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Letters to Cyclingnews - September 5, 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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No World's for Hamilton
I just read in Cyclingnews that Tyler Hamilton will not ride the World Road Race in Hamilton. This is really too bad. I live in Toronto, about 30 miles from Hamilton, and I have ridden the course several times, just to see what it is like. This course suits Hamilton perfectly. It's very steep in places and suits his style. Both Armstrong and Bettini are suited to this course too. Cipo has no chance to repeat on this course, it's too tough for him, too much climbing.
With Armstrong and Hamilton absent, look for Bettini to be the next World Champ - remember, you read it here first.
Telekom have made a big error in not re-signing Bobby Julich's services. I have always wondered what happened to the Bobby J of the 1998 Tour de France. In this Tour he finished high up in the GC and confirmed his class. But then when he crashed out in both the Tour and the Vuelta in 99, he never regained his position in the peloton.
Obviously Telekom have blown their budget and with all their contract activity this year at little return, they are dumping Bobby J!
It would be a pity for a rider of his class not to continue in the top echelon.
Bad move Telekom.
Jan Ullrich has proven over and over that he has an endless supply of natural talent, but he has also shown year in and year out that he does not have the tactical savvy (nor the teams he chooses to ride for, if he had ridden for CSC this year he would have won). If he is to win in 2004 he needs a team that is really 100 percent in support of him and only him and he needs a management team that is tactically better than USPS and CSC (what he has now is only 98 percent of what he needs). I personally feel that life has finally caught up to Lance Armstrong and that if Tyler Hamilton can stay on his bike he will be the winner in 2004.
Ullrich in 2004 #2
I'm not ready to give up commentary on the 2003 TDF yet, Mr. Beckford, but, man oh man, am I excited about 2004! After stage 12 this year, I couldn't honestly assess who I was pulling for - when Lance fell on Luz-Ardiden, my stomach convinced me that my allegiance lay with my American hero. It wasn't until Jan crashed out in the final TT that I realized who I was REALLY rooting for (never before has such a string of expletives come flying out of my mouth).
It's about time the "big German diesel engine," the "perennial bridesmaid," this man "soaked in talent (as the OLN boys like to say)," and yes "Fatboy" had his day again. Certainly, I would be delighted if Lance managed to churn out another Tour victory, but Jan's comeback (comebacks really) has carved him a solid place in my heart.
I honestly believe that if Jan stays focused and determined through winter, he will be the man to beat in next year's Tour. If you look at the past '5 times club' they all showed most weakness in their 5th win which as hindsight has highlighted, was the beginning of the end for them. Lance will still be competitive, but he will be almost 33 and Jan is theoretically in his peak years. We saw this year what Jan can do when he is in form and under weight.
I think it would be fantastic to see Jan triumph over Lance. As Warren Beckford said, it would be a truly great win if he was able to de-throne the Texan. A victory is a victory, but a win against Lance at full strength would do Jan more justice than winning against Joseba, Tyler, Santiago etc, As good a rider as they all are, I am sure most people would agree that the two big titans over the last few years have been Lance and Jan. I also think that their ongoing duel is becoming legendary, and we will look back on this period in years to come. If Jan can win next year, he will have been the only rider to beat both Miguel and Lance in their record attempts.
I know it is useless to do so, but just think if Bjarne Riis was not the captain of Telekom in 96, Pantani wasn't supercharged in 98 and Jan could stay fit in 99 and 02, how legendary Jan could be right now? That could've been 5 Tour wins and next year's Tour would be a battle to see who could get to 6 first? How amazing that would be! Food for thought...
Ullrich in 2004 #4
In response to Warren Beckford's Aug 29 letter regarding the idea of Ullrich winning the 2004 Tour, I agree it would make a good story and fit into history very nicely, especially if he beats Lance. I disagree, however, "he deserves it at this point". If Ullrich trains to win and actually does win, THEN he deserves it. Like Lance, his season centers on the Tour; unlike Lance, his training doesn't center on the Tour.
