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Letters to Cyclingnews - August 6, 2004

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; please stick to one topic per letter. We will normally include your name and place of residence, but not your email address unless you specify in the message.

Each week's best letter gets our 'letter of the week' award. We look for for letters that contain strong, well-presented opinions; humour; useful information or unusual levels of sheer helpfulness.

Please email your correspondence to

Here's the second of this week's letters pages. We also got a few letters about the Tour de France.

Recent letters

John Coates must go!
Witch hunting in the 21st century
Greg LeMond's comments
Bush vs. Kerry
David Millar
Adam Bergman


Letter of the week

John Coates must go!

CN, great reporting on the successes of the Aussies overseas this past weekend.

Interesting that our head of the AOC is not so forthcoming, hasn't mentioned a word about Robbie McEwen's green jersey win in the TdF and is so silent about our juniors on the world scene.

It saddens me as it does so many fans of cycling world wide not just in our homeland down under, that there is a serious agenda afoot within the senior ranks of the Olympic movement in our country to discredit cycling at every opportunity.

Mr Coates is far from innocent in all this. He is the first to condemn any cyclist on our nominated Olympic squad if there is the slightest rumour about the "d" word. Yet he happily allows a nominated boxer on the Olympic Team charged with assault to be "innocent till proven guilty" and stay on the team until after the Games when his trial will proceed.

It is strange that Australia's media, politicians and senior Olympic executives have the ability to immediately access and disseminate information that bashes cycling in Australia, that the media uses the words "disgraced, scandal", and the like to reference any mention of cycling, and Sean Eadie is tossed off the team, having to prove his right to compete and appeal for justice well before he is found guilty.

Further disturbing was Mr Coates very derogatory remarks about Sean Eadie after the CAS gave its ruling that Sean be allowed back onto the nominated list. Mr Coates was surely peeved by that ruling and had his slip showing. Now they are doing the same to Jobie, and the media is having a field day fueled again by the AOC machine it seems.

Just what is it that is so much of an "us and them" thing with the AOC?

Again in the media today Mr Coates speaking from Athens claims that these recent incidents have "damaged Australia's corporate image" Well howdy doody Mr Coates, and you have fueled the flames!

I ask that Mr Coates start acting in the best interests of the athletes and stop lining the already well lined garments of the AOC and its "corporate" pals, and perhaps, as he can't be fair minded, impartial and even handed, he step aside as head of the AOC and resign from the IOC too. Then we will see how sincere he is about the "facts" of cycling.

So if we don't have Mr Coates "corporate" pals out there, and their dubious self serving selective sponsorship, and we can't have huge elaborate stadia, and massive events to showcase a country's politics, so what? The true spirit of sport is to compete, naked if we have to, as in Ancient Greece, all for a laurel.

But that is too simplistic and the members of sports administration world wide would lose their well heeled, cushy jobs.

It's so sad...

Meantime the purest of sports, cycling, "the metaphor for life" as the head of UCI said at the world titles in Melbourne this year, is there for us to enjoy and our cyclists at their own level to get on with what they are good at, and love it for its own sake!

Well done all of our riders, even those condemned by Mr Coates and his cronies, you work too hard to allow their agendas to steal your spirit!

Rob Holder
Melbourne, Australia
Monday, August 2, 2004

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Witch hunting in the 21st century #1

Michelle Gallen has provided an insightful and interesting analysis of the doping allegations that have recently surfaced - Lance, Cofidis (can somebody spell "Festina"?) - and raises a valid point, that several riders on this team may have been unfairly tarred with a broad brush (Cedric Vasseur, Stuey O'Grady, Matty White to name a few), simultaneously being denied the opportunity to earn a living and being denied the philosophy of "presumption of innocence until proven guilty".

This is true. And I am not about to make accusations of doping, because, frankly, I have no clue how rampant it is. However, Ms Gallen omits another legal adage that she is most likely familiar with: "Not guilty is not the same as innocent". Translate this into cycling parlance: "Have never tested positive" is not the same as "Have never used performance enhancing drugs illegally". Many riders have stated that they have "never tested positive". Whether this is careful phrase selection to avoid being caught out in a lie, or simply an innocent choice of words, is purely speculative. And if I am wrong, I will gladly be corrected, because I do not wish to make unfounded allegations.

