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Letters to Cyclingnews - September 27, 2002
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Guido Trenti & the World Championship
There must be a big Mario Cipollini fan at USA cycling to pick Guido Trenti (an Aqua & Sapone team-mate) for the World Championships. I can just imagine a stars and stripes jersey leading in the last kilometer only to pull off and let Lombardi do the final pull for a Cipollini victory. Trenti lives in Italy, is getting paid by an Italian team and with his team sponsor leaving he probably wants to impress his future sponsor. It would be detrimental for Trenti to help out the American team.
If the course is as flat as I have read, I believe Cipollini's main obstacle will be his own teammates. Allessandro Petacchi has voiced his reluctance to work for only Mario, as I would too. Cipollini is a great talent and one of the best sprinters ever, but when he keeps pulling out of tours early it doesn't endear him to others. Just ask the Tour de France. If he promised not to pull out and go for the points competition I would bet his team would be selected.
On the other hand, the way he wins races lets him get away with being selective and his comments give journalists lots of good material. He makes the flat races interesting as the Aqua & Sapone lead out train is a thing of beauty.
Personally, I am pulling for one of the Australian sprinters to sneak in there like Robbie McEwen did in the Giro.
Guido Trenti & the World Championship #2
There has been a general uproar in the American cycling community recently over USA Cycling's decision to include Guido Trenti (Aqua - Sapone) to the US team for the World Championships. Some have agreed, and some have disagreed (quite loudly as is the nature for us Americans). This is just another opinion, but I felt like it had to be said.
Let him compete. The man is an accomplished pro cyclist, holding an American racing license. His mother is American, so he is American by birth. True he does live in Italy, true he has never been to the United States, and true he can speak no English. Look at a lot of the pro cyclists riding for major European teams now. They don't live in the US during their season, they live in Europe. And I'm not sure when speaking English became a requirement to be an American. I know lots of people who don't know how to speak English and they've been living in the US their entire lives. He could be a good lead-out man for Fred Rodriguez at the end of a flat course World Championship, or he may be in a position to win for himself. Any possible way if it happens, if someone in a Stars and Stripes jersey crosses the line first, I'll be happy. I still think Mario is going to win though, he is in such good form, and is one of my favorite riders, and want to see him and McEwen battle it out at the end, but let Guido ride and leave him alone for the US. He'll do us proud in the end. Also, there are many pros in the US that don't want to race that late in the season, and therefore have decided not to race the World Championships. As I understand it, we are afforded 12 spots to fill, yet we can only fill 7. Without Guido, it would be 6. It might be a different story next year when the race is in Canada and close to home turf (I'll be there cheering on the masses), but this year, we need him on our team.
To Guido, if you're reading this, ride hard, and do the US proud.
As a cycling fan from South Jersey, I've followed the development of the Univest Grand Prix for the past few years, as it became the biggest amateurs-only race outside of Europe and a bit of an East Coast institution. But this year, the Univest GP looks to have taken a huge step backwards on several fronts, going from one of the top races in North America to just another date on the calendar.
Even though race promoter John Eustice talked up the race as being 'the best Univest ever', it seems like it really lost ground on every front in comparison to previous editions. Instead of being broadcast nationally on OLN, the race only rated regional coverage this year. Newspaper coverage of the Univest GP in the Mid-Atlantic was virtually nonexistent outside of Souderton. The women's prize list was cut nearly in half. And the level of competition isn't even close to what it was at Eustice's other race, the Housatonic Valley Classic- or what it would have been at the 2001 Univest GP, had it not been cancelled.
