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Letters to Cyclingnews - April 3, 2003
Here's your chance to get more involved with Cyclingnews. Comments and criticism on current stories, races, coverage and anything cycling related are welcomed, even pictures if you wish. Letters should be brief (less than 300 words), with the sender clearly identified. They may be edited for space and clarity. We will normally include your name and place of residence, but not your email address unless you specify in the message.
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As an elite American track cyclist, I would like to offer my opinion regarding USA Cycling (USAC)'s recently released world track championship procedures. To be brief, they are an utter travesty and represent merely the latest in a neverending string of wrongheaded actions taken by the organization. In addition, I found USAC's response (via a Mr. Steve Johnson on cyclingnews.com) to rider criticism of those procedures to be offensive and rather shocking in light of the facts. Let me refer Mr. Johnson to the USOC constitution; specifically, Article VII (Rights and Duties of Members). Mr. Johnson seems not to have read it, or perhaps has read it but does not care what it says. This must change immediately.
Among other things, Article VII states in Section 1.D that the National Governing Body (NGB) must "disseminate and distribute to amateur athletes, coaches, trainers, managers, administrators and officials in a timely manner the applicable rules and any changes to such rules of the National Governing Body..." In addition, Section 1.C requires the NGB to "keep amateur athletes informed of policy matters and reasonably reflect the views of such athletes in such decisions". I believe that USAC has a long and consistent track record of utter indifference to both of these requirements and should thus be considered in breach of its obligations as a member of the USOC.
Does Mr. Johnson or any of his colleagues at USAC consider the release of world track championship qualifying procedures a mere six weeks in advance of the final entry point to be "timely"? The final World Cup qualification event is April 25-27, and if a rider does not qualify for a World Cup, that rider certainly cannot qualify for the World Championships. In the absence of a published selection procedure, elite riders can only consider the selection procedure which was used in the preceding year as their most recent reference point, along with whatever information might happen to trickle out of USAC in an unofficial manner. Since the current selection procedure represents a drastic departure from the "winner goes" selection used last year, it is absolutely imperative that riders be made aware of it with sufficient time to prepare for the World Cup qualification events. USAC has failed its elite track riders in two respects here:
1) Riders who qualified for World Cups which took place before the date the selection procedures were released were not made aware that their performance at the World Cups could guarantee them a start at the World Championship. Thus, riders (including some, such as Jame Carney and Colby Pearce, who have demonstrated their ability to medal at World Cups and thus guarantee themselves a spot on the Worlds team) may either have elected not to attend, or not to have peaked for the event if they did compete. In addition, these same riders may have made tactical decisions during the World Cup qualifying races to support members of their trade teams, believing that doing so would not adversely affect their chances of being selected to the World's team. Since riders have only a small number of opportunities to qualify, they must be made aware of these opportunities before they occur, not after. Anything less is a clear violation of USOC rule VII.1.D, since informing someone of the significance of an event after it has already occurred can hardly be considered "timely".
2) Riders who had not been planning to peak for World Cup qualification events were not given sufficient time to alter their training plans. It is absurd to expect an elite athlete to reach peak form with six weeks notice, yet this is exactly what Mr. Johnson and his colleagues demand from American track cyclists. It is clear that Mr. Johnson has absolutely no understanding of (or no regard for) the amount of time and effort that is needed to prepare for an important athletic competition. If an organization cannot comprehend matters of the most basic significance to the athletes it governs, how can it claim to fulfill its obligation (under USOC rule VII.1.C) to "reasonably reflect the views of such athletes in its policy decisions"? The answer is that it cannot, does not, and has not for some time.
