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Letters to Cyclingnews - July 2, 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

Recent letters

Tour de France: Result already known
Stive Vermaut
David Millar
Cadel Evans
Open letter to the World and Canadian TV Executives
Human evolution and cycling
The Mark French affair
Drugs in cycling
TdF heroes
Tour Contenders
Museeuw & traffic
Jan Ullrich / Lance Armstrong
The battle for the commentary podium
Green jersey dog fight
Why thank Lance?


Letter of the week

A set of Rudy project Tour de France eyewear is on its way to Andy

Tour de France: Result already known

It is often said that the anticipation of an event is often much better than the event itself. Following on from England's/Italy's/France's/Germany's/Spain's performances in the Euro 2004 sporting warm up to the Tour de France, I would whole heartedly agree. Thus, we find ourselves in the week before the Tour de France and speculation is rife about who is going to do what, how he is going to do it, when it is going to be done, and whether or not he took something or paid someone in order to do it. That effectively hosts an ongoing forum for all of this speculation can only be applauded.

A quick and dirty analysis of recent letters pages has revealed a number of foregone conclusions to this year's race (although to be fair, the commentary did begin on August 1, 2003!):

* Iban Mayo and the entire Euskaltel team will spend the whole of stage 4 riding bicycles in a leisurely manner across northern France whilst simultaneously chasing butterflies, happy in the knowledge that they will only lose 2'30" to Lance Armstrong and the USPS juggernaut.

* Cadel Evans won't start the Tour de France because the directors of Team T-Mobile are worried about his collarbone.

* Jan Ullrich will finish second.

* Iban Mayo will put too much energy into winning on Alpe d'Huez that he will be a spent force by the next stage.

* Lance Armstrong will win the Tour for the sixth time because... err. .. he has won it five times before and because of his confidence in himself and his team.

* Robbie McEwen will slag off some continental sprinters (take your pick), who have just beaten him.

* Richard Virenque will win the Grand Prix de la Montagne for the umpteenth time because nobody else will even be trying to win it (except for some unheard of Frenchman from a wildcard entry team, but who will ultimately finish the race several hours behind the true climbers).

Whilst some of the above, I would agree, look like safe bets - notably Jan Ullrich finishing second - an equally great thing about the Tour de France is the number of surprises the race could throw up. As Kevin Keegan once said, "I never make predictions, and I never will," but:

* What if USPS don't win the TTT as seems to be taken for granted, and that Euskaltel, therefore, don't lose 2'30"? Indeed, just supposing Euskaltel won the TTT...

* What effect will the 3.5km of pave on Stage 3 have on the standings, particularly if the day is wet and crashes numerous? This will not only affect the starting times for the TTT on stage 4 should some time gaps be forged, but the risk of crashing could leave its grimy thumbprint on the race as a whole if even greater time gaps are caused.

* What if Walter Godefroot is bluffing about not starting with Cadel Evans, and he proves to be the strongest ally to Jan Ullrich in the mountains? After all, Tyler Hamilton proved last year that a broken collarbone is no obstacle to racing around France.
* Who will succumb to the likely heat and undulations of the "transitional" stages in the Massif Central? This is exactly the type of stage where a group of, say, 15-20 riders could go clear to gain up to half an hour. Remember Andrei Kivilev and Francois Simon in 2001?

* Which new climb will go down in history alongside the greats?

Unlike many sporting events, irrespective of the final outcome, there can be no such thing as a foregone conclusion in a race where the winner has to beat not just the rivals, but the weather, the course, the mind, and, just as importantly, not a small amount of luck. I wish the best of luck to each and every one of the riders blazing a trail around France and Belgium for the next couple of weeks, and hope for a fantastic race. That the competition and the race will be electrifying in one of the most open races in years is the prediction I long for the most to come true.

Bring it on!

Andy Carter
Surrey, England
Monday, June 28, 2004

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Stive Vermaut

I met and rode with Stive Vermaut one time in Lewisville NC at a benefit ride for a local charity. He showed up in the full works Lotto get up with bike, matching Lotto everything. All of us "real" riders pointed to the dag in full team colors and kinda chuckled to ourselves. It was only after the ride began, that we all knew this "team fan" was not some goof with some dream to be a Euro-pro but the real thing. A truly nice guy. Even to the point of not riding away from us, taking his pulls and being most enjoyable. He wanted to know as much as possible about the North Carolina landscapes and history as we rode past farms and even a sight where George Washington once stopped for lunch.

We found that the reason he was here was for treatment for a heart condition at a local cardiac specialist. It made us feel sad to think that a rider this friendly and young could have been dealt this hand in life, but was okay with that and he enjoyed life to the fullest. I am very sorry at his passing and I am very glad I got to spend a wonderful morning on the bike with him.

