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Letters to Cyclingnews - December 17, 2004
I just read the comments made by Patrick Lefevere on why Tom Boonen deserved to be recognized more than Axel Merckx for Belgian of the year. This is just a clear case of the domestique not getting any press for ALL the work they do to get a Tom Boonen to the front for the last 200 meters of the race. How do you think Tom wins most races? Getting an "arm chair" ride to the line. I've watched Axel time and time again ON THE FRONT of a race. Working hard to get a Robbie McEwen to the front for the finish. Working for a Lance in the Tour Du Pont on the front for kilometer after kilometer so his leader could go off the front at the end. Why don't we spend a little time going over the miles that Axel has spend at the front of a race and the meters that Tom has spend and vote on that. Tom is a great racer and so is Axel.
Patrick please remember how you got to the position your in today. It was your leaders (Museeuw, Virenque) AND your domestiques (Knaven, Peters) who got the wins for you. Don't forget it takes a WHOLE team to win a race. I think getting a medal at the end of a year is justified for all the work you did all year for your leader. Congrats Axel and Tom for your wins. You both make the sport exciting!
In response to Stu Press's letter about the closure of Big Bear I'd just like to point out that this is simply not how the system works. If someone with health insurance goes downhilling at Big Bear and gets injured then that person is going to really need the money that their insurance company has to give them. This in turn means that the insurance company will go to all ends and means to make somebody else pay up. In this case it means suing Big Bear. So don't blame the poor guy/girl who got injured. It's most likely out of their control. Yes the system is screwed .. the insurance company should just have to pay. Blame them if you like.
Big Bear ends downhilling #2
Responding to the news that Big Bear is no longer lifting DH bikes as a result of a law suit, Stu Press suggests that people who injure themselves in such situations should not sue. He claims that to hold a service provider liable for your injuries is just not cricket. This is a grand statement and, as someone who potentially stands to lose when the fun police move in, I can hardly disagree.
However I imagine that I, and perhaps Mr Press's family, might flip-flop quickly if faced with the astronomical costs of caring for someone who has received a debilitating injury.
What's more important, a warm inner glow from the knowledge that you were one of the few to do "the right thing", or the financial ability to provide a minimum standard of care for a disabled loved one? Faced with the latter scenario, arguments for the former deflate rapidly.
There are two sides to every patch of moral high ground.
Could I ask "name and address withheld" and also (but to a lesser extent) Simon Van der Aa to re-read my letter.
It was intended more as a suggestion that the international and national authorities should be taking a PRO-ACTIVE role in the drug taking in our sport before the sport is killed off as a major one. The personnel involved are reputedly experts in their fields and should be guiding (and if necessary) acting as teachers, advisers and even nursemaids to prevent youngsters like Shane Perkins being drawn into the drug scene in any way. These people have the records and knowledge. The case of the skier was some years ago (Shane may have been 14/15 at that time and not interested in other International sports at that time but the officials weren't).
History shows that EPO has been around for more than 10 years and the UCI brought in their health check limit to haematocrit. With the limited level of tests but vast data available they could have reduced the "acceptable level" from the original 50% by some amount per year until the average values were more representative of normal population-distributions as defined in statistical analysis. (Typically in the 43% - 47% area not in the 48% plus band). The historic results were able to highlight Rumsas' 3rd place in the Tour a couple of years ago as being suspect. Similarly there was some doubt about Phonak riders' blood-tests during 2004 before the Olympics and Tour of Spain.
