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Letters to Cyclingnews - December 24, 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

Inverell Track Open
Tour 2004
Roberto Heras
Greatest of all time?
Mountain Biking and Doping (smoking marijuana)
Positive Tests
Geniuses Feature


Letter of the week

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

Inverell Track Open

Dear Cycling News

I have just finished reading your article about the cancellation of the Inverell Track Open and would like to offer the following comments:

I have recently spent some time entering my young 10 year old son and myself in a number of Track Opens for the summer season of racing and as much as we both love our racing and going away together, you can only do so much. After entering in the Opens we wanted to compete in, the entry fees were up over $300.00, and that didn't include the cost of travelling, accommodation, food and in many cases the incidentals that you get hit with when you arrive, like the additional cost of "parking" etc.

Cycling at the best of times is an expensive sport due to the cost of the equipment, and many of the country opens such as the Wagga Open have a very high percentage of "handicaps" or "wheelraces". Unless you are relatively unknown and handicapped in a favourable manner, these weekends turn into training weekends: a great deal of fun, but still training weekends. I sometimes feel that it is better to stay at home and go training, than to spend upwards of $600.00 or more and have very little chance of coming home with any prize money. Yes, these country opens are a great weekend away and fantastic times with your children, but can get very expensive and no one likes to be continually flogged like a dead horse.

The comment made about riders complaining about the "lack of racing" and then not supporting the races that are organised is very true, however I believe that we need to look at the rising costs of entry fees and the grading of riders so that it is a little fairer for all involved. Riders will not continue to drive distances and go racing if all they ever do is "support the prize money pool" for the elite few.

If you look at the top rider in any grade and the bottom rider in that same grade, often there are huge differences in their ability. There are often only a handful of riders in any one grade that take home the majority of prize money, and this is not the way to encourage riders to compete.

We all like to think that we are in with at least a small chance of winning any race we enter, or why enter? The recent Sydney Cup on Wheels is a classic example with the Scratch Markers, World Champions at that, hooking onto the limit markers with 4 laps to go.

We need to support the grass roots riders from the Juniors though to the Masters and encourage them to participate and participate consistently. These guys make up the majority of membership base within NSW and are the divisions that keep the sport going. The Masters divisions are the biggest and fastest growing divisions and without developing our junior riders, encouraging the ones we have to stay, whilst encouraging new juniors to give it a try, our sport will start going backwards.

We have a long way to go in this great sport of cycling and it is by no means an easy route we must take, but we can not expect better results from doing things the same way we always have. We must look forward and try new things, because without change and innovation in everything we do, we will not achieve our goals.

"Success is a journey, not a destination".

Yours Sincerely
Ross Harding

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Tour 2004 #1

Lance wins the tour 2004. I believe this won't be the case next year. Why not? Let me sum up a few points. First of all, Lance’s downfall already started this year. He was clearly not in his best shape. Everybody who reads a little about Lance knows he is the ultimate training beast - all he does is train, train, train. To say he came into the Tour in poor form is absolute nonsense. So why did he perform not as well as he wanted to?

Look at Indurain. During his 5th victory in the Tour he also suffered, he almost cracked. Only superb experience and a strong team prevented his downfall. The following year he blew himself up. The competition was better. History decides the future. Lance is cracking, Jan Ullrich is reaching his finest years. If Ullrich didn’t become ill last Tour (he lost a few minutes due to illness on Alpe D'Huez) he already would have won.

Let's face it, Lance is undoubtedly one of the greatest riders of all time. This guy deserves the utmost respect for all of his performances! Defeating cancer! A winning streak of five consecutive years. But Lance knows he only got one real opponent, and that's Jan Ullrich, undoubtedly the biggest talent in cycling these days. He has the capacity to defeat Lance. Lance realised this years ago, but he also realised that Ullrich’s mental state mind wasn't that strong, so he used his own powerhouse. Only this superior mental strength prevented Lance from losing the last Tour. That strength remains and that was Ullrich’s biggest fear.

Ullrich will at last reach mental (race-) maturity next year, because he realised he hasn't got that many opportunities left. That's what Lance realised himself back in 1998, prior to his first win.