Jim Conrad
Winston-Salem NC
Friday, July 2, 2004

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It is highly disappointing to find athletes such as Mark French and David Millar involved in drug scandals. Have athletes become so brazenly commercial that cheating is nothing more than putting another log on the fire?

Is victory of such value that no means is too low? Is victory so important that young men will threaten their very lives by injecting compounds the long term effects of which can be devastating? Are athletes that possessed with stolen success that cheating is of far less importance than perhaps a lifetime of ill health and early death?

This seems like a nice thing to be able to tell your children, "Yes, son, I took enough drugs that I could beat real athletes. That's why you have a nicer house to grow up in and I have a newer car."

Those of us on the outside have to wonder which performances have been by real people and which by drugged up Terminators whose sole purpose was to take the real glory and victory from the, perhaps, few un-drugged riders whose lives have been relegated to 30th place. Perhaps in a human event these losers could be winners.

It isn't enough to fine and suspend these drugged athletes. They must be expunged from the sport. What they've done to the honest athletes is nothing more than theft. They deserve nothing better than to be known as such.

Tom Kunich
Friday, June 25, 2004

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David Millar #1

Not David Millar! Surely not! This is yet another huge blow to the sport. I wanted to believe that the rider I watched up close and personal win the World Time Trial Championships in Hamilton was surely clean. I have been tricked into thinking David was a true natural talent who didn't need any drugs for performance enhancement. Yet I read today that he has been taking EPO to help him get all of his big results. In the past I always urged the Brit onto a win when he was in contention. I have watched him win stages of the Tour de France and the Tour of Spain with such class and fluidity. I admired his style of riding when he was going for a stage win. But, now all of this has been tainted by the fact that it was fueled by EPO.

Ryan Cleary
Nashville, TN
Friday, June 25, 2004

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David Millar #2

David Millar now too? NOOOOOOOOOOOO!

I can't say I trust anyone anymore.

I've followed David Millar for years--the interviews, the monthly columns, the magazine articles. He has been one of my favorite riders to watch. I thought he was one of the "new breed" of talented cyclists that could finally punch through the years of drugs and doping. I NEVER once suspected that he would be one to fall.

Who is next?

James Wilson
Atlanta, GA, USA
Friday, June 25, 2004

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David Millar #3

Should Michael Rogers be considered the TT champion of 2003 World Championships? Was Millar's margin of victory due to EPO use, either in training or competition? Millar has disgraced France and England before the Trand Tour.

Timothy Shame
Friday, June 25, 2004

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David Millar #4

I think it's pretty clear that, contrary to Mr. Harrigan's spirited column, many if not most top-level cyclists do not take doping seriously as an issue, which may be a more relevant issue than whether or not a given individual actually dopes. These riders feel a breathtaking lack of obligation to the sport's fandom and sponsors, and an apparently sublime isolation from the world in which their sport exists. They think, with the narcissistic tunnel vision of individual-sport athletes, that it's only about them and their results. And to say that they are abetted by the sport's administrators - and fans, for that matter - is an understatement.

Every time fans struggle to suspend disbelief to get to back to that blissful state we might call the 'UCI-Point' -- where it is again possible to utter such things as "cycling is cleaning itself up; cycling does more than other sports to address the dope issue; most pro cyclists don't dope" -- another rider tumbles down the newsfeed, in custody, confessing their sins in some squalid French police HQ.

How else do you describe David Millar, who utterly betrayed his sponsors and may yet knock cycling in the UK back five years? What kind of arrogance is it to know that you are being investigated - and still dope while the investigation is going on? Is it arrogance, stupidity or just both brewed with narcissism, that results in the point of view that the only thing that matters is what happens on the course and that the world only exists in those moments on the course?

Does he realize that the combination of recent events - his absolutely vitriolic and completely disingenuous trashing of Phillipe Gaumont in the press a very few months ago, combined with the pathetic image of his confession to French police -- has changed his story from one of the hip, accomplished and intelligent standard bearer for his sport to that of just another dumb, lying jock with a needle in his arm? It doesn't matter how hard he's worked, how talented he is, how impressive his accomplishments - now he's just another small part of a big story defined by bathos and stupidity, not achievement.

Mark Jenkins
Monday, June 28, 2004

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David Millar #5

I find that the only thing that offends me more than a doped athlete is one stoopid enough to leave his stash at home!

Imagine the attention to detail and minutiae it must require to be "on the program" and still never have a positive doping test.

