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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

Letters to Cyclingnews - January 10, 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.

Please email your correspondence to

Recent letters

Riding with John Lieswyn
Bust Wüst
Mario Cipollini
CN Top 10 - Cipollini over Armstrong?
Cipo and Pantani
Top Personalities - McEwen number 1?
Top 10 Nordic Moments
Reader poll: bikes
Letter Writer of the Year
Becoming a pro in Europe
Haematocrit Levels
Lance Armstrong
Paul Tracy and winners
American English
Back Surgery
Cyclists and motorists

Riding with John Lieswyn

I was out for my first ride of the New Year mid-morning on January 1st. The weather was sunny and clear (of course, I live in San Diego, and that type of weather is the usual). I live in Chula Vista and was out for a leisurely ride. The route I chose that day took me out to Otay Lakes and along the road that runs by the Olympic Training Center and next to the lake. This road dead ends at a park and I turned around and headed back towards Otay Lakes Road with plans for riding through various neighbourhoods back towards my house.

After passing the OTC and passing Olympic Parkway on Weuste Rd, I was caught by about 25 riders that I hadn't seen earlier. Near the front of the pack was a rider wearing a 7 Up jersey and shorts who asked me where I was headed and if I wanted to tag along on their ride. They were planning a ride out to a climb up Honey Springs Road (a good local climb if you have the time) and then loop back though Jamul and I was told that the pace was going to be "slow with no attacking".

I, unfortunately was on call for the hospital and couldn't really afford to be that far away from my house should I need to go in, but I did take up the offer of riding with them for a bit and to get to the base of the climb before having to turn back around.

I drifted back through the pack and stuck on to the end of the line. There I chatted with one of the riders who was from Oregon (my home state). He was enjoying the sunny, dry and relatively warm weather in Southern California. I also found out that this was the Junior National Development Road/ATB squad and that they were finishing up a week of training in the San Diego area. The pace was about 22-24 mph which is a tad faster than I usually solo that section of road, but being in the pack made the pace seem like a breeze. (I am usually out doing solo rides because my schedule is so unpredictable).

After a couple of miles, the rider in the 7 Up jersey drifted back through the pack and came up alongside me and started chatting. He asked what I did and I told him I was a Pediatric Cardiologist and worked for the US Navy here in San Diego. I asked what he did for a living (I assumed that he was a coach for the group) and he replied that he was a pro rider for 7 Up. We talked about the route that the group was taking, the route that they took the previous day (the one through Proctor Valley, I may have to try it on my road bike to get the "Roubaix" experience) and what kind of work his wife did. All the time, this pro was pleasant and was treating me as an equal to him. All the time that I was with the group, he was providing advice to the other riders in the group.

Our conversation had to be halted over the last couple of miles that I remained with the group as we were passed by about 200 riders on Harleys and you could barely hear yourself think. One of the riders counted and said there were 198 motorcycle riders. Prior to this interruption, I had introduced myself as Jeff and he had replied that his name was John.

The group got to the beginning of the climb and I had to turn around, unfortunately, I was unable to thank John for the conversation and the invitation to ride along with the group. I am a relative newcomer to the road bike scene, only purchasing a road bike about 1 1/2 years ago, but have been riding ATB for about 11 years. This ride had to be one of the better and least expected experiences of my lifetime.

After getting back home, I quickly went to my computer and found that John was actually John Lieswyn and that there was a diary entry that had just been posted on your website. I quickly read through the posting, and it confirmed that I had been riding along with and chatting with John earlier in the day.

As I read through the first part of the posting again about John wanting to make a greater effort to reach out to those people that he meets, I found myself thinking that he has started the New Year right by taking the time to talk with me. That ride will be one that I will remember for a very long time.

Please pass my thanks along to John and wish him luck for the upcoming season from me.

Jeff Conwell, MD
Commander, Medical Corps, USNR
Friday, January 03, 2003

PS: If anyone is ever in town, drop me a line (, I am always looking for riding partners.

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Bust Wüst

If what is being reported by the unpaid Coast riders is correct, (Marcel) Wüst should be busted and Coast excluded from the top ten teams. I don't agree with Saiz on some things, but I must in this case.

Thanks for your great coverage of cycling news.

Mac Teats
Wednesday, January 08, 2003

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Mario Cipollini

I am really going to miss Super Mario when he does finally throw in the towel. I can think of no other rider who can cause riotous conversations between cycling fans by just showing up and being himself. Of course, having palmares that encompasses many of the great races in the sport helps...

I just wanted to wish Mario luck this year as he tries to best Binda's record in the Giro. I also wish him the best in Milan-San Remo.

More than anything though, I just wanted to say, Thanks for being you Mario. I am sure we won't see another world Champion like you for a long time, if ever!

Pete Lester
Tuesday, January 07, 2003

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CN Top 10 - Cipollini over Armstrong? #1

People are seeming to forget once again about what the WHOLE season was about. Especially it seems, my fellow Americans...

Cipollini won a lot of races this year. He is NOT, I repeat, NOT a stage racer. He knows this, we know this, the entire world who follows cycling knows this. A stage race, while to some, might seem to be the ultimate test of a racing cyclist. But to others, this is not the ultimate test, the ultimate tests are the Classics.

Look at the riders who compete in the Classics and do well in them. Zabel, Cipo, McEwen, Museeuw, Bettini, and the list goes on from there. Do you see a stage race winner in there? And people seem to forget that the entire race sprinters are not just sitting about being pensive. It's not like they get dropped off 10k from the finish line, and then do their thing. They still have to ride the 200k+ races, and still have kick enough left to get themselves and their bikes going over 40mph at the end of a race.

