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Letters to Cyclingnews - October 1, 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.
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Caffeine and sport
The International Olympic Committee [currently] permits 12 ug/mL of caffeine in the urine. This is the equivalent of consuming 600 to 800 mg of caffeine within 30 minutes. To put this in perspective, I offer the following table:*1
Substance Caffeine (mg)
28g (1 oz) chocolate 45 355 mL (12 oz) Mountain Dew 54 177 mL (6 oz) instant coffee 54-75 177 mL (6oz) iced tea 70-75 177 mL (6oz) drip coffee 181 Standard Dose of some aspirin products 30-128 Standard dose NO Doz, Vivarin 100-200 Standard Dose Dexatrim, Dietac 200
Caffeine, a central nervous system stimulant, has been proven in double-blind studies to be an endurance ergonomic aid and is on of the most widely used drugs in the world. Dosages as low as 330 mg 1 hour before exercise have been shown to increase an individual's performance time. On the down side, moderate to high doses of caffeine can result in nervousness, restlessness, insomnia, and tremors. Caffeine is also a diuretic, which might increase the risk of dehydration and heat related illness. Caffeine can be addictive and result in severe headaches, fatigue, irritability and gastrointestinal distress after withdrawal from the substance. In addition, individual differences in caffeine sensitivity may account for the lack of an ergogenic effect.*2
Caffeine has been reported to elevate arterial blood pressure and heart rate. Chronic caffeine ingestion is associated with a decrease in cerebral blood flow and an increase in mean arterial pressure.*3
The most disturbing aspect of the lifting of any control on this drug is going to be the supplementation of juniors. These are young bodies with usually little known health histories just because of their immaturity. I am not a doctor, but I would assume training and racing with regular supplementation from a coach or parent of over 800 mg of caffeine along maybe with a possible undetected heart defect may be disastrous. Add to that a cold tablet consisting of pseudoephedrine that was taken before a race to clear that stuffy head...
This is not only irresponsible but possibly criminal on the part of a parent, coach, or organization that would knowingly, with all the viable studies and information out there, allow or encourage supplementation of caffeine of juniors.
*1 Tribole E. Eating on the run. 2nd ed. Champaign, Il: Leisure Press, 1992:442.
Erica Leister, ACSM Health and Fitness
As a true-blue USPS-fan living in Canada, I was thoroughly pleased with the excellent coverage that the Vuelta a Espana had on television. I did not miss one single second, I saw all the stages and I was live onboard when Roberto Heras zoomed by the rest of the world to take the golden jersey on Saturday. Yes. Excellent! ... and then I woke up and found out that it was just a dream. Actually I have not seen 5 minutes coverage of the entire Vuelta (some bits and pieces on a European news channel that I get (albeit in French) here on cable. But nevertheless, I was there, live, via the Internet (and the Cyclingnews play-by-play) and phone with some buddies in Europe who saw the final TT on Spanish TV and described to me that "Roberto really looks strong" and that "Nozal really is suffering". The reason the Vuelta was not on world-wide TV (as the TdF)... Easy: It's not popular. Not from a spectator point of view, not from a sponsor point of view, not from a prestige point of view, not popular, period.
But why is the Vuelta not popular? Some BIG riders were absent (which does not diminish Roberto's excellent victory one bit mind you) and some even bigger riders made a joke out of the organizers (Yes Mr. Cipo, I mean YOU!). And even the organizers themselves were close of turning the Vuelta into a "nada", if you remember the "very interesting" egg, of having 2 pelotons merging into one, that they were trying to hatch in the off-season last year.
Traditionally the Vuelta was always earlier in the year (April, May) and this was considered by many of the great riders (Merckx, Anquetil, Hinault, et al.) as a serious event. But the UCI decided to "elevate" the Vuelta a few years back to make it a "great" 3-week Tour and along with the Giro and the Tour de France it was said to be one of the "big three". But it never became that... Nowadays the Vuelta is used by many teams to "save" an otherwise failed season (see Ullrich in 1999). None of the 6 top riders in the 2003 Tour de France made it to Spain this year and even worse, not even two of the best Spanish riders of the moment were there (Zubeldia and Mayo). Yes, we saw some great new "espoirs" come along and make their stand (watch out for this Nozal-guy!) and some strong riders have confirmed their importance to the cycling world (Petacchi, excellent!) but come on people... Where are the rest of them? And don't even get me started on the upcoming World Champs... Even a certain George H. went home to prepare for Hamilton before the Vuelta was over.
