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Letters to Cyclingnews - December 19, 2003
Sorry to burst your bubble, Warren, but Heras didn't join Postal until 2001 (after Lance had already won two Tours). Heras was mediocre at best in 2001 and didn't do a whole lot for Lance this year either, due to various injuries and/or poor form. The only Tour in which he truly helped Lance was in 2002, but even then he was unable to ride away from Beloki for a stage win. To say that Lance "has his five Tour wins thanks in large part to the efforts of this great yet soft-spoken warrior" is to ignore the facts. If you want to find one rider who helped Lance in the mountains consistently the last three years, Chechu is the man!
I for one am glad we are talking about something other than bashing Gilberto Simoni's brash statements. Lanceaholics have now turned on the man they once praised for his unselfishness. Roberto Heras does have the ability to win this year's Tour. Contrary to other opinions this year's Tour offers plenty of places to hide. The only significant time trial before the L'Alpe d'Huez TT will be the team time trial. Roberto will lose minimal time or actually gain time on the other competitors. The team time trial is an obsession of Manolo Saiz, the team director.
This is not Simoni's depleted squad we are talking about. Liberty Seguros has an established team. It's a shame Beloki decided to leave. They apparently had the resources to afford both of them.
The only individual time trial that is long and flat comes after the mountain time trial. We could very well see Heras have the yellow jersey at that time. Here at this point he will put up a fight to hold on to the jersey. His time trialing has drastically improved over the last couple of years largely in part to riding with Lance.
Unfortunately he will succumb to the true masters of this discipline Jan and Lance. Yet he will put up one hell of a fight. Lance easily hang with him in the mountains? I offer one bit of reality. Heras will not be riding tempo for the three prior mountains. Instead this task will fall to the likes of Nozal and De Galdeano freeing up little Roberto to launch his assault with fresh legs a la the other studs.
Give Heras his due - you don't win a major tour with the "B" squad without having talent. Imagine Lance riding the Tour and George saying I am not sick or hurt but I am going to stop to prepare for the Worlds good luck though. I wonder why Heras left? Hmmmm.
Man I can't wait for July.
Roberto Heras #4
I don't think we need to look for ultra-clever James Bond plots to explain the departure of Heras. Roberto is as fine a teammate as is possible. Without Heras over the last few years it would have been much harder for Lance to win the Tour.
However, Armstrong will not last forever and most of us believe that win or lose it is likely that Armstrong will hang up his cleats after next year's Tour. And that would soon end up with US Postal going as well.
Postal could not pay Heras a leader's wage and Roberto, well worth it, could see the fleeting life of a professional racer means that you have to grab the gold ring when it comes around because someone else may very well get it before your next turn.
Roberto now has a 3 year contract for leader's pay. And he will have to lead during this next three years. My own thoughts are that Saiz is hardly the person to lead Roberto. But perhaps Heras will be flexible and able to blunt his own professionalism enough to get along with Mr. Venga! Venga! Venga! Try to picture Roberto screaming curses at a cameraman.
Roberto Heras #5
I disagree with Mr Trostel's letter in that I fail to see how Roberto can be considered "better as an enemy than a teammate" This is ridiculous! While Lance is generally considered a better climber than Jan, it doesn't matter who you are, if you are suffering and someone attacks on a steep gradient, the weakest will loose time and there is no guarantee that this will be Jan. Look at stage 13 in this year's Tour, or for a perfect example, the 1997 TDF where Jan put over a minute in Virenque and Pantani (the two best climbers in the race) the day he took the yellow jersey. It is one hell of a gamble to see if one opposition (Roberto) can hurt another (Jan) without hurting oneself (Lance). If this was the case, why do you think T Mobile have Botero, Vino, Evans and Savoldelli all on the one team?
One part I do agree with is the lack of gratitude or even recognition of Rubiera's efforts. Roberto is a better climber, but as a workhorse, Checu is just so valuable to Lance. He has been there when Roberto hasn't and doesn't get anywhere near the recognition he deserves. How about Alpe Deuz in 2001? Anyway, I think that Roberto is a huge loss for USPS and will make it that much more tougher for Lance that behind closed doors, he is starting to wonder how he can do again next year.
Roberto Heras #6
Phil Trostel wrote: "Heras was certainly not Armstrong's best teammate in the last Tour. Rubiera was. Who was there on Luz-Ardiden?"
Please do not forget Manuel Beltran. He worked like a dog for Armstrong and was by his side dealing out the pain on many of the ugliest climbs, including the Tourmalet immediately prior to Luz Ardiden.
"Can anyone think of a more Rubiera-like rider than Azevedo?"
If Snr Azevedo is another Rubiera, then Armstrong will again have an excellent team to support him.
"Where will Heras attack? Obviously on the steepest slopes. Who will this hurt the most? Obviously Ullrich."
I can't help but think that the 2004 TdF course is an Ullrich killer. His advantage is in the time trial, climbing is his (relative) weakness. With all the mountains, including the first ITT, and the deep competition, Ullrich may well be trailing the likes of Heras, Armstrong, Hamilton, Beloki and Mayo.
Other than the L'Alpe D'Huez ITT, look for the day to Plateau de Beille to be a stormer!