Now contrast that with how retarded you must be if you're a professional cyclist living in France and riding on a team under investigation - and you LEAVE YOUR FRICKING EPREX SITTING AROUND YOUR APARTMENT!

The whole thing just boggles my mind. The only plausible explanation I can come up with is that Millar must've had a really high fever or been dropped on his head repeatedly as a small child.

I learned at 15 years of age that you can't keep your weed anywhere that someone who might be looking for it can find it.

Dan Hoover
Monday, June 28, 2004

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Cadel Evans #1

Cadel Evans has been thrown to the side like so many other great but never given the chance cyclists. Cadel, get out and leave that sham behind you. There are teams out there looking for G.C. contenders and Cadel is one.

Jerred Brackett
Springfield MO USA
Wedday, June 30, 2004

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Cadel Evans #2

To add further to what people have been saying about Cadel Evans' exclusion from T-Mobile's tour squad, apart from Cadel's excellent climbing abilities, he's had very good time trial results in the past as well, including good results in the Junior Worlds, beating Michael Rogers at the Commonwealth Games and coming 3rd in a Giro time trial two years ago. Surely Cadel would have been a huge asset to Jan in both the Mountains and the TTT, not forgetting Cadel's excellent showing in the 2002 Giro, his only Grand Tour to date.

He may be inexperienced in terms of Grand Tours, but there have been several GT debuts at the TdF in recent years that were successful, just from an Australian point of view there is Brad McGee, Baden Cooke and Michael Rogers.

At the risk of sounding partisan, I hope Cadel can salvage something else from the rest of the season and hope next year he finds himself at the right place.

Rob Berry
Melbourne, Australia

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Cadel Evans #3

Godefroot guile or gargantuan gaffe? Form and logic would suggest that Evans’ omission from the Tour is the latter.

As your correspondent Quirk intimated, Evans would have provided T-Mobile with an attacking distraction for Armstrong in the high alps in much the same way as Vinokourov did last year. His win in the Tour of Austria proved his climbing potential, and his outstanding time trialing would have benefited T-Mobile’s chances of outpacing US Postal in the Stage 4 team time trial and possibly delivering yellow to Ulrich. With Evans aiding Ulrich in the Pyrenees and Alps by unleashing Mayo-like attacks against Armstrong at some points and otherwise ‘carrying’ der Kaiser to the wheels of the leading group (Armstrong, Mayo, Hamilton, Basso, Heras?), there was every prospect that Ulrich may have had minimal time losses until the Alpe d’Huez ITT. And then, if Armstrong could put a minute into Ulrich in the bash up through the 21 hairpins of that iconic climb, the result of the Tour could hinge on the 60-km Besancon ITT.

Note the single-minded focus of US Postal. Godefroot has opted to split objectives: appeasing the sponsors and fans by having Zabel going for top-10 finishes in the sprinters’ stages, and having German riders supporting Jan in the mountains. But this strategy will surely fail to deliver green and possibly diminish the chance for yellow glory. Certainly the great but slower Zabel cannot be expected to outpace Petacchi, McEwen, Cooke and Boonen for the sprinters’ title.

In the Canberra cycling community we have heard that Evans is not popular at T-Mobile. This could infer less about Evans and more about the inspirational guidance and leadership of Godefroot. Evans is not the first foreigner to waste at Telekom/T-Mobile. Under this banner, the enigmatic Botero went walkabout last year after winning the world TT championship and unleashing that brilliant stage win at Les Deux Alpe as a Kelme rider in 2002. Bobby Julich, too, had his spirit crushed at Telekom but now thrives under Bjarne Riis.

Cadel, please jump across to the shrewd motivator and tactician at CSC or talk to the Dutch team. At either of those teams your hopes would soar and so too would their chances for GC victory in the grand tours.

Jeff Culnane
Canberra, ACT, Australia
Friday, June 25, 2004

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Open letter to the World and Canadian TV Executives

Dear Mr. Media Executive,

I am desperate because I cannot help but feel deeply frustrated about cycling in Canada.

It's this time of year again... Summer, sun and cycling. For a lot of us, riding a bike is more than just transportation, more than just physical exercise, more than just riding... it's a way of life. Living in Montreal we experience a special kind of frustration every year when we are confronted with the ridiculously patched (if at all) roads that resemble (as one of my fellow riders put it) the "Ho Chi Min Trail after a bombardment". But hold your comments, the famous Quebec potholes are not the subject of this letter. There is another frustration if you love the sport of cycling. Since the Tour de France is upon us and since Canadian television viewers are graced with some coverage of the single biggest yearly sporting event in the world (yes the numbers of world-wide TV spectators and road spectators are higher for the 3 week Tour than for any other yearly sporting event) we cannot help but wonder why we are only blessed during this time of the year?