The cold war has started all over ;-).

Niels Thissen
Heusden, The Netherlands
Friday, December 19, 2003

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Tour 2004 #2

Mr. Greene,

I certainly hope you're right. You make some great points while identifying the individual weaknesses of Lance's rivals in 2004. I agree that, as individuals, none should be a real threat. The exception, of course, is Ullrich who has the class to match Lance even with a team which might be less cohesive. Remember, this year he basically rode alone with the exception of a great TTT.

My point was though, if these "lesser" riders attack in succession rather than follow Lance, he can be exposed for what he is. Human. It came close to happening this year.

Don't believe the hype about Lance losing 10-12 lbs due to dehydration. If that were true, he'd have passed out on the road. Don't forget, , Big Mig eventually lost several minutes to folks (Virenque, Riis, Zuelle) who were minutes down on him the year prior.

One thing is sure, the king won't reign forever, and odds are this could be the year for a tumble. While I'd be upset to see Lance fall, I'd be thrilled to see Ulle succeed. I for one think Lance has a purely psychological edge. Either way, it will be great to watch.

Jeff Oliver
Durham, NC, USA

Monday, December 22, 2003

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Roberto Heras #1

You are absolutely right Vic. Chechu has been there every time he was needed, latest at Luz Ardiden 2003. He is the one to salute, apart from Lance.

Joan Blomsterberg
Alleroed, Denmark
Monday, December 22, 2003

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Roberto Heras #2

In response to Ray's comment about Heras not having to ride tempo on the three prior mountains any longer, leaving him fresh for the end. Apparently you haven't been paying attention the last three years - that's exactly what he's done (not riding tempo until the final climb). The rest of the team has been at the front to leave Roberto, Chechu, and Lance ready for the final climb.

This will likely be a very good race, but I don't think Roberto has it in him for the overall. The Vuelta is great, but the Tour is bigger, faster, and harder. It's likely to be the Lance-Jan-Tyler show.

Dan Johnson
Tuesday, December 23, 2003

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Roberto Heras #3

Mr. Nicolescu, in response to your response to my letter of December 12th, I'm not a dope. I know that Roberto Heras didn't join Postal until 2001. Give me some credit here. O.K, to be more specific, Heras helped Armstrong with 3 of the 5 Tour wins (geeze!).

I will add though, that to deny the effect that adding Heras to the team had on the rest of the peloton is a little deluded. Imagine that you were riding the Tour and at the head of the peloton rode both Armstrong and Heras? Is there any better deterrent for attacks in the mountains than that? I can't think of one.

I will admit some of Heras’ performances were not the best in 2003, but in 2001 and 2002 he did his part. To say anything less would be a lie. I love that everyone praised Heras while with the team, but now that he's left so many have lost faith in the man. All of you fair weather fans should take a close look at yourselves in the mirror. Heras has at his disposal one of the strongest teams in the European peloton. Do I think he has a chance to be a contender in the Tour? Absolutely. Will it be a challenge for him? Absolutely. He will have to ride the race of his life.

However, for anyone to write him off as less than a possible Tour winner (with Ullrich and Armstrong marking each other) is both bad strategy and just plain silly. Ullrich will be probably be dealing with the egos of his top heavy team. Armstrong will be marking Ullrich as well as dealing with the confidence that the rest of the peloton gained during the 2003 Tour. He will have to let some people go. And don't forget, Heras knows how he races.

Warren Beckford
Bloomfield, CT, USA
Friday, December 19, 2003

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Greatest of all time #1?

What does one expect Lance Armstrong to say when asked who is the greatest cyclist of all time? He answered, Eddy Merckx. Yet, Seamus Weber from Ireland blasts Lance by saying "tell us Lance something that we don't know!"

Why is Lance being criticised for answering a question posed to him? This is a perfect example of ridiculous anti-Lance bashing that I see coming from mostly European cycling fans. Seamus also complains that Lance only says what he thinks the public wants to hear. What proof do you have of this, Seamus?

If you don't like Lance, that's fine but let's start hearing legitimate complaints about him, not silly criticisms that only prove you are jealous that an American rider has dominated the greatest race in cycling for the past 5 years.

