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Letters to Cyclingnews - September 6, 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

Recent letters

Banned for life
Pinarello TT Bike
Heart Rate Zones
Tommy Campbell on Irish cycling
Climbing weight
Armstrong's weight
Saturn Classic
Name the Lion
Armstrong's lost opportunities
Doping in the USA

Banned for life

All I can say is "Good!" It's about time we saw severe penalties for positive drug tests. USA sets the standard. Maybe the world will follow!

Only harsh punishment will change the druggers' mind set. I would suggest going further, expunge their accomplishments from the permanent record to stop the older riders from thinking that they can get away with it too. After all how can we tell when they started.

Are they going to earn much flipping burgers as they do as a pro? I don't think so.

Ross Kennedy
Concord, MA USA
Sunday, September 1, 2002

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Pinarello TT Bike

Looking the pics of the Pinarello TT bike that Fassa Bortolo was using, I remembered reading a recent review of the bike. From my understanding, the brake was mounted down below because the bike is a dual purpose machine, road and track. I assume that means that the brake mounting hole would be out of place, and maybe even a drag in some way, when the bike was on the track. Have no idea if this is right or not, just passing on what I understood from the bike review.

Sean Jones
Trinidad & Tobago
Friday, August 30, 2002

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Heart Rate Zones

I'm currently in a Cat 3 Crit. Racer in South Florida. I've been experiencing some difficulty in some races lately, probably due to the increased technicality of the course and my inability to recover. I noticed that right before I get dropped I'm consistently in my 5c zone ~190 bpm for about 3-4 minutes. So, my question is. Is it possible to increase the amount of time one can stay in the 5c zone? If so, what work-outs will help in this effort? In addition, how many sessions would be required to see a significant improvement (I know the last one may sound dumb).

Carlos Cruz
Tuesday, September 3, 2002

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Tommy Campbell on Irish cycling

Just a quick note to back up the comments of Tommy Campbell in today's Latest News.

For too long the riders of Ireland have been the brunt of many cruel jokes and snide remarks when representing their country. Why, because the people who run the sport there would rather spend money on fancy blue commissaires jackets and the likes than on kitting out the riders to at least look as decent as a low budget club team.

It's been going on for much too long. You would think that after all these years they could at least get that right! I remember when Kelly, Roche & Earley had to buy their own jerseys for the world's as they tried to pass on them bloody old baggy things that maybe 50 different people had been in before them. They were the ones you would put some grub in the back pockets and it would rub against the tyres! What was most embarrassing was when you went across the water to ride, in say the IOM week, and club teams, no matter how small, had better kit. You just felt like a gypsy (hope that isn't too un-politically correct to say now?). Surely they could find a few extra punts (or euros) somewhere to buy a couple of dozen tracksuits. Maybe they should skim a couple percent from their entertainment budget!

I know kit doth not maketh rider but it certainly helps the morale.

Stephen Rainey
Friday, September 6, 2002

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Climbing weight

Jeff Jones gave a very good description of how body weight affects absolute climbing performance, in particular, that the world's best climbers are generally very light.

However, if you leave out extremely long and arduous mountain stages, then one observes that average and even heavy cyclists can also perform on climbs.

For example, in his previous incarnation at 5'10" and 80kg, Lance Armstrong was one of the best climbers in the US. He won the Tour du Pont, which included a number of medium climbing stages, some of which he won. If one is talking about the San Francisco Bay Area, then one merely has to go back to the mid 1980's, when Eric Heiden was probably one of the best climbers in the area. Even after cutting down from his skating weight, he still had a physically imposing musculature.

These examples are not exceptional, and may even indicate a trend, as was proved in this year Tour de France. Perhaps due to the shorter race distance, riders with "sprinter" type morphology such as George Hincapie were able to stay at the front well into the ultimate climbs, while green jersey contenders Eric Zabel and Stuart O'Grady were in the main peloton at the bottom of the last climbs.

The conclusion is that with much talent and training, even a "heavy" rider can be competitive on all but the most challenging climbs.