Yes, Cipollini is a sprinter. A pure sprinter? I don't know about that. He seems to be evolving even as he grows older and wiser. Did he not make the break in Gent - Wevelgem this year, and then take the sprint at the finish after bridging by himself? I didn't see a zebra train on that finish. Sure this was once, but it could happen again. And Cipo does finish stage races. I believe he finished the Giro this year, and there are plenty of tough stages in there. Ask Cadel Evans about such things. As for the assertion that Cipo didn't win all year long. Let's look at his palmares for this year.

* Milan - San Remo
* Gent - Wevelgem
* Six stages of the Giro d'Italia
* Three stages of the Vuelta
* The World Championship

That is just the short list. Lance is a dominant rider to be sure. But he did not have the same kind of year that Cipo did, and Cipo deserves to be named rider of the year. Not just for his accomplishments on the bike, but also in being a good - no make that great - representative of the sport that we all love. Also for once unifying the Italian National team and taking the rainbow jersey.

Cipo deserves it, and as far as I know, not too many un-informed people read Cyclingnews on a daily basis. Most of the people that read it that I know personally are adamant cycling fans and racers.

The people have spoken. Get over it. Lance will win next year when he takes Tour #5. I mean come on, he's won everything else this year. AP athlete of the year, Sports Illustrated athlete of the year, and on and on. It's time someone else gets the spotlight.

Bravo Mario! Bravo!

Tom Arsenault
Chapel Hill, NC, USA
Saturday, January 04, 2003

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CN Top 10 - Cipollini over Armstrong? #2

You have got to be kidding. Based on Lance "Don't Mess with Texas" Armstrong rarely finishing in the top 10 of any bunch sprint in a multi stage race, he is nothing but a pure stage racer. A great one true, but not worthy of being in the top ten performers at all.

I have a picture in my mind of Armstrong not riding the Giro, while Mario Cipollini was winning 6 stages, and finishing with the points jersey for most consistent finisher.

Get it folks? Armstrong is the best currently, and amongst the best all time, at what he does. Cipollini is the best currently, and amongst the best all time, at what he does. To say one deserves to be in the top ten, but the other shouldn't be included, is bunk.

Chris Fabri
Evanston, IL, USA
Sunday, January 05, 2003

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CN Top 10 - Cipollini over Armstrong? #3

Maybe its all the little flakes of rusted 4130 chromoly seeping into my bloodstream, but the cycling season, much less an entire chronological year, does not begin and end with 23 days in July.

Sure, I think what Lance does is incredible. But come August, his season was done, while Cipo was preparing for his second (let me repeat that: SECOND) Grand Tour of the Year, and the World Championships.

Cipo was winning races in the early spring while Lance was DNF'ing for the purposes of training. Cipo was drawing within one stage win of a record in June while Lance was racing to train. Lance was stomping the Euros in July while Cipo...was taking a siesta. Lance was making mandatory publicity appearances in August while Cipo was gearing up to conquer the plains of Spain, and eventually, the plane of Zolder.

Statistically, Cipo delivered on two of his three promises, while Lance only got one of several (albeit the big one). And Cipo did finish the Giro, wearing the points jerseys.

Don't get me wrong. I love Lance and all he's done, especially for the sport in the U.S., but guys like Cipo and Zabel are the ones who race year round. Therefore, they should be the ones considered Road Rider of the YEAR.

Stephen Schilling
Indiana, USA
Monday, January 06, 2003

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CN Top 10 - Cipollini over Armstrong? #4

Once again I see we feel like criticising people for achieving their objectives. Why should Cipo care about the Vuelta? Maybe if Erik did not insist on finishing all of his Tours then he would have been fresh enough to beat Cipo on occasion. Wait before you laugh, remember, Zabel has been quoted thinking that it was indeed his exhaustive training and year round racing regime catching up which him which caused his reduction in speed.

I also remember reading a comment from one of the Saeco staff last time they resigned Mario, saying that he has lots of longevity, despite his age, due to the fact he has never expended himself from January to October.

Mario went into the Season with two goals, MSR and World's, he won them both, despite the fact this time last year he was thought of as an overrated washed up relic. This is the same issue as Lance not racing classics, and unfortunately with the specialization that is becoming more and more common, that is what you need to do to win big when you want to.

If Mario had finished the Vuelta and lost out to Robbie at World's, he would not have any of the praise or legacy that fans are now saying he has secured. So toss up World Champion...or Vuelta finisher?

Well, he made his choice. I think he's pleased with how it turned out.

Fraser Hogg
Calgary Canada
Monday, January 06, 2003

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CN Top 10 - Cipollini over Armstrong? #5

Ranking Mario Cipollini ahead of Lance Armstrong was spot on. Also, one huge event of the past year that has been completely overlooked in the recent readers' letters pertaining to this subject is that not only did Cipo win Milan-San Remo and World's, but he won Gent-Wevelgem in absolutely gritty and heroic fashion.

In a race with a few cobbles and a handful of viciously steep classics climbs, Super Mario was left without his usual "armchair ride" to the finish line. In fact, he had to pull out all the spots to complete an awe-inspiring descent on hairpin, twisting cobbles, followed by a long, hard solo pursuit of such classics horses as George Hincapie to latch onto the lead escape group. From that point on, there was no doubt who would win the race by several bike lengths, and who was the toughest, classiest rider to make it into Wevelgem.

