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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

Letters to Cyclingnews - October 10, 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

Recent letters

Jan Ullrich to T-Mobile - Whither Vinokourov?
Hamilton race course
Caffeine and sport
WADA rule changes
UCI rankings
Hein Verbruggen
Roberto Heras
Mario Cipollini
Clear Channel
Two Grand Tours with two riders
Vets distances
Oscar Egg bike
Six-Day Bike Rider
Cycling etiquette

Jan Ullrich to T-Mobile - Whither Vinokourov?

Well, all the speculation in the German boulevard press turned out to have some foundation and Deutsche Telekom (or T-Mobile) has lured Das Wunderkind back to the magenta fold. If the injuries that plagued the team prior to the TdF this year do not repeat themselves, and if Senor Beloki performs as advertised, this will be a very dangerous competitor for USPS.

Although I am a big Jan fan, I think that the economics of the sport can be a bit disappointing for those with merit. Alexandre Vinokourov, out of Jan Ullrich's shadow at Telekom at last, showed this year what he is capable of: overall victories in Paris-Nice (for the second time), Amstel Gold and the Tour of Switzerland, and third place in one of the best Tour de France races in ages. A savvy rider unafraid to seize opportunities, his time-trialing has greatly improved and he is an excellent climber to boot. But will Jan Ullrich's return to Telekom relegate him once more to super-domestique? In terms of marketing, Jan Ullrich is one of Germany's most popular athletes, whereas a Kazakh, no matter how good, simply does not have the same drawing power.

And, of course, the other question is what happens to the sad souls who seized the lifeline and clambered aboard Team Bianchi from the shipwreck of Team Coast? A superb effort in the Tour, given the circumstances, but the riders will be put in a difficult position when the Team-Built-For-Jan has no Jan.

Perhaps Alexandre Vinokourov should go to Bianchi as captain. A Kazakh riding for a German-based team sponsored by a Swedish-owned manufacturer of Italian bicycles could appeal in multiple markets. For those of us who hoped to see the Celestials in more than one Tour, this might keep the heritage name of Bianchi at the forefront. Apparently Jan's ride in the Tour has sold lots of Bianchis in Germany.

Leslie Reissner
Washington, DC
Saturday, October 4 2003

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Hamilton race course

There has been a lot of criticism of the race course for the World Championships in Hamilton. I have said in a previously published letter to Cyclingnews that the course is tough, having ridden it several times myself, but it is also dangerous. If the Men's Elite Road Race comes down to a bunch finish, look out for a massive pile up at the last corner, a left hand ninety degree turn following a fast downhill over many manhole covers, just 300 meters from the finish.

Who thought up this monstrosity? Oh yeah, it was our own Steve Bauer. But how did it get approved by the UCI?

Jack Medlock,
Toronto, Canada
Wednesday, October 8 2003

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Caffeine and sport #1

I'm not a doctor, but I am a medical student and retired Cat 2 cyclist. That being said, I would like to add the following about caffeine: It's just coffee. No, really, IT IS JUST COFFEEE! If the personal safety and well being of cyclists is such a pressing issue, perhaps we should tell our youth not to participate in unsafe activities. A prime example of such unsafe activities that should be discontinued immediately is competitive cycling.

David R Hanscom
Thursday, October 2 2003

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Caffeine and sport 32

WADA's decision is interesting and in many cases welcome.

How many athletes have been thrown out of a competition or faced a career-ending suspension resulting from urine or blood samples containing low levels of relatively innocuous substances?

I think of Gianni Bugno facing a two-year ban for caffeine use until the UCI intervened on his behalf.

Each build-up to the summer Olympic Games seems to bring stories of an athlete tossed out or suspended for use of Visine or some cold medication.

I believe the real threats to sporting integrity are substances that make substantial differences in performance.

Anabolic steroids, EPO, HGH, and amphetamines come to mind. These substances also bring with them grave health risks over the long term.

Perhaps WADA is just starting to make sense of the whole performance enhancing substance issue? They'll still keep data on caffeine and pseudo-ephedrine in any case.

I feel that if WADA can unite every sport and every governing body behind one single banned substance list they can take great strides in cleaning up the image (and reality) of sport.

Larry Theobald, CycleItalia
Sioux City IA, USA
Friday, October 3 2003

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WADA rule changes

In reply to Mike Gates, his letter made me giggle. Yes, bike racing stoned is stupid and dangerous, but cannabis has numerous benefits for cycling performance during training. Pot very significantly raises one's tolerance for pain and is also a powerful stimulant, raising HR about 10-15 bpm (comparable with a cup of that ergogenic gold known as coffee). Cannabis also vastly improves mental focus and concentration. Importantly, all of these benefits are achieved with a very small dosage. However, cannabis quite negatively affects one's physical balance and tends to induce dehydration.

