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Letters to Cyclingnews - September 17, 2004
It's been some time now that I've wanted to respond to letters that claim that cycling (with the TdF as a prime example) has become: 1) boring; 2) too predictable; 3) overly dependent on technology; or (other end of the spectrum) 4) has not embraced technology enough.
Here we go...
1) Honestly, was the TdF that boring this year? After Lance's struggles last year (also a very exciting Tour), seeing his aggression win him sprints and time trials with ease this year inspired me to take every sprint on the local Wednesday night easy ride. The crashes, the non-performances, the out-of-courtroom dramas (still letters coming in on that topic now aren't they), it was terrific!
To expand to cycling as a whole, how about the Giro for starters? Simoni cursing at the young upstart from his own team in front of a cadre of journalists? Man, who needs soap operas? Paolo Bettini struggles and 'only' finishes second in World Cup races he won last year... but then wins the freakin' Olympics! O'Grady switches teams, can't race because of the druggies in his team (loses world champ teammate to Lampre in the process), WINS TdF stage, WINS gold at Olympics! You're right, cycling is getting boring these days. Sigh.
2) Okay, too predictable? Lemme guess... you mortgaged your house, sold all your bikes, both of your cars and bet it all on Lance winning the Tour? So now you are a multi-crillionaire and are complaining that the TdF is too predictable? Enjoy the good life, my man, and let us suffer knowing that we too should have bet everything we own on Armstrong winning.
And Cunego at the Giro. Everyone saw that coming also. Yup, just played right on out. How 'bout Magnus winning Roubaix?! With a name like Magnus of course he had to win Roubaix sometime in his career, but with a team of only six entered in a race that allows 10 (obviously because of the flats, crashes, stray flags)... what a stud!
Oh, yeah. The team time trial. Totally boring AND predictable: TdF, 2003. Postal wins. First ever Colombian in yellow (and nearly in tears). Boring.
Vuelta, 2004: Postal wins. Gold tunic passes from American domestique to flying Dutchman to first ever Luxemburger to a guy nicknamed "Triki". Boring. Game over. Race already decided. Everyone else go home. Postal Service please stick around for awards ceremony.
3) "Cycling has become so calculated and scientific" (I'm assuming we're talking radios, targeted training, ultra light carbon fiber thingies...) Yup, gotta agree. Who wants another repeat of LeMond's 8 sec win over Fignon (he cheated and used technology, right?) And Moser -- how dare he use disk wheels to brake the hour record! Oh yeah, and Boardman with that Superman thing? Training programs, wind tunnel testing, compact frames, DUAL COMPOUND TYRES?! What have we come to? Every rider should have to weld his own fork together (Eugene Christophe, TdF, 1913) and glue his own tyre after getting a flat -- it's just proper, right? You know, Merckx weighed in (before he started riding again, so trust me, he "weighed in" all right) on this subject by saying that cycling is going to evolve and you just can't stop it. I'll take the Cannibal's opinion over anyone else's.
4) The counter opinion: the UCI has stifled cycling technology by imposing a weight limit? Okay, seriously, this has got to stop. What do you want? Bikes that weigh 25 grams? When was the last time you (or anyone) lost a race or county line sprint because you were on a heavier bike? Raise your hands high lads. Bikes weigh 16 lbs now. Humans weigh 155 lbs (average ± 3 lbs of typical TdF cyclist). Where can you trim the most, erm, "fluff" out? Put down the chocolate-chip-powdered-donut-caramel-vanilla-cream-cherry-on-top-cheese-cake and just ride your carbon fiber masterpeice a few more miles, my friend. Bam! You lost 5 lbs and have essentially made yourself an 11 lb bike. You're gonna kill them now on the Friday night social ride aren't you?
So that's it. Count me in as one who is all for the "boring" status quo. Bring on the team time trial. Bring on the phase training. Bring on the predictable, calculated results. Bring on the Vuelta's podium girls! Ahem.
Boring, predictable, technology-smothered cycling's number one fan,
Wow! Where was I?
In what sleepy haze have I been lost since my wife gave birth to our son three weeks ago? What is day, what is night, and where is Cadel Evans?
I could not manage to follow today's tenth stage of the Vuelta on your always excellent live race coverage. So I did what I do when this happens; I went straight to the results and report, only then did I read through the "not-so-live-coverage-anymore" trying to piece up the puzzle. Today I couldn't! What happened? I just could not "see" the race...
This must have been the best stage in ages. Here's a pick up from your race description, somewhere with less than 7k's to go:
"Fuentes, Elias and Zabel lead the break. Ivanov, O'Grady, Freire and Jimenez are being dropped. O'Grady goes past and Freire takes his wheel. Zabel falls back. It's now Fuentes alone, with Elias at 20m, then O'Grady."