Bradley McGee appears to stand out in the crowd, stating vociferously that he has "...never used performance enhancing drugs". Bravo, Brad! You have put your honor at stake, and I applaud you, and take you at your word.

Now, whether other riders will show the same courage to step forward and make a similarly unambiguous statement remains to be seen.

Mark Rishniw
Ithaca NY
Thursday, August 5, 2004

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Witch hunting in the 21st century #2

There seem to be a lot of people out there who can't see the forest for the trees. Here in the US, it shouldn't be about Lance v. Greg, or for that matter, Lance v. the World (though there is no question that accusations against an individual need to have proof, and privacy rights respected -- I understand and support Ms. Gallen's analysis and am not supportive of witch hunts... yet until confronted, athletes will say and do whatever they please). It's about our sport, it's about riding the bike. It's about the thing we loved to do most as little kids and then found we could love as much or more as adults. It's about what we want to pass on to our own kids as cycling's' legacy.

I, for one, want to leave Lance alone -- let him glory in his amazing triumph. I want to believe Lance. I want him to go on and win the Giro/Tour double and/or pick off some Classics with a squad as focused on that result as Postal was on No. 6 (although none of that at the expense of his kids). And please, folks, let me keep admiring Greg LeMond and Andy Hampsten. In the USA, they helped pave the way for Lance, and their hearts look to be in the right place. In fact, I believe Lance agrees with Greg's and Andy's motives to clean up professional racing. (Also, I find it hard to believe that America's cycling idols--LeMond, Hampsten and Armstrong--would take personal jealousies to such public heights at the expense of our sport.) But I digress.

It is patently naive to believe that the Festina affair--and all the revelations since, whether Rumsas, Cofidis, Manzano, or otherwise--was anything more than the calving of an iceberg whose tip has been revealed many times over the last several decades. Until professional cycling's governing bodies are prepared to go after the big and small names alike with the kind of proof that forces retirement, poor performance and/or lawsuits so that the proof is publicly aired (e.g. the USADA's efforts in the track and field arena prior to these Olympics has been remarkably effective against some of the biggest names in the sport as well as those less well known), I will always have lingering doubts about these incredible athletes. Unfortunately, and until then, I suspect it will be money that talks, and the rest of our incestuous bullshit that walks.

Terry Danysh
Seattle, WA, USA
Thursday, August 5, 2004

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Witch hunting in the 21st century #3

Recently compared the current folderol about doping in the Peloton to 15th century witch-hunts ( This analysis fails on several levels. First and foremost in the 15th century there were no witches to hunt, only innocent men women and children brutally tortured and forced to confess to crimes they could not possible have committed. Clearly there are currently riders who dope. The concern among fans and officials about the level of doping in professional racing, indeed professional and amateur sport generally, is based not on a series of bizarre beliefs about natural science and causation but rather on the existence of a very real search after a chemical aids for performance by athletes at all levels of the sport. Secondly, to find a witch guilty of being a witch, or in any event to begin the process of torture leading to confession, accusations from "honorable" men or women were all that was necessary. If the current situation was a witch-hunt, the recent book, LA Confidential, would result in Lance Armstrong's expulsion. This has not happened. Mr. Millar's recent banning, for example, resulted not from unfounded, unproven accusations but from his admission of doping. There are, of course, those who engage in an unfounded pursuit of great riders, like Mr. Armstrong, who bandy about scanty evidence and put the worst interpretation on success and so on. But again, this results not from irrational fear but from the fact that doping exists. There is likely no way to catch all dopers as humanity's pharmacological skills seems always to outstrip ability to police the same, cf BALCO.

What then is the cycling fan to do? I suggest ignoring those who accuse but do not prove, regretting the decision of those who cheated and were caught and, as a paean to the advantages of our modern legal system, assume everyone is innocent until proven guilty. Calls for harsher punishments may be warranted but will likely have little effect, but fans can stick to the worldview made famous by Joe Friday: Just the Facts. Journalists can aid them in this endeavor by demanding that anyone who makes a claim of illicit behavior provide, then and there, facts to support their position, verifiable facts, or make clear that they will report the unfounded accusation as just that: a claim with no evidence. When, for example, Mr. LeMond said that "Lance will do whatever is necessary to see that his secret remains secret" (a paraphrase), he should have been pressed to produce the goods. Mr. LeMond's status in the world of bike racing does not translate into the authority to make unfounded accusations stick.

