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Letters to Cyclingnews - August 13, 2004
Bush vs. Kerry #2
President Bush lost my vote because he doesn't seem to be able to stay upright on his mountain bike. Now one could say that if you don't crash occasionally, then you're not riding hard enough, but the Prez manages his hasty dismounts on perfectly level ground.
But then Mr. Kerry lost my vote when I saw him in a major news magazine on his Italian road bike in baggy mountain shorts.
So I turned to Mr. Nader, but I'm guessing that he thinks the only safe bike has bells, horns, warning flags, and curb feelers.
So I guess I'm writing in Lance (again)...
Having just read that Jason Queally has not been selected to defend his Kilo title, I must say that he has taken the news rather well, although we shouldn't be surprised.
The great spirit of the British track team has been quite evident in recent times and none more so than Jason Queally himself. On day 3 of the recent Sydney leg of the World Cup, Jason sat alone in the stand, smiled and said hello to the public that recognised him, carefully watched the split times and then stood and applauded as his mates Hoy, McLean and Staff scorched around the track to wins the men's team sprint.
He was visibly pleased for the boys whilst he must have known that there was a good chance that he would lose his Kilo spot to two of his team mates in the near future.
As a proud Australian, I can only hope that this sort of spirit and that of our junior teams manages to be rekindled in our senior track squad!
Good luck to both teams!
So Nicholas Roche has a contract to ride with the Cofidis team. I remember his father winning the Tour back in '87 - this makes me feel ancient and I'm only 30! Bloody hell!
As Lance Armstrong once again went full tilt through the Tour it was quite telling to hear that he won't be going to Athens because he misses his children. Like everyone else, I can respect that. Sport isn't everything in life after all. I wonder though if it signals a key change in the Armstrong philosophy - and perhaps the end of the 'Tourminator' mind-set for ever? In his latest book 'Every second counts' Lance describes how gutted he was to lose out a third time in the Olympics, which he himself states is to Americans a far more prestigious competition than the Tour. In 2000 he says he was desperate to make good a previous wasted opportunity in the Olympics. having failed that time around I would have expected him to be even more determined in what would almost certainly be his last try. Instead though comes the announcement about not being one hundred percent motivated this year. What happened to the "quitting is forever" man for whom facing defeat was like facing death?
Lance Armstrong finally admitting that in life 'It's not about the bike' all the time? This all sounds like good old human frailty to me - Will we see Lance struggling with excess pounds come next January? Maybe even taking Christmas day off? At this rate he could be beatable by 2010 if Jan can hold on that long.
I've heard it said that the UCI has a weight limit for bikes in order to enforce safety for all and competitive parity. A weight limit is a poor way to address safety, and the handlebar failures at this year's tour are a current example. Why doesn't the UCI do all cyclists a big favor and enforce some sort of safety standard on racing components? It's done for helmets in the US and down under, why not do it for all critical components? It's not a hard argument that forks, stems, handlebars, and rims are components whose failure while racing would likely end in serious harm. Perhaps a start could be made on handlebars, since these seem to be a place where shortcuts are being made currently.
One can argue that tort keeps manufacturers honest, but tort only happens after people begin getting hurt by a poorly designed product. I don't want to be a guinea pig for manufacturers and the courts, so I would be much more likely to try components made of new materials or from new manufacturers if they were certified to a safety standard.
The idea that weight equates to safety is goofy, and the UCI shouldn't endorse it. Weight restriction for competitive parity? An interesting idea. Let's talk about it on its merits, without confusing it with the irresponsible idea that safety can be measured by the aggregate weight of hundreds of parts.
I've read in a few books over the years that it was an offence in the United Kingdom in the 19th century to be deemed to be "pedaling furiously" or "riding furiously". Apparently this offence was gazetted after the death of a female horse rider who was thrown by a horse agitated by "furious" riders. All you had to do to raise the ire of the law was to ride in excess of twelve miles per hour, pretty easy even in those pre carbon fibre days.