I recall that, during the years he has competed against Lance, he has once attempted to train to win. That year (2002), he didn't start because of a knee injury. Do I believe he is capable of winning? Definitely. His not really attempting to train for the Tour and placing second so many times, especially this year, is a testament to his above average abilities. Do I believe he has the maturity to win? Given his performances over the past several years, I would have to say no, but I hope that changes next year.
Given the way this year's Tour unfolded and the fact that Ullrich is possibly settling into a traditional family life, I would hope and not be surprised he quickly develops the maturity to match his physical greatness.
Kevin E Noel
My turn. What I saw can be interpreted several ways but the important thing isn't whether Jan waited. The important thing is that this was the time to attack if Jan was that sort of person. He wasn't.
Jan just missed getting involved in the accident himself and he continued riding. BTW, To suggest that Jan had any responsibility to slow down is silly. He is a professional and is paid by his employer to race. Jan chose not to kick a man when he was down and more power to him. To my eye he was conflicted about slowing to serve his emotions and continuing to serve his employer.
Tyler came up and said something. Whatever it was Jan looked back and soft-pedaled a bit. It was at that time he probably saw Armstrong back up on his bike and riding and Jan carried on.
But he didn't attack and such an attack would have probably given him enough advantage to lose only a second or two on the stage. In the end, Lance won in great deal by the advantage he gained on that key stage and he gained that advantage because Jan didn't attack him when he was down.
Did Ullrich wait? #2
I think this discussion will probably continue until the 2004 Tour de France rolls around, and I think it's about time I put my two cents in.
1) Did Ullrich wait? No, not initially. To respond to Andy Shaw's letter, Ullrich did not slow his pace until Hamilton began calling from behind the lead group for them to slow down. When they listened it allowed Hamilton to come to the front.
2) Many people throughout this debate have come to the defense of Ullrich insisting he did not attack, but that was never the issue. The question is whether or not he waited, not whether or not he attacked Armstrong. Armstrong simply gave his opinion that Ullrich didn't wait of his own accord. There was no mention of an attack. It's obvious that he did not attack, and I don't believe he could have even if he wanted to. His attack on the Tourmalet took too much out of him to attempt another attack on Luz Ardiden.
3) There have been quite a few comparisons made between Armstrong's fall and Ullrich's falls on the Peyresourde and in the ITT. Armstrong has been so literal and matter of fact over the years that people have failed to recognize the first time in his career that he was being politically correct. The fan, without any ill intent I'm sure, thrust his arm out into Armstrong's line. How exactly is that Armstrong's fault? Yes he was taking an aggressive line. But, obviously Mayo was taking the same aggressive line or he wouldn't have tumbled over Armstrong. Ullrich was following the same line as well. If Armstrong had taken a "less aggressive" line the fans would have pushed out closer to the riders regardless. Ullrich's falls, on the other hand, were entirely his own fault. He overshot the turn on the Peyresourde because his descending skills were not equal to Armstrong's and misjudged the turn. He fell in the ITT because he had no choice but to push the limits. He took the chances he needed to take, and it unfortunately backfired. (For what it's worth, I'm sure his teammates relayed information back to him about the dangers of the course. He simply had to go for it anyway.) In my opinion, if the rider is at fault, there should be no problem with attacking his mistake. If the fall is a spectator's fault or a rider suffers a mechanical on the other hand, both situations that are beyond the victim's control, the other riders should wait. Note that Armstrong did not attack either of Ullrich's falls even though they were both his own fault.
4) Many have argued that Ullrich's eventual waiting destroyed his chances of staying with Armstrong once he regained the group and subsequently attacked. This being due to Ullrich's rhythm riding style. I understand as well as any rider that establishing a steady rhythm is important when climbing. Yet, it seems to me that in order to be one of the premiere riders in the world one should have the ability to cope with a sudden change of pace (perhaps if Ullrich wasn't afraid to get out of his saddle he could have stayed with Armstrong's initial burst). Obviously, this theory is invalid to begin with because if Ullrich has to gradually increase his pace, as many have claimed, he would never be able to truly attack, which he did on the Tourmalet. Some have also argued that "once he got his diesel churning" he was able to put time back into Armstrong. The more likely scenario is that Armstrong's pace began to slow toward the summit. If Ullrich does have difficulty dealing with sudden changes of pace as he claims, it seems to me that the first order of business in his training regimen for many years now should have been learning how to deal with exactly that.