Although dismissed as a pretty boy or a one-trick-pony, Cipo shone in a way worthy of a true cycling hardman.

Also, just like Armstrong, Cipollini didn't just achieve his one big objective (World's). Instead, was "right on time for all of his rendezvous points," as Paul Sherwen would say - winning the races he wanted, making Robbie McEwen look second rate just as he wanted, taking every Giro stage he wanted, using the Vuelta for both easy glory and perfect World's preparation, and then withdrawing right on time to go do his thing and then stamp his authority on the World Championships to cap off a near perfect season.

Oh yeah, his perfect season was a hell of a lot more exciting than Armstrong's six weeks in June and July of clockwork victories, as well.

Jordan Sagalowsky
Mon, 6 Jan 2003

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CN Top 10 - Cipollini over Armstrong #6

Opinions are great, but it 's nice to see them backed up by facts once in a while. From last week:

1. Cipo "rarely finishing any multi stage race."

FYI, Cipo has only ever dropped out of a stage race when he has more winnable races planned for the upcoming weeks. Remember seeing him in the points jersey at the Giro? Do you think he got a free pass through the Italian mountains? FYI, a good number of Giro riders "deserted" to stay fresh for the TdF, and a good number of Vuelta riders "deserted" this year so they could stay fresh for the World's. That's pro racing.

2. "Mario's best result is still too recent memory while Lance's domination was spring through July."

I guess you were only looking at the pictures and didn't read the actual article. MSR, the G-W, then six stages of the Giro, all the way to the World's - sounds like a full season to me.

3. "Lance...ends the season a little early" and is "no Merckx."

Yeah, and Beckham is no Pele because the balls are juiced these days, and NFL footballers are all wimps because they don't wear leather helmets and don't play offense and defense.

Pro Racing 2003 ain't your daddy's Pro Racing. Training and conditioning are too advanced, resulting in highly specialized athletes who have to race to their strengths. The next time someone wins both a major tour and the World Cup in the same year, I'm buying beers for all Cyclingnews readers (and the staff, of course).

But for perspective, remember this: Cipo on his worst day can still out climb 99.9% of the general population, and Heras on his worst day can still out-sprint 99.9% of us. So let's appreciate these guys for what they are doing, not for the little bit that they aren't.

Steve O'Dell
Ft Wood MO USA
Wednesday, January 08, 2003

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CN Top 10 - Cipollini over Armstrong #7

William, in your quote "uninformed spectator group that wants to see someone cross the line with flair, like football, without any appreciation for the people who hammer out the whole event with an intelligent and disciplined game plan," you reveal your ignorance with glaring clarity.

How is it that Cipo can win events without hammering the whole event or having an intelligent game plan? Please explain how he can bridge huge gaps by himself at the end of 150 mile races and still summon 40+ mph speed? Was he not in the same event? Did he not plan intelligently? He is so good at what he does (ride a bicycle) that you will never have any idea to what level. He is a specialist but he is good at everything.

Lance is an exception (a one race specialist), Indurain was an exception. Almost all cyclists are specialists. Cipo rode the miles, he covered the attacks, he did not crash, he went up the hills, he trained his team to function as a unit and he does the truly unimaginable...wins races.

If you have ever been in a pro sprint you have the utmost respect for Cipo and his kind. I guess you think Dion Sanders should be passed over too?

Saturday, January 04, 2003

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CN Top 10 - Cipollini over Armstrong #8

The whiners who say Cipo doesn't deserve Best Road Rider should be required to climb the Poggio, followed by the Kemmelberg. The year's defining moment for Cipo wasn't when he crossed any finish line, even at Zolder. It was when he jumped across a widening gap in Gent-Wevelgem. On his own. And then chased down the inevitable attacks. On his own. He made it over the climbs that usually shell the pure sprinters (and may have shelled Cipo in previous years) in Milan-San Remo and the aforementioned Gent-Wevelgem. And he performed perfectly at World's, with a weight not dissimilar from that of the yellow jersey on his shoulders: a weight of Italian and indeed global expectation that would have sapped the strength from thighs thicker than Cipo's were they attached to a rider of lesser class.

Cipo won at the season's traditional beginning, ending, and in between. Sure, he's a great sprinter. Many people apparently don't appreciate the huge courage this entails. And as surely as Lance's team sets him up for that mountain-top fist-pumping, Cipo's team controls the final hours of races, not just the final meters. Bunch sprints are the culmination of hours of blistering pace setting, break-chasing, and mounting tension - a piece of the picture the Tour videos inevitably leave out.

Above all, despite his antics, Cipo respects the sport and its demands. A lot of credit rightly goes to Eric Zabel for the huge base miles he puts in during the winter. Cipo trains just as hard, while carefully cultivating the illusion that it all comes naturally to him.

In short, it's those who don't "get" Cipo's particular brand of brilliance and its less-than-glamorous underbelly who are the "uninformed spectator group."

Thanks, indeed, to Cyclingnews for not pandering to those who buy anything with Lance glaring from the cover, riding ceaselessly uphill. Don't get me wrong. Lance is far and away my favourite cyclist - indeed, my inspiration to begin cycling after his '99 TDF win. And until recently, I've been inclined to regard Mario with a suspicion that occasionally touched on derision.

