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Letters to Cyclingnews - July 18, 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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Comments on Tyler Hamilton
I just read on your website the comments made by Steven Roche, and I couldn't disagree more. He claims Hamilton's perseverance is bad for the sport because it is such a big story and because it will make people wonder what drugs need to be used to keep him in the saddle? He also claims it is potentially unhealthy for Tyler.
First off, I wouldn't mind seeing Tyler abandon, as it pains me to see him suffer so much. But obviously he has different plans, and I can say I have been inspired by his performance. Tyler didn't ask for all the attention, has done very little to fuel it and I am sure he would prefer to ride around quietly with a healthy collarbone instead. As for riders' behavior fueling rumors about doping, has Mr. Roche forgotten that in 1987 he was so blinded by ambition he ran up a large oxygen debt in a climbing stage, keeled over at the finish and had to be taken away in an ambulance? I am sure that episode is a lot more suspicious to the public than Tyler's current epic ride, but Mr. Roche's concern for the sport's image didn't stop him from continuing the '87 Tour.
To answer Roche's open question: Yes, Tyler is for real, in fact he is the most real and most down-to-earth athlete I have ever had the pleasure to meet. Mr. Roche could learn a thing or two from him.
Comments on Tyler Hamilton #2
Roche and Pou-Pou on Hamilton. Merckx on Armstrong this spring. Guimard on everyone (but he's pretty funny, and usually correct in his judgment, so he gets a pass...) What is with the second guessing and rash comments recently coming from these legends?
Is it that hard to be gracious in retirement? Is it their personalities, always questioning people? Is it resentment at brash Americanism infecting the ranks of the peloton (there were no Yanks when these men where setting their places in history)? Maybe they just needed something interesting to say when the reporters turned in their direction...
Whatever. Just as nothing could be said to detract from the careers of these mighty men, nothing can be said to take away from the accomplishments of this generation of Armstrong's, Cipo's, Tyler's, Beloki's and Simoni's. In a few years time, today's heroes will have their chance to practice the grace and poise that becomes a retired cyclist. Hopefully avoiding the type of comments that would make them sound bitter and petty.
I was shocked to read Tour winner Stephen Roche's comments regarding Tyler Hamilton's continued participation in the Tour despite a fractured clavicle. Roche states that professional cycling in general will take a blow in the public's perception because people will wonder "is this guy for real" and "what shit are they giving him." Does he really believe that this show of strength and courage could actually damage cycling's image? Does he expect any rider to give up easily that what he has worked for a year to achieve?
Along this brilliant line of thinking am I to assume that any superhuman effort made while in the saddle could also do cycling harm? Stephen, you lowered cycling's fan base when you temporarily went deep into the red zone while limiting your losses to Delgado in the 87 Tour. What were you on? Bernard, when you took a header in 85 and broke your nose, the right thing to do by cycling would have been to drop out and save yourself for 86. By the way, don't worry, the winner will still come from La Vie Claire. Lance my boy, too big a risk to return after cancer. People just can't identify with human beings, who seem to in any way, elevate the abilities and accomplishments of the species above the status quo.
Mr. Roche, I wish to speak for most people when I say that Tyler's performance so far in this Tour has been nothing short of inspiring. As a cyclist, I am much more ashamed that Petacchi quit because of the hills, Gonzales quit because he couldn't hack it, and other big mouths have shown lack luster performance after getting me excited about the opposition for once.
Comments on Tyler Hamilton #5
What is the deal with some of these directors and former riders? First the director of Telekom speculates that Tyler is faking his injury as an American publicity stunt. Then Stephen Roche claims that Tyler is discrediting the sport by staying in the race! The sport is dragged through the mud by the so called "stars" - Virenque, VDB, Pantani, Rumsas, etc. due to continued doping offenses, yet these pundits want to focus on someone who refuses to give up and still stands 5th on GC. Please, we are watching what is shaping up as a great tour. These guys should focus on the race.