Here's a question to ponder, which no one has really raised: What would the outcome of the stage have been if Armstrong hadn't fallen? Armstrong by 1:30? More? Forget the adrenaline burst from the fall. He expended a lot of energy regaining Ullrich's group. The drama would have been over at the summit of Luz Ardiden.
Did Ullrich wait? #3
Perhaps a number of those who have contributed to this thread, did not see live Tv. footage of the stage.
After Lance's brake lever had caught in the lad's hat band, both he and Mayo fell, with Ullrich swerving to miss them. There was a loss of momentum, by the German which allowed riders come on to him.
What can be clearly seen as they take the next bend in the road, is Tyler Hamilton spreading his arms and gesturing to the riders to wait. Ullrich was getting back into his stride at this precise moment, yet everyone faltered and the rest is history.
William D. James
Did Ullrich wait? #4
Matt Riggs of Indianapolis wrote: "Please watch the replay again. As Lance and Mayo went down... look behind [Ullrich] about 20 feet and you can see [Hamilton] coming in to view, not much of an effort to bridge that gap to Ullrich... Plain as day, [Ullrich] did not sit up and soft pedal."
My take, having watched the replay again this weekend: First of all, I completely disagree that Hamilton was only 20 feet behind Ulrich, Armstrong, and Mayo at that point, but for the sake of argument, let's say he was. The key point is that it was nearly four minutes later that Hamilton gave his famous hand wave to the lead group instructing them all to slow down. It doesn't pass the common sense test to claim, given Hamilton and Ullrich riding together for four minutes, that one was sitting up and the other not.
Ullrich might not have been gesturing or otherwise obvious in any changes to his riding style or position, but the pure physics of the equation are that he was no further ahead of anyone that he was when Armstrong and Mayo fell, Hamilton included. Either Ullrich slowed down and waited, or no one did, and I think we're all in agreement that Hamilton sat up, so there is no other conclusion save that Ullrich did as well.
Rodrigo Paz tells us that the reason that Lance is such a great Tour winner is because he focuses only on the Tour. That's true Mr. Paz and I don't think that even Lance would argue with you.
But the days when Eddy Merckx and Bernard Hinault rode everything and won are long gone. Let's not pretend that Lance could win a cobblestone classic against Petegem or an Italian one day against Bettini.
The average fitness of Tour riders now is such that there are 20 riders that could win the Tour while in the past there might have been three. The only way to show superiority in such a crowd of heroes is to concentrate on the one race that makes you your living.
And consider this: Lance is superior in the Tour despite the fact that he is competing with plenty of other riders who consider the Tour their sole focus of the year as well.
Lance Armstrong #2
In response to Tim Heffernan's summary of Lance Armstrong I'm glad to see someone with a level head out there. His description of Armstrong is perfect, you don't win anything by being Mr. Nice Guy, especially in a sport like cycling. The amount of people out there who either loathe Armstrong or think he is god's gift is astounding, there seems to be no neutral ground. Lance is an American, it will never be easy for the majority of Europeans to understand him. I am not an Armstrong fan but I do admire him as a champion, seeing any five-time winner in action, as a person in my early twenties I feel privileged to have seen 3 in action, having vague memories of Hinault in 85 and 86. There's one thing you cannot deny, Ullrich, Vino, Mayo and Beloki made Lance earn this year's Tour, so he is a worthy champion.
Conor O' Donoghue
Regarding Mr Lecourt's and Mr Feliks' speculations about the greatest number of grand tour stage wins in one season:
Only about fifty riders in all have won thirteen or more grand tour stages since WWII, and at first I couldn't find anoyone who could match Freddy Maertens' 13 stages in one season.
