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Letters to Cyclingnews - May 7, 2004
I'd like to bring something to light that I'm not proud of discerning. I must say that I suspect the recent Afscheids Criterium Johan Museeuw, won by Johan Museeuw, was fixed. I'm sorry, yes, fixed. I can feel the collective gasps as I write this but I don't feel that the race was "on the up and up", as it were.
My evidence? Circumstantial to be sure but, I daresay, compelling. Take a look:
1: The photo of Johan atop a winner's step, with a sign reading "sportclub dankt Johan". Did they have one of those made up for every potential winner? I think not. And there isn't even a second and third place step. Plus, I think that step was dangerously high to be climbing in cleats. He's, like, six feet off the tarmac. If anyone fell off that, that'd be the end of his career.
Second: what kind of a name for a sports club is 'sportclub'? Do they have rules? Is the first rule of sportclub, you do not talk about sportclub? Is the second rule the same as the first? I beseech you.
And C: The top three was an impressive list of riders but whereof their finishing times? That's right, no times were recorded that day, my friends. Does that trigger a resounding hmmm! among you? It should.
There's more, probably.
I would like to see a vigorous investigation by the Belgian authorities on this one. Very vigorous indeed.
Like Nigel Scott, I am always amazed by the memory spans of cycling fans. I think it should actually be a diagnosable disease. I'm calling it Tour Alzheimer's Disease. It seems as though cycling fans forget about all previous Tours during the winter months. It must be all the extra body fat accumulation. Every year I hear the same worries about the same people. Okay people listen up:
1) Ullrich has been actually heavier than he is right now (last year being the exception) in previous years and still showed well at the Tour. I'm tired of hearing this complaint every year. The man is a juggernaut... plain and simple.
2) Armstrong is Armstrong. In past Tours he was a superman so IF(!) he is in decline then what does that make him? Hmmm... I say a powerhouse. Please calm yourselves and remember Armstrong is not only strong in body but also mind. His tactics win races even when his body (rarely) betrays him.
The only determination of how each will do at the Tour is ... well .... the Tour.
Actually I don't even know why I bothered ranting about all of this, most of you will forget everything I said come winter time. I think I'll keep a copy of this e-mail so that I can send it again this time next year.
Jan Ullrich #2
I am a big fan of Jan's for various reasons, but like many, I am begining to wonder if he will ever show his fans the two attributes that all champions have: brilliance AND consistency.
Looking at him, I don't feel his weight is too bad right now. It has been a lot worse at this time in previous years but his form is no longer open to interpretation, it is just plain poor. To begin with early in the season, it was not a worry, but it does not seem to be improving and I have read reports saying that he is not racing for the next few weeks. This sounds awfully similar to the past, when he realised his form was not up to scratch and had to go back to square one with long base miles, instead of continuing to progress at the same rate as his opposition. Jan's race schedule seems to be changing by the week, which is not a good sign.
Last year, he put in far better performances than by this time. However, he will naturally come good by July but like most years, 'good' is just not enough to win the biggest race in the world. I think that Jan is making things more difficult on himself and as if he needed to do that: with the ongoing rift between Rudy and Walter, numerous star riders in his team just waiting to prove their worth as a leader, Jan does not have the kind of environment to prepare well.
It is understandable, that at the age of 30 with a (huge) three-year contract, Jan won't ever have to ride fast again to be financially comfortable for the rest of his life.
I know it is early, but with Jan seemingly in trouble, Joseba still battling injuries and other big names still in training mode, Lance could find it easier in July than anyone would've predicted last year.
Finally, everyone seems to criticise Lance for being too focused on one particular race, but I dare you to compare his results to all other tour contenders (except Vino) this year and see who is really the one guilty of focusing on one event, it is Jan.
Well I am not sure how to respond to such critical words, having known George and his family for many years and racing and training with him for more than a decade.
First the life of a PRO is very difficult and requires huge amounts of motivation to get yourself to a high level ,let alone stay there. VERY FEW amateur riders can even imagine the effort, pain and suffering to get to competitive level. Every year George is up there, more than you can say for most other pros.