Conclusion: Bad timing, UCI! Bad timing!
There is probably nothing that can be done by anyone to reduce the Über-Tour de France in importance. But a season build around 3 big tours in addition to a World championship (and every 4 years an Olympic event) might be to risky. Why not reduce the Vuelta to a 2-week stage race, take another Spanish race (like the Vuelta a Murcia early in the season), add on some stages to make it longer and more interesting (teams preparing for the Tour de France might like it), and keep the racing schedule in September free of "big" tours for riders to prepare for the World's?
Miguel Indurain said on Spanish TV that the riders "are tired after a long season"... According to the calendar the long season is not yet over. But if you believe the interest generated by the public, the season was over when the peloton crossed the finish line on the Champs Elysées. But thanks to Roberto and the boys, we have had one more chapter written in the history of cycling, even when some of us never saw it live.
Looking forward to Hamilton...
It appears that WADA is groping in the dark, lacks leadership, and generally is throwing this stuff out there to see what kind of reaction they get from the international cycling community. Amateur, at best, and with their budget and influence, there is no excuse for this approach, is there? This is the 21st century, isn't there a better, more organized, more scientific, more systematic, approach that can be taken before the Olympics become a complete fiasco?
WADA rule changes #2
These changes fly in the face of everything an anti-doping agency should stand for. I remember reading once, possibly in an Ed Burke book, that caffeine was one of the only clinically proven performance enhancers, that is, shown in a laboratory to measurably enhance performance. This may not be accurate in this day in age with the extent of clinical testing that goes on, but certainly there is no doubt as to its (caffeine's) effect. Even a cup of coffee at the start (not enough caffeine to be considered doping) has a noticeable effect on performance.
I wonder if this isn't a retaliation by the head of WADA for being passed over for the IOC presidency. As a friend of mine said "I'll show you sport. . . "
I'll withhold further judgment until WADA makes some effort to justify it's move, but as far as I'm concerned they've taken their legitimacy and flushed it. How can ANY substance be removed from a banned substances list without having it's performance enhancing qualities disproven? I just don't get it. Does anyone at WADA get it?
Kudos to Colin Dean for his jab as well.
WADA rule changes #3
Marijuana on the banned list of performance enhancing drugs? Well maybe if you're a bass player. Somehow, I don't see getting a boost in race from smoking a joint. I'm more likely to detour to the nearest donut shop and end up with a "DNF".
WADA, get a grip.
WADA rule changes #4
Many of the chemicals and medications on WADA's list are alien to me... I have no idea what they do or how they do it. My experience with caffeine however, I do know. I know its never helped me. I drink coffee every morning. Maybe three cups a day. I've also tried energy drinks. What ended up happening in my particular case was when the season starts I have to stop or reduce my intake of that stuff. It interferes with my performance. When ever I have had too much coffee before a ride it makes my heart rate higher right from the beginning. I noticed that on rides that are meant to get me to about 70 percent or 80 percent of my MAX HR, with caffeine in my system, I'm running at 90 percent to 95 percent... that's not enhancement, that detriment... It hurts my performance. Long story short, it doesn't bother me that WADA made caffeine OK to take I just don't know why anyone would take it.
Like those professional cyclists who are permitted to take inhaled steroids if the have asthma (an otherwise banned substance), I'm sure governing agencies will permit the legitimate use of Modafinil by someone with a documented medical history of narcolepsy and a doctor's prescription.
On a lighter note, perhaps WADA thought legalizing caffeine would provide an alternative to Modafinil!
