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Letters to Cyclingnews - June 20, 2003
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US Pro Championship for US pros only
I disagree with Sean Weide's letter "It's time to prohibit foreign-born riders from competing in the US Pro Championships". While it's true other nations exclude foreign riders from their championships, it would be a mistake for the U.S. to do the same. The Philly race is more then just the Pro Championships for the U.S., it's one of the few races in the U.S. where top teams from Europe come to compete.
I for one was very pleased to have the chance to see the likes of Andrea Tafi racing in the U.S. To limit the racing to U.S. riders would only damage the Philly race and maybe even put an end to the event. This race is good for both the race fans and the U.S. riders. The fans get to see some riders in person that they usually only get to see on TV. It's also good for the U.S. riders since many of them never get a chance to mix it up with some of the better European riders. Philly gives these domestic riders a chance to prove themselves against the European boys. The foreign riders help make the Philly race interesting for everyone.
Mr. Weide, come to Philly and stand at the top of Lemon Hill and tell me after the race that the foreign riders should not be there. I think you may change your mind.
US Pro Championship for US pros only #2
I've attended every USPRO race since 1991, and while the non-nationals can make for some odd tactics in the USPRO race (such as Henk Vogels' escape in 2000 as George Hincapie and Freddy Rodriguez marked each other in the break), I think the race should definitely stay open to all, for a few reasons. One, this is one of the few chances us East Coasters get to see a near-World Cup quality field. Two, the US-based pro teams can bring their best riders to support their Americans (only 4 teams out of 22 started a 100% American squad this year). Three, the odd format has its charms, and the years when an American wins outright are sweet indeed.
One path to an all-American professional championships would be to keep the Philly race an open race that no longer decides the Stars and Stripes jersey, and spin off a new USPRO race for just US riders. But that could be a disaster for both races: Philly would lose a chunk of the money and prizes that draw great teams to the event, and a US-only race would have to start from scratch building up the goodwill that Philly has amassed in 19 years, this time without the draw of top Euro pros. And what about the strength of the field? Would top Americans on Euro teams get those teams to send them over, alone? Riders like Fast Freddy might find themselves either stuck in Europe or racing without teammates; it's already bad enough we have to compete with the Dauphine Libere.
Yeah, the race format is uniquely weird. Yeah, 5 of the last seven races have been won by foreigners (two of them were riding for American teams, by the way). And yeah, it would feel good to guarantee that a US rider would be first over the line. But despite the format, it's still the biggest, most-loved one-day race on the continent, and it surely ain't broke. Please, let's not try to fix it.
US Pro Championship for US pros only #3
Why does an American have to win the race? The first one across the line is the National Champion; is that somehow diminished somehow by not winning the actual race?
US Pro Championship for US pros only #4
Sean, the winner of the Australian Open national championship road race in 2000 was an Englishman. Jeremy Hunt won the race, but Jamie Drew won the title because he was the first Australian. The open format allows riders from other countries to compete in the Australian race. So, contrary to what you claim, nations other than the United States do allow riders to compete in their national Championships.
US Pro Championship for US pros only #5
Well, it just shows the wholi nitty-gritty of US cycling scene.. Why would you "lower the plank"??
this way everyone knows their racing condition, and have something to look up to! It does not bother me at all that a foreigner wins USPRO championship, in fact I hoped that Davidenko would win it.. He is few steps away from being a citizen anyway!
US Pro Championship for US pros only #6
On the contrary, I think the US Pro Championships should ban US riders. Given the poor performance of US born riders, it is clear they are not up to it. My proposal is to invite riders from decent countries such as Australia.
Besides, the USA gets to do loads of other things like perform weapons inspections in Iraq without any other countries participating. Come to think of it, why not move next years Championships to Iraq? I understand it's pretty flat out there, and once all the potholes have been removed from the roads, you could design a pretty good course. Furthermore, there are plenty of Marines in the streets who could help out with the marshalling and at the feed zones.
US Pro Championship for US pros only #7
Let the foreign riders come to Philadelphia. How often do you get to see the best riders in the World come to the U.S?
I just want to refute the common notion that Cipo doesn't finish tours. He may not have finished Le Tour, but he has certainly finished the tour most dear to his heart, the Giro d'Italia. I'm not sure how many he has completed since 1989, but he has won the Maglia ciclamino, points jersey, three times, 1992, '97, & 2002.
Mario Cipollini #2The Tour is a multi-discipline race. The winner is essentially the most complete rider. To exclude the best riders within any given discipline diminishes the quality of the race. Let the GC contenders fight it out against the best in the individual disciplines. As an example Chris Boardman was never truly a strong GC contender but he raised the whole level of competition in the Tour's time trials. Cipollini should be a part of the Tour. He would raise the level of competition in sprint stages and if he's beaten, the winners can say they beat the best. Petacchi's fantastic achievement in the Giro would have been lessened had he not out-sprinted Mario.
