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Letters to Cyclingnews - May 8, 2003
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Why cyclists must be better
The comments on this site about the moral level we hold cyclists to are something I never thought I'd see. Have you forgotten what it means to be a professional athlete? You cannot say that cyclists should be no more accountable for drug use than teenagers. I know few teenagers who are paid as well as most cyclists. These professional stars must hold themselves to a higher moral level because they are in the public eye, and because the public celebrates them. To ask why we do not hold movie stars to a similar moral level would have been a better question.
These people are the rich and famous and as such society looks up to them. When I get out of bed early in the morning to head out training most of me says "Dammit, you, lay back down." Fortunately the rest of me sees the picture of Jan Ullrich, face contorted in true early Ullrich style, and the poster of Thomas Alsgaard crossing the line at Val di Femme having pulled out yet another world Championship title and says "They did it too, this is the price." These men inspire me to be a better athlete and a better person, they set the example that I try to follow. What would Christianity be if Jesus had not held himself to a higher moral standard? Certainly cyclists, despite what some of them may think, are not messiahs nor a race of gods, but they are role models and they are paid very well to be. As such they have a responsibility to act in a manner that is worthy of emulation. I am sure some of you will take shots at Ullrich having read this, be my guest he failed that test last season. Still he has come back to show the world that it is always worth another try.
The point here is athletes are only useful for as long as they set an example. That is what sports is ultimately about. Would it be okay for Lance to use drugs? I mean after all its not his fault we can't expect him to be at a higher moral standard then stoned high school students. Of course a stoned high school student isn't an icon for cancer survivors and people everywhere to look up to. Frankly if I was a lab technician I wonder if I'd have the guts to report it if I caught Lance. Think of the damage it could do, the hope people would lose. That right there is the reason that we must do everything we can to encourage men like Armstrong, and teams like ONCE, not to take the risk of creating heroes that don't exist. It is fraud of the worst kind.
What's the deal with Conseil de prévention et de lutte contre le dopage (CPLD)? Do they have the legal authority to keep Galdeano out of the Tour? This is ridiculous. So he's got asthma, big deal. Next come the stories of disposed ventolin inhalers recovered from trash dumpsters. After giving up on Lance, maybe the French just need another high profile rider to point their finger at. If the UCI cleared him, I say let the man ride! Here's to seeing Igor and the rest of ONCE in full force at the Tour.
I too had asthma as a child and an adult but have never been able to correlate it to any food. I have noticed two things; one I seem to require twice as much food on the bike as my friends and two my doctors can never believe my peak flow data (until the see the results of the office test). If you have asthma and you don't keep up with your peak flow you are really limiting your cycling ability! For me a peak flow tells me more about how I will ride then any heart rate monitor, watts computer, or anything. I wonder if what you think is due to food could be caused by something else an example would be if you only ate steak when grilling and you only grilled at certain points in the year when pollen counts are high then pollen could be the real culprit. I would suggest you take a peak flow as many times a day as possible to understand what is really going on. I can usually tell a week in advance of a problem and head it off by changing from advair 250/50 to 500/50.
One side note you can use asthma to help your training. I know that my peak flow is always a little lower in the early morning so when I ride alone or with my wife I try to train in the morning (sort of like high altitude training). When I want to see how my training is coming I always test myself in the afternoon when I know my peak flow is the highest. I am not sure if this is the smartest thing to do but I am 5 foot 8, 130lbs and have a peak flow of easily 750 L/min which is 200 L/min higher then my doctor thought I could do.
Asthma and diet - but what do you eat
Harley here; what do I eat? I'm racing a kermesse in Belgium today; last night for dinner I had bananas and dates - carbs and everything you need and nothing you don't! This morning a kilo of oranges, 30 minutes later kilo of bananas and finally two hours before I go to battle 500g to a kilo of dates. In the race more dates or some pure diluted fruit juice. Fruit always first as it ferments with other foods causing what you're thinking; immediately after some more dates; maybe 200gm. Obviously I'm drinking filtered water all day and no coffee or caffeine tablets as it depletes my iron and vitamin stores, gives me a false high and a real come down; for dinner more fruit or oats or pasta and veggies.
Right now I average 700km a week and have done just over 12000km for the year; if I have to go hard I eat fruit because it takes the least amount of energy to digest and when in its raw ripe state contains essential vitamins and enzymes which are lost or damaged when cooked. In my last 24 hour race I won I ate dates, bananas and a little soy; no sleep, no stimulants, didn't need it. Skeptical? Try and fly! But read first so you get your facts and knowledge. But most important of all wisdom! And I did a 415km day in March and ate fruit until the 320km mark then I had some honey bread.
