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Letters to Cyclingnews - November 28, 2003
I was troubled by the assertion at the end of the lead news item for November 22 (Unnamed Italian pro claims widespread doping) that the fact that this source was anonymous would lead people to question his authenticity. The suggestion implicit in that comment is that people should question his authenticity.
Anonymous sources have been an integral part of investigative journalism since the beginning of the trade. Oftentimes, a reporter must rely on sources who are willing to speak only as background or not for attribution to get a story. The particulars that necessitate the anonymity do not reduce the truthfulness of the story.
I point out one of the most famous examples: the Washington Post reporting on Watergate that relied on a source, Deep Throat, who remains anonymous even today, three decades later.
It is, of course, incumbent on the journalist to be as scrupulous as possible and vet the source's claims thoroughly. If the Italian television show "Striscia la Notizia" is known for its shoddy journalism, then present those facts. But to indict the verity of an extemely serious story based solely on the fact that the Italian press have been sensationalist in the past would be to paint all media as tainted simply because of the existence of tabloids. Should we be skeptical? Of course. But we should also grant that there may be some real truth to this story. It wouldn't be the first time.
Okay, okay, okay. We all admit we would like to see Lance compete in the Giro or the Vuelta, or the World's etc. We would also like to see Simoni challenge Lance rather than simply win a stage, and finish so far down on the GC he was not an issue.
Will Lance be remembered as the greatest Tour rider? If he wins six, yes. Will he be remembered as the greatest cyclist ever. No way. There are too many others that competed year round, while still winning the Tour. Those were the Greats, and they were special. Merckx, Coppi, Hinault, are the Greats. The eras were different, and the sport was also.
May I ask why nobody is making the correlation to drug testing? With the increasing profile of testing, and the random checks, it seems that perhaps the sport has cleaned up some. With that cleaning up means that cyclist cannot perform seven months of the year but rather seven to nine weeks before they have a meltdown. Bettini survives the whole year, but one race at a time, and while he competes in the Tours he is in a support role.
While many are saying that Lance is unable to do the double, why isn't anyone saying the same of Simoni? Or Savoldelli? Why are the top three finishers of the Giro not in the top five of the Tour? Everyone is so willing to attack Lance for not competing in the other races. He is a specialist. He specializes in one race, the Tour. Everything else is secondary. If he won the Giro, Vuelta, Amstel Gold, but not the Tour, would he be defining his year as successful? Would all those that say he needs to ride a full year say he was? Makes you wonder doesn't it. Willie de Boscher was one of the greatest track cyclists, but I don't think too many remember him. Patrick Sercu won more six day events than anyone else. How many fifteen year old boys or girls could name them? But they could name Merckx, Coppi, Hinault.
The Tour is what defines our sport currently. Until we the fans decide to pay more attention to the World Cup or the Giro, or Vuelta, it will remain that way, and will remain the sole focus for Lance.
Michel van Musschenbroek
Simoni's challenge #2
Andy Hill's point that Lance should ignore Simoni's challenge is spot on. But then Mr. Hill issues a challenge to Simoni! What! If Lance should ignore Simoni, then Simoni should surely ignore Mr. Hill. Everyone knows Simoni is whistling in the graveyard and has no real hope that: 1) Lance will race the Giro; 2) that he could beat Lance in either race.
Raymond F. Martin
Simoni's challenge #3
What I’d really like to see next year is Lance riding the Vuelta, as a domestique for Roberto, rather than riding the Giro. Roberto has ridden his heart out for Lance; it would be generous and inspiring to see Lance reciprocate.
Simoni's challenge #4
Tom Jiminson's letter regarding Lance is a particularly extreme example of the "anti-Lance" letters that turn up here from time to time, and is worth comment. Tom (and others), the fact that Lance is opinionated, confident, and self-secure is not a character flaw. Lance doesn't race the Giro or Vuelta because he believes it would interfere with his goal of winning the Tour de France. That isn't a "fault," it's just the way it is. Should we be surprised that a man who was given less than a 10% chance of living, and who has endured brain surgery and chemotherapy, is selective about his racing programme?
I have never heard or read of Lance comparing himself to Indurain or Merckx without acknowledging their more complete programme, and his admiration of their strength and stamina. Simoni is free to issue "challenges" (although they'd be more compelling if he'd performed better in the Tour), but he seems rather naive. Lance is the consummate professional, and he has achieved more in his career than Simoni ever will. His success in the Tour generates tens of millions of dollars in advertising, sponsorship and philanthropic revenue. Should it not be apparent to Simoni that challenges issued through the media will do absolutely nothing to alter Lance's schedule or goals?