Comments on Tyler Hamilton #6
What is it with these repeated attempts to devalue Tyler Hamilton's ride at the Tour this year? I mean, just when everyone should be acknowledging that he is indeed the hardest man in cycling, the cynics feel the need to tear him down. I suppose Lance Armstrong's cancer was just a publicity stunt as well? When all is said and done, bike racing is founded on courage and suffering, and Tyler is displaying both. So, give him his props and don't tear the man down, because he is truly one of the greatest.
C. J. Itaya
Straw Poll - should the Team TT be included in the tour?
As I write this, it's the day after l'Alpe d'Huez, and we've seen Mayo put over 2 minutes into the Armstrong and the other main contenders. I don't know whether he will pay for this performance in the next few days, but it would be interesting to see how Lance would have reacted if he was now 2 minutes down in the GC.
Mayo lost over 3 minutes to Armstrong in the Team TT. Let's say that Lance wins his 5th tour this year by 2 minutes over Mayo... would he be as satisfied?
As a response to Larry from Ireland's questioning of Lance's diet and prep for the tour, I have to say, Larry, you're wrong.
Lance knows his body, Lance knows his ideal weight and Lance knows how to prepare correctly. If Lance doesn't know his ideal weight and conditioning status, then he's got PhDs who know for him, as silly as that sounds. Larry I appreciate your need to find a weakness in our hero, but as I'm sure time will show, he has none.
One of the most accurate statements which defines what it takes to become a multi-year champion of a race like this is that the mind quits 80 percent earlier than the body. Lance has the best mind, body and heart. There is no need for worry.
Peter H Laurelli
Armstrong - too much hunger? #2
Mr. Finnegan notes that Lance looks a bit less dominant this year than in previous years. He tells us that he sees less musculature in Lance's legs. And surely his comments about diets close to the Tour have a great deal of merit.
One thing I have noticed is that Lance seems to have a good deal more upper body than in previous Tour win years. In fact, to my eye at least, he appears to be returning to his pre-cancer body with a larger upper body. Perhaps this is what is going to de-throne the King in the very end.
I can only pull for Lance to get his 5th and perhaps that will motivate him on to a 6th and a record that will surely never be broken.
It seems everyone around here has already written off Lance's chances and, moreover, his fitness at this year's Tour. Did Lance have a rough day on the way to Alpe d'Huez? Absolutely. Mayo's win and Vino's ability to put time into Lance were impressive. We should remember, though, that Lance found out he had a rear brake rubbing for about 200km during the stage. This tends to empty the gas tank a little prematurely. And certainly one mountaintop finish does not the Tour make. It was only stage 8, and that's early for Lance to be in yellow (remember, at this point last year, he was 26 seconds behind Galdeano).
Now Vino has taken some more time out of Lance. But let's face it, he would have had a lot less time if Beloki hadn't crashed, thereby forcing Armstrong to Baja a little bit and effectively disrupting the chase (his lead from about 10 or 15 seconds to 36). If the group had finished together, perhaps there would be fewer cries that the reign is over.
This may not be Armstrong's best year. He started the Tour with a stomach virus and has had a few hiccups. This Tour is certainly contested by great riders who have smelled blood and are willing to attack (Hamilton has some serious cojones, and Mayo climbs like a god). But it seems that everyone I talk to here has already written the Texan off. Bad idea. He is, after all, leading the race (as of Tuesday afternoon) and has a history of pulling off a decent time trial here and there. It's a long road to Paris and if I was in Vegas and had to put my money on anyone, it would still be Lance.
Le Tour is paying the price for not having the Zebra Train keeping the early finishes organised at such a pace that only the sprint trains can be up front. Now the Tour has lost its glamour with many GC contenders out due to these crashes.