I was quite dismayed to read of a third US radio station broadcasting anti-cycling sentiment. It doesn't surprise me, as most of your US readers could attest to the aggressive attitude American motorists have toward cyclists. I've written to Clear Channel, the parent company of the involved radio stations, and urged them to broadcast bicycle safety awareness messages on ALL of their affiliate stations. I've also threatened a boycott of their stations and sponsors if they don't comply. I encourage all US cycling news readers to do the same. A quick internet search will tell you which stations they own in your area. Most of the station's websites list their sponsors.
This issue is too serious to simply let slide. Any readers who've been harassed by motorists (if you're American, that's probably all of you!) need to take a stand. Please write to Clear Channel and air your thoughts. They need to know that their behavior is not only irresponsible, it's criminal.
Clear Channel #2
I think that any automobile-bike accidents in the areas served by those radio stations need to be investigated. If Clear Channel is advocating violence against cyclists, then they share responsibility for injuries or death caused by their listeners. They need to be held accountable.
Clear Channel #3
Yeah, how about a Texas-based women's team called the Dixie Chicks?
I am a little surprised on the scant coverage that Roberto Heras has gotten. Maybe because I am new in the sport, but after following day by day the Tour de France and the Vuelta I think Roberto deserves much more recognition. This guy worked his ass at a particularly hard Tour (excessive heat), then he enters the Vuelta and does the kind of things that makes people like me, so motivated to keep busting my bud to try and win in my local races.
It is so good for the Sport.
In stage 19th I was listening to the Spanish reporters, right when Roberto passed the Navacerrada summit, saying that even the 90 seconds difference wasn't enough to take on Nozal. The difference ended up being smaller but I still new that chances for Roberto were there given the characteristics of the 20th Stage.
I am sure that if you put this guy as a leader on a good team he could win
That is probably the major drawback of the sport. You have so many good people in the same teams, that you end up missing what otherwise would be more dramatic racing.
Claudio Izzo Buchanan
There is no disparity. As Lance himself has said, "the Vuelta is not the Tour." He was referring to smack-talk by Aitor Gonzalez at the time, but the comparison holds true for the relative publicity importance of the two events.
Despite their resemblance to a Spanish team devoted entirely to stage racing, it is a U.S. team with many U.S. riders. George Hincapie is one of the better one-day riders in the world. The team authorities that made the decision to release George from the Vuelta realize the publicity to be gained for the sponsor by having an American rider compete and possibly win the World Championship on North American soil.
I like Heras and cheer for him vehemently--he deserves all that he achieves and all the team can help him achieve. But ultimately, Heras is a Spaniard and George is an American. Call me a patriotic nut, but I say Damn the Vuelta, full speed ahead. At least this year we'll have a good team and we won't have to read a pile of letters asking why the U.S. never sends its best riders to the World's!
George Hincapie and Roberto Heras #2
Responding to Rick Gilbert, USPS is an American team with an American sponsor and is built in such a way to help Lance win the TdF (see also interview with Bruyneel http://www.cyclingnews.com/road/2003/vuelta03/?id=features/bruyneel03). Even though the Vuelta is also important for USPS, its significance is a lot lower than the TdF with Lance around. Moreover, as Hincapie will be a member of American squad in Hamilton, I think it is a bit of political decision by USPS being an American team to release a member of national squad to prepare for the World's.
Still, I am happy to see Heras to win the Vuelta even without Hincapie's help in the final stages showing incredible will and perseverance and being a humble person at the same time. Wish you luck, Roberto!
George Hincapie and Roberto Heras #3
Maybe you would have been surprised to learn that George Hincapie rode in the Vuelta for 15 stages rather than returning to the San Fran Grand Prix. George won the first year and made a valiant effort the second year. He was a crowd favorite. That was a sacrifice in my book. George did a good job supporting Roberto for 15 stages and now it is time for a legitimate contender such as him to rest so he can represent the U.S.A in Hamilton.
