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Letters to Cyclingnews - August 22, 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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Contracts, transfers & negotiations
Cycling is a professional sport and as a result brings with it its own particular complexities and intrigues, however the sporting ethos always prevails in one way or another.
The most recent example of the phenomenon that you talk about in your email occurred in the 2000 Giro di Lombardia. Although, cyclingnews.com's own review of the race makes no mention of the particular incident, the Italian specialist press at the time made reference to it. Rumsas, then of Fassa Bortolo won the race narrowly in a sprint, beating Francesco Casagrande (then of Vini Caldirola, but already known to all and sundry to be Fassa-bound for the 2001 season). As Casagrande would become Rumsas' captain in Ferretti's team in the subsequent season, he had some expectation - perhaps not completely unreasonably when one understands 1) the clear hierarchies present within Italian Pro teams and 2) more bluntly, the fact that Rumsas was a foreigner in an Italian team - that Rumsas would be subservient to him in the finale of the Race of the Falling Leaves. It didn't happen this way and as a result Rumsas' 2001 season was a misery - Rumsas was not included in either the Giro or Tour teams, whilst Casagrande assumed the role of Fassa's captain at both of these races.
In any case, the kind of situation that you worry about is irrespective of the transfer season: the Worlds bringing on their own particular brand of loyalties. Two very respected Italian ex-pros - one from the 1960s and the other from the 1990s - both nodded their heads in agreement when they told me that "you don't look at the jersey of the rider going up the road, but his shorts."
Nothing illustrates this better than Museeuw's win at Lugano - he was able to force Maura Giannetti to do the lion's share of the work in the closing stages because at a certain point Museeuw's Mapei team mate Andrea Tafi was coming up fast behind and threatening to bridge. That would have produced a seemingly sporting break of a Swiss, a Belgian and an Italian, but the truth is, it would have been two Mapeis vs. one Polti. Dottore Squinzi of Mapei didn't just attend World Championships because he liked to watch cycling; he liked to protect his business interests!
As a closing note, anyone who thinks that Vinokourov would have been storming around France last month in a Telekom jersey, had he not obeyed strict team orders (that's the Telekom team and not the Kahzakstan national team!) at the Sydney Olympics when he was in the three-man break with Ullrich and Kloeden needs to think again. BUT, this is not a problem of Vino or Telekom, but of the IOC in trying to make a sport that is as professional-to-the-bone as Formula 1 regress back towards the amateur ethic that it once had in the far off pre-War era.
In regards to the August 7th First Edition News feature entitled '$125,000 Criterium in Charlotte', I just have to say this: how can a promoter talk about having a $125,000 prize list when he DOESN'T HAVE A TITLE SPONSOR? While I wish Thad Fischer and the Brain Tumor Fund all the best, I find it both tiresome and irresponsible to have yet another promoter spouting off about an event when there are fairly sizeable obstacles- such as coming up with a $125,000 prize list- remaining. Does anyone remember the so-called 'Los Angeles Grand Prix' that was supposed to be bringing "world-class racing to the L.A. area" this September? Didn't think so.....
Of course, this doesn't surprise me all that much, given the last place I saw Thad Fischer's name. It was in the announcement of the 2003 Outdoor Lighting Perspectives Racing Team, which, to quote the announcement "is continuing its progress toward Division III status". Again, a worthy goal, except that the majority of their 'highlighted racers' are Masters, including ex-pros John Patterson (who's in the 40-44 Category) and Ian Jackson (who, by my reckoning, has to be pushing 50). Shades of Team Monex, the wannabe-pro squad of 40-somethings Roberto Gaggioli, Thurlow Rogers, and John Wordin.
Anyway, my point is this: could promoters and team managers please restrain themselves from distributing fantasy under the guise of news?
By the time Armstrong crashed, Tyler was at least 50 meters behind the three. he was obviously struggling to follow them. So how, if not for the waiting Ullrich, Tyler was able to tell the other riders to wait just half a minute later? Do you really think, Tyler and the whole group of riders who were with him made an incredible extra sprint just to tell the attacking Ullrich to wait for Lance? This is absurd.