I haven't been sick for 2 years; sure you can win on 80psi why not have 100psi? 99.9 percent of our health problems are diet and lifestyle. Just look at the animal in the wild and the animals we 'look after', humans are the sickest animals on the planet. Simple! Let the health begin.
Eddy Merckx, to an extent, continues living his career through Lance, and his comments only reflect his frustration that Lance didn't perform a little better at Liege. Eddy, no doubt, has noticed that Lance has pretty blatantly shut it down near the end of some races during the last year, when he realized he wasn't going to win the final small group sprint. Hopefully Lance will rethink this behavior and come to realize that this could be interpreted as a lack of respect for the race, for other riders, even for cycling on some level.
A recent comment Lance made at Amstel Gold: "I wasn't interested in getting second again. "Well why not? It's a hell of a lot better than 8th or 20th. Obviously Lance can't sprint, but does that OK not even trying and then letting yourself slip a few places? I don't think so. Snap out of it, Lance, or Tyler's going to kick your ass this year at Le Tour! I'm going to go out on a limb here and predict Tyler Hamilton gets second at Le Tour this year, assuming he doesn't crash between now and then. How about Levi Leipheimer third - any takers? An American sweep of Le Tour...
Merckx and Armstrong
This is such a typical attitude. One guy dares to say something negative about Armstrong and all the usual howls of protest from across the pond come forth. Although I do agree it does somewhat smack of sour grapes for his son.
When you have achieved what Eddy has achieved then you will be in a position to state whether or not Eddy could cut it in today's races. In all these questions about whether this or that ex racer could cut it nowadays I've never seen anyone ask the reverse. Do you really think Armstrong could have cut it back then, with no (or few) single race focus teams and a lot less unity between team members? Why don't you ask Greg LeMond what he thought of 'team unity and support' back then, had it been better he may have another TDF to his credit.
Does it really matter. Armstrong can talk through his legs and Eddy can say what he likes about who he likes, because he's been there and done that. The only people it seems to really matter to is you, and me, and we're hardly going to affect the outcome of a race, are we?
What Merckx said was foolish. But only heat-of-the-moment foolish. Others have pointed out that Merckx was the one who was most vocal in saying that Armstrong was a lock to win LBL; so that it's a bit overstated on his part to then claim that Armstrong was over-confident is pretty obvious, and that his credibility is pretty thin when he criticizes Armstrong for not waiting for Merckx's son in attacking is also pretty obvious. It might even be hypocritical, given Merckx's own penchant for humiliating, unanswerable moves in races. But that Armstrong -- who, after all, is the only one who has anything much to complain about -- isn't more upset about the whole episode (except that it took place in the press) should probably set the tone for how all of us view Eddy's ugly little scene. And anyway, it's not as though Merckx had been giving careful consideration about what he was about to say for a while before he said it. 'Nuff said.
On the other hand, to denigrate Merckx's abilities is just ignorant. I can't imagine anyone with much sense and historical knowledge saying that Eddy Merckx was anything less than one of the very best cyclists ever -- and probably the flat-out greatest. Period. No qualifications. His record in classics, where he dominated, and in grand tours, where he also dominated (in the same seasons) shows how stunningly consistent he was in beating the best in the game week in and week out in all race formats. And his hour record -- which set a standard that is still more than many pro cyclists who are not designated "time-trial specialists" could not beat (and which stood for what, 12 or 13 years?) shows how tremendous his raw ability was.
It's a tiresome and ultimately pointless business to try to rank athletes in any sport from different periods by any standard other than how they did given the competition of the day. Would Eddy Merckx taken straight from 1973 win any pro races in 2003? Hard to say. Would Eddy Merckx, given modern equipment and a reasonable amount of time to take advantage of current training and nutritional technology win any pro races in 2003? I dare say; I'd even guess that he might be relatively just as good as he was then--unless someone can make the case that the population of cyclists today is so different that a man who was clearly head-and-shoulders better in the 1973 crowd would only be run-of-the-mill today. And that's something that anyone with an understanding of statistics--and the demographics of cycling--would never assert.
Let's stay "on message" here. You don't like Merckx's comments, say so. But don't say he wasn't a good cyclist--because then we'll question everything else you have to say, too.