Mario Cipollini #3
In response to Jin Strange: Your point is good, however (and please don't take me too seriously: at the bottom of my heart only a great climber is a great cyclist) you are talking about an "artist" of the sprint here, if he could not win sprints then he would have to sweat his butt off up mountains or carry bottles, but, hey - have some respect for the king!
Also bro, you don't know the French, they hate anything Italian that wins anything in France, and makes a lot of noise too while winning (and Cipo does not exactly go unobserved).
Cipollini was practically banned from the Tour the day (a few years ago) he got in a fight with another rider at the Tour; every word from LeBlanc after that has just been rhetoric. I hate to think of what Cipo might have told LeBlanc when he got kicked out, unfortunately we Italians always think that the rest of the world does not understand Italian swearwords.
This is just the beginning, one day they (the French) will even manage to win the Tour again, and then French will finally replace English as the one and only international language, eventually slot machines will only take Euros.
I disagree with Andy. Aitor Gonzalez won't win the Tour. He is a phenomenal TT rider, but he hasn't got the "grinta" to suffer to win. He may win a TT stage a la Botero, but he won't be up the front when the big guns fire. Armstrong, Hamilton and Ullrich know how to suffer; barring freak events it'll be between these guys, with LA doing five in a row.
Marco Pantani and Mario Cipollini have something in common. They are bigger-than-life racing characters who lend a great deal to the sport. In any race which one or both of those riders are engaged, we all wait breathlessly to see the outcome.
Let's give Marco his due. He isn't the first and he won't be the last to be suspended because of suspected drug use. I don't want to make his transgressions seem less than they were, but most certainly Richard Virenque is a model for what Marco could do. Let's give Marco the benefit of a doubt and give him the cheer that a great climber like he is should receive.
Ullrich was in far better shape in 1997 compared to 2001. Sure, he was in very good form in 2001,however in '97 he was immense. Had he been in '97 form, then Armstrong wouldn't have dropped him on the Alpe d'Huez! Ullrich rode tempo all the way up the Alpe in 1997 - rarely ,if ever rising from his saddle in the process. He didn't ride to win the stage-merely to conserve his energy for the following stages and to keep Virenque(his only rival) behind him. His time was only 2 seconds slower than what Armstrong achieved in 2001! That in itself is proof that his form was not as good in 2001 as he was a full 2 minutes slower than him in 2001. The watch doesn't lie!
Regarding the response to my previous letter about the attitudes of riders such as Simoni, McEwen & Co.: Mr. Williams' argument -- that champion athletes are cocky, and justifiably so, due to the euphoria of winning -- just doesn't fly, unless the rider is predispositioned for arrogance. I've competed, as either a swimmer or cyclist, for nearly 20 years and have consistently found this to be true in both my own experiences and watching the actions of others. Thought the issue of whether I've ever won a race is irrelevant in being able to examine behavior, I'll let Mr. Williams know that his assumption is incorrect.
In any case, my point is that the mark of a true champion is not just results, but also the ability to conduct oneself with a certain degree of decorum. As I noted, there are riders (Hamilton and Zabel are only two examples) who have clearly established a winning track record and consistently produce results, yet exhibit nowhere near the idignance Simoni displayed following the Giro.
That being said, I don't mean to imply that riders who display poor taste in their choice of words be excluded or that they don't animate the race -- only that I choose not to cheer them in their efforts. It's hard to argue that comments such as Simoni's only serve to tarnish his performance, not to mention the sport as a whole.
Again and again we see his opponents past and present dropping off for various mental frailties. Already he has beaten them mentally. Already has he sacrificed more than them, given up more than them, packed more into the same span of time than them - and it's all down to his willpower.
The funny thing is, that all of us know this feeling. That great year we had, that great spring we had, that great few years we had "back when". That is what makes Eddy and Lance and the rest so great - what they gave up to give us and themselves what they show those races that make them great aren't really it, in my opinion.
What they show is the truly awesome ability to watch so much of the rest of their lives pass by, make everyone around them accept this severest of disciplines to achieve our capabilities, for however long we are capable of it. Cycling is also the greatest of sports, because it asks for so much from us, in order to be even decent at it.
This is the reason I admire Lance so much, why we all do, I think. Unless we can't see our own failings. Lance is in many ways a mirror, like all the greats.
He has already won. He won his battle against cancer the day he decided to, and what he made out of his difficulties, and how he has accepted the responsibility of having so much talent, so much opportunity, and so much mental strength. He has made the most from his difficulties, and kids, if you want to emulate anything, emulate this. Be worthy of your difficulties. They are great opportunities for improvement. Just ask Lance.