Darius "Bong" Victor
Boulder CO USA
Thursday, October 2 2003

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UCI rankings

I couldn't agree more with Tim Lee.

To the extent the UCI rankings purport to reflect the prestige accorded to a rider's performances over the preceding year, they are utterly inexplicable. All the support this point needs is the fact that David Rebellin is currently in 4th place. Nothing against the guy; he is a very good rider, but what has he won lately? By what conceivable standard has Rebellin, in the last twelve months, gleaned better results than those attained by Vinokourov in the last six? But Vino is only 6th in the rankings. Would you rather have the recent results of Rebellin, or those of Armstrong (7th)? Or Hamilton (10th)? Has Zabel (in 2nd) really done better in the last twelve months than Petacchi (who sits 3rd)? Here's my favorite, though: Van Petegem lies in 40th, after winning the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix back to back. So, according to the UCI point scale, there are 39 riders who have had a better preceding twelve months. One of them is Casagrande, who currently sits in 11th in the rankings. If Casagrande were in a two-up breakaway with a blind nun in a wheelchair, he would lead out the sprint and get soundly relegated to second place. Admittedly, he would easily beat me, but that's beside the point.

So, it seems obvious that the UCI rankings do a very poor job of reflecting the relative prestige of a rider's performances. I really can't imagine that anyone in their right mind would disagree with that. There must, then, be another explanation for them, and I think I've come to realize what it is. The UCI points system, in my view, was conceived by a cabal of utopian idealists. Just like those who have tried to create communal societies based on "pure socialism," where every citizen contributes all they are able and takes only what they need, the UCI has created a wonderful, quaint little world of make-believe. This is a magic place, where the Tour de France is just a great race, rather than a fearsome, towering ogre that arrogantly obscures the rest of the sport in its inky shadow. Thus, one gets just as many points for winning the Vuelta as for winning the Tour. And the guy who lost the Vuelta gets more points than the guy who won it, because he held the camiseta de oro for a long time before he choked.

To these laudable idealists at the UCI, a victory in the Tour of Flanders is not a bit more important than winning Paris-Tours or the HEW race (the flat one in Hamburg, whatever it's called now). The dreamers who built this rarified world care about fairness and justice, about the way things should be, and not so much about the way things are. This is why the Utopian Cycling Index gives more credit to a fellow who consistently picks up a 3rd or 4th place every few days from February to October than it gives to someone who is brilliant for three weeks in July. Why should it matter that the latter actually won something, and did it when the best riders in the world were on top of their game? By the same token, it is only fair that the man who gets 18th place in the Vuelta gets more UCI points than the winner of the Alpe d' Huez stage of the Tour. After all, the stolid and anonymous, indeed, proletarian, consistency of the former rider deserves recognition, while the latter has already received ample accolades for his flashy, dramatic victory against the world's best. Why should the UCI jump on the bandwagon?

Geoff Jones
San Francisco, CA
Thursday, October 2 2003

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Hein Verbruggen #1

Herr Verbruggen sits in his Ivory Tower and stubbornly continues to devalue and ruin what should be the greatest single day event on the World calendar. Here's the latest nonsense from Mr. UCI (referring to the lack of Lance Armstrong and Jan Ullrich from the Worlds in Hamilton):

"I couldn't care less that they aren't in Canada. In Colombia eight years ago we barely had a hundred starters but we got a fantastic race in Duitama with Olano a worthy World Champion. I didn't hear anyone say then 'Yes, Olano won certainly, but Armstrong wasn't there."

OK, Hein, Lance Armstrong wasn't there, I'll give you that. Why wasn't he there? Because the race was held at high altitude and was nothing but climbing or descending and he didn't think he would be competitive. Now let's see who was there: Miguel Indurain, Marco Pantani, Abraham Olano, Richard Virenque. Looks rather like a who's who of the Tour de France that year (other than Alex Zulle and Laurent Jalabert), don't you think?

Let's see who won't be "there" at Hamilton this year (in addition to Jan and Lance): Alexander Vinokourov, Tyler Hamilton, Richard Virenque, Haimar Zubeldia, Iban Mayo, Stefano Garzelli, Gilberto Simoni, Roberto Heras.

The fact is, there has hardly been anybody "there" at the World's Road Race in the last 6 years.

Scott Goldstein
Monday, October 6 2003

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Hein Verbruggen #2

How out of touch is Hein Verbruggen? Cyclingnews quotes him: "In Colombia eight years ago we barely had a hundred starters but we got a fantastic race in Duitama with Olano a worthy World Champion. I didn't hear anyone say then 'Yes, Olano won certainly, but Armstrong wasn't there.'"