A few queries that some with a better historic perspective than mine maybe able to help with:
* Was this law ever repealed? Is it still theoretically possible to be booked for "pedaling furiously"? I would very much like to get nicked for this one to show all my friends in the absence of any decent results this season! Or any season come to think of it. If it was repealed, when did this happen, and what the circumstances behind its repeal?
* How did Plod determine whether the pedaling was furious? Presumably they were not armed with radar traps.
* Could you receive lengthy bans from the roads if you were an incorrigible furious pedaler?
* Has anyone got an example of an original ticket that Grandad received from Plod? If so, I would like to buy it. Can you bid for one on eBay?
* I recall reading that one of Chris Boardman's ultimate goals was to get a speeding ticket one his bike. I know it was a grave disappointment that he never earned one. Has anyone out there ever received one?
* Are there any other trivial offences unique to cycling? Riding without a spoke key? Puncturing without due care and attention? If so, have these laws ever been applied?
I'd love to see Armstrong do the hour while he is at his peak. I suspect he may never do it, or leave it until his powers are waning. That would be a great pity.
I feel I have to respond to Todd Tuengel. Simeoni did indeed win a stage of the Vuelta in 2003. Simeoni did not get "off his bike and" walk "it across the finish line" proclaiming that "he was the only clean rider in the race." Read the quotes from Simeoni in the report. There is nothing like the one you quote.
However, Simeoni did carry his bike across the finish during a stage win in the Vuelta once. In the 2001 Vuelta, Simeoni won stage 18. Here is a post race interview quote from Simeoni, "The gesture of raising my bike above my head was also meant as a protest against the terrorist's attacks in New York." That sounds a little different from Mr. Tuengel and Lance's story.
Cyclingnews editor Jeff Jones adds;
We all know that David only confessed after there was unequivocal evidence against him. This alone deletes any 'brave' morals people were raving about him and his admission. However, has anyone given any thought to poor old Michael Rogers in all of this? 10 years from now, Canada 2003 may well turn out to be Michael's only chance at the world title, but Millar, in all his so called brave confessions to the media did not care about that. He didn't care that Michael missed the opportunity to wear one of the most precious jerseys for most of the year. He didn't care that anyone else he beat in the 2003 Dauphine (and all other races he was on EPO) lost their chance at glory, all because he was too pathetic to do it clean. And now he's turned around and put the blame on his team for putting too much pressure on him.
I would imagine there are numerous riders in the pro ranks with tonnes of pressure on them to perform but have they ever being so stupid as to take drugs? It's a weak excuse, David.
Finally, this all came AFTER the apparent 'clean up' at Cofidis, when the Bosses of Cofidis wanted to get to the bottom of the situation, which almost sunk the team and he STILL lied to them then!
So I'm sorry, but there's nothing heroic about this idiot's confessions, because he is just as bad as anyone else who ever got caught.
David Millar #2
In response to Mr. Thorpe's post I'd like to make a comment or two.
While I agree with him that the pressure to succeed on Millar were no more than on most other top riders, let's not lose sight of the fact that not everyone handles pressure with equal aplomb. Some crack and some hang in there. David Millar obviously cracked.
But I do disagree that Mr. Millar received an unfair sentence. What is becoming more and more obvious with time is that we cannot treat the problem of doping as a minor offense that will give the rider a winter off.
Penalties must be increased until they cannot be born by those who would dope. While I do not believe that a "lifetime" ban as was handed out to Mark French is effective in the least, I think that 2-5 year bans would be appropriate in egregious cases. And frankly I cannot think of a case of doping that doesn't meet those standards.
BTW: Mr. Brouker correctly states that David Millar only came clean after he was caught. True, but how many other athletes caught with strange chemicals in their urine proclaim innocence (it's for my dog) and stand on omerta?
I beg to disagree Mr. Purvis. I have met Mr. Lemond on two separate occasions and on both he was rude, aloof and above all else, arrogant. While this is may not be the norm, it certainly flies in the face of the allegation of "Anyone who has ever read about or met LeMond will state that he is a humble and not at all pretentious former pro" as you state. I for one will always contend that Mr. Lemond's comments are pure sour grapes. What used to be respect for the pioneering American in the Peloton and the Tour is now simply contempt. And I do not belong to the "Lance is the Greatest Ever" crowd--sorry to disappoint you once again.
