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Letters to Cyclingnews - October 17, 2003
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What goes on the road stays on the road
In alleging during his post-Worlds press conference that Italian favourite, Paolo Bettini had offered him money on the final lap, Astarloa committed a great indiscretion and demonstrated his professional immaturity.
The fact that within 24 hours of the release of his original statement, gazzetta.it reports that the newly-crowned World Champion has taken a distinct U-turn and now maintains that, "Bettini asked me to help out with some of his rivals (who have made the final selection on the last lap), but he did not offer me money because he knew very well that I would not have renounced the Rainbow Jersey for all the gold in the world."
Bettini for his part, maintains his dignity in responding to Astarloa's original claim with the words,
"The history of the final of big races can teach us many things, however I would prefer to not comment on what Astarloa has said."
Effectively, Astarloa - to use the exact phrase beloved of this particular sport - has "spat in the soup" with his incredible statement. Make no mistake that the scandal lies NOT in whether or not Bettini made an offer - but in the fact that Astarloa was stupid enough to reveal it to all and sundry in his moment of post-race euphoria.
One often talks of the "curse of the Rainbow Jersey", but in blatantly disregarding established professional protocol, the new Spanish champion has single-handedly created a rod for his own back for the forthcoming season. It would not surprise me if in the 2004 season he finds it impossible to garner any significant successes. This will be due to the hidden enemies that his outburst will have created amongst his fellow professionals. His undignified behaviour will not go forgotten.
The final words on this matter should rest with great champions of the calibre of Felice Gimondi and Moreno Argentin, who in their wisdom have commented to gazzetta.it thus:
Gimondi: "I don't know what Bettini and Astarloa said, but even if an offer had been made, it wouldn't have been anything new. Cycling is a sport of fatigue, but also of tactics, and in "tactics" we mean everything. It doesn't always happen that racers talk of money, but certainly the topic does crop up in the closing stages of races."
Argentin: "Astarloa should have kept quiet. That which is said during a race should remain there. I wouldn't make much of it. Maybe Bettini did offer him a tip if he worked in the break. This happens in cycling as it does in other sports. In middle distance running someone if often paid to run as the hare."
I just read an article on MSNBC.com about Olympic athletes using THG. Apparently it's a previously undetectable steroid. Does anyone know if this is something already tested for in UCI events? Or is there potential for this to spill over into cycling as the latest and greatest drug to get picked up?
Having been somewhat unkind about David Millar in the past I'd like to make amends by congratulating him on a terrific year, crowned by his dominant performance in the World Championship TT. And it's great to see him in 20th position in the UCI points as well.
While I'm here, a big 'well done' to Nichole Cooke as well and to the whole British team. Two medals and sixth place in the table for a relatively small batch of riders is a really impressive performance. A special 'chapeau' to Max Sciandri, highest placed Brit in the road race - a fitting end (if the rumours are true) to a long and noteworthy career as a rider.
I just finished reading Lance Armstrong's new book, "Every Second Counts". I liked his first book much better, but this new one is okay. However, I found it a bit confusing when on page 119, Lance talks about the 2001 Tour, Stage 14 (Luz Ardiden) and he says that, "...Ullrich slipped ahead of me across the finish line to win the stage." That stage is one of my very favorites. I've watched and re-watched the video several times. But Ullrich didn't win the stage. Roberto Laiseka did. Ullrich got third in the stage... and yeah, Lance may have let him get the points since he had such a decisive lead, but Ullrich didn't win the stage. Is it a typo? Which race is Lance talking about? His book will go on to be an account in history and it is annoying to have it misrepresented.
The course was excellent, quit complaining. It's rough in some spots, but the two long climbs gave this course a personality that should be appreciated. As for having ridden it yourself, that doesn't add much weight to your point, unless you were in a pack, racing. The time trialers had a much harder ride on the course than the pack did. Yes, Camenzind did go down in the final corner, but no one in the pack did, in any event. There is a long flat before that turn, of about 200 meters.
