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Letters to Cyclingnews - March 6, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gibi, etc. vs Lance
Steffen Sinning's letter of Feb 27th adds another two paragraphs to the rhetoric painting the "Lance Fans" as a bunch of empty headed goons who take it personally every time somebody states their desire to challenge Lance at the Tour. I can't speak for all of us (Lance Fans), but I'll speak for the ones who aren't empty headed goons. Nobody has a problem with top riders challenging Lance at the Tour. We all want to see the best go head to head at the Tour each year. What bothers me is not "challenging" but absurd boasting and trash talking from riders who have NEVER COME EVEN CLOSE to Lance at the Tour.
Steffen and his gang really seem to like Simoni. Gibi does seem to have great ability and it would be great to see how he measures up to Lance when he is in top form. However, a lot of guys over the years have looked really great in the Giro and never could crack the best at the Tour (Tony Rominger, anyone? He won the Giro like a Champion, as opposed to grabbing the lead with 3 days to go... and he couldn't handle Miguel). Steffen talks about riders that "instead of focusing on races easier to win they go for the Tour every year" Simoni focuses on the Giro (a race he can win) and then blabs a lot about beating Lance at the Tour. I wish Simoni would miss the Giro, so he really can be at his best at the Tour.
One to point constantly reading from these guys about how "Lance only rides for one month out of the year" and "the other guys ride complete seasons" etc. Here's a tip for everybody: making up facts always helps make your point. Lets look at the actual facts. During the last four years (generally) Lance's year shapes up more or less like so:
April: Tears up and comes very close to winning (twice 2nd and 4th, beaten
by superior numbers) a World Cup Classic. By the way, lets see what happens
this year at Amstel now that we have a hilltop finish.
Also, didn't Lance come within a few hundredths of a second from winning the Criterium International last year at the end of March?
Late March to July, guys...that's more than four months plus some post Tour stuff like Zurich World Cup and San Fran GP. Admittedly, Lance isn't vying for the Iron Man title with Erik Zabel, but you can't argue that Lance "only races for one month" (unless you make up your own facts)
Now lets examine Mr. Simoni's last three years:
May: stage win at Romandie in 2001
Did I miss anything significant? Looks like Gibi has about 4 good months of the year as well. When your good months are as good as Lance's....you don't have to race the whole year.
In response to Udo Reisinger's letter about Bjarne Riis:
Lance's winning margin at last year's Tour de France of just over seven minutes over Joseba Beloki represents roughly one tenth of one percent of his overall time of 82 hours. So even a "miniscule" increase in pedaling efficiency can mean the difference between a win and a lower placing. While Reisinger is correct that even a highly conditioned body is only capable of producing a certain amount of power, the efficiency of that power transfer is something that can be changed through variables such as altering position on the bike or pedaling form and cadence.
Dr. Andy Pruitt, of the Boulder Center for Sports Medicine, was quoted in the local paper as saying that changes he made to World Cross Country Champion Gunn-Rita Dahle's position would result in an approximate 20 percent increase in power. While that claim is fantastical (and may be the result of an inaccurate quote), even a two percent increase in power output due to a position change could have a huge effect on Dahle's ability next year. In an era where the understanding of training processes has grown by leaps and bounds, it makes sense that riders will seek out every advantage, no matter how small. As Armstrong knows, the power is in pursuing every detail.
Riis - tiny differences count
Udo, Perhaps it would add the "minuscule" difference in riding the tour between, say 98:54:00 and 99:00:00, a "difference" of a minuscule .01% which would calculate into a "dominating" 6 minute win. When you are at a top level even the smallest things can mean the difference between winning and losing. That's what makes cycle racing so fascinating, and winning multiple tours back to back so phenomenal.
I have to disagree with some of the points made by Ken MacLean about cycle commuting. I have been an occasional fair weather bike commuter for the past 10 years.
My first two points establish beyond doubt that bike commuting does not always save money. One day I left the car at home and rode in. My wife backed into my car in our driveway. My son (age 4 at the time) confirmed that "there was a big BOOM when mommy hit the car."