Your wish to be the greatest is one important thing, but tempered by realizations of things greater than yourself, is the other balancing half of the roof.
This makes me think of my own lack of this selfsame trait at times- but makes me recall the times I had that invincibility, that will. This is why I admire so much those who I have coached in the past. They continue in their ability to serve up all other things that they could be doing on a platter to time, watching it go helplessly past, wishing for other experiences and not always being able to do them, as the bike comes first. Here's to you and all others like you, and like Lance. You are all winners in the same sense as Lance, whether or not you are so well compensated.
What really comes first, though, for Lance - and those like him - that shall come in the future is two things. I always tell the athletes I work with that the main thing to become successful in anything is they need brutal self-honesty and unlimited willingness. Take these traits and an athlete who is arguably the most physically gifted of his generation and put them together - like in Lance, like in Tiger, and how will you beat that?
Given that this year the Tour de France celebrates its centenary, and the fact
that there is much disgruntlement around the team selections, wouldn't it have
been nice for them (for one year only) to have reverted to National and Regional
teams. I know that it is too late now, and yes, to steal a
Imagine the possibilities in the twenty teams of nine riders:
1. USA: Armstrong, Hamilton, Leipheimer and a fine supporting cast of Hincapie, Landis et al. Maybe we could even have had John Lieswyn in there for the fine diary he would write.
2. Italy: Simoni, Garzelli, Frigo, Cipollini and a couple of lead-out men (Lombardi obviously being one of them), Petacchi.
3. France: Not sure who would lead this one! Perhaps David Moncoutie with Didier Rous. In this way we could limit the number of French teams that don't do an awful lot to just the one.
4. Belgium: Rik Verbrugghe, Axel Merckx, Franck Vandenbroucke and an army of strong stage riders.
5. Scandinavia: They may not have a leader they could pick a host of stagewinners: Thor Hushovd, Magnus Backstedt, Kurt Arvesen, Michel Sandstod
6. Germany: Jan Ullrich back with Erik Zabel.
7. Netherlands: Michael Boogerd and, er, the rest of Rabobank.
8. Switzerland: Alex Zuelle, Oscar Camenzind, Laurent Dufaux, the Zbergs.
9. Spain: Mancebo, Beltran, Beloki, Heras, Rubiera, Casero, Aitor Gonzalez, Gonzalez de Galdeano.
10: Australia: McEwen, O'Grady, Cooke, McGee, Sunderland - what a final few kilometres that would be! Cadel Evans for the overall.
11: GB & Ire: David Millar, Roger Hammond (at last he would get a chance, and would probably not disappoint on a hard, flat stage), Hunt, Scanlon, Hayles, Wiggins, Winn, Sciandri, Ciaran Power.
12: Latin/South America: We could bring in all of the Colombian-based riders like Buenahora alongside the likes of Botero, Perez Cuapio, Victor Hugo Pena.
13: Eastern Europe: Vinokourov, Kirsipuu, Vainsteins, Wadecki, Menchov, Popovych, Ekimov, Padrnos
14: France Espoirs: Sylvain Chavanel, Jerome Pineau, Sandy Casar, Jimmy Caspar in the sprints with the Nazons.
15: Basque: Iban Mayo (and probably the other riders from Euskaltel)
16: Italy Espoirs: Ivan Basso
17: Benelux Espoirs: Benoit Joichim, Kim Kirchen
18: Germany/Switz Espoirs: Torsten Hiekmann, Jorg Jaksche, Fabian Cancellara
19: Old Timers: Richard Virenque, Marco Pantani, Laurent Brochard, Jacky Durand
20: Globetrotters: for the likes of Robert Hunter, Peter Luttenberger, Jose Azevedo
It might even be fun!
On June 12 Jonathan Dughi wrote, "do you think anyone else would have finished second in the Giro with a broken shoulder?"
Oddly, Tyler Hamilton is not the only rider to have finished second in the Giro after bravely continuing with a broken shoulder. In 1956 Fiorenzo Magni finished second to Charly Gaul after breaking his shoulder. This remarkable ride has become famous thanks to the bizarre contraption that Magni rigged up to help him pull on the handlebars during tough climbs - In his teeth Magni clenched a length of handlebar tape that was connected to the handlebars.
I am amazed by some of the vitriol aimed at Gilberto Simoni simply because after a fantastic performance in the Giro he has had the balls to stand up and say that he is going to try and have a crack at Armstrong in Le Tour. I greatly admire Lance Armstrong and what he has achieved but far too frequently his opponents have almost conceded defeat before racing even begins. Psychologically this must provide an immeasurable boost to Armstrong. Surely the pre-race hype provided by Simoni is good for the event and he should not be derided for this. If Simoni fails then so be it but lets just hope that he and some of the other contenders such as Ullrich, Gonzalez, Botero, Savoldelli and Beloki make the race more than the dull procession we have seen over the past couple of years.
