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Letters to Cyclingnews - October 31, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
A House Divided...
Watching the ONCE squad in the 2002 TdF, and Kelme in the Vuelta a España, it becomes clear why teams have been unable to compete against Lance and the US Postal team in the Tour de France. Confusion among the riders about who is the GC man for the team. Dividing the teams resources between two (or more) riders. Surely, teams cannot expect to beat a squad as well prepared as US Postal when it's riders are spending precious energy battling amongst themselves for the top spot on their team ?
There's no question that Lance is the strongest cyclist in the world for three weeks in July. But, as we all know, in bike racing, the strongest rider can be beaten. As Lance has said over and over again, it's about the team. To borrow a page from the USPS team manual:
(1) Build a team with the best talent available
(2) Make sure everyone on the team knows their job. Riders must be willing to set aside personal aspirations, and sacrifice for the leader.
(3) Make sure each member of the team is properly trained to perform their job
(4) Find a leader capable of delivering the goods when called upon to do so. The leader must unite the team, instill confidence in them, and motivate them.
(6) Follow the plan.
An open letter to Robbie McEwen:
Robbie, don't worry about the lines written by those who obviously should spend more time riding their bikes. You are a great rider who does what he came to do, win races. If your tactics had been out of line with the usual rough and tumble of pack sprinting then there are plenty of commissaires always willing to DQ riders who bend the rules a bit too far. I have been a fan of Mario Cipollini since the early 90's and defended him often, although sometimes the things he was quoted as saying in the press made me wince. I think someday I may be as big a fan of yours. Some of us setting back in our armchairs should realize that "sound-bites" and out of context quotes usually do not convey the true meaning of a rider's statement and hold our tongues, just as they often suggest others do. Finally you should take these letters for what they are, one person's opinion and often a not very well informed or intelligent opinion at that.
I used to write to these letters columns frequently until one day a fairly well known cycling personality who is an acquaintance of mine mentioned he had been interested to see what I had to say in them. Immediately to mind came the times I had written with comments I later regretted which were written in a mean spirit and to "show someone up". I decided then and there that I was not going to write in unless it was a subject that meant something to me and that I could make a positive or supporting comment on. Unfortunately there are a small number of writers who are frequent contributors to this and other letters sections of the cycling media who usually take a negative stance and make disrespectful and demeaning comments about riders who are far above them not only in athletic ability but character as well. Consider the source of such comments and don't worry about the uninformed and often prejudiced opinions that may be expressed in such forums. Keep the respect of your opponents, team mates, and the professional world you are a part of, and you will never lack defenders in these pages. Keep your head above such muddy waters.
Robbie McEwen #2
There seems to be some sort of confusion about McEwen. Both he and the Australian media manager, Gennie Sheer, seem to think Robbie is getting something of a bum rap.
In the heat of a race, and especially in the confusion of a sprint finish, emotions are going to run high. Actions might be taken that are something outside of smart or fair. Since the referees are mostly hands-off in bicycle racing, some people might get the idea that anything goes. But that isn't so an, even without an official looking over their shoulder, most people know where to draw the line. Mr. McEwen not only doesn't seem to know where to draw the line, but clearly admits to fouling Mr. Zabel. We're told by himself he used his elbows and head to knock Zabel off of Mario's wheel!
Physically knocking someone off of a wheel is far beyond the line. Teams that employ sprinters that would do that ought to think twice. Race officials have in the past disqualified riders for less and ought to be more vigilant in the future. I know that it's been done in the past and will be done in the future because there are careers on the line and emotions can overrule common sense or fairness upon occasion. But that doesn't make it right and fairness dictates disqualification.
Perhaps if McEwen feels he can't keep up without football tactics, he might feel better in a scrum instead of on a bicycle.
Robbie McEwen #3
Robbie, you don't have to explain your actions to anybody mate, if people don't like the way you sprint sod 'em! If we didn't have sprinters of your caliber, who don't sit there and go for 2nd place the sport would be extremely bloody boring and farcical l(look a F1 this year). Keep up the good work.