Did Ullrich wait? #2
My question would be if anyone should wait? I can't think of many sports where a competitor waits for their opposition regardless of the circumstances. Should races be won by opportunistic riders as the chivalrous ones obey unwritten and unenforced rules. Lance waiting for Ullrich was great with a fist full of minutes between them. Beloki didn't receive a backward glance during a fair fight. Postal uses Pena in the yellow jersey as a water carrier. Does this not dishonour the race as well? I'm not trying to bash Armstrong or Postal but they seem to be the most vocal at this point.
One day a great race will be won by a "dishonourable" rider much to the complaint of the knights of the road and a media eager for scandal. He will have won the race though.
Did Ullrich wait? #3
Okay guys - all of you are right - some of you a little more - some few a little less.
I am from Germany and obviously a great Jan Ullrich Fan. I do fully agree that Jan did not really slowed down his pace, however he did not start an attack at all ! If you remember Jan's accident in 2001 Lance did not slowed down his pace either - however he gave Jan a chance to come back and catch up by not attacking him. I give both guys all my honor - Jan for not attacking, Lance for coming back and winning the stage as well the tour.
There is one last thing though - I have not yet heard Lance saying that this tour was a real lucky one for him. Whether it was Joseba crashing, Lance going for a cross country downhill without a flat, his crash at Luz Ardiden without severe injury nor bike damage or the rain and Jan's crash during the last time trial.
This tour was a very lucky one for Lance and rather than coming up with such comments he should praise and thank good for winning it!
Did Ullrich wait? #4
When I first saw it, I initially thought Ullrich had waited. But each time I was less and less convinced. I think I watched it a dozen times (TiVo and OLN what a combo).
Ullrich did wait, but not at first. The coverage shows Jan's first few pedal strokes after the crash and he is clearly pushing. The next time you see Jan on the coverage it is at least two turns later and he is still ahead of the group and it is at this point that he begins to ease up. No-one had caught up to him yet, had he backed off immediately they certainly would have. He did, however, let up prior to Hamilton's insistence, that, I believe, was more directed at Basso and some of the others. So I guess everyone is right.
The added benefit for all is that the steepest part of the climb had effectively been neutralized by Armstrong's crash. Don't forget Armstrong had already attacked.
When Beloki crashed Vino was already up the road. The group slowed down for a brief time (allowing Vino to increase his lead) but if Beloki is not getting up (they would have received word of this) the group has to go to minimize time lost to Vino.
Did Ullrich wait? #5
I have been discussing this with one of my friends in Germany. Jan Ullrich himself was asked in an interview with a German TV channel about the incident, and he clearly said that he saw absolutely no reason to wait, as this was the chance he had to get away. He was a bit irritated with the fact that he was told to stop.
If you watch it closely - as you also write in your letter: It is Tyler telling the others to wait, and Tyler should have the credit for it, not Jan Ullrich. But of course Jan Ullrich is happy to get his award now, although I think he should receive it with a bad taste in his mouth.
Did Ullrich wait? #6
This is in response to Jonathan Roberts' (London, UK) writing that Lance is a "great rider but as a person he sometimes makes it very difficult to respect him."
First, let me say that Lance is my favorite bike rider, followed closely by Jan Ullrich. I feel that had there been no Lance, Ullrich would have been this era's five-time winner. Jan has had to deal with that, and he has, graciously. But let's not forget what Armstrong has had to deal with.
When Lance first started coming up, I admit, I thought he was a very good classics cyclist but a very cocky, brash person. My opinion completely changed after his return from cancer, reading his book, and seeing his changed demeanor. What I saw in the OLN post-Tour interview was an athlete giving his honest opinion about an opponent--Jan's riding intelligence, ability (which Lance has always said is without equal), and the dramatized waiting incident on Luz Ardiden.
I thought Jan waited, maybe not at first, but eventually. Regardless, he definitely did not attack, which is admirable in itself. I also thought Lance probably could have let it go.
