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Letters to Cyclingnews - July 30, 2002
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Since his wife is carrying the drugs [see today's Tour news - Ed] it follows that he is personally involved with doping, should be disqualified from the Tour de France results, and be suspended from pro cycling for at least 1 year -- 2 years would be more appropriate. The fact he passed drug tests during the Tour is immaterial in this case. Any rider can take EPO , raise his haematocrit from 40 to 47 (keeping it under 50), and stop taking the EPO a couple weeks before the Tour starts so that it is gone from the urine during the Tour.
Similarly if he stopped taking testosterone a month or two before the Tour it probably would not be detected in the urine either (the ratio of testosterone to epi-testosterone in the urine, which is abnormally high when an athlete takes testosterone, may be normal by then, depending on many injections he took).
Another possibility is that he just started to go back on these drugs after the Tour with the thought this would help him recover faster. It would be very interesting to test him now, after the Tour.
Regardless he should be sanctioned as above; if not, it would be another major negative for any real effort to stop doping.
Jay Gehrig M.D.
"Lithuanian cyclist Raimondas Rumsas, third in this year's Tour de France, has been suspended after his wife was found in possession of doping products, the rider's team Lampre announced Monday. Rumsas' wife was arrested on Sunday at Chamonix after customs officials found her in possession of a number of pharmaceutical products. "
Let the theories begin. Here are a few:
Will the drama never end? Apparently not. Maybe it'll be another "French doping" investigation or maybe there will be some substance. Either way it's disappointing. The only thing left to be seen is who we can be disappointed in, Rumsas or the French officials.
Also whose TT bars were Lampre using? So that I can never buy them.
So the 89th Tour de France comes to a close, and with it the curtain falls on the last of the true champions in the peloton. Laurent Jalabert has been the finest rider over the last ten years, bar none. Who else has won in a bunch sprint, from a small break and from 100km out, over some of the most inhospitable terrain in cycling? I for one will miss looking for his name in the results - thank you, M. Jalabert.
With all due respect to Mr. Taylor and his letter regarding Lance's acting abilities, or lack thereof, I must disagree with his sentiments.
I for one don't believe that Lance was acting at the end of the stage. If you watched closely during those stages of the Tour, you would have noticed that he didn't appear to have his usual form. Frankie Andreu asked Lance about his cadence during the Stage 9 TT, commenting that it appeared as though he was maybe turning too high a cadence and not generating enough power. Something which I had wondered about while watching it, myself. His position on the bike, his facial expression, and his form all seemed to indicate that he was not yet up to his normal level. I find it amusing, and a bit bewildering, that there seems to be a belief among some that Lance can never actually have a bad day.
My feeling is that he, like everybody in the Tour does, was having a couple of bad days. He has had some before. Remember Joux Plain? He certainly didn't try to "act" on the next stage, when he won easily, or on Ventoux when he was content to sit in and ride with the group until Beloki attempted an attack.
As for why not attack every day and try to put time into his adversaries, well, you'll destroy your team that way. In the stage's Lance has won, aside from the prologue, his team has worked exceptionally well and hard to put him into position to win. I don't think you can expect them to do that every day, but I could be wrong about that.
Armstrong's acting #2
I don't think Lance was "proud" to win stage 11 - Heras won it for him. If Lance had felt better on the lower part of the climb, and thus not had to ask Heras to slow down, perhaps they would have dropped Beloki and Heras could have had the stage win he so richly deserved. Acting like "da Man" while winning a stage that was a GIFT from a team-mate would have been in poor form.
Armstrong's acting #3
In response to Mark Taylor: Have you seen the profile of the stages following the finish at La Mongie? It is becoming apparent that Lance has been trying to save as much energy as possible in this years' Tour because of the difficulty of the stages the peloton will face the last week. He has, as usual, timed his form and his tactics to perfection this year. He admitted that he didn't have the legs at La Mongie to attack before the last 200 meters, and I believe he really was tired, and not acting. The first mountain stage is always a hard transition. As we saw the next day, his body had already started to adjust, and he put significant time into all his rivals. Lance is probably the smartest rider in the peloton when it comes to tactics, and with so many tough stages, he is "dosing" his efforts so that he doesn't over-extend himself while still taking 1 to 2 minutes out of his rivals each time.
So, what badness do you have to do to get points deducted from you on the TdF? Iban Mayo must have been sat in the corner a couple of times for his -20 standing. And do these riders, who aren't competing for the green jersey anyway, really care?
