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Letters to Cyclingnews - December 19, 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; please stick to one topic per letter. We will normally include your name and place of residence, but not your email address unless you specify in the message.

Each week's best letter gets our 'letter of the week' award. We look for for letters that contain strong, well-presented opinions; humour; useful information or unusual levels of sheer helpfulness.

We've also added some new letters this week to our tribute page for José María Jiménez

Please email your correspondence to

Recent letters

Heras: Mission Impossible?
Eating Disorders and Cycling
Tour 2004

Greatest of all time?


Letter of the week

A signed copy of William Fotheringham's Tom Simpson bio is are on its way to Tim.
Click for larger image

Heras: Mission Impossible?

Is third place the best finish for Heras in July, short of a flu outbreak? Here is why and how I believe he could actually win.

He has a team that can place him in a good position in the TTT. He might escape on a crucial mountain stage while Armstrong and Ullrich mark each other. He only faces one long ITT. In this he has improved. In 2003's Vuelta stage 13, he lost only 1:45 to Nozal, and 1:32 to Millar.

To gain this much time prior to the Tour's ITT stage, Heras would have to risk everything by attacking early. I doubt he could solo like Hamilton for 90km. Stage 13's Col d'Agnes suits Heras' style where a climber could escape. Lance and Jan may need to conserve strength for the following climb, the Plateau de Beille. Still a 50km effort. This would be too much for a climber to face alone. With Valverde or Sastre, maybe.

Or consider stage 12. The Col d'Asp is only 26km from the finish, with the last 15 up La Mongie. Heras must attack hard. He will have to gain over a full minute. This is a risk, a do or die attack, which can leave one wilted and totally spent. Like Ullrich, who suffered dearly after an early attack in stage 15's Col du Tourmalet.

Face it, L'Alpe d'Huez is difficult, but only 15km. Thirty seconds would be the most anyone could expect to gain over Armstrong and Ullrich. No climber can rely solely on Huez for the lead. Besides, stage 19's TT will still belong to the dynamic duo of Lance and Jan.

It takes all the guts in the world to plan an attack as described. Heras can have the confidence he needs from the 2003 Vuelta. Heras, don't settle for third place!

Timothy Shame
Bristol, UK
Tuesday, December 16, 2003

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Roberto Heras #2

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!

Vic Nicolescu
Medford, OR, USA
Monday, December 15, 2003

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Roberto Heras #3

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.

Ray Ayala
Tuesday, December 16, 2003

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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.

Tom Kunich
Friday, December 12, 2003

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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.

N Crompton
Saturday, December 13, 2003

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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.

Jim Strange
Nevada, USA
Tuesday, December 16, 2003

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Eating Disorders and Cycling

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.

Melanie Crystal
Boston, MA, USA
Friday, December 12, 2003

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Tour 2004 #1

Jeff Oliver says: " 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...

Steve Greene
Colorado, USA
Friday, December 12, 2003

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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.

Ehi Akwara
Cincinnati, Ohio, USA
Friday, December 12, 2003

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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!

Tom Kunich
Tuesday, December 16, 2003

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Greatest of all time? #1

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!

Seamus Weber
Limerick, Ireland
Friday, December 12, 2003

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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.

Kirby Vincent
Monday, December 15, 2003

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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.