But not this year. Not after the teeth-rattling descent of the Kemmelberg in a muddy spring race hardly calculated to make Cipo look pretty at the finish. Not after crossing the line in Zolder in front of hundreds of journalists with pens poised to rip him to shreds had he failed.

Indeed, the willingness of riders of nearly equal ego and clearly equal aspiration to ride on his behalf at World's is testament to the respect in which his abilities are held. Petacchi pulling on the front for Cipo at season's end stood in sharp contrast to Sevilla and Gonzalez' Vuelta "teamwork."

Yep, this was a year in which the word "character" next to Cipo's name took on a whole new meaning.

Ed Granger
Lancaster, PA
January 3, 2003

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CN Top 10 - Cipollini over Armstrong #9

I just wanted to point out to William Stephens that any race that ends in a bunch sprint means that the sprinters also hammered out the miles before the final dash for glory in the final 100 meters of the race.

To use the comparison of a drag race is not a fair criticism of sprinters. During the flatter days in major stage races that finish in bunch sprints, those riders put in the same amount of miles before the big finish as the guy who pulls all day only to end up in the back of the pack at the end. It's not like these guys are sitting in the team van until the final 3 miles of the race.

I must also point out that, as much as I love riders who finish high up the GC in the Grand Tours like Lance Armstrong, they often sit in the pack until the final uphill stretch of a stage like the sprinters do when it's their day to shine.

You even mentioned in your own letter about how Lance Armstrong has the best team around him. Without trying to discredit Lance's accomplishments, did you fail to realize the amount of work put in during the tour by Roberto Heras or Chechu Rubiera? Their accomplishments and contributions to Armstrong's success are nothing less than what Lombardi does for Cipollini. Lance is one of the world's best (if not the best) in the time trial and in the mountains, but that does not mean that world class sprinters are any less athletes than pure climbers or time realists.

I am not a Lance Armstrong critic or naysayer, truth be told, I idolize the man and his abilities, but to discredit the abilities of sprinters to make a case for Armstrong is an injustice to the sport of cycling. For every case you can make about how Mario Cipollini bails out of the big races when the roads turn uphill, you can make a case that Lance doesn't compete full steam for the full year. Both are a bunch of BS and only serve to simplify and diminish the accomplishments of riders of different disciplines.

The days of the complete rider that can climb, sprint, and time trial seem to be over. Riders like Eddy Merckx, who could compete in the Grand Tours as well as the Spring Classics seem to be a thing of the past. Cycling is now a big money sport and with limited sponsor's funds available, teams need to win as much as possible, and in all types of races. Specialty riders are not only the present, but the future of cycling as well, and that means that the accomplishments of Mario Cipollini must be categorized right up there with Lance Armstrong and Johan Museeuw.

To try to simplify the sprinters role by saying it's like a drag race is like saying that Michael Johnson is not nearly as good a runner as Moses "Kip" Tanui. Again, it's BS and overly simplified. The sport of cycling is much too dynamic to discredit a sprinter's ability because at the end of the day it's all about who crossed the finish line first.

The Grand Tours are a fantastic spectacle, but you can not fall into the trap of thinking that they are the only thing out there. Just because in the US we are rarely offered a glimpse of the best one day races does not mean the Tour de France is on the top of every rider's objectives. Sure, ask any cyclist if he would like to win the Tour and they would all say yes, but ask any rider if they would also like to win a World Championship or Paris-Roubaix and the answer is still going to be yes.

A win is a win, and Mario Cipollini won a lot last year. That may explain why the READERS voted him number 1.

Russ Williams
Gainesville, Fl, USA
(by the way, I voted for Lance!)
Thursday, January 09, 2003

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CN Top 10 - Cipollini over Armstrong? #10

No to worry boys, Lance will be voted the best cyclist of all time. Best of 2002 is just too easy! You have to give the scraps to someone or it will be a Tiger Woods world

Saturday, January 04, 2003

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Ed: As you can see, this topic stirred up our readers, who did vote for Cipollini as "Best of 2002" in various categories of our reader poll. The above is a selection of the responses, including all of those in favour of the original argument.

Cipo and Pantani

In response to CM's letter about Marco Pantani's popularity in Italy... he would be better compared with Michael Jordan here in the states. Both were superstars in their prime, and looked upon in their respective sports as the greatest ever. Keeping in mind, we are talking about the Italian perception of Marco Pantani, not the US one.

Now both are nearing the end of their careers, yet both remain hugely popular in their sports and both can be seen as doing no wrong, despite evidence to the contrary. The other part of this analogy that holds up is that each's fans would still argue greatness to this day, as well as saying that all the negative comments and allegations made against them are pure fiction and the product of a jealous media digging for a story.

Russ Williams
Gainesville, Fl
Thursday, January 09, 2003

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Top Personalities - McEwen number 1? #1

All right, we know that this is an Australian site, and a very, very fine one. But, putting McEwen above Cipollini in a ranking of the sports personalities is just, well, silly.

Still and all, you're a great bunch of folks doing a fabulous job, so a little nationalistic self-promotion is forgiven.

Keep up the good work.

Tom Nagle
Washington, D.C., USA
Monday, January 06, 2003

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Top Personalities - McEwen number 1? #2

Robbie Mc as the number one personality is certainly less strange (and not undeserving) than Cyclingnews' reasons for it.

The guy can ride no doubt and is certainly a personality, but I have a dozen e mails this morning (most are AUS and UK) laughing at the fact that you chose to use the quote "what goes on tour stays on tour" while writing about a specific case where Mc chose not to do it. And saying the field was even and that they both did "what professionals do", when Lance stayed pretty quiet while Robbie ran the yap, is a little off, no?

