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Letters to Cyclingnews - September 26, 2003
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A sleepy thank you to WADA
"WADA intends to add to the list modafinil (also known as Provigil), a stimulant used clinically in the treatment of narcolepsy and daytime sleepiness; and marijuana."
Imagine my displeasure upon reading this report in this morning's (9/25) Cyclingnews. I have had narcolepsy for approximately thirty years (I am 50), and was diagnosed as such over twelve years ago. I have been a bicycle racer for nearly twenty years. Upon my first diagnosis, I was prescribed Ritalin, a miserable treatment that I used for six months. All it did was elevate -- sporadically -- my heart rate, making racing dangerous, so I sat out for half a year, until I quit taking the medication. For me, narcolepsy is a remarkable and indescribable handicap. I never felt completely awake.
Then about three years ago, I started taking modafinil (Provigil). Rather than simply elevating my heart rate under the theory that a racing heart rate will keep a person awake -- it doesn't, if you have narcolepsy -- modafinil actually let me know what it is like to be awake. Not just at 7:00 am, but also at 1:00 pm and 9:00 pm.
Is that a performance enhancement? In a sense, yes, but only to the extent that our performance is enhanced by being awake. But for me, and the untold, undiagnosed others who suffer uncontrollable daytime sleepiness, it just begins to create the sense of a level playing field.
Narcolepsy is a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). People with narcolepsy do NOT take modafinil to gain an unfair advantage over our competitors.
I took it simply to be as awake as those against whom I was competing.
So can I now compete in the special Olympics or something?
Surely it is with great irony that the WADA are now allowing caffeine but not marijuana?
My thoughts are mixed regarding the existence and demise of the Saturn Cycling Team. On the one hand any sponsor that pays its riders a livable wage and sticks with the sport for 12 years deserves the gratitude of the cycling community. I hope the 22 riders and staff who are wondering about their employment for 2004 either find new jobs in the racing community or find the transition to non-racing employment as stress free as possible.
On the other hand I am glad that I won't be seeing as much car advertising in the domestic peloton. Using the bicycle as a marketing vehicle for a car doesn't sit well with me. Personally I like sponsors to coincide with what they are sponsoring. Cars sponsoring bikes seems like an oxymoron. Kinda like an all terrain vehicle company such as Kawasaki sponsoring mountain biking.
Isaac St. Martin
Please forgive me Ms. Leister, but for myself, I see a substantial difference between a US rider buying supplements with only a brief knowledge of chemistry but believing himself protected by the FDA, and European pro racers buying Aranesp from a veterinarian using code words.
Supplemental responsibility #2
I agree with Erica. "Natural" supplements are not necessarily healthy supplements. One should not equate "natural" with "healthy". For example, some of the most potent toxins known are natural substances. In fact, the field of toxicology is based upon the study of "natural" substances found in nature. In addition, food supplements have no regulation. Any and all claims can be legally made without a bit of truth behind the claims. So called "studies" of these are usually very biased and performed in a fashion guaranteed to indicate a positive response. Finally, they are not tested for known toxins such as lead as Erica points out. There is a famous example of a certain type of bush used to make a "natural" supplement. It seemed safe, however, when reports of lead poisoning began to emerge it was found that the bushes had been planted in water run-off of a mine in Mexico. The bushes were absorbing lead and other toxins. No one knew because the entire supplement field is unregulated.
Mark Wathen, MD
For school, I have to write an article about the etiquette in the cycling peloton. I have searched all over Internet and in the library, but I couldn't find anything useful. Maybe you could help me, because you're a huge cycling site! You would really help me
Bas van Baar
I agree totally with Stu Press's letter about the governing bodies and their alleged zero tolerance policies. But, I am left with serious questions when Gilberto Simoni gets his suspension dropped because the cocaine was in an oral lozenge he got from his Grandma. How is that any different than Scott Moninger or Amber Neben who claimed they ingested their illegal drugs as part of a legal supplement that was contaminated? Either the UCI needs to show the same compassion to Moninger and Neben that it showed to Simoni or it needs to hold Simoni to the same standards as everyone else.