Robbie McEwen #4
Dear Robbie Bashers: Please submit your season results for 2002. Gee, they look pretty pale in comparison to Robbie's palmares.
All Australians can be proud of what he has achieved this year, simply put, it is phenomenal. I look forward to seeing Robbie on the Darren Smith Memorial Ride this year.
Robbie McEwen #5
I have been involved in cycling for many years and I have never seen Robbie McEwen do anything rougher than you can see in club races all over Australia every week. As for his "mouth", I reckon his personality is exactly like what you would expect a big bunch sprinter to have. I looked over the list of Green Jersey winners for the umpteen years and every one of them were absolute top class cyclists. All I can say is whatever you are doing Robbie, keep it up.
Robbie McEwen #6
Robbie McEwen is the man. I am pretty tired of everybody talking about him being a smack talker. I like it that he doesn't spew the same old line like everybody else... I am a little bored of everybody respecting everybody else. It's just too fake to believe.
As for his threat to Armstrong - more power to you Robbie. I'll bet Lance shut right up! Bike racers forget sometimes that they are still in the real world where you can get your butt kicked for mouthing off to the wrong person at the wrong time. I love it when cyclists want to hit you and punch you and threaten you on the bike and say nasty insulting things but you cant find them after the race to talk about it! If you have never raced in a serious peloton where guys are full-time racers then you have no idea of all the insults and punches that get thrown around. People get bold on the bike and say and do things that they would NEVER say or do on the street. I love it that there are some guys out there who are willing to remind the others what time it is. The bottom line is this- you never know who you are messing with, so think about it before you spew off anger at somebody because you might have to put up or shut up. Most bike racers should just opt to shut up.
Robbie McEwen #7
It's great that Robbie took the time to comment, not that anyone expected him not to.
We as fans of CN and cycling have to take what CN reports, because we are not there first hand, so when CN reports (in their World Championship coverage) that Robbie said "I had seen at the recent Vuelta (Tour of Spain) that Erik couldn't get around Mario so it was pointless to sit on his wheel," readers might find that in conflict with Robbie's letter saying "I never said that Zabel didn't have any right to be on Cipo's wheel".
And when CN writes (in CN Report on Lance Armstrong interview at Interbike): "McEwen told Cyclingnews' correspondent John Trevorrow he was annoyed with Armstrong for seemingly assisting his rival Erik Zabel during the 2002 TdF, and that there was a small feud between the forthright Texan and equally direct Queenslander."
And: "Subsequently, McEwen relayed some in-the-bunch dialogue that went on between the two. The quote: "I told him 'Shut your mouth or I will fill it with my fist.'", originally reported on Cyclingnews (see story) but repeated in countless publications around the world."
We must now assume when Robbie wrote in his response letter: "I never once complained about any sort of helping. When you're 10 minutes out the arse on the Aubisque you can't see what's happening anyway. Any talk of helping came directly from the press, not from me. I won't deny that Lance and I had words but "fist in mouth" was never part of that conversation," Robbie he was referring to what, the 2001 Tour?
I also watched the tape of the stage of the Giro where Robbie said Lombardi put him into the barriers (note that you didn't comment on filing a protest), and noted that he did have gripe about being blocked. But I didn't notice Robbie scrapping the barriers, or Lombardi using his head and elbows as Robbie admits to doing to Zabel in his reply. Which touches on the "it's only ok if Robbie does it" tone in my letter.
And when CN writes (Oct. 13 news): "Cipollini does congratulate me after a win; but I've got the impression it's not honest".
And Robbie responded with: "I never complained about Cipo's handshake, I was honored that his handshake acknowledged my win and that I was better on "the day".
And finally when CN writes (again Oct. 13 news) that Robbie said "He addressed me when he heard I was going home during the Giro, because of my wife and child. 'Something you need to do' he said, but on a very flat tone."