More fundamentally, I object to the implications in letters like Jiminson's that Lance doesn't care about anyone other than his "select group" of friends. Unless, of course, you include in that "select group" the over 10 million people who live today as cancer survivors. I challenge the Jiminsons of the world to name a cyclist that has given more of himself than Lance. Perhaps he even gives too much; reading between the lines of his new book, Lance's commitments to others appear to have played a significant role in the failure of his marriage.
Lance races out of his love of riding, and for those in the cancer community who draw inspiration from his story, not because his ego requires legions of fawning "fans." When cycling fans like Jiminson express disappointment that Lance doesn't seem to require their approval, it is a more interesting reflection on them than on Lance.
Simoni's challenge #5
Enough about Simoni.
Does anyone truly believe Simoni and his team can pull off a Tour-Giro double? Just like Lance, Gilberto only targets one race during a regular season (next year, he will probably try to make the Olympics team as well). Simoni isn't exactly out there tearing up the World Cup circuit either, is he? The guy targets the Giro because realistically that is a race he can win, not the Tour. There are at least two other premier stage racers whose seasons revolve around just that. Homeboy knows this, so he does the only thing that he could, which is to create his own "buzz". Just like this time last year, the buzz will keep his name from disappearing (see? we're still talking about him) and help his team gain an invitation to the Tour.
Winning a stage or two in each of the major tours on the terrain that one specializes in and then hide in the peloton the rest of the time is one thing. Winning the overall in two major tours when one of them is targeted by Armstrong and Ullrich is something else altogether. Dream on.
Although I don't consider myself a big fan of Bobby Julich, I am nonetheless pleased to hear that he has signed with Bjarne Riis at CSC for the coming season. Riis has shown his ability to help riders reach their full potential and I think Julich will benefit from the seemingly loose atmosphere within the CSC camp. I also believe that Bobby's demise has been wrongly attributed to personal rather than situational (or in this case, team) attributes. Best of luck to Bobby, and I hope to see him in the thick of the action in 2004.
While I can agree to a degree with the note of Wolfgang Klages, as I was lost for words when the announcement came down ("Brioches??"), I thought about the "Super-Domestiques" at his disposal (Chavanel & Rous). I think my only concern is that they would be unwilling to work for him when it came down to crunch time. Whether or not this is unfounded will manifest itself come July. I just hope that these contenders will be up to the challenge of dethroning "le Boss," making for an exciting Tour.
Beloki's choice of team #2
I have a somewhat ignorant response to Wolfgang's letter of last week. He fears that Beloki has ruined his chances for next year's Tour by choosing to join Brioches La Boulangère. My response is that in order to have to do well at the Tour, you first have to get into the Tour. Think of the hassle surrounding Team Bianchi pre-race when it was uncertain they would be given entry. What better way for Beloki to guarantee a start in the Tour than on a French team?
I agree with Mr. Whitworth's comments about Floyd Landis seeming frustrated with his season and his having to wait for Roberto Heras on the day that he was in the winning break at the Vuelta this past Sept. However, I feel that his efforts there in waiting and helping to conserve Heras' margin to Nozal on the day were of vital importance in USPS' ultimate victory. It was brilliant tactics on the team's part and he should be proud of what he accomplished. Had Heras been caught by the ONCE riders I doubt if he would have gone on to crack Nozal as he did on the uphill time trial.
I ask this then, which is more valuable ? A team leader finishing 2nd overall and the team (possibly) achieving a stage win as well, or a team leader finishing 1st on GC. I imagine even Mr. Landis (who I admire greatly) would agree with the latter being the more valuable result.
Floyd Landis #2
It is true that Landis was in a position to go for the win on that Vuelta stage, but don't forget that he was sent up the rode precisely to help Heras, should the little climber break away from Nozal. The plan was executed perfectly. Also, the peloton only allowed Landis escape in the first place precisely because he was a bottle carrier. I can understand his disappointment, but it would have been a pyrrhic victory had he won. The truth is stage racing is a team sport - which is why Armstrong always says "we" about his Tour de France victories, not "I".
Yes, driving is, by its nature, hazardous to human life. In a lot of ways. Of course it is. And what's an 'earth-muffin'?
Yes, it is really too bad that innocent SUVs (particularly) are 'under attack' from these extremists. And SUVs can't even defend themselves.
That's so unjust.
Punishing fatal driving #2
Russell Burnett said: "When a cyclist is killed, involuntary manslaughter charges should be brought where there was deliberate dangerous driving in known proximity to cyclists."