Second, he is committed to team goals and sacrifices himself with a 110 percent effort. Have you not seen his huge improvements in becoming a more complete rider? His commitment to improvement will find him training on the hardest climbs and the worst weather here locally (in the Carolinas), when he could be training like a sprinter always holding back something and being selfish with his efforts.
Third, the press creates the idea that not winning is failure. Ask any top rider about failing to win, he will tell you he was beaten by a stronger or better man, instead of blaming and making excuses for failure. George has always been a honest rider letting his legs do the talking.
Fourth Any Pro team will tell you a Tour win is better than dominating the classics.
The Tour is the biggest show on earth. We are unlikely to ever see such success again from a U.S. sponsored team
Bravo George on your many years of hard work; you are a part of history, and a integral part of Postal's success
Telling it like it is,
Skip Spangenburg, ex pro
(Skip Spangenburg rode for the Navigators team in 1997 and 1998 - Ed)
George Hincapie #2
Finally someone calls it like it is - George is not a 'closer'. He has failed time and time again to display the killer instinct of the great champions of the sport. Even Tyler talks like a winner now, but George displays all the intensity of one of Lance's Credit Lyonnaise TdF lions. He's a great team player, an exceptional rider, and a crucial element to the USPS TdF team. I've counted myself as a fan of his for years and would like nothing more than to see him holding that pave trophy high above his mud-spattered face. But I'm losing faith. Frankie Andreau showed more inspiration in his last ride at Roubaix. If only George would ride someone else into the ditch instead of himself. He has shown that he has what it takes to be one of the first guys out of the Arenberg Forest but I'm starting to believe poor puppy George could ride onto the velodrome alone and still not make the podium at Roubaix.
While Mr. Beesley seems to have a good idea, the practicalities of medical advice prevent teams from using doctors from a centrally located 'approved' group. I believe he is on to one thing though - team doctors have a responsibility to their employers as well as a responsibility to their patients and if there's one thing that this combination doesn't need it is even more pressure to succeed.
But we also have to look at this from a doctor's point of view. If a patient, a professional rider, comes to him for advice and the racer suggests drugs, the doctor has an ethical dilemma. If he doesn't prescribe his patient the drugs that the racer believes will bring about the desired effect, there is a good chance that the patient may go to another and less ethical doctor whose advice and treatment might harm the patient. Or perhaps the racer will dope himself and make mistakes that can cause grave physical harm.
And let's face it, medicine is a job and the worker engages in this line of work for remuneration. Part of the pressures on a doctor are to make his living. The difference is that we seldom expect the elevated morals and ethics from a factory worker or a farm laborer that we expect from the least financially successful doctors. There really are pressures to make the customer happy beyond simply not caring.
Information on the true effects of performance enhancing drugs is sparse and mostly anecdotal. Some doctors who try to explain the effects and dangers of performance enhancing drugs to racers are either disbelieved by riders or are completely misunderstood. Moreover if you are a medically uneducated person and a doctor tries to dispassionately describe the effects and side effects of various drugs you could mistake his explanations as recommendations. How many doctors trying to fulfill their moral duty to their patients have been described to others as "doping doctors"? "He didn't prescribe any drugs for me but he explained to me what I needed," and the doctor's reputation is permanently stained. Is it any wonder why some doctors won't even accept professional athletes as patients?
And please let us remember that performance-enhancing drugs are in every sport and often some in which it makes no sense at all such as BASEBALL! Babe Ruth certainly didn't use any performance enhancing drugs that didn't have a cork in the bottle.
Surely the answer is something like Mr. Beesley suggests but on a far grander scale. Riders should be required to attend only doctors who have received recommendation from a controlling body. And that recommendation should require strict training in recognizing the symptoms of drug use. I would suggest that the international Olympic organization probably be the only one of sufficient stature to set such standards.
Furthermore I would suggest that doctors who recognize symptoms of drugging should have the responsibility to report such symptoms even when they are of a questionable nature. For instance, EPO use leaves tell-tale signatures in the blood but there is little scientific evidence to suggest that these same symptoms cannot be caused by more mundane causes such as minor infections and the like. An athlete who shows these symptoms should be put immediately on a "watch list" in which the physical health of the athlete could be monitored more closely and at more regular intervals.