Mr. Johnson asserts in his rebuttal to the criticisms of Jame Carney and Colby Pearce that "USAC didn't in fact change the selection criteria, we simply had not published them for this year." By not having officially released its selection criteria until this incredibly late date, USAC forced its elite riders to base their training plans on two things: (1) selection procedures from the preceding year, and (2) unofficial communications between the riders and USAC coaches regarding the planned (but not official) selection procedures. It was well known in elite track circles that the June 13-15 event at Colorado Springs was intended to be a "winner goes" trial for World Championships. In addition, the selection for the preceding World Championship was a "winner goes" event at USCF Nationals in August 2002. Thus, any elite track rider intent on qualifying for the World Championship had no choice but to construct a training plan built around an expectation of a single qualifying event in mid-June. Johnson evades this entire issue by making a completely false statement in his rebuttal, claiming that nobody had been told anything about the tentative selection procedures until they were officially released. It is disappointing, but not surprising, to see USAC officials resorting to dishonesty in order to defend their ill-advised decisions. A number of elite track riders will testify under oath that USAC did in fact communicate with them regarding intended selection procedures for 2003 Worlds, well before the date on which the official selection criteria were made public. Johnson's defense will presumably be an Enron-like declaration of ignorance of these communications.
In light of these facts, it is tempting to conclude that USAC's leadership are a malevolent clutch of corporate smooth talkers bent on doing as much as possible to destroy the sport of track cycling in America. One can certainly see the results of their mismanagement in the way that track cycling's competitive depth has atrophied to the point of sick comedy in the past decade. However, I do not believe that this rather cynical interpretation is the correct one. I think the explanation for USAC's bad behavior is much simpler. USAC does a bad job with track cycling because it can get away with it. During the seemingly interminable Craig Griffin era, elite track riders learned that the principal means of coaches' selection was essentially favoritism. Any child can see that it is better to keep one's mouth shut than to complain in these circumstances. That mentality persists to this day, which is one reason why riders do not complain when they should. A second reason is that most riders realize by now that USAC is indifferent to criticism and utterly unwilling to admit its mistakes, and furthermore, is never held accountable for its errors.
In the minds of USAC leadership, it is far better (and easier) to create the illusion of responsiveness than actually to be responsive to the membership. This is why we see silly and superficial imitations of the Australians or the British, coupled with a few slick press releases about this or that BMX camp, all touted as some sort of revolution in domestic track cycling. For example, Johnson effusively claims that "In San Diego we had riders coming across from the road to compete on the track. This is what we want", as if San Diego was the first time that a road rider ever raced the track, and as if he himself was personally responsible for this stunning new development. What Mr. Johnson fails to mention, however, is the fact that virtually all road riders who cross over to the track only do so for a short while before leaving with a profound sense of disillusionment and regret for having wasted their time. USAC would do better to focus on the reasons why nobody wants to race the track any more, rather than going to great lengths to lure a few unsuspecting riders from other disciplines into the muck. When elite track riders see the best among them treated with callous indifference by USAC leadership, they receive one message loud and clear, and that message is: "We do not care one iota about supporting our best riders, so if you become one of the best, you should not expect anything from us".
An elite track rider must invest an enormous amount of effort to attempt to become internationally competitive. Before investing this effort, most riders (myself included) make a simple risk assessment. If I spend years focused on the goal of competing at the World Championships, what are the chances that I will be thwarted by some arbitrary and fickle decision made by USAC? What most riders find is that the risk is unacceptable, so they choose other goals - they race on the road, they switch to other sports, they get on with their lives. This is a direct consequence of the USAC's established pattern of behavior up until this point, and it is the single most important reason why the pool of talent for elite track competition in the US has shrunk so drastically.
I have seen this sport implode over the past ten years and it sickens me. It also calls into question USAC's ability to fulfill USOC rule VII.1.A, "develop interest and participation throughout the United States and be responsible to the persons and amateur sports organization that it represents". I stated that USAC has allowed this to happen not out of ill will, but out of disinterest and incompetence. I firmly believe USAC must take immediate steps to rectify its numerous misdeeds or suffer the consequences of failure to perform its duties as a USOC member organization.
Dr. David B. Bailey
Reading the article about Gord Fraser and the discussion of how to pay homage to the untimely death of Garrett Lemire made me think. On this site which is a clearing house for thoughts by those interested in cyclesport, most are now, have been, or someday will be, cycle racers. As a hypothetical question what would you want done should you die in a race? Is it proper to pull out in respect? Would you rather the "race go on" in your honor? Should the race be "neutralized" but the course ridden as a show of solidarity and respect? Should the riders or organizers donate the prize money or a portion of it to some designated cause or charity as was done in the Casartelli case? Of course we don't expect things like this to happen but the fact is that cycle racing is a dangerous sport, no matter how much is done to make it safe. Crashes are fairly common and fatal crashes, though few, are a fact we must all expect. Curious to see what others think about this.