Never in my wildest dreams would I have ever pictured that! Only to find Mister 'Hard Yakka' O'Grady made it to the finish in 2nd place! I was tuning in to see if one of my ever favorite Cadel Evans had made his big break... There was just about no words on him. What happened to him? Why and how did he slip back so far? A guy from the top ten falls to 133rd about 1/2 an hour down? A climber who could time trial with the super speed freaks? I remember reading yesterday he said he did not feel good after the ITT, but to fall so far? Petacchi rode better! Can you help me?
Stuey is MY Jalabert from now on. After seeing his face at the Athens race finish, after what he did today, he just made it as my favorite overall (no pun intended to the hard yakka) best all-around rider. And my brother Louis can very well shut his mouth now.
Now I got to go back to make a baby burp. Cheers.
A well respected rider (Tyler Hamilton) criticized the USPS team for not working hard enough to support Floyd Landis. Johan Bruyneel lashes out at Tyler and essentially tells Tyler to stick it.
Well, I'm gonna take Tyler's side in this. For the last four weeks we've heard Johan and the others say "we're only hear for stage wins". I think everyone knew that he was bluffing. But when Tyler called him, he should have been much more respectful. Johan was way off base. If Johan lives by the sword he better be ready to be hoisted on his own petard. (How's that for mixing metaphors?)
David C. Brayton
Frank Vandenbrouke has crossed to the dark side for good. The golden days (and there weren't that many) of the wonder boy are phhttttt! I think it's time he put some of that 'untapped' talent towards being a family man. Surely he can afford to let go of the impossible dream, perhaps set up a little bike shop in Brussells and reminisce about it all? Maybe polish some rough Belgian diamonds into a small amateur outfit?
Having another crack at it with the Belgian team, Mr. Bookmaker is a little too ironic don't you think? That's one ticket you can tear up.
Pro road racing lost a star Sunday when Trent Klasna pinned a number to his jersey for the last time, declaring that the T-Mobile International would be his final race as a professional.
Though this announcement was mostly lost in the celebration of the race, Trent's departure from the scene marks the end of a great racing career, and leaves a large hole in the sport, as well as his Sierra Nevada team.
I had the privilege of working for Trent's team as a mechanic at the Tour de Georgia this year, and my earlier impressions of this man were redoubled: He is a true champion, and one of the most articulate and professional riders in the peloton. Trent provided guidance to newer riders without them even knowing it, he stayed cool under circumstances where I've seen other riders melt down, and could then mix it up in the race with the day's leaders. And all the while, he made it look easy every step of the way. Any rider entering the sport or wondering how to compose oneself would do well to use Trent as an example and role model.
I hope to see TK back in the sport as soon as possible in whatever capacity suits him-we have to few of his kind.
I was lucky enough to make it to the 2003 TDF, ride the Tourmalet and Luz Ardiden, and then position myself just up the road from where Armstrong famously stacked it after riding far too close to the crowd. (And Jan did wait - lets have it out all over again!)
On the descent the right lane was filled with cyclotourists holding firmly onto their brakes, and the left lane filled with people walking back down the hill. Every so often a pro would tear down the 1m gap between the two streams of traffic.
Roberto Heras went past and a friend and I jumped on to his tail pretending that the cheers for him were really for us. Near the bottom of the climb the suddenly slowed, pulled into the stream of cyclotourists next to a boy about 10-12 years old on a bike that was far too big for his young frame. Heras pulled off his cap and reached over to hand it to the young cyclist who looked up and almost fell off before accepting the gift.
Another True Ambassador!
Enough is enough. All conjecture, every one of the letters I ever read about so and so being better than the other rider. The simple facts are that Lance is a great TdF stage rider, Merckx was the acknowledged all time best rider BUT many riders make up a race. The TdF is not the only race on the block. Sure having a 6 time winner is great but I doubt some followers will be around when America doesn't have a top rider.
I have visited France twice in the past 3 years and seen a number of tour stages. What is noticeable is the view of the race by Americans as if Lance is all that matters. By his admission the race is becoming a little predictable and he may do other races. I hope he does as he is supremely talented. I grew up reading about the classics and it all sounded so exotic to a young teenager 12000 miles away in mid 60s Australia. I hope to realise that far off dream and see these races to put more of the jigsaw together. Who wins is not so important to me as cycling is more about the drama and battle against the elements and your opponent.
Incidentally I was on the Champs Elysee to see the last stage this year and the sea of yellow and American flags were everywhere. You couldn't get near the barriers despite us arriving 6 hours before the race. The American fans had eyes for only their man and my suspicions about their understanding of the race was confirmed when I asked out loud who had won the last stage. "Don't care!" was the response from an American sharing my perch on a bench. A German woman also standing on the bench engaged him in conversation to point out this was offensive to all the efforts of the riders but he was unrepentant. I know his view doesn't represent all Americans, but my travels around France suggest that the French don't warm to Lance's style or the unabashed ignorance of his followers. So, fans, learn more about the sport, its history, its nuances and appreciate the efforts of all.
