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Letters to Cyclingnews - August 8, 2003
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With regard to Armstrong's rejoining of the elite group on the climb up to Luz Ardiden, I've heard a number of cycling fans comment that he attacked the group as soon as he made contact. Now I see a letter in Cyclingnews to the same effect ("an adrenaline filled snorting Armstrong who simply rode by them all when he got back in touch with them"). Perhaps your correspondent has watched edited tapes of the coverage, which provide an incorrect picture of what actually transpired on the mountain. In fact, Chechu Rubiera paced Armstrong back to the group, then led him to the front; it took just over half a minute for the two to make their way from the back to the front of the group, during which time Iban Mayo lifted the pace at the front. Once Chechu was at the front of the group, with Armstrong on his wheel, he set the pace for a minute or so before Mayo launched his second attack (it was in countering Mayo's first attack that Armstrong tangled with the musette bag that took him down). Armstrong responded without hesitation to the Spaniard's move and immediately swept past him; Mayo struggled manfully to hold Armstrong's wheel, and for a while was successful, but he was finally unable to handle the acceleration. Likewise, Ullrich attempted to stay in contact, but he seemed quickly to realize that he couldn't match the pace.
The point is, Armstrong did not simply ride past the group that apparently had waited for him. More than a minute and a half elapsed between the time he rejoined the group and the time Mayo attacked, and it was only in response to that attack that Armstrong set out for the stage win and a strengthening of his tenuous hold on the yellow jersey.
Stan Green, Jr
I think the responsibility of taking care of other riders should not be the racers responsibility. If someone falls (I guess this only means a race leader), should everyone and everything should stop to make sure that person is OK? That is why they have medical teams around to deal with it as soon as possible - much faster than if you or I have a serious crash. I think the system is good. If there is an unfortunate minor incident, it is the riders' individual choice to wait or not, as the riders remember on the course who did what to who and as Lance said it eventually comes back around.
Regarding David Colpo's comment on August 1st:
While there wasn't much time between Lance rejoining Ullrich & co after his crash, one also needs to consider the situation. First of all, it was the finishing climb of one of only several stages that can make big time gaps on the GC. Lance said afterwards, this was a day he had to win the Tour. If he had sat in all the way up, he would potentially sacrifice the whole Tour. Secondly, Mayo instigated the attack that launched Lance away. Lance HAD to follow Mayo, who was at the time somewhat of a threat. And thirdly, if you go back and look at the stage just before the crash, Lance was in the process of attacking, and had Ullrich and Mayo possibly right on the ropes. Considering the dynamics of the race at that critical point of the Tour, I think both Ullrich and Armstrong rode as appropriately as they could.
David Norwich wonders about the fairness of the ttt, and if postal could get 5 across the line in a mountain time trial. Let me see... Armstrong, Heras, Beltran, Rubiera, Hincapie. By golly, I think they can! Can any other team?
I think these guys (the riders) all also split hairs. What did Hamilton say -- it's not kosher to attack the yellow jersey when he crashes. That doesn't mean that everyone stops when anyone crashes, it means specifically that you don't take the leader's jersey off someone else's back when they're on the ground. It's a 'rule' because it doesn't depend on sportsmanship, but rather a kind of etiquette. Now, maybe it should be the former -- would the unwritten rule be that you don't continue when . . . what, one of the top 5 on GC go down? That gets to be a pretty complicated calculus for an unwritten rule, too complicated I'd say, and not worth the trouble.
However, I think you look at Armstrong and Ullrich together, as champions, as a confrontation somewhat apart from others in the race. Hamilton wasn't talking to Ullrich when he called 'piano', he was talking to the Euskaltel riders and calling on the power of the unwritten rule. They needed to be reminded of that because neither of which have the history that Armstrong and Ullrich possess between them, the history that makes the act of slowing and waiting an element of that relationship. That doesn't mean the others are bad sports or whatever, it just means that Ullrich slowed because it was Armstrong, and Armstrong would slow because it was Ullrich -- because they have a special, personal, competitive relationship going back several years, a relationship that confers responsibility not just for their own behavior, but for the story about them that will be told in the history of the Tour de France. Neither Ullrich nor Armstrong would want to cast a shadow on that relationship, because it does them both credit, and it elevates their status in the sport beyond the station of other riders.
Whatever Beloki's quality or stature, or Mayo's, or Hamilton's, it is the relationship between Ullrich and Armstrong that defines and will continue to define this era in the Tour de France. The unwritten rules of the peloton are one thing; the relationship between these two riders is another.