On a cost front, it should be possible to use big fines on riders to facilitate
more testing in and out of competition. If a rider wishes to appeal the decisions
treat it the same as other cases where the costs can be awarded against the
unsuccessful party. (in the UK we are advised via the press that David Miller's
appeal against the start date of his ban will cost approximately £14000 ie each
British Cycling membership fee is approximately £1 / 2US$ / 2.40 Aus$ higher
than needed! This cost should be David Miller's). We are all paying the
Louis, I will assume you'll have a car. Basic rules apply, like: Park your car in the direction that you want to leave in. Never park very far (more than 1k) from your viewing point or you'll be behind so much traffic when you get back to the car that you may never see the race again. Remember that there are hundreds of people trying to do the same thing, and you are going to be one of the least experienced, so don't try to catch the race too often, you'll get behind traffic and see nothing. (I've done all this, it's frustrating to see them once then sit in a traffic jam while the race continues into the distance)
A good idea with the Tour of Flanders is to get to Brugges an hour before the start. Buy a newspaper with a list of riders, route and schedule. Het Latsde Niews is a favorite. The team cars gather in one ancient square and the riders have to ride to another to sign on, the road between the two squares (maybe 700 meters long) is a feast for the fans. I've wished George "good luck" there myself and he's the type of guy who will acknowledge a shout from the crowd.
The early part of the race is dead flat and through some of the most unattractive parts of Belgium. In my view it makes more sense to take a look around Brugges, (or even better Gent which remains the mecca of Belgian cycling and is a lot less touristy, but you decide), then get a coffee and an early lunch and head down to the climbs after that. If you try to see them during the early part of the race you'll only see them once and they are in a massive pack doing 30mph. You are lucky to see anyone you recognize under those circumstances. So, after lunch head down to the Koppenberg or the Oude Kwaremont. I'm not sure if it's possible to see them at both, I doubt it, so I'd choose the Kwaremont. Here's my tip though, don't watch them on the climb, watch them about 500 meters after the top of the climb. This is the flat section that is always windy and is the part that sorts out the guys who were show boating on the climb from those who were saving a little bit. The climb itself isn't very steep and they usually hit the bottom in a group, it's that flat cobbled windy stretch over the top where the big guns hit the front and George will be breaking a sweat for the first time. There's always a bit more room on the side of the road up there. From that vantage point you can also watch them descending down the main road across the field before they start the climb, so you get to see them twice from the same spot, albeit in the distance.
You can pick two more climbs before the finish, I have found that any more than that is too ambitious without local knowledge. It would be easy if you were the only one watching the race, but you are trying to find your way around very narrow country lanes full of people and cars all intent on the same thing. When you watch theses races on TV it looks as though the whole of Belgium has turned out to watch along the route, but in fact it's only 800 people who spend their time off camera tearing through the lanes to get to the next spot. If you only do two more climbs one of them has to be the Bosberg. It's the hill that decides the race 90% of the time. It comes after a fairly featureless few kilometres so it's a fairly easy one to get to on time, especially if you take a circuitous route to Gerardsbergen, (where the Bosberg is located). Remember the race traffic will close the most direct route, you will have to get a decent Michelin map, (cheap and available in many shops in Brugges) and work your way there keeping away from the main traffic.
I've watched the race maybe eight times and I've never seen the finish, that may seem odd, but I like to be where the winning moves are made not the finish. You may not share that view, but doubt that you could get from the Bosberg to the finish, park and walk to the finish.
Unless both of you are bike geeks it makes sense to spend the later part of the morning exploring Brugges or Gent. It makes the trip more interesting and you are not missing anything of the race. Brugges has a very pretty city center with lots of touristy shops where as Gent is a larger city, not so cutesey but very attractive and a lot more of a genuine Belgian experience. It might be worth making that your base as Gent Wevelgem starts there mid-week anyway. I lived in Gent for 18 months so it feels a bit more like home. (I'm English, probably 10 years older than you, my kermess peer group consisted of Eddy Planquart, Etienne de Wilde, Fons de Wolf even raced against Greg LeMond a few times (though not in Belgium)
I've never watched Gent Wevelgem, except the start of the race in 1979 when I was living in Gent. I imagine the idea would be to get to the Kemmelberg and watch them go past both times, there's not much else to see en route. It might be a good idea to watch the finish of that one as it's a long flat run in without any real vantage spots.