Hamilton course #2
I thought that the course was GREAT! Bauer did an excellent job to accommodate both rider and spectator alike. Despite your concern about a crash at the end - only a few riders had any problems in any of the races. Besides, it (90 degree turn) is 300 meters from the line, it follows a long climb, and in fact was reminiscent of Milan san Remo with a climb, a decent, and a little technical finish. These guys are pros and know how to ride - a few turns on a downhill is nothing to get worried about. I've ridden some crits that are so much tighter and have finish lines 50 meters after a turn. Granted these pros are hot on the gas, but they can corner 300 meters out from the finish.
I watched every race and I'd like to thank Hamilton and Steve Bauer for making one incredible event!
Hamilton course - Time to apologize
Okay, before all the letters come in berating me for my opinion on the course in Hamilton, let me apologize. The course was obviously not as tough as first thought because the elite men were still pretty much all together on the last lap. And there was not the massive crash that I predicted coming around the last corner. So apologies to Steve Bauer, the course designer, as well.
The whole week was blessed with unseasonably beautiful weather. The week before the event we were down into single digit temperatures (centigrade), and some parts of southern Ontario had already had snow. The beautiful "Indian Summer" weather was really the saviour of the event, the predicted rain not showing up. However, early morning dew on the roads did cause some crashes, in the men's junior race, and early on in the men's elite race, before the sun burned it off. And there was a fall on the last corner (Camenzind).
As a Canadian who rarely gets to see the best in the world, this was a fantastic event pulled off with magnificent organizational skill. For Canada to secure this event and do such a good job is like Sri Lanka getting the American Football Superbowl. I'm still tingling from the spectacle. Every event was well attended and I was there every day, there were 67,000 spectators for the elite women's race, the most for any women's World Championships. Who says Canada is not a hotbed of cycling support?
I find your reporting of legal and safety issues related to cyclists very useful stories to read. They keep avid cyclists like myself informed about many social and legal issues facing cycling communities elsewhere in the world that might end up becoming issues in our own communities down the road. Unfortunate occurrences such as serious accidents and deaths can remind us of our responsibilities as a cyclist, a motorist, a parent, or simply concerned and responsible citizen.
For this reason I was disappointed that the news piece about Heather French Henry striking and killing a cyclist in Kentucky failed to note that the cyclist was riding against a traffic signal (illegal), not in an intersection much less a crosswalk (illegal), and was not wearing a helmet.
Your simple statement about a killed cyclist and the fact that no charges have been filed is misleading when your community of readers will naturally be somewhat pro-cyclist and anti-motorist.
More details regarding this incident would have been much more informative and useful to your readers than what you printed.
Verbruggen has done a great job reorganizing pro road racing, from the UCI point system to rating and reducing the classics, limiting technical gizmos (TT bikes, Spinaci) and above all dope testing!
Now look at US sports such as NFL NBA MBL: rampant drug use, no testing, then they call their competitions World series and the winners World champions. Give me a break.
I like the idea of Vino on the Bianchi team. It seems a shame that a rider of his capabilities could be relegated to domestique status. I also can't see how he could be happy with trying to "share" leadership in the tour with Ullrich. Whatever happens, Vino has shown all of us just how strong he has become and it seems the sky is the limit for him right now. I hope there is a director out there that is courting him and has the team to back him.
Jim Ochowicz didn't really have a clue when he was running Motorola, and he has shown himself especially clueless at running the US World's team in Hamilton this year. This picture says it all. They couldn't find a spare bike for one of their key riders? Is this the junior race? Or perhaps the team from some under-funded former Soviet nowhere? No -- it's the home country of none other than the big star who won the last five Tours de France. You'd think they could get their act together and have a spare bike or two lying around the pit. Especially Ochowicz, who's been squawking for half a decade now about how much better cycling in the USA is now that Lance is around. The dudes in the photo look like they've never seen such a gol-dang fancy bike before. What a joke.
