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Letters to Cyclingnews - September 19, 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

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

Supplemental responsibility

I find it interesting that when a European cyclist is found positive it is thought of as a big stain on the cycling community and sport. When a member of the US cycling community is found positive, the testing organization is thought of being the bad guy. In some cases, tainted products are the bad guy. The testing parameters are there to protect the athlete and the sporting organizations. The message should be athletic responsibility.

I have recently watched an Olympic hopeful come in a local shop and ask, Is this good? and walk out with a locally made supplement. No questions asked, no investigation of the company making it, nothing. I figure maybe education is the key here. I'll start the ball rolling and provide two excellent choices if anybody is considering supplementation.

(An additional note--tainted vats aren't just for banned substances. DES, hexachlorobenzene and lead are amongst the ingredients found in supplements during Consumer Labs tests. )

Pharmanex Official nutritional and Dietary Supplement, vitamin, mineral and phytonutrient sponsor of the 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004 US Olympic teams and is the only company providing supplements to the US Olympic Training Center.

Consumer mission statement: to identify the best quality health and nutrition products through independent testing. They also offer a Athletic Banned Substances Screening Program to test dietary supplements performance enhancement products and other nutrition products for substances that could cause disqualification of athletes from Olympic and other competition.

The information is out there the message is it's ultimately the athletes responsibility.

Erica Leister ACSM
Barto, PA.
Friday, September 12 2003

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Blame Canada

I will be journeying north of the border in a few weeks to experience my first worlds. But I am not as excited to see the race as I once was. Unfortunately, every couple of days, I visit the site and am greeted with another rider saying "hasta la vista" to this year's race: Armstrong, Ullrich, Vinokourov, Hamilton, Zubeldia, Mayo just to name a few who have opted out.

And whom do I blame for this grave injustice? I, of course, blame Canada. What were they thinking? Designing a course that will test and push the riders to their absolute limit.

Shame on you. Shame on you.

Obviously, I am being facetious when I chastise our friends from the great white north. The real ninnies aren't the Canadians or the riders who choose not to ride, it's those blockheads at the UCI.

Those primates need to take a cue from the other cycling disciplines and move the road championships to a decent month. It shouldn't be that difficult considering there are only 12 to choose from. Let me give them a push in the right direction.

How about August?

It's right after the Tour when the majority of elite racers are riding at their peak. Also, the riders could use San Sebastian and Zurich as "tune-ups" and thereby incorporating two World Cup races in the process and thus adding prestige to these events as well. And what if the newly crowned champion showed off his shiny new fleece at La Vuelta. As Cipo did this year. (Albeit a tad bit coerced). Now that's publicity.

But alas, I know this will never happen. Because it makes sense. October is way too late.

Bradley McGee illustrates my point perfectly. He also decided against riding this year's race - his justification? "I've had a big year, I've had a lot of racing, and I've already started thinking about next year." This is exactly the type of rider who should be racing. Not someone who is racing to save his season. But McGee is already thinking about next year. Can you blame him?

People talk about the "curse of the rainbow". Might I suggest it's not a curse but burnout. Racing from the beginning of the year until October is way too long. And the body usually pays the price next year. (Yeah, like I know. But you get my point.)

Someone needs to knock some sense into those coconuts at the UCI and have them move worlds to a time when the best will race. Let's start the revolution before it starts to snow.

Joe Coldebella
Thursday, September 18 2003

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A strong US team

After reading the Tour de L'Avenir headline ("Strong U.S. Field for Tour de L'Avenir") I eagerly awaited each days results. Imagine my immense disappointment:

Stage 2 - Tom Danielson exits
Stage 6 - Will Frischkorn exits
Stage 7 - Shawn Milne and Michael Creed exit
Stage 8 - Danny Pate exits

Patrick McCarty was left to fend for himself on the final two stages with no teammates, but still managed a respectable 21st place overall.

From race reports it appears that the U.S. team, outside of two meager top ten finishes, never played a role of any importance in the race. They consistently finished mid-pack or many minutes behind. Hopefully the underwhelming performance by the "strongest national team" ever fielded by the U.S. is not a sign of things to come.