A lot of folks who thought Eustice was doing something really good for the sport by running men's and women's events strictly for amateurs must have been disappointed when he opted for UCI status in 2002. But whether or not people agreed with the move, it at least should have meant that the Univest GP would have its strongest starting fields ever, with Division 3 pro teams being allowed into the mix. So what happened? Not one of the nine US Division 3 teams came to Univest. In fact, only two pro teams entered (just barely allowing the Univest GP to meet the UCI minimum number of foreign entries): Jura Suisse, which is ranked an unimpressive 18th out of 39 Division 3 teams, and Sympatico.ca, which I'm not even sure showed up to do the race. The other three foreign teams- Belgium, France, and Holland- are basically the same ones that Eustice always brings over for Univest, though not nearly as strong as in years past. And other non-US teams, such as Ital Pasta, Gears Racing, Volkswagen/Trek (all strong Canadian squads) and Team Columbus (a group of Aussies & Kiwis) who had distinguished themselves in previous editions of Univest and the Housatonic race, were as absent as the US pros.
Even the US amateur contingent was weaker than in years past. Compared to the field that was announced prior to the 2001 Univest (which was cancelled due to the 9/11 attacks), only 11 of the top 20 US amateur teams in the National Racing Calendar standings were able to attend (14 of the top 20 were slated to come in '01). And the field was far more heavily weighted towards teams from New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania than in 2001, so that genuinely deserving squads such as Gomart and Grand Performance found themselves surrounded by the likes of ReMax and Toga, teams that virtually never even race outside of NYC, and were totally outclassed even in this weaker field.
And as for the women's race, where to begin? Eustice made a big deal out of the appearance of French legend Jeannie Longo, who won the 33-mile circuit race without being seriously challenged. But to say that it was 'crucial to her World Championship defense' is absolutely ridiculous. Probably the only reasons Longo was there were because Eustice paid her (maybe out of the $4000 that was cut from the women's prize list?), and because the race she had planned on using as her final Worlds preparation, the Transoceane stage race, was cancelled. Ditto for the handful of other national-class women who attended, such as Laura Van Gilder and Sue Palmer-Komar. Most of the approximately 70 women (a guess, since no entry information was released by the promoter) came as individuals or maybe with one teammate. Considering there was no competition with other major national races this past weekend, it's pretty sad, especially since the 2001 race was supposed to have 26 women's teams of 4-6 riders each, and included so many top teams that it might have had something to do with the cancellation of the BMC Houston women's race that was supposed to have been held the same weekend.
How the Univest Grand Prix ended up in this diminished state of affairs is a mystery to me. After seeing the tremendous men's and women's fields that last year's Univest and this year's Housatonic Valley Classic attracted, I'm sure that there were plenty of us out there that expected the 2002 Univest Grand Prix to be the best yet. But, unfortunately, it didn't even come close. Hopefully, John Eustice can fix what is quite obviously broken before the 2003 season, so that the Univest Grand Prix can once again be considered one of North America's true classics.
I flew round trip from Philadelphia to Eureka California last July. I did exactly as Steve Oakey mentioned - After calling United Airlines to check with them, I showed up at the ticket counter with bike and tools. Even though I had called that morning and checked that they did, in fact, have bike boxes, I was informed that they did not. After a 5 minute circular conversation, they then informed me that they did have a bike box for me and sold the flimsy cardboard bike box to me for $10. Happily, it was large enough to accommodate my 64cm Cannondale. I unclamped the bar from the stem, removed my left crank, put the bike in the box, and cocooned the whole thing with an outrageous amount of their tape. This part of the process was quite easy. While this involved about 10 minutes of work, I probably saved 20 minutes of walking and waiting for the bus by riding my bike from long term parking to the terminal.
This was just fine for getting to SFO. I saw my bike box being loaded in Philly, and unloaded in San Fran without any problems. However, while I made the transfer to my flight up the coast, my bike did not. It came in a few flights later and had obviously been man-handled by the ogres in SFO. There were pedals and bar ends sticking out of the crumpled cardboard box.
My advice is as follows:
1.) If you are flying direct and show up a bit early, your bike will probably be just fine. They'll just stand it up next to the plane while they load the normal luggage. It will be the last thing on, and the first thing off. No problem. You can ride your bike out of the airport if you want.