Thomas Bach
Syracuse NY, USA
Thursday, August 5, 2004

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Witch hunting in the 21st century #4

This was an interesting article, though the first paragraph draws a grossly inaccurate parallel to a historical event.

Witch hunting and the current state of drug use and testing in cycling have little in common. Witch hunting was propagated by fear and misunderstanding, aimed at capturing an imaginary and elusive beast. Witches don't exist-they didn't then and they don't now.

In contrast, in cycling dopers are all too common. To pursue the cheaters of our sport and to work to clean it up is not a witch hunt. Aggressive testing has already implicated many big names in the sport. Yes the pendulum can swing too far and the media circus around athletes who have never tested positive (Lance Armstrong and that trashy new book) can leave a bad taste in your mouth-but a witch hunt it is not.

Perhaps the over zealous journalism is the price the clean cyclists must pay in this era-not unlike the increased scrutiny paid to the personal lives of politicians in the US following Nixon's Watergate scandal. Unlike the witch hunts of a former era, the hype and excitement is unfortunately flamed by reality-that there are dopers in cycling and that they are ruining the sport. And that fact may be even scarier than the imagined witches of yesterday.

Nick Turner
Thursday, August 5, 2004

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Greg LeMond's comments

I'm humored at all these letters concerning Armstrong and LeMond stating that LeMond can't say anything about Armstrong because LeMond didn't have cancer. On that note you could make the same claim that Armstrong should never make an accusation towards Greg LeMond as he did in 2001 when he accused LeMond of using EPO in the '80's before it was even in use at all. After all, Armstrong wasn't shot in a hunting accident nor does he have a degenerative muscle disease and so could never understand what it's like to be LeMond.

In truth, they're both professional cyclists, unlike most of the people who look at this website, including duffers like me. Greg LeMond understands what it is like to live and work in the European peloton as does Armstrong. He knows about the need to perform and the stress that comes with it. So, LeMond has every right to say what he wants about another rider and that's just too bad if it hurts the feelings of anyone in the "Lance is the Greatest Ever" crowd.

To make another point, LeMond didn't openly accuse Armstrong of doping either. What he said was "The problem with Lance is that you're either a liar or you're out to destroy cycling. Lance is ready to do anything to keep his secret but I don't know how long he can convince everybody of his innocence." The first sentence is true as proven by Armstrong's explanation after his temper tantrum at Simeoni. The second sentence may be underhanded, but does not make the overt claim at all that lance is using EPO.

Finally, the claims that LeMond is only saying what he is because of a bruised ego is laughable and false. Anyone who has ever read about or met LeMond will state that he is a humble and not at all pretentious former pro who is happy to see American success in the pro cycling world; even if it isn't him doing it anymore.

Scott Purvis
Santa Monica, CA
Friday, July 30, 2004

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Bush vs. Kerry

The Bush and Kerry debate is going to be far too painful. The only question is whether we'll turn away out of embarrassment for Bush, or will we just fall asleep as Kerry drolls on?

Instead, what we need is a two-stage race. One stage mountain biking, and a road race. May the best man win.

Serge Issakov
La Jolla, CA
Tuesday, August 3, 2004

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David Millar #1

Perhaps surprisingly, the point that Mr Kunich makes about David Millar's problems has some validity: the pressures on top riders are extraordinary and we should not rush to judgment. But it is not clear why the pressure on David Millar is any different to the pressure on other top riders.

What is clear is that David's penalty, by comparison to other top riders, is excessive and unfair. Virenque did not confess to investigators, he had to be put in court before he admitted doping. It seems also that Virenque's doping may have been a lot more extensive than David's.

Virenque got nine months (and the CAS fiddled with the start date to make it an effective 7 1/2 months). Virenque's comeback has been courageous (Axel Merckx might not agree), but if honours obtained while doped are to be stripped, how many KOM titles has Virenque really won? Two? Four?