What's really disheartening is that this episode just serves to underline the key aspect of Bobby Julich's career: nobody is ever looking out for him. Not his teammates (Motorola), not his team (Cofidis, Telekom), not the cycling scene in the US. I think it was 1995 or 1994 when Julich was basically living in his car, driving around to races on his own and scraping by -- and kicking his own share of ass, it should be said.
Ochowicz should quit salivating over the big stars and start working to get Bobby Julich the contract he deserves. With Phonak.
Pepe Quiles should grab a mirror to analyze the reason why his top riders leave Kelme, one after another. Recent quote as reflexion over Valverde's position: "I cannot give the responsibility of a whole team to a 23 year old youngster". Well if not, then who's not doing his job right?
Hey Pepe, start managing your team properly and make sure you motivate, encourage and award your guys so they'd be tempted to hang around longer!
I must take exception to the remark that "prima donnas like Lance Armstrong and Jan Ullrich are not participating in Hamilton." As others have indicated, the timing of the Worlds is not good for the elite athletes, moving the date would seem the most logical move but then that will never happen will it?
However I must address what Lance is doing the week of October 11-18. He is sponsoring, and participating in portions of the Tour of Hope. This is a ride across America with 26 other cyclists from Los Angeles to Washington DC, all to raise awareness of the need for cancer clinical trials and cancer survivorship. When he is not riding the event he will be making visits to cancer hospitals, visiting patients, meeting with medical researchers all to promote the cause. So as a cancer survivor myself I think Lance is to be congratulated for skipping the Worlds this year, he is most definitely not a "prima donna" instead doing something much more important to those of in the cancer community.
It's not so much the decision not to attend the World's that did Cipollini discredit; it was his decision not to be a bike racer after the Giro d'Italia while being the ostensible World Champion. On the other hand, a rider of his limited and specialized (however spectacular) skills will always find doing a complete season as world champion a challenge.
Whatever Cipollini's disposition and temperament, it is difficult to imagine him doing the things we like World Champions to do -- showing well in the classics, appearing in the Tours, defending at the end of the following season. The reason that we had a champion without those skills and limitations is that the championship he won was produced by a course that was of no more interest or quality than an industrial park criterium. That has nothing to do with how 'hard' we consider the race -- the racers play a role in making it hard or not, not just the course.
But that being said, the range of possible outcomes of any race can obviously be read from the course design. I'm not suggesting that sprinters not have access to World Championships (though climbers clearly haven't recently), but It is possible to design courses on which sprinters (albeit with some all around skills, like Freire) excel that are not the functional equivalents of drag strips. The Hamilton race seemed such a course, and I don't think anyone doubts that Astarloa will show up in the ways we all hope for next year.
I'm not writing this to defend the UCI's point scoring regime but I am writing this to ask what Geoff Jones' solution is? I read a lot of complaints and a lot of examples, but a solution I could not see. Based on your comments, am I right to surmise that Zabel is undeserving of his points jersey in the Vuelta?
Perhaps Greg, you'd like the UCI to have an infinite number of categories for number 1 rider? e.g. For the period of the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, the number 1 rider is PvP. For the period two weeks before the Tour of Flanders up to 1 week after Paris-Roubaix, the winner is blah, blah, blah.
You could go on and on and on and on listing number 1 riders for all different periods of the year. All the current scheme says is that for the previous 12 months backdated from today, the performance of rider # 1 is on average the best (notwithstanding the arguments surrounding the relative merits of the races they scored points in). It's just as arbitrary as you implying that PvP was number 1 because of his performances over a certain two week period.
UCI rankings #2
In response to Geoff Jones letter: If it is utopian idealism to wish for more than a handful of meaningful races in the calendar, then the UCI may be guilty when they devised their points and ranking system. We could all suggest a change or two, but at least we know how it works: if you ride in more races, you have a chance of winning more UCI points (I think that answers the Rebellin vs Armstong debate) and you know if you ride Paris-Tours, you will almost certainly have stiffer opposition than in the T-Mobile International (even though the course may be somewhat easier).