The other fact of bike commuting is that I eat more than my car. If I drive back and forth to work, the car drinks about a dollars worth of gas for the 20 mile roundtrip, even at today's high gas prices. If I ride to work, I make it a 2-hour round trip to avoid the cars. I need at least a Powerbar, a Gatorade and a trip to the company cafeteria to avoid the Knock on the ride home. Total food expense $6-8. The car wins.
Ken and I agree that riding to work is very risky. My greatest risk is that I start feeling like a militant. I feel the wind in my face and the strength in my legs and I start to believe I am a member of the master race: cyclists. Every rider is my brother. Someday we will rule the world. I get the urge to have a jersey printed that says "Park it and Ride!" I imagine myself as a super hero who will save humanity by defeating global warming and by getting the overweight masses out of their cars to burn off the donuts on the way to work.
It is amazing what parking the car and riding to work a few days can do for your attitude. But, please save me a donut.
Ride to work - Calorie consumption
It would be nice to think a five mile cycle burns up 300 Calories each way, i.e. 600 calories for 10 miles but the reality is that it is about half of that, ie. 300 Calories for 10 miles.
Ride to work - get a commuter bike
Every word Mr. MacLean writes (at least in this letter) is true.
One excuse one uses not to ride to work (and that I've used myself, so I know it's a good one) is that one lives too close to work to ride there; that it doesn't make sense for one to suit up etc. for a four mile ride each way; that, all things considered, it is easier and faster to drive. The counter to this (which took me ten years to formulate) is that one simply needs a different kind of bicycle. Of course, any solution that requires the purchase of a new bicycle is, almost by definition, a good solution.
So, if one lives close to work, here are the features one wants in a commuting bicycle: fenders (as Mr. MacLean points out); a chain guard (so your pants don't get ripped up); internal gears (less likely to get grease stains on your pants); traditional handlebars (I don't know why, but I feel in my bones that this is true); and a light.
Two or three (or was it four?) years ago, I bought a Bianchi Milano, which almost answers. It has all the features listed above -- but (a) the range of gears isn't wide enough; (b) it's heavier than I'd prefer (but, then, so am I); and (c) the tires are wider than they have to be (again, so am I).
I've checked bike stores and web-sites in the last few months, and nothing better than the Bianchi Milano seems to be on the market. Bicycle manufacturers take note: there is a market of conspicuous consumers who would pay good money for a bicycle with these features.
In any event, with a commuter bicycle, proximity need not defeat cycling.
Ride to work - I lost 40lb
Ken is right. I've been commuting to work for the past two and a half years. I've lost 40 pounds and feel better than I can remember.
I feel the need to respond to Mr. Sinning and others who continue to get the facts wrong with regards to a certain Mr. Armstrong's palmares and racing schedule. It is often written in the "letters" section that Lance doesn't race much or that he ends his season early. The only valid argument that I see here is that he ends his season a little early for my liking. I would love to see him win the Vuelta or win other races which could pad his palmares, but I understand that there are sponsor issues which continue to put an emphasis on the Tour. But writing a stupid comment like "the season lasts 10 months..." just shows an ignorance regarding the facts. Lance raced in seven months last year (professional road bike racing mind you, I'm not counting mountain bike or bike-run events which he won). Now some of these he raced in support of others and it was reported in CN that he was active in this support role so he didn't just soft pedal. A quick check of the results of his races shows that he made the podium (usually winning) in five of those months. A fourth place at Amstel kept it from being six months. I know that there have been many racers who raced at least this well and had longer seasons but there aren't too many of them in the peloton today except for Zabel (and of course he isn't a Grand Tour winner). This kind of consistency should put him just behind Mr. Zabel in UCI points which, hey, he is.
I am glad that my letter sparked the reaction it did. I can only fully agree with Jay Mueller that the "The pen is mightier than the Time cleat" hence my letter. The Time Cleat and the rock are metaphors for my frustration: I have done it but do not make it a practice. But Jay my beef with cyclists receiving endorsement money is real and that is why I wrote to this column and asked Lance to do what I did.
