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Letters to Cyclingnews - March 26, 2004
Manzano. This guy takes the cake. He allows for a dodgy blood doping technique to be used that puts him at a disadvantage for the early stages of the race, and with no apparent controls over who's blood goes where later on, opening himself up to hepatitis, blood poisoning, and all kinds of other unpleasantries. Then he takes an untried drug in the biggest race of the year? What, he's afraid to take a bit of responsibility for what goes into his body?
If this is an accurate description of the 'systematic' doping in cycling, there is no performance enhancing going on at all. Heck, these guys are lucky just to finish.
Calling the US postal service sponsorship of a pro cycling team a "50 million dollar Boondoggle" is a disgusting delusion based on twisted logic and blatant lies. If one reviews the facts it is clear that the USPS service has hit a gold mine with this sponsorship and would be absolutely insane to terminate it. They will never receive anything close to this level of positive exposure for such a bargain ever again.
First lets put the $10 million dollar deal into perspective.
1. The total advertising budget for the USPS is over 300 million dollars. The USPS pro cycling team at 10 million dollars is but 3.3% of that total budget, yet is obviously the most noticeable piece of advertising they have.
2. The total revenue of the USPS for 2003 was 68.529 billion dollars that makes the $10 million dollar budget for the USPS bike team 0.01459 % of the USPS total revenue. Understand that if the positive effects of sponsoring the USPS bike team increased revenue 0.01459% then the sponsorship deal would pay for itself.
3. The total operating expense for the USPS were 63.902 Billion Dollars in 2003 that makes the $10 million outlay for the USPS .0156% of total operating expenses
4. The USPS made 1.6153 billion dollar from international mail service. Even if the USPS bike team only had an impact in outside the US, which it obviously doesn't, the budget for the USPS bike team is only 0.619% of total international revenue.
5. This is an organization that has liability of 218 million dollars in outstanding money orders.
6. Far from a organization wallowing in massive bureaucratic debt the USPS made 3.868 billion dollars last year.
Next lets debunk some of the myths created by Postalwatch's article:
1. Domestic mail rates are set by an independent postal mail commission, and the sponsorship of the USPS cycling team has absolutely no baring on the postage rates.
2. It is easy to see that while a government agency, the USPS is truly a company, selling a product and receiving a revenue from that product. Even more important to understand is that the shareholders of this company are every single taxpaying US citizen. Since a net profit for the USPS is more revenue for the government and less monies the have to extract from you. It is also easy to see the USPS is very much not a monopoly. There are a myriad of shippers out there. It is ridiculous to say that the USPS holds a monopoly in anything other than standard mail (even this is questionable. Ever hear of email? Online billing?). This portion of the USPS's revenue was 17.203 billion dollars - only 25.1% of its total revenue. That means that 74.9% of its revenue is created in a competitive market.
3. Even if the US postal service was a monopoly, all most all cable companies, local phone companies, and public utilities are monopolies and still advertise like crazy. The option not to consume can effect a monopoly drastically. Look at Amtrak.
4. If one reviews the PostalWatch website in it's entirety, it isn't an unbiased commission reviewing the USPS as it's name indicates. It is a extremely biased group whose sole mission is to discredit every facet of the USPS with absolutely no real credibility. The fact that it is cited at all is ridiculous.
As a shareholder of USPS I for one am disgusted that anyone would try to characterize the sponsorship of Lance Armstrong and the USPS pro cycling team as anything but a major coup that any corporate institution would kill to have scored. For a truly minuscule 10 million dollars a year the USPS gets one of the most admired and sought after spokesman a company could hope to get and thrown in for free is a stable of charismatic athletes who are admired the world over. This is a spokesman, by the way, who at least was perceived to be worth 12.5 million dollars by one corporation for a paltry 6 ads. Coincidentally ads in which he is giving free advertising to the USPS. Further, as a US citizen I also realize that at a time when the United States desperately needs to interact positively with the international community the USPS pro cycling team are perfect ambassadors for the United States. The red white and blue of the USPS postal service is inexorably tied to the US government as a whole and by its willingness to create a multinational team, and participate in a multinational sport this sponsorship can only bring good will when the United States needs it most.