Sean Jones, ex pat
Scott Thompson asked whether we will ever see the Maillot Jaune in a break-away ever again? I would have to say yes. And I will point to a rider and a team to do it whom, if we are to believe some cycling fans, ride destructively, conservatively, defensivily and negatively: Ivan Basso and Team CSC.
I will make one point about Basso/CSC's Tour de France that so many of the critics seem to ignore: Ivan Basso and the rest of the team are human - not machines. To be able to attack you need to have the legs to do so, and Basso stated time and time again after each stage that he was riding to the limits of his capabilities in the duels with Armstrong. Every one of his team mates had taken one or more trips to the tarmac and by stage 13 all but Voigt were handicapped by injuries. To expect that CSC should have been sending of attacks left, right, and center given the state of their riders is, quite simply, lunacy (that they did in fact try to attack the blue train is often forgotten). The same can be said for the suggestion that they should have refrained from defending against attacks that were squarely directed at Basso.
Now to my reasons for suggesting that the future will see an aggressive yellow jersey.
1. I naturally consider Ivan Basso a serious candidate for Tour glory in future years. He has already shown himself among the best climbers, his time-trialling is going to improve, and he rides for a team that will be considered a favorite in the team time trialing event. It seems likely that we will some day see Basso in yellow.
2. As a rider, Bjarne Riis was agressive - he captured the yellow jersey by soloing to victory on a 46 kilometre stage, he devastated the opposition on Hautecam wearing the yellow jersey to solo to a win, and the day after drove the 8-man breakaway that relegated Rominger, Olano, and Indurain by 8 minutes. Riis was a rider who believed in attacking, and that belief has been transferred to the way he leads his team.
3. As a young rider, Ivan Basso was notorious for being too aggressive. This was considered a weakness by Ferretti, and one may suspect that the anonymous Basso we have seen in the past couple of years may in part be due to the seeming lack of trust he received at Fassa Bortolo. Expect this process to be reversed on Team CSC, and to see a more aggressive Basso re-emerge under the guidance of Bjarne Riis.
4. Team CSC was - by far - the most aggressive team in the Tour 2004. Though some of it was missed by the TVs, there wasn't a road stage in which CSC did not attempt to put their riders into a breakaway. Along with T-Mobile, they were the only team to attempt to put pressure on US Postal - even hampered as they were with Sastre's bad back and Julich's disability. It would surprise me to see a Team CSC in control of the yellow jersey ride entirely defensively.
Riders like Bjarne Riis: Basso, Mancebo, and Mayo who may all be considered potential future yellow jerseys and who do not possess the time trialling skills of an Ullrich, Armstrong, or Hamilton (all likely to retire within a couple more years), will always have to go out to create the race if they want to capture the yellow jersey. And that - unless some new time-trialling Tour giant arises - is likely to herald a more exciting - and romantic - race in July.
Nothing bores me more than arguing about the relative superiority of athletes from different eras. Even is an event that is strictly against the clock, such as the 100m dash, is colored by advances in training and nutrition. So to compare Lance against the rest of the five-time gang is an exercise in rhetoric and nothing more.
Was Gerd Mueller better than David Beckham? Why not argue if Babe Ruth could catch a pass from Joe Montana?
For everyone who says Lance hasn't won enough classics or other major tours, I'll throw something back atcha. Lance has looked down the barrel, having won a fight that would have taken many a lesser man. Now, I don't know anyone who has gone through anything even remotely similar who didn't look at life a bit differently when they realized what they had just gone through. With three kids who obviously mean the world to him, I would indeed be surprised if he were to broaden his focus to the gamut of other races just to please those in the peanut gallery.
Take any of the other five-time winners, put a fight against cancer in their resume, and then make them race all of their races across the ocean in the US or Australia while their three kids are learning to walk and talk, and then let's see what kind of schedule they race.
On the other hand, what if some coach had gotten through to Lance at age 19 and convinced him that he was too heavy and his cadence was all wrong. We could be talking about the first ten time winner right now.