Adding "nor are the majority of his comments without foundation" is correct but misleading, in that it doesn't bring to light that the more popular instances of Robbie speaking up this year were denied in total (in the letters section in direct response to my letter, among others like it), including the fist-in-mouth verbiage with Armstrong.

I love this site, and will be here every morning reading away (and buggin' the shorts off you guys...). I admit that Robbie's not my favourite person, although I love the way he rides, but even with that being the case, your reasoning for making Rob number one reads like a whitewash attempt to give him back some of the credibility he lost with his actions this year.

I didn't notice CN nor any other publications posting any retractions when Mc came out denying his words or actions in his own letter. This seems more like a political "sorry about posting those letters Robbie" from CN than it does anything else.

Charles M,
Phoenix AZ.
Tuesday, January 07, 2003

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Ed: The Top Personality was not an easy one to pick, but it was done on based on "colour" rather than anything else. In the end, Anthony Tan thought that Robbie was a more colourful character than Mario (who won just about everything else) this year.

We make no apologies for publishing letters about (or by) Robbie about that incident. Suffice it to say that we stand by the original story in its entirety.

Top 10 Nordic Moments

Seems to me, Andy Hampsten's Giro win launch over the Gavia in 1988 should count as a top Nordic Moment, regardless of where he was born.

Viking food for all!

Mark Adams
Englewood, Colorado
Wednesday, January 08, 2003

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Reader poll: bikes #1

Tyler Hamilton and a few others were on Parlee Carbon (Boston Mass) this year (although rebadged). The bikes are similar in ride quality and are offered in custom sizes at the same price (or less) than the Euro fabric bikes. As a matter of fact, the Parlee was rebadged to say "Look".

Don't knock it till you've tried it all.

Charles M.
Phoenix AZ USA
Saturday, January 04, 2003

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Reader poll: bikes #2

Never mind a Pegoretti Marcelo, a bike that all but picks you up out of the saddle and puts your heart in your mouth. Carbon has its place, but light steel from a builder with several decades of experience building for first division teams rules.

For me it is about the bike.

Jay Dwight
Saturday, January 04, 2003

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Reader poll: bikes #3

The reader's poll for best bike should be reviewed more carefully: Yes, the USPS Trek (I wanna be like Lance) had 16.7% of the vote. But total ALL Colnago votes and they tally 17.0%. And that's based upon appreciation of the equipment, not hero worship.

Ray Martin
Soprano-land USA
Tuesday, January 07, 2003

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Reader poll: bikes #4

I have had the chance to ride the Trek and find it to be dead, dead, dead. Not the lively ride I look for in my bikes. My vote for the best bike of the year? My own, yes I do have a bias, Ciocc Challenger. The price is great and the ride is even better. Italy still makes the best bikes.

Pete Lester
Thursday, January 09, 2003

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Letter writer of the year

Much as I've enjoyed the top 10s of 2002, I think one is missing. I'd like to propose a review of the year's letter writing. Without going to the trouble of collecting votes, you could probably pull something together along the lines of most read, most responses, most posts etc. [Stand-in letters ed: Arrrgghhh!]

However if we're taking votes, my first goes to Regis Chapman for his many contributions backed by good sense and experience. Based on what I've read, he seems to be the sort of guy you'd like to have in your local cycling club. My second vote goes to John Lieswyn for speaking up on issues that his colleagues don't talk about.

No set of awards however is complete without predictions for the new year. My prediction for next year's "All mouth and no trousers" award goes to Tom Boonen for his own classics predictions. I will eat my turbo saddle when he places top three in any of the Tour of Flanders, Paris Roubaix or Liege Bastogne Liege. Hopefully this will spur him on to great things.

Keep up the great work at Cyclingnews, and happy training to all those in the northern hemisphere out riding in sub-zero conditions.

Andrew Salmon
London, UK
Monday, January 06, 2003

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Becoming a pro in Europe #1

Now this is a New Year's Resolution! Replies in numbered order:

1. (Central to lots of racing): Ghent, Belgium
2. (Have an English speaking university): Ghent University
3. (Have sunnier weather than the UK): No Chance
4. (Not cost loads of money to live/race): Ghent, Belgium

If you have dreams or aspirations to race on the required level, you should be approaching it via a national team. If you can compete on a national level with the UK's best racers, then you would/should have been noticed by now. If you are approaching it from a different angle, hey why not go for it, and see if you can make the grade?

Belgian Kermesses are the "sensible" option, low cost entry, hard racing, prizes to 30th, most easily reached from Ghent. May is the best time to arrive, that would also give you an opportunity to race in the UK and fine tune your form beforehand.

If you're good, it will show in Belgium. Others will notice, presenting career options with improved races to ride with a team.

And then it will get harder.

After that, if you are producing the "goods" then a pro team opportunity may present itself, but either way, a season in Belgium will reveal whether you have what it takes.

Good Luck
Bikesport Europe
Saturday, January 04, 2003

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Becoming a pro in Europe #2

I visited Toulouse back in the mid 80's and at that time contacted the Federation Francaise de Cyclisme in Toulouse just to go and say hello and see if I could add to my collection of racing jerseys. They were really nice guys; they gave me a Pyrenees Regional representative jersey and a local club jersey.