In terms of amateur riders such as the one writing the original letter, this might imply that an emphasis on correct training and increased fitness will be more productive than a weight loss program, given that the rider already has low body fat.

Ilan Vardi
Sunday, September 1, 2002

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Armstrong's weight

This is for Jeff Jones: Jeff I may be wrong but I'm pretty sure Armstrong's racing weight has not been as light as the 68kg you mentioned -- that's only 150lb. My memory is that his lowest racing weight has been around 72-73kg which is 158-161lb; prior to his cancer he weighed around 170-176lbs, or 77-80kg (I remember this because my racing weight was 152lb and from the rare weights mentioned over the last few years I noticed he was still significantly heavier than me.)

Jay Gehrig
Sunday, September 1, 2002

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Jeff Jones responds:

To satisfy my curiosity, I dug around for some stats on LA. Talk about conflicting info! A few references support my 150lb, while a few others say he's 165. Looking at him, I don't believe he's that heavy. What is certain is that he lost 20lb during/post cancer.


"Before his cancer, Armstrong's weight was 170lb; during the past 3 years when he has won 3 Tours de France, it has been 150lb. According to Armstrong's long-term coach, the 20lb lost in his cancer recovery has made him a more efficient rider. At his pre-cancer weight, he would need 3,147 calories to climb the 30 hardest miles on the Tour de France; at his current weight, he would need only 2,610 calories, and the excess calories would be stored in his body, giving him more fuel to stave off exhaustion."

From the BBC:

"When he was given the all clear to resume training Armstrong found that his muscle grew back in a different way than before. When his weight stabilised, he was much lighter than his pre-cancer weight of 12 stone (168lb).

"The new, sleeker Armstrong realised he was able to cope with the decisive mountain stages of the Tour - the stages that had previously scuppered his challenge."

Then there are various bios on-line:

USA Cycling:
Lance Armstrong
Weight: 165

The UCI:
Lance Armstrong
Weight: 75kg / 166lb

US Postal Service team 2001:
Lance Armstrong
weight: 165lb/74 kg

US Postal Service team 2002:
Lance Armstrong
Weight: 170lb/77 kg

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Rumsas #1

Lance Armstrong made these comments to Stephen Farrand of Reuters:

Raimondas Rumsas, Lithuania (Lampre) - "He's the biggest outside threat. He's got a lot of potential and probably wants to prove a lot. Nobody knows him. I've asked around but nobody knows the guy. He's very quiet, we don't know what makes him click or we don't know what his strengths and weaknesses are. He's a very strong guy and one we have to watch."

Sunday, September 1, 2002

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Rumsas #2

He has children with his wife, and does not want to join her in jail and leave them to be cared for by others. It's a simple equation, but an awful situation. Talk about being between a rock and a hard place.

Jay Dwight
Sunday, September 1, 2002

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Saturn Classic #1

I think a couple things have been overlooked in the discussion of the Saturn Classic. First of all, the organizers don't just call and ask for UCI sanctioning. Technically, they have to pay for it. There are a lot of rules that the UCI requires in order for them to sanction an event and this is more work and money than most promoters want to deal with. Take both the Sea Otter and Redlands as examples as they both dropped their UCI status due to the hassles.

The second issue is that having an UCI event does not necessarily bring in European riders. It is costly to send a team to the States, especially for just one day of racing. The pay is good at this race, better than most, however is it enough to cover the expenses of sending over a team of six or so riders, their bikes, spare equipment, staff, food, housing and then cuts for the riders? Plus, what if they don't win? Also, an event like this would require that the team send a good squad with real climbers whereas most Euro teams send a second level power squad to the States for events like First Union.

It could be argued that the promoter could pay for better teams to attend as this has been done before. The problem with this is that it gets back into the hassle and additional money issue.

Let's leave the race as it is. Its already a lot of work for the staff, contains an awesome course and is much harder than most climbing days in the Tour. This is an American race designed to exemplify the climbing found along the Rockies in order to find the top climber who can hang for a long distance. This year there were riders from all over North America, some from Australia and a couple from the far reaches of the world. If the Euros want to come and attempt to win on this course, they are welcome. Let's not bend over and take it up the arse just to get them here. They aren't doing that for the US riders...