The picture gets even more cloudy when you look at Simoni and Garzelli in the 2002 Giro where they were both kicked out and initially received suspensions. Garzelli was found to have Probenecid in his system, which isn't a performance enhancer at all. It was previously used to mask steroids that new tests can now detect. It has no performance benefit. I have not heard a clear explanation for why Simoni was let off while these other athletes were not.
And before someone replies that it was because Simoni did not know that there was cocaine in the lozenge I will reply that the UCI has stated that lack of knowledge is not a valid defense.
Please explain this to me.
On September 22 and 23rd, 2003, a Raleigh, NC Clear Channel station, WDCG, aired a morning show filled with cyclist-bashing comments similar to the one in July on an Ohio station, and earlier this month on another station in Houston, TX (reported on in Cycling News Sept. 12). In the previous cases, Clear Channel took responsibility by forcing stations to air public service announcements, by firing the DJs and by giving money to cycling causes. With three such incidents, I think Clear Channel owes the cycling community even more. How about sponsoring a Pro Cycling Team? Like maybe, the team formerly known as Saturn? How about it Clear Channel?
Whilst the UCI no doubt has its reasons for holding the World's road-races in early October, the actors in this great spectacle, the riders and moreover the public, pay the price.
At one time the championships took place early September which was an ideal time for Joe Public, especially as it took place just before the schools recommenced. It gave people the opportunity to take a late holiday at the location where the World's was taking place, usually near sites of great interest.
As a family we used to go to most, if not all the World championships when they were held in September. Our two youngest girls, (3 and 9yrs) were even dressed in skinsuits and ringing cow-bells, the day Greg LeMond won in Switzerland, caught on camera by Tv crews!
One little voice cried out to encourage Bernard Hinault on the upper slopes of the Dommency at Sallanches, a voice drowned by hundreds of Italians screaming for their "Tista", when the dual came to it's peak. That child will have a souvenir for life, for one Italian lifted her up onto his shoulders & took her down nearer the barrier, so that she could see her hero pass! Of course Hinault won, he'd heard her encouragement!
The only World championships we've attended since the move to the October date
have been to Plouay, as it was on our doorstep. Although claimed as a huge success,
the crowds seemed to be far fewer than those previous championships or was it
William D. James
World's timing #2
I totally agree with that idea. In this age of specialists training for very specific events and greater demand for results, we may never see a guy like Merckx who can win all year long. The world championships deserve to see the best in the world competing for the glory. The UCI should take this year and the past several as a lesson and bring back the spectacle to the worlds!
World's timing #3
Why should riders go to the world championships just to take part? Few courses have enough lumpy bits for the climbers, or are long enough for the real road men. The courses have of late been more about "we've got X number of cameras, what causes least hassle to the community?" Now living in Benidorm I get to try the '92 course, being disabled and asthmatic makes it difficult (30 by 28 and I'd like lower if I could get it) but to the pros it's easy. Remember it ended in a mass sprint. Only Colombia was a real test and that was more about altitude than difficulty.
These guys are pros, there is no pay check for taking part, and they are not being obligated to go by their teams (like the Kelme lads being sent to the Paris-Roubaix - talk about lambs to the slaughter). When the race is held doesn't matter. One possibility is to oblige the top 100 riders to go - but how many would then turn up with a doctor's note for non-specific groin strain ?
Unless and until you can make the world's glamorous like the Olympics it will continue to go down the pan.
Can someone tell me if Erik Zabel is riding the Worlds? If so, I want to go on record as saying that I think he will be the next wearer of the Maillot Arc en Ciel. I'm picking a select group to reach the finale in Hamilton, with Zabel pipping Paolo Bettini on the line. Even if this somehow doesn't transpire as I predict, I reckon it's time for Zabel to do a Jalabert and make more of an effort to go for the big wins from small groups. He is tough enough to be at the finish of hilly races and still sprints well going by his Vuelta form.