Paul Harke
Virginia U.S.A.
Tuesday, September 16 2003

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Suggestion for the big Tours

Lately I've been a bit disappointed about the non participation of TOP riders in the big tours, like the Giro, TDF and Vuelta. I know that the UCI is trying to workout a different selection system for the organizers to pick the teams that are allowed or invited to each race, but I have a great suggestion.

Why not make each participating team of only 7-8 riders. This will allow for the inclusion of at least another 2-4 teams to the event and still keep the peloton under 200 riders.

I mean, do we really need to see eight "helpers" doing all of the work for their leader? Why not make some of these "leaders" do a bit of the work themselves, like in the old days. Also, some of the smaller teams don't even have enough quality riders to fill a nine men solid squad.

I am an American and I'm very happy that Lance Armstrong has won five tours, but I'm also really disappointed and tired of the fact that his team does all of the work during the stage and he just sits there until the last few kilometers. No longer do we see other "team leaders" attacking far away from the finish line, as they know that their rivals will send all of their "eight workers" to the front and bring them back.

Apart from a few stages in this year's TDF, These last five TDF have been the most "boring" I have ever watched.

Please, let's do something to ensure that us "The Fans" get to see all of the top riders at each of the major tours. Let's not let politics get the best of our sport.

William Delgado
California, USA
Thursday, September 18 2003

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Amber Neben #1

I had to shake my head while reading Kevin Sherman's protestations about the innocence of Amber Neben, whose recent A sample tested positive for nandrolone.

The premise of Kevin's argument seemed to be that the athlete in question could not have taken an illegal substance because she trains harder than anyone he knows. I think you will find that most of the athletes that have tested positive also train extremely hard, and that cheating and motivation aren't mutually exclusive.

I hope you are right and Amber's B sample is negative. She should then have the right to represent the USA at the Olympics. I also hope she does well there.

But if the B sample is positive, then Amber should be considered guilty. And she should not walk away with a clean reputation. And she should not represent the USA at the Olympics. And she should be seen as a drug cheat.

The rules are very clear, and any athlete that is as dedicated as Kevin suggests Amber is should be as meticulous about what she ingests as she is about her time trial sessions. The cycling community is very good at saying we want to clean up the sport, but quick to make exception after exception.

Brad Davies
Friday, September 19 2003

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Amber Neben #2

If supplements might be contaminated, then don't take supplements!

Joshua Harris
Monday, September 15 2003

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Amber Neben #3

I agree with Kevin Sherman that many of those cyclists caught for drug abuse in Europe just doesn't hit home to me like domestic American pros getting caught. It seems to me that almost all of those getting caught are not intentionally trying to dope, but are caught out by contaminated supplements, or other foods. Why aren't the regulatory bodies that able to consider each case and the potential sources of drug traces found in athlete's systems? I think "zero tolerance" is too hard. If an athlete has a trace of some illegal stimulant (that isn't enough to do anything for them), I think it needs to be considered. And these bodies should pay for the testing of supplements suspected of doping... not the athletes. At least not in the U.S... until cycling rivals football or basketball in the types of $$ pumped into the sport.

Stu Press
Los Angeles, CA
Saturday, September 13 2003

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Greg LeMond #1

"It is commonly known that [Bernard] Tapie arrived mid-way through the Tour and "ordered" Hinault to give LeMond the victory", writes Mr William James from France.

Well, not that commonly known, apparently... I've never heard that story before, but I have heard that one of the reasons why Hinault attacked so furiously early on in the race was because he and Tapie wanted a historic sixth win for the Frenchman, and were trying to force LeMond to accept a rôle as Hinault's helper. That version has been recounted by Danish reporter/film maker Jørgen Leth (of "Stars and Watercarriers"), who was involved in the abandoned movie project "The Yellow Jersey", for which footage was shot at the '86 Tour.

It is true that Hinault, Tapie and DS Paul Koechli had promised to help LeMond win before the Tour started, but Bernard Tapie was never one to take a promise too seriously, or the law for that matter. And a sixth win for Hinault would surely have pleased Tapie a great deal more than seeing an American victorious in Paris.

It's kinda long, I know, but I thought this 1998 interview with Greg LeMond from the "Bicyclist" magazine says a lot about LeMond's own feelings towards Tapie and Hinault:

"Bicyclist [Bryan Malessa]: If you don't object to talking about Bernard Hinault, there still seems to be some interest in learning exactly what happened between you two in the '85 Tour, and then again in '86, when Hinault, as your teammate, attacked you while you were wearing the yellow jersey. Was it a devastating moment when Hinault attacked you after apparently agreeing to work for you after helping him win his fifth Tour?

