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Letters to Cyclingnews - November 5, 2004
A 19km ITT to start the 2005 Tour? Sounds like yellow colored dreams for Lance Armstrong. How could he resist a start without a prologue in the land where he gained time in his first Tour win of 1999 (the Passage du Gois from Ile de Noirmoutier). What else could they do for Lance? How about a tribute to Casartelli? Yes, we shall have that on the Col de Portet. Yet, this Tour is balanced, challenging, and significantly different from the Giro and Vuelta.
No mountain TT, no Alpe d'Huez, no Ventoux. Sounds like it would benefit the aging superstar of the peloton. Certainly not what Mayo was hoping for. Plus, the opening stage of 19 km may keep the sprinters out of yellow. I am sure that France knows Armstrong would never try to keep the yellow jersey for 3 weeks straight. Letting Voekler lead the Tour for over a week (in 2004) deserves such a reward. Who will be this year's man? How about Chavanel or Moreau? But this isn't the Ride of the Roses either. Hostile territory awaits in Germany, with a finish and a stage start. Perhaps someone will dare to attack Armstrong on Indurain's heartache hill, the Cornet de Roselend climb on stage 10, instead of the final ride into Paris. Those ridiculous TTT rules will no doubt handicap the Discovery team once again.
Of great interest this year will be the climbers polka dot jersey. Mayo, Valverde, or more likely, Cunego (who will not have g.c. pressure) will make this exciting, especially on stage 15.
Time to go program a few of these stages to race over this winter.
Tour 2005 #2
Whilst the entire unveiling of the route of the Tour de France is always interesting, I was particularly drawn to one sentence in your report:
"With the same rules as this year, significant gaps ([n the Team Time Trial] cannot be created."
What? Surely the utter farce seen last July would have forced organisers to re-think this nonsense!
If we must limit time gaps, but why not do it in another way? I propose that any time gaps should be halved. Therefore, each team still has to race all the way through, and we won't have the idiocy of huge losses to riders tailed-off by only a few seconds (a la Simoni in 2004).
I saw the letter from James Wilson about his new wife Adrienne, and knowing both of these folks for several years now, I can only express sincere congratulations and hope for their best in their new life together. Then I open up the letters page again this Friday and see more exultations from others about their cycling spouses, and how they are supported in every way. The only question I have is this; where are you finding these women and can you send some my way?
I'd have to say that some of my relationships in the recent past have failed because of cycling. Because I ride a lot, and the woman in my life at whatever time period it may be considered herself to be second, behind the bike. Maybe this is true, but I didn't think it was. So what I'm saying here brothers is to share the wealth. If any of your cycling spouses have sisters who would be just as supportive, send them over this way. Can't a brother get a break here?
Is it just me, or does it seem that cyclists are some of the trendiest athletes out there? Does anyone, professional or amateur, really need a $10,000 time trial frame, or $3000 wheels? I love new technology, and I sincerely look forward to shows like Interbike, but wow there's a lot expensive, good for nothing, crap out there! Have we become so superficial that we base our purchases on cosmetics alone, or just hype? I must reiterate that I also fall prey to these vices, but heck at least I've gotten over the denial!
What facts do I base my thoughts on, you ask? Well, the fact that peloton speeds have only marginally increased in the past 30 years. Which I attribute to better coaching, and a different racing style. Also, answer me this, who still has the record for the fastest time trial? Greg LeMond, riding an old-school steel rig, back in 1989, with an average speed of 54.54 km/h (33.89 m/h). I'm not suggesting that we all go back 30 years or anything, but let's just be honest. Is all this expensively hyped equipment really worth it?
I just had to respond to Michael Williams' immature, frothing diatribe against Lance Armstrong. Mr Williams, LA was simply responding to an interviewer's question, and you somehow used his answer as an excuse to display your dislike for the man. Actually, I think he made a very good point -- Davide Rebellin proved this year that he is one of the most formidable one-day specialists in the world. Who can forget his incredible three straight wins at the Amstel Gold Race, Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège? You would be hard-pressed to find anyone in the cycling world that didn't think it was ridiculous not to select him for the Italian World's team.
Lance doesn't need to answer to Michael Williams, me or anyone else for that matter if he decides not to ride the World's. He has made it clear over and over again that he believes that the World's is held way too late in the year, and many others agree. No other cyclist in the world deals with as many demands on their time and energy as LA does, and after a stressful season it is not surprising that he chooses to spend time with family and other worthy pursuits such as the Tour of Hope, rather than racing in October. His absence also gives other American riders a shot at his vacant team spot. As far as LA's knee problem goes, he stated that it appeared at the end of the Tour de France, and flared up in training in August and September. If you are on your way to winning a sixth straight Tour, don't you think you would have to be on your deathbed to abandon the race?