2.) If your trip involves transfers and you need your bike for a race or something, bear in mind that if there are any problems or delays in transferring baggage, your bike will be the first thing they leave behind. They will consider your bike an unusual thing, and will only attended to it in their free time AFTER dealing with all the normal luggage. For both legs of my trip, they had to deliver my bike the day after I arrived.
3.) If your trip involves transfers, it is quite possible your bike will get squashed. In fact, they might even be mad at your bike because it causes more work for them. Definitely remove the pedals - I would remove the cranks if they're the new Dura-Ace kind. Remove the rear derailleur as this is the one part of your bike that protrudes an undue amount and is not designed to be pushed and pulled upon. Remove the water bottle cages. After my trip, it took me a while to track down the loose water bottle cage as the source of squeaks when I pedaled hard. As someone who routinely snaps handlebars and stems, I have attempted to remove from my mind the squashing my bars took. - and realistically, while I cringe to think of the bad, bad luggage handlers tossing my bike around, I probably stress the thing far more on a typical training ride.
Box or not? #2
I've not had anything untoward occur with my own bike while flying, but I would definitely not leave its safety up to airline employees. I remember flying to Paris this April (Aaah, Paris in Springtime...). Looking out the window of the plane as we sat on the tarmac at De Gaulle, I watched with some interest as the conveyor was rolled up to the baggage hold. One of the first things rolling off was a corrugated cardboard bicycle box. As soon as it rolled within his reach, the goon in the orange vest grabbed it and unceremoniously threw it on the pavement to make room for other cartons rolling out. I pictured my own ride being banged about in that box, and flinched. It might be heavy and expensive to check as baggage, but that hard shell case might be a bit of worthwhile insurance.
Box or not? #3
I have used a soft bag ala Sporting Tours between Singapore and London for two years now.
Wheels out and in their own bags. Some aircon foam on the stays and a front fork "bridge spacer". Two thin single mattresses form the cushioning - one in the U-shape , other upside down.
Package weighs 15 kg with tool bag and pedals in my back pack for easy security checks.
So far no problems.
Box or not? #4
On the advice of a semi-pro racer colleague of mine, who transported his time-trial bike to Holland and then Australia sans bike box, I have tried the same, albeit on domestic flights only. So far, no problem. The only damage that I had was from the packing tape the airline used to tape my bars to the top tube, which ripped off the clear coat and decals on a mid-end bike.
The rational behind this shipping method is pretty logical. You are as likely to suffer damage with a bike box as without. When the bike is in a box, the baggage handlers do not care or think if it is a bike, a wardrobe, a dead body or 50 kilos of coke. They will treat it as roughly as a duffel bag of dirty laundry. If the bike case is a hard shell, then they will treat it as a personal challenge. Realistically, a baggage handler has no reason to be delicate with a 50 pounds piece of luggage, they will drag it, drop it and generally mishandle it. Also, it is just as likely to be deposited first into the cargo hold under several hundred pounds of other luggage.
When the bike is unprotected, the staff and baggage handlers take greater care, because it is quite apparently more delicate than a piece of luggage.
Also, it will be handled by hand and placed on the top and/or front of the cargo hold. Most people actually are not total idiots, so your bike has even odds of arriving at your destination in the same condition or better than if it were in a box.
One other note, is that the airline will probably deflate your tires as well.
Box or not? #5
I've flown to Frankfurt and Gatwick airports from the USA, both times using bike boxes that I got from the airlines when I checked in. It only took 10 minutes or so to reassemble, and I could leave the box next to the garbage cans at the airport. Very easy, no problems.
Box or not? #6
I recently flew to Hawaii and back from the Midwest with my MTB in a travel case I borrowed from a friend. True I had to pull the stem and bars off the fork, pull the pedals, remove the rear derailleur leaving the cables all hooked up. The wheels pack in the box on the other side of the frame set separated by a foam barrier. This worked great and the bike made the trip safely.
I didn't get charged the whole way to Hawaii, two different airlines, and was expecting to pay $75.00 for each airline each way. Much to my surprise, I only got charged on the way back.
