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Letters to Cyclingnews - February 18, 2005

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

Build it and tear it down?
Remember Marco
One Reason I Love Cycling
The ongoing Hour Record Saga
Lance’s Hour Record attempt
Can't get enough!


Letter of the week

The very bright Cateye SL-LD100 safety light is on it's way to Alan.

Build it and tear it down?

Ever since reading about the possibility that Lance Armstrong might build a velodrome, only to tear it down after his hour attempt, something's been troubling me. Today, the penny finally dropped, and I now realise what's so wrong with the idea.

It's not about the venue of Armstrong's attempt, or the questions about values of marketing versus tradition, or even the sheer extravagance of the idea. What's wrong is the suggestion that the velodrome would be used once, and then torn down.

I'm a die-hard Armstrong fan, but, like any other cycling devotee, I'd like to see what he might do with an hour attempt. I can understand, too, that he and his backers want the attempt to happen in the U.S, where most of their marketing revenues originate. An hour attempt by Armstrong, on his home turf, in front of any number of fans, would be a major event indeed.

But why in heaven's name tear down the velodrome afterwards? Velodromes are few and far between in North America, so the arrival of a new one would be welcome, no matter how much it costs, why it was built, or for whom. A new facility, in conjunction with Armstrong trying for another great record, would boost the visibility and status of our sport to an incredible degree.

If Armstrong wants to add to his already notable achievements, he'll build the velodrome, do his hour attempt, and leave the facility in place for the betterment of the sport. If he builds it and then tears it down, he'll be doing everything for himself, and nothing at all for those who might follow him.

Alan Thwaits

Mississauga, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, February 12, 2005

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Remember Marco

On the anniversary of the passing of Marco Pantani, I want to make an appeal for his death not to have been in vain. It still breaks my heart the way his life ended - what I wouldn't give to bring him back. Whichever way you look at it, the doping problems in our sport ultimately led to his death, and it's time the madness ripping cycling apart ended now. Please - no more.

Richard Jenkins

Swansea, UK
Saturday, February 12, 2005

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One Reason I Love Cycling

Right on! In 1992, after racing in the amateur event at the USPRO crit championship, I went back with my wife to watch the pro race. She was a fan of Davis Phinney; as he rode past the spot we were standing she called out to him. He circled around upon hearing his name, but was unsure of where to look. My wife called again, and this time he looked over, smiled, and gave her a wave. I'm sure he could have ignored her call and continued on his way, but he didn't.
After the race we went to the team car where he signed an old 7-11 jacket of mine for her. That little gesture created a memory she, nor I, will forget. Can you imagine any primadonna ball player doing such a thing? How about going into the locker room for an autograph? No way that will happen there, but it does in cycling. And I’m glad it does, because it creates and keeps life-long fans.


Lyons, IL USA
Friday, February 11, 2005

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The ongoing Hour Record Saga

No one seems to like the idea of Armstrong building a velodrome solely for the purpose of taking a shot at the hour record. From what I've seen, the consensus seems to be that the technical advantages that Armstrong would glean from this approach (ie - having a suitable track in the ideal location) would detract from the prestige of any record he might set because; first - it would give him an unfair advantage over the previous record holder, and second - someone building their own velodrome is just generally excessive, over the top, etc. Kind of the sporting equivalent of driving a Hummer, I suppose.

I could easily write an essay addressing these two points, but I really don't want to, and almost no one would read it anyway. My point addresses this nascent, yet scintillating, ‘Lancedrome’ controversy from a somewhat different direction.

In my opinion, to have a complete discussion about whether Armstrong and his sponsors should build a velodrome as a platform for his attempt at the hour record, one has to imagine the documentary film that will be made to chronicle his attempt, then work backward from there - from the imagined future, as it were, back to the present.

Let's assume Armstrong would be able to set a new hour record at any of several venues. So he could do it at Manchester. Maybe Lance could actually borrow Boardman's old bike to make the comparison truly "meaningful," and untainted. But if you imagine the documentary that comes out of an attempt in Manchester, it is rather boring. Lance trains on his track bike. He chats with guys at some wind tunnel. Sheryl Crow flits about in the background as Lance talks to his coach, looking at charts of his power output on the screen of a laptop. Then Lance and his entourage flies to England, he rides hard for an hour, and the show's over. The same thing you could get at any other velodrome.

