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Letters to Cyclingnews - September 12, 2003
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Over the past few years I, as most cyclists and followers of the sport, have been somewhat jaded to the announcements involving the detection of banned substances within the pro peloton ranks. The majority of the reason for this shrug of the shoulders attitude lies in the fact that I do not know the athletes in question and am also sure that there are those members of the peloton which do resort to the use of banned substances to enhance performance.
Recently, Amber Neben announced that she had received notification that her A Sample tested on May 31 had indicated a positive result for Nandrolone, a banned substance. For most this will be status quo, a US National Champion testing positive. That explains everything.
For me, this one is different. You see, I know Amber. We have the same coach (I am an amateur) and train together when she is in Southern California. Amber works harder than any athlete I have ever met regardless of the sport, putting in the necessary overtime to achieve her goals -- no short cuts! I have met her at six in the morning after driving for an hour and a half to time trial twelve miles uphill preparing for race day. I have raced with her in the local training crits while she puts the hammer down on members of the men's pro peloton in Southern California applying the finishing touches to her latest training mesocycle.
In addition to her hard work, she shows a keen interest in doing what's right for cycling. Talking with up and coming juniors, riding with lower category riders. I have never seen her turn a cold or impassive shoulder to anyone no matter how casual the acquaintance. Amber is all that I admire in a professional athlete.
There are several things of which I am sure: 1) Amber does not, has not and will not intentionally take any banned substances to enhance her performance; I have watched her progress in her abilities over the years and it is simply extremely hard work and great coaching that has allowed her to achieve her success. 2) Amber will emerge from this challenge with a clean reputation-- my only hope being that it does not jeopardize her ability to represent the United States in the Olympics as she wholeheartedly deserves.
For those out there that do not know her, this should be a rallying cry to cyclists of the world on both the professional and amateur level for reform within IOC, UCI, WADA and USADA. There should be regulation and control but it must be fair and realistic (reference the recent ATP scenario involving positive results for banned substances based on contaminated supplements).
If this can happen to Amber it could literally happen to anyone.
I can't say enough about how happy I am that Mario showed up, then dropped out. Sorry the Vuelta had to feel the brunt of his commentary.
If race organizers are going to be so fickle about team rosters for their races, they're only going to scare team sponsors away from the sport and for the very stupid, let me explain that "this will hurt the sport." And, Mario makes a point: Don't think that we're going to gladly train for months for your race, only to have you pull the invite from us. Find me any reader of this website who will gladly be denied access to a race that they've trained months for. If cycling fans look at this from the racers point of view, this shouldn't be too hard to understand.
For any and all of this, blame LeBlanc and ASO.
I am deeply saddened to hear that they could not work things out. I hope they make sure the children are okay and have a life they deserve; I am sure they will. But, to the cycling aspect of this divorce. Is this the distraction Lance was dealing with before the Tour? I think so. I believe there is plenty of us out there racing amateur who know the stress that a wife and kids can put on your training program and the ability to reach the level you want to reach even as an amateur.
I am sure that it is just as tough for a pro, and we can all say it is their job, but how many jobs out there take us away from our loved ones for months on end like a pro cyclist? Not many. Good luck to Lance and Kristin and take care of the kids.
In this thread nobody seems to be mentioning the role played out by the owner of the team, one Bernard Tapie.
It is commonly known that Tapie arrived mid-way through the Tour and "ordered" Hinault to give LeMond the victory, with the promise that Hinault could win a US stage race, which better suited his commercial policies for the US market.
William D. James
Greg LeMond #2
Greg LeMond will never have an equal. He came to Europe at a time when an American winning the Tour de France was a virtual pipe dream. I followed his career: he was beating the best in the States as a Junior. He won World Championships, he was third in his first tour (look at Big Migs first tour or Lance's), the list goes on and on.
I was very disappointed this year on the stage to Luz Ardiden, when Lance's spectacular ascent was never compared to Greg's in 1990. Riding past Chiappucci and then riding a tempo that only Indurain could follow, with the World Champions jersey on his back. Without Greg, there is no Lance or Tyler on Luz Ardiden. It would have been nice for some journalist to at least mention Greg LeMond's historical ascent of the same mountain.
Greg LeMond #3
In response to Mr. Kunich's letter about Greg LeMond, let's just all agree that Greg has some serious issues. Betrayed by a teammate, gunned down in your prime, and now never to be remembered as America's greatest - this is serious stuff. But for the sake of this argument, who can deny that he was betrayed by an egotistical French cycling god, on a French team, going for the all time record of Tour wins?
