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Letters to Cyclingnews - May 20, 2003
Tour de France wildcards special
After yesterday's announcement by Tour de France organiser ASO of the race's final four wild card selections, we were deluged with emails from readers reacting to this year's decisions, and particularly to ASO's exclusion of Mario Cipollini's Domina Vacanze team.
Here is a selection of those letters - and you can also have your say in our opinion poll on the topic.
Please email your correspondence to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Who should go
When is J.M. LeBlanc going to realize, if ever, that he can't pick a bunch of barely mediocre French teams just because its a race in France ??? Outside of France, nobody really cares anymore about Brochard, Nazon, and Seigneur, to name a few.
So here is my team by team listing of who can get the boot in favor of Cipollini and why:
Ag2R: Brochard was over the hill two years ago, if not more. Cipo can kick Kirsipuu's butt any day of the year.
Alessio: Good team, but Noe and Caucchioli will burn all their matches in the Giro. Dufaux and Baldato? REALLY old! Dufaux did well at Romandie, but a three week race in the July heat is a completely different story.
Brioches La whatever: Chavanel? Again, outside of France, very few people care. Join a better team, pal!
Jean Delatour: Nazon is a second-rate sprinter on a good day. Seigneur is also in the too old category (and not that good anyway). Halgand is in the UCI top 100. Fine, join CA or Cofidis next season!
Quick Step (may surprise a few people): This team has and always will be a World Cup and Classics team. in spite of their world team ranking, they should just stay home because they don't have any serious GC contenders. Sorry Bettini!
Sidermec: Garzelli and Mazzoleni will also fry all their matches in the next two weeks and won't be able to recover in time for a good ride in July. Vainstains is overrated and overpaid.
Now I'm not saying all these teams should go, but leaving out Cipo once again is completely ridiculous !
Spencer J. Dech
What is LeBlanc doing leaving the World Champion out of the biggest race of the year? He cites that it is Cipollini's fault for not having finished a Tour de France, but the guy hasn't even been given a chance since 1999 - and that year he won four stages! I think you can justify leaving the race after winning four stages because that's more Tour stage wins than most pros can even dream of in a whole carear.
There must be some sort of legislation to determine entry to as many top teams as possible. Sad though it is for the state of the sport, the Tour is the most important race of the entire year. This can influence the decision of a sponsor in whether they will support a team the following year. If I were in charge of team selection for the Tour, Giro and Vuelta I would make a common law in the sport and it would be as follows (If one team has two winners then this spare selection is deferred to the Wild-Card section):
1. Teams of winners from all of the previous year's major tours gain entry
By giving more wild card selection, all teams need to impress and there is not such a manic rush for about six teams to fill four spots; this would decrease the amount of criticism and give more options to race organisers. The idea of a top club must be scrapped, it only shows how teams performed the previous year.
Sure, I suppose Mr LeBlanc has the 'right' to pick and choose his teams, supposedly on their merits and UCI points, but a Jean Delatour rider winning one stage in last year's Tour is reason for including them, and Brioches La Boulangere? Euskaltel deserved a spot last year, so it is good to see they will be in. Leblanc holds up this thin excuse that Cipollini is a quitter - this from a ex rider whose palmares can be expressed in a few lines. Mario is a example of what the TdF is all about: passion. He's flash, loud and wins stages. He creates more excitement and buzz in one stage than Armstrong does in the whole Tour, and I think that gets under someone's skin.
It will be another year that this once greatest cycle race is reduced to the dull and pointless recrowning of the American star. Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano, no doubt one of the best threats to him, shafted on a dubious doping charge; no Jan Ullrich, (no team!); and Raimondas Rumsas, after last year's dope scandal, lucky to have his name mentioned.
Leblanc is doing his damnedest to ensure that himself, Armstrong and the ASO all come up trumps, it is indeed a sad day, reducing a once proud race to the whims of pettiness, arrogance and favouritism.
The French have done it again. By excluding World Champion Mario Cipollini's team from their provincial tour around their little Texas-sized country, they have excluded one of the greatest cycling champions of all time from taking part in their petty event. What was once the greatest cycling event of all time has now been reduced to a struggle to protect the pathetic little clubs that make up their domestic racing scene.
M. LeBlanc states that his race "is a competition, not a show". That's funny; it hasn't seemed like much of a competition in the last four years. More like the Lance Armstrong show. And I bet the French just love that. In the past four years they have tried to trip Lance up with changes to the course, investigations implicating his team and attacking him in their media when he so much as gets a saddle sore. And now they are even holding a 22nd team spot in the event that Ullrich, who has raced maybe a half dozen times this year might materialize as Lance's main rival. Fat chance.