I've watched Paris Roubaix maybe 5 times. To me it's not as spectacular as Flanders. I've found it much harder to get a handle on, but you may have a better experience. Most of the cobbled sections are easy to get to, you just need a plan to get away quickly and onto the next one or the race will get ahead of you and you'll get into the traffic that you can't escape, (V frustrating). I've watched the race in the Arrenberg Forest, Pave de l'Arbre and many others that I've forgotten. Other than one notable occasion when Museeuw was away on his own slogging into a brutal headwind on an slight incline, they always go through very fast and the crowds are so thick and the race traffic so fast that sticking your head out and getting a good look at the race is a bit of a nightmare. Having said that it's well worth the trouble. It really is unique and the speed of the riders over that terrain will amaze you. It's all about the dust and the crowds and the team cars and chasing around some nice villages in northern France, the bike race is just the thread that ties the whole crazy thing together.
We usually drive to Paris the night before, have a wander around and good meal, get up the next day and try to imagine that we own one of those beautiful apartments over looking a small cafe where we get a coffee and a croissant and contemplate what it would take to make this our full time lifestyle. Then head up to Compiegne for the start. (Again a good chance to see the riders) and then a lazy lunch before picking up the race in Arrenberg and follow it North to Roubaix, (have never seen the finish!) (My car has a TV so I find a place where I get good reception and watch the finish in the car! Such decadence) Then we are just a few minutes from the channel tunnel and home within a few hours.
The mistake to avoid is to try to see the races in too many places. It is hard to navigate your way around roads that are very congested with other people doing the same thing. Short of hiring a local guide it's very hard to do it without making a mistake that time wise you never recover from.
For me the races are a great excuse to visit places with a bit of a focus. I'm a bike nut but I don't expect my wife to share my elevated enthusiasm so she enjoys it as long as the trip is balanced with time spent looking around and finding decent restaurants and not stressing to much if we miss the race from time to time. I can never remember Hotels or restaurants, we don't usually stay overnight (except Paris), and we always try to find something new. We went to Flanders a couple of years ago, watched the start, missed the riders on the Kwaremont and never saw them again, but we enjoyed a few interesting things along the way. You have to be flexible and be prepared to screw up!
I know I've gone on a bit, thanks for making it this far but it's a pleasure to recall these trips as I write, but I must add: The race to watch is the Giro di Lombardia in the fall. It is run through the most spectacular scenery in Europe. 2004 was a new route around Lake Como, wonderful, but the previous and traditional finish in Bergamo was the ultimate for me. It is the most beautiful bike race in the world. In Belgium (which i love) the fans are all in cars wrapped in big warm coats puffing on cigarettes, but they know every single rider, and they all secretly hope that Vandenbroucke will win on his own by two minutes, where as in Lombardy the roads are full of bike riders riding the climbs ahead of the race and cheering on their own favorites and unashamedly giving Bettini a push even though they know they shouldn't. They just can't contain their enthusiasm.
Whatever you do, try to make enough extra money during the year to get down to Italy for a few days in the fall. I would hate to think that any bike rider could die before they witnessed a tour of Lombardy. This year we left our house (We are about an hour North of London) at 6.30am flew down to Bergamo, rented a Lancia and watched the race come over the Ghisallo then down to the lake shore to explore, then back to Bergamo for a great dinner, then flew back to London and were in bed by midnight. And the airfares are crazy these days, only $40 round trip each.
Hope you find this helpful. I've enjoyed writing it. I'm not a lonesome psycho, I'm just in Colorado today on business, jet lagged and can't sleep, it's my own kind of therapy, how much do I owe you?
Spring classics trip advice #2
Stay in the Ibis Ghent. Ride the 140km randonee on Saturday over the same roads as George. Get down to the finish at Meerbeke on Sunday and watch them on the big screen or in the pub - then on the finish line for the finishing gallop, check out the mechanics and early drop outs in the parc ferme and back home for tea. Watch out for Finsbury Park Cycling Club from London UK - that's their schedule.
Spring classics trip advice #3
I have been traveling to Belgium most every spring since 1991 to see the "Classics." I stay in a little town, Oudenaarde/Audenaarde. One of the first things you will find out about Belgium is that the country is bilingual and a most of the town and cities have two names, one French and one Flemish. When in the Flanders it is best to use the Flemish names and when in the Walloon region it is best to use the French names. Sometimes it is easy to tell like Oudenaarde, other like Ronse/Renaix, it is a little more confusing. Oudenaarde is about 15-20 miles south south-west of Ghent. It is in the heart of the famed cobbled climbs of the Flanders Classics. It might be a off-the -beaten-path for a lot of first-time visitors, you might want to stay in Gent. Gent/Gand/Ghent is a lot bigger, has a large university population, and more things to do when not watching bicycle races.