Simply put in anecdotal terms a organization is judged by its public image, and a major part of the USPS services public image is a young group of charismatic, athletic, hardworking individuals who always seem to pull through when it counts. I think the saying goes Neither rain, nor sleet, nor gloom of night... With an image like that, given a choice (and you do have a myriad choices), who wouldn't want to use USPS? I know I do.
Surely this comment from the UCI is missing a proviso along the lines of "the UCI will react against anyone who tarnished the image of cycling and the riders unless they are shedding light on illegal activities" and "all who, by their actions, do such damage to cycling's image unless by their actions they are helping to raise awareness of illegal practices" Has the UCI not heard the phrase 'do not kill the messenger'?
I have to say that I was disappointed when Jonathan Vaughters could not receive cortisone for his insect sting at the Tour in 2001. I'm sure lots of other people who followed that Tour were also. This was in his eyes and many others, too, his big chance to finally finish the Tour. Being able to read Vaughters retrospective of this event, especially in light of Philippe Gaumont's comments, really made me think and brought two main themes to mind.
Number one, it is heroes like Jonathan Vaughters and his support group who help make bike racing a great sport. Those who do take drugs seem to being doing so through fear of not getting good results, for feeling intimidated, or for pure greed. As Jonathan Vaughters pointed out, having a support network to help maintain perspective is important, of not critical. No doubt this problem is not limited to cycling but any sport, whether baseball, soccer, football or hockey, etc, has a population of people who are at risk to succumb to pressure to dope. Particularly if no one is there to ask the hard questions and hold one to higher standards. Seems to me that as long as there are people involved like those who guided Jonathan Vaughters, cycling will not collapse from the offenses of a few misguided competitors.
Second, it looks as though Philippe Gaumont (and other dopers?) put a lot of time, money, and effort into beating the drug screening systems. I can't help but wonder what the results would be if as much effort and thought was put into training as opposed to cutting corners?
Jonathon Vaughters doping response
I am writing to commend Jonathon Vaughters for his comments in Friday's column. I found his comments enlightening, refreshing and totally honest. WOW - for a professional to be as open and honest in admitting that he would have done something against the UCI rules gave us all an amazing insight into the pressures (self imposed and otherwise!) these amazing athletes face. I remember the occasion well; Jonathon, please be aware cycling fans all over the world agonised on your behalf at the time and felt for you when you pulled out... my respect for you has only increased with this admission.
The other outcome I gained from the article was a renewed faith in professional cycling. It was the most eloquent argument on behalf of the clean peloton that I have read. As a cycling coach, coaching club level riders, it gave me confidence in helping them strive for the ultimate goal - riding as a pro.
Well Done Mr Vaughters!
Interesting: now that he doesn't race any more he would like the climbs closer to the finish line. That might be good: hopefully if they manage to move the Turchino closer to the Cipressa that might leave a big enough hole in the mountain range to ventilate the Po valley (pianura padana) and get rid of the fog in winter time.
As an aside to the WADA debate, I believe cycling is suffering the negative press, because it has tried so hard on the doping front. As a consequence, there are far more positive results due to the volume of testing in cycling, yet cycling fans en-masse, still push for continued testing, because they want a clean sport.
I believe that the proportion of drug use in professional and Olympic sport is consistent across those sports. It's just that the officials of the other sports, seem less willing or less focussed on removing drugs from their 'playground', (don't want to upset the sponsors you know). I am sure Dick Pound, as a very senior member of the IOC, is only too aware of how many drug violations that organisation has hidden in it's closet.
As a consequence other sports don't report many drug violations and are assumed to be clean by a naive public Interestingly, a few years ago in Australia a former hammer thrower (I think), wrote a book detailing just how rampant drug use was in Australian athletics, and he was vilified by the officials and the media. No investigation of his allegations was undertaken.
So I say to the UCI keep pushing, to the fans keep encouraging and to the critics outside the sport, have a good hard look in your playground before complaining about ours.
WADA and Armstrong
Let's be equally fair and just with Dick Pound. People need to grow into their offices and that means that you have to forgive them sticking their foot in it occasionally. It is likely that most people who seem to not want to understand Pound's error wouldn't be so understanding of others not giving their own mistakes more latitude.