They also offered to host riders from Canada. I put them in contact with our Federation and I believe that a Canadian rider did subsequently spend a year with a local club, riding races which covered some of the climbs of the Tour de France! What he received was just room and board; there was no salary.

Perhaps you could try that approach? I have lost all my contact addresses and I suspect the President, who was elderly at the time, has probably quit by now. I am sure you can find addresses from the French Federation website. There may even be some kind of arrangement between the FFC and the British Cycling Federation. As you may know Toulouse is a University town so that would be good for your wife.

I hope this helps. Good luck.

Terry Rooney
Tuesday, January 07, 2003

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I'm not exactly sure what Steve Moult's intention was in criticising Australian cricket - but he should at least get his facts right. It was one cricketer, not two, and the implication was that he played for Australia - he doesn't.

The drugs issue needs less hyperbole and finger pointing, and more workable solutions. Just saying "other sports bodies are even worse" doesn't help our sport of cycling at all.

Matthew Barr
Saturday, January 04, 2003

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Haematocrit Levels

To the best of my knowledge, the 50% level was chosen because it is two standard deviations more than the "average" for the population (I think 43 or 44). My stats class tells me this range should include more than 97% of the population. There will always be outliers - statistical anomalies - but you have to start somewhere. Going three STDs over the norm would have given too much room for people to play with.

For people with a naturally high level, medical exceptions have been granted based on long term test results that show an above "normal" level. Multiple tests are needed to eliminate the effects of things like high altitude training sessions, dehydration.

Steve F
Denver CO
Sunday, January 05, 2003

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Lance Armstrong #1

Erik Van Bommels comments regarding Lance Armstrong are thoroughly correct. I do not believe that LA's record withstands comparison to the records of Merckx, Coppi, Hinault, Anquetil or Kelly. This is not to say that LA is not a great cyclist.

When you consider that LA has overcome a life threatening illness to win four consecutive Tours De France, it is a phenomenal achievement, and I applaud Lance Armstrong's cycling achievements. His record is very impressive. But his cycling record, whether one likes it or not, does not compare to the palmares of Merckx, et al.

Even if you compare Lance's record to Miguel Indurain (about which the media appear to be fixated): unfortunately Lance's record does not compare favourably to MI's record. Miguel managed to do the double double, ie win the Tour De France and Giro in the same year in 1992 and 1993 respectively.

Miguel certainly deserves to be considered as an all-time great but I remain to be convinced of the arguments put forward by LA fans.

Some objectivity needs to be brought to this discussion - I think that it is fair to say that Lance is the best cyclist of this generation (1998-to present). However, one cannot suggest that LA be considered as an all-time great unless and until he wins more races.

The cycling season is a lot longer than three weeks in July each year. I hope that perhaps we'll get to see LA's undoubted cycling ability when (if!) he decides to test himself in other cycling events.

Seamus Weber
Monday, January 06, 2003

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Lance Armstrong #2

Erik, I agree with you concerning this matter about who is the greatest. Yes it may be true that Lance has won the Tour de France four times. I have not accepted him as the biggest and greatest cyclist of all time. I also agree with you about where is Lance suffering during the Spring and Autumn races?

Lance is basically doing the same as what Greg Lemond did. He only picks the Tour has his major race while most other cyclists are racing all year long and have competed in more races than Armstrong.

I view Coppi and Merckx as the greatest of all times in cycling. I will also have to add in Major Taylor who during the late 1800s and early 1900 had to overcome racism to be the best in track racing. He had to overcome far greater obstacles than any other racer in the history of the sport to achieve his goal of Champion.

Joseph L. Sweet
Tuesday, January 6, 2003

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Lance Armstrong #3

Comparing a rider from today's peloton to the greats of the past is a pointless conversation thanks to Willie Voet's book, Breaking the Chain. We are all now aware of differences in training and race preparation in general prior to 1998. I don't need to mention names to make my point, because the whole peloton is different, not just a few great riders. Lance dominates today's peloton. Eddie dominated his. They are both great riders compared to their challengers.

In regard to the often heard complaint that Lance only rides three weeks a year...check the career points for all current Classics riders. You'll notice that guy who "only races the TDF" also places in the top 10 for career points there too. Why do people keep saying he doesn't race them anymore?

E. Gribbell
Seattle, WA USA

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Lance Armstrong #4

Please can we leave this alone. Lance Armstrong is not the greatest, and he has never hinted as much. You simply cannot compare different riders from different eras. It's only in the case of Eddy Merckx that he stands above all others. Very, very few sports men or women do that. You mention a sport and a name is mentioned.

Ali - Boxing.
Navratilova - Tennis.

Who is to say that Greg LeMond wouldn't have won 5+ TDF's. Because of who he was up against. I fear if Lance decides to retire, the focus in the cycling media, which is at the moment mostly Lance and US Postal, will just disappear like it seemed to after Greg retired. Cycling has a very rich history, which makes it the great sport it is. So why the bickering? People seem to want to have a go at Pantani, Ulrich, Cipo, JaJa.. whoever. But the sum of what they've contributed to the sport of cycling, means that they should be appreciated. The sight of super Mario in a rainbow jersey, terrific.. enjoy it for what it can do for CYCLING.

Alistair Bell
Perth Scotland
January 9, 2003

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Paul Tracy and winners

Phil, unlike you and me, Paul Tracy is getting PAID to race. And unlike all the rest of the professional cart drivers who keep their salaries, Paul chooses to put his money where his mouth is. More power to him. By the way, how much did YOU give to LAF last year? No hard feelings, pal, but I appreciate both his contribution and the symbolism it generates for his sponsors. You should too; it's not "mixed" from my perspective.