I do see what your getting at with the Lance versus Roberto team support issue. However we need to realize that Lance is a megastar and he does deserve that extra dedication during his consistent tour victories. Given the amount of races and the sheer toll cycling takes on athletes, USPS cycling is doing a fair job of spreading their resources over the whole season. As Roberto said after the final Vuelta time trial, "To win the Tour you need to do a tremendous effort, both mentally and physically. It's more than enough for him concentrating on winning his sixth Tour."
I'm a big fan of George Hincapie and I hope the U.S team has the legs in Hamilton. This year I root for Chris Horner and big George.
While I'm sure Mr. St. Martin has the right intentions, in reality many of the best and most recognizable sponsors of professional cycling have been companies he would probably find fault with. Car companies like Ford, Peugeot, Fiat, as well as makers of wine, beer, sausages (Molteni ring a bell?), plastic pens and cigarette lighters (Bic) have all been proud sponsors of successful pro teams and winning riders in the past, and I hope in the future.
The whole idea of advertising is to broaden markets, or create new ones. Very few sports are self-perpetuating. If these sponsors had not lent their names and dollars to our sport we would be debating how to get companies with enough of an advertising budget to take an interest in cycling. And in harsh economic times, we should be loudly thankful for anyone who wants to promote our sport, and quietly careful about voicing negative opinions of those who are doing nothing but helping us. I for one hope more firms like Saturn will see what a good image involvement in cycling can bring them. Let's show them gratitude!
I'm glad Michael Friend enjoyed my Granfondo story. I've received quite a bit of positive feedback, and I like to think I'm opening people's eyes to the existence of these events and how much fun they are.
My description of the climb as bit like two Galibiers was based on the stats given, the Galibier usually being quoted as 16-17 km at an average of 6-7 percent and Monte Grappa was described as 30 km at an average of 6 percent. I realise that the comparison doesn't really add up, but I needed a way to express how big a climb it is to people who, like me a couple of years ago, have no concept of what these mountain passes are like, so I chose a name that I hope most people are familiar with. Most Cyclingnews readers are based in Australia, the States and the UK, and so aren't lucky enough to have the Alps on their doorstep. The highest climb around here is Ditchling Beacon at 248 metres (1.6 km @ 10 percent)!
Congratulations on finishing la Marmotte, that's supposed to be one of the toughest rides there is, I may do that one next year if I don't go to watch the Tour Prologue.
Before I went to college, I raced briefly, and had the pleasure of seeing Greg LeMond ride as a junior. What struck me was his competitive fire. At one race, held under the Golden Gate Bridge, he did his usual routine of break at the start and lap the field, junior gear restriction notwithstanding. He was shadowed by another rider, who had, I think, won a national pursuit title. This fellow just sat in until the finish, when he tried to pass Greg. Greg rode the guy up onto the barriers, beat him in the sprint, and then went after him when he had climbed off his bike. He was hot!
I had a French roommate my first year at college, and I told him that Greg LeMond would go on to win the Tour. This was a notion he dismissed with the pronouncement that "no American will ever win the Tour de France."
Thank you Greg, for proving me right, and for opening the door.
I find it interesting that total strangers feel they have the right to dissect the reasons and assign blame to either or both Lance Armstrong and his wife for their divorce. It is a sad situation for their family, and from both of their public comments on the topic they have said they are trying to do what is best for their children and maintain their right to privacy. Nobody knows what goes on in a marriage except the two people. I for one am sorry for them and their children, I wish them the best going through what must be a painful process.
Sheila A. Murphy
Lance Armstrong's divorce #2
I'm somewhat at a loss as to what Mr. Messer is saying. Certainly a man's family should always be more important than his livelihood. But Lance is earning a living to support that family in a manner that few others will ever reach. I suggest that they reason you are cutting back on your racing is because it isn't your source of income.
Making a living for your family comes before enjoying being with them. And in Lance's case that means spending immense amounts of time training and being away. I suggest that Mr. Messer would do the same in Lance's position.
Lance Armstrong's divorce #3
I disagree with Edward Messer. I'd much prefer all the spectacular bike rides. Then again, I don't have a family. Hmmmm? Anyway, you can do the wife and kids thing when you're old, fat & decrepit, and also more financially secure.