Yet Robbie responds with: "He also asked me about my departure from the Giro and wished me all the best at home with my wife and newborn son. So where do you get that rubbish? He was probably glad that I was leaving the Giro, I reckon that's normal.
Again, some room for conflict, but let us end the examples and get to the point that Robbie has unfortunately missed.
My first letter (one of many with a recurring theme) repeated a few times that Robbie is a tremendous talent and a man of admired skill and unwavering nerve when it comes to putting himself in position to win. My point is simply that it takes well thought-out training and preparation to get to the super high level of competence on the bike that Robbie has. But competence doesn't end there when public exposure pays the bills.
Should he have prepared for his response to my letter enough to see that he is on record as saying certain things in this same forum at CN, or if he would have thought about his comments before making them in the first place, very little of this would be at issue. All that would be left would be to celebrate Mad MC for the super rider that he is and hopefully will continue to be!
Sprinters are the real deal in cycling, combining nerve, talent and strategy that, in my opinion, is far more challenging and entertaining that any twiggy GC mans ability to be towed around by his team and then simply out endure others in the mountains...
The cycling world is truly graced by your talent Robbie and I say what I say as a fan. It's nobody's place to tell you how to live, but a true fan will tell you the good and bad.
My wife and I traveled to France this past summer to see the Tour de France, and we were in Paris on the Champs Elysées for the final stage of the TdF. We watched the stage from the hairpin turn at the north end of the 6km finishing circuit, just south of the Arc de Triomphe. While we waited for the riders to arrive in Paris, we had an opportunity to meet and talk to cycling fans from various parts of the world.
Standing next to us were three very friendly young men from Colombia, who had been living and studying in Paris. They had hung a huge Colombian flag along the barriers in front of us. Using a combination of three different languages - Spanish, English, and French - we somehow managed to carry on a conversation with them. We discussed all things cycling - USPS, Lance, Kelme, great Colombian cyclists, up-and-coming stars of the sport, etc. They were absolutely fanatical about the sport of cycling, and had great hopes for the current stars of Colombian cycling, Victor Hugo Pena of USPS and Santiago Botero of Kelme.
When I mentioned Botero's reputation as a rider who is prone to having "bad days" during big stage races, they were quick to point out that all the great ones have "bad days". Like Lance bonking on the Col du Jou Plane, or his loss to Botero in the 2002 TdF Stage 9 Lanester-Lorient time trial. Even Lance said after that "it was not a good day"). No matter how good your training and preparation are, no one can be "on" everyday for three weeks. And they reminded us of Botero's results up to this point in the 2002 TdF - 4th place overall on G.C., beating Lance in the first individual time trial, and winning the Les Deux Alpes stage. After losing huge time at Ventoux, he was able to jump from 18th to 4th place on GC with two impressive performances in the Alps.
In the late afternoon, the peloton finally arrived in Paris, and the pack came screaming on to the finishing circuit. Whenever the Colombians saw the Kelme colors approaching, they would scream "Botero! Botero! Botero!". They cheered on the other Colombian riders in the peleton as well - US Postal riders Victor Hugo Pena and - George Hincapie. "Inkapee! Inkapee! Inkapee!", they shouted, each time George came into view. According to our South American friends, George H's mother is Colombian.
After McEwen won the finishing sprint, and after all the TdF podium ceremonies were concluded, the teams took their victory laps around the Champs Elysées, each one escorted by a motorcade. Lance, Johann Bruyneel, and the whole US Postal team, Zabel and Team Telekom, Lotto Adecco and Robbie McEwen (who rode a wheelie half-way down the finishing straight on his Litespeed), Beloki and ONCE, Bonjour. All the teams came by, high-fiving the fans and goofing around. Several of the riders talked on their cell phones as they took their victory laps (One can only imagine the phone conversations : "Hey, mom ! Guess where I'm calling from ?"). Mark Wauters of Rabobank rode up to my wife and tossed her his bidon... talk about "shwag"! As the Kelme team rolled into view, the Colombians went berserk. I was pretty sure they were going to leap over the barricades, tackle Botero to the ground, and hug him to death.