It was an open letter of frustration, protest whatever but an open letter to lance and his colleagues to put something back into making the roads safe for us all. Or do we need another Otxoa incident to make the pros act? Thus I am writing to the cyclists and companies via this forum. I await their response.
But to Adrian Jue who said: You cannot change a "culture of cars" when it is already a facet of American culture - two things; culture is not static, it changes all the time so a culture of cars, or the way in which it is manifested can change. In many countries people stopped throwing rubbish out of their car windows (in Panama they do, its still in their culture) - the law, education, public opinion all changed that, so with the pen and our voices we can make a difference. The second point is, sorry, but we are not all Americans, but we will all gladly have an American help us make our roads safer.
Car culture - not all drivers are bad
I think it is fair to say that we have all encountered complications from sharing the road with motorist. I would also like to point out that we all have likely encountered complications while sharing the road with motorists as a motorist. My point? The world is full of people who for some reason are just angry, and for whatever reason just like to irritate people. Provoking their anger with acts of aggression, no matter how small can only hurt our cause for friendlier shared roads.
I would also like to take this time to thank the man in the Ford Bronco loaded up with a lift kit and wheels that go up to your shoulder. While riding the other day, a very nice looking, but all the while starved dog, decided that I would be a very good chew toy and made a bid for me. The guy who was driving the Bronco saw what was happening and sped up to put himself in between me and the dog and gave me the wave through, protecting me.
Now I realize he may likely not read this, but I just wanted to point out that there are plenty of people out there who don't mind that we ride on the road with them. We also need to follow the laws of the road. How many times have you seen cyclist run a red light or a Stop sign, etc... That kind of behavior should upset you more, because it categorizes cyclists as delinquent.
Michel van Musschenbroek
Car culture - talk to drivers
My suggestion for dealing with nasty drivers: talk to them. Catch up to them at a red light and ask them if you can explain how the way they are driving is dangerous to cyclists. I've arrived at this method after two years of biking in Boston, during which I've been hit, chased, yelled at, and struck in the face (deliberately) by a cigarette butt. And during which I have spat on, cleated, torn the side mirrors off of, and finally punched the windshield out of a succession of offending cars. Except for the spitting (it's foul, it causes no permanent damage, and it's reserved for double-parkers on busy streets -- the lowest of the low in my book) I've stopped all of this, because it didn't solve anything and it made me feel rotten. And because, no matter how it seemed, most drivers weren't being aggressive; they were just being ignorant, or inattentive, or blissfully unmindful of the damage their comfy rolling sofas could do to an undefended human body. So now I try to reason with them. Some tell me to shove it, some respond nicely. But regardless, I think it does more for the cause of bike-car cohabitation than either retaliation or capitulation.
When somebody has to defend Lance like "Lanceaholic" did, it only continues to validate that Lance will never be really liked by the peloton and many cycling fans. The sport of cycling loves its mystique and Armstrong's name will actually look out of place next to the great ones.
I am a moderator on the Cycling Manager 2 Forum (English forum) [previous letter]. Unfortunately it isn't available in the USA, but can be obtained in Europe. It is very popular in Europe and in my opinion is a great game. In fact we are having an online World Championship game with people from all around the world in March. The finalist get to go to France for the finals. So it is well worth buying (I am not employed by Cyanide the developers of the game :-)
However my suggestion is to wait 'til June/July for the new version of 'Cycling Manager' to come out (CyM2003). This will be a big improvement on number 2 both for online/single and career modes of play. Regardless I will give you all the websites that you will need to check it out and buy CyM2 if you so wish. Likewise you can contact me on msn under the name email@example.com This is no longer my email address but will allow you to contact me at msn.
Anyhow here are these web addresses:
http://www.cyanide-studio.com/phpBB2/ (you will get answers to any questions you have on this site. just enter the english forum).
http://www.cycling-manager2.com/ (just press on the 'focus' icon to buy the game. Any problems contact me and I'll organise one to be sent to you).