Certainly I agree with the timing being at 2 or 3 kms and thereafter only the sprint trains being allowed to fight it out. This would still let the leaders / rouleurs of the teams wind up the speed (Ulrich etc etc) before peeling off and letting the gung-ho types dice it out over the last kilometre or so. The bonus points and times in the designated sprint stages wouldn't affect the GC either before or after the mountains.
In response to the letters by Mr Farris and Mr Colucci.
I don't think that the fault lies primarily with the organizers, but rather with the UCI point system. Grand Tours carry more points per stage than other races, and with point totals used to determine which teams ride in the major races, team directors (especially the smaller teams on the fringe of Div 1 and the Div 2 teams looking to move up) are chasing every point available. Many teams also use points when negotiating contracts with riders and this adds to the frenzy in gaining the so-called "minor placings". Not everyone has the luxury of focusing on one race all year (like Armstrong or Botero). Many riders are fighting to keep their jobs in every race.
The organizers also do their best with what is offered them. Many of the cities are hundreds of years old. Should a city be denied hosting a stage because it does not have a completely flat, 10km-long six-lane boulevard with no roundabouts leading into the city center? Also, if every stage had the same pancake-flat super-wide finish it would be pretty boring. The variety of finishes keeps things interesting, lets more riders have a chance at winning.
Finish crashes #3
The Tour organizers seem to think that sprint finishes are the most exciting element in cycling, to the detriment of contenders for the overall. I agree with Theron that the Tour is interesting enough without adding danger to the menu. The organizers apparently believe that each year's Tour is their creation, which must be manipulated to become spectacular. They believe that without their creativity and brilliance, the Tour would wither away. This race should be about athletics. I remember watching the Giro in 2001, when many of the early stages ended on moderate uphills. That was much more exciting to me. Jalabert was amazing to watch that year.
So, now that Petacchi has quit, the Tour might learn that the sprinters are not what make the race so great. Leblanc and company have been burned again by an Italian sprinter, and that seems deserving this year. Personally, I think that Cipo quit on the Tour too many times to be invited back. This is despite the fact that he is my third favorite rider. He is pure class, in talent, work ethic, sportsmanship, and diplomacy, and eloquence.
So I say to the organizers, spread out the bunch on a inclining finish, and reduce the wreckage, and get back fans who become uninterested when their favorite rider crashes out on Day One. Petacchi winning everyday is not a very exciting way to start the '03 Tour.
Whilst it's interesting to read Floyd Landis' views on the Tour - although saying people have no right to attack is an odd view, hello Floyd it's a bike race - do we really need to see his views on Jose Bove and the fact he considers him an idiot? Especially when Bove isn't in prison for 'driving his tractor into a McDonalds' but for destroying a field of GM crops. To a large number of people in France and the wider world he's considered something of a hero in his fight against the globalisation and commodotisation of food and his opposition to GM food 'technology'.
Landis is perfectly entitled to disagree but I'm disappointed that the usually excellent cyclingnews.com published such ill-informed comments.
I am one of those Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly-listening, George Bush-voting, Freedom fry, Clinton-bashing, French-hating, Gulf War I veteran, and conservative high school history teacher from CA, USA. I also used to race bikes but am still a recreational rider and fan. I am also concerned about the post-Lance era, though don't feel that interest in the team nor cycling will wane once Lance does retire. There are some good riders coming up in the ranks, especially Saturn as well as other American domestic teams. Currently, USP is Lance's team though the team has done well to turn out some decent American riders who could ride for the GC. Those riders, however, if they want any individual success, must leave, as it is Lance's team. Period. Perhaps Johan Bruyneel, at the urging of USP(the sponsor) will tap in to the American cycling scene( they do from time to time, but only for support for Lance). That has also been seen as Berry Floor, through their sponsorship, want Belgium riders on the team as well. The Spanish riders head to USP for two reasons: One, USP via Lance has bought up many potential competitors and two: USP will pay more than most Spanish teams, period (they are known to be cheap when it comes to salaries).