Plus, would it make the race that much better if someone like Simoni came to contest it? Would the US media give it more attention than it already received? I think not. Every magazine was there and ESPN did a pretty good job with coverage.

Chris Clinton
Corona, CA
Friday, August 30, 2002

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Saturn Classic #2

I'd like to point out that it's the riders that make the race, not the course, what happens along the route during the race will decide how difficult it has been. I'm sure someone could devise a course in one of the European mountain ranges that has more climbing and whatever else the Saturn Classic contains but that would not make it a tough race, only a tough course.

In any race if the winner is head and shoulders above the rest of the field they may have had a relatively easy time of it, but then try the Tour of Flanders, biggest hill a couple of hundred feet? Must be easy compared to the Saturn Classic.

Iain Walker,
Preston UK
Tuesday, September 3, 2002

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Name the Lion

Not sure that JaJa would make a great name for the Lion.

The thing that sticks out in my mind almost as much as Jalabert's green and polkadot jersey exploits was his finger waving, screaming tirade against the Race and against the dope controls and handling of the Festina affair. Not to say the riders were not treated poorly, but he got so disgusted that he went on a suicide break to punish everyone and then pulled out. He also missed the world's and refused to race in France for a while because people had the guts to impose tighter restrictions and standards.

Naming the Lion after a guy who fought like a cat with it's tail on fire to end the race and turned his back on his country to race elsewhere rather than submit to the more strict controls in France might not be too high on the Tour's list of potential names.

Charles Manantan
Wednesday, September 4, 2002

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Armstrong's lost opportunities #1

Regarding Armstrong's 'lost opportunity' of advocating cyclists' rights in the face of the long-standing antipathy of the auto industry, his ambivalence may be well-grounded: isn't there a logo for 'Volkswagen' on the chainstay of his Trek?

John Mullarkey
Newcastle, UK
Saturday, August 31, 2002

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Armstrong's lost opportunities #2

I think Regis Chapman almost totally missed the point of the original letter.

Nobody said anything about Lance taking a stand against a form of transportation, "bashing" a specific car maker or the auto industry as a whole. As a matter of fact, it is that very "us against them" mentality that we should look to eliminate.

I like my car and for the most part I like drivers and have no problem with riding on roads that do or do not have a bike lane. Autos have their rights as they should, and they will maintain them because the automobile is far more useful and a part of our lives than the bike. The point is that Lance could make a better effort to get out a message that although we all have rights on the road, that autos pose a genuine risk to life, and often times it is no more than the driver's attitude that creates the conflict.

I hate to do the unthinkable and be critical of Lance (which is not my intent, as Lance has done so much for so many), but I haven't seen anything from him on the subject, even though it would take little effort given his tremendous opportunity. Regis' statement that "Any thinking person can only hope to improve the conditions for cyclists through building relationships with townships and through what amounts to begging for scraps from the pile of automotive goodwill." might be the case for the normal guy on the street, but why should Lance beg for scraps when he has a 10 course meal in front of him every day in the form of unparalleled publicity?

Charles Manantan
Wednesday, September 4, 2002

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Doping in the USA #1

I've been sitting this one out, not even reading these letters, preferring to get my information second-hand from friends who do, as back injury has forced me to miss this racing season. I feel I must respond, though, having by chance read John Lieswyn's latest journal entry in which he chastises those who have taunted Bianchi Grand Performance riders during races, thus coloring the entire team with the same guilty paint so deservedly being worn by Dewey Dickey.

Well, I AM one of those race fans who have taunted my neighbors to the north. I live in Iowa, know some of the Bianchi team members well, having competed against them often during the past eighteen years (I'm a 48 year old cat 2). Their team has always been a hard working, successful one, and their members have generally represented the sport well. John Lieswyn sometimes joins our Tuesday night rides here in Des Moines, though I don't know him personally (see above). He lives in my old home town of Ames. He, too, is a successful rider, although he seems to crash a bit too much for my comfort.