Jesus Manzano's ideas of how you can avoid detection struck me as often juvenile and depend more upon luck or irresponsible laboratory practices than upon valid parameter manipulations. For instance: certainly if you are prescribed a skin cream that contains certain steroids it will show up in blood testing and could conceivably be used to foil tests for similar steroids taken intravenously. However, the concentrations would only match for a very short period of time. There is no shooting up steroids in Sunday and using your skin cream as an excuse for steroid detection on Tuesday. And yet we saw Lance test negative on one day and the French press screaming "doper" the very next day when minute quantities of steroids were found in his blood stream consistent with a skin cream. So such a watch list would work to provide documentation that an athlete is truly clean and also foil any athlete who might believe that he could get away with doping by using some scheme or other.
In closing I believe that it is the responsibility of all professional sporting organizations to provide the answers to the dope problem. All athletes are equally in danger of having their own results disqualified by cheaters and unethical athletes of lesser capabilities or simply lesser dedication. The only way that I think we are going to be able to do this is with international cooperation and an ethical standard that is designed to protect all involved from the racers themselves to doctors to the lowliest team mechanic.
Doping and team doctors #2
In response to Mr. David Beesley's letter about doping and team doctors, let me say that I agree with much of the basic thought Mr. Beesley set out and it is a positive step. However, in the real world it just won't work, who's going to go along with it, the UCI?
I think we are looking at part of the solution as it unfolds with the Cofidis team. I really liked the pluck of Stuart O'Grady to stand up to Philippe Gaumont and say hey, "you are the one who tested positive, not us." It is going to be up to the riders to be pro-active and stand up for their rights. They can darn well race with a clean test.
If the riders don't stand up for themselves, the media will gladly step in and take over. I realize that this is no solution, but it is a step in the right direction and it puts the ball back in the cheater's court.
Cyclists are tested more than anyone and testing clean gives them the right to ride whether they play by the rules or around them, this isn't the only sport with problems.
Thank you Stuart O' for standing up for your self and for all
Just a friendly note on the probability calculation. It's a good observation to note there are five ways to obtain a three streak in the Spring. However, we can't just take 0.153 and multiply by five.
Consider a very long Spring season, and imagine that there were 300 possible chances of winning a three streak. This would yield a probability of 1.0125. That would suggest that the probability of winning three in a row is guaranteed if there were 300 chances of winning. Something is obviously wrong. What needs to be done, is we need to calculate in the ways of losing. That is we need 5*0.15^3*0.85^4 This gives the probability of winning 3 in a row, and losing all the other races. Of course we could look at the probability of winning three in a row, plus all the other ways of winning and losing races, but the point is is that you always have to accuount in one way or the other what happens in the other races. Problems like these can often be combinatoric nightmares.
Nevertheless, Rebellin is awesome. If I had his strength I wouldn't have to work on statistics for a living.
You had to see it coming. USPS could not last as a sponsor. Kudos to them for entering the market and sticking with it for as long as they did. The general public would never support the sponsorship... the same reason why the "general public" in their pickup trucks and minivans consistently runs cyclists off the road. The genius of USPS's sponsorship is lost on the masses.
But it is not lost on society or the millions of cycling fans who watch the best team in cycling today. This is the time where international conglomerates need to step up and jump on this sponsorship opportunity. Where is Microsoft, Intel, UPS, LG, Motorola, Guinness, Fosters, Budweiser, etc., etc., I just think that you have the core, it'seasy to step in with the dollars and reap the rewards.
Kudos also to the postal worker who spoke up... sound off!
US Postal stops sponsorship #2
Am I the only one in the world who thinks the end of US Postal is a good thing for cycling? Sure, Lance has given them five consecutive Tours and maybe a sixth to come. But at what cost?