Eddy Merckx's Liège comments
Eddy's post race comments were certainly a little silly given that he was one of those tipping Lance on Friday, but suggesting that his opinion doesn't matter is also silly. Lance has clearly valued it in the past and no doubt will again. And suggesting that he wouldn't have won any Grand Tours is ridiculous and disrespectful to cycling's past -- not to mention unsupportable based on evidence. Compare the times and the average speeds. The differences are well within the range of what might be accounted for by the improvements in equipment, aerodynamics, and training techniques. Look at by how little Boardman was able to beat Merckx's hour (10 meters). I bet only a small fraction of today's pros could approach Eddy's hour.
As for Eddy's comments on Lance and others, well, that's par for the course. Nearly every retired athlete says really foolish things (Roger De Vlaeminck on Museeuw just a couple months ago is another good example), mainly because they still want to be out there and are afraid to be forgotten. This is what made us love them in their primes and we can and should forgive them in their declines, considering what they've given us.
Eddy Merckx - in context
I don't think people over here understand the situation regarding Merckx. Merckx is regarded by the press as an expert and criticism goes along with that because, right or wrong, it gives a more complete perspective on racing events. He's been deferential to Armstrong and other riders of the current generation at times also. Every star in mainstream American sport gets criticized in the media at sometime or another for on-field performance. It's in-depth analysis that stimulates discussion and fans who follow a sport expect and appreciate it. Rather than attacking Merckx I think we should understand his comments in the context in which they were made.
I do not read Bruyneel's comments the way David Coughlin does. It is so hard to know the "sub-text" of what someone says. David seems to read a sub-text that is derogatory toward Tyler Hamilton and his fantastic win at LBL. I read Bruyneel's sub-text as a (perhaps) partial lament for his own tactics, and partial praise for that of Hamilton. I am not confident that Coughlin is wrong nor that I am right. It is just very hard to know.
My view is that Hamilton and Boogerd played the tactics just a wee bit smarter--let others do much of the hard work to control the front of the race; save some energy for the most opportune moment. Even Hamilton by his own admission in his post-race comments reports being "very shocked." He thought he missed the critical break, but it came back and he jumped at the most fortunate moment. Not being known as a pre-race favorite or a threat in a Classics, the others let him go, to their disappointment. Fortunately he ended up making the best decision during the last 3% of the race.
The win does not always go to the rider who expends the most energy during a race. It does not always go to the strongest or best prepared. It does not always go the one with the best tactics and strategy. Certainly having the most energy to expend, being strongest, being best prepared, and having the best tactics and strategy put one in a much better position to win. But sometimes it takes all that plus jumping away unnoticed because the other leaders are eyeing each other and not paying attention.
Hats off to Hamilton. Hats off to Armstrong for all the work he did (perhaps unwittingly) to contribute to a win by one of his pals. Hats off to Bruyneel for what I take to be a tactful post-race comment.
I will be getting braces on my teeth next year and have a question. What can I eat whilst riding the bike? I read everything about what not to eat normally but now would like to see what I can eat on the bike. Are my favorite Banana Powerbars out? What about Fig Newtons? Your assistance is most appreciated.
I'm writing in response to John Stevenson's bit on the "World's Most Expensive Derailleur" in the 5/7 posting of the news in which he talks about a Dura-Ace 10mm group. I just wanted to share my enthusiasm but also my pain as I used to have a complete Dura-Ace 10 group on a Colnago Super track bike. It was fantastic! The chain never stretched, I had all the chainrings in different sizes, it was small, light, and wonderful. While I rode it happily for years at T-Town and even piloted it around town, something compelled me to sell it one day.
I have been kicking myself ever since.
I recently found a group for sale. Today its going price rivals the derailleur you mentioned in your article.
I'm going to go kick myself some more.
Has anyone heard anything to confirm whether or not Spanish TVE will be brodcasting the Giro? I'm assuming they're not, because I'm pretty sure ONCE have decided not to go to the Giro. Hopefully someone has some good news to the contrary.
Has anyone heard anything of Santiago Botero? He is the one that worries me this year and I have not seen him in any races this Spring.
The scene in Amelie when you see a horse is shown galloping with the riders is a real moment from a real race. The incident happened in the Criterium International in 1997 just around my block in the south west of France near Toulouse. This edition was won by Laurent Jalabert's ONCE team-mate Marcelino Garcia. The horse left the field only 20km from the finish. Thankfully nothing serious happened to any of the riders.
I've noticed missing stripes before with the entire Telekom Team. No riders from here seem to have any stripes symbolising any prior national or international victories. For that matter, none of the German teams have this. Is that coincidence?
