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Letters to Cyclingnews - February 20, 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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I am always amazed at the number of defensive responses whenever someone criticizes the sponsorship choices of an athlete. How much more obvious does it have to be that there is a conflict of interest in a cyclist or cyclists in general being sponsored by a car manufacturer or a junk food producer. What about the team that is sponsored by the makers of EPO? Is that not a little ridiculous?
A person on top of his sport Like Lance should make better decisions about the products he endorses. The Societie du Tour de France needs to find a better sponsor than Coke. We all should be more active in supporting our local bicycle related communities, quit driving so much, and quit eating junk food.
Scott Thompson has an 'interesting' idea when defending Lance Armstrong's choice of sponsor: 'He also has the freedom to attain capital (cash) in any manner he wishes. This is capitalism.' Then how about prostitution, or drugs? Pardon me, but this sounds more like the Mafia than Capitalism. Or is anything okay if it is technically legal irrespective of whether it is also immoral?
Ultimately what riles people is the blatant commercialism we experience in any product endorsement. Lance says "Buy Subie", so we buy one. What's Lance know about cars? I don't know, maybe he's a car freak, maybe not.
When people sell their image, the endorsement is associated with the celebrity as well as the celeb with the product. Sometimes this will feel incongruous. Bikes, Pharmaceuticals, Shoes, sure: Cars??? Some people do not put the two (LA and 4WD) together and react like the original author. Lance, his managers and any advertiser will do these sums pre pitch, this time it added up, to them. It's business, not a morality tale.
I refer to your article Bums On Seats.
The answer may be simple. If the organisers are already losing money, crowds are at half capacity and promotion is expensive then might I boldly suggest: call the local radio station/s and have them give away a couple thousand tickets to these BIG events. For example, in Sydney, all the major stations have on the road promotion departments, i.e. Triple M have the black thunders and they're forever giving stuff away and plugging the heck out of whatever it is they're giving. People flock to meet the black thunder promo girls at what ever their location may be throughout the day (various and numerous sites each day).
While this may not sound like an immediate fix, it is free and certainly intense promotion. The best form of advertising is word of mouth from people who've had a great time somewhere. The same people might, with a bit of good luck and a new found awareness and interest, just maybe, bring friends next time.
Anyway, just a suggestion since the seats are empty. I know when I've taken friends to a meeting they've all come away saying - whoa, didn't know that even existed let alone being so intense, let's go again. So in closing I suggest raising awareness. Besides, everyone loves something free and you can bet once they get there they'll use the canteens and bars. Hell, they might even comeback!!
I'm 36 years old and I came within a heartbeat of suffering the same fate as Denis Zanette. On February 4 I was found to have a 99 percent blocked left coronary artery which if it goes 100%, pretty much means guaranteed death. The only thing that saved me was some mild chest pains with an elevated heart rate and that started, out of the blue, two weeks before. I went to the doctor about it and ended up with surgery. In my case everyone keeps asking the obvious questions: Used to smoke? No. Used to be overwieght? No. Family history? No. Diet? No. Cholesterol? No. Exercise? Race bicycles (cat 4). Supplements? None. Drugs? I laughed, I am a cat 4! The irony was lost on some who did not understand bicycle racing.
My point here is in the unexpected case everyone is going to start asking the obvious questions and for professional cyclist one of the first questions is going to be drugs. There is no reason to get upset at the question or the investigation. It is important to get to the bottom of what happened, so that whatever the cause was it can hopefully be prevented from happening again. Try to enjoy every ride and every day.
Well written Peter. The motives of the South Australian Government are transparent. These are the same motives that cause them to sell exclusive TV rights to European pay TV and in Australia our ability to follow the TDU is restricted to SBS Sports. It's not that the Europeans deserve to see any more cycling, it's the SA government trying to attract Europeans to South Australia. Although I have to admit, the strategy works. SBS coverage of "le Tour" inspires me to go to France as often as I can afford it and I'm yet to visit South Australia.
Jacob's Creek TDU #2
To those of you lamenting the fact that the South Australian government is taking a pragmatic business like view of the JCTDU and looking at the dollars generated by it, wake up and get with reality. This is what professional cycling is all about. Money. Sponsoring a team or an event is not a charity exercise. Its about promoting your brand and increasing brand awareness in your marketplace. That we get such fantastic teams in South Australia is testament to the efforts of the SA government. After all how do FDJeux.com, AG2r, ONCE or Panaria and Fordio benefit by having their teams in Australia. You can't buy their products here and most of those watching the race wouldn't even know what they were. Certainly their riders get quality training in but there is no benefit from exposing their brands to an audience that can't plonk down their hard earned dollars for the sponsor's product.
Having said all that, what does puzzle me is that the event is not promoted outside of SA. I am not advocating showing it excessively overseas as only a tiny number of those coming to watch the race are from overseas. The obvious target audience and therefore those who should be seeing significant highlights packages every night extolling the virtues of SA as tourist destination is the rest of Australia. South Australians already know what a great state they have, does the rest of Australia?