Trying desperately to get Botero's attention, they dangled their whole bodies over the barriers, hollering and flailing about. Botero, who had been pedaling along in formation with the rest of the Kelme team, smiling and waving to the crowd, spotted the Colombian flag hung on the barricade below us. Without a moment's hesitation, he pedaled straight over to where we were standing. He reached up into the mass of spectators to shake hands with each of the Colombians, who by now had gone completely potty. They shook hands wildly, embraced, hugged, kissed each other. The Colombians, weeping hysterically, thanked Botero and gave him many words of encouragement. The youngest of the three grasped Botero by the shoulder, and said (roughly translated), "All Colombia is proud of you!" At this, tears welled up in Botero's eyes - it was obvious he was moved by the compliment from his countryman. He took the young man's hand, clasped both his hands around it, pulled him close, and said in Spanish, "Next year, I will be on the podium." He thanked them all again, then rode back to his teammates. It was one of those moments (just a few seconds actually), that seemed to last forever.
Watching Santiago Botero celebrating with his countrymen was the highlight of our Tour de France trip. I couldn't help but feel that I had been let in on a secret, a premonition of things to come. Botero has the confidence, the desire, and the commitment of a true champion. His results prove that he can deliver the goods when called upon to do so. He's solid in the mountains, and now a world champion in the time trial. Since winning the World TT championships, I think he's answered a lot of questions about his performance in the Vuelta.
I know I'm "throwing the cat amongst the pigeons" here, but I believe Santiago Botero, backed by a talented and well-drilled team (perhaps Deutsche Telekom?), can beat Lance and the Postal Juggernaut. Write it down.
I hope Botero will make it into Telekom. There he could be a real Capo Squadra, and quit sharing leadership with Sevilla and Aitor (he's a Colombian in a Spanish team solely of Spaniards and Hispanic sponsor targets). Anyway, he can be the real deal by 2003. From my viewpoint, there are just three top dogs in current cycling: Armstrong, Ullrich and Botero. Rumsas is great, but still very troubled, and Beloki is a fine rider with a lot of heart. About the rest, including Tyler, no chances to make it into the Tour's podium or challenge Armstrong in time trials or the mountains (there can be always a surprise, as Rumsas proved in July). Personally, I believe that a TT world champion with the performance of a Tour's King of the Mountains can be a challenge for Armstrong next year.
I read the note from Darrel Stickler with a bit of a chuckle - have been there myself, and suffered the derisive laughter of the mathematician/engineer who deigned to lower himself to explaining it to me. Hopefully I can pass the clarification along clearly enough, without the added sarcasm.
Paul and Phil (and Bob) are vindicated through the wonders of proper definition and trigonometry (Holy crow, my math instructor was right - I do use that stuff in real life!). The question you have is a result of a slight confusion in terms.
Angle of incline (your 13.5 degree measure on the upper block to Broadway) is not the same statement as percentage grade, which is put thus: the number of feet you climb per 100 feet of map distance. It reads like this: if you climb 24 feet over a distance of 100 feet, the grade is 24 per cent. By the way, my grudging application of the old trigonometry formula runs as follows: tangent of the angle (13.5 degrees) x the distance traveled equals the height of the climb: (tan13.5)(100 feet) = approx. 24 feet, so Paul, Phil, (Bob), and your angle measurement are all correct, though expressed differently.
By the way, I've used one of the incline gauges for view camera leveling, and wish I could find one again - Photos in hilly country (our Missouri backroads) are a matter of guesswork and a light touch, especially difficult while breathing hard after schlepping the gear around in bicycle rack packs.
About a dozen people made much the same point - Jim got the nod for being gracious about it. - Letters Ed
The red strip on the USPS bikes is a specially-applied, adhesively-backed polymer that effectively relays vital information about each rider to the mechanics and director sportif in real time. The USPS team is always on the forefront of such technology; however, this particular technology is available to regular folks like us. It's called using tape to mark your seat height.