Now I do want to get off on a rant here: Why does OLN Canada only show the Tour de France and not (as their US counterparts) the spring classics, the Giro d'Italia, the Vuelta a España, other world cup races? Why do the two biggest sports channels in Canada (namely RDS or TSN) not show any cycling? Why does Canal Evasion ( somewhat the French counterpart to OLN) not show more cycling? Why?

I understand that Canadian TV stations are a little more North-of-the-border-oriented and therefore show more Canadian shows. I understand that fishing, hunting, and boating (just to name a few) are fun and may have their followers. But there are also millions of cyclists out there. There are thousands and thousands of cycling fans out there. We would welcome even a tape delay or a summary report of races such as Liège-Bastogne-Liège, the Het Volk, or Milan-San Remo. And mind you, we are not picky. Show us a tape delay of a race at 3:00am and we WILL set our VCRs and tape it. Cut the race into small 5-minute segments and stuff the schedule with commercials for exercise machines, juicers and miracle hair growth products and we WILL not mind.

I would love to see a program director go to a newsstand, compare the number of specialty magazines for boating, fishing, football, soccer, Formula 1, and cycling and sit down and rethink the overall schedule for the upcoming months.

Cycling rules and should not be treated like the distant cousin that nobody wants to see all year round but is nevertheless invited for Xmas dinner (i.e. the Tour de France).

Keep on riding and (hopefully more and more) watching!

Laurent Schoux
Montreal, Canada
Tueday, June 29, 2004

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Human evolution and cycling

I have just been reading the first installment of Dr Ferraris' diary on the upcoming Tour de France (2nd July) and wish to comment on a few points he makes.

Dr Ferrari makes certain insights into homo sapiens evolution and riding a bicycle stating that "cycling is a stranger to such evolutionary process". This statement is incorrect in that human muscles and the central nervous system that controls them have evolved over 4 million years to adapt to the environment and perform multiple tasks. Whether it be walking, running, jumping, swimming, rowing, climbing or cycling the human body has evolved to perform all these tasks and many more within our environment. The bicycle was invented over a century ago to fit the human body and make locomotion more efficient. The pedaling action is just another form muscle contraction no different from any other activity.

Dr Ferrari writes that cycling "brought forward new problems and issues for the body, unexpected in the human evolutionary process". This statement is also patently wrong! The human body operates within its inbuilt limits no matter what the exercise mode. If there is a physical problem the body simply works at a slower tempo to prevent injury or death. This can only be short circuited by taking chemical substances foreign to the body. He also states that the Tour de France "requires extraordinary energy consumption, up to 6000-7000 kcal per day, that has to be compensated by proper 'super-nutrition' " that "implies a digestive apparatus overcharge" and the need for "super hydration" due to heat stress demands all of which have "never appeared in the evolutionary history of the human race!". What rubbish! What's more these statements imply that to compete in the Tour de France the athlete must partake in "super" nutrition and hydration regimes other than orally and through the digestive tract, in other words intravenous and intramuscular injections of vitamins, minerals and fluid "within the limits of sports and legislative regulations".

In fact homo sapiens sapiens (i.e. us) have evolved from an endurance based background. Hunting for our ancestors was the most basic task for survival. The most primitive form of hunting is known as "persistence hunting". This involves the persistent chase of prey for many hours or days until the prey is exhausted so as to be caught and killed. It is believed one of our ancestors Australopithecus survived using this hunting technique. Persistence hunting is still practiced today by the San people of the Kalahari, Africa, the Tarahmara Indians of Mexico and the Shoshonean Indians of North America. The San people, for example, pick out a large, usually male antelope from a herd and run after it across the desert in the heat of the day for 8 hours or more. They carry no food or water. Only their incredible knowledge of the land and water holes keeps them going. The animal eventually collapses from heat exhaustion and is killed and shared with the community. These people don't partake in "super nutrition", living off the land and running long distances barefoot is part of their everyday lives.

The reason humans can out-run bigger and faster animals is our innate endurance and our capacity to dissipate heat via increased skin blood flow and sweating. Humans are the only mammals, apart from some primates, that possess a significant number of sweat glands (some 2 million!). There is clearly a selective advantage in have a superior heat loss mechanism in order to prolong the time to hunt and gather food. These selected genes for endurance are still in our DNA and haven't been lost over time.

Unfortunately when we look at Tour de France athletes we see them in the context of our own modern western lifestyle were immobilization technologies and an abundance of food have made us lazier and fatter than at any time in our history. Therefore we view these athletes as abnormal, however in the context of our evolution the now sedentary population of the modern world is actually abnormal and the Tour de France athletes are quite normal.