I don't get all the hullabaloo about Lance's "style", especially as it relates to the length of his cycling shorts. I looked at as many pictures as I could in my cycling magazines and I couldn't tell much difference between the length of Lance's shorts and everybody else's in the peloton. (Maybe they are a little longer but not by much.) In the United States shorts are worn much lower on the knee today than 10 or 20 years ago. In fact, below the knee shorts are fashionable among some people (mostly under the age of 21). Also, look at the evolution of shorts in college basketball and the NBA over the last 20 years. They are much longer today than when Magic Johnson came into the NBA (1980). It seems to me if Lance has cycling shorts that are longer than the other pros are wearing, he is right in line with current fashion trends.
Lance and style #2
"Shorts to the knees." What sort of nonsense is this? Complaining about how long Lance's shorts are? I was under the impression that bicycling shorts are designed to support the quads - which extend to the knees.
Lance and style #3
You can't please all of the people all of the time! L.S. Paden criticizes Armstrong for not helping Heras win Stage 11 in order to eliminate the risk that Beloki might pip them at the line and gain an 8 second bonus - "a rather weak excuse," says Paden. I suppose I am not the only person who recalls that Fignon lost the Tour one year by . . . 8 seconds! At the other end of the spectrum we have Mark Taylor, who criticizes Armstrong and Bruyneel for not attacking earlier up La Mongie in order to put maximum time into Beloki; Taylor even suspects some kind of conspiracy between Armstrong and - well, somebody - to cook up a little false drama in the race. For my part, I saw a exciting race on Stage 11, with Armstrong and Beloki hanging on while an obviously strong Heras charged up La Mongie. Armstrong wisely sprinted at the end to prevent Beloki from attacking and gaining bonus time on him - a straightforward end to a great day of racing.
Lance and style #4
No comment on the socks -- but the length at which Lance wears his cycling shorts has nothing to do with style and everything to do with function. Ever notice how NBA stars wear their support shorts close to the knees? That's not fashion either -- but proven function. The more support material of any type (Lyra, spandex, etc.) the covers the legs, the greater energy conserved. Over the course of a basketball game or a cycling stage -- that means a small but important savings of energy that can have an impact. Jump higher, run faster, ride quicker. I'm sure Lance is wearing his shorts that close to his knees deliberately -- Chris Carmichael and company have assuredly researched down to the decimal point the increase in power gained/energy saved per millimetre extra of fabric. I guess the ultimate one could take this is to ride in tights -- but perhaps that's just a bit too warm for July in France!
Does Jaan Kirsipuu hold this record? I think he's up to about 8 abandons for 8 Tours, give or take.
At the end of the Mt. Ventoux stage, OLN TV awarded their daily "Ride of the Day" to Armstrong. Although Lance certainly had a great ride and cemented his 4th Tour victory on Ventoux, the ride of the day, and indeed the ride of the Tour (with the possible exception of today's ride by Boogerd), was by Virenque. Virenque did not return to cycling, following his suspension, until July of last year. Two months later, he nearly won a stage in the Vuelta, then won Paris-Tours in October. His tremendous win on Ventoux, after being in the break all day long, was awesome. Virenque has again joined cycling's elite. Respect is earned. You got it, Richard!
You'd think that "I showed a lot of courage" Virenque would have learned a little humility after the events of '98, but quite obviously, his past behaviour hasn't given him much food for thought over the intervening years. Have you ever noticed how he always finds that sudden spurt of energy as soon as he realizes the cameras are on him? Narcissistic? Naaaagh! He may be a favourite among the French "fans", (and that's not saying much after their recent behaviour on Mt. Ventoux!) but he'll never win the respect that truly great competitors such as the soon-to-retire "Jaja", or Erik Zabel have earned.
I agree Nathan, especially when you look at how Virenque performed both before and after the Ventoux stage. I found myself thinking 'Hello, what's he taken this time?' not 'What class'.
To me RV is the man most responsible for bringing our great sport into such disrepute and the fact that he was cheered by the French throughout the stage whilst Armstrong had 'doper' shouted at him shows that when it comes to mindless nationalism the Americans still have a lot to learn (only joking!).
Still, all Jean-Marie's blatant favouritism and manipulation of the team selection couldn't get a Frenchman in the top ten, so that's something to be cheerful about!
Le Tour is over for another year.
The mania of following the world's most exciting sports spectacle subsides and we must pick up the pieces, attempting to rediscover and acquaint ourselves with our normal lives.