It is not consistent to give Millar two years and to strip his title. Even if bans should now be longer in light of the Festina affair and it now being clear that EPO use is wrong (as if there was any real doubt before), it is hard to see why Millar got more than a year.

Iain Thorpe
East Sheep Central, New Zealand
Friday, August 6, 2004

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David Millar #2

Mr. Kunich, you state that David Millar "came clean"? You have got to be kidding us. Millar only confessed his sins AFTER he was so clearly and obviously BUSTED. Millar is now no better than Virenque -- a talented rider who cheated and got caught. Millar now claims that he wants to cooperate with the UCI, give up other rider's names, and explain how he was able to thwart the doping controls. Truly "spitting in the soup", if ever there was. (I wonder if his good friend Lance will try to "destroy" him, as he promised Simeoni?)

Well in regards to "coming clean", it seems many English-speaking fans and cycling reporters have been unmercifully hard on Richard Virenque, unwilling to ever forgive his past or give credit for his recent achievements. I believe this attitude is petty and wrong. But now the shoe is squarely on the other foot -- David Millar is Virenque's equal, and thus all vindictive "fans" of the sport should have the courtesy to treat Millar as such: No forgiveness, ever. That's your modus operandi, right?? (By the way, anyone hear the recent allegation that Tyler Hamilton went looking for EPO in 1997??). All the Virenque bashers had better get their stones ready....

Laurenzo Brouker
Naples, FL
Saturday, July 31, 2004

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David Millar #3

David Millar's two year ban is completely unfair. While serving punishment for his crime is admirable, he should not have such a harsh sentence as opposed to someone who actually tested positive. Did he cheat to win the worlds? Yes he did; however he, unlike many other riders, actually had the morality and the guts to come clean. Rather than trying to find the needle in the haystack within the pro peloton, we in our sport need to do our utmost to encourage riders like Millar to admit to the usage of performance enhancing substances. In order to accomplish this there needs to be a less harsh sentence for those who turn themselves in and expose how they got away with it. This will result in a snowball effect in the way that other riders will come clean; a phenomenon known as peer pressure. This will also result in more effective ways to test any rider.

John Floyd
Atlanta, Georgia
Thursday, August 5, 2004

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David Millar #4

Mr Kunich states "As for David: let's remember that he came clean. He has publicly confessed"

Sure, but only when two empty syringes were waved in front of his face.

Millar was cocky, stupid and didn't have the brains to make the most of his natural talent. When the Cofidis affair came to light he said it was "absolute bullshit" which basically makes him a bare faced liar. Millar seemed quite happy to receive his salary and bonuses (800,000 Euros isn't bad for an average rider). It isn't unreasonable to think that he should lose this. Wasn't his drug use effectively stealing from other clean riders?

The ironic thing is that I thought there was no way he was on drugs given how terrible he was on the hard stages in the major tours!

Good riddance to bad rubbish. If the UK team come home from Athens with a load of medals everyone will be thinking that the only way they could win is through drugs. Thanks a lot David. As part of your rehabilitation I'm sure Chris Hoy would be happy to show you what it's like to live on a WCPP grant and train the hours that those guys do.

Dr Jonathan Roberts
London, UK
Friday, July 30, 2004

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Adam Bergman #1

In regards to Adam Bergman, where does a twenty three year old cyclist from Minnesota acquire such a costly and volatile drug and who taught him to administer it? Not to excuse Adam's actions, but he would appear to be the tip of the iceberg.

Paul Swenson
St. Paul, MN
Friday, July 30, 2004

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Adam Bergman #2

Geoff Rapoport feels the cycling world is better off without Adam Bergman, and hopes that love of sport will henceforth prevail. It might be better if we didn't involve the rider's personal qualities in our assessment of these situations. The no doping rule stands by itself, and doesn't need any moral support. By all means, do the crime, do the time, but let's leave it at that.

If we start to assess the personal qualities of riders, we should think about what makes a winner. The will to win has a lot of negative energy locked up inside it, and over time has the power to transform the personality in all sorts of bad ways. Love of sport is a great ideal, but if winning enters the equation, love probably has nothing to do with it.