I have been to the race twice now and it is fantastic and South Australia is a fantastic place to visit. Maybe that is the point of the government's campaign though to keep SA as Australia's best kept secret. Doesn't make a lot of economic sense but hey, I like it as there aren't too many other interstate tourists spoiling my quiet riding around Adelaide.
There's a lot of anti-French sentiment being banded about in the USA at the moment over France's position on Iraq. Some very high people have said some very nasty things about the French. I'm sure that it has not fallen on deaf ears in France.
I would not want to be Lance Armstrong in the TdF surrounded by thousands of screaming fans, anyone of whom could knock him off his bike just because he's an American - remember what happened to Eddy Merckx at the hands of a crazed fan in the TdF, it probably cost him the race. The same thing could happen to Lance, or worse!
Thank you Charles. It has been a bit tiresome to have the Lanceaholics go off every time somebody says that they want to challenge him in the Tour. I say let Simoni have a go and say whatever he likes. He is the one who will have to live with the outcome. I would rather have him than a bunch of Belokis saying, "Oh, I really wanna finish third or maybe even second." You have to believe you can do it before you try, to have any hope of succeeding. In nearly every other sport, people/teams are gunning for the reigning champ. Who knows, maybe Simoni can back it up.
Gibi vs. Lance #2
I agree with most of what Charles Manantan is saying here. Lance is truly a great rider at this point, but not invincible, no one is. I like the fight that Simoni shows but he needs to pick his targets better and perfect his timing. Lance is a killer when he's mad. I would want him content and maybe a little scared of losing, not angry. He's good enough without that motivation. I think the ONCE riders cranked Lance up in the tour last year. The point is: talk is cheap.
Gibi vs. Lance #3
Charles Manantan makes a good point - we should be overjoyed that someone in the peloton is willing to make overtures at toppling Lance while the rest of the peloton comments on waiting for Lance to drop the ball (which he probably won't do). There is nothing I can imagine which would be better then seeing somebody - maybe Simoni, maybe not - ride Lance off their wheel this year. Not because I don't like Lance, but because I love the sport and seeing a great champion beaten while still in his prime would be a truly great moment in all of sporting history, not just for cycling.
Gibi vs. Lance #4
To respond to Mr. Charles Manatan:
My point (which apparently I failed to make) was the Simoni quote in Cyclingnews' January 30 news: "When I think about the Tour, I don't just hope to do well. I want to make Lance Armstrong suffer. I should have done it last year, so will definitely try this year." was made while Simoni was on holiday, skiing in the Dolomites. By comparison, Armstrong had been training his ass off for months already.
You're right, riders should be able to challenge Armstrong or anyone, verbally or on the bike. That's their job. But without the abilities to back up verbal slagging such words amount to mere bravado. Armstrong trains, suffers, sacrifices and totally dedicates himself to his goal. No other current rider trains as hard.
As far as the bet/wager, it was made with tongue firmly planted in my cheek. My sole point was Simoni is unlikely to make anyone suffer in the mountains of any tour when he's on holiday skiing in the Dolomites, and LA has been training hard for a few months now.
But, as to the wager. My local paper predicts rain throughout the weekend, and onto ... whenever. Temperatures are supposed to range from the 50s to the low 40s. However, in Phoenix the paper says today (Saturday, 2/15) the temperature range was 70 to 52 degrees; for Sunday it's supposed to be 72 to 51 degrees, and no mention of rain. Perhaps you and I could discuss a wager for the price of a flight that took the loser of the bet to the winner's city when the weather is at its least favorable. Or the winner could go to the loser's city when the weather was at its best.
What Tom Kunich forgets about Cadel is that he is an Aussie. Therefore, he knows how to work hard and has a never say die attitude. Combine that with his talent and out pops a dominant tour rider of the future.
Up until recently I have not been a fan of Marco Pantani. That was until I read about his 'new' attitude for this season. We really must respect this man, irrelevant of his past errors of judgment. The man, who is no spring chicken at 33, is having another attempt at come-back and I dearly hope that he succeeds because then he can say that he is a real champion. I think Pantani knows that he will not topple Armstrong, but for him to stand on the podium after winning a mountain top stage in Giro this year will be a fabulous achievement worthy of everyone's congratulations.
With other riders trying to make serious returns to the top, like Frank VDB, I hope that this is the year that they succeed, but Pantani in particular deserves some good luck. For that reason, even though I will say again that I have not ever been a massive Pantani fan, I'd like to wish the guy a really great season so that he can vanquish the personal demons of his career that still hang over him.
Thanks for the recent photo of Slava Ekimov training with his USPS team.
I'm glad his retirement did not last. I remember when he came onto the scene at the Tour de Trump back in 1988. He was a young Soviet amateur who put the pro riders on notice with his aggressive performance. He is such a team rider now that we don't see him in the limelight but he's still a class act. Thanks again for the photo.
One person seldom mentioned amongst the Giro/TdF contenders is Stefano Garzelli.