I understand that Pound needs to advertise the fact that performance enhancing drugs are destroying the athletic sports. And if making foolish statements puts it in sharp relief and causes public recognition perhaps, wrong as he is to spotlight cycling, it might have some beneficial effect.
And certainly Armstrong's statements were fully justified in response.
Let's just accept this as a battle in the war on drug use in sports.
When I used to run track in middle school, I trained as long and as hard as the High School guys, to the extent that the coaches had me run with them instead of middle school guys. There was another guy in my middle school who I consistently outdid in all things in training. Nonetheless he beat me half the time in real races. Was he doping?, uh no, he had done other sports in the off season and he probably just had better genes than I did.
A lot of things factor into the doping arguments. I think two things play the big role:
First, for people who do dope, they tend to overestimate their side of the line and underestimate the other. For Gaumont, assuming he is telling the truth, and I think there is at least a 50% he is, he is probably overestimating the amount of people doping simply because the people he knew and worked with by and large doped. Conversely the people who don’t dope, probably tend to underestimate the number of bad seeds because they aren’t hooked up.
Second, I think cycling enthusiasts and the public tends to overestimate the efficacy and the amount of doping in cycling, because it closes the gap between them and their idols. There is a myth out there that you could take myself, someone who rides, at best in late summer, about 225 miles a week, and gave me some dope for a month or two that I’d win races. Sorry it just ain't true. Steroids aren’t half as effective if they are not taken with an extensive training program, same with EPO. Responses to doping products should not be any more uniform than things like allergy medicines or birth control.
Sure a guy sitting on a couch taking steroids and whatever other dope will be stronger than the guy who isn’t, and he might even pass for someone who lifts weights or runs a bit, but his body still will not be conditioned properly, his genes will be the same… We’d like to think that there are these magic drugs that put you on the podium for nothing, they don’t. All other things being equal, including genes, dope definitely gives you a substantial edge, but me on dope would still get dropped by Cipo on any real climb in Europe.
I look at biographies and fact sheets of people like Lance and Jan, and it sticks out at least for the purposes of cycling, they are just genetically better than me and that they have compounded what god gave them by working their asses off towards ideal all round conditioning for the purposes of cycling. From a very early age both of them were beating people who had been in the sport longer and may have even trained harder. Jan was in East Germany and I wouldn’t be surprised if he had access to dope in his early career, but he still beat a lot of other guys who had access. Lance in contrast was a somewhat poor kid in Texas, if he had access, he may not have had the cash. Believing that they dope and that is how they got to the top of the sport seems to require believing that they were either doping since they were about 12 or 14, or that they not only had the best genes for athletics but the best genes for dope at the same time.
Maybe they dope, maybe they don’t. But both of them have a long well documented history though and get tested like mad. Maybe there is a huge conspiracy including thousands of people that lets our cycling heroes dope and never get caught with anything more than some cortisone cream or an ecstasy pill, but somehow it seems a lot more parsimonious to think that the things that get these guys on the podium are the same things that got them there when they were kids, that they have exceptional genes and have worked exceptionally hard since they were kids to become superior athletes.
I agree with Jakob Helmboldt's comments with respect to both Jeremiah Bishop's achievements and regarding income from the sport. One correction that needs to be pointed out is that Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski was the U.S.'s top placed rider in the MTB World's last year and not Jeremiah Bishop!
I'm an XC Elite MTB Racer from Malta and because of the small country I come from, despite being one of my country's top athletes and spending hours training at my expense, I still have to buy my own equipment and pay all the necessary race fees and transport to the races.
I had the opportunity to talk and race with Jeremiah some weeks ago in Cyprus. He is a nice person and despite being rivals, we still cheered on each other whenever either of us was off the bike.
Rather than giving all the credit to Bishop, I think credit must be given to all of the riders who are trying to make ends meet financially in order to continue training and racing well! Unfortunately, the world is made up of knowing the right people at the right time as well as having an element of luck.