Lots of people made this point too, but sometimes we just can't resist finely honed sarcasm. - Letters Ed
I can hardly believe that I'm even making a comment about the whole "Horner/Trenti Affair", but I feel compelled to do so.
Though I can hardly say that Chris and I are "friends", or that he would even recognize me if he saw me, I have had the pleasure of riding and racing with him a number of times over the years and I can honestly say that he is one of the nicest people I have met; on the bike or off. He is a class act and I have to agree with the letter submitted by Mark Jenkins; Chris was merely pointing out the obvious, not bashing Guido to attack him. Cycling, especially high-level professional cycling, is a business.
I can remember a number of times when I have run into Chris out in the East County area of San Diego and have always received kindness and friendliness. Not many professionals spend much time talking to "club racers". During competition, he is just as good a person, even if being all about the business at hand. I find it hard to imagine that the same person would be guilty of attacking anyone; he's just too good a guy.
Has anyone noticed the remarkable resemblance between Cipollini and the swaggering hunter, Gaston, from Disney's 'Beauty and the Beast'? Not only is the animated appearance similar (apart from darker hair on Gaston's part), but the song from the movie could have been written for Cipo's person and biking exploits. To wit, I have taken it upon myself to amend the lyrics of the original ditty to honour The Sun-King's latest victory (with all due respect to Disney). It will help if you can sing it to the air of the original song.
No one's slick as Cipo
No one's been like Cipo
Give five "hurrahs!"
No one fights like Cipo
No one wins like Cipo
When I was a lad I ate four dozen eggs
No one twirls like Cipo
In France there are a few very good amateurs who are black. They are mostly from Guadeloupe and Martinique in the Caribbean. The Guadeloupian Ronny Martias was a stagiere with Bonjour this year and Yoanne Gene is also a very good rider with several good victories this year. It would be good to see as many young black folks racing in the states. The Major Motion club in Los Angeles has a lot of juniors and they have the 15-16 national champion Ali Camara as well.
I hope the seat does do something.
We are having our second child after the first try. Even thought twins were on the way. Bike rioding has helped me drop over 100 pounds and trust me, I have put some pressure on the twig and berries. Even had some blisters that would make me sing solo in the shower.....
In my humble opinion, it's seat position as it relates to numbness on the bike. Otherwise, who out there is going to ride while it feels like their urethra is being sawed in two???? And if you do ride with numb genitals, then GOOD FOR YOU! That's going to save you real money when the thieves who kick you in the balls try to steal your hydro pack!
Ride well and often.
I'm looking for pictures of Steve Bauer's Paris-Roubaix Eddy Merckx "Chopper" bike that he rode the last year of his career...probably after he "retired" for that short little period in there. You know... that ridiculously slack angled bike that looked like a Harley?
Can anyone help?
Are you guys nuts? The only way to shave is with an electric razor. Don't even think about only going part way, either. Anyone who has bandaged a grazing of the upper thigh and hip area as a result of a crash knows that taping to hair isn't that good an idea, nor is shaving after a crash.
Even simpler than the bath pre-soak approach, a steam room type sauna. Absolutely nothing like it for setting up the shave - awesomely effective. If you're self-conscious, do it when you're the only one in there. Or explain that you're a cyclist and it's a cult thing - kinda like tattoos on Harley folks.
A tiny bit of mild shampoo works just fine as the shave lubricant (I use Pert Plus, for example). Handy, 'cause the next stop is the post-ride, post-sauna shower anyway.
Mach 3 or similar for the razor/blade. Simple, quick, extremely efficient... and painless to boot. Piece of cake.