As for viewing the races, I would suggest arriving a least a couple of days earlier that the Tour of Flanders (Ronde van Vlaanderan in Flemish) find a small local pub and hang out, try a couple of the numerous brews, try to make friends with a local that will be willing to take you along. This really helps because if you look at the course in the "hill country" it winds quite a bit and if you can get someone who knows the area you can get three or four chances to see the race in progress. Then go watch the ending in a pub, they will be crowded. As for Ghent-Wevelgem, the only place worth going to watch the race is the Kemmelberg, outside of Kemmel. It will be a several mile walk unless you take a bike. Follow the crowd, look for a big hill, you can't miss it. As for Paris-Roubaix, the cobbles can be good spots, but because the course is flat, they go by real fast and there won't be much chance to see the race more than once. Here I might recommend going to the Velodrome at the finish. They have a jumbotron TV set up so you can see what is happening at the race and if a Frenchman wins, it is an experience worth participating in .
The son of the lady who runs the place I stay at, takes us (a couple of regulars) is he isn't working. Unless you have traveled hostel style before, I really wouldn't recommend the place because it is what is referred to as a budget hotel, not quite up to what most Americans expect. It is a nice place, good people, nice locals, good food. Just quite a culture shock unless you are prepared for it. A lot of amateur teams and neo-pros have stayed there, it is known as a cyclist hotel, but if you are traveling with a woman it might be a bit awkward because it is mostly young men/cyclists, showers down the hall. I met Stephen Kjaargard there a couple of years ago when he was a first year pro with TVM. He later signed with the Posties and went to a couple of Tours with Lance.
Thank you kindly for your comments on behalf of "most of us", Dean Patterson.
Yes, some of us obviously want to believe.
Surely many of us, who await the final judgment on the validity of the new tests, also strongly suspect that the legal process on which Tyler is embarking will eventually see him exonerated, the tests flawed and followers of professional cycling left even more confused about the doping issue.
And whether most or least of "us" (who know neither the individuals, nor have any first-hand familiarity with the events that have occurred) believe in Tyler's innocence, the truth is another matter. The public does not know it yet. What, precisely, is to be gained from pre-judging it?
I don't know where to start. But here goes. In response to Mr. Terry:
(1) Since you went there, I'll tell you what I think of capitalism and cycling. I'm glad all those engineers, designers, and machinist are there to spit out my ultra light, whiz-bang ride. I also try to support my local shop! I'm glad that they are able to support their families, and live comfortably. What I'm not happy about is the 36.5 million people in this country that live below the poverty line, over 40 million people live without health insurance, and millions of other children don't get the education that they need....yeah for capitalism. I'm really not just trying to guilt trip you, stay with me here!
(2) I've never worked in a bike shop, or the bike industry, but have personally seen, or heard first hand of a half dozen carbon frames that completely failed, and almost resulted in permanent injury, and I should also include a couple aluminum frames, too. So I'm not sure what bikes are sold at Mr. Terry's shop, or what type of riders he services, but I wouldn't feel comfortable blasting down Trail Ridge (CO) with a 3 year old carbon or al frame, at literally breakneck speeds. One of the reasons the UCI placed a weight limit was because of a rash of injuries due to equipment failure! I'm sure there's a ton of people out there that have carbon and al frames, that say they've never had a problem, but it only needs to happen once!
(3) Wow what a huge misperception, are you kidding me! Steel is heavy, really? My training partner has a custom steel frame that he made for himself that comes in at almost 18lbs. Maybe you wouldn't consider that light, but here's some more info: the frame has a 62 cm top tube, and 62 cm seat tube (semi-sloping design), and he used True Temper OS Platinum tubes (8-5-8 wall thickness)...huge bike, he's a mutant. Also, this is by no means the lightest steel tubing! A lot of the bike companies have started including more steel frames in there catalogue. Colnago has been updating there steel frames, and many others. One of the main reasons Aluminum and Carbon frames are more common is marketing, and selection. These frames predominate because they allow the manufacture to increase there bottom line. Most AL and Carbon is cheap for the bike companies, and it's the trend, people want it, and therefore the demand pushes up the price.
