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Letters to Cyclingnews - September 3, 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

Posties at the Vuelta
Rider of the Year
Tour de France
Chris Horner
Scott Sunderland
What is going on in Belgian track cycling?
John Coates
Judith Arndt
Criterium in Charlotte
Embrace technology
Rider wages


Letter of the week

Posties at the Vuelta

I hate to sound so US-centric here, but I'm looking at the USPS team as a microcosm for the entire peloton at this year's Vuelta. Without Lance or Heras, there is no clear leader, which in my opinion makes the race that much more interesting to watch. But then as I look at the other teams, I'm finding that their leader and/or game plan is just as uncertain. What kind of shape are the key protagonists in? Will this team or that team go for the GC or for stage wins? Will the pursuit of one hurt their chances in another? Which Heras will show up -- the Vuelta 2003 winner or the TdF'04 version?

Looking at the Posties, I see a huge potential for Floyd Landis to win the whole thing. He proved his climbing ability during the last week of the Tour, and his time trialing up there with the best. You could look to his poor placing on GC, but that's all part of Bruyneel's plan -- giving every rider the occasional day off or letting them soft pedal the last kilometers when their work is done. So GC from a Postie is about as useful a predictor as jersey number is.

But then you have to factor in the stage-winning potential of Max Van Heeswijk. And instead of looking at that as a problem for the team, I'm looking at it as a plus for the fan, as it will make this one of the least predictable races in ages.

You can take this argument for just about every other team. Will Piil's attacks hurt Sastre's chances? What kind of shape is Zubeldia in? Is Tyler's back still a factor, and if he can't climb, will he focus on stage wins?

All in all, I think that this year's Vuelta is going to be one that keeps the Letters column of Cyclingnews busy for three long weeks.

Tschuss and here's to keeping it between the ditches,

Steve O'Dell
Arifjan, Kuwait
Thursday, September 2, 2004

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Rider of the Year

Lets say that Bettini wins the World Cup and wins the World's in Verona. I know it's not a sure thing, but it's not too far fetched given his form of late. Who do you pick then for rider of the year: Bettini - Olympics, World Cup, World Champion, or Armstrong - wins a record breaking sixth tour in dominating fashion? Or someone else?

Eddie Bethel
Nassau, Bahamas
Wednesday, September 1 , 2004

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Tour de France #1

I think in general some of these recommendations are great, and some are lame. First, it seems that people are scared to embrace technology. Concerning the communication with radios, I feel this is reasonable application. Every team has them, and therefore the playing field is level. Second, if we neutralize the TTT it will stop forcing the teams to bring well rounded squads. Teams would focus on the mountains, and form teams accordingly. This would create a one-dimensional unit, and in turn reversing the spirit of Mr. Farquharson's suggestions. Third and fourth, I complete agree with him on the need for smaller teams. Come on, most of the crashes occur in the peloton due to over-crowding. It's just dangerous, and the other reason a lot of crashed occur is the annoying photographers. Heck, they make me anxious just watching them.

In conclusion, I don't think it would matter much. Cycling has become so calculated, and scientific that any change is met with an equal and greater response from the riders. As I've said before, I'm not a huge Armstrong admirer, but I really would like to see someone step up and beat him far and square, not just as he gets older. I find it kind of lame that people are trying to change that race to make it harder for Armstrong to win. Everyone knows what to expect, and what they need to do. How about we change the riders instead of changing the race - now that would be exciting!!!

Jason Kilmer
Berrien Springs, MI USA
Friday, August 27, 2004

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Tour de France #2

In response to Matt Inzeo (August 27) The Tour de France (may not be broken yet) but will follow Formula 1, NASCAR and CART motor racing and be broken if it doesn't rethink itself all round! Shorter stages in the Giro and Vuelta have enlivened these races (both are still controlled via radio to some extent) but at least the organisers are trying. The alternative to making the event less predictable and boring has to be tried or the whole sport will suffer. I don't think that you receive these other events in depth in the US but certainly European coverage has grown with (not necessarily due to) the changes. At the end of the day, if nobody watches the races, the advertisers will withdraw and goodbye big-time professional cycling!

At the moment le Tour is becoming uninteresting by being manipulated using vast sums of money to sign up "the best riders" and team-managers telling the riders what to do - almost by the minute on radio. The exploits of Thomas Voeckler and his team protecting the yellow jersey were far more exciting than most of the top-men gave us? The disbelief of the stage winner at Plateau de Bielle when he realised he hadn't secured the yellow jersey is unforgettable, the roadside fans (yes, we all know they were mainly French) and many tv viewers felt that this is how the greatest race should be. Real David and Goliath action.