Commenting on some of your other recent news and articles I would like to say:
Despite G. Bisceglia's promises it seems USAC is still up to it's dictatorial and amateurish management of US cycling. (See the articles on Track world's selection).
Helmets will always be a "hot" issue, sure to generate opinions on all sides. I say let adults decide what they want to do, that's what freedom is all about. Even the freedom to be foolish if one wants.
I read Paolo Bettini's diary (The big race and a great team). Congratulations for getting him on line, he is a great diarist and tells an interesting and compelling tale.
Finally, let me say "thanks" for allowing me to keep up with cycling and cycling related stories from all over the world especially your great "live" coverage of races. You have made me late for work more times than I like to admit.
I apologize to any non-Australians that may not necessarily be interested with regards to the subject of this letter, but I would like to mention my disappointment at Cycling Australia's '03 version of the Australian National Champion's Jersey. In my opinion I think the addition of the yellow shoulders make the jersey look tacky and also make it dead obvious that Stuey is attacking. The original jersey as worn by Robbie McEwen last year was beautiful. Robbie even mentioned last year that he had received many comments from other riders in the peloton of how beautiful our National Champ's Jersey looked. Sometimes plain and clean lines look great and the original jersey is a classic that should not be stuffed around with. It was great for an Aussie to once again see the original jersey being paraded so successfully in the European peloton and not having to wear some of the horrible national uniforms of the 80's and early 90's. Now Cycling Australia feels the need to tart it up so to speak. I'm sure Stuey is immensely proud to wear the '03 version and I mean no disrespect to him on this issue because he may even like this version. This is just my personal opinion and I am interested to see what other people feel on this subject.
Only a true Brit could write such a letter, it is utterly inconceivable that any other English-speaking bike fan, let alone any Belgian, Italian or Frenchman etc would congratulate riders on having finished in such low positions on GC.
CW's letter is entirely characteristic of a type of thinking found only in Britain, that of a kind of relativism whose guiding principle is that third-rate performances are always to be portrayed as first-rate, and where poor performances are never to be criticized.
British road cycling is in a wretched state and it is hard to see how it can be improved when even British riders with some ability (Wiggins) are lauded for having " [ridden] the whole of ... Paris-Nice." CW praises Wiggins for "getting round" Paris-Nice. "Getting round" is about all most British roadmen can manage, why else are there so few British Elite 2 riders at the highest level in (say) Italy? A comparison with what Australians have achieved in Italy is simply embarrassing.
Australians and Americans are taken seriously in mainland Europe while the Brits are irrelevant.
Ms. Sarah Potter suggests that anyone that is at fault in an accident that causes the injury of someone else should lose their license for 6-12 months and be required to attend traffic safety classes.
I can't think of a better solution! Most people will respond only to perceived dangers to themselves. Those of us who are thoughtful will respond to others on the road because it is painful to consider injuring someone else. But there are those who are totally oblivious to others and it requires a real, personal risk to make them more observant and careful.
However, in the USA there have been numerous incidents lately in which drivers who were even intending murder when injuring or even killing bicyclists have been let off without so much as a citation, so I doubt that such an idea could gain any weight let alone become law.
Like George Hincapie, I have also been suffering from a problem that does not allow me to breathe properly while out on the bike. I have been to two doctors and they have both told me that there is nothing wrong with me. I am asking cyclingnews.com readers for any info that they might have on what has been keeping me off of the bike.
I have been resting for six weeks and my condition has shown very little improvement. This past winter I put in 2350 miles for base and I feel it would be a shame if I did not get to race again this year. When George finds a solution to his problem I hope cyclingnews.com can write a report on it and maybe help explain what I have because, quite frankly, IT SUCKS to have to stand on the sideline and be a spectator! Any possible solutions are welcome.
I'm not a huge cycling expert, but I'm fond of this sport both by pedaling and, also, increasingly as a spectator.
My attention started to be driven to cycling when Marco Pantani, began his incredible climbing performances during the late nineties, putting someone like Miguel Indurain in more than one difficulty.