In Iowa, and most other places where criminal codes provide four levels of charging options involving the death of another: first degree murder [acting with premeditation]; second degree murder [all murders not first degree]; voluntary manslaughter [intentionally doing an act resulting in the death]; and involuntary manslaughter [others]. Such an act involving "deliberate dangerous driving in known proximity" would more likely constitute a charge of voluntary manslaughter.
Here, voluntary manslauther carries a maximum sentence of ten years and a fine, whereas involuntary carries a maximum sentence of five years and a fine.
In reality, though, in Iowa, if you hit and kill a bicyclist while driving an automobile, nothing happens. At all.
Apparently most jurisdictions have adopted Iowa's charging philosophy.
Punishing fatal driving #3
This is a response to Russell Burnett's letter: I strongly disagree with the assertion that charges of only involuntary manslaughter should be brought where there was "deliberate dangerous driving in known proximity to cyclists" I feel that deliberately dangerous driving involving the examples of running cyclists off the road or throwing heavy object at them should not be charged as involuntary manslaughter. If the cyclist dies the motorist should be charged with murder, and if he or she survives, the motorist should be charged with assault or similar. There is a difference between careless driving or moments of inattention, where intent to harm was not there, and behavior that the driver knows is likely to kill or seriously injure somebody.
I am not "anti-car". I'm against the use of cars to deliberately or recklessly endanger lives, as I'm sure most responsible people are.
I don't think Heras was "awful this year", but he was awful in the Tour. Without Beltran, Lance is all alone on those mountains. For that reason, I would have thought Beltran earned better support in the Vuelta. But Roberto won it, and he deserves the kudos associated with a Grand Tour victory. But did anyone think he was the best rider for 3 weeks? Man, he had 2 good days.
Raymond F. Martin
Let's all calm down here: it would take a lot more than Lance winning a Giro/Tour double to start calling him the greatest of all time. I suspect the only people thinking that are some of "my fellow Americans" who have no understanding of the sport prior to 1999. There is no valid comparison that can be made between ANY cyclist and Eddy. None. If that's Lance's desire, he'd better win some more Grand Tours (Merckx won nine I think?), start racing nine months a year, and win 300 more races... or was that 400? Oh yeah, then set the Hour Record. Or how 'bout all three jerseys in one Tour (Eddy, 1969)? Or a solo 100km break on a FLAT stage to crush everyone by 8 minutes and win a Grand Tour (Giro '74?). These last two are feats so mythic that I don't think Lance is capable of them.
Raymond F. Martin
OK, I did not read the details of the article, but still I don't like accusations by induction: there is a bunch of EPO flowing around so athletes are doping themselves.
The regular Joe does not keep EPO and growth hormone in his cabinet to treat colds, but he'll have cortisone products, diuretics and plenty of other restricted substances.
From my perspective (5ft 6 1/2in) the young folks must all be taking growth hormones, so why don't we suspend all Italian racers taller than 6ft 3in for a couple of years just in case.
My point was: take urine and blood samples as much as you want and penalize the positives, but before doing generic public relations like that, there are other sports that deserve a little more bugging.
If you read Put me back on my bike by William Fotheringham, you should also read Mr Tom - The True Story of Tom Simpson by Tom's nephew Chris Sidwells. Each book has a different interpretation on the reasons behind Tom Simpson's death in the 1967 Tour de France. Only after reading both books can the reader make up their own mind as to the "real" reason behind Tom's death. Personally I put more faith in the version presented by Chris Sidwells.
You must also remember the mechanical problem that Lance had going up Galibier and l'Alpe d'Huez - his rear brake was rubbing against the rim. That was why he was so tired climbing the Galibier, and would have drained the strength that would have otherwise been available on l'Alpe d'Huez. Looking strictly at time differences, like examining all things from a purely statistical viewpoint, can be very misleading.
James K. Weaver
Tour climbers analysed #2
Marek does a good job of illustrating how well Mayo climbed this year. Perhaps he was the best in the mountains. And I don't know if Lance could have caught him up Alp d'Huez even if he had tried. To do so would have been strategic suicide, I think.
Raymond F. Martin
My family and I have watched the Tour de France live for several years. One of the highlights of our trips is participating in l'Etape du Tour, the stage opened to the public to ride with closed roads, support and thousands of other Tour fans. We are considering a visit to the Giro D'Italia this year and are curious whether an equivalent event is held at the Giro. I've looked at the Giro Web site and a cursory Google search has not been helpful. Does anyone have any information for us? Thanks.
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