And what's this about "cherry picking"? As far as I know, that term is usually used when an athlete enters a lower category event to have a better chance of winning -- somehow I don't think that applies to the Tour de France! And finally, Mr. Williams, I have never heard LA make an excuse for anything. He didn't ride the T-Mobile classic because of his knee problem, which is a very wise decision considering the course profile!
You don't have to like the guy, but at least try not to make a fool of yourself.
Lance on Italian selection #2
I couldn't agree more with Mr. Williams: as Lance chooses to ride only one race a year with any effort, how can he point the finger at the Italians for botching their World Championship team selection. Where's he been for the last couple of Olympics and the last several Worlds?
This is one reason why Eddy M is the best ever, recent Sports Illustrated polls notwithstanding. And how can Lance be so callous as to not watch the Worlds? He's good for Lance, but bad for cycling. Hope he retires soon.
Raymond F. Martin
Lance on Italian selection #3
Mikey, get over yourself, Lance is 1.) Not killing pro cycling with his "cherry picking" Most riders would be making themselves vulnerable focusing so sharply on one event, not to mention it's the biggest, most competitively fielded race of the year. He picks the toughest race of the year, bar none. And he kicks everyone's butts, whether guys like you like it or not. Why don't you drag your sorry butt over to France and see how easy it is to pick Lance's favorite cherry, I've been there, you need to learn to pay bicycle racing a little more respect. Dopers are hurting cycling not riders like Lance.
2.) Lance is never going to answer to people like you, He doesn't have to. He has a family and a life, and something he is committed to in a profound way: Giving hope (and money) to cancer patients. Because he's been to the edge and he knows what they are facing, and he wants to give as much as he can And he is more grateful to be alive and have children of his own, than you could ever understand. He's worked harder than most people can even comprehend, meanwhile all you do is jabber about the "excuses" he never gave. You owe it to yourself to pick up his book "It's Not About the Bike" read it, and then look in the mirror and ask yourself the question: "Who's really the Putz?"
Finally, for all the Lance detractors out there, learn to live with it, because his place in history is guaranteed. And it will be quite a while before anybody will match, much less surpass his record, at the world's Grand Boucle. It's too bad for all the detractors, that they can't appreciate the opportunity to witness such excellence in their midst. But, then again, it's their problem, Au revoir.
Ralph Michael Emerson
Tuesday, November 2, 2004
If you look back over LA's schedule last year, you will see he rode more than one race. He won the Tour De Georgia, He rode the Dauphine Libéré, He rode the Tour of Languedoc Roussillon, He rode the Critérium International, He rode the Tour of Algarve, He rode the Tour of Murcia and then of course WON IN HUGE FASHION the Tour De France. Now, maybe you don't follow cycling very closely but if I count correctly, that is seven races including the Tour and he finished every race. Contrast that to Jan Ullrich's schedule:
Murchia Rundfart: one day
Sure he rode the Olympics and a few races afterwards but he clearly was exhausted. LA's knee? He has the right to say it was sore at the tour and to make the decision to make sure it is okay for the '05 season by not riding in San Francisco. If you have ever tried to ride those hills or even walk them you would clearly understand his decision.
That is only eight races, three of which were only one day. So let me understand this... who else in the top realm of riders rode more than one big race for the year and did very well in 04? He won more than one race but if you look at the other guys who lose that big-race focus, they lose to Lance every year. Lance is great for cycling. Look at the ratings, etc. What excuses is he making? Sorry guys... time for me to take a little time off! I want to be with my family, lead my Armstrong foundation and help with the Tour of Hope and inspire people, rest my knee so I can pound the guys with a lack of discipline for 05. Please use a rider who you think is great for cycling so we can understand who you are comparing LA to? Jan? Tyler? Iban? Then please show us their win record and schedule.
Lance on Italian selection #5
Armstrong's a bit tough to take sometimes, but at least pick some legit reasons to call him out. It's apples and oranges. Rebellin desperately wanted to take part in Worlds, but the selector didn't pick him. How is that comparable to Armstrong not participating, when he, as the rider, chose not to? And his cherry picking is killing pro cycling?! If one grand tour winner's lack of participation in the classics and other grand tours can kill pro cycling, then unplug the ventilator and let it die a natural death, because it must be one sick patient. And read Davis Phinney's story to grab a little perspective on life and what Armstrong's doing with his: http://www.cyclingnews.com/riders/2004/diaries/davis/?id=davis0407.
Lance on Italian selection #6
Yo, Michael calm down.
I can't stand fans that can't get a grip.