Lance Armstrong's divorce #4
It's everyone's individual choice, but I vote for giving Lance and his wife a free pass for the time being. A marriage is a hugely complicated dynamic under the most ordinary circumstances, and I know of no one who would suggest that their courtship and marriage ever existed in ordinary circumstances.
The same characteristics that make Lance one of the greatest cyclists in the world probably make him a challenge as a husband-partner. Marriages are not competitions, and having a husband who is focused on winning most of the time probably complicates the situation. Diplomacy is probably not his strong suit. Having said all of that, I, for one, would not want him to be any different than what he is.
Try to give her a break, also. She has to spend huge chunks of time with him gone, and with three young children at home. Sure, she probably has plenty of assistance around the house, and she's not exactly a single mom, but having help with the household and children is not exactly the same as having your significant other there for you.
Everyone feel free to take whatever shots you'd like at either of them. Just remember that every time someone stokes the fire for or against either one of them, it becomes more difficult and complicated for the two of them to work cooperatively with each other for the benefit of their children. How 'bout we let them alone, and let them mediate a peaceful transition that recognizes their individual roles as mom and dad, and allows them to maintain some modicum of privacy and dignity in the process.
Paul A. Landry
That's a great point -- excellence is often boring, if your sole concern is the top placing result. But the TdF is, hopefully, a lot more than that, and all the ancillary events and stories-- and racing -- that occur under the umbrella of the GC result are what make it interesting. It's big and complicated, that's why it's interesting -- the simple result is often going to be the least interesting aspect of something with that much depth and texture.
And, to second another point: when Indurain was winning, everyone was saying: "It's no fun because he never wins a road stage." Now, with Armstrong -- "It's no fun because team tactics that work can be replicated over time." Sorry, but winning four or five tours does require a formula, especially now, when there are so many specializations and so many focused types of fitness that win different kinds of races. When you know that formula and you're not directly involved in the really difficult and chancy work of replicating the results -- well, yeah, it's going to be boring if the GC result is all you care about. By that logic, there should only be about ten riders in the Tour, because all those other stories and riders are superfluous.
Dr Wathen's comments are truly poignant. Anybody here in the US who takes herbal "supplements" is taking a big chance. They aren't regulated by the FDA. How else do you think they can advertise herbal remedies on TV that state: "Stop smoking in 2 days guaranteed!"? PT Barnum was right: you can't overestimate the ignorance of the American public. (He said it, not me: whine at his gravesite!)
Raymond F. Martin
To anyone believing they are "protected" by the FDA:
Unfortunately, the dietary supplements of which we speak are not regulated by the FDA, or for that matter, any other consumer safety monitoring organization. This is a completely unregulated industry. Only when supplements (or most likely certain classes of supplements, to exclude vitamins) do become regulated, most likely due to further high profile severe heath complications and even death, could we consumers feel even marginally protected.
In all manufacturing of pharmaceuticals and dietary supplements, there are tolerances (ranges) for each ingredient. For generic drugs these tolerances are even greater and untested for consumer safety, meaning that you really do not know exactly what you get and you take at your own risk. For supplements, there are no specific guidelines for manufacturing tolerances, rendering label information virtually meaningless if a person is concerned with specific limits of a certain ingredient. Until there is regulation, it is only our individual responsibility for our own education about what we consume. Kudos to Ms. Leister for her stand and even more for her specific suggestions on researching supplements.
Doug Laidlaw, PhD
With the latest world rankings released, I think there may be a hitch in the scoring system. Petacchi has had an awesome season and probably deserves to be on top with 15 stages in the grand tours but I can't understand why Simoni is ahead of Vinokourov. Gilberto basically collected the Giro with a few stages and one smaller stage race in preparation for the Giro (there may be others but none significant enough to jog my memory). A good season for sure, but look at Vinos by comparison: Paris-Nice (with stage), Amstel Gold, Tour De Suisse (with stage), 3rd in TDF (with stage) plus other notable performance like 3rd overall in the Tour of Germany etc. I believe that it is probably as difficult to get 3rd in the tour as it is to win the Giro, considering the competition at the tour, so in that respect perhaps the UCI should look at offering more points to tour winners since there always seems to be a higher level of competition there. Even without that, Vino still won 2 HC ranked stage races and a world cup but still only manages 5th in the best rider of the year listing. How can this be? I guess the one thing the rankings do confirm is most peoples thoughts that Zabel isn't quite as fast as he used to be but is still all class and able to remain on or near the top still. What does everyone else think about the ranking system???