(4) I'm definitely not jealous of over-weight, rich people buying expensive bikes, I love dropping them! Maybe, just maybe they should be worrying a little less about their bikes, and more about riding them. Then they would still be rich, and healthy? Almost 60% of americans are overweight or obese, that's scary! Yet we're the wealthiest nation in the world, by far! I always encourage people to ride, and don't worry how they do it....$600 bike, or $6000 bike...who cares? We're trying to start a cycling club at the university I attend, and want to include everyone.....students, faculty, and even the community! We're doing this because the over-weight people that Mr. Terry is referring to are definitely not winning, and we'd like to encourage them, not just say "spend lots of money on your bike so it can look like a pretty decoration in your house"!
(5) Finally, what am I trying to say? Well, it's pretty simple. As cyclist I think we should hold ourselves to higher standards when making choices. When I indulge myself in cycling, and there are 36.5 million poor people out there (in the US, not counting all the 3rd world countries, etc) I damn well make sure it's a smart purchase! That doesn't mean I don't splurge, now and again so don't think I'm getting all self-righteous on you! I think that cyclingnews.com is a wonderful resource that helps allow us to make informed decisions, and there are tons of other resources out there! We should be more intelligent then the average, and should expect more from cycling companies, and the community in general. Sure, this doesn't mean that every purchase should be tediously calculated, but that we (cyclist) are intelligent, and not just mindless bums that buy what ever they shove down our throats! That way, everyone actually does win!
Why are cyclists so trendy? #2
Thank God Blake has straightened me out. I didn't know I was bein' a commie when I (and others) complain about the overemphasis on weight in cycling. I stand corrected. I soon hope to contribute to capitalism by selling deeds to the Brooklyn bridge. See, a buck gets into my pocket and I spend it and it gets into the company's profits and into another guy's pocket and I can sell another bridge. Oh, I guess selling a bike a little lighter isn't really that extreme, but I am personally all jealous of fat people on bikes. I have become determined to get into the bike business and if such a fellow comes into my shop and asks my opinion on a 0.3 gram weight saving carbon tiddlywink, I'll advise him to get it. The buck goes into my pocket, into the company's pocket, multiplies and goes into... Who cares if he/she "needs it."
And as I walk to the train station every morning and watch hundreds of people on their 35 lb "mamacharli" bikes riding to the station to begin another 12-14 plus hour workday, I thank god that capitalism is so simple and straight forward. I hope to tell some of those people how lucky they are that they aren't in a non-capitalist country where they would have to ride a 50 lb clunker like Blake mentions.
What an education one can get at Cyclingnews. I'm gonna go buy those carbon fiber filled cycling gloves now to benefit the workers of the world. Wait. Isn't that a little Marxist? Capitalism is guided by the invisible hand of self interest I thought. I am all confused now!
why are cyclists so trendy? #3
I'm not sure how Blake Terry makes the leap from criticism of the tech fetish to support of the Flaming Red Hordes, but I'd sure be embarrassed to be marked a communist*. So, for the record: I hold a B.A. in economics, and I loooove capitalism. I'm glad there's so much neat stuff out there to buy -- though Blake's got it wrong when he lays credit for the cornucopia on average consumers; it's elite racers and their demands that push development. (The everyday consumer with lots of disposable income -- with six years in a bike shop, Blake knows just exactly who I'm talking about here -- simply foots the bill.) Heck, if I ever get myself into racing shape, I'll happily take advantage of the stuff. That said, I stand by my basic opinion, which was aesthetic, not ideological: pleasure riders look like fools when they ride ultra-refined racing machines. Especially when I blow past them on my dad's Schwinn.