However, everyone is entitled to their opinion, just like everyone on this site, and that includes Lance Armstrong as well. As far as respecting him as a person, I for one do. He quite frankly makes me feel like a lazy, uninspired, slob (and I don't mean just at biking).
Finally, I don't know what Tour Jonathan Roberts was watching, but I saw more attacks on the leader than I've ever seen, and also the best Tour that I've ever seen. Period.
Did Ullrich wait? #7
The whole question of whether Ullrich waited is academic. American fans seem to think that Lance did no wrong, and European fans call him arrogant. It seems more political than anything else.
The fact of the matter is that Armstrong's attack after he fell would have caught Ullrich before the stage finish regardless, and he had enough time on Ullrich to win the Tour overall. When Armstrong got back on the bike, he was on form, climbing like the Armstrong of old, which Ullrich has never had much success in keeping up with. He'd have caught and passed Ullrich even after he attacked. Lance may have made a mistake in riding too close to the spectators, although I think he was actually being gracious in saying so - the spectator swung the bag out into his path, and after all, is it that the riders ride too close to the spectators, or the Tour organizers allow the spectators to get too close to the riders' path to begin with? Either way, Ullrich also made tactical blunders that may have cost him the Tour: not scouting the final TT route, and attacking Armstrong one climb too early in the mountains.
The final test will be next year, and it should make for the most exciting Tour yet. As 2003 proved, anything can happen. However, as in any sport, "Ws" count more than anything. Lance has 5 (3 over Ullrich), Ullrich has one (absent Lance). End of story.
Did Ullrich wait? #8
I don't understand this round of "Lance bashing". I personally found it refreshing that he gave an honest answer when asked the question, if you recall immediately after the stage he was informed by the media that Ullrich had waited and he expressed his appreciation. However as he stated in the OLN interview once they watched the footage he didn't agree that Ullrich had really waited and I agree the live footage does not show Ullrich slowing up at all. If everyone is so certain that in fact he did, then why did Tyler Hamilton, who had an unobstructed view of the happenings find it necessary to ride up to the group and specifically raise his hand to Ullrich and Basso to tell them to slow down? I think Tyler was the big man of the day as Lance stated. But even with all that said, who is to say the final result would not have been the same anyway, Lance caught the group relatively quickly after his falls and he was on fire, I doubt he would have been caught regardless. I say congratulations to Lance and all the competitors for the most exciting Tour in years, can't wait till next July!
Sheila A. Murphy
Did Ullrich wait? #9
It seems to me the important point is that Ulrich did not attack after seeing Armstrong go down on the climb. I don't think anyone would expect a group of riders to simply stop riding and stand on the side of the road waiting for a fellow competitor to get back on his bike--it was a difficult climb, and if your choice is to keep riding at all, then you still actually have to apply considerable power output to the peddles just to keep going, as any cyclist knows.
Besides, in a crash of that nature, for the riders up the road there would no doubt be a fair amount of uncertainty: for example, they would be wondering if Armstrong was still in the race - he could have been injured severely and even been out of the Tour altogether. So it seems to me, Ulrich and his group had no choice but to continue, reducing their speed, but only slightly because of the nature of the climb. So again, in my mind, the really important point is that Ulrich did not take advantage of the situation by attacking.
There is also the possibility that Ulrich was quite simply bagged and used the opportunity to rest a bit while Lance caught up, and did not really intend to "wait" for Armstrong. But that's another kettle of fish...
Did Ullrich wait? #10
I would offer a different analysis of this. If you consider how fast Armstrong, Mayo and Ullrich were going just prior to the accident and then think about the gear ratio he must have been in, you can understand why he had to stomp on the pedals. He came to a standstill. The road is steep, in that gear you have to stomp to get going again.
Also, I think he had to see what the other riders were going to do, why wait if the others behind him aren't (as long as he doesn't attack there is no problem). But as we saw, the others did wait, thanks to some help from Tyler. Personally I think he was happy for a slowing of the pace. He was looking pretty tired just prior to the crash. Regardless, of his initial thought (tempting as it was), he did wait, so Armstrong should be happy. If Ullrich didn't wait, I doubt Armstrong would have seen him again until after the stage. I would be more upset about how Mayo and his offsider went for the points at the end of the stage when Ullrich did all the work getting there. In my eyes that was unethical considering they had nothing to gain by it.