Chris Robinson
Ottawa, Canada
Friday, July 30, 2004

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Recent letters pages

  • August 6 Tour letters - If you had told me before the Tour..., Looking to the future, The Tour 2004, The power of a team, The debate begins, Fan behavior, The anti-Lance attitude at Tour 2004, TdF blood bath, No romance in France, Italian investigators, I hope to see the Giro at last, CSC tactics, Armstrong vs Simeoni, Armstrong vs Klöden, A Legend
  • July 30 Tour letters - The Tour 2004, The Debate Begins, Armstrong vs Simeoni, Italian investigators, Ullrich and T-Mobile, Fan behaviour, The supporting actors, The power of a team, The anti-Lance attitude at Tour 2004: A French view, TdF blood bath, TdF 2004 ITT profile, Tour Favourites, Most inspiring ride of the Tour, Postal for la Vuelta? Poor prize money, LAF Bands CSC tactics, A Legend
  • July 30 letters - Adam Bergman, Greg LeMond's comments, Drugs in cycling, Doping reporting, David Millar, Museeuw and getting doored
  • July 16 Tour letters - The TdF saved my life, A sad day for Hamilton, T-Mobile's choices, LAF Bands, Mario Cipollini vs. Jaan Kirsipuu, Playing by the rules of the game, Robbie McEwen and sprinters, Ullrich v. Riis, Stage 3, Stage 4 TTT, Stage 5 - 12 minutes?
  • July 16 letters - Greg LeMond's comments, Drugs in cycling, Museeuw and getting doored, Human evolution and cycling, David Millar, The French affair, Why thank Lance?, Canadian TV
  • July 9 letters - Drugs in cycling, David Millar, Cadel Evans, John Lieswyn, Human evolution and cycling, Museeuw and traffic, Canadian TV
  • July 9 Tour letters - Stage 5 - 12 minutes?, Stage 4 - The team time trial & those rules..., Stage 3 - Should the leaders have waited?, Jan Ullrich / Lance Armstrong
  • June 25 letters - Chris Horner & US Olympic Trial, The French affair, Cadel Evans, The battle for the commentary podium, Tour contenders, Will stage four decide the Tour, A thank you letter for USCF, USADA, AAA/CAS, Museeuw doored - his fault?, Beloki's allergy medication, Discovery Channel kit, Green jersey dog fight, Iban Mayo's uphill TT bike, LA Confidential, Tour-Giro double, Why thank Lance?, Searching for Bill Clawson
  • June 18 letters - A thank you letter for USCF, USADA, AAA/CAS, LA Confidential, Green jersey dog fight, Iban Mayo's uphill TT bike, Museeuw doored - his fault?, Why thank Lance?, Will stage four decide the Tour?, Beloki's allergy medication, Discovery Channel kit, Does Zabel go?, Jan Ullrich / Lance Armstrong, Rochelle Gilmore, Tour-Giro double, Cycling and hip replacement
  • June 11 letters - Will stage four decide the Tour?, How Ulle will win this year's TdF, Climbers' Jersey, Rochelle Gilmore, Simoni and "the impossible", Cycling among top five tested sports, Rousseau's au revoir, Jan Ullrich / Lance Armstrong, Giro, Does Zabel go?, Days of racing needed to prepare, Cunego's Giro victory, Chris Horner, Robbie McEwen, Cycling and hip replacement
  • June 4 letters - Giro, Cunego's Giro victory, Damiano Cunego, Cunego in stage 18, Team tactics at the Giro, Simoni trying the impossible?, Robbie McEwen, Pavel Tonkov, Jan Ullrich, Chris Horner, Cycling among top five tested sports, Cycling and hip replacement
  • May 31 letters - Au revoir Lance, Cunego's Giro victory, Pavel Tonkov, Serguei Gontchar, Dr Ferrari's Giro stage 13 analysis, When the boss has to go..., US Postal makes waves?, Robbie McEwen, US Postal stops sponsorship, US Postal sponsorship replacements, Jan Ullrich, Iban Mayo & the Tour, Tour de Georgia, Chris Horner, Orbea Orca