It's true that Armstrong wasn't there -- but he wasn't then the Tour de France champion (not even once, much less five times). Unlike Miguel Indurain, who had won the Tour five times by then and who *was* in Duitma -- as was Richard Virenque, and they were both much bigger stars at the time than Lance Armstrong. So HV's argument, such as it is, is illogical and useless. (He's arguing that sure, everybody wants to see the big stars at the World's, like the TdF podium finishers, but people should quit their bitching because hey, back in 95 we had a great race with only those losers Indurain, Pantani, Virenque, Bugno, and some dude named Olano -- but no Armstrong, see?!)

I realize HV is just trying to make his point, but his choice of words emphasizes how hard-headed and out of touch he is, particularly when it comes to the long list of bad decisions the UCI's made but refuse to address. (For innumerable examples, see Cyclingnews passim.)

Philip Higgs
Boulder, Colorado
Monday, October 6 2003

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Roberto Heras

In some ways I preferred the Vuelta to the tour. The attacks were more frequent, and Heras recovering 5 minutess over Nozal was spectacular. In the UK I saw stage 19 which was absolutely brilliant, and claimed yet another minute, but we didn't get the stage 20 TT here either, despite having every weekday live.

Heras was great, and fully deserved the win - although Nozal, Valverde and others starred at points.

Also, it was great to see a climber win rather than a time trialer - just a personal view, as a climber doing his stuff and accelerating where some of us would struggle to stay on is so spectacular!

Best Wishes, and roll on the Giro (I also prefer tours to the world cup, although I still follow the latter!).

Colin Flockton
Thursday, October 2 2003

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Mario Cipollini

Regarding Cipollini's decision not to attend the World's in Hamilton - what a loser. Given the special exemption granted him, it is a slap in the face to the fans in North America and around the world that made plans to see him in Hamilton. It is bad enough that prima donnas like Armstrong and Ullrich are skipping the Worlds, but for the reigning champion to do so is inexcusable. Although the odds-on-favorite seems to be Bettini, hopefully a class act (and year round racer) like Eric Zabel will overcome a less than optimal course and win the rainbow jersey.

Paul Harke
Alexandria, VA, USA
Friday, October 3 2003

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Clear Channel

My congratulations to Scott and all of the Raleigh area cycling activists for your response to these broadcasts. My initial reaction is to take the high road and ignore these knuckleheads who will never see eye-to-eye with me concerning cyclists rights anyway. After all, cyclists in this backward region are probably less than 2% of the population and there are always broadcasters and columnists (even in progressive Seattle!) who trot out their rants against cyclists to GAIN publicity. However, the activists have been very successful in convincing local sponsors to pull their adds. This is a true success!

Jim Laudolff
Raleigh, NC
Monday, October 6 2003

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Two Grand Tours with two riders

Am I right in thinking that the last DS to win two Grand Tours in one year, with two different riders , was Lomme Driessens in 1977 with Pollentier (Giro), and Maertens (Vuelta)?

Stephan Esleben
Edinburgh UK
Thursday, October 2 2003

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Vets distances

I just got back from a race in South Africa where I have recently started riding now and then. In every other country that I have ridden the vets races have always been in the 60-100km range. South Africa seems to specialize in vets who want to race the same length as the elite riders with races and stages that start from 100km up to and over 180 km.

I am interested in hearing from riders in various countries about the distances vets race, by vets I mean riders from say 30 or 35 and over.

Does the UCI or any other body have a cap on vets race distances.

Martin Hardie
Maputo, Mozambique
Tuesday, October 7 2003

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Oscar Egg bike

You published a letter in September 2001 from a Guy Roig who was asking for information about an old Oscar Egg bicycle. As I have a frame, forks and derailleur which I want to build up, I would value any information Mr Roig may have acquired in the last two years. Unfortunately, his Email address in the letter fails to reach him. Are you out there Mr Roig or does anyone know where he is?

Stuart Tallack
Wednesday, October 8 2003

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Six-Day Bike Rider

I am looking to obtain a 1934 movie called "Six-Day Bike Rider" staring Joe E. Brown. I would appreciate if anyone has any information on where I could obtain this movie. Thanks.

Anne Marie
Sunday, October 5 2003

We were asked this a couple of years ago and didn't turn up any source of a video of this movie. The movie websites I've searched also draw a blank. Can anyone help? - Letters Ed

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Cycling etiquette #1

1) Hold your line in corners. Don't cut across the apex in a bunch, you'll have someone off.

