the only solution they may never learn of healthy approaches to performance improvement.
Either stop wasting time and money testing, or test everyone once a week as long as they have a UCI license...step up or shut up, basically.... everything else is PR.
Although I would like to think that the sport can be clean, it's in sporting culture, and society at large, to cheat.
Regarding doping in general, if it is impossible to eradicate doping as has been said, then why not make it available to all those wishing to take it? Offer EPO to anyone and then set a limit on Haematocrit levels (62%)? If everyone is juiced with the same haematocrit level, then the playing field is level. I know there are health risks and the riders also know these risks; however, it would be their choice. Some argue that the beauty of cycling is watching normal people perform these amazing feats on the bicycle, while others say it is the competition between those individuals. If it is competition, we want, why should it matter if they are ALL juiced?
Excellent article about Dynepo. Two additional tidbits:
1. The market for erythropoietin is vast, as evidenced by the commercials to the public about EPO's benefit, allowing a cancer-stricken grandfather to play with his grandson. Perhaps the competition will lower the price, currently about $500/week for cancer patients.
2. There have been several reports of people developing antibodies to exogenous (and then presumably native/endogenous) erythropoietin and becoming profoundly anaemic as they continue to destroy their native erythropoietin. Having an EPO derived from a human cell line might make this much less likely.
Gregg Newman MD
I don't really have anything new or interesting to say about this issue but I'd like to commend Cyclingnews for producing such and insightful article on the doping issue in cycling. It opened my eyes to the breadth of difficulties encountered in trying to control this problem.
Good grief! After reading Tommy Campbell's report on the upcoming Irish National Championships I nearly ran down and bought a plane ticket and scurried over there to watch the show. Talk about exciting reporting.
After watching for years, as the Italians chewed themselves up at the Worlds by having a Dream team without a goal, whose two priorities have been win at all costs, or at least make damn sure no other Italian wins, could it be that this year we see a team bent on putting the best qualified man across the line first? With no worries about any Mapei collusion this year (as they don't care about next year) this could be it!
The Zolder course is a sprinter's dream, and there is no other Italian sprinter even close to Super Mario this year (much less any of the last five). And should they put together a team of diesels (a train with the likes of Scirea, Tafi, Bramati, Scinto) and give him a lead out of Lombardi, Petacchi, and maybe a little Commesso (sorry Gian Mateo Fannini fans and Eric Zabel, but no Telekom on this team please) we could finally see big blue bring the rainbow back to Italy! And God knows what the Kit would look like if he won!
Bravo to Ballerini for saying that Mario is the man. It's about time.
I read with interest that the Big Fish of Belgium's cycling world, No‘l Demeulenaere, is to set up a new team sponsored by "Crack." How amusing it would be if VDB rode on a Crack team. He could even sign up his dog, definitely the Jimmy Hendrix of the canine world!
This may go without saying, but have we ever seen such a large contingent of US road cyclists at the top before? The last three grand tours had US riders in first (TdF), third (Vuelta), and second (Giro). Three teams (including USPS) have a US team leader for grand tours, and now it looks like all three teams will have US leaders for the 2002 TdF. Who would have thunk it?
Derek A. Schreihofer
Surely when you are giving 100% of your effort (such as a prologue or stage
breakaway) it is very hard to control the expression on your face. Everyone's
suffer face is different - some stick their tongues out, some don't - and hardly
any of them are pretty! As for the podium thing, I just think it looks cheeky,
and is an expression of joy from the rider for winning the stage, being in yellow
and so on. Jalabert has been doing it for years, and somehow I don't think he
is copying a "certain basketball player" - it just comes spontaneously.
Sticking out your tongue #2
I do it for concentration when I am trying to sprint from a stop position; and because Michael Jordan does it. It does help breathing when you breathe out, expelling air faster.
Sticking out your tongue #3
Dont do it if there are potholes in the road you will chop it off. I recall a vet loosing his teeth in a race while hiting a pothole.
I was wondering if anyone out there knows anything about bunch rides in Ghent, Belgium. I am going to stay there for a couple of weeks in August and would love to do some training with the locals.
Your section on pro team bikes is pretty interesting. Any chance you could do the same thing with their time trial rigs?
Justin M. Baxter
Put yourself into their shoes!
Suppose you and your family were accused of dealing in drugs or whatever. The police searched, but found no evidence. You offer to meet with them, the police chief, or whichever high authority you choose, and they refuse, but they still continue to accuse you publicly and then turn around and say you WERE NOT cooperating. You know you didn't do it. You know you offered to meet with them. Where does that put you? Two years of harassment of this sort is ridiculous. And you can't even sue really, unless you want to try for discrimination. No other team has had to go through this and other teams have been "seen" doing stuff.
US Postal investigation #2
In response to Mr. Hancock's letter regarding the medical records of USPS, it should be noted that in the US, medical records, or any communication with a physician, are covered under "doctor-patient privilege," and are hence not generally admissible as evidence or subject to subpoena. While in very rare circumstances a judge can rule that the privilege is not applicable; such a decision requires at least some other evidence, which is lacking in this case. In this light, USPS's refusal to turn over these records is entirely reasonable.
US Postal Investigation #3
In response to Syd Hancock's letter of 23 June:
Your position can't be supported unless you feel all the medical records of ALL professional cyclists should be available to any investigators, whenever they request them. This attitude of, "lack of evidence of either guilt or innocence" is a dangerous mode of operation. Lack of evidence, of innocence? Since when must anyone prove their innocence of anything? Such thinking in the USA led to the one of low points in our short 250 year history, the well-known McCarthy hearings.
I concur with Peter Hoogervorst on nearly every point regarding a new format for the Vuelta. If this format does become reality, it may prove to be entertaining in some respects, but I feel it will realistically remove the Vuelta from the list of the three Grand Tours.
If anyone cares, or is counting; I vote NO, leave the Vuelta alone.
I love Phil's enthusiasm, but he is constantly making mistakes. How about a drink each time he is correct: rider's names, what race is actually being covered, what country the race is in, what rider is currently on screen, is it the break or the peloton, and so forth. He said Steve Bauer was a winner of Paris-Roubaix...and what year was that exactly? Coming a close 2nd is not quite the same.
I still really like Phil, Paul, and Bob together; great group.
Slightly askew from this subject... I think you need to drink heavily before coverage with Duffers, just to make it bearable.
Drinking Games #2
How about when Phil, master of understatement, says, "oh, it looks as if (insert name) is in a spot of bother here," whenever some poor rider crashes, cracks in the mountains or has some other unfortunate incident.
Yeah, Phil, the guy is lying by the side of the road with a compound fracture and the bone sticking out of his leg!
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