There are other sites but these are the main ones. Good luck and hope to see you on the forum and online soon!
Cycling Manager 2 - where to get it
See http://www.boutique-focus.com/cycling/index.html 45 euros plus 10 euros to ship worldwide
However, Cycling Manager 2003 is planned for July and it sounds like there
are major improvements. See http://www.c-g-c.dk/CyM3/Preview%20&%20Interviews/Interviews/22-january-2003-patrick-cym3.htm
I appreciated Floyd Landis' latest diary, especially his comment about noticing people in wheelchairs. I am a 58 year old ex-Cat III rider, and my amateur racing career spanned from 1970-1985. I could also run a 38 min 10K. For the last 15 months I have been in a wheelchair thanks to ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease). As my arms and hands continue to weaken, I am thankful that my breathing, speech, and swallowing are not yet affected. I miss riding my bikes, and I know I will have some regrets when I give them away next week to my nephew. I am thankful that they will continue to be maintained and appreciated. (Older cyclists will recognize the brands: 55 cm Mercier (Raymond Poulidor), 56 cm lugless all Campy Hurlow, and a 56 cm Woodrup track bike.)
I remember when Jacques Boyer rode his first Tour. I wondered then if Americans could ever really be competitive. What a thrill it was to see Greg LeMond finally win in 1986! Now my cycling is strictly vicarious, and one of my greatest pleasures is re-watching my Lance Armstrong and Greg LeMond videos. I am also thankful that OLN has made it possible to really watch the Tour. Go Lance!
Meanwhile, all you people out there who can walk, comb your hair, shower, turn over in bed, etc., when you see someone in a wheelchair, pause a moment to give thanks to God for the miracle of your bodies. And remember that the person in the wheelchair just might happen to be an avid cycling fan as well.
Thanks for the continued good coverage of women's racing. I think the girls' efforts are every bit as impressive and inspirational as the guys. Most macho weekend warriors could probably only dream of the determination and lack of fear displayed by the elite girls. And, here comes the confession bit, I reckon some are the sexiest women anywhere. When I read that Rochelle Gilmore had done an Inside Sport photo shoot, well... never bought a magazine of that style before, but damn sure I'll be getting that one! Can't be just me - what chance a Cyclingnews bike girl calendar if there's enough interest out there ?
My opinion is that the French people are able to see the difference between sports and politics. When it's TdF time, it's TdF time. Not more, not less. Also as we (in the "old Europe") could read Lance's opinion about war in Iraq. And this is more European than American.
There will be the same people at the course, as every year. Some like Lance, some don't.
I am a "Lanceaholic" even though I'm German. :-)
He's a great sportsman, perfect rider and he has a strong mind. The only thing people don't like here, is that he's making the Tour boring. But is this his fault?
I agree with Manolo Saiz that the Tour de France is too big. I love watching Lance win in Paris, but lets face it, the Vuelta and the Giro were both more competitive with the decision coming only in the final days of the event. Unipublic is right to guarantee the Spanish teams a Grand Tour ride. We know that several of the Tour de France team selections in recent years were not based on merit but on the nationality of the team.
But look at the bright side of things. Let's thank OLN TV for airing excellent live coverage of all three Grand Tours. Five years ago could you image being able to watch daily live race action of even one Tour, let alone all three? Thanks also to Cyclingnews.com for bringing us live updates throughout the day and great photos of the action. Even if we're stuck in the office all day, we can still connect with the racing.
Good story about Markel Irizar. While testicular cancer may be one of the more curable cancers it still is a very nasty experience. Markel couldn't hope for a better example on how to deal with such a life-changing experience than Lance Armstrong. I've been through the Testicular Cancer experience and still remember watching Lance storm up the Hautacam in 2000 while the chemo drugs dripped into my body, that was one of the best 'medicines' I ever received. I'd advise anyone to read his book "It's Not About The Bike" - and you don't have to have cancer to read it and benefit from it.