Bernard Hinault won four Giro stages in '82, as well as four stages in the Tour for a total of eight, matching his 1978 record of five stages in the Vuelta a España and three in the Tour de France.
In 1970, Merckx won the Giro d'Italia and three stages, bringing his total up to 11 (he won a record eight in the Tour de France). But in 1973, when he skipped the Tour, he did even better, winning six Vuelta stages and six in the Giro d'Italia.
Not enough to beat Fast Freddy, though, but it turns out that thirteen stage wins in major tours in one season is not the record after all, because Martens also rode the Giro d'Italia in 1977, winning the prologue, as well as stages 1, 4, 6a, 6b, 7 and 8a. That's twenty stage wins total in 1977, the year when Maertens equaled Eddy Merckx's record of 52 wins in one season.
Anders P. Jensen
Cyclingnews, rightly, tries to distinguish between real news or fact, and gossip or rumour, but sometimes even sheer fantasy can be cycling news. An example, CN reported in Dec/Jan 2003, along with other media, on a new Belgian div. 1 team, Re/Max-Massi, with a budget of 9 million Euros over 3 years run by one Pol De Baeremaecker. Although this team was never really likely to materialize - PDB is a fantasist, even the proposed sponsors never knew about the team - he (PDB) had been able to get the story in the Belgian press which obviously lent it some credibility, I'm sure CN only carried it because it was in the Belgian press.
The whole thing, entirely predictably and anticipated (the "to be continued" tag) by CN, turned out to be a complete fiction. The point being that none of this was accurate, there was no substance to it, it was all just made up, but that didn't prevent it being cycling news for a good few weeks.
I think Tim Maloney wants to draw the distinction between real news and gossip a wee bit too sharply, but he's right to be wary of publishing "deep" team internal gossip.
Frank Russo wrote "On many occasions I have raced 1-2 hr criteriums in very hot conditions (I recall one race several years ago, about 60 K, where the temperature at the start was 105 degrees!) where I would not even bother to bring along water because I knew there was no way I was going to drink during the race. Losing 4-6 lbs didn't usually inhibit my performance..."
I have done numerous tests climbing several times the same mountain pass and come to the same conclusion that a weight loss of up to 5 percent ( ~3kg) in my case does not seriously reduce power output. I do know that beyond that, if I loose 4 kg or more, I start feeling really bad and performance suffers greatly.
From what I have read on physiology, to each gram of glycogen (in whatever form it is stored) there are 3.7 grams of water attached to it. Therefore, when using 400 grams of glycogen (1600 Kcal), one should be losing 400 g plus 1480 g. of water, that is 1880 g of body weight.
Let's forget about the fat used during the same time.
It seems to me that if while using those 400g my body weight reduces by, say, 2880g, then I am only 1000 grams dehydrated, not 2880g and I only need to drink 1000 g of replacement fluid (even less if fat consumption is taken into account).
So, how come I keep reading everywhere about that 30 years old study by someone claiming that a 1 percent weight loss reduces power output by 10 percent and so on ... to the point that a 10 percent weight loss reduces output by 100 percent.
From that study I must conclude that I died 33 years ago while climbing from Alamogordo (1400m a.s.l) to Cloudcroft (2600m a.s.l) after 2 days of intense cycling in Mexico and New Mexico.
For a phantom, I did a pretty good time too climbing up there and although I was quite light getting home, it seemed too much for an immaterial being.
I certainly would appreciate commentaries by Russo and others on this.
Based on my experience as an endurance rider, it seems more likely that Lance suffered from a heat-induced electrolyte imbalance. In particular, he may have been low on sodium prior to the start and, in the intense heat, become hyponuetremic. My understanding is a person can lose as much as 1200 mg of sodium per hour. Such a situation will significantly hinder performance and cause intense discomfort.
As a math professor, I can tell you some non-technical people have a habit of throwing numerical figures around without much regard as to their meaning. Combine this with spin doctors trying to put the best face on what seemed to be an impending disaster for Postal, it's easy to see how the numbers became inflated.