Lance didn't want to ride the Worlds or the Olympics. He didn't make excuses for not going to the Worlds (other than the same excuse that a lot of other great riders make - too late in the season). And he never intended on going to the Olympics. What excuses do you know of that I missed?
Rebellin wanted to ride and was better than a lot of the meat that Italy sent to the Worlds. He was on good form and desperate for a start. Why couldn't he get a ride?
Get over it.
You've got to be kidding - this is the letter of the week?
"Also, the races and their winner's podiums are not the place to promote criticism of the sport. Many will continue to put forth effort to keep Simeoni out of the spotlight until he learns to respect the sport of cycling and its many hardworking clean riders. The clash of Armstrong and Simeoni will no doubt continue. Just keep the action on the bike, not the courtroom."
So, if I understand it, "many" riders in the peloton will "continue" to ensure that Simeoni will never win a race until he "learns" to "respect" the sport and its "clean riders." Or more simply, there are riders in the peloton who are conspiring to prevent Simeoni from making his living at bike racing.
The letter writer assumes that this conspiracy is designed to protect the peloton's "clean riders." Somehow, I doubt that the clean riders really need protection. Nobody squeals on them.
Instead, I have a hunch that, just maybe, this retaliation is really meant to protect the dirty riders. There is a lesson to be "learned" from what these "many" riders are doing to Simeoni: Anyone who breaks the code of silence will be driven from the sport.
"Respect" the sport -- or else.
Is it me, or are all these guys wearing the same shorts, regardless of their team? If so, why?
Jeff Jones replies:
My wife and I recently purchased about 60 acres in the Hudson Valley in New York State and have been toying with the idea of building a veloway on the site. It is an old overgrown farm and now bordered by some rail tracks, a power line and other industrial uses. Only one residential property borders the site and it is several hundred feet from where the veloway would be. The access is off a busy county road. The veloway would be about a mile long winding 13 foot wide paved cycling circuit. I figure it would be a good thing for cyclists at varying levels of skill. Beginners could get the idea of riding in a peloton with the fear of getting dropped in the middle of nowhere. Better riders could also practice paceline work, different kinds of finishes, etc. Obviously you would be safe from traffic. And in colder weather you would never be too far from your car. And if it all works out I'd really like to see if I could get a race promoter to hold races maybe half a dozen weekends a year. (Permits, insurance for this obviously have to be worked out.) The cost for the Veloway is probably about US$300,000 using standard driveway construction techniques including 18 inches rock fill, gravel top and then paving. (If the Veloway is not popular it is not such a bad investment given the improvement will still be valuable if I ever sell the site.) This construction is sufficient for heavy duty trucks and bumps caused by freezing here in the northeast US.
I am wondering though if anyone has any thoughts about any alternative construction methods? The Veloway has to resist frost heaving, but it obviously does not have to carry heavy trucks. (6-8 feet along the Veloway would have to be improved enough to allow for an ambulance for formal races. Conveniently, there is an emergency medical service just 2 miles from the site.) I have read up some on construction techniques with polymers that are sprayed on packed earth and polystyrene for example. And I see a product family that provides for temporary roadways using mat systems. A mat would obviously have to be smooth enough and have traction for road bikes though. But a mat system has a lot of appeal also because the route could be changed year to year also. I have also wondered if I could get away with maybe only 6-8 inches of rock fill then gravel and paving and just deal with any bumps caused by heaving through annual maintenance. (Although if someone illegally gets on the property (read ATV) and drives on it, that could ruin it.)
Obviously, we Americans are way too fat, use too much energy and don't cycle enough. We have thousands of golf courses, but the only other veloway I can find on the web is the one in Austin. There ought to be one in every town. Plus a cycling friend, Bill Farhood, was killed a number of years ago by an impaired driver, so if the veloways allow for more safe cycling so much the better. So if there are any avid cyclists with this kind of road construction experience, I would be eager to hear from you.
I'm responding to Jay Dwight's letter about atrial fibrillation. I have had a problem with periodic bouts of AF since 1996. My first experience was excruciating - it took two months for the doctors to resort to cardioversion to fix the problem. I felt that I'd rather die than live with the weakness the disease created. Although I have atrial septal damage, no doctor has been able to figure out which was the chicken and which the egg.
I've lived with a regimen of coumadin (a blood thinner) and a channel blocker for over eight years now. I hate the coumadin. Don't crash when you're on this stuff or you'll have bruises almost from head to toe. Since my first episode, I've had thallium tests, echo, transesophegial echo and I can't remember what other tests. Fortunately, my situation is not deteriorating. When my heart rhythm goes away from normal, I trot off to emergency and get zapped. So far, the same voltage has fixed the problem every time. At its worst, I've had the problem twice within a couple of months. At its best, I haven't had an incident for over two years.