Here's why I do not accept John's "shame on you" guilt trip attempt: by refusing publicly to condemn the doping which resulted in Dewey's rightful suspension, and by continuing to allow him to remain a member of the team, they are contributing to the problem, by giving aid and comfort to a major blight upon racing. Examples of proper behavior in this circumstance exist on the professional level: upon a positive "A" test result, suspend the rider, publicly disavow the use of illegal performance enhancing substances, state that the team hopes the results are shown to be incorrect by the "B" test, restate that the team and its sponsors refuse to associate with anyone who takes illegal and dangerous substances which can be the ruination of lives and the sport they love, and upon a positive "B" test, kick the S.O.B. off the team and be done with the scum.

Well, I've been told by a long-time friend and Bianchi team-mate that Dewey has suffered "more than we will ever know."

So what? He's a cheating, dope-taking fellow who doesn't deserve to be allowed to race.

Plain and simple.

As long as Bianchi Grand Performance coddles this guy, they ARE guilty of adding to the ruination of bike racing. The harm THEY generate by refusing to dissociate themselves with a proven doper is much greater than the harm I inflict by drawing attention to their shameful behavior.

Thank you for this forum; I await a response from Bianchi Grand Performance.

By the way, this website is a WONDERFUL thing. Thank you for bringing the excitement and immediacy of world-wide professional cycling to my home everyday. If OLN had live coverage of ALL major races, life would be even more blissful here in Iowa.

Kim West
Des Moines, Iowa, USA
Wednesday, September 4, 2002

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Doping in the USA #2

While it is true that athletes have other motivations than just money. Let's put some real facts and analysis to the point that Lieswyn has made: Sophisticated drugs like the ones used by athletes today cost big bucks: HGH can cost > $3000 per month. Some anabolics are less, but have to have more doctor's visits and lab work done (if you are buying them with a legitimate prescription), and many of these "old fashioned" drugs will also guarantee a short career.

EPO, (I called a pharmacy here near my house) is even more expensive, and you need other expensive blood thinners to go with it; one costs $500 for 10 days worth. If you are buying them illegally, the prices could be higher. So estimated cost: is > $10,000 even if you were just doing it for a small portion of the season.

Now, even if you are winning a $1000 first prize race every weekend (even the best guys don't win that often), don't forget that you have to split that with the team and the support staff. Finally, although cyclists can live on the extreme cheap, you still have to live, eat, pay rent, pay the phone bill, etc.

My point is, unless you have family money or someone supporting you, and a doctor willing to see you for free (and risk loosing his license), the average US Pro can't there from here. The average pro cyclist in the US barely makes enough to live on (would John like to share his salary with us to prove the point?). If you only make $10-$20K a year, you can't get there from here: (and believe me, there are guys on smaller teams that are not riding for much more than expenses). You can't write the check. You can't borrow the drugs and pay for them after you win.

Finally, I'd like to make another point about incentives: Many of the US-based pros are college educated, from good families, etc. That means 1. that they have other options; 2. They have a lot more to loose from a doping scandal. Tyler Hamilton has his degree (in economics I believe), Derrick Bouchard-Hall is going to Harvard Business school this year. The point is, there is a huge difference in Europe and the US. When someone says "take this or you'll be working at the local gas station next year" it makes a difference if you are fortunate enough to respond "you mean I'll be forced to go to Harvard"; the incentives are very different.

Paul Swinand
Chicago, IL
Sunday, September 1, 2002

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Doping in the USA #3

Tom Gorman ignores the second point made in the sentence: "...or finance a costly supervised drug regimen". Certainly a rider could inadvertently or purposely take cheap, over the counter stimulants, but it's not those drugs I'm MOST worried about. It's the cutting edge or not yet banned drugs that I'm referring to.

Low levels of caffeine (espresso or even a 65mg tablet) are not banned, not proven to be detrimental to your health, and available to everyone.

Amphetamines may not be costly but I know what a rider on those looks like and while I've seen many riders in foreign countries with their eyes bugging out and rapid, nervous movements after the race, it's not a problem here.