Gone are the 5 AM wake-ups on weekdays and weekends to find what has transpired in the first hour of each stage and follow through over-the-web audio of Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen; The frustration of Rest Days; Cyclingnews and LeTour web updates; delayed video feeds on OLN at the local pub; cursing CBS sterilized, compressed and dubbed micro summaries of a week's events.
Hope lingers for a few last rider's diary updates here and there, perhaps some reassurance that Chechu Rubiera and Roberto Heras are happy at Postal and will continue, a few great pictures will appear (like the one of Floyd Landis popping a wheelie on the victory lap, I'd like this one as a poster, please!), perhaps even to rekindle some of the excitement with the World Cup races and the Tour of Burgos.
I'll return to cranking my own pedals more frequently, as I've sacrificed more than a few training ride opportunities to follow the fortunes of 189 of the world's finest. A malaise has set in and will take a few rides to shake the pointlessness of existence and refocus on day to day life. Somehow I'll get through and carry on, because I must ... for life must go on ... and in September, there's La Vuelta!
Not to get on a big Lance Armstrong soapbox, but why didn't Lance earn any points in the Most Aggressive Rider competition of the Tour de France? He was involved in breakaways at every mountain stage, and attacked to win several stages, but unless I'm missing something, I don't think the TdF organizers gave him a single point for it. Just exactly how subjective is this competition? Not that Lance (or anybody) really cares.
"The French" are like the Tibetans, Sudanese, American Indians, etc. just human beings. In other words, they are not clones from one prototype, some are idiots at times, others all of the time and some are very nice people, some even watch bicycle races and some insult me from their car as they drive by (extremely infrequently).
But, on average, I prefer to ride my bicycle in France than in the United States, I get more respect and understanding. Come, you will see.
Anquetil was booed after his biggest victories too.
French "fans" #2
Bravo Ken! Fans insulting Armstrong as a 'dopeur'... As an argument in pure logic it's hard to see - certainly supporters of Virenque shouldn't even try to defend the indefensible.
Whether or not you like the individual is the emotive part of being a fan,
but let's all recognise a performance worthy of admiration. Sure we all have
our favourites - go the freckle!! - but Lance Armstrong personifies mastery
in cycling, in exactly the same way as Indurain, Hinault etc have done. His
ability and handling of the situation make this Tour - to my mind - as exciting
as any of the past six years or so, and I'm still in thrall watching tactics
as the ONCE boys try to find a chink in his armour.
Does anybody agree that the King of the Mountains title has, in recent years, become just a shadow of itself? Without wishing to denigrate Laurent Jalabert who is, and always has been, a fantastically talented and gutsy rider, he would never even describe himself as the "King of the Mountains". A cursory look at the Top 10 in the polka dot classification tells the tale:
Jalabert is first by quite a way following two days of constant attacking in the Pyrenees, but his position on GC does not reflect that of a strong climber, who would ascend the classification over the second and third week rather than slide down to finish an hour behind.
Botero - good climber though he is, cannot be classed as a climber rather as a brute of a man who (in a quite ugly fashion) hauls himself up the mountains by strength rather than panache, lies second. Armstrong is third as the to win the Tour the yellow jersey has to be a strong climber (and Armstrong is undoubtedly the best as seen by his attacks). But further down the classification we see riders with points simply from day long attacks (brave and exciting but not proof of a dominant climber): Boogerd, Merckx, Aerts, Mazzoleni, and even now in his twilight years, Virenque.
As a kid I was used to seeing the likes of Van Impe, Millar, Herrera, and Delgado (before he became a serious contender) chasing all the mountain points rather than simply sitting back over the top and letting a couple of riders - neither of whom are real mountain men - share the spoils.
Are the climbers not interested or is it the focus on the GC that prevents them from chasing the KoM points?
Has cycling ever witnessed a team so prepared for a Grand Tour's mountain stages as this year's US Postal Service? From the first day in the Pyrenees to the last day in the Alps, US Postal Service's support of Lance Armstrong was superb. When Mario Cipollini was with Saeco, he had his famous "Red Train" to lead him to where he could sprint to flat stage victories. Has US Postal Service become a veritable "Blue Tram," carrying Lance Armstrong to where he can attack on the climbs for mountain stage victories?