However, I can see a time when the sponsorship will end when Lance does retire and American cycling will go through a lean time as during the post-Motorola era. Unfortunately, cycling will always be viewed as a fringe sport in the USA as it does not use a bat, ball or take place in a closed stadium. So, Kelly, I would concur with your thesis though the overall outlook for potential American GC riders are out there, but they just need to be found and groomed for Europe, where the real racing will always be at. Think of it this way, I can remember watching a tape-delay of the TDF on CBS, or a half-hour highlight review from ESPN when 20 minutes of that broadcast was taken up by idiot American talking-heads who didn't know what they were talking about. Now we have OLN and at least two hours of live viewing each day(not to mention the classics, the Giro and Vuelta). Pretty good in my estimation. Even though I am one of those conservatives that you mentioned in your letter, I will still be into cycling, especially the classics, even after USP is gone. Remember, It is more than just the color of the jersey that creates a great team.
Foreign nationals on USPS after Lance retires #2
If I am remembering some things I have read correctly, I don't believe Postal intends to remain a sponsor much past when Lance retires (their current contract runs through 2006?), and Berry Floor is intended to take over as primary sponsor at that point. So the more international flavor wouldn't really be an issue.
Foreign nationals on USPS after Lance retires #3
I totally agree Kelly with your opinion on the enslavement/sacrifice of burgeoning talents such as Iban Mayo by USPS, it WOULD be suicide for his career as it was for Roberto Heras. It's a case of 'if they might beat you, enlist and subjugate them'. Not only don't they get much a chance to ride for themselves but if they do they're so knackered from the effort expended in the service of LA that they are spent. However the whisper is that Rabobank are interested in Mayo so let's hope the distinctly freer atmosphere there will entice him, if he feels has to flee Euskadi.
I don't like USPS either, or Lance come to that. Certainly I admire the man who overcame cancer, his book It's Not About The Bike moved me to tears more than once or twice but the atmosphere he and his team have brought to the parcours of the Tour is not good. Refusing to speak to any of the old pro journos who've been on the circuit forever is getting up a lot of noses I can tell you and what's with the minders (well before September 11) and the private jet? This ain't rock 'n roll, thank God. No-one can get near the team bus/team and the whole thing about the Tour is that it is for the people, the fans, it's a free spectacle, they want to mingle with the riders, get their autographs and photos and smell their sweat (!) Bundling the riders behind swiftly closed doors and seeing off anybody interested in seeing them with unpleasant expressions and gestures is not endearing them to anyone.
One thing though - Fasso have the best looking jerseys? Is this a euphemism? For me it's Bianchi and Telekom but then I have a thing about Germans, don't ask my why I really have no idea but I do think it will be a Euro who eventually kicks that Texas ass and I hope it's Ullrich and I hope it's this year!
With respect to David Millar's crying and whinging about his travails in the prologue in the TdF this year, this is the same rider who professed to be very serious about winning the World professional time trial championship and yet didn't bother to learn the course beforehand. The result was predictable: he went off course more than once and lost a lot of speed as his bike bumped along through the gravel. It is a shame to see such a talented rider whittle away his peak years because of immature and irresponsible behavior. I much prefer to be fan of thorough, disciplined professionals like Armstrong, Hamilton, Zabel, etc. They make the most of the talent they have by careful preparation and discipline.
Millar's mechanical #2
I absolutely agree. Some people and athletes included will find a way to lose. Millar has been very successful in this area. I've commented before that Millar doesn't have enough inner desire to win. Even when he is capable of winning he still manages a way to lose. Too bad.
Millar's mechanical #3
I'm someone who watches and reads all I can about the big professional races. I have come to the unmistakable conclusion that David Millar takes absolutely no responsibility for anything. He cried foul at the Vuelta last year, and then quit out of spite without any thought to his teammates. Now, at the TdF he is blaming others for the Prologue. As a professional you can bet that he knew exactly was on (or in this case not on) his bike. Last year at the Vuelta Phil Sherwin said that David Millar needed to grow up and mature, and as we can see that hasn't happened.