With all best wishes to Markel for a complete recovery, and best wishes to Lance for another successful season on his bike.
Your piece on biking up and down Kinabalu (Over the Hill for Steve Thomas) highly exaggerated the dificulty:
"Accompanied by native Khadazan mountain guide Maike Miki, Steve set out to conquer the dizzy heights of Mount Kinabalu in Sabah, Borneo. At 4100 meters high, the peak is the highest in Southeast Asia, and a two day roped ascent for most climbers. The mountain had been "biked" once before by two Japanese, who took two days over it. In a bid to go one better Steve ran to the lunar like summit with a bike on his back, took one of the highest rides ever around the summit, then ran back down again - in just over ten hours, setting a new record in the process. "
My wife and I, two middle aged, out-of-shape tourists hiked the same route in twelve hours. We were a bit sore but saw no reason to write up the day as some sort of athletic feat. I think the guides do the route in under four hours in their annual race.
[Previous letter] Last year when Ralf Sorenson wasn't signed on to CSC-Tiscali, he went to is old friend named Ernesto Colnago. Colnago got him a contract with the Lambouwcredit-Colnago team. Ralfi has been on teams riding Colnagos for years. Like Ariostea, and Rabobank. I'm not sure if this answers your question, but it was Ralf riding a Colnago that made him a friend with Ernesto, that ultimately got him the ride in the end!
I have seen all this negative talk regarding sponsorship and quite a few comments towards "Selling Out". I have not yet seen the positive twist on things. I am sure that Mr. Armstrong's new endorsements will be going to the causes he believes in most: cancer research and the development of American cycling. It is good to see a bicycle rider join forces with the stock car driver (which I believe is one of the most watched sports in the USA) Between that clip the ESPN clip and all the others forthcoming, maybe American cycling will start to become recognized again by the masses instead of a once or twice a year event.
Does no one out there actually care what Lance Armstrong is going through? A separation from your family even if only temporary is an unbelievably traumatic thing to go through. Those who are only considering this in terms of how it might affect his riding - "is this a chink in his armour" - are being extraordinarily callous. I might add that I include Johan Bruyneel in that group. The man appears to be completely incapable of any human emotion. To quote Cyclingnews the other day: "On the subject of Armstrong's separation from his wife Kristen, Bruyneel noted at Thursday's team presentation with Berry Floor in Belgium, 'the same thing happened to me in 1992, and I had a good year that year!'"
I am not a Lance fan and I would dearly love to see someone challenge and beat him on a level playing field not because of trauma's in his personal life.
The Armstrongs' separation - coverage
If you sell your image to market a product, then I´m afraid that you lose the right to privacy that a mere cyclist would have by right. You cannot have it both ways, its either money and publicity or privacy, you can´t take the loot then complain of intrusive press coverage. Personally, I hope that this troubled pair can be left in peace to sort out their problems, but knowing the "pink press" here in Spain there ain´t a hope in hell of that happening.
Barry Rothwell Taylor
The Armstrongs' separation - possible effects
I seem to think that Phil would like to see Lance crack. Lance had no obligation of telling the world of his separation, but still he did to avoid rumours. It might affect his Tour, it might not. I only hope for Phil that he will never have to experience a separation and hope for him that his career will not be affected. Lance's family life is his business and a true cycling fan, whether he is a fan of Lance or not, will hope that this separation will not affect his Tour so we can see a good Lance battling a good Jan.
This may be too old to be helpful, but...
I'd suggest you try getting in touch with Boyd Atherton at http://www.athertonbikes.com/.
Boyd has a lot of experience building bikes to special or unusual specs. He got his start (I think) building special bikes for people of short stature about 10 years ago. He's grown a successful business building "normal" bikes, but "special" bikes are still a specialty.
If Boonen had stayed with US Postal for this year and honored his contract, would he have won the Het Volk, giving the Posties one and two on the podium?
Joel Stephen Williams
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