* Historical footnote: communism sucks in all kinds of ways, but it seems to have been good for cycling. You might want to take a look at the Olympic track-cycling medalists of the past two decades. Until Oz took over this year, the Soviet Union/Russia and the Eastern Bloc countries dominated. Pittsburgh, meanwhile, was unbeatable in the 50-pound-bike, choking-coal-fumes competition.
Why are cyclists so trendy? #4
Blake Terry makes lots of good points. But letting his celeste-colored Bianchi gather dust? There he goes too far! Blake, if it's a 56-58cm. frame, send it to me.
Why are cyclists so trendy? #5
Responding to Mr. Terry's letter. For the most part I find the points in his opinion okay. Though like any other economic system, capitalism needs checks and balances, regulations and whatnot, even if that means that free market fanatics can't get instant gratification. Fine, there is no doubt that we need the bike tech weenies to push the envelope and encourage further development. Also, if a bike club pulled it's money's together purchase for example a zipp wheel set for members to share who wish to do time trial events; you would not need a huge wad of cash to use to best stuff.
There is one thing I was astonished by however. The proclamation that frames do not break… ehhh? Not only have I broken a frame (old steel one) but I was present when my close riding partner almost completely cracked the downtube of his two year old aluminum beauty (sorry no bike company names). Cracked tubes happen, it is part of the high end sport. Bike companies know it and most consumers who are riding seriously know it too. By the way, I am aware this strays off the subject of trendiness, but I just had to respond about this comment. And to think Mr. Terry is a bike store owner, wow, very strange. Furthermore, I find that steel and aluminum frames both break. From what I have seen steel breaks differently, not so dramatically as aluminum.
Anyways, good letter, and I am glad Mr. Terry pointed out that it is indeed us consumers who encourage more tech development. Just please tell me who rides these unbreakable bike frames.
Why are cyclists so trendy? #6
My custom steel, weighs in with the best any large manufacturer has to offer, 16 lbs with carbon wheels.
Responding to Simon Quirk's letter on the friendliness of roadies (Letters - December 10, 2004), I have to say I disagree. Whenever I'm out and happen to see another roadie (not an infrequent occurrence on a Sunday in Surrey, or an evening in Richmond Park) I am surprised if they don't acknowledge me with a wave or a nod of the head.
I don't really do a great deal of mountain biking, but sure, they do seem friendly enough. But for a shared sense of community you can't beat roadies - the brief eye contact and a nod when its cold and wet and you're wondering why the hell you're out this time on a Sunday when all your non cycling mates are warm and sleeping off hangovers reminds you its a shared experience and redoubles the determination to keep going.
Simeoni's statements were given prior to the Tour. Even if Armstrong intended to tell Simeoni to 'shut up', how is that what you called "typical Mafia fashion"? The Italian riders were much, much harsher in their treatment of Simeoni. Several Italian riders were overheard by others in the peloton who were very much against Simeoni's actions (some Italian riders supported his actions to some degree also). So why did Simeoni and his lawyer only name Armstrong? (Exactly) Attention. If he cannot get attention by winning, he will try to get it through his lawyer.
It seems that success or failure was not important to Simeoni. If he failed he would claim he was treated unfairly, and everyone was taking drugs. And if he actually succeeded, then he could talk at length about his accusations of drugs, Ferrari, Armstrong, and whatever. It seems to me that Simeoni had more political moves in mind when he attacked. So Simeoni's move, not Armstrong's, was based on making a public statement and not merely to win.
In summary, it was just racing. Bold and daring on both sides, not illegal or threatening. It may have ruined any chance of Armstrong riding the Giro, but we all know if he rode to win, he would win anyway. Simeoni, on the other hand, will soon be completely forgotten. But it has been a wild ride.
Back in October I sent a depressed email about my 3 months off the bike due to injury. I went for my first post-injury ride on the weekend and it felt great. I've also learnt a valuable dietary lesson:
My normal diet + 3 months of inactivity = a flabby ass and 10lbs weight gain.
Does anyone know where Clyde Sefton is these days or what he is doing. I'm curious as he was a great road rider in the 70's, winning the Commonwealth Games road race in Christchurch, New Zealand in 1974. I think he went on to a professional contract in Europe, but I haven't heard his name mentioned in ages?
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