With the exception of last year's team time trial, not one Postal rider has won a Tour stage while Lance was riding, pre or post cancer! He rode for Motorola in 1993-96 and not one rider took a stage other than Lance who had two, one in '93 and one following Fabio Casartelli's tragic death in '95. During his Tour binge from 1999-03 not one teammate won a stage. Lance won plenty, but that's it.
Maybe the dissolution of US Postal will give some of the other talents on the team the opportunity to strike out on their own and have some success. Tyler is flourishing, Julich has resurrected his career and Leipheimer may do something. Landis is a talent as well. Most notably, maybe George will finally find the support to put a few "W"s on his palmares.
Postal will soon be gone, but I won't be shedding any tears.
Mercado in the Top 5 in Paris at the conclusion of the TdF 2004? When I read that I thought I must have been on some of Manzano's medicine! Although Mr. Pickell has "followed closely the young career of Juan Miguel Mercado", he clearly has not followed closely the past couple of TdF's or the emerging GC riders in the peloton.
Who of the following is Mercado likely to finish ahead of in Paris? Certainly not Lance. Or Jan or Tyler or Iban Mayo or Haimar Zubeldia or Ivan Basso. I doubt he will finish ahead of Mancebo or Menchov or Vinokourouv or Sastre or Beltran or even Lance's new mate Azevedo. And let's not forget Heras, who gets to ride for himself for the first time since the 2000 TdF, where he finished fifth on GC. And I haven't even included the likes of Moreau, Beloki or Botero as they may or may not recover their form in time for July. That puts Mercado in, at best, a Top 20 position... which will be even more difficult to achieve as he is not even the captain for his team! The naked truth is that he'll be riding domestique duties for Virenque as he goes for yet another maillot pois. And the real GC hope of the future at Quick.Step is Michael Rogers (who can climb AND time trial), not Mercado.
Your devotion to Mercado is commendable, I'll grant you that. But Mercado in the Top 5 on GC at this year's TdF? Wake up and smell the Saeco-brewed coffee!
The Australian Track Championships on the news last night showed the great Sean Eadie riding in front of the classic "two men and a dog" at Sydney's Dunc Gray Velodrome.
In 2003 I visited Sydney, and being a keen cyclist, I took the opportunity to visit track cycling venue of the Sydney Olympics with my son. On advice from Cycling Australia, we caught a train to the closest station. From there we could have caught a bus to the velodrome, except there was no bus information, but a sign saying "Bus Stop" about 200 metres up the road. I decided to hang the expense and call a taxi. When I told the taxi driver that I wanted to go to the Dunc Gray Velodrome in Bankstown, he was confused because according to his computer, there is no Dunc Gray Velodrome in Bankstown. It's in the neighbouring suburb despite the Olympic publicity talking about the Dunc Gray Velodrome at Bankstown.
We found the elusive shrine of Australian Track Cycling and found some good seats in the crowd of almost 100. We had a great afternoon especially as we saw the Meares sisters ride the 500m ITT and some of the boys from our club compete in the Teams Pursuit.
For convenience we called a taxi to return to the city. When the taxi finally found us, we settled into our $65 journey back to the city. Getting spectators to track cycling in sports-crazy Australia's biggest city is time-consuming, difficult and expensive, and that's just if you live in Sydney.
So it's not surprising to see the stands empty. Les Murray from SBS was giving away free tickets to the Australian Championships. Getting in is the easy part, Les!
In response to Chris Williams letter concerning Pro Tour selection choices, I would like to say that I don't know why Giro del Lazio and the GP Ouest-France has been omitted from inclusion to Pro Tour.
I also would like to state, that I do not like the Pro Tour concept at all, as it will kill smaller teams and smaller races. However I must disagree with his outrage of including Tour of Poland in the Pro Tour.
Tour of Poland is one of the oldest national tours. Only the period of communism in the eastern Europe stopped it from breaking out in to the more prominent race during the post war period. After breaking the chains of communism, it rapidly stared to grow in stature and UCI ranking year after year, reaching category 2.2. It is well organized and well attended race that many top international riders want to came back and compete in it.
I just wonder, on what bases Chris Williams would like to see Tour of Britain included, instead of Tour of Poland? It is because its ranking of 2.3 is lower than a Polish race? Or perhaps Britain is lower in nations ranking? Or maybe because Britain "actually has some half decent riders"? Oh yes. All two of them.