Hector Roman
Friday, December 19, 2003

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Greatest of all time #2?

Lance Armstrong has finally become the greatest American cyclist in history. It's a pretty short list for him to top, and he only recently surpassed Greg Lemond. (Without Greg, Lance would have been a great triathlete.)

As for his place in the history of the sport, it's nice that so many understand that Lance doesn't begin to approach Eddy. What amuses me is that so many feel that Lance even deserves the comparison. Lance can't even carry Hinault's chamois, or Anquetil's, or Big Mig's. Heck, I'm not sure we should even compare him to Coppi. Speaking his name next to Merckx's is laughable.

Lance is a great rider, don't get me wrong. Five Tours in a row is a wonderful legacy. The problem is that's nearly his entire repertoire. Oh, there's one World Championship and a couple of classics (all before the cancer), but plenty of riders have those palmares.

Of course if Lance wins a sixth Tour he will cement his place in history, but he will still fall short of all of the five time winners. Why? Because dominating a single race over any period of time, regardless of how prestigious it is, does not make you one of the sport's greatest riders. It makes you as great as Alfredo Binda, and I don't hear anyone comparing him to Merckx.

Every other man who has won five Tours has won other Grand Tours. As a matter of fact, every one of them has succeeded at the Giro/Tour double! Even Coppi won the Giro and Tour in the same year. twice! That's what makes a cyclist great, the ability to dominate a season, not a race. And I don't want to hear this garbage about the sport changing so that a rider "can't do that anymore". Five years ago Pantani succeeded in the Giro/Tour double. Marco Pantani!

The Giro/Tour double obviously isn't the benchmark of greatness, but it's difficult to extend that praise to a man who has never even attempted the feat. Maybe Lance should listen to Simoni, because maybe Simoni is right. Lance cannot be considered with the greatest until he does some of those things that the greatest have done.

By the way, I am a fan. Those two classics (Classica San Sebastian & Fleche Wallonne)? Lance is the only American to win either of them. I hate to think that he will become a footnote of Tour history, with almost no mention anywhere else in the annals of cycling.

Jason Ethridge
California, USA
Friday, December 19, 2003

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Mountain Biking and Doping (smoking marijuana)

It seems as though the American mountain bike scene has a different kind of doping problem. The kind of dope that you smoke, and not inject. When are these people going to learn that you are competing on the highest level as an elite athlete and getting busted for smoking some pot is going to get you sanctioned and suspended? What are they thinking? They are doing their sponsors and their sport a disservice.

This is not your grass roots race being run at your local ski resort, these are World Cup events. Have some respect, not only for the sport, but for yourself. Jeesh.

Tom Arsenault
Chapel Hill, NC, USA
Friday, December 19, 2003

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Positive Tests

OK, now I have to ask. I don't understand why some of these riders that are testing positive are getting a year or more suspension and Amber Neben is only getting 6 months?

Now I'm not saying I think she is guilty of taking performance enhancing drugs, however Scott Moninger went to great lengths to prove his innocence, and I believe he did. He still received a one year suspension. Amber got 6 months going into an Olympic year. All I can say is it does not seem fair. What's up with that?

I think someone needs to answer this question. I feel bad for Amber. If in fact the supplements she was taking were contaminated, why did Scott get one year and Amber get 6 months?

Suzanne Sonye
Saturday, December 20, 2003

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Geniuses Feature

Here's an addition to the Wright brothers' part of the Freakin’ Geniuses story. According to a December 17 National Public Radio ( feature on the Wright brothers, their idea for controlling the direction of flight came from bicycling. You lean a bike to turn and bank an airplane to turn. According to the story, this idea was critical to the Wright brothers' success.

J.N. Howat
Kansas, USA
Monday, December 22, 2003

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Recent letters pages

  • December 19 letters - Heras: Mission Impossible?, Eating Disorders and Cycling, Tour 2004, Garzelli, Greatest of all time?, Geniuses
  • December 12 letters special: Vale Jiménez - Cyclingnews readers bid farewell to Spanish rider José María Jiménez (more letters added December 24)
  • 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