Well said Bill. I was pretty amazed that they could actually put the whole dehydration thing out there with a straight face. How was it that the rider who reputed to be the most meticulous and best prepared of his generation could make such a glaring mistake? I will say that Lance and Johann do run the best propaganda in the business: Be nice to Jan and Beloki so they ride less aggressively, piss off Pantani so he can't ride sensibly, find excuses when Lance comes up short, etc. As for CTS, Carmichael got lucky. He may have been a good rider, but by no means is he the coaching genius everyone seems to think he is. He was fortunate (or astute enough) to latch on to Lance at an early age. Any training program would have worked. Just like for the guy who trained Secretariat, it always helps to have the best in your stable.
I would like to hear a little more of an explanation from an exercise physiologist in this regard, as well. I have been a victim of dehydration and heat exhaustion myself. I know that in some recent marathons non-elite athletes have even died due to hyponatremia (dilution of salt) due to high sweat volume and attempted replacement with water and salt-poor solutions. It is possible to lose large volumes of sweat, but I would also like to hear a more detailed explanation of the timeline, fluid consumption and sweat loss rate to see how much is feaaasible. I suspect that there may be some significant truth here --a serious performance drop off would accur well before the life threatening levels, but there may indeed be either some exagerration or some degree of "spin" here, as well.
I disagree with two of David Norwich's points regarding the fairness of the team time trial in the Tour de France.
David says, "Point one, is that most of their riders are smaller and have less power and less body mass that makes the TTT favour bigger powerfull riders like Hincapie, Ekimov and Armstrong."
Traditional physiological logic would seem to support this statement. However I think we can look at two of this year's TdF teams as counter examples. ONCE (with their little Spanish guys) and Lotto-Domo (with their big Belgian guys) prove that body mass and power alone don't necessarily make for a strong TTT.
David says, "Point three is that they simply do not have the budget to buy the riders they need to win in this discipline, so the TTT will remain the domain of the bigger budget teams like USPS who can afford to buy the riders they need."
Smaller budget teams are always going to have trouble buying riders they need to compete with the bigger budget teams across all disciplines of the sport. Not just the TTT. Kelme, for example, is not going to be able to afford to bring back Heras for the mountains, or steal Hincapie for the flats and TTT. As we've seen over the years, as soon as a rider from a smaller team really begins to shine, they usually get taken by a squad with a bigger budget.
Of course there are exceptions to every rule, but if the Tour de France is truly a team event, then I do not see how one can argue for the exclusion of the TTT. And if budgetary limitations truly trouble us, then perhaps we can consider standardized team budgets and have different events exclusively for teams in particular budgetary categories. Sounds horrible right?
I keep reading on Cyclingnews in the US reports about so and so Cat 1 race, or that someone is a Cat 3 racer. I can't help but wonder how this equates with the grades in Australia, where we race club A, B, C and D, as well as open A and B, with open B normally (depending on the strength of the field) being equivalent to club A. Has anyone raced much in both countries who can give me a guide to how these categories match up?
Matt, the comments made about the Bianchi team not relaying information back on the state of the TT course is simplistic nonsense. It would just not happen. You should not believe that story. Ullrich was trying to win the Tour and had a very good chance to do so. He would have been well-informed of the state of affairs on the course, from so many sources including his own team members, other riders, and his management.
The point that is interesting though from that TT is if Ullrich had put time into Armstrong and stayed upright. Lance's Tour win would possibly have been in danger. If you watch the video footage again Lance visibly slowed once the info was relayed to him that Ullrich was down. But! Even then at this slower pace his back wheel slipped and skipped to one side at least once that I saw. Had he been going eyeballs out to recover the time, and had Ullrich's TT been different. He too might have fallen and possibly would have lost the Tour.