What about my routine? I used to run and bike. I don't run much any more except during the winter (as much because of darkness as cold or road conditions). I got fired from my big job six years ago and have stuck with lower stress ones since. The doctors tell me there may be some connection between stress and my AF but they obviously don't know much about the problem. They also don't care a lot - if you can fix it with cardio, they have bigger problems to worry about.
I ride about 13-15,000 km per year. Since 1996, I have ridden almost every big name climb you hear about in the Tour or the Giro. I've made it up all of them, even if it does take me over twice the time it would take Gilberto Simoni. I was about 15 minutes slower up the Stelvio in 2003 than I had been before AF in 1995.
I get a little slower every year but I am 53 so that may be expected anyway. However, I was becoming frustrated with that deterioration and decided to insert some harder workouts into my routine this year. Since I'm always taking my 16 year old to his races, I decided to participate as well. I'm doing TT's (not as many as I had planned because some of them conflicted with my son's track events) and have been doing Thursday night track racing all season. I've enjoyed both and my heart has so far withstood the stress. I've learned to live with my problem and have now taken steps to remove its control of my life.
Heart troubles #2
I was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation in April of this year (I am 57).it was about 12 months ago when I first started noticing the symptoms. I was a competitive distance runner for 35 years and took to cycling because of a hip wearing out. I am presently considering ablation where the troublesome areas of the electrical faults in the heart are cauterized but am having a few other tests first. The AF occurs, on average every 8 days and lasts for 6 to 18 hours.paroxysmal AF I am told. The second cardiologist I have seen specializing in ablation has informed me:
* It will eventually become chronic if not treated
Two former running friends of mine in Canada have both had it.one, who runs a medical sports medicine clinic recommends ablation while the other had one in July and appears to be working. I am now aware that among older distance runners and cyclists it is a lot more common that we realize.
Heart troubles #3
I'm a 49yo physician in Boulder, Co., and a very avid road and mountain biker. I was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation in 2001 while undergoing elective knee surgery. I had few indications that I had it, other than noticing my bicycling stamina and skills had significantly eroded over the previous three years.
Lone atrial fib is defined as AF in a person without structural or ischemic heart disease (coronary atherosclerosis). The heart beats chaotically in a fast and irregular rhythm. Without adequate filling of the hearts major chambers from the atria, and the fast rate, cardiac output is compromised, as is athletic performance.
Treatment can involve several strategies: controlling the rate with medications, attempting to restore normal rhythm either through medication or cardioversion, or cure. The risk of remaining in AF is that over time, the structure of the heart changes, making AF harder to treat, and there is a risk of stroke due to blood clots that form in the atria. In lone AF, the origin of the dysrhythmia stems from irregular electrical impulses which originate in the pulmonary veins (which return oxygenated blood from the lungs to the heart), and stimulated the atria to beat irregularly.
I was cardioverted electrically 4 or 5 times, and tried a number of medications, with limited success; the medications tend to slow the heart rhythm dramatically, and caused significant side effects.
I ultimately underwent a curative procedure called pulmonary vein ablation at the Mayo Clinic. It is a long (on the table 9 and 1/2 hours) and complex procedure where the insides of the 4 pulmonary veins are cauterized (burned) with a probe, preventing the impulses from reaching the atria. Since undergoing this in October, 2001, I have remained in normal sinus rhythm, and can definitely feel the difference on the bike.
I would encourage you to explore this option; although invasive and not without risk, the alternative is life long medication and blood thinners to reduce stroke risk. Mayo and the Cleveland Clinic are two centers routinely doing this procedure, which has only been available since 1998. Other centers around the country are starting ablations as well.
Good luck, and keep on riding.
I agree with the comments raised in this e-mail.
I complained to Stephanie of ASO on the recent Paris-London bike ride (to celebrate the Entente-Cordiale) October 23/24 and she confirmed that there will not be a downloadable entry form at the end of January 2005.
I also completed the Etape in 2003/2004 with a gold and silver medal and feel that this new method of entry is slightly devious and not in keeping with the spirit of amateur cycling events. It is clear from the French website that they are still allowing the first 8500 entries!
Rather than continuing to whinge, I have set up an e-mail address to register our protests at firstname.lastname@example.org and will forward the replies to ASO in France. If any readers feel sufficiently aggrieved, I would welcome their input.
I saw Rahsaan Bahati race on March 28, 2004 at Marian College (Indianapolis, IN) for Indiana University. He sprinted for the win from a group of six riders who broke away early in the 40-lap criterium. After the race, he said that was his first time on a bike in weeks.
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