Your commentator Dr Ferrari uses the vertical speed of ascent as a quick way of estimating the relative power exerted by riders on hill climbs.
While it is a quick estimator, it is not a very accurate one for comparing different climbs. Let's go to analyticcycling and see what VAM one gets for a 66 kg cyclist riding a 7.5 kg bike with an extra 1.5 kg of equipment, i.e. a total of 75 kg.
For the other numbers to plug in, let's say the rider has CdA of 0.38 square meters, air density is 1.1 and rolling resistance = 0.004
Then, for whatever slope, let's say the exerted power is a CONSTANT 430 watts at the back wheel, ie about 440 watts at the crank ( 6.67 watts/kg).
How much will his/her VAM vary according to the steepness of the climb?
Here are the answer from analyticcycling:
% VAM -- ----- 6 1590 meters/hr 7 1696 8 1777 9 1837 10 1883 11 1917 12 1948 .......... 15 1998
One can readily see that the VAM is really a crude estimator of efforts on climbs of different steepness as for the same given power the VAM drops from 1883 m/hr on a 10% incline to 1590 m/hr on a 6% slope, a difference of more than 15%.
So, for accuracy go to analyticcycling or correct VAM according to slope.
Has anyone heard from Cipo since the first week of Le Tour? The latest information on his official web site is dated January 2003!
I would like to bring velodrome excitement to city criteriums that do not have velodromes. I do not want to forget track racing at all, rather to strengthen the fans' appeal for it by introducing them to the velodrome style. I would love every city to have a velodrome. As a racer myself, the Trexlertown velodrome is full every Friday. It is still half the price of a movie ticket and 3 hours of exciting races. However, it is hard to get the funding to build a velodrome. Too, it would be nice to inspire the children in our urban cities to race. Very few can afford to travel to a velodrome in the USA, so criteriums bring the race to them.
What I find is that 'endurance' criteriums do not get a lot of people excited, nor do they bring people into the city to watch (and spend money). We should praise the Philadelphia race (made famous by its road course style and the great wall of Manayunk) and the Tour of Georgia, which brought out the big stars.
While it is true that some find NASCAR exciting, it is the crashes fans watch for. This is the keirin style I mentioned. It is not enjoyed by all racers (because it hurts more to fall on pavement than the boards). Racers at velodromes welcome the loud music, but no one should desire fans with 'plenty of alcohol' . That was a remark that should be erased and forgotten. What NASCAR has is money and television revenue (because fans want to see it) Cycling needs more fans who want cycling on television.
NBC gave horrible Olympic cycling coverage despite the fact that velodrome tickets were the hardest ticket in town. The road races were free events. Yet, there were no crowds at all. Criteriums could make their events more exciting. Then they could overcome the past horrors of the ill-fated US pro team criterium. It was a poor attempt to make cycling like football or indoor soccer teams.
Alternative criterium formats #2
I've always thought that a crit run on a cloverleaf (exits off a highway) would be an awesome and brutal format. The spectators could follow nearly all the action the entire circuit.
Totally agree with the editor's comment on my letter. Things have changed and there is no doubt Eddy would have won at least one medal and probably numerous if the Pros would have been allowed to ride in the '60s and '70s. But Axel still has something his father doesn't. Out of the shadow there!
Also, as far as 'amateurs' goes. Yes, they weren't the 'pinnacle' but we used to say in those times the difference between a amateur and a Pro was the size of the paycheck, and in some cases it's probably higher for the amateur. There were (and are) so many fully sponsored 'amateur' teams where all the riders did was ride. And of course all of the Russian riders were 'in the Army'. If all you're doing is riding, then that's your job. Even if not official it sounds like a Pro to me. (and yes I realize some 'pros' had/have to work part time to make ends meet).
Thanks, and your site remains the best!
Axel, Eddy and the Olympics #2
I'm with Rex on this: finally Axel has something to brag about that the Old Man hasn't done 25 times and better. Eddy is Eddy, but Axel's a good guy who lives under the shadow of his father with a lot more class than I think I could muster. Good for him!
Raymond F. Martin
I'd like to see Rebellin get it myself. Lance doesn't need any of this hype: he's a Hollywood star already and has transcended cycling. That trifecta earlier in the year was a major accomplishment we won't see duplicated any time soon. Not like we'll see a 6th Tour any time soon either.
Raymond F. Martin
Rider of the Year #2
Johan Museeuw is the only rider to have achieved the World Cup - World Championship double back in 1996.
Carbon Nanotube fiber cycling products? Great! I'm already pretty tired of this old C-50 lying around the house. Beryllium was touted as another possible new material a few years ago and we've seen nothing. But maybe this will be the real deal. At some point, the weight of the bike isn't really that big a deal. I mean, racing flats for runners aren't usually judged by weight alone.... I've got a pair of 5oz shoes that nobody would use for tarmac.
Raymond F. Martin
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