Tour fans and historians should have another look at that stage and realise that that this TT had many more implications for both riders than first appeared.
Here is an illustration though on the thoroughness of the Bianchi organisation, and preparation. Alain Gallopin, the French Bianchi the team manager drove a 600kms detour during the tour to see the Cap' Decouverte TT course. He made notes and shot video of parts of it. He also had the foresight after inspecting the course and mindful of the hot weather conditions and the heat, to change the hotel that the team were booked into for another nearer to the start to avoid a lot of traveling inconvenience for Jan. And on the day of the TT found a bike shop with air conditioning so that Ullrich could warm up in comfort while every one else including Lance were sweating it out, warming up on rollers in the town square at 35 degree plus temperatures.
Not bad for a "poorly" organised team.
Perhaps, it's just me but having read the letters concerning the events at Luz and the letters about sportsmanship, am I the only one who is tired of hearing Lance Armstrong trying to justify himself ?
I have long been a fan of our great sport and I really feel that Armstrong's winning of his fifth Tour de France was the worst possible outcome to this year's Tour.
Don't get me wrong, I have read his book and no one was happier than me to see Lance come fourth in the Vuelta in 1998 (his first tour since recovering for cancer). I realised then that he was an extraordinary person and cyclist and I was delighted to see him back in the peloton. Lance gave (gives) a lot of people with illnesses hope and for that I commend him. To then go on to win, the TDF in '99, '00, '01, '02 and '03 simply confirmed what a great athlete he is.
But unlike the other members of the Big 5, Armstrong's arrogant attitude toward the European media, his great rivals Ullrich and Pantani, is in my opinion, nothing short of disgraceful. His comments about "gifting stages to Pantani", his comment about "Ullrich owed me for the Peyresourde", his jumping up and won on the podium during his earlier career, his antagonism toward European journalists when they ask about his training methods and his sudden improvement in the mountains, just leave me cold. Being a champion incurs responsibilities and Armstrong needs to take this on board.
I cannot recall Anquetil, Merckx, Hinault or Indurain generating the same level of antagonism that the Texan generates. Lance himself says that he has little time for this history of our sport - I think that he would do well to look at the conduct of the great champions like the aforementioned and to try to emulate them. I cannot recall any of those four making the sort of comments ascribed to the Texan.
Unfortunately, having won five TdFs, history will record that on some level, Lance Armstrong is equal to the other greats of our sport. In winning five Tours, he is equal to them but in every other respect, Lance Armstrong is not even close to them.
You reported that if Alessandro Petacchi wins a stage of the Vuelta, he will be one of only three people to have stage wins in the Giro, Tour and Vuelta all in the same year. And one win in the Vuelta will bring his Grand tour wins total for one year to 11. This is clearly the most wins of anyone who has a win in all three races, but is it the most grand tour wins in one season ever? It wouldn't surprise me to hear that someone like the cannibal or the badger only raced the Tour and the Giro, but won 15 stages. Just curious.
Reading over CN today, I was struck by the comment, "iBanesto will front up for its last Vuelta …." I'm not Spanish but it saddens me nonetheless. It seems like a lifetime ago that Banesto was the top team, with Big Mig firmly yet graciously at the Tour's helm.
First Festina, then Mapei, now ONCE and Banesto... I know that many despise Festina (unfairly, I think-Festina was caught, perhaps, but surely it was not alone), but I truly do miss seeing its navy and gold jerseys in the peloton, and those great Festina ads during the Tour! As ridiculous as it may sound, the Tour hasn't felt the same to me without those ads and that "Festina watch music."
And those Mapei kits! I remember the first time I saw Mapei's super-garish, parti-colored 2002 jersey- I thought it was the ugliest thing imaginable, yet by the end of last year, it had become my all time favorite. And doesn't it seem that race coverage now always includes the following: "on the podium, former teammates from the Mapei super-team?" Quickstep may be trying to recreate Mapei, but I think Mapei will never be replicated.