David Millar and Roger Hammond are decent riders, but there is no depth. In the top 500 in UCI ranking there is only 5 British riders comparing to Poland's 16.
Portugal and Denmark are more valid choices. But even there, only Denmark is higher in UCI ranking, but its national tour is not as long and selective as the Polish one. Additionally Poland with its 40 million population is more marketable place with larger TV audience, which seams to be a factor according to UCI president Hein Verbruggen.
It is always better to know the facts, before someone starts pound on the keyboard with sour grapes spilling all over it.
I think that you can return to cycling and competitive cycling but it has to be done with wisdom and time. The earliest I would put you back on a bike would probably be at around 12 weeks post-op and that would be on level ground and using low gears. The problem is that when you are clipped in, you are at risk of pulling up as forcefully as you push and the hip flexor muscles are pretty tender and weak and very prone to tendonitis from overuse. This is unfortunately a very difficult tendonitis to get rid of, so best not to get it in the first place.
I would spend month 3 to month 6 post surgery increasing distance and then start to progressively advance my speed and hills. Of course if you fall, you would like to fall to the non-operative side to prevent dislocation. Dislocations do not occur easily but falls facilitate dislocations. I, of course, am a strong believer in rehab and I run a fairly aggressive rehab program for joint replacements at Vanderbilt. The people that I see dislocating their hips are rarely from trauma and most always are from incomplete rehab.
Another concern is mounting the bike, which I am sure you are now doing with your least painful limb and that's how you would continue post-op. The pedaling is a uniplanar motion which is safe and not ever a dislocating position, it is only when you combine motions (flexion with abduction or internal or external rotation) that you get into trouble.
Are you in Nashville? If so, Dr. Andrew Shinar at Vanderbilt is doing really good work with minimally invasive hips with rapid recovery (23 hour admit and walking next day)... but don't let that fool you as there is still a recovery period for strength and endurance. Dr. Thomas Byrd at St. Thomas is doing arthroscopes of hips (if you have cartilage left) and removing bone spurs around the hip joint with fairly good success.
The Synvisc shots into the hips under fluoroscope have not yet proven themselves to be beneficial as they have been for knees. This is probably way more info than you signed on for, but better informed than not.
As you say, it is a quality of life operation and when your quality of life hits the snags you are no longer happy to tolerate, then it is time to go for the knife. Hip revisions usually do not occur unless there is some major reason as the hardware in use these days has an ever increasing life. At this time they are predicting at least 20 years or more for longevity of prostheses and that is a guesstimate since they are doing so well. Let me know if I can help you further at any time.
Good luck and best wishes.
Sheila Gaffney, PTMS
(Sheila Gaffney is a recreational cyclist and a physical therapist specialized in joint replacements. Her daughter, Lauren Gaffney, is a professional racer with Team Basis)
Cycling and hip replacement #2
I'm responding to Brian Lafferty's letter posted today.
I had a fall in the Simpson Desert Cycle Classic in October 2000. Injuries sustained were dislocated shoulder, fractured humerus, fractured right neck of femur. After an operation to pin the femur together I was on crutches waiting for the bone to heal but avascular necrosis of the femoral head started and six months to the day after the fall I went in and had a total hip replacement. I got on the bike again in July 2001, maybe one month after I could have done. In October 2001 I did 160km - the old imperial century. Since then I have raced, ridden longer distances and even had a fall without any problems.
Every case is different and my experience is unusual as I was "only" 41 at the time of the fall but tell your friend that it is more than possible! My only advice; get a great surgeon, a fantastic rehab physio and do what they say!
Cycling and hip replacement #3
I had a hip replacement seven years ago. My concern also was can I ride at a respectable level again as I was a keen masters competitor. The answer is a resounding yes, maybe not up to the high level I was at before but certainly very respectable on the competition front. Four hour rides at around 30kph are no problem but you may find that you will have to back off from the strength training, but listen to your medical people,have patience and it will all come together. It's worth it just to get rid of the pain and have your life back! Feel free to contact me if you need any other feedback.