If you re-look at the stage where Beloki crashed and Vino won you will see the chasers all looking at each other in the final kilometer, unwilling to lead out the sprint for second place. Where Vino had worked hard all the way to the line the others hesitated. I propose that this was the reason why Vino's lead ended up at 30+ seconds.
Having watched the final ITT I must say that I didn't think Ullrich took any unnecessary risks, he was going through the roundabout cautiously, given the conditions. As other correspondents have pointed out the road must have been extremely slippery at that point and he was unlucky to crash. Armstrong, with the benefit of advance notice of Ullrich's crash, went through ultra cautiously and remained upright. I think that, in the end, the crash wouldn't have made much difference to the GC, though it could have cost Ullrich another stage win - the splits showed that Ullrich had not put sufficient time into Armstrong prior to the crash.
Here's looking forward to the second half of the season.
Did Ullrich back off or not? Interesting point brought up by Armstrong in the interview last night with Liggett and Sherwen (OLN interview with Lance from Spain, shown 7/31). Armstrong questioned the press's read on the Ullrich sportsmanship. He stated that in reviewing the tapes of the period immediately following the crash, that there was no noticeable in Ullrich's posture, tempo, facial expression, hand or arm position. Not sure if he had privy to the tape while OLN (and the feed to OLN presumably) was focusing on Armstrong and Mayo's recovery and ride back to the leaders. What does show for maybe 5 seconds just before Hamilton appears gesturing to the other's to slow down, is Ullrich still looking determined, focused, and exerting himself. It's not until Hamilton rides into the group giving a "slow it down" hand signal that it looks like Ullrich and others back off. Hamilton's very actions seemed to suggest that he did not see the courtesy being given thus interceded.
I had wondered if Lance was somewhat opportunistic, in attacking as soon as he caught up with the peloton (as suggested by David Colpo in the previous response). I wondered if this was an example of the old saying "no good deed goes unpunished;" Ullrich backs off, Lance catches up, and then takes advantage of Ullrich's "tempo" riding style.
When I had a chance to watch the events once again I put a watch to it. I don't recall exact time I recorded but I believe Armstrong was back with the group for at least a full minute prior to the attacks. Secondly, it was Mayo that started the first attack after Armstrong returned, forcing Armstrong to go with him. Then came Armstrong's counter-attack when Mayo faded ever so slightly, and then the rest was history. I'm not knowledgeable enough in the sport to answer the question of whether a minute is enough time for Ullrich to get back in rhythm, but as to whether Armstrong would be unsportsmanlike in attacking so soon, I do not believe he was opportunistic.
You can't compare this year to the causeway incident in '99. Zulle was way down the bunch, and should really have known better on such a risky stretch of road. If he was serious about the GC he should have been up the front with team mates around him, like Lance was. There's nothing wrong with taking advantage of someone's casual attitude to safety and tactics.
On Luz Ardiden, there was only Armstrong, Ullrich, and Mayo, and no sportsman would want to gain an advantage in this way; Jan is pure class to take this attitude. As for Beloki, anyone who saw the incident (and Lance was right behind him) could see immediately that his only way out was in an ambulance, unfortunately.
You have to compare like with like - should LeMond have waited in '89 because Fignon had boils on his bum? I don't think so...
I just watched Lance Armstrong's post-Tour interview on OLN last night. I was extremely disappointed with his comments regarding Jan Ullrich and his team. He made several disparaging remarks:
1) He does not believe that Ullrich was actually waiting for him following the crash on Luz Ardiden.
2) He feels that the Bianchi team was selfish and not cohesive as Ullrich's teammates did not report back to him during the final time trial about dangerous spots along the route.
3) Comments regarding Ullrich's strategy throughout the race. (attack on Tourmalet, sprinting for the 2 second bonus on the flat stage etc.)
At this point following such an enjoyable and remarkable Tour, I would expect Lance to at least display some political correctness and remain gracious in victory. Ullrich's sportsmanship was quite obvious and has been lauded the world over. I am actually a huge Armstrong fan and would be interested to hear comments of those who saw the program last night.