As to the value of races, let's take Paris-Tours and the Tour of Flanders as an example: They are both given an equal number of points toward the World Cup standings. That the Paris-Tours course is easier may be true, but the finish this year was won by Zabel from Petacchi - two of the best sprinters in the world of cycling today. If a course is less selective, there will be more riders who can get to the finish together, but the UCI do not award points on time but on finishing position. In any case, most people (yourself included?) would say that the winner of the Tour de France was the best cyclist that year, and would pay no heed to the UCI ranking. Happily, cycling teams and sponsors have a wider view.
What's that blue thing hanging down from the right side of the front fork dropout on Igor Astarloa's bike?
I noticed this on many of the bikes in the men's elite road race, is it some kind of mandatory equipment?
Didn't Cyrille Guimard do it in 1983 with Bernard Hinault (Vuelta) and Laurent Fignon (Tour)?
When riding single file and you're second wheel, when the leader moves over or slows, take a turn, even if it's short.
When you're third wheel and second wheel goes to the front, follow him. If you don't want to take a turn, just stay up the back.
If you stay up the back, and don't burn anyone off on the hills, you'll keep your friends. (Although I am still pissed off at a guy who sat on for 400kms and finished a lot fresher than I did).
I have a question concerning amateur racing in Spain. I will be moving to Sevilla in late November and will be staying for an indefinite period of time. I have raced here in Northern California for one year just upgrading to a cat 3 and want to continue racing in Spain and be able to upgrade to a cat. 2 when I come back here to the states. Where can I find information on amateur racing in Spain, particularly Sevilla? Also, where would be a good resource to find info on group rides in Sevilla? Thank you.
The best I could do was type "Six-Day Bike Rider" into Google (with the quotes) and you get a bunch of hits related to this movie. The best bet is to contact Hollywood's Screen Actors Guild (SAG) to see if anyone is still alive associated with the movie (they'd be REALLY old) or perhaps a son/daughter. First National, Six-Day's production company, was quite influential in the 20s (http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paramount_Studios) and there may be contacts or successors that could be found and queried. That is, one would have to go sleuthing for original sources rather than movie.com.
For everyone's information, a short blurb on the movie follows from www.blockbuster.com
[We asked - with tongue slightly in cheek - why athletes had taken to chewing their medals on the podium.]
It's from days when 1) gold coins were in circulation, and 2) counterfeiting was more of a problem. So people used to bite gold coins to see if they were really gold. Gold coins are generally high-carat gold (21.6 or so--90 percent pure), and that makes them soft enough to mark with your teeth. Fake coins -- gold-plated steel or other metal -- will not be soft enough to mark with the teeth.
Ironically, even Olympic medals are not pure gold -- they're "only" gold-plated silver (which might or might not be soft enough to dent with your teeth), and lesser events, probably even World Championships, almost certainly use base (cheap) metals under a gold plating; I seriously doubt anyone gives away solid gold medals -- so the "test" would show that your gold medal is "fake." And if it was real solid gold, of course, you wouldn't want teeth marks on it!
Mostly it probably just gives people who don't know what else to do with thousands of people looking at them. Cheers!
Medal chewing #2
The answer to your question is: To verify if the medal is pure gold or plated gold.
You take a bite and then, if you see gold under the teeth's print it means it is pure gold, therefore if you see gray and/or silver kind of metal under the print you then know it is plated.
I bet you prefer seeing pure gold, personally I would!
Charles A. Munger, Metallurgical Engineer
Thanks to the many, many people who provided similar answers to Tom and Charles. Here's a few alternative notions.
Medal chewing #3
Because the photographers encourage them to do it. It's one of the standard poses some of them request.
Medal chewing #4
After 3 1/2 hours on the bike, you have to eat something.
Medal chewing #5
They want to check if there is any chocolate inside.
Medal chewing #6
Daily doses of gold are shown to increase performance.
This is obviously the secret behind world championship winners.
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