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Letters to Cyclingnews - August 1, 2003
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In response to Martin Hardie not being convinced of the sportsmanship of Tour riders, I must say he is right in one statement he about there being a difference between the local cat 1/2 races and the Euro pro peloton. I can't remember how many times I've seen guys attack through the feed zone, or immediately after a crash, in local races. However, having been involved in hockey, soccer and cycling for many years I can tell you that cycling is unique in the amount of respect that competitors have and show for each other. And this is even more so when comparing the sports at the pro level.
Intentionally injuring or humiliating your opponent is common and accepted in most professional sports and even at the recreational, house league level. I'd much rather have my child watch the Tour and see how true competitors react to situations, and each other, rather than watching some multimillionaire showboat in the endzone or two grown men pummel each other on the ice.
I fully agree with Martin Hardie. Sean Kelly on Eurosport, commenting with David Duffield on the Luz Ardiden said that Ullrich should not have waited - and that he, Kelly would not have in that situation. The Beloki incident was disgraceful behaviour on Lance's part - despite the brilliant off-road riding. He should have waited, and asked the others to wait until they knew Beloki's condition. But then, Vinokurov was up the road and gaining time, wasn't he? There's a lot that is unsettling about this Tour and puts a question mark on Lance's win. For myself, I think the great champion of this Tour is Jan Ullrich, and without him the Tour would have been an empty victory for Lance. I hope next year they will drop the Team Time Trial which gives a totally false result to the race, or institute a Mountain Team Time Trial and see if they can finish five men across the finishing line then!
To be perfectly honest, you can draw a comparison between the actions of Ullrich waiting for Armstrong this year and vice-versa in 2001. If the shoe had been on the other foot this time round - i.e. Ullrich going down - I would put money on Armstrong waiting. Both riders have displayed the honour and unspoken rule that binds the great Tour riders together. We should praise such action and encourage more of it. I didn't see Mayo or Zubeldia pulling with Ullrich to close the gap on Armstrong - after Mayo had instigated the move with a sudden attack just as Armstrong rejoined the leaders. Furthermore, It was Mayo and Zubeldia who robbed Ullrich of a precious few seconds on Armstrong. I think you have missed the point. Armstrong may once have been the bullish Texan cowboy of the peloton (pre 96) but those days were before he mounted a serious Tour challenge. The Armstrong of now is a respectful, honorable athlete who like all other great athletes wants to win the correct way: by being the best when everyone else has given it there all too.
And one other thing. Do you really think Armstrong could have avoided going cross-country? I hardly think waiting for Beloki while flying down a steep rocky cliff was an option.
It's a shame Mr. Hardie ignores the facts to criticize Ullrich for sitting up after Lance's crash on Luz-Ardiden and Armstrong for allegedly not sitting up after Beloki's crash on the way to Gap. First, Ullrich was the first to say he wouldn't attack when Armstrong was down. "I have never in my life attacked someone who had crashed. That's not the way I race." If Ullrich wasn't complaining, why is Mr. Hardie?
Second, the attack group DID sit up after Beloki's crash. They were 12 seconds behind Vinokourov at the time of the crash -- Vino was in the turn that Armstrong cut at the time Beloki crashed -- and gaining. But Vino finished the stage 36 seconds up, and that after pedaling squares the last km. If they continued to attack, they would have swallowed Vinokourov and maybe spit him out the back. And why should they have waited for Jaske? He wasn't a race leader.
I have no problem with people criticizing Lance Armstrong; everyone is entitled to their own opinions. But people shouldn't make up facts to support themselves. Isn't it better just to say, "I don't like Lance" rather than bend the truth to justify that dislike?
The author of this letter misses a lots of points. Look at the tapes (both Beloki and Armstrong crashes), to see Lance did not attack when Beloki was down, and Ullrich didnot stop riding when Lance was down. Both continued to ride, but not at the fastest pace (how else did Vino get more time on LA and JU ?). It was clear within seconds that Beloki cannot continue, and this was probably communicated to all the riders in front.