People, you forget that this was 1986. There had only been European Tour winners. Forget the promise, Greg will have plenty of years to win the Tour. This is history! Ask Andy Hampsten or Steve Bauer what went on, they were there too. Was that some special tactic? I'll attack you repeatedly without telling you, forcing you to ride in support of me and beating you up in the press in the process. No wonder Hinault never became a Director Sportif. The hell Greg went through that year makes Armstrong's 2003 Tour experience look like a picnic.
Greg LeMond #4
While I love Greg LeMond and all that he did for American cycling, I don't believe he was the strongest rider in the 96 tour. I was at the 1996 Coors Classic on the side of the road for the Vail Time Trial where Bernard Hinault beat LeMond by 50 seconds in the climbing time trial. Hinault crossed the finish line as LeMond was telling reporters that he had been going at his absolute threshold the whole way. While I say this, I still do not believe that LeMond's victory is tarnished in any way. Teammates can do great things for each other as Greg LeMond showed wonderfully throughout his career.
After readiing last week's letters on dehydration and the immediate comparisons to reduction in power output durinbg a long crit versus riding the TDF leaves me a bit perplexed.
Is the suggestion that since the persons involved did not experience a significant loss in power output during their event, Lance must not have either?
If so then I disagree. The comparison is not in any way shape or form valid.
First, hard crits are fine. Riding the TDF is not another level, its another dimension, there is NO comparison.
Last I checked, Lance might be riding at a different level than the hard crit used as a baseline. In fact, I would have to suggest that the idea of comparing the 2 is sheer and utter folly.
Odds are that unless you had medical training the best we can do is guess and
by all means, try not to use Gatorade ads as a basis of performance lag. Tends
to take the whole idea of data and make it useless.
Why would it be such a pity for Julich not to continue to ride? He has had zero results since his fluke tour podium place during the "Festina Tour." If you can't deliver the goods, there are plenty of rising young pros who will be glad to take your place. Maybe it's time for Bobby to return to the US where he can join Chris Horner and Jonathan Vaughters in the domestic peloton and perhaps even see another podium position - even if it's at Valley of the Sun - before he retires altogether.
Bobby Julich and Telekom #2
Telekom did nothing wrong by dropping Bobby Julich. Cycling, as opposed to other sports, requires constant performance, and in this cutthroat business something as simple as an accidental bike crash can mean the difference between having a contract and not having one.
Bobby Julich hasn't accomplished ANYTHING since his third place in the 98 Tour. Even that Tour itself deserves an asterisk. With the Festina affair and a decimated field I don't consider the '98 Tour really indicative of a rider's potential (and I put a big asterisk by Pantani, I don't consider him a true Tour de France champion). Stage 2 of the Vuelta this year, 8.02 down on the finishers, 7.30 down on the real competitors. Looks like they made the right decision.
This has certainly been an interesting topic. There is one thing that hasn't been brought up at all and it would be interesting to get peoples opinion on it. Now a lot has been said about whether Jan waited or not. Putting that aside . . . Both Lance and Mayo went down and had to start riding again from a complete stop. NONE of the other riders, including Jan, had to stop. I admit that Jan did have to slow and swerve, but he never stopped. Now for me it is more difficult to begin riding again, especially on a hill, from a complete stop than it is to keep riding, slowly or otherwise. Getting a push still does not negate the fact you're going up hill from a stop. It isn't enough. A whole lot of energy went into getting Lance and Mayo up and going again. Others may think so what, but to me that aspect is important.
That same point applies to Lance winning that day. From a total stop he got back up to the front, countered the attack (from Mayo, not Jan) and kept going.
Personally I think Lance would have won anyway. He put enough time in at the end that day to make up for the seconds anyone would have waited.
I watched the daily American television coverage on OLN of the Tour and have watched all of the repackaged highlight shows in the days and months following. We've all heard of how Tyler Hamilton, on his way to an unlikely stage win, got dropped from the peloton and required the help of many of his teammates to bring him back to the bunch, where he promptly blew through the field, caught the lead group and went on to win the day.
Is there any video coverage of these moments? Perhaps the European viewers were privy to this dramatic action? It is simply not exciting to see a rider solo pounding out tempo on the flats with 20km or more to go; I'd rather see CSC pulling out all the stops to get their leader back in the race. Did the television cameras miss the real action all together?
Am I alone in feeling worried for Ullrich's chances in 2004? In all the excitement generated this year, the achievements of Mayo and Zubeldia - both only 26 - have been unfairly overlooked. Mayo proved he is a much better climber than Ullrich and if next year's parcours features more uphill finishes (we had only three this year) then with an added year of training, I think Ullrich will struggle to make up enough time on the ITTs. And Zubeldia is not far behind in ability. This is not even considering the chances of a certain Texan, who I'd still be very reluctant to bet against...
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