2) Don't stand up to pedal in the middle of the bunch, you'll go backwards and make everyone else swerve or brake. If you have to get out of the saddle for a climb, try to put in a few strong pedal strokes as you do it to minimise the backwards effect.

Mark Drayton
Thursday, October 2 2003

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Cycling etiquette #2

Top tips on etiquette coming from learning the hard way:

1) When out on a club ride for the first time, try and avoid spitting over ones shoulder when taking a pull at the front. Dislodging a power bar from the back of ones head thereafter is quite difficult at 30mph.

2) Again, when trying to make a good impression when out for a first club ride, do try and remember to pee beforehand. If not, do remember to drop to the back before rolling up one side of your bib-shorts and shaking out the morning coffee. Of course, in my case, after completing said job, do try and avoid hitting the guy in front whist rearranging wedding tackle. Crashing on your first club ride is bad enough, but taking down the club hardman with your manhood hanging out is shameful.

3) When approaching a long climb, do be a good chap and take up the front immediately setting a good sensible tempo. Of course, having been told by the club comedian 'Dan the brickie' that on climbs the last to the top buys the drinks after, one can be forgiven for attacking the bunch in the last 200 meters. Mind you, being on the receiving end of point 1) soon after indicates that Dan may have been pulling ones leg.

4) Last but not least, try and avoid wearing a limited addition copy of big Mario's World Champion's kit. Firstly, most hardened club riders will be wearing what they consider a new jersey (usually a rather frayed team GAN). Do accept therefore that remarks to the effect of "lad, if I don't see you pulling at 70k for half hour stints I will have that jersey off your back you cheeky bugger!!" And secondly, do remember that white bib-shorts, particularly when damp with sweat, have a tendency to be most revealing. Accept the wolf whistles from builders with a wink and a smile!

An Anonymous Cyclingnews reader
Thursday, October 2 2003

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Cycling etiquette #3

1) When coming up from behind another rider who is not riding a straight line, lightly…and I mean lightly…place your hand on his or her hips/shoulder etc., to let the individual know you are there.

2) On group rides…don't yell "clear" when crossing a road at an intersection unless you are sure the ENTIRE group can cross safely (unless of course you think your club has too many members and/or you subscribe to a theory of survival of the fittest).

3) Don't suck someone's wheel for 5km or more in a breakaway all the time claiming that you are about to blow-up and then try to out-sprint him or her at the finish. If you do…expect to be taken into the barriers and to receive no sympathy from other racers.

4) Never pull back a breakaway that has one of your team mates in it. And if you do, please have the intelligence to lie to him/her about it by steadfastly claiming that it was every other rider EXCEPT you who worked to pull the group back together.

5) Dispose of the notion that the yellow line rule applies to everyone… except you.

6) Don't line up in the first row at the start of a race if you expect to finish at the back of the pack.

7) Try to avoid getting yourself killed by riding responsibly (i.e., without taking up both sides of the road) when sprinting for town/city limits signs on group rides.

8) When you are trying to have some fun by squirting a fellow rider with the contents of your water bottle, think first about whether the bottle actually contains water as opposed to a sweet, sticky energy drink that will attract bees and hornets to your colleague for the remainder of the ride.

Brian Abery
Thursday, October 2 2003

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Cycling etiquette #4

Never assume the rider in front of you will run a red light or stop sign, or accelerate to beat a changing light. Obey all traffic laws at all times, so as not to enrage already unstable motorists and provoke aggressive motorist behavior directed at yourself and/or other cyclists.

James Snook
Thursday, October 2 2003

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Cycling etiquette #5

Hold your line, hold your.... aaarrrrggggghhhhhh ------> SPLAT!!!!!!!!!!!!

Mark Adams
Englewood, Colorado
Thursday, October 2 2003

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Cycling etiquette #6

Rules are as follows:
1) For training rides, ride training equipment (no need for 404's, sorry pal).

2) The people who don't wear helmets are pretty damn confident. stay near them.

3) For training rides, lone breakaways are unnecessary.

4) I love cycling, I love the tour de france, but I'm tired of talking about "the look" on all rides.

5) If all else fails, get to the back of the group, unclip and scrape your foot on the ground and yell; they'll think someone crashed.

6) The most important rule: don't question me.

Evan Thomas-Arnold
Cincinnati Ohio
Thursday, October 9 2003

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Cycling etiquette #7

Here's some stuff I didn't see mentioned:

1) If you want to pass someone who doesn't corner as well as you, pass BEFORE the corner, not in it.

2) If you're going to pass someone on a descent, don't do it anywhere near a corner. You have to set up your lines at higher speeds, much further in advance.