Cycling and hip replacement #4
My coach had a hip replacement a few years ago and he is now 65+ and going strong, he races here in Australia in the Masters Category against people who are half his age and places (Av speed 35km+, which I think is a little faster than 20mph) . He just finished second in the Masters National Time Trial and third in the Criterium. He also races in open club races and races quite competitively.
He has been racing for over 45 years, so I think that helped him recover. From memory he recovered quite quickly and responded very well to the physio, I think he did a lot of ergo work after given the all clear which helped him get the legs back before touching the road bike.
All in all it was successful for him.
All the best for your friend
Cycling and hip replacement #5
55 years old seems unusually young to be needing such drastic treatment as hip replacement. At the current state of this technology in the UK, I understand that surgeons prefer to carry out the operation as late in life as possible because of the need to renew the entire component every few years; I've also heard this can be done reliably only a couple of times because of damage to the bones during the replacement process.
That said, we have in our East Hertfordshire CTC section a 78 year old who had both hips replaced four years ago and still (just about) manages to average 20mph in a 10 mile time trial. Obviously the technological limitations are something he is acutely aware of, and needs to limit both mileage and excessive climbing stresses but not his enjoyment of cycling - he's still perfectly capable of 50 mile Sunday runs.
Cycling and hip replacement #6
I have a friend who underwent hip replacement two years ago. After the recovery period prescribed by his physician, he returned to cycling and rode 20+ mph without any problems - and we didn't have to watch his knee going sideways any longer!
Cycling and hip replacement #7
Brian, have your friend go to the Yahoo SurfaceHippy website. There are a few people who have had hip resurfacing (not total replacement) on that site that are not only cycling but racing. Your friend may be a candidate. Resurfacing is not yet FDA approved but should be sometime this year. If not there is a very good hip doctor in Belgium by the name of Koen De Smet. People from around the world are flocking to him to have their hip done.
Cycling and hip replacement #8
I have a friend who had double hip replacement (separately) due to martial arts wear and tear and is now an avid, strong cyclist. He described the post-op discomfort as severe but unavoidable. I would encourage your friend to be optimistic of future cycling activity. Surely the doctor involved would be able to inform friend as such. My thought would be the sooner the procedure done the sooner the rehab could be completed. I wish him luck.
Cycling and hip replacement #9
How about TWO hip replacements? A friend and fellow club rider has had BOTH hips replaced and his performance after the most recent replacement led me and another club rider to wonder if he had any actual bone replaced at all. Our current theory is that he's a cyborg who's sole programming is to make us suffer and rather than a hip replacement, he was actually back at the shop for some maintenance and fine tuning.
He's currently out of town for another week or so. I'll make sure he sees this letter when he returns.
Last year I did the tour of Ariege, a French department in the Pyrenees. Each rider was supplied with a band that attached round the ankle with velcro. Each device was numbered and so presumably, contained an electronic device with a unique code. At two places in the tour we had to ride over large, rubber mats which picked up a signal from the ankle band. This were used to ensure everyone did the circuit. At the finish we all had to ride through a narrow channel where, again, the signal was picked up. Not only was every individual time recorded but the results and classifications were posted shortly after the finish.
Maybe the suppliers have a longer range system that could be adapted for race conditions.
The details below should help you contact the tour organisers:
No doubt they could put you in contact with the suppliers of the system.
PS Anyone losing their band was levied €40.
In South Africa most of our races are timed by one of two chip based systems. The largest of these races is the Cape Argus Cycle Tour around the Peninsular in Cape Town, which has 35,000 entrants, each getting an individual race time. However, the same system is often used for club races of less than 500 riders. Each rider has to carry a small, lightweight encoded chip, either on a velcro strap around his or her ankle, or on a small bracket attached to the front fork. The riders pass over timing maps at the start and finish to record their time.
The South African websites for the two systems are as follows:
I have seen a few systems working try this link to a London Ontario cycling club LCW.ca and go to the timing section. I'm sure if that didn't answer your questions you could contact them.
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