The current dogma in organised sport today is to engage in "super" nutrition and hydration in order to be successful. This has been highlighted in recent events at Australia's premier sporting institute, the AIS, where it seems young cyclists regularly inject themselves with mega-doses of vitamins to cope with the rigors of training and as Dr Ferrari puts it, the effects of "a whole series of lesions to cells and function of these apparatuses". The step to illegal drugs is then a small one (e.g. equine growth hormones found at the AIS).

To say that cycling is a stranger to the evolutionary process is wrong and dangerous in respect to young naive cyclists presuming that I.V. drips and injecting mega-doses of vitamins is the norm even in the absence of scientific evidence. In reality human beings have evolved to cope with all manner of physical stresses, including riding the Tour de France. In fact it is our sedentary lifestyle and the over-eating that our inherited genes cannot cope with as evidenced by the huge increase in metabolic diseases such as heart disease, insulin resistance and diabetes.

Phil Chapman
School of Exercise and Sport Science
The University of Sydney, Australia
Friday, July 2, 2004

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The Mark French affair #1

Well done Mark French. By being involved in what appears to be illegal activities and by making allegations about other cyclists to try and provide an excuse for your own behaviour, you have put cycling in Australia back 5 years at least.

I only hope that you haven't implicated innocent riders. Otherwise you may find yourself at the centre of further legal action as these cyclists take you to court for defamation and loss of earnings.

If you were lead astray by prominent cyclists conducting illegal activities then I sympathise with your predicament. However, if you took drugs and cheated on your own initiative - you deserve everything that comes to you.

All professional athletes should know that the sport is bigger than they are and that they have a responsibility to act according to the regulations in a moral and ethical manner lest you bring that sport into disrepute.

Chris Neal
Thuday, July 1, 2004

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The Mark French affair #2

I think David Baxter's comments are probably reflective of what the vast majority of Australians are thinking. However, it also shows the level to which we are likely to condemn without having full knowledge of the matter. Also, I think that it is fairly obvious from reports (as printed within many Melbourne newspapers) that, the manner in which the matter has been reported can be described as creative journalism. After all - Any bad news is going to make good news.

However, we should ask ourselves; have any of these cyclists mentioned actually been tested positive for any banned substance? The answer is no. Thus, why do we automatically come to the conclusion that the cyclists mentioned are in fact cheaters and taking banned substances?

After all, the fact are as follows - Mark French has been found to have in his possession (lodgings within the AIS organisation) an un-named number of empty ampoules containing traces of EGH. He has also admitted to taking vitamin supplements via injection and named several other cyclists whom have at times also injected vitamin supplements. No proof of evidence has been found as to either Mark or any other Cyclist taking a banned substance. Sure the empty EGH ampoules will take some explaining however, Mark has never been found to have tested positive to any banned substance.

I think that it is more an indication of our own paranoia than any Australian Cyclist's guilt, that so many like Mr Baxter make comments suggesting that testing negative is no indication of cleanliness - rather an indication that they are ahead of the testing procedures. Again, I ask, "what proof is there of guilt"? We have testing procedures in place both within the National and International programs that are devised by those whom are both Medical professionals and Ex Cyclists /managers /administrative bodies. Thus, one would think that if any cyclist can overcome the testing procedure with a positive outcome, they must surely be innocent of taking banned substances. However, as many people still seem to think the outcome 'suss' then, perhaps we should be querying the testing procedures and methods used by the authorities, rather than the innocence of our cyclists?

Also, Mark French has made comment about taking vitamin supplements via injection.... What is so terribly wrong with this and, why would this lead us to believe that he has also in the past taken prohibited substances also via injection? Is there really any direct link between the two and why would we automatically think such?

I think that we have to be very mindful of the type of response that such a matter brings to our psych. That is, when we hear of the matter it is all too easy for the common sports follower to think the worst - that being the possibility that any Australian Professional Cyclist is "cheating". Not to say that taking a banned substance one would not be cheating but, I just question why it is that we so easily come to the conclusion that any Australian Cyclist is a "cheater" and guilty of taking a banned substance.

Jamie McWilliams
Friday, June 25, 2004

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Drugs in cycling

No offense to Harro, I believe he works hard and is most likely a talented rider. The human mind is truly a fascinating thing and can drive people to their limits and beyond. It is something all together different to do it on the scale some people perform at. Running a marathon is a huge accomplishment for many people. Running one in 2 hours and 8 minutes is a whole different matter.