All this speculation about the success of the Blue Train boils down to one fact: it is up to Armstrong to regain the form with which he won his first four Tours. If he even comes close to achieving his old form, he'll get his coveted sixth win. If he fails to improve significantly over this year, the 2004 will be an Armstrong killer as well.
I wish good health and fortune to all the competitors in the upcoming 2004 season.
I would like to extend a thank you to Kristy Scrymgeour for the wonderful article on eating disorders. I think it is very important for people to know the prevalence of anorexia and bulimia for women in the cycling community. As anyone training to win races knows, the competition is fierce in the cycling community. In order to taste victory, we hire a coach, follow a schedule, consume weird supplements, and obsess about our weight. Soon enough, there is enormous stress put on being light and strong in order to reach our goals. The pressure to be light seeped into my brain soon after I started racing. I began training with a pack of elite men, and the power-to-weight ratio was a frequent topic on bike rides, and it was normal to discuss what everyone weighed that morning. I fell into the trap to weigh less and ride faster, and am now suffering from an eating disorder.
I will admit there were many factors that contributed to my eating disorder, however the pressures of going faster were a major player. There are many cyclists and other elite athletes that are successful at managing their food consumption and weight, but there is a fine line between managing and obsessing. Please be aware that this line is crossed easily and the affects can be extremely dangerous and unhealthy. Luckily I received help before things got ugly, but not everyone is as fortunate. Thanks again for highlighting such an important topic.
Jeff Oliver says: "...it is clear that Lance is in trouble next year!" How do you figure, Jeff? 2003 saw Lance at his most vulnerable. He started the race with diarrhea, and the extreme heat only made things worse, increasing the likelihood of dehydration, which we all know was a factor. The Tour is no place to try to recover from illness, yet he did -- and still only one rider came within 4 minutes of LA. He will come to the 2004 Tour better prepared and on a mission.
His rivals? Heras - can't time trial well enough. T-Mobile - too many "leaders". Phonak - Tyler (love the guy) still a notch below LA in climbing and TT, Sevilla is too fragile. Boulangere - team not strong enough to support Beloki. CSC - No leader capable of winning the Tour. Euskaltel - Mayo and Zubeldia both finished about 7 minutes down in 2003. Don't forget about the TTT -- USPS will probably win that again in 2004. It should be a great Tour -- and Lance will still win...
Tour 2004 #2
This is what I hope Telekom's strategy will be in 2004: contest both the Tour and the Giro. Why? Firstly, the old truism of not putting all your eggs in one basket. Especially with so many huge "eggs"! Let Evans and Savoldelli ride the Giro. they are both experienced in the race and have worn or won the maglia rosa. Ullrich could even ride the Giro to build form and ride for his teammates, thereby ensuring loyalty for the tour. Then Vino has to make the hard choice to sacrifice his chances for the team in the Tour. This he has already said he is will to do. As far as Botero, he could come into the Tour on form and support in the race, especially the TTT, then maybe ride the Vuelta for himself. The Olympics would probably throw a wrench into next year's normal preparation and aims but I think Telekom would be wrong to go to the tour with 5 huge riders and hope to be victorious.
I have to agree with Garzelli that the pictures of him and Pantani riding up the Monte Zoncolan were one of the sports memorable scenes. Garzelli riding like a Champion and Pantani riding like the great rider he really is.
I cheer on Garzelli and find it unfortunate that Marco hasn't found his center in racing.
Oh well, BALD POWER!
In response to Mike Deschildre's letter confirming Lance Armstrong's recent comments on Belgian radio that he (LA) does not regard himself as the greatest cyclist ever, I am grateful to Mike for informing us of these comments.
Indeed it is very pertinent that Lance Armstrong has conceded that whatever his eventual tally of Tours De France titles, his legacy is not comparable to Eddy Merckx and that he concedes that Merckx is the greatest cyclist ever. Mr Armstrong is very astute in making the comments, that he made, while on Belgian radio ! If you care to read Mr Armstrong's utterances in the media, a lot of the opinions which he expresses, depend largely on the location where he is being asked to discuss a particular topic.
When in the USA, Mr Armstrong makes caustic remarks about Jan Ullrich not waiting for him on the Luz Ardiden stage in this year's Tour de France, after he crashed etc. Home audience, I'll give them what they want to hear. Belgian audience, I'll invoke Eddy Merckx. This is what, in media-speak, is called spinning. "Let the folks hear, what I think they want to hear." Indeed.
Mr Armstrong's comment about Eddy Merckx, is for once, correct - I congratulate him on stating what we already know.
Tell us Lance, something that we don't know!
Greatest of all time? #2
Although I hate to admit it but Lance is right. Merckx's winning percentage alone places him far above other riders. Another consideration is the fear that a rider could put in the peloton. Merckx was the only rider that could consistently go to the front and put the hurt on the peloton to control the pace.
Great article by Greg Taylor concerning the link between bikes and brains. Funny, witty observations such his reinforce our respect for the world of cycling.
How hard it seems to convince the many outside of cycling, that the necessities of riding communicates a better foundation for most of our social framework.
It takes only you to be a better member of society.
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