Armstrong's comments on the OLN Tour wrap-up show with Phil & Paul speak volumes about Lance's view's. It shows his grooming by PR people is just skin deep. He said when he watched the tape of his crash's aftermath, he didn't see Ullrich slow down, or swing wide on the turns, or look over his shoulder for Lance, or soft pedal, like the rest of us saw apparently. He did notice Tyler wave the Spanish guys down~ He called Ullrich's sportsmanship headlines the press's "feel good story". That's as good a thank you as you'll get if you wait for Lance ! When Beloki crashed this year, or Ullrich's crash from the past, just how much of a threat riding up the road would Lance allow before sportsmanship and honor became disposable to Lance's pursuit of Tour titles ? I'd like to see the full replay of Lance sitting on in '01 (how much chastising did HE do to the others?) as Bobby Julich gave full throttle to bring Ullrich back to complete Lance's "feel good story" of sportsmanship.
Lance has now won five and intends to come back next year. Did all of the other five-timers try for 6? Clearly, no one has done it yet, and Armstrong has just said something to the effect that if he doesn't win next year he won't try again. Did any of the past five-timers try more than once to get number 6?
Perry McGuire, for you to suggest that Mayo and Zubeldia are thieves for attempting to gain valuable seconds on the top of Luz Ardiden is at best, crazy and a worst defamation of two of the freshest characters at this year's Tour. Can I remind you that the 4th, 5th and 6th places in this years Tour where decided by seconds. 34 and 15 seconds to be precise.
Any thought that Mayo and co where not major animators in this years race would be ridiculous. They have every right to any bonus seconds on offer. The race was not over on the top that mountain and these riders did not know what lay ahead in the days to follow. Therefore every second was vital. It would have been a very hollow victory if they had sat up and the extra seconds gained by Ullrich had counted towards an overall win.
Perhaps your comments where based on only viewing a highlights package that didn't adequately describe Mayo's attacking and chasing on the mountain (you may remember it was Mayo that fell over an attacking Armstrong). If so you would be advised to watch a tape of the entire climb. Failing this can I suggest that you pull your head in and not sling mud where it is not deserved.
It's a travesty, an outrage and a slap in the face to every person who sets foot outside of an automobile. $250 fine? Laughable! Why doesn't the court just fine Billy Maldonado, give Jack Cafferty the money and give him 70 hours with which to finish the job he started, trying to kill a man and run.
I certainly hope Mr. Maldonado has the sense to take this hit-and-run vermin to civil court and pry his eyes open a little wider regarding the rights of others to the road and the responsibility of drivers.
I also hope someone in New York City will press for some good old Wisdom of Solomon law in NYC. Make people like Jack "How's my driving?" Cafferty spend some time on bikes on the avenues of Manhattan. Nothing like a little dose of the right medicine.
You know, I just don't see it. Nobody has provided any halfway intelligent explanation for this suspicion based on the idea of competitive advantage or intelligible motivation. If Hamilton and Riis were to play this ruse, what would be its purpose? What advantage would it confer? Is there anything in the background of either person to elevate this speculation beyond the level of an alien abduction story?
Is Maria suggesting, that CSC (or some unknown puppet-master) said to Riis or Hamilton -- "we'll score big in this Tour with an opportunistic tear jerking hoax. Please execute it for us."? If that's what you think about the sport, then Jesus, don't watch it. It surely can't give you much pleasure when you imagine that as the shape of motivation and the quality of sport that cycling represents.
Setting aside the wonderful competition on display in the '03 Tour, I would like to draw attention to a darker side of our sport that seems to have taken hold this year. I am referring, of course, to the replacement of traditional cycling caps by baseball caps. The long peak has no place in our sport. Anquetil, Merckx, Hinault or Big Mig honoured the aesthetic sensibilities of the sport with neat, traditional caps, in contrast to those worn by Armstrong, McEwen and O'Grady to name a few who should know better. Next it will be baggy knicks with pockets in the legs.
The helmets are good. I am surprised at riders succumbing to the wishes of their team management in relation to personal helmet designs. Formula One drivers reserve their helmet for themselves, by contract. The driver owns the helmet, the space and the sponsorship. Why should cyclists be any different?
"It is simply not possible to evaluate with precision the power output of a rider from a simple data as speed average."
That's why I wrote "about 5%".
To calculate the power output with the cube of speed average, instead of square speed, it is theoretically correct, but in practice is quite far from reality, a reality that has to deal with and count many variables and factors, the aerodynamic efficiency of the rider for one.
I approximately estimated the position held by Ullrich on the bike to be a little more aerodynamically efficient (very low, totally focused on finding the biggest aerodynamic advantage) than that of Armstrong (higher, more comfortable, but less aerodynamic): that's why I decreased the theoretical 8% of power output to a more realistic "about 5%".