The operative word in my sentence about 99% of the US peloton is "feel". Like many other top US riders USADA included me in their out of competition testing program. (I'll bet most of the people writing in to VeloNews and didn't even know about this program.) This testing is helping to keep the majority of us clean.

As I said before, the only thing missing now is testing at NRC events.

John Lieswyn
Iowa, USA
Friday, August 30, 2002

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Doping in the USA #4

Tom Gorman suggests that there are motivations other than money for pro riders to dope. I think he misses the point of John Lieswyn's note. Dope that actually works and is undetectable or nearly so is not cheap. Why on earth would a pro racer who is barely eking out a living try to spend a lot of money to improve his performance when training is a lot cheaper and more likely to have beneficial effects? I don't think that you can find many independently wealthy pro bicycle racers in the USA who can afford the type and amount of drugs necessary to have a measurable, let alone a deciding effect on performance.

Thomas Kunich
Friday, August 30, 2002

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Doping in the USA #5

It's more than mere paranoia. When I began racing in the NYC area in the late 1970s, older club-mates who had done races like Somerville in the 1950s spoke openly about their use of amphetamines. Many of us knew riders juicing with speed for the Sunday money races in the NYC area. And if you've ever seen a 50+ year old racer with Lyle Alzado rage, you know it isn't late male menopause.

USAC has not been without positive tests for drugs, even with the limited number of tests performed, particularly at regional races. There have been complaints aired on as to US track racers who have not shown up for training camps when drug testing was in the offing. And then there are the unsolicited email inquiries that I've received as to obtaining Oxyglobin from my veterinarian wife (I simply advise the writers to contact their treating vet.)

As it happens, about five years ago the Dean of the LSU Veterinary College offered to take over primary medical care of the LSU football team. The LSU president declined, but USAC might look there for future track riders. :-)

If a parallel can be draw to US academic life, the words of Henry Kissinger might well sum up the motive to cheat. He said, "Never have so many, fought so hard over so little."

Brian Lafferty
Longmeadow, MA USA
Tuesday, September 3, 2002

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Doping in the USA #6

I spent two years on a struggling division III professional trade team in the United States (often racing with Tyler Farrar), a seemingly perfect candidate for a team full of guys looking for something better. Results, success, and money for example. During those two years I never once witnessed the use of an illegal performance-enhancing drug by a team-mate or by riders on different teams (who often stayed in the same hotels and hung around together a fair bit). Ever. Granted, we were not racing for the kind of glory and money seen on the World Cup level, but we were racing for things like gas money, food money, money to be able to take home to help out wives/girlfriends/room-mates with rent/mortgages, etc. Few of us had the resources to buy dope (did I mention only a small fraction of the riders on the team received a salary?) Those who did, for a number of reasons to be sure, chose not to. The rest of us had to earn all our pennies in races.

Doesn't this seem like the perfect opportunity to say "screw it, I need to make some money this weekend, I'm juicin'"? Even on something we can buy easily at a low cost via a quick trip to our local GNC? Maybe. Or, maybe there are bike racers who have respect for themselves, their colleagues, their team-mates, their sponsors and pride for the sport itself. This may seem like the "holier than thou" attitude, but it's not. Basic social norms and values tell us cheating is not acceptable.

One more point. We were almost never tested. I, personally, was never tested. Aside from the First Union races and a handful of other National Calendar races who typically tested the podium, medical control was nowhere.

I'm not saying doping doesn't happen in the US. I know that it does. I just feel the need to add to the perspectives on this issue.

J. Franz Hahn
Missoula, USA
Wednesday, September 4, 2002

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Doping in the USA #7

This may be a bit simple and naive, but if the various governing bodies of all sports where doping is suspected are truly concerned about solving the problem then why not go to the drug corporations that produce drugs such as EPO and have them put some form of a synthetic tracer in their products that is harmless to the user and cheap and simple to test for? There has to be some sort of marker that would stay in the system for a month or so without any harm to the user.