However, I think that results speak for themselves and the hard efforts will be rewarded. Maybe not now, maybe after the Olympics, maybe whenever... but when athletes make it up there, they reap the rewards quite well... and I mean WELL!
I just hope I'll be one of them... but it's so hard to achieve because of the limited finance in MTB racing.
Ishmael Muscat (www.ishmaelmuscat.com)
Jordan Sagalowsky wrote, among other things:
But what the heck happened with Andrea Tafi in 2003?
Jon Jay Neufeld
Mr. Sagalowsky couldn't be more correct: Riis is building a legend as a DS. A shame that Ullrich couldn't have found a way to work with CSC- he could surely use the guidance.
Raymond F. Martin
While I'm wholly on board with Jim Strange's excitement over Iban Mayo's improving TT abilities, and the TdF fireworks they presage, I think that Martin McEwen's dismissal of Euskaltel's ability to compete as a team may be a bit hasty. To put Mayo (Zubeldia doesn't climb explosively enough) on the top step at the TdF, Euskaltel needs to do two things - ride a good TTT, and ride like a team that's in the race to support a leader, not like nine guys who just happen to be wearing the same shirt (which has been their habit in the past).
On the TTT front, did anyone watch Paris-Nice? Sammy Sanchez and Gorka Gonzales are in super shape already; if they can keep that form through July they will have the strength to contribute to a passable TTT; that makes at least 4 strong guys.
More importantly, Euskaltel needs to ride as a team. That means *practice* the TTT, not just show up to ride it, and commit to supporting Mayo in an organized, systematic way, rather than gunning for stage wins or gratuitous TV time with guys constantly flying up the road to wave the orange flag. Is this going to happen? My thinking on the likelihood of that changed when I read Cyclingnews' Feb 26 interview with Euskaltel's DS and several key riders:
If they can embrace this attitude consistently, Iban Mayo can win the Tour, maybe even this year.
Has Stuart O'Grady become the invisible man ?
Sad to see he managed only one miserly mention in your MSR report - and that was in the last sentence. Your reporter however, mentioned just about everyone else.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't third place - and in the process beating most of the world's best sprinters - significant in such a high-profile race ?
From the UCI web site . . .
World Cup Road 2004 Men
Funny, I don't see any races in the United States, Australia, South America, Asia, Africa, or even the UK, yet we never hear the kinds of complaints Mr. McMillan is voicing in regards to the European setting of the entire "World" Cup series. He can't have it both ways.
As far as running at least one World Cup race outside of Europe I believe that the UCI has turned down applications for World Cup status to races in other countries (especially the United States) for this exact reason--the races are in other countries. The logistics of moving teams and their equipment, the time differences--it's the same argument used in discussions of moving the Tour prologue to Montreal, or the UK for that matter.
Don't you realize how much this reinforces the idea that the British will find any opportunity to bash Americans--even at the cost of sensible arguments.
I for one applaud the efforts of Mr. Brady and Mr. Chase to raise the profile of cycling in the United States and I hope they succeed. As for the name of their series, I could care less what they call it.
The 'World' Cycling Series
I am in total agreement with Mr. McMillan's letter. The use of the word "Worlds" is sometimes used without the respect this title is due.
As race director of The Bank of America Invitational, in Charlotte, North Carolina, I was surprised to see in the March 18th news column, a statement by the organizers of the proposed series that "if all goes to plan" our race will be included in the series". That's news to me!! I know of no negotiations or pending agreement that could lead anyone to assume this. We are however in negotiations with another television network concerning coverage and I hope the the statements made by the organizers of the World Cycling Series do not damage our progress.
I wish the Organizers of The World Cycling Series success, but please not at the expense of others.
I would like to know how Javier Oxtoa is doing, now, in 2004. It would be greatly appreciated (I think by many fans as well as by me) to have some update as to his level of recovery. I don't want anyone to intrude on his privacy; but, he must know that there are lots of fans who think about him (and his late brother, Ricardo) on a regular basis... with affection. It would be great to be able to "cheer him along" again during a race--ANY RACE!! (Of course, I've already been silently cheering him on--and praying for him--these past many, many, many months....). Anyway, I'd like to know more about him. Thank you.
Mary Ann Blood
Well, a bit of data munging yields...