It was a great delusion when Marco was involved in all the doping scandals. I don't know how much he is more guilty than others in what he did, personally I am not sure we will ever know the truth in this respect.
Coming to these days, Marco is attempting to come back and throw behind him all the shit he is been through in the last three years, and, it seems he is doing this with humility and strong determination. I believed he should be respected profoundly in this effort if not supported by his fans as it happens a lot here in Italy.
Reading the news and comments on CN I have had the impression that you are very skeptical towards Marco, if not sarcastic. I don't really think that is nice.
Is this just my impression? Am I missing some piece of information?
Look forward to hear your comments.
Jeff Jones replies:
One point that I don't hear often in the helmet debate relates to the marketability of our sport. Though wearing a helmet may reduce the risk of death or injury, it also makes a cyclist less recognizable and less human. In my opinion, spectators in any sport want to be able to relate to their heroes. Cyclists, with their piston-like legs turning over at 90-100 rpm, riding at high speeds for hundreds of miles a day over some of the tallest mountains in the world must already seem very "machine-like" to many fans, even before you strap a helmet over their head and sunglasses over their eyes. Professional heavyweight boxers in the US do not use headgear even though it can prevent serious brain damage, for the sole reason that boxing fans don't like it because it reduces the "humanity" of the athletes, and therefore the marketability of the sport. And you have to admit, there is no mistaking Laurent Brochard or Marco Pantani when you see them in a race. Don't get me wrong, I am not saying that pro cyclists should compromise their own safety for the good of the sport, only that this issue must be considered by the UCI if they want to take away the ability of the riders to choose.
I think it was Mark Twain who once said something about "lies, damned lies, and statistics". It is pointless for Mr. Kunich and others to speculate on the meaning of numbers regarding cyclists in Australia (or anywhere else) and mortality rates without having the actual studies in hand. Mr. Kunich implies that the 11% drop in fatalities correlates to a increase in fatalities per cyclist. Could it also be that the 11% drop in fatalities is calculated as a percentage of total accidents involving both a motorist and a cyclist? Would this not be independent of the number of cyclists on the road? Could this then mean an overall improvement in the chances of survival? Again, I am not speculating on the actual numbers themselves, as I don't have the actual study in my hands and therefore am ignorant of the methods utilized. What would help readers of these discussions gain insight would be a more informed analysis of actual results rather than off-the-cuff interpretations of somebody else's poorly composed email. Finally, statements like "I must wonder about the huge ego of those who would believe that a 150+ lb. body hurling at 15+ mph could be spared serious damage by a miniscule percentage of about 8 ounces of foamed plastic" are similarly ignorant as they supply no actual facts but rather are merely combative and speculative.
The argument that helmets reduce performance in racing is exactly why they should be mandatory in a racing situation. I agree with freedom of choice in general, but why should someone who chooses to protect their head (regardless whether from major or minor injury) be put at a disadvantage? With regard to professionals, I would think that the management cycling teams would have a vested interest in protecting their riders from any sort of injury [although sadly, evidence in some other instances demonstrates that they don't always care about a rider's health].
I can't understand why people complain so much about OLN's coverage of cycling events. Sure, these aren't the slick, high tech broadcasts that Americans are used to with the "major sports," but they do have a certain appeal and I'm sure it is more challenging to follow a 200km bike race than it is to catch a 7 foot center dunking a basketball so I expect the camera and commentating to be a little more "from the cuff."
As for the commercials, thank God someone wants to pay the advertising costs to bring us 2 hour daily coverage of the greatest sporting events in the world. I believe RAI is run by the Itallian government so they don't really have the same problems with finding funding for the race broadcasts. I guess people can complain all they want but without the good folks at OLN, I would freaking die come cycling season if I couldn't fly in from a bike ride and watch the races.
Do any Cyclingnews readers know where I can find route maps and itineraries for La Fleche-Wallone and Amstel Gold? Amaury Sports' LeTour site doesn't have them listed for La Fleche and the Amstel Gold web site has a map but no itinerary. Thanks in advance for your help.
There are problems with my idea, I agree. The concept was simply to get people out of cars and onto bikes, and I figured most people are motivated by their wallet. If it can work it creates more riders and more bike aware drivers. Resolving the actual logistics of making it work though, is not one of my strengths.