John Myrick
Winston-Salem, NC USA
Wednesday, September 4, 2002

This gets suggested a lot. It's our understanding that adding such a marker to a drug would require approval by the FDA or similar body not only of the additive but of the additive in combination with the drug. That would mean subjecting the additive and combination to the full testing and approval system, a process that takes years and costs millions of dollars. -- Letters Ed

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Recent letters pages

  • August 30 - Doping in the USA, Rumsas, Saturn Classic, Rabobank botch-up, Australian women at Commonwealth Games, Name for Lion, Brake lever position, Fairing, Climbing weight, Javier Ochoa, Jose Perez Cuapio, Simoni, Armstrong's lost opportunities, World Cup prize money, Virenque
  • August 23 - Doping in the USA, Rumsas, Aussie, Aussie, Aussie - Oi, Oi, Oi!!!, Armstrong vs Indurain, Armstrong's lost opportunities, Simoni, This is NOT a fairing?, Records and altitude, Saturn classic, Prize money for overall World Cup winner?, Oldest rider jersey, Virenque, Brake lever position
  • August 16 - More Rumsas, 1000m time impressive, Oldest rider jersey, Allez Roche, Singlespeed, What's in it for us?, Doping in the USA, KoM, Armstrong Vs Indurain, Virenque, Armstrong's lost opportunities, Steel bikes, Scratch race rules, Jose Perez Cuapio, Jaja, Photos, Tour revamp, Simoni
  • August 9 - Rumsas, KoM competition, Farewell, Jaja, Comparing riders of different generations, Armstrong vs Indurain, Oldest Rider Jersey, What's in the bottles?, Most aggressive rider, Tour revamp needed, Record Tour abandons, Tour Finale Crowds, Cycling Photos, Singlespeed?, Girona Cycling, There's still some good out there, 20km scratch race, new rule sucks, Virenque, Simoni, Missing riders, Where are the steel bikes?
  • August 2 - Rumsas, Big Mama Rumsas!, Swiss World Cup didn't pay some women in 2001 either!, Doping, Still some good out there, Simoni, Cipollini, Post-Tour Blues, Farewell, Jaja, Carbon fiber forks, Technical advantages, What's in the bottles?, Armstrong v. Indurain, Record Tour abandons, Pantani, Virenque, KoM competition, Most aggressive rider
  • July 30 - Rumsas, Merci and farewell, Jaja, Armstrong's acting, Points Dinging, Lance and style, Record Tour abandons, Virenque, Back to normal, Most Aggressive Rider Competition, French "fans", King of the Mountains, Blue Tram, Tour Revamp Needed, Jacky Durand, TdF history: Wins by Country stats revised, Props for CN, Pantani, Simoni, VDB, Obree update, Asthma and Salbutamol, Carbon Fiber Forks, Armstrong's lost opportunities
  • July 24 - Asthma and Salbutamol, Americans in Paris, Drugs, Dopers and class - mutually exclusive, Is Lance bad for the Tour?, French "fans", Armstrong's acting, Record for TdF abandons?, Erik Zabel, OLN Coverage, Lance and style, Jonathan Vaughters, In support of Willy Voet, Headset Info
  • July 18 - The Tour, Zabel Swats!, Asthma & Salbutamol, Bob Roll, Americans in Paris, Floyd Landis, Tour Trivia, Moto Madness at Le Tour, Drinking Games, Drugs, VDB's new team?, The real reason Armstrong never rides the Giro, Dick Ploog
  • July 11 - Verbruggen & Mapei, Verbruggen must go, Jan Ullrich, Drugs, Australian Commonwealth Games selection, USPS Tour selections, Americans in Paris, Watching the Tour at Ventoux, Where's Bobke?, Missing riders, DynEPO, Ghent, VDB's new team?
  • July 3 - Mapei & Verbruggen, Verbruggen must go, US Postal Tour selection, Cycling in Dublin, TdF selection, Dynepo, Reporting, What will Cipo's world's kit look like?, VDB's new team?, Best years for US cyclists?, Sticking out your tongue, Ghent, Time trial rigs, US Postal investigation, Vuelta , Drinking Games
  • Letters Index – The complete index to every letters page on