Whether he will be race fit for the Giro or TdF is obviously an issue considering the length of his ban, and I'm not familiar enough with his team to know their three week tour credentials. However, I seem to remember him wearing the 2002 Maglia Rosa in front of Simoni, Hamilton and Casagrande and looking comfortable doing it. Am I missing something here?
This is the first time in my life I heard that somebody say that a former KOM and 2-time mountain stage winner, Santiago Botero can't climb. Where have you been? Look at the stats. Everybody knows that if Santi's climbing skills are more consistent, then he will be the one taking the top spot in Paris, because we all know (including Lance) that he is the best in the world against the clock so he won't have problems with that. I'm sorry Lance, the 100th tour won't be yours.
The culture of cars kills people. Every tool is a weapon - it depends upon how you use it, but to argue that cars or the culture surrounding them is not a threat to cyclists is nonsense.
Have you been on a road recently? I have started to carry rocks to throw at cars that run me of the road or I cleat them (i.e. scrape the paintwork with my Time cleats (nice double scratch pattern) when I catch them at the lights). Sure I am not being nice, but: I am fed up and nobody is doing anything about it and I am not gonna take it any more! It gets to the point where I have to make a decision: do I wanna fight with cars today or will I forget about the ride?
Now from all the debate surrounding Lance and his latest sources of income from Subaru. I pose one proposal - to the readers and specifically to Mr Armstrong himself based upon the proposition that the culture surrounding cars is dangerous to those who use bikes.
Lance, how about making a statement, one that goes past your own strong, brave personal struggle against cancer (which inspired us all). How about next time Subaru or some other car-related sponsor wants to give you money, you say OK but only on the condition that they fund a substantial road safety campaign to educate car drivers, one aimed at changing the culture of cars so that those who are in that culture realize we have rights to be on the road and those rights must be respected.
In fact I make this proposal to any cyclist who has the potential to receive money from a car manufacturer. If I was Lance (or Ullrich or anyone else in a position where people wanted my ugly head to endorse their cars) I would even use the money they paid to me to do this. Lance, all you guys use your influence with the car industry and start a fund to promote and educate drivers and governments regarding the magnitude of the problem. Otherwise my new slogan will be "No more Subaru, Saturn or any other bloody car teams - I ride a bike." Okay, the slogan needs some work but you get the point. I await all those to the north to commence degrading me for my stupid ideas and practices but really the point is: Lance, what do you think? Will you do it?
Dare I mention that the James Bond film that Mark Hammond refers to (when Bond seemingly forces a bunch of pro cyclists to fall over), was 'Goldeneye' and that the team was Festina? Given that this was in 1995, there are numerous reasons why they could have been so easily made to look like dopes. On the other hand, it's surprising that they didn't catch up with Bond's Aston Martin given the fuel they were running on at the time!
Right Guard Xtreme Commercial #2
To answer the final question of the original post, Yes, you need to get a life. I trained and raced on the rural back roads and redneck hamlets of North and Central Florida for some 10 odd years. Therefore, I have already filled my lifetime allotment for random road violence: beers cans (full and empty), baseballs, coins, shoes and even a can of engine cleaner (full) have been hurled at me as I pedaled. I figured it builds cat-like reflexes trying not to pegged.
There is hope: MOVE - quickly with no regrets. I moved to Southern California some 12 years ago and have had no road problems since. I figure everyone is too busy talking on his or her cell phone to have the needed free hand to wing a caramel double latte at you.
But let's get back to the allegedly seditious Right Guard Xtreme commercial. As an added benefit of living in SoCal, sometimes Hollywood comes knocking. I am one of those cyclists in the commercial and we saw no problem with the script. Heck we were well paid and well fed for two days and those stunt men were totally amazing. And as an added benefit, I am probably only person that has chased Methodman across a field while waving a crank set over my head like the hammer of Thor and lived to tell about it.
Right Guard Xtreme Commercial #3
I actually thought that ad was kind of funny and wasn't offended by it at all. However, at the end of the ad you see the cyclists running after the guy who 'tripped' them, and I wonder how they are able to run like that with their shoes on!
Right Guard Xtreme Commercial #4
Most advertising agencies and their 'creative' employees are located in New York City and spend some time in Central Park where they inevitably come into contact with their fair share of rude cyclists. So it wouldn't surprise me if the idea for that commercial came from the fertile mind of somebody who had just been accosted by a cyclist in the park.
Every weekend you see individual cyclists unnecessarily yelling at pedestrians to get out of the way. Yelling at somebody on the streets is fine … sometimes it's even applauded and encouraged (this is New York after all) but doing so in Central Park is barbaric and totally looked down upon. I mean really - go back to Jersey or Paris or wherever you came from if you desire such abhorrent lowliness.
In any case - I don't think the commercial in question is really suggesting a revolt of the pedestrians but it would help to be a bit more courteous when you chance upon them in the park - even if they don't look both ways before crossing the street - or just stand there taking up space directly in your path. However unfortunate it may seem to some, they have as much right to the road as ourselves and we're not gaining many new-comers to the sport by disregarding that simple premise.
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