Monday, January 06, 2003

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American English #1

World history and the English Language:

For a great while England was the pre-eminent world power. The Empire of (once greater) Great Britain lasted for quite a few years and spun off quite a few major contributions to World Culture, the bulk of which were enormously positive, though some folks certainly have reasons to gripe...

A brief list of some of the more notable contributions the English have "given" the world include: The countries of Canada, Australia, modern India, quite a few modern African nations, and the United States (I suppose I've missed some here...). A legal system, a governmental system, an educational system, and a language.

And a very fine language it indeed is. However, being a typical American, I know no other with any amount of fluency with which to compare.

English IS the "world's language" now, so to speak. I don't mean to offend anyone here...but the facts are the facts...

Post World War 2 World History has been the story (like it or not) of the Economic and Cultural Empire of Americanism. The preeminent world power of any era tends to color (or colour, if you prefer) the whole of world culture with its particular hue...and sway. Thus we Americans now say:

"He did good."

When, of course, we should say:

"He did well."

And (in my opinion UNFORTUNATELY) often the world tends to follow an American lead. So we are all now being treated to the rise and evolution of the "American-English" language. Or to be really obnoxiously ethnocentric, (but not very self flattering) "Americanise".

So cheer up all you Commonwealth folks out there...and be happy to know that your language is being "evolved" by a nation that has a "national newspaper", USA Today, that is purposely written to the reading level of the average United States fourth grader (a 9 year old child).

On a somewhat related topic I ask you all to consider the fact that the greatest of the modern English language writers are mostly all not Englishmen. James Joyce, William Faulkner, Ernie Hemingway, Chuck Bukowski, Bob Dylan etc. Well, there was Dylan Thomas I suppose, but he was Welsh, and that's a whole different story.

For that matter (on a topic that finally IS related to CYCLING), almost all of the greatest English Language cyclists of the modern era are not Englishmen. Kelly, LeMond, Roche, Armstrong, Bauer, Robbie Mick and all the rest of the great, and super talented, current Aussies, etc. For the English there were Yates, Boardman, now Millar, but then you have to go all the way back to Tom Simpson!

Travis (Just your typical rabidly ethnocentric Obnoxious AMERICAN) Hartman
United States of America (or as we like to think "Central Axis Point of the known Universe")
January 4, 2003

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American English #2

With all due respect to Ian Loxton, who lives in Sydney as do my cousins Lisa, Lilo, and David, his letter was quite ironic in its complaint.

Yes, Americans can be very nationalistic, and I imagine "Americanization" is a real concern for many people in other countries. However, your Aborigines and our Native Americans may have something more valid to say about globalization, and the sublimation of one culture to another that is more aggressive and/or dominant. It didn't start with the crusades, and it won't end with Americanization.

Both Americans and Australians live in the very paradigm of glass houses. Neither of us should be throwing stones.

Again, with all due respect,

Michael Sylvan
Seattle, Washington, USA (though I admit the family are immigrants from Europe by way of Canada)
January 3, 2003 (Gregorian Calendar?)

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American English #3

Do all Australians think the internet is only available in their country and their dialect? Come on, it is called the World Wide Web for a reason. Of course some of us find your own phrases interesting also. All I have to say is that if I called one of my male riding friends "mate" he would think I was flirting with him and want to fight. Mates around here reproduce to propagate the species!

This is all in jest so don't be too upset.

Sammy Johnson
USA, Fluent in American English
January 4, 2003

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Back Surgery

I am a computer programmer by trade, and used to experience recurring tendonitis in my wrists. After a few months of particularly acute pain, I chanced to pick up Sarno's book at a shop. After reading his book, and applying his theory, I was cured within weeks, and have been symptom free for two and a half years.

Sarno's theory, nicely summarized here , proposes that a wide variety of chronic joint maladies are part of a normal physiological response to emotional situations. He proposes emotional intervention, rather than mechanical intervention, to treat such illnesses. This is not to be confused with hysteria, hypochondria, mental weakness, malingering, etc. The symptoms result from perfectly real, physiological processes, but they are part of the body's reaction to emotional stress, rather than signs of exogenous injury.

If you are experiencing an "overuse" injury of any sort, I cannot recommend Sarno's book highly enough. It may or may not be applicable to you, but for me it was more useful than any exercises, braces, or drugs my primary care physician prescribed, and may have saved me a surgery.

Keith Adams
Mountain View, CA USA
Friday, January 03, 2003

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Cyclists and motorists #1

I don't know the laws where other cyclists live, but in Wisconsin it is illegal for cyclists to ride two or more abreast if other traffic is impeded. Cyclists are then required to ride single file and close to the edge of the road. Cyclists may not force a motorist behind them to pull into an oncoming lane of traffic to pass. Motorists are required to give cyclists 3 feet of clearance when they pass; if there is traffic in the opposing lane, then motorists may not be able to grant that safety clearance unless the cyclists are riding single file.

Unless cyclists are riding in an event held in cooperation with local law enforcement and with lanes designated for riding, cyclists may not impede other traffic; it doesn't matter if the cyclists are on a club recreational ride or on a club training ride.

The laws are taught to schoolchildren, taught in drivers' education, given to bike purchasers by many bike stores, are in our state motorists' handbook, and are posted on several websites. There probably are not many plausible excuses for adult cyclists or motorists who claim ignorance of the laws.