Dr Michele Ferrari
In response to Eric Snider's letter, I do not think Armstrong's crash was significant. Armstrong wasted very little time, the others waited for him and the crash gave him an adrenaline boost which might have been to his advantage. Ullrich's crash was not significant either. He had not regained any significant amount of time on Armstrong up to that point and had already lost the Tour. He probably crashed because he knew his only chance left was to take risks in the corners. I am certain that if he had been told that he had recuperated most of the time he needed to take the Yellow jersey, he would have been more careful. As for Hamilton's crash, it doesn't appear significant either, in the light of his highly respectable performance after the incident. Hamilton did not have a single bad day where his performance was not up to expected levels and, actually, had some quite remarkable days. I don't believe the crash cost him more than one place on GC.
No, the only significant crash was Beloki's. It wiped him out. Without this crash, he would have made the top four. The great beneficiary of the crashes (Hamilton's and Beloki's) was Vinokourov. Those two crashes made room for him on the podium.
Your dehydration statement is correct. Lance can not possibly sweat 6 liters in 1 hour. However, did you include the 2 hours or more that he spent warming up for the ITT? If you watch the video of the ITT, you will see that Jan Ullrich is sweating on the start ramp. Armstrong is not. The temperatures were blistering that day (95F+) and Lance is fully warmed up, yet not sweating. This should tell you that he was dehydrated before he even began the ITT.
But back to the math. If Armstrong warms up for 2 hours and then TT for 1 hour, that gives us a grand total of 3 hours. Which also leaves us at 2L per hour for a sweat rate. A number easily possible for the mere mortal.
Having followed professional cycling in some form or another for the past almost 30 years or so, I thoroughly enjoyed this last 100 anniversary Tour de France. The competition level of everyone was super. Being a 60 something construction worker who gets out on his bike maybe twice a week, I can only imagine the work that it must take to reach the level of any of these great riders who participate in the Tour or any other professional race for that matter.
My only question might be this. For the past five to six years or so, one team seems to focus totally on that one race, the Tour. Postal Service while obviously the greatest team in the Tour in these past years, their leader has had the yellow at the finish for 5 in a row, seems to direct their total picture to this event. Yes, they participate in other events, worlds cups races, etc etc, but the aim is the Tour. I wonder if every professional team raced with that one event in mind, if professional cycling would lose some of it's charm. Hard to say.
Seamus' comments on the Tour and Voet's book are noteworthy. Having read the book when it first came out, and having friends who compete in sports where steroid use is common (bodybuilding, American football), I see no reason to expect cyclists to be any more or less prone to performance enhancing products than anyone else. Alberto Salazar complained in 1972 that his competitors were using drugs. Many athletes have made tangential remarks about one country's "sports medicine program" or another. Sports at this level are full of folks who will use ANY MEANS to get faster.
Raymond F. Martin
Is the Tour clean?
Seamus Weber makes two points in his letter "Is the Tour clean?" that are worth addressing.
Firstly, he states that Virenque and Dufaux, two of the bad boys of the Festina affair, came first and second in the KOM competition in this year's Tour. I am certainly not defending their past record, but the fact is that they finished in that order because they were the only ones who seemed to bother! Virenque obviously started the Tour with an intention of taking his sixth mountains jersey, and played out a strategy designed to do that - get in a long break on the first mountain stage, make an effort for the points, and take it from there. Just like Laurent Jalabert for the previous two years, he won the title by doing solo breaks in the high mountains. But it was (thankfully) obviously not the Virenque of '97 - that Virenque would never have been dropped by Rolf Aldag, or suffered so much on Alpe d'Huez the following day. I feel the more pertinent question to ask is "Why does no-one else bother about the climber's competition?" We saw an excellent battle for the green jersey, but it seemed like Virenque took the climber's jersey by default!
Seamus' other point - about the super-fast speed of the Tour - is easier to answer: it's quite simply because the stages are shorter. The Tours of a decade ago regularly had stages 220-260km in length, indeed only back in 1990 Moreno Argentin won a stage of 302km! Such distances are unheard of now, and consequently the racing is faster. It would be like criticising 800 metre runners for taking drugs and then wondering why 'clean' 400m runners go faster!
Is the Tour clean?
Regarding the speed of the Tour: just look at the races: how soon breaks went, and the constant attacks. This was a murderously fast Tour because every day was balls out. No "piano" riding.