I got a good laugh at Floyd Landis' recount of the 'Dudu' protest. Sounds like he jinxed himself.
Floyd's writing is quite entertaining. Keep up the good work!
T. Clay Moseley
For those who are still interested in this debate: One avenue of comparison might be to look at where each of these two riders gained their winning margins. Armstrong pretty consistently gains time on his main rival (Zulle, Ullrich or Beloki) at every crucial stage -- in both of the long time trials, in the team time trial, in at least two mountain stages, and often in the prologue. Altogether, the "average" Armstrong victory is achieved by gaining between one and two minutes on at least five crucial stages, all adding up to about a 7:00 advantage.
In general Indurain (although someone can check this) gained time less often and less consistently. Sometimes he even lost time to his main rivals. He usually took time in the long time trials; he sometimes gained time in the mountains, sometimes just neutralized his rivals, and sometimes lost time to them (e.g. that stage Zulle won in 1995); he almost always lost time in the team time trial. However, because he he took fewer bites out of his rivals, the bites he did take were much bigger than the ones Armstrong takes -- e.g. 3:40 from Bugno and 4:00 from LeMond in the first long time trial of 1992, a margin which I don't think Armstrong has ever approached. When he won a long time trial, it was often by over 2:00.
People are right to point out that a comparison between the two is tough because Indurain rode much more conservatively than Armstrong does. There was, however, one stage when he did attempt an Armstrong-style annihilation of his competition, and that was Hautacam '94 -- certainly a devastating ride, but it wasn't quite enough to shake a very in-form Luc LeBlanc, who came around Indurain at the last second to take the stage. This suggests to me that Indurain would have made a fairly successful mountain attacker, although not quite at Armstrong's level.
Mr. Simone Toccafondi's letter was greatly appreciated. We don't often get to see the inner workings of sport, and his insights were valuable. I'd personally like to se the palmares of all those who bash Mario, or any other star they don't like. I personally don't like Lance very much as I remember his earlier attitudes before cancer. He is a changed man, but I still remember. But that doesn't limit my admiration for his accomplishments, especially in light of his illness. He's a marvel. I just don't like him.
Raymond F. Martin
I'm still not sure exactly what it is about cycling that sets this off - I'm a physician and can tell you there is surprisingly little information on the subject. I would love to hear what other people have done to try and get rid of this problem. I have been unable to ride for six months now and have just been looking at recumbents in order to become independently mobile again - but it just ain't the same. After trying antibiotics and anti inflammatories intermittently without much success over this time I can recommend yoga to provide some relief. Hoping that it will just eventually go away - can't quite look at my bike without wincing anymore.
An asterisk next to Greg LeMond's name on the list of Dauphine Libere winners is not necessary. Pascal Simon cheated and was disqualified. Had Simon not cheated, he would not have won. I believe the asterisk takes away credit from LeMond for riding within the rules, and beating EVERYONE else who also rode within the rules. Riders who don't follow the rules shouldn't be included in the results I think. Especially doping rules, because of the covert (and deceitful ) element. Also, the asterisk hints that Simon's test may have been a false positive, and that he is the rightful winner.
Remember when Jerome Chiotti came to his senses, and admitted he took EPO to help him win the 1996 World Championships? Jerome voluntarily (and graciously I think) transferred the Rainbow Jersey to Thomas Frischknecht, the true winner. Remember Thomas's reaction? He said he felt cheated and defrauded of the completeness of winning. An asterisk cheats LeMond in the same way.
And this reminds me of a very large issue today that I never hear about: the effectiveness of drug tests. It is becoming clear that drug tests are being beaten by the riders. Police raids find so many drugs in the possession of so many riders, yet positive tests are rare. Witness Dario Frigo, Frank Vandenbrouke, Pantani, Raimondas Rumsas, and half the 1998 Festina team. Riders caught with whole pharmacies claim, "I have never failed a drug test." No, technically you haven't failed, but ultimately, you have. In several ways.
OK, everyone else may already know this, but I'm clueless: How do they get the sponsor's names onto the leader's jerseys at stage races? They seem to have these all ready to go soon after the stage has ended. Do they print up a jersey for every team in advance (or many jerseys, in case someone leads from beginning to end)? Do they have some sort of portable jersey printing device that travels with the race? Is it some sort of iron on that fits into the space? Please clue me in.
I am researching my family history and learned my great-grandfather, Luigi Racanelli was a road bike racer in Italy. He came from the city of Bari. He emigrated to the USA in or about 1906. Could you recommend some resources I can contact that would assist me in my search, particularly the name & addresses of bicycle racing organizations from the early 1900's. Also the name of newspapers from this period that would have written articles on bike races.
Whatever you could do to assist me is sincerely appreciated. Thank you.
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