  • May 21 letters - US Postal sponsorship replacements, Chris Horner, Fred Rodriguez - persistence pays, Donuts. Is there anything they can't do? , McEwen's sprint, US Postal stops sponsorship, Soooper Mario, Jesus Manzano, Jan Ullrich, Orbea Orca, Trying to contact John Auer
  • May 14 letters - Tour de Georgia, Chris Horner, McEwen's sprint, US Postal stops sponsorship, Seating requirements, Aero Helmets, A different Wheaties box, George Hincapie, Jan Ullrich, Skip Spangenburg, Cycling and hip replacement, Afscheids Criterium Johan Museeuw, indeed, Timing, Davide Rebellin's remarkable feat, Orbea Orca
  • May 7 letters - A different Wheaties box?, Afscheids Criterium Johan Museeuw, Jan Ullrich, George Hincapie, Doping and team doctors, Davide Rebellin's remarkable feat, US Postal stops sponsorship, Top 5 at TdF 2004 - not Mercado!, Two Men and a Dog, UCI Pro Tour, Cycling and hip replacement, Timing
  • April 30 letters - Doping and team doctors, Davide Rebellin's remarkable feat, Spring Classics slam, Mercado - the time is now, USPS stops sponsorship, UCI Pro Tour, George Hincapie, Gilberto Simoni, Jan Ullrich, Harmonic motion, Tour de Georgia, Cycling and hip replacement, Timing
  • April 23 letters - The rainbow curse, Verbruggen is the problem, Gilberto Simoni, George Hincapie, Jan Ullrich, Questions on doping, The doom of doping, Floyd the future of USPS?, Dope testing, Magnus Backstedt, Roger Hammond, Gear ratio chart
  • April 16 letters - Floyd the future of USPS?, Magnus Backstedt, Jan Ullrich, David get outta there!, Cofidis and the Tour, Michelin Tubeless at Roubaix, Manzano, Vale Muur van Geraardsbergen, The Doom of doping, Hincapie, Javier Oxtoa, U.S. Excitement, Radios, Roger Hammond, England or Wales?
  • April 9 letters - Vale Muur van Geraardsbergen, Manzano, The Doom of doping, Amore e Vita, Boonen, Two Speed Cycling?, A welcome end to pro cycling?, Stripes, Karma, Wesemann's setup, Roger Hammond, USPS sponsorship, Javier Oxtoa, April Fool's, UK to Geneva route?
  • April 2 letters - A welcome end to pro cycling?, Manzano & doping, Finding the right team?, USPS sponsorship, WADA and Armstrong, Karma, Bjarne Riis, Is Tobias Steinhauser a real person?, Javier Oxtoa, Max number of champions in a TdF, Radios, Stripes, Chamois: real or synthetic?
  • March 26 letters - A cycling fan's prayer, Manzano, USPS serendipity, UCI statement post Jesus Manzano, Jonathan Vaughters doping response, Moser comments about "updating" the MSR, WADA and Armstrong, Parsimony, Drugs, Genes, US MTB racing, Bjarne Riis, Iban Mayo, O'Grady & Milan Sanremo, The 'World' Cycling Series, Javier Oxtoa, Max number of champions in a TDF, Radios, Sean Kelly and the 1992 Milan-San Remo, We're not sprinters, Is Tobias Steinhauser a real person?, An old cycling top
  • March 21 letters - Bjarne Riis, Radios, US MTB racing, WADA and Armstrong, The "World" Cycling Series, Doping, Iban Mayo, Armstrong's brakes, Fixing Cipo's problem, Max number of champions in a TDF?, Sean Kelly and the 1992 Milan-San Remo, The most fashionable men of the peloton, We're not sprinters, Jame's Diarrhea, Bobby Julich Interview
  • March 12 letters - Radios, WADA and Mr Armstrong, Speculation about Genevieve, Doping, Aero helmets, Brad McGee, Chubby Lance?, How many more have to die?, Iban Mayo, Lance's Performance, Marco Pantani - who is guilty?, Rabobank and U. S. Postal, There's more to life than sprinting, Tour without Kelme?
  • March 5 letters - Speculation about Genevieve, Brad McGee, Doping, How many more have to die?, Tour without Kelme?, Aero helmets, Chubby Lance?, Climbers and sprinters, Fixed gear, Mt Wallace climb, Stage 3 of di Lucca, TdF04 travel itinerary?, Tour de France 2004
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