Mo Joyce
Sarasota, FL, USA
Thursday, December 18, 2003

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Recent letters pages

  • December 12 letters special: Vale Jiménez - Cyclingnews readers bid farewell to Spanish rider José María Jiménez (more letters added December 19)
  • December 5 letters - Learning respect, Heras transfer, Beloki's choice of team, Roberto Heras, Simoni's challenge, Greatest of all time?, Giro d'Italia stage for the public, Put me back on my bike
  • November 28 letters - Anonymous sources, Simoni's challenge, Bobby Julich, Beloki's choice of team, Floyd Landis, Punishing fatal driving, Roberto Heras, Greatest of all time?, Italians spending €600 million/year on drugs, Put me back on my bike, Tour climbers analysed, Giro d'Italia stage for the public
  • November 21 letters - Tour climbers analysed, Beloki's choice of team, Simoni's Challenge, Floyd Landis, Roberto Heras, UCI plans, Cyclist of the year, Tour 2004 - TTT rule change, Punishing fatal driving, Hamilton world's, Italians spending €600 million/year on drugs, Amateur racing in France, 2003 World's video wanted, Put me back on my bike
  • November 14 letters - Simoni's Challenge, Italians spending €600 million/year on drugs, Cyclist of the year, Tour 2004, Heather French Henry, Drugs in Cycling and in Baseball, VDB, Uphill Battle, Armstrong's inspiration?, Bobby Julich at world's, IteamNova, The Hour, Whither Vinokourov?, Three Wheels?, Hamilton world's, Amateur racing in France, 2003 World's video wanted
  • November 6 letters - Cyclist of the year?, Tour 2004, Bobby Julich at world's, Heather French Henry, Whither Vinokourov?, Amateur racing in France?, Six Day Bike Rider
  • October 31 letters - Charly Wegelius, $4000+ derailleur, Tour 2004 - TTT rule change, Bobby Julich at world's, Closure on the Mario Cipollini reign, Heather French Henry, Raimondas Rumsas debacle, Whither Vinokourov?, Six Day Bike Rider
  • October 24 letters - Tour 2004, New Pro Tour, What goes on the road stays on the road, Bobby Julich at world's, The Brits, Closure on the Mario Cipollini reign, World's absentees, Mario Cipollini, US media coverage, Heather French Henry, Jan Ullrich to T-Mobile - Whither Vinokourov?, Kelme's real problem, Every Second Counts--incorrect account?, Raimondas Rumsas debacle, Six Day Racer, UCI outlaws CX disc brakes, US$4000+ rear derailleur, Amateur racing in Spain
  • October 17 letters - What goes on the road stays on the road, THG, David Millar & the Brits, Every second counts -- incorrect account?, Hamilton course, Heather French Henry news piece, Viva Hein Verbruggen, Jan Ullrich to T-Mobile - Whither Vinokourov?, Bobby Julich at world's, Kelme's real problem, Lance Armstrong, Mario Cipollini, UCI rankings, What's that on Igor's bike?, Two Grand Tours with two different riders, Cycling etiquette, Amateur racing in Spain, Six-Day Bike Rider, Medal chewing
  • October 10 letters - Jan Ullrich to T-Mobile - Whither Vinokourov?, Hamilton race course, Caffeine and sport, WADA rule changes, UCI rankings, Hein Verbruggen, Roberto Heras, Mario Cipollini, Clear Channel, Two Grand Tours with two riders, Vets distances, Oscar Egg bike, Six-Day Bike Rider, Cycling etiquette
  • October 1 letters - Caffeine and sport, Vuelta? What Vuelta?, WADA rule changes, A sleepy thank you to WADA, Clear Channel, Roberto Heras, George Hincapie and Roberto Heras, Goodbye Saturn, Gran Fondo del Monte Grappa, Greg LeMond, Lance Armstrong's divorce, Suggestion for the big Tours, Supplements, UCI rankings, Ullrich's comments on Luz-Ardiden, Cycling etiquette
  • September 26 letters - A sleepy thank you to WADA, WADA rule changes, Goodbye Saturn, Supplemental responsibility, Cycling etiquette, Amber Neben, et al, Clear Channel, World's timing, World champion prognostication, Suggestion for the big Tours, Floyd Landis, Lance Armstrong's divorce, Jan Ullrich in 2004, George Hincapie and Roberto Heras, Greg LeMond, Gran Fondo del Monte Grappa
  • September 19 letters - Supplemental responsibility, Blame Canada, A strong US team, Suggestion for the big Tours, Amber Neben, Greg LeMond, Jan Ullrich in 2004, Kimberly Bruckner, Lance Armstrong's divorce, Greg LeMond's 82 World Championship, Tyler Hamilton's Tour win, Track
  • September 12 letters - Amber Neben, Mario Cipollini and the Vuelta, Lance Armstrong's divorce, Greg LeMond, Dehydration, Bobby Julich and Telekom, Did Jan Ullrich wait?, Tyler Hamilton's Tour win, Jan Ullrich in 2004
  • September 5 letters - No World's for Hamilton, Bobby Julich and Telekom, Ullrich in 2004, Did Ullrich wait?, Lance Armstrong, Major Tour Stage Wins, Contracts, transfers and negotiations, Dehydration, LeMond, Photo Finishes, USA Cycling Website
  • August 29 letters - Lefevere's Loss, USA Cycling Website, Bobby Julich and Telekom, Death in Spain, $125,000 Criterium in Charlotte, Australian/US grade equivalence, Bianchi and the TT, Did Lelli Wait?, Did Ullrich wait?, Lance Armstrong, LeMond, Major Tour Stage Wins, Photo finishes, Ullrich in 2004, US television ratings for le Tour, Dehydration, Contracts, transfers & negotiations
  • August 22 letters - Contracts, transfers & negotiations, $125,000 Criterium in Charlotte, Did Ullrich wait?, Dehydration, Team time trial, Australian/US grade equivalence, Bianchi and the TT, Lance Armstrong, Major tour stage wins, ONCE and Banesto's departure, The 99 crash, LeMond & Hinault, US television ratings for le Tour, Lance Armstrong's nickname
  • August 15 letters - Contracts, transfers & negotiations, The Telekom situation, Did Ullrich wait?, The 99 crash, Team time trial, French campaign against Spanish cycling, US television ratings for le Tour, Dehydration, US Postal and the Giro, Is the Tour clean?, Floyd Landis' Tour diary, Great cyclists, An anti-cramp product?, Hincapie and other Tour domestiques, Italian slur, Lance Armstrong's nickname, Regarding CNN's Jack Cafferty, Sportsmanship, Sprint at Luz Ardiden, Trying for number six
  • August 8 letters - Sportsmanship, Trying for number six, Sprint at Luz Ardiden, Regarding CNN's Jack Cafferty, Comments on Hamilton, Tour '03 fashion trends, Dr. Ferrari's comments on Ullrich's power output, Crashes, Dehydration, Great cyclists, Is the Tour clean?, Italian slur, Lance Armstrong's nickname, US television ratings for le Tour, Why not merge?
  • August 1 letters - Sportsmanship, Deja vu, Crashes, Dehydration, Lance Armstrong, US television ratings for le Tour, Dr. Ferrari's comments on Ullrich's power output, Is the Tour clean?, Armstrong's chances, Comments on Hamilton, Cycling is like opera, Tour bellies, Sprint at Luz Ardiden, Ullrich waiting, Why not merge?
  • Letters Index – The complete index to every letters page on