All I can figure is on the way over, they figured the Travel Case was considered a piece of my luggage. But on the way back, they identified it as a bike and wanted to make a little cash on the deal by charging the extra fee to cover insurance of marking it as "handle with care". You know if I had it my way, considering the bike was in a travel case, I wouldn't insure it and consider it a piece of my luggage.
Anyone have more experience traveling with a Travel case? I am pretty sure
I wouldn't want my bike out in the open without some sort of protection.
Box or not? #7
I have used UPS. No horror stories. On time, and intact. Haven't tried this to Europe, but domestically this sure as hell beats lugging a bike to and from the airport.
After reading your piece about Zachary Walker's experience at the SF GP, I couldn't help but wonder who was the jackass. I watch the European cycling on television and see how spectators run along side the riders. I understand how it is the norm there. In some countries, it is the norm to relieve one's self openly in public on the street. You will get arrested in the USA for that. It was safe to assume that the police were in place at the SF GP to keep spectators (jackasses) from doing just what Mr. Walker did. Maybe Mr. Walker should look in the mirror before calling someone a jackass. He might just be surprised by the long ears hiding under his hat.
San Francisco GP #2
There is a bit of a huff about Zachary Walker. Perhaps the cops over-reacted a bit but surely since 911 they are allowed to feel nervous?
What's more, earlier there was a group of four guys dressed up in cardboard cartons to look like postal boxes. Actually the costumes were first rate and they were really humorous. On the third tier of Fillmore they were going to cross the street and the cops let them out onto the street where they immediately sprinted up to the top of Fillmore. Very funny in itself and the surprising thing was the speed of their sprint and the fact that they didn't slow down hardly at all even at the top of that pitch. This is probably the height of San Francisco humor and it was pretty effective and the crowd really appreciated it.
But the cops weren't expecting it and they looked pretty PO'd. They were probably being chewed out by the duty Sergeant over their radios. Perhaps this added to the reaction of the police in Zach's case. I would say that overall the San Francisco Police Department were friendly, effective and sensible in their dealings with a crowd that must have been equal to 20% or more of the city's population. I did see the occasional idiot cop but not nearly so much as the occasional idiot fan. Moreover, the Walker incident is probably the only problem they had in the entire day and in San Francisco that has to be some sort of record.
San Francisco GP #3
John Baumeister - Lighten up. Streakers at baseball games, hecklers at golf tournaments, people running and screaming beside you at a marathon, shirtless guys with beer guts and their team colours painted at football games - all of these things add colour and excitement to the sporting event. Anything that can help cycling in North America should be encouraged. There are so few sports that work in both Europe and North America that it's great to have one we can all compete in.
Personally I can't wait until the 2003 Worlds' in Hamilton, Ontario and seeing some of the stragglers fighting their way up the Niagara escarpment. I'll be the guy painted red and white and hollering for the Canucks.
The letter from John Zenkus is on the right track regarding climbing weight. However, in my opinion, to say that a fairly well-trained rider would see the gains in watts respective to weight loss does not consider "healthy" weight loss. Just stripping pounds off is impractical if it effects your overall health/fitness. In fact, if you have "a 180-pound amateur rider" who is well trained, then chances are he has only a small percentage of weight that he could cut and still be able to produce the power to race, much less be able to recover quickly. Additionally, as an amateur, you have to ask yourself, are you going to see a net gain that makes it worth the time, trouble and pain to lose the weight. For a podunk local race scene, likely not. If you consider the pro ranks, though, the difference between the ability levels is not as wide as in the amateurs. The time difference between someone like Lance and the rest of the field up a major climb is usually minutes not hours. Thus, if you are an average pro, losing 2 or 3 percent of your weight (if you have that to lose!) will get you enough of a gain to give yourself a better chance of a higher placing, more UCI points, and a better contract.
I didn't think I knew John Zenkus, but he obviously knows me: I am that 180 pound rider who can ride Alpe d'Huez in an hour. Sadly I had come to the same conclusion about needing to lose a bit of weight to hit the hills the faster - but the 20 pounds to reach the 50 minute barrier will be a tough one. I'll start the diet after breakfast. Tomorrow. Honestly.