But none of those things happened, which is why we play the game. So let's just appreciate what all of these guys have done and stop worrying about relative merit.
The debate begins #2
I too find it odd that Armstrong refused to compete in the Olympic Games. Lance's Tour achievements will always be tainted with "That's the only race he prepared for."
The peloton races on. Ullrich, (Hew Classic & San Sebastion already post Tour) Klöden, O'Grady, McEwen, Basso, Bettini, et al give us what road racing is all about, racing on for the whole season.
I remember Lance pumped up, saying at the post Tour interview, "Ask me what I'm doing on Christmas day? Riding my bike. Ask me what I'll be doing on the first day of the year? Riding my bike."
Well Lance what are you doing now? C'mon Lance - surely the Olympics were worth getting back into competition for, at the very least?
"The great mythology of USPS as the best team in cycling ... Can we really give Johan and the Postie management that much credit for Armstrong's dominating victories?"
Yes, we can, and must. If you look at Armstrong as the virtuoso in this arrangement, Bruyneel is definitely the maestro. Look at the growth in strategic and tactical sense Armstrong has shown over the past years. Even he admits he was a brash punk without a clue in his early years (big paraphrase there, sorry), but this year's Tour performance showed that he, and his team had better and smarter tactics than any rivals (compare to Telekom, a deep team, with huge talent, jeez, they've got Ullrich, Klöden, etc., already, hm? But they displayed bad tactical sense - Ullrich attacked at the wrong times, didn't attack when he might have, etc.). Armstrong didn't pick up the tactical skills and season-long strategic planning through osmosis, man. He learned from someone. Look to Bruyneel for schooling him there, and for planning and directing the Tour effort, from off season planning to race-day direction, moment by moment.
There are other teams out there just packed with talent. It takes good management and directorship to bring them together, and no one else out there has matched Postal for the Tour in the past six years. It's not mythology - look at the results.
For what it's worth, though, it will be interesting to watch what Bjarne Riis' team does over the next years. As the new talent comes up, I think the real battles, at least for the Tour, will be between Bruyneel and Riis, whatever names may be on their rosters.
I totally agree with Harvey Jones' comments on Jan Ullrich. Most people did not know that he also had a 101 degree fever the first week of the Tour. (his 1 year old daughter was sick and he caught it). Just look at all of the favorites who abandoned halfway thru the race because they felt like it was a "hopeless cause." Jan struggled thru those few days of being miserable and really tried to give it a valiant effort at the end. That is the sign of a true champion. I really hate it when people are critical of him. How many people can say they have never finished worse than 4th in the Tour de France? Not to mention the gold and silver Olympic medals - plus a few more likely in the coming weeks! Long live the Kaiser!
T. P Duffy
The Tour 2004 #2
If one enters the word "shmenge" (the singular form of "schmengies") one will be led to the following comment:
"Shmenge is a Yiddish word... ? It means "fool" ... Fans of Second City TV will also remember that John Candy and Eugene Levy used to perform skits as the "Shmenge Brothers", Yosh and Stan."
It looks fairly convincing to me. Is everyone satisfied?
The Tour 2004 #3
"I agree. Take the Frenchman's polka dot jerseys away from him (for those years he rode for Festina). I think the same punishment should have been applied to Marco Pantani, a gifted rider but a known substance abuser."
Chris makes an interesting point here, but there is something he is perhaps not aware off. Virenque is steeped in French cycling history. He came up through the ranks from nowhere to be what he is. A French hero. He has done his penance and came back. Let it lie. Virenque has a lot of class. Look at the way he paced and encouraged Voeckler undoubtedly helping to keep him in yellow for instance on Plateau de Belle. You guys did not perhaps see the daily documentary Eurosport put out each day before the stages on Quick.Step and Phonak. Virenque came over as totally genuine person. Delighted and humbled by his fans adoration. The scene where a little girl gave him a small present at breakfast in the hotel were the team was staying showed his true character. He was genuinely touched.
I was never a great Virenque fan prior to this Tour. But I think I see more now why he is so popular
As for Marco Pantani being demoted? Does that mean Ullrich has won two Tours?
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