The TdF has become boring! Not just this year or even the last few years with Lance winning but rather the last decade or so. The last truly interesting TdF was in '89 with LeMond and Fignon. The jersey changed hand numerous times and of course we all know about the final stage. Actually I think the boring racing started with Indurain. This is not meant to be a slam against Indurain or Armstrong. Both riders prepared well and deserved to win. They figured out the strategy needed to win the current TdF format, which is place high in the TT, hide in the peloton for the first week and when the mountains come put your team out front to set a high pace and then ride away on the final climb. Again I don't fault them for this. They are just playing the game that the race organization has set.
The TdF race organization needs to adjust the format of the Tour to add some interest. How should this be done? Well one way I think would be to limit the size of the teams. This would have two positive gains for the TdF. First it would permit more teams into the Tour which would help out some of the smaller teams, which tend to be some of the more aggressive teams. Second you wouldn't have enough team members to control the peloton all day. If each team has only say 5 members then the team can't control the race by setting a high tempo early on and dropping members as they are used up. Classic USPS tactic. If the team wants to control the race then they are more likely to have to use their GC rider to help instead of sitting at the back of the team train. Smaller teams would also help mix it up a little on the flat stages where the sprinter's teams control the race now.
Another change is one that the Vuelta has done and I think it has proven to be successful. That is shorter harder stages. I believe this encourages teams to take a risk early in the stage with an attack since there may not be enough time for the other teams to pull them back. Right now in the TdF there are never any attacks on the early climbs with GC riders. They all wait until the final climb.
To me, the Giro and the Vuelta are more interesting races. It is time to overhaul the TdF. It may be the biggest cycling event but it also becoming the most boring.
I am in a TdF pool in Vancouver, Canada. One of my picks was Jacky Durand for a stage win.
Due to his untimely exit (and method of exit) a friend has composed a little ditty...
Jacky Durand (to the tune of Jack & Diane by John Cougar Mellencamp)
Little ditty, 'bout Jacky Durand
Oh yeah, Lance stays strong
Jacky caught a tow, because he's slow
Oh yeah, the Tour is long
I just posted a webpage with a revised analysis of Tour de France wins by country at www.swanston.org/tdf I think the typical listing: France 36, US 6 (now 7!), etc. is statistically meaningless. Maybe your readers would be interested in a more rigorous account of Tour history.
Just wanted to drop a note to say that I really enjoy the daily Tour de France wrap up/news (Jeff Jones & Chris Henry). They are, at times, hilarious!
Props for CN #2
Due to the discovery if your site, I have cancelled my cycling magazine subscriptions. Great reporting and I cannot help laughing at the way you describe the race unfold. Interesting descriptions (Laurent Brochard - 'Mullet Man'), etc...
Great site, witty reporters, best and most prompt information. Thanks
Props for CN #3
Other than lots of typos, the live reports are EXCELLENT, and much better than the "wee' reports on the Tour's web-site. WELL DONE.
Thanks for the kind words - typos are rather unavoidable in the circumstances of a live report, but we do try and nail the worst ones afterwards.
Some one please explain to me the fascination with Marco Pantani. He is the 1666th ranked rider in the world with 5 points and his Italian sponsor, Mercatone Uno, still wants to build a team around him. I don't know how many times in the Giro they showed him getting blown off the back surrounded by his team mates. With the advent of better drug testing his career is nilch. Why isn't this guy regarded as a total disgrace by the press and all his previous results ignored because of obvious reasons. Is it the same reason that Ulrich got six months for telling the truth about a non-performance-enhancing recreational drug and Simoni gets off scott free for cocaine in his "Mom's candy"? Is this why Willy Voet is seen as a disgrace and Richard Virenque still regarded as a hero? Why do the press even print anything that Pantani says? Does anyone believe that he wasn't doping? Why am I wasting my time writing a letter about this clown?
"Above all because my pride dictates that I should achieve some significant result before I say enough. But I can't face it: I have been massacred unjustly."
It is unfortunate, Mr. Pantani, that your pride never dictated that you ride cleanly.
I'm not holy enough to insist that all professional bike riders race on "salad and water." After all, how many people live to the same high standards that they demand of their sporting heroes? The temptation is great, the access is easy, the risks are diminished, and the rewards are great.
But when you get caught out, as Mr. Pantani has on more than one occasion, please spare us the martyr routine.
It is fitting that if the self-dubbed "Pirate" has indeed retired, my last image sees him gently drifting off the back of the pack in the 2002 Giro - burning out and fading away.
What a joke! Cocaine cookies! What's next! Professional cycling is really getting to be pathetic. It's a wonder that fool's like us continue to be interested in these idiots!