3a) On hard training rides, don't let a gap open when the pressure is on. Suck it up and hold the wheel in front of you.

3b) If you can't hang on for much longer, move ever so slightly to the side and accelerate up till you're almost next to the guy you were drafting. You'll overlap wheels for a moment, but it's much better than simply jumping out of the paceline.

4) On training rides, offer your friends food and water.

5) Never, under any circumstance, talk about how little you've been riding, how bad you feel, or how you're just getting over a cold, before a group ride or race. It makes it obvious that you don't take the ride, race, or your competition seriously. If you aren't there to throw down, why are you there at all?

Aaron France
Thursday, October 2 2003

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Recent letters pages

  • October 1 letters - Caffeine and sport, Vuelta? What Vuelta?, WADA rule changes, A sleepy thank you to WADA, Clear Channel, Roberto Heras, George Hincapie and Roberto Heras, Goodbye Saturn, Gran Fondo del Monte Grappa, Greg LeMond, Lance Armstrong's divorce, Suggestion for the big Tours, Supplements, UCI rankings, Ullrich's comments on Luz-Ardiden, Cycling etiquette
  • September 26 letters - A sleepy thank you to WADA, WADA rule changes, Goodbye Saturn, Supplemental responsibility, Cycling etiquette, Amber Neben, et al, Clear Channel, World's timing, World champion prognostication, Suggestion for the big Tours, Floyd Landis, Lance Armstrong's divorce, Jan Ullrich in 2004, George Hincapie and Roberto Heras, Greg LeMond, Gran Fondo del Monte Grappa
  • September 19 letters - Supplemental responsibility, Blame Canada, A strong US team, Suggestion for the big Tours, Amber Neben, Greg LeMond, Jan Ullrich in 2004, Kimberly Bruckner, Lance Armstrong's divorce, Greg LeMond's 82 World Championship, Tyler Hamilton's Tour win, Track
  • September 12 letters - Amber Neben, Mario Cipollini and the Vuelta, Lance Armstrong's divorce, Greg LeMond, Dehydration, Bobby Julich and Telekom, Did Jan Ullrich wait?, Tyler Hamilton's Tour win, Jan Ullrich in 2004
  • September 5 letters - No World's for Hamilton, Bobby Julich and Telekom, Ullrich in 2004, Did Ullrich wait?, Lance Armstrong, Major Tour Stage Wins, Contracts, transfers and negotiations, Dehydration, LeMond, Photo Finishes, USA Cycling Website
  • August 29 letters - Lefevere's Loss, USA Cycling Website, Bobby Julich and Telekom, Death in Spain, $125,000 Criterium in Charlotte, Australian/US grade equivalence, Bianchi and the TT, Did Lelli Wait?, Did Ullrich wait?, Lance Armstrong, LeMond, Major Tour Stage Wins, Photo finishes, Ullrich in 2004, US television ratings for le Tour, Dehydration, Contracts, transfers & negotiations
  • August 22 letters - Contracts, transfers & negotiations, $125,000 Criterium in Charlotte, Did Ullrich wait?, Dehydration, Team time trial, Australian/US grade equivalence, Bianchi and the TT, Lance Armstrong, Major tour stage wins, ONCE and Banesto's departure, The 99 crash, LeMond & Hinault, US television ratings for le Tour, Lance Armstrong's nickname
  • August 15 letters - Contracts, transfers & negotiations, The Telekom situation, Did Ullrich wait?, The 99 crash, Team time trial, French campaign against Spanish cycling, US television ratings for le Tour, Dehydration, US Postal and the Giro, Is the Tour clean?, Floyd Landis' Tour diary, Great cyclists, An anti-cramp product?, Hincapie and other Tour domestiques, Italian slur, Lance Armstrong's nickname, Regarding CNN's Jack Cafferty, Sportsmanship, Sprint at Luz Ardiden, Trying for number six
  • August 8 letters - Sportsmanship, Trying for number six, Sprint at Luz Ardiden, Regarding CNN's Jack Cafferty, Comments on Hamilton, Tour '03 fashion trends, Dr. Ferrari's comments on Ullrich's power output, Crashes, Dehydration, Great cyclists, Is the Tour clean?, Italian slur, Lance Armstrong's nickname, US television ratings for le Tour, Why not merge?
  • August 1 letters - Sportsmanship, Deja vu, Crashes, Dehydration, Lance Armstrong, US television ratings for le Tour, Dr. Ferrari's comments on Ullrich's power output, Is the Tour clean?, Armstrong's chances, Comments on Hamilton, Cycling is like opera, Tour bellies, Sprint at Luz Ardiden, Ullrich waiting, Why not merge?
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