1914 - 11 winners
for the more modern era, the leaders are...
1970 - 8 winners
1972 - 8 winners
and, of the races with only one winner present, two can still change and one is the very first
1999 - 1 winner
2002 - 1 winner
1903 - 1 winner
From: Bob Arning
Max number of champions in a TDF
Here is a list of the numbers of past or future winners participating in TdF
1969: 7 winners: Van Impe, Merckx, Ocana, Janssen, Pingeon, Aimar, Gimondi.
In 1970 and 1972 there wre 8 past or future winners. I haven't checked the numbers before 1969.
The numbers for the last couple of years will probably increase in the future,
You can search all riders of TdF (since 1903) here: www.letour.fr/2004/presentationus/retro.html
First off, I was surprised to get a response to my rant from John Lieswyn, a consummate pro. Unlike myself, admittedly a past B Grade clunker, John walks the real walk. I thank him for a enlightening insight to the race scene as he deals with it and I do agree that there are times racing when you just know when to get going regardless. As I had mentioned in my original letter, as the tight money in pro racing means that any innovation that may help bring the results could be implemented, mechanical or otherwise. Radios are a obvious and cheap tool, that relays required information.
I think in my first letter, I should have suggested that I felt that radios, used in conjunction with car televisions, as in at least the last Tour de France (probably most other major races also) do lend themselves to stifling a race, when a team director can see the entire race scenario and judge what his options are by seeing it real time, I think the inference here is that having an all seeing eye and instant communication knocks holes in race spontaneity. I know that as others have said, riders have off days, blow, crash and find that their legs so have that extra something in them, and that's racing.
But we can whinge all we want, hairnets, downtube shifters and toeclips are
Thanks again to John, best of luck to you.
While I would not want to argue with Michele Ferrari's obvious professional credentials on race observation, that was not quite how I saw the race when I watched it on Eurosport in 92. Sure Kelly came down the Poggio like a bullet taking amazing risks but the race was not won there it was won in the streets of San Remo - or should I say lost in the streets of San Remo. Argentin was looking all over the winner. I can still see him pounding the pedals on the run in, but at one point about a kilometre from the finish he turned to look round to see what was going on behind. When he saw that it was Kelly, you could almost read his mind. "Shit it's Kelly!" (or whatever in Italian). His body language was tangible - he turned into a deflated balloon from that point on. He had totally lost the race in his mind at that one brief moment. Kelly's presence was such that it turned him into the loser long before they came together for the sprint. Kelly came up to his wheel-and the rest as they say was history.
I can still remember feeling the hairs standing on the back of my neck as I jumped up from the couch screaming Kelly's got it! He's got it!
On the subject of sprinters vs. climbers, I have to agree that there are such huge differences between pros and the rest of us. My flashback of 2 riders prominent in the 1987 Tour of Ireland shall follow...
For example, remember years ago when Malcolm Elliot came over from Europe and climbed with the "climbers" on the domestic calendar? Anyone remember Redlands that year? They guy won everything AND could sprint. It's good to see him back at the gates again.
I also remember being at a race in Florida after my head injury back in 1990. David Mann came to that race (which I had ridden the previous year) and got about 2 minutes on the field in a single pretty flat 10km final lap.
He is also a sprinter, but both he and Malcolm had such a super high fitness that they could ride with these guys at the shorter distances they have here.
Is Tobias Steinhauser a real person?
Me a my cycling mates have been asking ourselves this question for some time now. We read about Jan Ullrich going on training camps with Tobias Steinhauser to Tuscany, Mallorca, the Black Forest, Spain, the French Alps and South Africa, however, we have never seen a photo of this Tobias Steinhauser. In fact he rarely seems to race and only trains with Jan? Is he a figment of Jan's imagination? If anyone can provide photographic evidence that this person actually exists it would be greatly appreciated.
I have been given an old woollen top from a friend of a friend, who has no idea where it came from. It has the above wording on the front. It's royal blue with white letters, and in good nick. It's even got buttons on the 3 back pockets. It looks like it may date back to the 50s or 60s. Can anybody help with some more info about the team, age etc of this item?
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