I for one will not be watching the coverage of the Tour this year. I already know Lance will win and the French won't win any stages. Where's the drama in that?
What a ridiculous decision to exclude Domina Vacanze from the Tour. Their "lesser" riders -- Ongarato, Scarponi, Lombardi et al -- have been making the selection in countless races (Amstel Gold, Fleche Wallone, Liege, etc.), whereas Jean Delatour were visible only at the start line of those same races. So for JM Leblanc to state that "The Tour de France is a competition not a show," is utter nonsense in light of the inclusion of the Delatour squad. So a rider from Jean Delatour won a stage last year -- nobody from Euskaltel-Euskadi did (or did much of anything, really), and E-E's highest final placing was somewhere in the 30, yet there they are in the wild card selection. Meanwhile, who can rationally doubt that Cipollini, were he invited, would win at the very least one stage -- in the rainbow jersey, no less? What is the "competition" in Leblanc's eyes if not stage wins as well as the overall? It should be noted that, while not terribly high in the overall rankings for 2003, Domina Vacanze has garnered more points so far this season than, for example, the mighty US Postal, and certainly more points than Jean Delatour.
Maybe a Delatour rider won a stage last year, but a different Delatour rider, Laurent Roux, was "non-negative" well before the Tour -- yet, incredibly, Jean Delatour was selected to ride last year's Tour anyway. Jean Delatour complained that non-selection for the Tour would probably mean the end of sponsorship for the team -- but perhaps the almost total lack of results, coupled with a drugs bust here and there, also has a little something to do with their sponsor's hesitancy to continue. Does Michel Gros have some incriminating pictures of JM Leblanc or what?
The Tour also seems to be holding a spot for Jan Ullrich's 'team', whatever it will be. We all want to see Ullrich race (for all the obvious reasons), but to favor a team that hasn't been able to keep itself together over a team that's proven itself in a number of races is pretty irresponsible. Maybe if they play their cards right, the remaining members of the old Le Groupement team can wangle an invitation to this year's Tour...
Thanks to Cyclingnews for your well-thought (and well-put) editorials on this. Sadly, I doubt any of our reactions will have much sway over the almost fanatical devotion the ASO has to sad little French teams hanging on to Division I status by the threads of their pink Lycra shorts.
For LeBlanc to deliberately keep Mario Cipollini out of the Tour is to rob cycling of what may be some of its greatest and most colorful moments. I will always remember the awe and amazement of his four-in-a-row stage wins the last time he raced the Tour.
Perhaps you could provide us with LeBlanc's email address, or take a poll of your viewers, to provide a way for us to express our feelings about that decision.
I am utterly gob-smacked by Jean-Marie LeBlanc's decision to omit Mario Cipollini from the Tour. He says that the Tour isn't a show, but a competition; what Tour is he running? The first week has been a show for the sprinters for at least the last 10 years. I'm betting that the sight of Cipo mixing it up has been one of the main things that has held the average punter's interest during the often boring early stages of the race. He is a showman, and he is perfect for the biggest show in town. Who cares if he finishes the Tour or not; I'd rather have him there winning some stages, then going home, than spend my time watching those bogus, go-nowhere early break losers that the French teams seem to specialize in.
Unbelievable! Once again, Mario Cipollini and his present team, Domina Vacanze are excluded from this year's Tour de France. The only person this reflects badly on is Jean- Marie Leblanc. He comes across as a short sighted imbecile. There is a place being held for the beleaguered Team Coast and not Cipo?
This is a typical French move. They have been telling everyone this season that they couldn't see any reason why Mario's team wouldn't get an invite. However, when push comes to shove and it's decision time the French do what the French do, bewilder the rest of us. Mario, turn around and I'll pull Leblanc's knife out of your back.
I'm calling out to all the real cycling fans to boycott the Tour this year because it has become not a cycle race but a disgraceful political game in which the winners are J.M Leblanc and co. and the losers are the real cycling-loving fans.
Once again we will see the "best" bike race in the world without the best riders in the world.
The tour is a great festival of cycling but it is a shame that it is managed by the worst and most politically driven managers that can be. So I'm calling to all of you cycling fans to protest and turn off the screens in July.
TO invite a second-rate French team to the Tour when Cipo should have been invited is ridiculous. I think we should all notify the Tour that we will turn off live coverage of the last 1/2 hour of sprint stages in protest.
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