Anyone can ride the Tour de France. You could do it in 21 days with the right training. You could depart and arrive in the same towns as the riders each and every day during those 23 days in July. You could not do it at an average speed of 26 miles an hour though. I have seen people do centuries in 8 hours. I have also seen people do them in under 4. Does this imply that the sub 4 hour guys are doping? The chances are slim as usually their livelihoods don't depend on the Sunday club run.

Being a professional cyclist is also a great accomplishment. Being one on the continent is - again - a whole different matter. It is one thing when you make your living as an athlete. It is another when you make a "good" living as an athlete. Economies of scale if you will.

If the World Time Trial champion admits to using drugs and talks of how he is more the norm than the exception, I am far more inclined to think he is right than a professional who makes his money racing office park crits and the national championships. It is taking $1000s of dollars a year and turning it into $100,000s. You can not relate the impact of removing that type of influence. Chances are Harro could get a job that would replace his cycling income. David Millar would have a little harder time.
Professional athletes may "love the sport" but being a professional implies a certain recognition that money is a motivating factor in the day in and day out duties of performing their job.

I don't think athletes that use drugs are weak. That is a dilemma that they must take on themselves. I don't think that athletes that chose not to use drugs are ay better than the ones that do. I would like to believe that people are inherently good and the performances I have seen are the products of hard work and sacrifice.

I know the type of athlete I would like to be and what sacrifices I would make should I be placed in particular situations. That is all I know. Anyone can admit to being a professional anything. It is the weight that their profession lends to their opinion that is a true measure of where they fall in the landscape of that industry.

Unfortunately, for cycling there are many former/current World Champions, Classics and Grand Tour winners, along with many smaller race winners that admit to using drugs and their prevalence in the peloton. Maybe you don't need drugs to make the World Championship team. Odds are you might need drugs to win it, though.

I am sad for cycling (and all of sport for that matter) because I love it so much. I will watch the tour and cheer. I will not deny that many of those men will be taking something to ease the pain. I will also not disregard the hard work and sacrifice it took them to travel those 3000+ kilometers at 26mph. The bike, after all, does not pedal itself.

Russell Elder
Herdon, VA, USA
Tueday, June 29, 2004

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TdF heroes

I have been a racing fan all my life from watching the stock cars that have been pulled out of garages to race on local oval tracks to following the likes of Jackie Stewart and Graham Hill, (now those two were gentlemen racers wouldn't you agree?) on the Formula One circuits of Europe and on to the high spirited hijinks of the NASCAR circuit.

A few years ago I discovered the thrill and excitement of bike racing on the streets of Seattle via the Microsoft Grand Prix when a then unknown Chris Horner blew the crowd away by taking the win. He had stayed tucked in behind the "favorites" lap after lap and after our famous hills had worn down the competition he put on an amazing sprint at the finish, jumped off his bike, threw it around his feet onto the ground like a matador swirling his cape, raised his arms and the crowd went crazy. Now that's racing!

I for one would be delighted if someone would follow Cunego's lead, repeat the thrill of the Giro this year and blow away the "favorites" at the Tour. I have always harbored the belief that anyone qualified to ride the Tour has to be an extreme talent in his own right no matter what their team status. In the Tour de France peloton there are no "little people". Just some receive better PR than others. So to all the racers this year I would like to extend my best wishes for a safe journey and a really good day at the races. Rock on!

Seattle, Washington USA
Friday, June 25, 2004

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Tour Contenders

What a shame that now Jörg Jaschke can't make it to the tour; with Cadel Evans and Vino already missing from T-Mobile's line up, David Millar not around to challenge for the time trials, at least I was looking to Bjarne Rjis' CSC boys to shake things up particularly in the early, nervous and unpredictable stages as well as stage 4's TTT. I feel that this year, it would be very easy to under-estimate the dangers of losing significant chunks of time in the first week by expecting the sprinters teams to do all the work. History - such as the '95 tour when Miguel Indurain took time out of his rivals on the equivalent of L-Bastogne-L stage immediately prior to the TT - shows how the unexpected can work in favour of some or disadvantage others. The 'Passage du Gois' in 1999 also comes to mind - perhaps the cobbles/wind/rain of NW France and Belgium may have a similar effect?

Whilst on the one hand it is hard to imagine anyone other than LA in the maillot jaune in Paris, I recall I also felt that way in '96 when Bjarne Riis surprised us all with his climbing skills and sheer determination to stay ahead. There's also the 'one bad day' scenario such as Jan Ullrich on Galibier in '98; although Jan made a full recovery next day and indeed took a very tough alpine stage in the process, Pantani remained the boss all the way to Paris.

Let's hope for an event-full but accident-free tour with a new name on the top step of the podium; I feel some-one unexpected should have this next one - how about Basso?