I was a bit taken aback by Mr Delgado's statement that the last 5 Tours were the most boring he has ever watched. If you know the result in advance, then perhaps that's true. But then, cycling is a sport where not knowing is the principal reason for its success as a spectator sport. In 2001, Armstrong and Ulrich were 35 minutes off the yellow jersey going into stage 10, with Kivilev about 15 minutes ahead. It was by no means clear at the time what the end result would be which hugely added to the excitement. And forgive me if my memory is playing up, but didn't Armstrong and Ulrich battle it out, sometimes with their team mates, sometimes without? Even 2002, which Armstrong won with least effort, was not so clear cut at the time. On stage 14, with only 8km to go, Armstrong was only 2 minutes ahead of Beloki on GC, and isolated by Once. I was on the edge of my seat, although I wouldn't be now if I was watching the video knowing how Once failed to make LA crack. Were Indurain's victories more exciting?
In Floyd Landis' journal entry after Stage 16, in the last sentence he said about the next stage: "there will be no time differences for the leaders and hopefully a breakaway will go and we can all have an easier day." What a joker! For in stage 17, who gets into the first break, maintaining a 48kph pace for the first couple of hours? Floyd, I must say, I like your style!
I feel compelled to disagree with Matt Riggs of Indianapolis, IN on his take on Lance's divorce and the effect a family has on training. Being an amateur racer myself, I know what training demands in terms of time, energy and commitment. Being a husband and a father as well, I know what my family demands in terms of time, energy and commitment. With absolutely ZERO shadow of doubt, my family demands more than training ever will, and in my case, my family gets what it demands. I have scaled back my amateur racing "career" to almost non-existence - that is how much my family means to me. One of the other writers put it well when he ventured no one would look back on life wishing they had put more time into training than into their family. That is the way it should be, and that goes for any activity: skiing, bowling, auto crossing, drinking or golf. I am sure I am going to get flamed for equating drinking to cycling, but I think the comparison is valid. If you let either one take control of your life to the exclusion of the commitment you have made to your family, your priorities have shifted squarely to your selfish self from the family that deserves that you follow through with that commitment.
Lance Armstrong's divorce #2
" Pro cyclists are a different issue - Lance's wife must have known the life she was marrying into."
Why? I guarantee you I didn't know what I was getting into when I married. How could I? I had never been married. I had some ideas going into it, most of which have turned out to be wrong. My wife would probably say the same thing. I find it takes a lot of adjustment on both of our parts. I love my wife and I'm grateful we're married, it's just not what I thought it was going to be when I entered into it.
Insinuating that this is just on her is nonsense. If you are going to bitch about divorce rates and misplaced priorities, don't let someone off the hook just because they can ride a bike really, really, really well.
Eric Pearlman is mistaken. Jan Ullrich's regimen has since 1997 centered on Le Tour and it is only after he has failed to win or be able to participate in it that he finds he must do something big in the post Tour races. I believe Ullrich can and will win the Tour again at some point and I also bet his post Tour season will be a lot like Armstrong's when he does. If you train specifically for the Tour in this day and age, then when you win, your season is over. (Remember, Ullrich said that if he'd won the race this year he very well may have retired!)
Jan Ullrich in 2004 #2
Rich Zachary has it right. I love that Team Telecom is drooling over the prospect of getting Jan back after his powerful performance at the Tour. I love hearing about it; watching them make a fool of themselves. I just hope that Jan stays away (maybe this new deal with Saeco & Bianchi will go through -- that would be GREAT!). I really want Jan to show that team up at the next Tour. My fear is that he will go back because they do have a strong team to support him. Stay away from them Jan! They didn't support you when you needed it so don't support them.
I was surprised to learn that George Hincapie abandoned the Vuelta in order to rest up for the Worlds, especially given Heras' position on GC. Clearly, Heras does not get the same degree of team commitment from U.S. Postal for the Vuelta as Lance did for the Tour. Can you even imagine one of the Posties abandoning the Tour for some other objective with Lance competing for Yellow? Perhaps Has anyone else noticed this disparity?