LeMond: It almost burned me out of cycling, that little episode. In a way, it probably led to my hunting accident, because I didn't even feel like racing the following year.

Bicyclist: You had lost your faith in the loyalty of teammates?

LeMond: Yeah, it was like being burned by your brother. The thing is that Hinault wasn't your typical teammate. He was a guy I idolized. [...] He was great up until the '85 Tour and even then I didn't really think of him as the fault, it was the team, Bernard Tapie and the coach, because Hinault was just riding as hard as he could the day he got dropped in the '85 Tour.

Bicyclist: And then the coach came up in the car and told you to slow down and wait for Hinault?

LeMond: Yes, but they lied to me. I had about a three to four minute lead on him at that point, but I thought I only had about 45 seconds. Every time I asked them exactly how much time I had they'd evade the answer, telling me Hinault was in the group right behind me. Then when the pack of riders came up with Sean Kelly and Phil Anderson, guys who I climbed much better than, Hinault was still nowhere in sight.

Bicyclist: So you had to wait even longer?

LeMond: Well, what happened from the beginning is that Paul Koechli (my coach) came up and started talking to me, saying 'You cannot ride with Roche, you can't attack. Hinault's coming up. You need to wait for him. We want to insure our first and second place.' We started arguing, me saying, 'Well, how far back is he?' But he wouldn't tell me, and then eventually he said forty or forty-five seconds. And as we're sitting there arguing, Luis Herrera rides up the road. If you look at the results from that year, Herrera wasn't climbing any better than I was. So we keep arguing and finally I decide, okay, I'll wait. By now, all the momentum of our strong break had been lost because of the argument. So I waited. Roche had been sitting their listening to the entire argument, and of course he's more or less the enemy. He was in third and wanted to keep that place secure. I'm thinking, 'Jesus!, we've blown this entire chance!' I wait and I wait and I wait. A group of about sixteen or eighteen riders come up, and Hinault's not there. He's still another minute and a half behind that group. By the time I finished the stage, he was still a minute and 15 seconds down and I'd waited minutes for him! It wasn't until that big group came to me that I really got pissed, when I realized Hinault wasn't there and that he was even farther down the climb behind guys that were sprinters! In a way, Hinault should not have won that Tour. It doesn't matter if he's the strongest the first week, that doesn't make a difference. It's who's the strongest over three weeks. If he had a bad day, that's part of it-he didn't deserve to win the '85 Tour. At the hotel, they made all these promises for the following year, but still said, 'You have to help Hinault the next day.' I wasn't mad at Hinault. I wasn't pissed at him at all. Hinault wasn't telling them what to do. It was Bernard Tapie's and Paul Keochli's conspiracy to make sure Hinault won his fifth Tour. [...]

Bicyclist: Did that final instance affect your friendship?

LeMond: Yes, we basically became non-friends after that attack. But I'm pretty neutral about my feelings with Hinault, now. These things happened so many years ago, that I harbor no ill feeling toward him. [...] The only thing that remains irritating is that I'm sometimes not given full credit for my '86 Tour. If I analyze the '86 Tour, I beat Hinault who was probably as strong that year as he had ever been. [...] In Europe, even to this day, the big question is 'Did Hinault give LeMond that Tour? Did he ride against me or for me?' That he rode so aggressively against me did help in a way, since it was clear he was trying to win, but the skeptics will always wonder. Let me just tell you, I would have loved to have been on a different team and been able to go head to head with him, instead of having to figure out how to politely win the race. It was actually very political. I mean, he was a French hero, at least as popular as Michael Jordan is in this country. And to be an American in France going against him [his voice trails off]...."

Anders P. Jensen
Korsør, Denmark
Sunday, September 14 2003

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Greg LeMond #2

Without wishing to disparage Greg LeMond, supporting the claim that "he will never have an equal" with the fact that "he was third in his first Tour" is not a particularly strong argument as this feat has already been surpassed by Jan Ullrich, who was second in his first Tour, in 1996.