Dave Hardman
Wigan, UK
Wedday, June 30, 2004

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Museeuw & traffic #1

Not at all to cast dispersions on the Lion, or on preceding correspondents

But something that has bugged me enough to probably now make a fool of myself is society’s constant incorrect description of collisions between vehicles on our roads as accidents.

My Concise Oxford lists accident as an “event that is without apparent cause or unexpected…chance, unlucky event”. Huh. Most all so-called accidents are collisions that arise simply because of a failure by one or both parties involved to recognize the hazardous object, person or vehicle’s position relative to their own travel in sufficient time to take effective precautionary action. They occur not by some fluke, but by inattention.

Western society has embraced travel by automobile to the extent that for most the thought of going anywhere to perform basic needs such as purchasing food, visiting friends, attending work or study, the default option is no longer to use the human body, but to use a car. It has become so accepting of this choice of travel, so soft that it clings to the car as the most essential machine of our existence, that the immediate negative impacts of this mode of transport (collisions, death, disability) are seen as an inevitable part of daily life.

If in any other task we performed, we so carelessly used a machine that weighs over twenty times our own body weight, is typically propelled at over 15metres every second, is fed once use-only resources, pollutes on a massive scale, costs around a year’s salary, but is considered obsolete in five, contributes greatly to a reduction in physical fitness and attractiveness, all in close proximity to unprotected bodies you would face jail sentences, massive fines and lifelong stigma and ridicule.

The modern anxious wanting-to-be-somewhere state of consciousness has motor vehicle congested travel as part cause (byte-size information, tv channel surfing, incessant advertising, sugary-diets?). Cars today are truly opulent cages that insulate the driver from the “outside” world (ie horrendous traffic). For many of those drivers of moving motor vehicles, cyclists are preferred/expected/demanded over there on the road edge, but why is it when they themselves are there, checking to see for following traffic before opening the door of their beauty a metre into this crowded roadspace doesn’t even register for many people?

I was doored on a freeway shoulder! - when passing a parked car on the non-traffic side of it (LHS in Aust). Fluoro yellow jersey, helmet, frame, wrist and ankle bands had no effect. The driver had stopped around a minute before I attempted to pass, then the very second I was beside the passenger door…

Cycling displaces us from this poor ability to focus on the now. The self-propelled nature of cycling is unmatched in allowing the vital moment to moment awareness of traveling to be preserved. When your mind is somewhere else, scanning for hazards will occur in shorter bursts, at longer intervals or not at all. Larger blind spots are a result. A rushing and distracted person knows less about their surroundings, is not quite in full control of a less predictable vehicle, has a longer stopping distance and a greater collision force potential. Please don’t let it be you, whichever seat you are in.

Simon Day
Sydney, Australia
Friday, June 25, 2004

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Museeuw & traffic #2

Simon van der Aa of Tasmania wonders what the hell is a vehicular cyclist and where it is that I live such that it is possible to ride outside of door zones.

I live in San Diego, California, where I too once believed that riding outside of the door zone is sometimes not an option. Then I learned vehicular cycling techniques from John Forester's book, Effective Cycling. A vehicular cyclist is one who rides according to the vehicular cycling techniques and principles described in this book. If the bike lane is in the door zone, then ride outside of the bike lane. The laws here do not require a cyclist to ride in the bike lane if it is hazardous to do so. It is not only possible but not even that difficult to never ride in a door zone, once you realize it is possible and that it is your right to do so. I, like Simon and perhaps many other experienced cyclists, did not understand this and much more until I read Effective Cycling. Check out the reviews on Every cyclist owes it to him or herself to read this book. Your life may depend on it.

Serge Issakov
La Jolla, CA
Tueday, June 29, 2004

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Museeuw & traffic #3

I just can't agree with Simon Van Der Aa's comments here - it is possible to avoid injury when riding on the road and it is possible to avoid being "car doored". You need to ride in the middle of the lane - that way motorists are forced to change lanes to get around you. Riding too close to the gutter or too close to parked cars greatly increases your chances of being hit. In the first instance you "blend" into the telegraph poles on the side of the road and are difficult to see - I've ridden behind cyclists that do this and I know they are there - but still struggle to see them. Riding too close to parked cars just invites an accident - ride far enough out so that a door flung open WON'T hit you.

Riding on the road is about being paranoid (nobody sees me, everyone will try and cut me off) and having common sense. Look around you, 200m up the road, down the side streets and assume you are invisible. Check over your shoulder when you are coming up to a popular left turn - after all there might be a car in the right lane who wants to turn in front of you.