Surely it is preferable to have the team-leaders and Captains read the race and adapt the strategy of the team on the road. This instead of CSC's Barne Riis sending his rider back for vast amounts of work stopping Jan Ullrich in the 2004 race? Would Lance Armstrong and Ivan Basso have been able to read and react to this threat either individually (with their respective teams), by agreement between themselves for their mutual benefit or decide to let T-Mobile go and beat them on another stage?

Ian Farquharson
Hertfordshire UK
Monday, August 30, 2004

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Tour de France #3

Re water: what happened to those motorbikes with the Coca-Cola logo'd bottle trays? These were a really neat way of getting the water to the riders rather than the other way round - and quite difficult to hang on to for a bit of extra speed!

Chris Whiley
Friday, August 27, 2004

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Coke is no longer a sponsor of the Tour so the Coke waterbottles and 'neutral water support' is no more - Letters Ed.

Chris Horner

I read an interview in which Chris Horner said that he has always been interested in racing in Europe, but that he would like to be on an American team with American teammates. With the new Pro Tour about to launch and the mandatory participations, I would hope that the Discovery team would be interested in Horner. He showed that in the World's last year that he can keep up with and attack the top pro cyclists. His domination of the U.S. racing scene has shown his ability and potential for sure. I could see Horner as an ideal "alternate" leader for those races that Armstrong isn't competing in. I know that Discovery just signed Popovych, but Horner is an American and would probably gain more publicity in the American media. Plus, Tyler Hamilton and Levi Leipheimer are already taken. Also remember, Horner outperformed a reborn Bobby Jullich at the Tour of Georgia this year. So, Discovery, give him a shot (and Chris, if they ask for a pay cut, take the chance and show them what you got).

Ferdinand Arcinue
Los Angeles
Thursday, September 2 , 2004

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Scott Sunderland

I have followed Scott Sunderland's career progress since he turned pro and have enjoyed his diaries greatly.

There are a lot of negatives surounding cycling but it is truly a great sport and having a top athlete take the time and effort to relate such personal insights is simply unique.

I hope he'll be up there again in the Vuelta; like he was in the Tour, I was glad to see him finish with such form. I was expecting Scott to be selected for the Olympics, and surprised when the selectors went for 2 sprinters rather than a "hard man" like him. Especially because Scott rode strongly in the one-day classics also.

Hopefully he will add another solid season to his fantastic career. He is a great athlete and from what I gather a fantastic human being.

Good luck with the rest of the
season Scott !

Melbourne, Australia
Friday, August 27, 2004

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What is going on in Belgian track cycling?

Have you seen Graham Watson's Olympic Men's Madison Gallery? Check out Matthew Gilmore. (sorry CN didn't have any pictures of this guy). Now is it me or does he have lemon/lime wedges in his shoulders? Aerodynamics, to fight Scurvy, to maintain his lemon freshness? Maybe someone could clear it up for me.

Dave Chiu
Friday, August 27, 2004

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John Coates

Ross wasn't the only one who noticed the loathsome look John Coates had on his face prior to awarding the medals for the men's sprint at the Olympics. The man appeared ashamed. And so he ought to be, just for being there, after the manner with which he has treated cycling in Australia in recent months.

After being part of a campaign to demonize the Australian team - a campaign that included leaked reports which continue to net credence despite any sign of credibility thanks to a scandal-sponged media), he was there to witness history... and then be part of it. Yet he still didn't seem to appreciate cycling -- not even at its finest level with a compatriot as champion.

How can Coates hold a position of authority in Australian sport when he doesn't even have the grace to appear enthused -- or, at the least, interested -- in what riders like Ryan Bayley and the rest of the team had achieved?

We can only hope that the grace of Ryan and his colleagues have shown during their successful run at the Games has been noted by Coates and others who participated in the scandal-mongering earlier this year.

Rob Arnold
Publishing Editor | RIDE Cycling Review, Australia
Friday, August 27, 2004

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Judith Arndt

I must take issue with Mario's item (b). Arndt was forced to lead Carrigan because Wood was in the chase group. His conclusion that Arndt would have won the gold had Rossner been selected for the German team is reliant upon the - wholly unsafe - assumption that were the race to be run again, everything would have panned out in exactly the same way save that Rossner would have been in the chase group, along with Wood, Cooke, et al. The truth is that no-one will ever know what would have happened had Rossner been picked and it's a pretty futile exercise debating the point. My (albeit slightly biased) suggestion would that you get over the sour grapes and acknowledge the superiority of the Aussies on the day.