Oh dear Marco. As a huge fan of yours I admire your past achievements and your comeback (again), and I would dearly love to see someone break Armstrong. But Marco, just let your legs do the talking and keep these plain silly statements to yourself. Talk it up large when you have actually done something. It will be less embarrassing for your fans.
Does anyone know of websites that have profiles for major races or stages of the grand tours WITH enough detail to program a trainer? You need sequences of distance/grade or start elevation/distance/end elevation.
I found a nice profile of this year's Amstel Gold race, for example, but it just showed the height at the top of each climb, not enough to program it.
This was tried a few years ago when Channel 4 here in Britain covered Le Tour. However, the only thing anyone saw for 95 percent of the time was the interesting stitching around the chamois of the rider immediately in front, so it didn't last. The point is, as the previous correspondent said, the top riders are unlikely to be involved so we would only ever get what the domestiques could see, and that is often not very much!
Rumsas has had a quiet year so far but I think he has a reasonable chance in the Giro. I can't pretend to know the politics in the Lampre team or how Rumsas gets on with Casagrande, but at the risk of inventing problems where none exists, I hope we don't see anything like a repeat of the Roche-Visentini conflict of 1987,where Roche was pretty much on his own except for a superb Eddy Schepers and a helpful Robert Miller.
Failure to stop and render aid? What is that, a $100 fine and two weeks of picking up trash along the highway? It's this kind of stupid law enforcement (or whatever) that makes running cyclists off the road more of a sport than a crime.
Hang on!! Who's been rubbishing the Brits? Stephan and I, in different ways, have been making exactly the points you do. But I added the rider, which your summary supports, that we have been through a lean patch lately when only Chris and then David were really showing the flag (and Max of course who has plugged away for many years now with virtually no recognition at home). We're as pleased as you are that things are looking better, and who knows, if it carries on like this, cycling might actually feature as a 'Sport' in the results round-ups in our national newspapers!
Brits - Millar and Wiggins still to show
Ed Alexandersson`s letter and his language are upside down, Simpson and Hoban had amazing, exceptional talent. Between them they won Milan-San Remo, Tour of Flanders, Tour of Lombardy, Gent-Wevelgem, the World RR Championship etc. etc.
Millar and Wiggins have "amazing, exceptional talent" and have won... well, not much according to Millar himself.
I look forward to Millar and Wiggins emulating Simpson and Hoban.
Oh, congratulations to Julian Winn on a very good win in GP Villers Cottterets.
I know that Bo Hamburger won his court case pertaining to his suspension. I saw him race in Ireland during the Tour De France and thought he really had all the tools to dominate stage races. Where is he now?
By the way, I must compliment you on the outstanding job you do covering professional cycling. Without you, nobody in the United States would know what was happening in Europe! Great job, keep up the great work. I also would like you to know that I have made several on line purchases from numerous sites that advertise on the site, it does work!
Brian T. Callanan
I have a question that may seem a bit mundane, but for me has become crucial, I thought I could track it down myself, turns out it became a lot harder than I could have anticipated.
I am trying to find a store in Europe or the USA, where I can get a pair of Northwave Evolution shoes in a size 39.5, with a time interface. They do make them, as I have a pair, but that retailer no longer stocks them - and none of the normal ones seem to do that size. So I need a retailer who stocks them, or knows how to and can source them. I can't even find the direct contact details for Northwave (Italy) - not on their web site - do you know them? That would be a big help in future.
I know the obvious thing is to change shoes - but in my case that is a big big problem - without going into detail, I have (through a combination of birth defect and surgical disasters) a serious foot problem - can't run, walk OK a bit - but can ride a bike, and even race fairly successfully - turns out the Evolutions seem to be ( with my orthotics) the best ever for me.
I have the '91, '92, '93 Tours de France on video, and am looking to get '94 & '95. Does anybody know how I can go about this? I live in Melbourne, Australia.
I'm a former professional cyclist, team Body Wise from 88 to 97, since then I have started a coaching business which has grown quite a bit. My question is, do you know what two way radios would be the best for me to keep in contact with my groups and asssistant coaches? I retired before using radios was in so I'm a bit confused. I have tested the PTT microphones on the little Motorola's but its not safe as reaching for the button while coaching is dangerous. Do you know of any better systems?
Great story that, "The Launceston Classic", tucked away in the Rider profiles and interviews section (home page on the lower left). Sort of gives one hope that the lesser profile places may rise to cycling fame at least once in their lifetime. Launceston sounds like a cycling heaven given that motorists respect cyclists on the road, maybe I'll visit.
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