More seriously, what's the explanation for the phenomenon that big guys like myself can fly up moderate climbs of 6-7% such as Les Deux Alpes, while on steeper stuff like Alpe d'Huez at 8-10% it's like hitting the wall. I just can't keep the momentum up on those steep climbs. The difference between those climbs feels much greater than it should. Any thoughts?
To continue with the theme of Mr. Mackay's letter, over the years I've been riding (I train enough to be a good Cat. 4, an OK Cat. 3, or a piss-poor Cat1/2), I've noticed that in general the riders who are truly fast are some of the nicest people you'll ever meet. It's the guys that THINK they're fast that are the asses.
Interesting that the rider who states that 'Money is not an issue' also says that he has no experience racing in the Pro I-II peloton. A maxim I have always held true is 'show me arider with a nicer bike/car than mine (top pros of course excepted, at least with regards to the nice bike), and I'll show you a rider I can beat.' Because the guys who work enough to afford the Audi, the $5000 Colnago, the ones who say 'money is not an issue' can't train enough to beat the guys to whom money is most definitely an issue. The guys making it in the Pro I-II peloton, where Steve has no experience, are the guys living in run-down apartments, carpooling in beat-up cars, trying to get through the season on two pairs of shorts. So come race day, when you see the local Cat I hotshot or the budding local pro ripping legs off, don't think that he's got money to spare and that he probably spent some of it on dope. It's more likely that the prize money he's racing for that day will feed him that night, or help pay rent for another month.
Brian Rinckenberger Cat II Racer
The two lead stories in the September 21 news are a sad reminder of the situation of doping in cycling today - I wonder if Cyclingnews didn't put them together on purpose. First we have the story on the cancellation of the Midi Libre next year, with the current reluctance on the part of sponsors due to the presence of doping given as one of the main reasons.
Then we have the story of how the UCI is clearing Raimondas Rumsas to race again as there is no proof of his doping.
I think it is evident that the doping problem is still omnipresent in cycling (as it is in most sports), the only thing that has changed is that many teams and managers have distanced themselves by having the wives do the dirty work. The law of silence continues, and meanwhile hundreds of cyclists are putting their health at risk in an unending cycle of doping and lying.
I would like to assume the innocence of Raimondas Rumsas, but the evidence suggests that he is not:
- those who are tested positive systematically lie (lets not forget that Virenque never tested positive). - the vast majority of testing reveals nothing, meaning that either doping is no longer a problem (does anybody really believe this) or that testing is ineffective. Not testing positive is in no way proof of being clean.
- Edita Rumsas followed the Tour to the last day, though she did not stay to see her husband stand on the podium. Her car is found full of products that constitute the range of doping products likely to be used by a professional cyclist such as her husband - who has just turned in the performance of his life - curious coincidence? Raimondas and his team leave France in a big hurry.
Perhaps the UCI is bound by legal requirements to let Rumsas race again, with no concrete proof there is no basis to do otherwise.
This does not mean that the UCI and other interested bodies are blameless - it is clear that they are all to willing to treat doping as a media problem (the attitude perfected by Mr. Samaranch)and are not wanting to address the reality. This does not mean that solutions are easy, but first it is necessary to break the code of silence and show a real commitment to cleaning up this sport that so many love and would like to see clean.
Might I suggest to the organizers of the Vuelta a different English translation of the "Regularity classification"
While I'm sure the Vuelta doesn't mean to comment on the dietary habits and gastrointestinal condition of the riders, this title suggests otherwise. If there is indeed such a classification, I really don't want to know how it is scored and what Oscar Sevilla is doing to lead it. Imagine a photo-finish ?!?! Ick.
Perhaps the term "Consistency Classification" would be more appropriate?
G. Garner Woodall
I am trying to locate Raul Alcala. I met him a couple of years ago here in California while he was racing MTBs for GT and I saw him at Interbike around the same time. Does anyone know where he might be now?
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