On the other hand, imagine the documentary (I wonder what TV channel it would be on?) where they first build a velodrome. Scenes early in the film show construction workers laying the foundation, then experts conferring with Lance and his people about how to surface the track, architects conferring with construction managers about various and sundry details. The drama would build, metaphorically, with the rising edifice, as construction scenes are juxtaposed with Armstrong training, talking to more eggheads and coaches, and hanging out with his famous girlfriend. She could write a song about the velodrome - about lovely Lance riding in circles. The drama might even be heightened further by unexpected crises. Maybe the velodrome construction falls behind schedule. Lance is going to reach peak form before it's ready, so Sheryl could write a song about Lance peaking too early.

My own silly imaginary details aside, it seems pretty clear that building a new velodrome creates a much better cinematic backdrop to the hour record attempt, thus it will make for a much more interesting and successful documentary. For this reason, however expensive building a velodrome might be, it likely promises more profit to Armstrong's main sponsor than other, ostensibly more economical, methods of setting that record. And not only will it facilitate the best documentary, it is a nice publicity stunt generally. It will capture peoples' imaginations. It will create jobs - so, what's the problem?

I just hope Ken Burns doesn't make the film, because his voice really irritates me. I know he's more into historical topics, so hopefully my fear is a little irrational.

Geoff Jones

San Francisco, CA
Thursday, February 10, 2005

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Lance’s Hour Record attempt


If Lance Armstrong is serious about attempting the hour record, either/or both the UCI and absolute records, then he needs to do it on an existing indoor track. The surface on a new (temporary) track would not be mature enough (hardened and run in). The wood needs to come from only a few special forests in the world (eg. Finland or Siberia). Furthermore he would find it faster on a longer track. For a credible record, everyone agrees that it should be done near sea level.
If Lance wants to go for the record in front of his home fans, then logically this would limit him to the Los Angeles ADT Event Centre Track (LA is the same length as Manchester and has steeper bends), the same venue for the 2005 UCI track cycling world championships. I do not see any conflicts with the ProTour if Lance had a crack at the record in late March. Maybe this is just too soon for him? Maybe the track is just too new?

Regardless, I would love to see him go for it at Manchester.

Philip Sinclair
Friday, February 11, 2005

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Can't get enough!

Well here's what you have to do to create interest in North America - create (North) American events and tours that are as challenging and attractive as the European ones, meaning Armstrong remains in plain view. Get him to do more than the Tour of Georgia (and San Francisco also?) Maybe add some charity rides. Get more people behind the plan. Ride bikes as a matter of habit, not special moments. Convince local authorities to close roads for races. Develop the culture that thrives in Europe, but with an American accent.
Seems that you had something like this with the Tour Dupont, some time back. But, without the firm basis of a cycling culture, you may be limited to satellite coverage or less. Your television is designed for commercial benefit, and no broadcaster will budge until there is a sound profit to be earned.

I am lucky, I guess. I ride the roads that the tour travels. I get France 2 with hours of daily coverage. I can tune in RAI Uno for the Giro, and TVE for the Vuelta, and RTBF for Belgian classics (sadly, only a few of the Dutch ones).

Don't be overwhelmed by Euro-envy. Much of Armstrong's popularity is due to people who like seeing European riders getting beat by an American. Only when the sport rivals bass fishing in popularity will you see extensive coverage in your country. I hope that this happens soon.

Sandy Broque
Sunday, February 13, 2005

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Recent letters pages

Letters 2005

  • February 11: One Reason I Love Cycling, Francisco Cuevas, F-One - Come down to earth Lance!, Armstrong and the Hour, Can't get enough!, Greatest of all time
  • February 4: F-One - Come down to earth Lance!, Armstrong and the Hour, Armstrong and Simeoni, Can't get enough!, Help, Greatest of all time Eddy is King, but who is second best?
  • January 28: "I am the greatest of all time", Armstrong and the Hour Record, F-One - Come down to earth Lance!, Lance Drug Probe, Armstrong and Simeoni, Can’t get enough!, Help, NBC's 2004 RAAM Coverage, Doping, Crash distance from 1km to 3km, Eddy is King, but who is second best?
  • January 21: Professional Cyclists, Der Kaiser's Goals, Jan Ullrich's problem = Lance, Rider of the Year, Crash distance from 1km to 3km, Help, Lance vs. Eddy
  • January 14: Der Kaiser's goals, Help, Foreign stage races, Lance vs. Eddy, Tour '05, Rider of the Year, Best bikes for heavy riders, Quick Step helmets
  • January 7: Death of Dmitri Neliubin, Der Kaiser’s goals, Rider of the Year, Best bikes for heavy riders, Who's Greater? Come on now!, Virenque "most charismatic"?, Downhilling, Downhill time trial, Trendy cyclists, No flat tyres, Spring classics trip advice, Bettini's trainer
  • January 3: Spring classics trip advice, Big Bear ends downhilling, Armstrong and Simeoni, Holding teams accountable, Downhill time trial, Trendy cyclists, Bettini's trainer, No flat tyres