Brendan Moylan
London (via Australia)
Friday, August 27, 2004

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Criterium in Charlotte

There is a lot of good and bad in the case of any criterium race, including the Charlotte one that was overly praised by E.S. Dawson.

First the good. Cycling needs money and sponsors. It can not, however, function without races that are designed and organized for the riders and fans alike. Criterium races were designed to be exciting velodrome-styled races that city folks could watch in a round-the-block kind of fashion. Crashes are common on the tight turns.(Unlike many velo races where turns are banked.) Some fans may like this. As for the riders, it is more like a keirin at times. Often the road surface is very poor, with pot holes, sewer grates and manhole covers. This was the good news.

Now for the bad part. A single-block race can give riders the opportunity to lap the field. This causes confusion among many fans, turning the race into a points race finish. The crowd sees someone cross the finish line first, only to find out the winner crossed the line in 15th place. Longer criterium courses take out the lap-the-field equation. This means any rider who looses contact with the field will either drop out or sit up to wait, hopefully to benefit other riders on his team. This race becomes very boring for the fans. There is a long time spent waiting for the field to come around again. The worst part for fans and riders alike is the all-too-common sprint bunch finish. Why should the fans spend time and money to watch a two hour race that finishes with the whole pack together? This is the problem with long flat road stages. Unless there is a break, fans just want to tune in for the final kilometer.

Any solutions to these problems, you ask? Make the main race shorter ( 25 km).Add velo-styled events, such as: the miss and out, one lap sprints with 2 or 3 riders, a team time trial of 2 or 3 laps. How about a course for 20 or so riders that climbs up and down through a large parking garage in the middle of the lap? I could talk my wife into a weekend of this.

Maybe I will be in Charlotte next year. How about it?

Timothy Shame
Friday, August 27, 2004

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Embrace technology

What is going on with people. Is it just me, or does a lot of people what to jump back to the 1950s? Technology is a wonderful commodity! In this day and age everyone has access to it, barring cost. Why no two-way radios? Every rider has one, and is able to communicate with there directors. When Armstrong faked his exhaustion against Ulrich, he in-turn used the technology that allowed Telekom's staff to see that he "appeared" weak, against them!! This is an example of riders getting smarter. Radios don't hurt the sport that just add another dimension, besides making it safer.

Furthermore, what is the deal with weight limits. Are we back in the middle ages! We have fatigue testing, and a brigade of other test to determine if something is really strong enough! I believe this is really quite crude, and barbaric, if I might say so. By just setting an arbitrary weight limit, we negate our ability to test products, and quantitatively, and intelligently setting standards that actually mean something.

Jason Kilmer
Berrien Springs, MI
Friday, August 27, 2004

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Rider wages #1

Mr. Smith inquires about racer "wages" in the US peloton. Well, here in the bustling cycling hotbed of Northern California I can pass along this story that a former co-worker told me recently. He was employed as a bike messenger and ran into a former Pro who was selling VWs at the time. Their conversation turned to the amount of money that they both made being "professional" (read that as "paid") cyclists.

My friend: "I average out at about $12-15 per hour in a good week."

Roughly calculating at 40 hours/week and 50 weeks a year that is $24,000 to 30,000 a year.

Former pro: "Wow, that's more than I made last year!"

Makes one wonder about the reasons that an amateur in the US wants to turn pro. You'd probably make more money riding as a courier.

James Darlow
Sacramento, CA
Friday, August 27, 2004

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Rider wages #2

I'm not sure how many pros will write in to tell you what they or their teammates are making, but I'll put in my perspective as a veteran cat II. I know for a fact that many D3 pros, at least in the USA, don't get diddley. The money they split from race winnings often pays for much of their season, and hopefully they at least get all their equipment & supplies provided to them from sponsors. Often times, riders may opt to ride for top amateur teams, who may be able to provide equivalent or even slightly more support, since there's only a handful of US races that organized top amateur teams cannot do. At the other end of the spectrum in D3 are teams like the now defunct Saturn team, which was as well funded as many D2 or possibly some D1 teams. I'd "heard" that some of their better riders were making $50 or $60K a year, but that's 3rd hand. In Saturn's case (and I surmise similar is true for Health Net p/b Maxxis and the top 2-3 US domestic squads), there's not much need for them to try to register as a D2 (or D1) team since they have no interest in racing in Europe.