Rob Roeder
Sunday, September 14 2003

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Greg LeMond #3

I guess I have a problem saying that Greg LeMond was "betrayed". I also have a problem saying that anyone was "the greatest". If Lance is lucky enough to win a 6th Tour does that make him the greatest winner ever of the Tour? Hell no! It makes him a record holder. The fact that Greg LeMond won three Tours in a time when Americans were in the extreme minority certainly is an accomplishment but doesn't make him the greatest. I think that we can reserve that for Mohammed Ali.

Greg LeMond was a great rider but the fact is that he was beaten all the time by Bernard Hinault. If Bernard felt it necessary to force Greg to beat him fairly that isn't betrayal in my book but the ego of a warrior.

I understand that Greg felt a lot of emotional conflict in that respect but after all, he rose to the challenge and defeated Hinault one on one. Does anyone think that LeMond winning in a cakewalk would have made him greater than that? My point is that Greg should have let bygones be bygones. Most of it was in his mind to begin with and if LeMond was conflicted so was Hinault. And Greg came out the better man in the contest.

Tom Kunich
Saturday, September 13 2003

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Jan Ullrich in 2004 #1

In response to Nicholas Jenkins from Hungary I say, unless Zubeldia and Mayo find some long forgotten, mystic guru in the mountains of some forgotten land to teach them how to truly time trial then Ullrich will beat them. Ullrich may loose time in the mountains but he has a way of limiting his losses. During Armstrong's attach this year Ullrich was able (once he got up to speed) match the pace of Armstrong enough and stop the loss of more precious seconds. I liken that to the style of Indurain, who was not the best climber at 6'2" tall, but could hold on to prevent too much loss of time in the mountain stages. When it came to the Time Trial however, he put the proverbial hammer down and no one could match his power. The problem with Ullrich before the 2003 Tour was that he lost time to Armstrong in the mountains and in the time trials. Now that he knows he has the ability to match or better Armstrong in the time trials he will be a force to be reckoned with. I'm not saying he WILL win, only that I HOPE that he can win.

Warren Beckford
Bloomfield, CT - USA
Friday, September 12 2003

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Jan Ullrich in 2004 #2

Last week a reader suggested that Ullrich will have trouble coping with climbers like Mayo and Zubeldia next year. This is an interesting and valid point, so I did some quick calculations and came up with the following.

A: Mayo finished the tour with an overall deficit of 6:05 on Jan. Mayo lost a total of 6:46 in the 2 long time trials so theoretically he is a better climber. However, he lacked the consistancy of Jan and his bad days were worse than Ullrich's.

B: Zubeldia finished the tour 5:50 down on Jan. He only lost 4:17 to Jan in the long time trials, indicating perhaps he would need to improve his climbing in order to trouble Jan.

Obviously, this does not take the team time trial into account, where Euskaltel would have lost more time to Jan, but it is also true that Jan had far more problems in the lead up to the tour that may have affected him. He lacked race miles in his legs and the team was at the point of imploding, thus pressure was enormous. What I am getting at is that a smoother preparation would have benefited Jan a lot more. This is not to say Jan can still beat the two Basque boys, but just a bit of a comparison to determine strengths and weaknesses of the riders. My personal opinion is that if Jan sticks to his plans of starting to train for the '04 tour in November and he arrives at his peak, he will be a difficult prospect to beat.

Tim Lee
Sydney, Australia
Friday, September 12 2003

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Jan Ullrich in 2004 #3

In response to the other letters posted, I think that Jan has been a very worthy contender, but has never gained the edge that one needs to win the tour, at least not since 1997. He has had 5 podium finishes in 6 years, which is phenomenal, but the point is that in the past few, he has not been up to par with Lance. Lance trained, and continues to, to win the tour and Jan does not. The regimen for Jan is not centered on the tour, and if he intends to win again, that is what he needs to do.

The other point I wanted to make, and this goes along with what John Smith said, he also needs to find a team that is at full power. The 2003 Bianchi team was not as together as USPS and CSC were, and in order for one to win a GT they need a team to be behind them 100% at every moment. They need to be more of a family than cyclists getting paid to ride. The way USPS rode in the first time trials was a perfect example of a family of riders. They were perfectly precise with their lead changes and staying in a straight line through the race. Ok....I'm going off on a tangent now...