Letters 2004

  • December 24 letters - Why are cyclists so trendy?, Business and cycling, Big Bear ends downhilling, Off-bike weight gain, No flat tires, Armstrong and Simeoni
  • December 17 letters - Business and cycling, Tom versus Axel , Big Bear ends downhilling, Shane Perkins, Spring classics trip advice, Tyler Hamilton, Phonak and the UCI, Why are cyclists so trendy?, Mark Webber interview, Armstrong and Simeoni, Injured and missing it: an update, Clyde Sefton
  • December 10 letters - Why are cyclists so trendy?, Big Bear ends downhilling, Floyd's choices?, Merckx, fit and trim, Pound must go, Spring classics trip advice, Tyler Hamilton, Phonak and the UCI, Punishment: Vandenbroucke vs Hamilton, Prosthetic hip, Armstrong and Simeoni, Dave Fuentes, Homeopathy, Jeremy Yates, TDF coverage for Australia, Weight limits and maintenance, Mark Webber interview
  • December 3 letters - Domestiques vs Lieutenants, Tyler Hamilton, Phonak and the UCI, Dave Fuentes, Santa vs Hairy Guy, Why are cyclists so trendy?, Mark French and homeopathy, Shane Perkins, Jeremy Yates, Weight limits and maintenance, UCI regulations, Armstrong and Simeoni, Prosthetic hip
  • November 26 letters - Mark French and homeopathy, Two big guns in one team, Tyler Hamilton case, Bartoli's retirement, Dave Fuentes, Shane Perkins, Merckx and Armstrong, Training like Lance, Lance Armstrong, Why are cyclists so trendy?, Phonak gets what it deserves, Armstrong and Simeoni, Bike weight, Spouseless riders, Mary McConneloug, Adam Craig, Mark Webber interview, Santa vs Hairy Guy
  • November 19 letters - Tyler Hamilton case, Phonak gets what it deserves, Are you there Mr Coates?, Bike Weight, Merckx and Maertens make up, Heart troubles, Where to find cycling spouses, Mark Webber interview, Lance Armstrong, Where's Greg?, What ever happened to..., Why are cyclists so trendy?, Armstrong and Simeoni, l'Etape du Tour registration, Still Laughing
  • November 12 letters - Why Armstrong will ride the 2005 Tour, Scott Sunderland, Why are cyclists so trendy?, Armstrong and Simeoni, Where to find cycling spouses, Lance on Italian selection, Heart troubles, l'Etape du Tour registration, Tour 2005 team time trial, What ever happened to..., Love and a yellow bike
  • November 5 letters - Love and a yellow bike, Tour 2005, Where to find cycling spouses, Why are cyclists so trendy?, Lance on Italian selection, Armstrong and Simeoni, Tour of Southland, Construction technique for veloway, Heart troubles, l'Etape du Tour registration, Rahsaan Bahati
  • October 29 letters - Armstrong and Simeoni, Lance on Italian selection, Armstrong and Tour 2005, Lance to Tour Down Under?, Davis on Lance, Bike Shows, 2004 Cycling Spouse of the Year, Cycling and hip replacement, Doping - Enough drama!, Doping redefined, Injured and missing it, Heart troubles, Interbike, l'Etape du Tour registration, Whatever happened to...
  • October 22 letters - 2004 Cycling Spouse of the Year, Doping , Floyd Landis, Armstrong and Tour 2005, Interbike, Armstrong and Simeoni, l'Etape du Tour registration, The new blood test, Injured and missing it, What ever happened to..., World time trial champion, Cycling and hip replacement, $125,000 criterium in Charlotte
  • October 15 letters - Is the Pro Tour a good idea?, Cycling is bigger than doping, Doping, Floyd Landis, Museeuw is too nice to be guilty, Pound must go, Armstrong and Simeoni, Blood doping, Peers and Planckaert, Doping and nationality, The new blood test, Tyler Hamilton, World Championships, World Time Trial Champion, Erik Zabel Interview
  • October 8 letters - Pound must go, USA World's Team Selection, World Championships, Armstrong and Simeoni, Filip Meirhaeghe, Say it ain't so, Dario!, Baby names, Blood doping, The new blood test, World Time Trial Champion, Tyler Hamilton, Doping and nationality, Erik Zabel Interview
  • October 1 letters - Baby names, World Time Trial Champion, USA worlds selection, Tyler Hamilton, The new blood test, Rider of the Year, Tyler, USPS and Bruyneel, Alternative criterium formats
  • Letters Index – The complete index to every letters page on