Thats what I need you guys for!
Below is a copy of a memo I received at work the other day. It was sent by our occupational health and safety department. It is possibly one of the stupidest things you will read. When reading, you have to visualise an 80 - 100 year old building that hasn't been updated once. Plus an organisation that uses these huge old steel trolleys to make deliveries to various levels using the elevators
Looks like I will be looking for a new job.
It would be nice if there were stiffer sentences where death is involved. Watching the evening news last week I saw the following three news bites. 1) Adult male convicted of fondling 14 yr old niece, sentence: 25yrs prison. 2) Adult male convicted of 3rd driving while intoxicated in last 8 yrs, sentence: 6yrs prison. 3) Adult male convicted of running over and killing bicyclist, leaving scene of accident, sentence: 8 weekends in county jail. Unfortunately this is an improvement over the norm. The last two cyclist's who were run down by cars in my locale there was not even a traffic citation or any police investigation, in both cases the police accepted the driver's (only living witness) version that these long time riders on straight roads had "suddenly swerved in front of them". Ride at your own risk seems to be the policy.
No, no, no! Mr. Gierat has it all backwards! By dominating the Tour, Lance is doing the best thing to promote cycling in the U.S. This is truly one case where bigger is better. The Tour provides American audiences with exposure to the highest degree of cycling -- for 3 weeks in a row!
Let's look at it another way, do Americans (or most of us) want to watch club level soccer matches, or Saturday morning sparring sessions, or off-season track meets? NO! We all want the BIG stuff -- the Tour, the World's, the Olympics -- these are what inspire people to get off their bums and try to emulate their sporting heroes!
For added argument, would you have Armstrong, for the sake of promoting cycling in the U.S., race only on American soil? Just imagine if Chris Boardman or Tom Simpson had never left the jolly old U.K.
The general public appreciates a simple common denominator when exposed to new ideas and concepts -- like cycling. The Tour, the Giro, the Vuelta...they are the same to Average Joe and Jane (ask your neighbour if he's ever heard of the "Setmana Catalana"). Let them discover the beauty of the other "great events in the cycling calender" once they are hooked!
Lance Armstrong winning Classics to bring them to the attention of America and the world is the best reason yet for Armstrong to lose the focus it requires to win the Tour de France...
Re: Your Special Edition News Article on Allegations That Pantani is Training
This really makes me mad. Just when we all thought Marco was out of the woods, he gets caught again! How could he be so stupid? I guess he still thinks he is above the rules, which are established for one reason only-to protect the athletes, keep the sport clean, and raise fan interest (remember the monotony of the Merckx era? Most guys still say he didn't train, but you have to wonder.)
Pantani will be the first to be investigated, but he's probably just the tip of the iceberg. I'd be willing to bet pretty good money that most, if not all, of the European pro peloton engages in some form of systematic training. In the States they say they don't have the same problem, but I'd still wager that over forty per cent of those guys train, too.
Incredibly, this problem is not limited to the pro ranks. I'm just an amateur cyclist of poor quality in a backwoods cycling nation, and I'd swear that even some of the guys against whom I race are training. When I think of what they are risking, I feel just sick.
What's wrong with you people?
P.S. It looks like this story is just the latest example of your superior methods of investigative reporting. I've checked all the other newswires for additional details, and astonishingly, no one else seems to have picked it up. Keep up the good work, CyclingNews!
Pantani's recent great performance has been a revelation. It is great to have him back in the peloton. Your article however has missed one other glaring aerodynamic body mod... The added wrinkles to his forehead. These of course will have the same effect on the air pressure around his head as the dimples on golf balls do.
I myself have considered body mods to enhance my meager performances. I have concluded that my nose needs to be reshaped.
It should be 163mm long 107mm wide (at its widest point) and should be strictly triangular in profile. It should alse be on the back of my head. Shave my head and I have no need for an aerohelmet for TTs.
Thank you for the photographs of these historic bicycles. It is absolutely thrilling to inspect the exact same components that carried Coppi or Bartali to victory.
Patrick P. Hartigan
Magnificent photo journalism of the Time Trial portion of the race. Chris Henry and Elmar Krings captured the spirit of the event for us. Cyclingnews.com may soon become a synonym for the word "excitement".
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