Eric Pearlman
Rhode Island, USA
Saturday, September 13 2003

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Jan Ullrich in 2004 #4

Well, well, how interesting it is that Telekom wants Jan Ullrich again. I for one hope he has the sense to continue with Bianchi or consider other decent offers and leave the Telekom machine behind. They abandoned him in his darkest hour (see Cofidis and Lance) and made it sound like they would never want to work with Jan again. In doing so, Telekom proved that they don't stand behind their riders, and deserve only the scraps of the peloton instead of picking the cream of the crop like Jan. Maybe Jan will smarten up and consider going to CSC and having the opportunity to work again with the brilliant Bjarne Riis. Go Jan!

Rich Zachary
Arlington, MA
Thursday, September 18 2003

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Kimberly Bruckner

I just wanted to wish all my best to Kimberly Bruckner, and I hope she comes back strong as ever next year. Kimberly was a guest in our home when the T-Mobile gals raced at the Solano Classic (and she won, which was a thrill for us to watch!) and she was such a nice lady and a awesome competitor. I have enjoyed all of her diary entries which is also another reason for my getting hooked on all year. We were sorry we missed her at the T-Mobile International, my 4 year old son Travis would have loved to tell her hello! Good luck Kimberly on the wedding, recovering from cancer, and your future cycling. Hope to see you again next year at Solano!

Kari Lorch
Fairfield, CA
Wednesday, September 17 2003

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Lance Armstrong's divorce #1

The Armstrong's divorce has unfortunately publicized a very private matter. I too am saddened by their apparent inability to resolve their marital issues. But I'm stunned by Mr. Rigg's statement, "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," especially given his concern for the Armstrong's children. Has the relational bar been set so low in our society that our family is now a hindrance to a training schedule? I don't mean to pick on Mr. Rigg's specifically because I hear these kinds of misprioritized comments throughout the cycling world and beyond. What is our priority? I can't imagine being 70 and thinking "I wished I had spent more time training" as opposed to wishing I had invested more time into my relationships with my wife and children."

Michael Brown
Thursday, September 18 2003

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Lance Armstrong's divorce #2

Matt, I submit that you have it backwards -- one's amateur racing training program puts the stress on the wife and kids, NOT vice-versa. The US 50% divorce rate suggests that many of us have our priorities wrong. If training and racing are more important than a spouse and children, then the solution is obvious - don't marry. Pro cyclists are a different issue - Lance's wife must have known the life she was marrying into. It's too bad for them, but it makes me wonder if he was sincere in his book.

Alan Johnson
Saturday, September 13 2003

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Greg LeMond's 82 World Championship

In his letter, Scott Phoenix mentioned the absence of video footage for the World Championship races in 1982 & 1983. I don't know about 1983, but I do have a copy of the 1982 World's held at Goodwood, UK.

It was produced by Italia Velo Sport. Maybe he can find one out there. Hope this helps.

Ken Bellone
New York
Saturday, September 13 2003

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Tyler Hamilton's Tour win

In response to the suggestion WRT to Tyler Hamilton's stage win in this year's Tour that "It is simply not exciting to see a rider solo pounding out tempo on the flats with 20km or more to go" - I guess this may be true if you're watching re-runs and already know the outcome, but when it happened live the suspense was incredible; for me it was one of the most exciting days of an extremely exciting Tour.

Rob Roeder
Sunday, September 14 2003

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If there was ever something quite groovy that we humans have conjured up, it is the surreal silkiness of track racing. When staring at the empty track on a rainy day you see the steep, wet concrete and you wouldn't think such a dazzling array of racers could create a kaleidoscope of tranquility as beautiful as they do.

A mirage of human trust and virtuosity envelops the bare oval architecture and the strength of tiny hearts beat to drum of each racers core. Flying dreams like characters in a DC comic book, effortless and superhuman. With fearless strength they dazzle the physics of human velocity and seemingly shatter the sound barrier of our limitations. Who could have ever thought that our flesh and blood could marry concrete to make such marvelous poetry.

What a brilliant success, what a whirlpool of dynamic cool we have created.

Polly Cambron
Wednesday, September 17 2003

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I'll have what she's having. - Letters Ed.

Recent letters pages

  • 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?
  • Letters Index – The complete index to every letters page on