In summary then, Lance had a bad day. We all have them...don't you remember that time you were puking at the side of the road? Haven't done that? Try it... it sucks. Too bad we can't all come in second when we suck. Lance did.
I too have watched the '86 Tour tape many times. And one thing stands out to me. Bernard forced LeMond to become great and perhaps that was what he wanted to do (especially in the light of the fact that he has actually said so.)
If you were a five time Tour winner would you roll over an let someone soft pedal to a win? Of course not if you have any pride at all. What does it say of a true champion if you let someone less than champion status beat you?
I note that LeMond never seems to have let go of those hurt emotions and those sudden fears generated when Hinault spanked him in front of the entire cycling world. But it was that which brought out the greatness of Greg and for that he truly ought to be grateful to Bernard.
Without that knowledge that he could beat the best in the world I don't think that Greg could have found the extra something it took to beat Laurent Fignon and go down into history in such a grand manner.
In reply to Jonathan Bridge, Hinault did give the 1986 TdF to LeMond, he honored his promise in his own way. Hinault was a Frenchman riding his national Tour, he was the team leader, if he had wanted to win, all he had to do was nurse his lead and tell the rest of the team "I win, OK".
To anyone who doubts this and wants the full story, read Bernard Hinault's autobiography "Memories of the Peloton", he explains his reasons for how he rode that Tour and how he tried to turn LeMond into a real champion in great detail.
In response to Jonathan Bridges' letter about the '86 TDF, I'd like to point out that Hinault's reason to attack that day was twofold; first he knew he was weaker on the big climbs so early attacks were the best way for him to gain time. Secondly, even if he couldn't maintain the gap himself, it would force Urs Zimmerman and the other major players to chase and use up their strength, giving LeMond an easier ride and the chance to counter-attack. Hinault was way too tactically astute to waste energy if he didn't need to, and he could easily have sat in and protected the Maillot Jaune, but he was convinced that the race needed a major shake-up. To this day no-one really knows what he was thinking during the rest of that Tour, but that day was all about smashing his and LeMond's opponents to bits and it worked! In saying that however, I'm sure that he would have kept going if he had the chance, for he was not a man to miss chances to win. Greg LeMond deserved that Tour victory, but the Badger's help should be acknowledged too.
I wish there were more and better videos of LeMond than there are. Nothing of his astonishing 1983 World's victory is available, and of course, where would one begin to look for his 2nd in the '82 World's? With all the deserved hoopla over Lance's five victories, consecutive at that, LeMond has been cast aside, but he's still my favorite rider. And I couldn't care less about any unflattering comments by European greats, notably the "Cannibal," Eddy Merckx, Bernie Hinault, and Johann Museeuw. People who want to piss on him can just piss off.
LeMond rode at a time when there was a great deal of chauvinism in cycling. It would have been mentally arduous to have dealt with Continental attitudes but LeMond did that with aplomb. In 1983, he won the Super Prestige Pernod, more than just the equivalent of the World Cup, and was combative year-round, until the shotgun accident that left him with lead pellets in his body that eventually lead to the disease that befell his metabolic system and resulted in his untimely retirement.
I believe his finest hour was his in-fight with Hinault, the hardheaded Frenchman who heard and responded to a siren song of six victories in the Tour and who because of that, plus some wicked riding by LeMond and two teammates - Steve Bauer and, of course, eventual 4th place finisher Andy Hampsten, was eventually gored by his own horn. LeMond beat not only all the worthy opposition, he beat treachery and betrayal, really the stuff of classical heroism, and did it with a grace that few people can sustain.
Here's to Greg LeMond.
Re: Marcelo Iannini's query about cheap ways to do photo finishes:
I read about somebody adapting a normal still camera to do photo finishes in some long-departed US bike racing mag (was it Competitive Cycling?) back in the 70's. The principle of the photo finish camera is quite simple: film moves past a thin slit of an open shutter at the same speed as the finishers. Anything moving faster than the film appears shorter, anything slower gets longer (or is it the other way around???), so this helps with setting your film motion speed. The most primitive way to do this on the cheap would then appear to be:
1. Tape the shutter opening or lens on a 35mm SLR so it only lets in a thin
vertical slit of light.