There are three main conclusions to be drawn from the events on the climb to Lus-Ardiden, all of which have been previously noted by other readers: 1) Ullrich did not ATTACK after the crash. He may, or may not, have actually slowed down, but the main thing is he didn't accelerate. 2) If you watch the real-time replay, there was quite an interval after Lance rejoined the group, during which time the group settled itself down and gatherered its wits, so to speak. Lance did not come up, rejoin, and launch off the front. 3) And, perhaps most important, it was MAYO who attacked again after Lance rejoined.
A couple of additional observations: A lot of people are pointing to Beloki's crash with the implication that somehow Lance should have waited. I'm not an expert on Tour etiquette, but it seems to me that you have to be in the yellow jersey to receive that kind of special treatment. To assume otherwise would result in chaos after every crash. If Lance had not been in the yellow jersey on Luz-Ardiden, the actions everyone took could have been very different.
And finally back to Jan: He might have reduced his effort by, say 10 percent, after he passed the fallen Lance and Mayo. Everyone would agree that if you're in the middle of a hard race and you back off even a little, it can make a critical difference. That 10 percent is not going to be visible to an observer, but certainly the racer could say, with justification, "I waited." Waiting doesn't mean slowing to a stop.
Don't blow your nose in the middle of the peloton/paceline! Wait until you are at the back, or at least off to the side, and then away from the other riders.
Cycling etiquette #2
Here is my short list of Cycling etiquette.
* When you spit in the middle of the group, spit down so as not to share.
Cycling etiquette #3
If you're going to be drafting someone, verbally let them know ("Hey, I'm on your six.") I hate people staring at my spandex butt without my knowledge. Seriously, with the wind noise, sometimes you just can't hear a rider coming up from behind. I swerved once and took out a guy's front wheel because I didn't know he was back there.
Cycling etiquette #4
Yes, etiquette on a bicycle, now that's a novel idea.
Wobble gracefully, and if you have to fall, don't take any one else out in the process.
You may also want to be aware of where your slobber is going.
Cycling etiquette #5
1. Always spit mouthfuls of saliva and mucus over the center line in a race/ride with a center line rule. I have always done this and recall a race in 1978 in which my mouthful landed on the right leg of another competitor, covering his leg from knee to crotch. Of course he was over the center line, in clear violation of the rules. Instant sanction. He admitted his error and we had a good laugh over it after the race once he cleaned up.
2. When riding in a mixed group of men and women, always draft a woman.
Cycling etiquette #6
Don't overlap wheels.
Cycling etiquette #7
1. Point out holes while on group rides.
Cycling etiquette #8
1) If someone is trying to pass you and you know he's faster than you want to go, slide over as if accidentally and block his passage forward while letting the slow fat chick take the lead.
2) The most trustworthy man in the peloton is he who is always overlapping the rider ahead of him and day dreaming.
3) If the group can go 25 mph and stay together, when you get to the front, always kicked the speed up to 27 as the last leader is trying to catch back on.
4) In order to demonstrate your prowess, get in the paceline ahead of someone you know is a poor climber and then when you're on the front and hit a climb accelerate hard so that the pack explodes. A variation of this is to act completely put out when those in the pack want to ride at a steady pace rather than ride at racing speeds, then when you hit a hard climb, retain the average speed while everyone else slows to a fraction of that.
5) Always stay on the front until you are so tired that you can't catch on. That way if the pack slows to allow you back you gain points. If they don't slow you can complain that they're not acting in the best interests of the ride.
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