Now, do you think that Ullrich would have won if he had not waited for Armstrong ? Very doubtful. LA chased the group very hard, and then put another 40 seconds on Ullrich. I don't think Ullrich 'sitting up', waiting for LA was worth more than 20-25 secs.
The whole issue of sportsmanship is interesting if we look at the exact context of each situation. Martin Hardie did raise interesting points about Lance being way in front of Jan Ullrich on GC when he waited and about what happened when Beloki crashed. I think in both instances he did the right thing, I mean Armstrong wasn't the only one to whiz by Beloki.
However, the scenario where Ullrich & Co. sit up for Armstrong, in the process completely losing their rhythm on the climb, only to be greeted by an adrenaline filled snorting Armstrong who simply rode by them all when he got back in touch with them. Maybe I'm splitting hairs but in hindsight it does seem a little tough on the guys who waited, what was their reward?
In 1995, I eagerly followed Indurain's 5th victory and at the end thought to myself: "Wow, I'm really lucky to be around to see this historic moment." I was fifteen -- the days of Merckx and Hinault seemed to belong to the very distant past -- and I assumed that a five-time winner came along only once in a lifetime.
Eight years later, however, I watch another five-timer take his trophy in Paris and I think to myself: gee, this seems to happen a lot! Each one of the past five decades has seen its own five-timer. Indeed, since Anquentil first won in 1957, more than half of all Tour victories have belonged to somebody's five-time streak: I make it 25 out of 47. (And don't forget folks like Zoetemelk and Ullrich, whose long strings of second places suggest that they could have won five times as well had they not, unfortunately, been pitted against a slightly stronger opponent.)
So what is it about the modern Tour that seems to encourage this kind of crushing dominance rather than discourage it? Why are five-time winners not an historical rarity, but actually in abundance? One could argue that the increasing specialization of the sport since the 1980s, with classics and tours becoming almost distinct sports, explains the cases of Indurain and Armstrong, who have focused all their energies on the Tour and thus were/are less likely to be worn out or injured by other races. (But this was of course equally true of their opponents: Bugno, Rominger, Zulle and Beloki were/are also Tour specialists.)
I leave this open as a general question. Any thoughts?
I do not know what to make of it, or even whether it is significant. But here it is: of the top 4 finishers in the TdF, only Alexandre Vinokourov did not crash. Further, the crashes of Armstrong, Ullrich, and Hamilton were in the range of significant to highly significant. Is that right? Is that one other oddity of this TdF?
Whilst not trying to rain on Armstrong's magnificent victory, I would like to make some comments about the degree of dehydration after the first time trial. Armstrong himself admitted that he lost 6 kg from 72.5 to 66.5 kg. This amounts to 8.3 percent of body weight which could be classified as heat illness. At this level, performance is markedly reduced, core temperature increases, and without adequate rehydration can lead to heat stroke. Death occurs at a dehydration level of 20 percent.
The highest recorded sweat rate of 3.7 L/hr comes from Alberto Salazar during the 1984 Olympic Games marathon. Sweat rates of 3 L/hr have been recorded in laboratory studies. This takes us to Armstrong's claim of 6 L fluid loss from the morning to the end of the time trial. He rode the time trial in 1 hour 8 seconds and was able to take fluid during the time trial. Therefore, his sweating rate would of had to be greater than 6 L/hr to account for fluid intake during the time trial. A physiologically impossible scenario. The only other acceptable reason is that he was dehydrated before the event and did not ingest any fluid afterwards to get to this state.
Did he really lose that much fluid? Clearly he was not at his best, and considering his well documented meticulous preparation plans, I doubt that he would of let himself get to into this condition. Might it be a case that he was trying to deflect performance reductions in the time trial due to dehydration. I'm sure we will learn the truth in the future.