And yes I know car drivers shouldn't do these things - but they do - so accept it, ride defensively and hopefully you will stay out of the hospital.

I agree that Serge Issakov that being a great racing cyclist doesn't translate to being a great traffic riding cyclist - and I've done both.

Sarah Potter
Sydney, Australia
Tueday, June 29, 2004

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Jan Ullrich / Lance Armstrong

I personally would have, and I'm certain many others would have predicted that Ullrich would win in 1997. He was arguably the strongest rider in 1996 when his teammate Riis won, so it was logical that a German team would let Ullrich ride for victory in 1997. If you doubt that Ullrich was the strongest rider in 1996 find a tape and watch him pull Riis up every mountain stage and he didn't get dropped 3k from the summit either. Also, look who destroyed the field including Riis and Indurain in the final long TT - I believe the winning margin was around 1:45 minutes.

Chet Ritchie
Monday, June 28, 2004
Monday, June 28, 2004

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The battle for the commentary podium #1

How about Eddy Van Guyse? Has been announcing on the US circuit for many years and does, or has done many of the bigger races such as Clarendon Cup, Washington Cup, Superweek, US Criterium championships, and hundreds of local races. Excellent, but very underrated announcer. He has an excellent knowledge of racing both nationally (raced at national level for many years) and Europe. Have him tell you a few stories about riding in the Motorola Team car during the spring classics, or better yet when he had dinner with the Belgian National Team (yes, Eddy and the boys) the night before the 1974 worlds in Montreal. He speaks fluent Flemish so like Bob Roll and the Italians he can get insight with those tough Flandrians. Oh, and did I mention he was the Cinzano rider who stuck the pump in the main character's wheel in "Breaking Away"?

Rex Gilmore
Springfield, VA, USA
Friday, June 25, 2004

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The battle for the commentary podium #2

Sean has missed out one of the biggest cycling commentators - Eurosports David Duffield. Whilst the big name of the Tour is getting dropped on the hors category monster of a climb, Duffers is telling the viewers about his choice of wine he had last night with his evening meal, or the time when he rode his trike in the Wobbly Wheelers 12hr during a thunderstorm whilst eating jam sandwiches. If Duffers does manage to be paying attention to the race as someone attacks off the front, he nearly always informs the viewers that its so and so, when in fact its someone completely different.

Occasionally the viewer is treated to Sean Kelly in the commentary box with Duffers, a most unsuitable pairing there ever was. Sean tends to talk with the minimum amount of words, but is always accurate and frequently predicts how the race will unfold. Duffield however rarely lets him finish his sentence before extolling the virtues of his 1960s side pull Weinmann brakes, or the 74 different types of cheese in this region of the race.

Duffield is an institution in the UK, and you either love him or loathe him. He is a class act and will be difficult to replace during those 7 hours of commentary on the dull flat stages of the Tour of Spain. However its time to move on and cycling deserves a more professional standard of commentary.

Chris Madge
Bristol UK
Friday, June 25, 2004

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Green jersey dog fight

You must finish the entire race to win the Green jersey. Petacchi will not, and so he will not be the Tour's "most consistent daily finisher" which is what that jersey symbolizes.

Don't confuse fastest, freshest man with the Green Jersey Winner.

Tom Morris
Orinda, California
Thuday, July 1, 2004

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Why thank Lance?

My thanks to John Spevacek for pointing out a denotative inconsistency. And as he so sarcastically puts it, Eddy Merckx is probably still up the road "out of sight" but certainly, as I tried apparently too subtly to point out, not "out of mind." This response was exactly what I was trying to avoid. But on the other side, if Merckx is not mentioned in the same breath as Lance, we get the Eddyphiles protesting that he was superior to everybody. (In the letter just above John's response, Mr. Wilcox makes this point. People are stuck on the idea that the days of Merckx were somehow superior to the present day - he's a God and Lance merely a gifted lieutenant.)

By attempting to separate Merckx from comparison (which was, I guess, my too delicate intent), my argument tried to connote that his palmares appear to be dominant and superior (emphasis on appear) - that cannot be argued. Yes, he represents a class above, not due to his results so much as the time and place in which he rode, a time when a freak of nature could dominate, and prior to a time when there was many times more preeminent competition.

Remember, John, that the context of the argument was whether or not Lance's results are progress. If Lance wins a sixth Tour, his accomplishments in that race and how he got there, will represent a new standard, that like Merckx's standard of old, will likely also span a generation, and as he recently stated, "I was the best of mine, and he (Lance) is the best of his."

Bring on the Tour!

Wes Baki
Green Mountain Falls, CO
Thuday, July 1, 2004

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Recent letters pages

  • 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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