If Ceruti actually said "on the road they are normal [average?] riders and on the track they become phenomena", then I would say he is being a bit unfair to the better Australian roadmen, but beyond that it seems to me to be a reasonable comment.
The fact is the British and Australians have good track programs, the result of funding, focus and talent, but their performances on the road are, generally speaking, not at the same level.
Maybe that is all Ceruti was saying?
Randy Fife might be interested to know that the Italian press has been calling Armstrong "il cowboy" for quite some time. The day after Beloki's crash and Armstrong's off-road riding, the title read: "Il rodeo del cowboy".
Lance Armstrong's nickname
Lance's nickname is the "the Boss" within the peloton.
Lance Armstrong's nickname
In reply to Randy Fife, I put forward the nickname we have for LA: "G.I. Joe."
I read Steve O'Dell's letter with interest. Speaking of "Sports Marketing", I did not even realize that CBS was covering the Tour at all this year until I read it here on cyclingnews.com! I wondered why we didn't get live coverage on Sunday from OLN and why we only got the coverage later on Sunday. I enjoyed OLN's coverage immensely and tried to watch as much live coverage as possible (working around job commitments) and would catch one or two of the afternoon, evening or night replays each night. Sounds like I didn't miss anything with being ignorant of the CBS "coverage" though. I hope that a lot of cycling fans take the time to drop a line to OLN to thank them for their coverage of the Tour and of cycling in general. Hopefully they will continue to expand the coverage.
Let me first start off by saying that I have sent a few years in the sports-journalism trade and can relay the annecdote that CBS stands for "Can't Broadcast Sports." As anyone who tried to watch the 'coverage' of the Olympics and LeMond Tours can attest to, the mucky-mucks at CBS couldn't tell excitement from a John Tesh inspired insomniac haze. The CBS sports department's only saving grace was John Madden and now we have Bob Roll imitating him on OLN! But such is the life of the network BROADcaster.
Notice that the term is "BROADcaster" since the networks try to make as many people happy as possible. As such the "true" sports fans have to deal with such great examples of sports entertainment as "Monday Night Football," "Super Bowl Sunday" (a full 7 hours of PRE-GAME gibberish) and "Battle of the Network Stars." To be honest most American sports fans don't watch CBS' coverage of the Tour, most people who watch the CBS Morning Show watch the Tour coverage. That's right. The 2.0 rating is for people who see cycling in the United States not as a sport but something they might do at the park after Sunday brunch.
Don't be too excited about those numbers on OLN vs. ESPN however. Remember that not all cable/satellite subscribers in the U.S. have OLN yet and that nearly 99% of the subscribers DO have ESPN. That means that while cycling fans may tune into OLN for cycling not many ESPN viewers tune in for it as well. Consider the fact that OLN chooses to cover cycling at all a definite bonus, but let's not get all excited about that either. They can just as easily cover sheep dog trials (and they have!!). Numbers are numbers but statistics, like the Nielsen ratings, are just someone's guess at viewership.
In terms of marketability, please keep in mind that the numbers presented to the advertisers are done so on a "cost per hit" basis. In other words, how cheaply can I hit people over the head with my product. Conversely can I hit 10 million people or 10 thousand people. This is why Budweiser pays so much to advertise on the largest single-day sports broadcast in America. For $10 million they can reach far more people than they could sponsoring a cycling team that is seen by 100 people. And those billions of people are going to buy a lot more Bud than the 100 people watching the Grand Prix Cycliste du Industrial Park.
Besides we have to remember that CBS has a responsibility to its viewers (at least as far as the FCC is concerned) to make as many of them as happy as possible as often as possible. This is why the movies you see on network TV are "editied for this format." On cable you usually get what you saw in the theater or can rent at the video store. On network TV the programmers must keep in mind that they are broadcasting to the lowest common denominator and not to the cognosciti.
This is the primary difference between BROADcasting -- network -- and NARROWcasting -- cable/satellite. One is for the multitude while the other is for the 'person in the know.'
Hey, I'm as prepared to rubbish Le Blanc's decisions as the next man, but let's check the facts, non?
Jean Delatour came 15th out of 22. Behind them were teams like Rabobank and Credit Agricole, and nobody was arguing for them to be left out were they? My view, having watched most of the coverage of most stages is that JL were always there, showing up the front, going for breaks and generally making it an interesting spectacle; and they won some stages too.
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