1. Lance Armstrong should be thankful for such a fine rival as Ullrich. Like Frazier/Ali; Russell/Chamberlain; Magic Johnson/Larry Bird and other notable rivalries, Ullrich defines Armstrong as a true champion. Without Ullrich, Armstrong may not have had the same success.
2. Why doesn't Armstrong have an unofficially agreed upon nickname? Is it because the press is still not a true believer in his skills, because he is not noted for a particular skill or trait, or because is not perceived to be personable or well-liked? Maybe your readers could suggest an appropriate nickname so Lance could join the rest of the 5 times winners. Every great cycling champion needs a nickname. If there is one, let me know what it is.
3. Your Tour coverage was great. I click on the "live" coverage even though I know the event is over so that I find out who the winner is as I scroll to the bottom. More fun that way and less time in front of the television set.
4. The letters make this a website worth reading year round.
5. Good luck to Lance on his marriage. I hope he works as hard on kindness, forgiveness, humility, and patience as he does on his Tour preparation. Sometimes our strengths are also our greatest weaknesses.
U.S. TV network CBS's coverage of the 2003 Tour de France was as popular as it was last year, according to viewer figures. The network was responsible for covering the Tour on Sundays, while OLN TV covered the remainder. For the final stage, which was shown tape delayed, CBS scored an overnight rating of 2.4 (approximately 1.75 million homes) with a market share of 6 percent. Last year, the same stage scored an overnight rating of 2.5. CBS's complete Tour coverage (four Sundays worth) scored an average rating of 2.0 with a 5 percent share, compared to last year's 1.9 with a similar share.
I read an interview with Freddy Rodriguez, many years ago, in which he said he was very interested in sports marketing as a post-racing career, inspired by the mismanagement that he's seen over the years. I can fully understand that, having witnessed lots of things which have boggled my simple little brain. But one of the strangest marketing decisions I've ever seen is CBS's decision to forgo any effort to treat the Tour as a sporting event and instead to cover it as a docu-drama human-interest montage. Instead of any critical or analytic assessment of the previous stages or any effort to explain the hows and whys behind the whats, the big networks seem convinced that all the American audiences want is to see sunflowers and mountain peaks with the background of new-age music. When I turned on CBS (which I won't be doing ever again), I didn't know if I was watching a bike race or synchronized cycling, set to Yanni's latest.
All hail to OLN for their dedicated coverage of the full race. Great job, and here's hoping you can pull it off next year as well.
I also remember reading last year (although I won't swear to it) that daily evening coverage of the 2002 TdF on OLN beat ESPN's Baseball tonight each and every day. As a marketing non-expert, I'd say that there should be numerous advantages to sponsoring a cycling event over a generic ball game, advantages such as specificity of the target, the ability of an ad to stand out from the generic pack, and the commitment level of the viewer to the event. (In other words, cycling fans are watching cycling because they love cycling, while baseball fans watch baseball because there's nothing else on the tube.)
Another incomprehensible marketing situation is that a major brand can sponsor a professional cycling team in its entirely for under $10 million (US), while $2 million will get you 30 seconds of ad time during the Super Bowl. (And last year Budweiser bought thirteen such ads.) So, instead of moaning when Mapei announces that they will no longer sponsor a team, maybe we should all solicit the big players (Nike, Coke, Microsoft, etc) to look into the possibility of spreading their dough and sharing the love. (I'm only one little consumer, but 90 percent of why I'm driving a Subaru is because of their sponsorship of cycling teams, mountain and road, over the last decade plus.)
Peachtree City Georgia USA
This is an interesting letter. The author is absolutely right - average power is proportional to the cube of average speed when riding on flats. I have been riding with power meter for years and found that the formulas available in cycling literature are essentially correct to within 2-3 percent.
I always wondered about how much wattage do top riders like Lance Armstrong and Jan Ullrich produce (understandably I am sure they do not advertise this information). So I decided to calculate Lance's power output during TdF,02 on Mn Ventoux. He climbed 7.7 percent grade lasting 13 miles in 58 minutes. This yields 450 watts.