Millar's mechanical #4
I totally agree with CJ Gauss, Millar gambled on something that should have been rather straight forward, and now painfully obvious. Wouldn't the extra 84 grams on the bike be worth the safety of mind knowing you can go bawls to the wall and not worry?? Don't get it twisted, I'm a huge Dave 'Party-Like-It's-The-Last-Stage' Millar fan, but what was he thinking on this? I totally understand the desire to squeeze every last ounce for a performance gain, but there are some things that are better left to err on the side of safety, rather than gambling. This was unfortunately one of them.
Dave Millar, I love you buddy, but suck it up. I don't think that there is a bike racer out there who has come painfully close more times than they can count. Sometimes its not meant to be. We all feel your pain. Look at Ullrich, an eternal second, he keeps coming back 'cause he is a fighter. We love your style, and your girlfriend [she is hot]. You went up against a field of bad asses, and you put all of 'em to shame, except one. How many Olympic and World Champions did you own on this ride? Pull yourself together bro and show us what all that hard work you've put in the mountains got you. Good luck buddy and keep rockin' it.
Beloki was putting on a great show, and the Tour will be less interesting without his involvement. Is there a webpage or email address you can post to allow fans to wish him the best for a speedy recovery? It might cheer him to know how many people are concerned about his recovery.
Joseba Beloki #2
Like most here in the states, I love Lance. But today (Stage 9) is a sad day for cycling. Sr. Beloki: I wish you the best. There is nothing more I'd like to see than see you next year battling again. Get well.
Joseba Beloki #3
I think it would a great gesture on your part if you could create a page that people could write in to let Joseba Beloki know how much he will be missed in the Tour. The only man the past couple of years that kept the race animated. He had hinted that if he did not place well this year that it would be his last tour. I think I speak for a lot of people who hope this is not the case. Being an American I'm supposed to cheer for Lance, but truth be told I just want to see a great race. And if Armstrong is going to be considered on of the greats, then he needs to be pushed.
Beloki was riding a great race. I know if my eyes he will be greatly missed.
I hope you take into consideration a page for him and his fans.
Joseba Beloki #4
Do you know an email or snail mail address by which I could send my best wishes to Beloki?
Joseba Beloki #5
Thanks for all of the great coverage. I was wondering if you might be able to post some contact information (an e-mail address) for Joseba Beloki. Along with a lot of others, he's really earned our admiration for the way he's ridden this year. And even though I'm a huge LA fan, we're extremely disappointed and saddened by his horrific crash, and I think a lot of others would like to wish him well.
Joseba Beloki #6
I am an American and certainly a Lance Armstrong fan, but I am disappointed that Joseba Beloki is out of the Tour. I hope he is physically okay, of course. He was a capable challenger in this year's race, and he has consistently shown a competitive spirit to attack Armstrong even though Lance has beaten him many times in recent years.
Joseba Beloki #7
Does anyone know of a way for American fans to send regards to Joseba Beloki - either by e-mail or regular post? I could find nothing in a web search, either for Beloki or even the ONCE team (not counting a site that stated 'will be up in Aug. 2000', that isn't up yet).
For that matter, how about a way to mail one of my all-time favorites, Laurent Jalabert?
Joseba Beloki #8
How can people send Joseba Beloki get well wishes over the web? The ONCE site is all in Spanish, and couldn't find any contact info. Any help appreciated.
Joseba Beloki #9
How can I reach Joseba Beloki to wish him well and a speedy recovery? By email preferably.
Joseba Beloki #10
Is there anyway of contacting Joseba Beloki to say how sorry I am for him and to wish him the best of luck in his recovery? What an inspiration of a rider and one of only few that could really challenge Lance.
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