Stu Press
Los Angeles, CA
Friday, August 27, 2004

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Rider wages #3

Great question. From the various cycling publications, Van Petegem's contract from a couple of years ago was for around 625,00 Euros per year. McEwen was also in this range. When Pantani was at his height in '99 he was reportedly earning around $4m a year but this included endorsement money. Lance is reportedly around $15-16m per year, but most is endorsement money. His contract with Postal has been reported all over the place.

If you find anything out, let me know as I am interested as you are on this.

Stephen B. Evans
St. Louis, Mo, USA
Sunday, August 29, 2004

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Rider wages #4

I would suggest that rider wages are all over the board, even in Europe. In a recent interview, former MTB champ Miguel Martinez, who recently switched back to MTB after several seasons on the road with Quick Step indicated his experiment to ride in the pro peloton COST him money! And in the US, very few riders make anything more than expense money.

Terry McGinnis
Monday, August 30, 2004

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Rider wages #5

It is my understanding that in the past year the European peloton adopted or raised the minimum salary for Division One pros to $20,000. Division Three has no minimum wage. A recent survey in Belgium showed the average wage for pros in the top teams is around $40,0000 a year.

Compared to the salaries of American athletes, the numbers are realistically low.

James Turner
West Carrollton, Ohio
Monday, August 30, 2004

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Recent letters pages

  • August 27 letters - Olympic road races, Kudos, Medals, John Coates must go!, $125,000 Criterium in Charlotte, Judith Arndt, Death wobbles, Pedaling furiously, Rewriting history, IAAF getting tough?, Rider Wages, Tour de France, UCI Bike Weight Restrictions, Mactier's reaction, Yiddish Cycling Terms
  • August 20 letters - Rewriting history, Arndt should have been relegated, Crowds at the Olympic road races, Olympic road races, Racing with a concussion?, Sponsors and Olympics, Hamilton, Julich & CSC, True ambassadors of the sport, Death wobbles, There are other races, CSC tactics, Shmenges, The debate begins, Tour de France, UCI Bike Weight Restrictions, Pedaling furiously
  • August 13 letters - Bush vs. Kerry, Brits at the track, Nicholas Roche, Olympics and Lance, UCI Bike Weight Restrictions, Pedaling furiously, Armstrong vs the hour, Armstrong vs Simeoni, David Millar, Greg LeMond's comments, No romance in France, The debate begins, The power of a team, The Tour 2004
  • August 6 letters - John Coates must go!, Witch hunting in the 21st century, Greg LeMond's comments, Bush vs. Kerry, David Millar, Adam Bergman
  • August 6 Tour letters - If you had told me before the Tour..., Looking to the future, The Tour 2004, The power of a team, The debate begins, Fan behavior, The anti-Lance attitude at Tour 2004, TdF blood bath, No romance in France, Italian investigators, I hope to see the Giro at last, CSC tactics, Armstrong vs Simeoni, Armstrong vs Klöden, A Legend
  • July 30 Tour letters - The Tour 2004, The Debate Begins, Armstrong vs Simeoni, Italian investigators, Ullrich and T-Mobile, Fan behaviour, The supporting actors, The power of a team, The anti-Lance attitude at Tour 2004: A French view, TdF blood bath, TdF 2004 ITT profile, Tour Favourites, Most inspiring ride of the Tour, Postal for la Vuelta? Poor prize money, LAF Bands CSC tactics, A Legend
  • July 30 letters - Adam Bergman, Greg LeMond's comments, Drugs in cycling, Doping reporting, David Millar, Museeuw and getting doored
  • July 16 Tour letters - The TdF saved my life, A sad day for Hamilton, T-Mobile's choices, LAF Bands, Mario Cipollini vs. Jaan Kirsipuu, Playing by the rules of the game, Robbie McEwen and sprinters, Ullrich v. Riis, Stage 3, Stage 4 TTT, Stage 5 - 12 minutes?
  • July 16 letters - Greg LeMond's comments, Drugs in cycling, Museeuw and getting doored, Human evolution and cycling, David Millar, The French affair, Why thank Lance?, Canadian TV
  • July 9 letters - Drugs in cycling, David Millar, Cadel Evans, John Lieswyn, Human evolution and cycling, Museeuw and traffic, Canadian TV
  • July 9 Tour letters - Stage 5 - 12 minutes?, Stage 4 - The team time trial & those rules..., Stage 3 - Should the leaders have waited?, Jan Ullrich / Lance Armstrong
  • 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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