In his comments on the Tour Carmichael insists that Lance produces more watts per pound of body weight than Jan. Per my calculation assuming Lance's weight at 75 kg he produced on Mn Ventoux an awesome 6 watt per kg for almost an hour. So to stay with Armstrong in the mountains heavier Jan must produce proportionally more absolute watts.
Assuming that Jan's weight is 80 kg (I am not sure if this a true #) to climb even with Lance he should deliver 480 watts. If he indeed can produce such power he should be able to beat Lance in flat TT by 2 percent.
Dr. Ferrari's comments on Ullrich's power output #2
Jack Rambo wrote: "As power varies with the cube of velocity, a quick calculation reveals that the difference is 8.5 percent"
Except that power doesn't vary that way. This is a very rough rule of thumb used by cyclists, but if you've every seen a real aerodynamics equation for a simple object like a sphere, it's vastly more complicated than that. And a man on a bike is not a sphere (not even Jan.
Only an empirical wind tunnel test will tell you what the difference in power output really was. From studies I've seen, power requirements tend to flatten out as bike speed reaches the speed of top riders, meaning that the difference in power was probably quite a bit less than Ferrari's estimate of 5 percent or your calculation of 8.5 percent.
It's not even as simple as a curve flattening out. Minute changes in posture can have a significant impact on drag, much more so than a 2.7 percent difference in speed. With many shapes in a wind tunnel, there can even be brief dips in the drag as speed increases, due to transitioning to different airflow dynamics. And finally, the streets of France are not a windtunnel.
In short we'll never know who had the greater power output. We only know that we can't do it, and they can.
Not wishing to take away from what has been a very exciting Tour De France 2003, I have been re-reading Willy Voets book "Breaking the Chain". I think that it is timely to consider perhaps whether or not the peloton has cleaned up its act.
Everyone will agree that this year's Tour has been great. Lance was not at the same level as previous years, Jan, Joseba, Vino and Tyler all improved to make the challenge harder for Lance. In the end, Lance managed to win. However in reading Willy Voets book, I notice that the first and second places in the KOM competition were respectively, Richard Virenque and Laurent Dufaux. Both riders were widely covered in Voet's book. In addition, if we are supposed to be in a new "clean" era, how come this has been one of the fastest tours in history ? How come the speed in the 2003 Tour is quicker than the so-called "EPO, HGH-fuelled 1990's" ?
Naturally, we all want to accept what we see but I'm afraid that logic demands me to conclude that drugs are probably still being abused in the Tour, despite the UCI's attempt to stamp out abuse.
I too disagree with biased coverage and feel that regardless of the country you live in, the people have the right to objective, unbiased reporting. I saw it the last time the women's world cup was in the US and frankly, I was a bit disturbed and the biased nature of reporting.
I live in Canada and if you read any Canadian newspaper, one would be lead to believe that Lance Armstrong is the only person racing in the Tour! It's ridiculous. How can it be possible for the uninitiated public to gain more knowledge about cycling if all they ever hear about is Lance? There are other riders in the Tour and many of them are fantastic. Petacchi's stage wins made the early stages of the race exciting. Mayo's fluid grace in the mountains brought glory to all who admire and respect the climbers. Even seeing Virenque grab his six climber's jersey was thrilling. Ullrich is a talented cyclist and I think that what he went through before this Tour was a hell of a lot: the time off, the team troubles, and then finally having to do battle against USPS with a not so equal Bianchi squad. Also of note was the thrilling suspense of this year's Tour. I love it when it's close! Armstrong wasn't as strong this year and there were a lot of talented folks making things interesting. The final sprinter's showdown in Paris pretty well encapsulated the nature of this Tour. Great stuff.