Rich Perrotti Jr.
"Executioner." What melodrama! I think that high profile athletes that take performance enhancing drugs are doing a fine job killing themselves off, they don't need "yahoos" like me.
I drink coffee every morning (gasp!). I also "swill" the occasional beer (oh!). So how can I judge VDB, you say! Easy. The vital point that you're missing is that drinking coffee and beer is LEGAL for me. Taking clenbuterol and erythropoietin is ILLEGAL for VDB. I'm not holding him to a different standard, some other yahoo made up the rules. Do you really believe it's unfair to criticize VDB for taking these drugs because the general population drinks coffee and beer and smokes cigarettes? My problem with the VDB case is not driven by some self-righteous point of view. Recreationally, I really don't care if he takes all the drugs his jersey can hold. My problem with VDB is that people believe that the clenbuterol was for his dog, and that he had no intention of using the EPO. It was just "left over" from before. It was something he hadn't gotten around to cleaning out of his refrigerator yet, like some half-eaten carton of moldy cottage cheese. I do care if he takes drugs to get ahead of competitors that aren't using drugs.
VDB has used drugs before to get ahead of his competitors and got caught with them in his possession again. He made up unbelievable stories about why he had them, and people like you believe him! On the exterior, it appears as though Cycling is trying to clean up its act. But then something like this happens, and in a matter of months he's given a slap on the wrist by the Flemish government and Domo wants to sign him again. This gives the appearance that Domo really doesn't care if their riders use illegal drugs, only that they don't get caught or have served their time. But then again, Patrick Lefevere is probably a coffee drinker and enjoys good Belgian beer, so how can you blame him?
Further to your report on Graeme Obree earlier this year, fellow readers may find this interesting, but very sad. A less than uplifting interview with Graeme Obree, from Scotland On Sunday, 7th July.
Let's all hope that he recovers from this, even if he never gets back to racing again.
(1) Michael is right - I had severe asthma as a kid and was immediately sent to swimming school followed by rowing, triathlons, though I now focus on cycling. The stronger your lungs get the less likely you are going to suffer and asthma attack while running up stairs. Needless to say, the stresses of the Tour would quite easily bring up any latent asthma problems.
(2) The proposition that asthma is indicative of poor aerobic capacity seems improbable to me - I've got a v02max that is far above average, and I take asthma medication when I need it. Asthma is a reaction that occurs in the lungs and prevents you breathing, it's not a condition that impedes your blood from taking oxygen from the air - it stops the air from getting there in the first place.
I'm interested in replacing the forks on my race bike with a new carbon fiber fork, but have been leery of doing so as a team mate was seriously injured when his collapsed during a sprint. My question is how many cyclists out there have experienced a failure of their carbon fiber forks? Is the chance of a failure worth the weight savings?
OK, So barring something drastic, Lance gets number 4. He will be more popular than ever, and will have earned the right to be considered number one. But to what use will he put his persona.
Lance has certainly done a lot for cancer survivors, but I have to wonder what he has done for cycling, other than increasing it's participation here in the US.
It seems that there have been two pretty large opportunities that have come with celebrity on a massive scale.
First is in the battle against doping. Sure he has made a great effort to shoot back at his accusers, French or otherwise, But what has he done to help get it out of cycling. I remember his spat with Christophe Bassons that resulted in the guy dropping out of the Tour and then the sport. While I don't think Lance needed to take any unproven criticism from Bassons, He certainly could have handled it differently and taken the high road of agreeing there was a problem. Instead of dropping back in the peloton and telling Bassons to go home, he could have dropped back and made sure Bassons was or was not directly accusing him, and then had a conversation about how to help in the fight against it for all riders, not just himself.
The second opportunity here in the US would be to run a few commercials that would call attention to riders struggles for equal rights on the road. Being from Texas, Lance understands about foolish people in Trucks cars etc running close. I think a few prime time comments (not just the occasional off beat mention, but a real effort) about it given the respect he has now, would do wonders in effecting the general public.
I am a huge fan and hope that he gets 6 Tours. I believe as a rider he deserves all the praise he gets and more! I believe as a cancer survivor and supporter of that fight, he has done a lot and will continue to. But I believe that he has a great opportunity as a man in an undeniable position of strength and authority to help the sport, it's fans and it's participants.
No other Cyclist has ever had the World wide recognition that Armstrong has today. Lets hope he starts use the power of the press and public placement for Cycling.
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