Responding to Anders Jensen, I certainly hadn't heard that story either, but do remember Hinault [after victory in '85] promising to return and help LeMond to win in '86. I think if Hinault wanted to win he would have sat in the wheels the day the tour crossed the Tourmalet (after Pau), instead of attacking again, which forced LeMond's rivals to chase, which I think LeMond ultimately profited from. Curiously, I believe Hampsten was told to wait for LeMond that day, after he made an awesome attack on the early slopes of Superbagneres.
It would probably have been better for everybody if they had been on separate teams, so they could have gone head to head, and I don't think we've seen such a complex situation since (possibly with the exception of Riis and Ullrich in '96/'97). Had LeMond coped with post-'86 better when he moved to PDM, and hence not been shot while hunting (a thought crosses my mind involving karma there) we could have easily seen him a five (and possibly six) tour winner as I reckon he would have cleaned up in '87 & '88, and been much stronger in his later years. His ascent of Alpe d'Huez with Hinault, his never-say-die attitude in '89 during his battle with Fignon and his ascent of Luz Ardiden in '90 still rate up there with Armstrong's most dramatic victories, if not better. Whether it was Hinault, LeMond or Armstrong (my top three, in no particular order), their guts, fighting spirit and determination was truly awesome.
Greg LeMond #2
Without attempting to answer "who is the greatest," without dispute, Greg LeMond was great and his legacy of successes would have been greater if not for tragic circumstances. For a cyclist, Greg LeMond had everything, exceptional time trialing power, mountain goat climbing and the daring and speed to win sprints. He took the international cycling world by storm in 1983 with wins in the Dauphine Libere and the World Championships at the tender age of 22/23. He proved his World Championship win was no fluke when he won it again as a marked rider with no team help in a sprint in 1989. He proved his cycling greatness with his three tour victories. Arguably, he could have won several more if not for the manipulation from his team director in 1985 and his tragic hunting accident forcing him out of competition in 1987 and 1988. The effects of the hunting accident may well have cost him successful competitions at the tail end of his cycling career too as health problems manifested from the buckshot still lodged in his body.
Some have discounted the turmoil and betrayal of LeMond's 1985 and 1986 Tours. The guy who made the comment that Hinault's attacks in the 86 tour were designed to make LeMond a champion must not be a bike racer. To win the greatest bike race, you should have the full support of your team not the confusion of your teammate's betrayal. Does Lance lose sleep during the Tour wondering what the heck is up with his team?
Greg LeMond also did a lot to improve the sport of cycling. He elevated the status of the sport to Americans for the first time ever, he was the first cyclist to negotiate a top tier sport salary, he brought innovation to equipment by introducing aerodynamic advantages, he gave the Tour de France one of the most exciting finishes ever in sport with his come from behind victory in the 1989 Tour. Throughout all his successes and his failures he gave the persona of an approachable and genuine person with an electric smile. To me he wasn't just a great cyclist, he is a hero.
I read Ben Atkins piece on the Gran Fondo Monte Grappa with interest and amusement, as I am an enthusiastic participant in the French equivalent -- "cyclosportives" -- and participated this year in la Marmotte, which takes you over the cols de la Croix de Fer and Telegraphe/Galibier and finishes atop the Alpe d'Huez.
Like Ben Atkins, I enjoy these events at a level where the word "racing" has to be in quotation marks. I do however feel compelled to comment on his statement that Monte Grappa is comparable to twice the col du Galibier.
The Galibier proper is over 17 km long for 1245 meters of vertical -- and to get to the base from the north side (the Marmotte route) you have to climb the Telegraphe, which at 12 km for 860 meters of vertical is already a good bit -- between the two of them the length is equivalent to Monte Grappa.
In terms of vertical, however, there is no comparison. The summit of Monte Grappa tops out at only 1775 meters so to get to two Galibiers, even without including the Telegraphe, you'd have to start pretty far underground.
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