Last but not least, I want to say what an inspiration Tyler Hamilton has been. Cracking your collarbone in two places and then riding 204+ km the next day blows my mind! Not only that, but he matched Lance on Alpe D'huez, soloed close to 100 km for a huge stage win, and finished the Grande Boucle with style, class, and power. Oh ya, and no bitching! I don't like folks that bitch. Hamilton doesn't bitch. He rides. He rides hard. He rides with power and determination and is a huge inspiration to us all.
Armstrong is a talented chap and I guess I would be bitter if I were to just start putting him down. However, he is not the only bloody chap to hop on a bike and race so why is this the way the media portrays him?
Armstrong's chances #2
It was obvious that Lance wasn't in top form. He had a crash in the Dauphine Libre and after that went downhill. Started the Tour with a virus and met his biggest enemy, the Heat. The key to winning the Tour is not reacting on every attack. It is more of evaluating your form, your adversaries (seeing that you can gain lots of time on a Mayo in the TT), and saving your power for when it pays off the most. Looks like Lance did a damn good job of keeping his reserves in the right place. Waiting till the weather suited him better and didn't risk going into "red" by the high temperatures. After all, the Tour is 3 weeks long.
I am a bigger Tyler fan than a Lance fan but the best man won, period. Tyler may have his day, he sure has the motivation, lets hope for that.
Armstrong's chances #3
I can identify with some of the gripes, but even if you give Ullrich the half minute from the TTT, he loses. Beloki never showed enough domination to take it all. He is not the TTist that Ullrich is. And Vino is not solid enough in the mountains - yet. Although I think he is the one to watch out for if his TTing gets a couple percent better. Lance barely won the Tour but he won it cleanly. Don't forget Lance eased up as Ullrich fell while "pedaling" into the roundabout. He was going for broke. I live in Switzerland and we got that rain storm a little later as we are farther East. TV did not show the amount of wild wind gusts blowing around, and remember it did not rain much for 3-4 weeks so the road was as slippery as it gets. This, I am sure, influenced Lance to secure victory by just focusing on staying on the bike regardless of the TT results.
In response to Raymond F. Martin's letter, let's all try to remember that Tyler's collar bone was cracked... not broken. Professional bicycle racers are risk takers by trade. A skilled risk taker generally weighs the pros and cons of a particular risk that they're about to take. Tyler is no exception to this and he had several highly qualified people to help him make the decision to continue in the Tour De France.
In my mind Tyler made a very courageous choice to continue. Keep in mind also that his story will be one of ones that will be talked about 100 years from now. What a guy!!
Stephen Roche "not a Man of the Tour"? How ridiculous. Have you no memory of Roche's heroic ride on La Plagna, where he collapsed across the finishing line and had to be given oxygen? We met Stephen when he was riding in the Tour of Britain for the Fagor team, and you couldn't meet a more charming ambassadeur for the sport. If you don't believe Stephen is a Man of the Tour, try reading Paul Kimmage's book "A Rough Ride" for an insight into Stephen Roche, and also Stephen's own book " My Road to Victory".
Stephen never won or raced the Tour as an "outsider" - he has embraced the French way of life, and operates comfortably within it, and the French have an open honesty in the way they comment. Despite your comments, the French people see him as a Man of the Tour - just look at how many French T.V. programmes he guests on during July, and the incredible roar that went up from the crowd at Bourg d'Oisans this year when he was introduced (we were there!) Ireland can claim three cycling greats (don't forget Shay Elliott), even if the surviving two don't see eye-to-eye sometimes!
Whether you like it or not Tyler Hamilton's victory through injury is viewed in some quarters with suspicion. Myself, I find it a bit odd (and I don't want to put it any stronger than that or take anything away from his victory) that he could shake Bjarne Riis' hand so vigorously at the end of the stage he won before he crossed the line. After Beloki's crash, he also waved his right arm vigorously at Lance to indicate his support, and also when Lance crashed on Luz Ardiden, the same arm was being waved vigorously to ask the leaders to slow down and wait on the fallen yellow jersey. This was the same arm which was in a sling two weeks earlier, when he dejectedly looked in so much pain coming out of hospital after the first stage.