Are the laws fair to cyclists? Should the laws be changed so that cyclists can ride abreast whenever they choose? If the laws should be changed, what is the most effective way to do so? That's another discussion. In the meantime I suggest that, for safety and for the consideration of others' rights, riders and motorists learn and follow the local laws regarding cycling.

I used to go on weekly recreational rides with a local group until the number of scoff-law cyclists forcing confrontations with angry and in-the-legal-right motorists made me ashamed of and afraid to ride with the group. Because cycling is so popular here and because several cycling groups often impede motor traffic in the Madison area, I fear that it is only a matter of time before a motorist drives into a group of riders and injures or kills someone, which I believe has happened elsewhere and has been reported by Cyclingnews.

E. Ciganovich
Madison, Wisconsin, USA
Saturday, January 04, 2003

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Cyclists and motorists #2

Andy Farrand is a wise man with good advice. In the training ride I do, the rule is two abreast single file on busy roads, period. The ride leader gives you one warning. The second warning no riding with the group for a few weeks. This seems to keep the riding reasonably safe and motorists content.

Good stuff to think about.

Isaac St. Martin
Saturday, January 04

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Recent letters pages

  • January 3 - Reader Poll: Cipo Best Road Rider?, CN Top 10 - Cipollini over Armstrong?, Cyclists and motorists, Back Surgery, Becoming a pro in Europe, Cipo and Pantani, Cipo, Garzelli, Haematocrit levels, Lance Armstrong, Paul Tracy and winners, Women's racing and bikes, The greatest?, VDB is no baby, 'Cross in the USA, Classic Cycling Photos, 'American' English in Cyclingnews
  • December 20 - Cipo and Pantani, Lance Armstrong & Tour number five, The need for supplements, Cuba, Graeme Miller, Gerard Bisceglia Interview, T-Mobile, Racing in Asia, 'Cross in the USA, Back surgery, Cyclists and motorists, Garzelli, Gene doping, USA Cycling, Paul Tracy and winners, Tom Boonen
  • December 13 - Tom Boonen, T-Mobile, 'Cross in the USA, Graeme Miller, Why Lance will win his 5th Tour, The need for supplements, Scott Moninger, Cipo and Pantani, Velodrome certification, Asian races, Gene doping, Robbie McEwen, The media in cycling, Back surgery, Climbers vs sprinters, Training in Spain, Brooklyn Cycling Club
  • December 5 - 'Cross in the USA, Tainted supplements, Tom Boonen, The media in cycling, Scott Moninger, Back surgery, EPO, Climbers versus sprinters, Cows biggest threat to overseas riders in Asian races, Nancy L. Contreras Reyes 33.605s, Original Tour du Pont, Peugeot Jerseys, Stolen bike
  • November 29 - Scott Moninger, Climbers vs Sprinters, Atrial fibrillation, EPO, 'Cross in the USA, Back surgery, Keirin, The media in cycling, Tom Boonen, Tyler Hamilton, Original Tour du Pont, Doping
  • November 21 - Robbie McEwen & the media, Tom Boonen, Bas Van Dooren, Cyclo-cross USA, DynEPO, John Lieswyn's Diaries, Saeco and Cannondale, TdF 2003, Atrial fibrillation, Cyclo-Sportifs, Joseba Beloki,, Tyler Hamilton, Cipo, 'Ferrari' people mover
  • November 18 - Bas Van Dooren, Tom Boonen, Cyclo-cross USA, Atrial Fibrillation among the pros, Cipo, TdF 2003, DynEPO, Saeco and Cannondale, Living in Europe, Soren Lilholt, VDB, Where's Tom Leaper?, Cyclo-Sportifs, Amstel Gold Race
  • November 8 - Botero's contract, Atrial Fibrillation among the pros?, Tour de France 2003 Presentation & Sean Kelly's jersey, TdF 2003, What about Tyler?, Graeme Obree film, Horner/Trenti, Jan Ullrich, Amstel Gold Race, Big Mat/Gitane, Boxless bicycling, Cipo, VDB, Living in Europe, Lisa Mathison, Mass start event safety issues, Podium Boyz Pic, Raul Alcala, Shaving, 19th Century 24 hour racing
  • October 31 - A House Divided..., Robbie McEwen, Botero, Real inclines, Lance's seat post, Chris Horner, Cipo, Namibia, Numb data, Pics of Bauer's chopper, Shaving, What about Tyler?, Jan Ullrich, Jan Ullrich's knee pads, Women's race length
  • October 25 - Robbie McEwen defends himself, Cipo, The Worlds Sprint, Chris Horner, Cipo and Pantani, Tour selection, Namibia, I had that Brad McGee in my store once, What about Tyler?, Botero, Lance in good company, Lance's seat post, Numbed by the data, Real inclines, World Masters Games in Oz, Young champions, Shaving
  • October 18 - The World's, What is up with Robbie McEwen?, Cipo and Pantani, Botero, Lieswyn and Australian races, Namibia?, Numbed by the data, Shaving, Tour de France, Only in Cycling..., World Masters Games, Youngest world pro champion?, What A Goose
  • October 11 - Why Botero is a Champion, It Could Only Happen in Cycling!, UCI change, Climbing Weight, Delgado, Language, Lieswyn and Australian races, Shaving, Univest GP, Triple Bypass Ride, Around Oz racing
  • Letters Index – The complete index to every letters page on