I know change is inevitable, and that new riders and new teams will catch my imagination and my heart as Big Mig and Banesto, Jaja and ONCE, and Museeuw and Mapei have, but I was a lot younger when I was introduced to those riders and those teams and I think just maybe they will always have a more dear place in my heart.
So I wanted to take a moment to thank all of the sponsors (past and present), who not only make cycling possible, but make it colorful. I also wanted to thank all of the outgoing and recently retired crop of cyclists, who will always be the standard by which I measure the newcomers (including that little old bald Pirate - I wish you well Pantani!)
Thanks for the memories!
ONCE and Banesto's departure #2
Mercado says that the problem in Spanish cycling may be due to bad publicity because ONCE and Banesto are quitting. Banesto are owned by Banco Santander Central Hispano who made a HUGE loss last year; ONCE look after the disabled in Spain - why should they continue when they can help disabled athletes rather than help Eroski, Deutsche Bank etc get publicity? It's a bad time all over, let's hope it leads to a lot of small teams not two giants that will squash the minnows that cycling needs to spawn a new generation of cyclists.
Barry R Taylor
To Patrick Douglas's comments, I would like to respond that the Tour Tradition - as I understand it - is that riders should not take advantage of the yellow jersey if he has a crash, a mechanical problem, or a "natural break." In 1999, at the time of the causeway crash, Lance was in yellow and not honor bound to wait for anyone. Lance waited for Jan in 2001 out of his own sense of concern and fair play - and, yes, because he had a comfortable lead and high confidence - but not because of custom or etiquette.
The idea of waiting for a race leader is an interesting concept not common in other sports. I do not know the origin of this tradition, but it does tend to require challengers to be stronger and more determined than the leader if they hope to take the yellow jersey away, and not just luckier.
I also think Jan eased up, although my husband disagreed with me on this point even before Lance's remarks. Isn't it great to have things like this to debate about?
Citing Hinault's loss to LeMond in '86 is hardly something of merit. La Vie Claire was the powerhouse team and if LeMond and Hinault were on separate teams I expect Greg would still have won but by a miniscule margin.
Through the years a lot has been said about Hinault's behavior in the '86 Tour but he said it himself - if Bernard had not challenged LeMond in the manner he did, Greg would have had little competition and his win would have had little more impact than Pedro Delgado's a couple of years later.
I'm of the opinion that LeMond owes a lot of his legendary stature to the man he has such mixed feelings about - Bernard Hinault, himself a legend.
In response to Mr. O'Dell's observations:
1) ESPN and OLN are subscription services. As such they are not widely viewed by the American population. However if OLN's "viewership penetration" surpasses ESPN's in regards to the Tour, then why is OLN only so few subscriber systems? Might it be because they aren't owned by a large broadcasting company such as ABC and Disney? Or might it be that more people would be willing to pay to see just the Tour? From where I sit, the numbers, math and statistics all say that the 1% of the households receiving OLN are not as numerous as the 99% that are receiving ESPN. Therefore you must conclude that there are more people watching baseball than cycling. That's the math! Plain and simple! No Nielsen ratings book will tell you otherwise.
2) Advertising and marketing of the sport of cycling is inexpensive compared to the costs of a Super Bowl advertisement. True. But are we, as Americans, supposed to believe that Budweiser is going to sponsor a cycling team because of this? I don't think so. If you still believe so, you may want to check out the long-term success of the Coors Light, Motorola, Chevrolet-L.A. Sheriff, 7-11 teams. They aren't around anymore. Why? My guess is that the marketing departments figured that they could get "more bang for their buck" advertising during a TV show than they could by sponsoring a bike racing team.
As for Mr. O'Dell's comments in regards to Starbucks et al. I don't know about Georgia but here in the crazed state of California, you can't swing a dead feline and not hit a Starbucks. They aren't necessarily successful because of their coffee, tea or advertising, but just by the fact that there is one on every block! And besides, Red Bull made a name for themselves not by sponsoring crazed, extreme sporting events but by their creative marketing of the guarnine high when mixed with other more spirited drinks.
He's "Mellow Johnny" to his teammates. Said to be the Texas pronunciation of Maillot Jaune!
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