The events of cycling at the Tour de France level is very much like opera. The characters are larger than life, everything is over the top, and there are all kinds of circumstances to overcome.
I am a Lance Armstrong fan but also have to admire Ullrich. He gave it all he had, fought to overcome all manner of problems, and emerges as the heroic figure who gave the winner no quarter and battled every mile of the way.
I salute them both.
The Tour de France is not your average cat 4 club race....Those big bellies that some of those riders show during time trials is almost always the expansion of their lungs, forcing everything else in their chest/stomach out of the way....
Regarding Jan Ullrich's disappointment with the actions of Iban Mayo and Haimar Zubeldia at the top of Luz Ardiden (and the frenetic sprint that followed) - don't worry Jan, there is no honour amongst thieves... In contrast, you have more than showed your class throughout the 2003 Tour de France.
It's nice to see what Jan Ullrich had to say about not attacking when Lance went down on Stage 15. Such a show of sportsmanship is hard to find in professional sports today. Most professional sports take the win at all costs attitude. They wouldn't think twice about taking advantage of their opponents misfortune. Jan showed a sense of class seldom seen in sports today. He never thought about attacking Lance at that moment. Perhaps he remembered when Lance waited for him in the 2001 Tour or not. Maybe he just wanted to beat his rival one on one, whatever the reason for him not attacking at that time, I have respect Jan. I wish he hadn't crashed on the time trial, but he was doing what he had to do to try & win. Maybe things would have been different if the conditions hadn't been that way. We always have next years Tour de France to look forward to & I for one can't wait. It seems like it could be the stuff of legend.
Ullrich waiting #2
The unwritten rule about waiting for a race leader who has suffered from a mechanical or other accident is actually a necessary rule for the sport. Without this "rule," there would be an incentive to intentionally cause such accidents. By neutralizing the race whenever an accident befalls the race leader, this incentive is romoved.
Patrick J. Wilkie
Ullrich waiting #3
Indeed, cycling is beautiful sport - but it is not unheard of for cyclists to take advantage of others misfortune - not all cyclists are as respectable as Ullrich, which is why he deserve such praise! I have seen many instances of the peloton's pace rising as crash victims struggle to get back on.
For one, I am reminded of Lance's first win in 1999.One of the first stages crossed a treacherous road that is usually underwater. There was a crash that blocked the road, and those teams and riders that were in front of the blockage (according to Cyclingnews reports) tried to force the time differences. Armstrong was in the front group and gained 6 minutes over Alex Zulle, among others, on that flat stage. Lance then only won the overall by 7 minutes something (over Zulle). Would it have been different if Zulle hadn't lost so much time in the first few stages - from the one crash? Who knows. Ullrich gained a lot of credit for not attacking, but not all cyclists would wait all the time. There is a limit, knowing where it is makes a champion.
Who (except for his team mates!) waited for Beloki when he hit the deck?
Ullrich waiting #4
I applaud Jan Ullrich's sense of sportsmanship. That is a rare thing found amongst professional athletes this day. Perhaps he was remembering when Lance waited for him after a crash in 2001. It's nice to see an athlete want to win by being the best on that day & not because he took advantage from someone's misfortune. I tip my hat to you Jan & am already looking forward to the battle between you & Lance next July. I can't wait.
James M. Duncan
I may have my facts a bit off, but I read Jean Delatour is looking for a co sponsor, and isn't Big Mat doing the same? Why not join forces and save their butts and secure their future existence? With the best riders from both squads they might actually have a decent and competitive line up. Jean Delatour is lucky to be in the Tour as many would agree Cipollini's team deserved to be there, and have all the best sprinters there that first week. How great would that of been to see Petacchi battling Cipo and the rest during week one. Still it has been a fantastic Tour. Great job, Lance and all the Postal boys and for Ullrich to ride like a Champ and battle all the way to the TT, and make it a great dramatic race to follow.
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