I happened to be on a ride with Tyler a few weeks ago and asked him this same question. His initial response was "As if I haven't been asked that about 100 times already...", but he went on to explain that if they did sign Ullrich he expected that they would be co-leaders for the Tour, as CSC did this year with himself, Jalabert, and Sastre. He also reminded me that Ullrich's been away from racing all year and therefore may not bring the same level of conditioning into next year's TDF that he has in the past, so it would make sense to have multiple leaders rather than expecting Ullrich to shoulder the whole load. Besides, it's not unusual for teams to have multiple GC contenders (Galdeano and Beloki for Once, Sevilla and Gonzalez for Kelme, etc.). Handled correctly it's a strategy that can make life very difficult for Lance and USPS, and you may recall it was the strategy that Telekom used with Riis and Ullrich to put an end to Indurain's streak.
I felt compelled to write in defense of Jan Ullrich. In a recent letter discussing the quality of Santiago Botero as a rider and competitor (a sentiment with which I wholly agree), one of your readers negatively compared Jan with Oscar Sevilla, saying that both Jan and Oscar are full of talent but inconsistent (the connotation of the actual phrase was far more negative than I have characterized it). While, I am not a letter-writer by nature, I am so fed up with the negativity dumped on Jan Ullrich by many of your readers and by all of the OLN staff that I can't help but respond (query: are Phil Ligett et al paid directly by Lance Armstrong to stroke his "ego" daily, or just by US Postal?) .
Jan Ullrich has had five starts to the Tour de France. He has finished all five (a feat in its own right). Of those five finishes, he has ended on the podium five times (another feat in its own right). Of those podium finishes, he has placed first and second only (and really, despite one bad day in 1998, he should really have a record of two firsts and three thirds). He has won the Vuelta and the World Championship Time Trial twice (not to mention his high finishes in the late season Criteriums and World Cup races in which he has competed). He won both a gold and silver medal at the Olympics. This is not an "inconsistent record." By definition, Jan's record is one of the most consistently winning records of those currently racing. Think what you will of Jan as a person, but his record is what it is - "consistency" does not mean "always," it means "usually;" and it does not equal "first place only".
Before I close, I would like to say something in defense of Oscar Sevilla as well. Unless a race is fixed, any rider who enters a race may lose it. Oscar raced well in the Veulta and with much heart, but Aitor Gonzalez won. Why is Lance Armstrong not "inconsistent" in his lack-luster post-Tour finishes every year? Why is it not "whining" for US Postal and Lance to always have the ready excuse of "We/I didn't care about this race, so wasn't trying," every time Lance or a Postie fails? (An answer he offered for his dismal performance in the Olympics Road Race, I might add; and how insulting to the sport that response is - why enter a race if you don't care about it?). I guarantee Lance wants to win every race he enters - how else do you explain a man who will not even give up a few seconds to reward his teammate with the much earned stage win, when his own overall win is not in question?
Jan Ullrich #2
I take exception to the comments made by Brett Taylor about Jan Ullrich.
My most enduring recollection of Ullrich is him suffering like a dog during the 2001 Tour, clearly overmatched by Armstrong yet battling till the end. The mutual respect displayed by both men at the final mountain finish was a fine example of sportsmanship.
Lance Armstrong on many occasions has commented that the Tour is a lesser event in Ullrich's absence.
No one will dispute the comments about Tyler Hamilton. It is possible to recognise his qualities without disrespecting Jan Ullrich.
I was just going thru some old videos of Le Tour. I've always wondered what those stick-on Band-Aid-like pads on Ullrich's knees were. He would have these pads stuck to his knees during the big epic climbing stages. Certainly he isn't using them to bandage up some bloody knees...
Are those similar to the Salon-Pas pads that people would put on their sore muscles? If any of you could ID those pads, could you tell me what the performance advantages are (if any)?
Janelle - Glad to see you are alive and kicking in Oz, I wonder from time to time where you landed after leaving NM. I hope you remember that we here at the Tour of the Gila have always tried to offer long hard courses for women to showcase their talent as the weak unchallenging courses women are often offered has always been a pet peeve of mine. It is disrespectful to the women as athletes and reflects poorly on promoters who put on such races. Hope you like it down under as much as I did.
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