I would think you should be able to get several finishes from one roll of film.
Cheap and primitive, but I've seen it work, once. Long ago. Good luck.
I was just thinking about how unresponsive USA Cycling is when I came across Stuart's letter. I've had a USCF racing license for over 10 years and have been trying to get an upgrade for over a year now. My results justify it but I haven't been able to get a response from the regional representative. On several occasions I asked about an upgrade immediately after a race in which I finished in the top five including immediately after stepping down from the podium at the State Criterium Championships where I took the bronze medal. I also got blown off and told to develop a race resume, send it in, and the regional rep would make a decision.
By the way, we're not talking about a big upgrade here, just from Cat 4 to Cat 3. I left messages with the regional rep via telephone as well as via two different e-mail messages with absolutely no response. I recently had the need to call USA Cycling directly as there was a problem with my license renewal payment. After three attempts to reach someone with no success I've pretty much given up. Each time I left a voice message and no one has ever given me a call back. I have raced on an expired license now for approximately two years. With the lack of response I have been getting maybe I will race in 2004 again with a license that expired in 2001.
USA Cycling Website #2
Yes, the site is very frustrating to the average user. It would seem that results could be posted in a timely manner with all the people working at "headquarters". And in a comprehensive manner so as to inform us of what we need to know.
And I guess that is the key, as licensed racers, we expect the site to be updated weekly, at least. But it would appear that most of the staff is computer illiterate as the updates come months after the event! And I don't know about you, but when 2004 rolls around, I am not much interested in 2003 stats.
Look at the site right now and see how many 2002 stats are still posted and how many links don't work and it would only take one data entry person an hour a week to post updated stats, right? USA Cycling seems to have the attitude that "we'll post the stats when we get around to it and they (the members), will darn well like it"
Well, we won't darn well like it and we are going to protest until you change. We are the members, and while we don't seek an adversarial confrontation, we want response, and we expect better from an organization which claims to represent us as licensed cycling racers
USA Cycling Website #3
I think the USAC would be wasting resources if their web site carried a lot of information about state and local races. In many parts of the US there are already website dedicated to local and state level racing. These web sites carry race Ads and results for the races in their region. USAC shouldn't waste resources by duplicating the efforts of these regional web sties. Instead USAC should provide links to these sites that carry state and local racing information.
As for the national ranking system it will never be perfect until you get all race promoters to send in their results. To many promoters don't do this because they don't care or have a real life to get back to after their race is done. Most of the rider I know are much more concerned with their ranking in their in their regional ranking system anyway. Would USAC be better off dropping the national ranking system and putting those resources to other uses and letting the regional groups continue with the existing regional rankings?
USA Cycling Website #4
I sent a letter in to Cyclingnews just as the Elite National Championships were announced by USA Cycling (where they gave six weeks notice). The website didn't contain any useful information on how to get there, lodging, etc. It pretty much stated, "Hey, were having this event, it's called the National Championships, in Pennslyvania somewhere, maybe on such and such date if the courses are set and we have marshalls." The alternative form of getting info from USA Cycling is the laughable USA Cycling publication they put out. In the last several years, I have got 2 or 3 issues, that's it! Getting good information from them is hard to come by.
What is the mission of USA Cycling, I'm sure they have a fancy "Mission Statement", but maybe they are spread too thin? Other racing organizations seem to be doing a better job at the local scene. However, USA Cycling is the only recognized UCI organization in the US. USA Cycling should maybe focus on Olympic, Elite Amateur development (I.e. identifying National Team members, sending them overseas, etc) , and organizing the National Championships. Those duties are hard enough for any organization, but now try and please all the different kinds of racers out there from the 10 year old to the 65 year old racer, governing racing in one region with lots of races and virtually no racing in another region where USA Cycling is headquartered. Local racers paying for two licenses each year, it goes on and on! It is pretty confusing! Again, it comes down to what is the "Mission" of USA Cycling?
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