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Letters to Cyclingnews - March 4, 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

In Defence of the Pro-Tour
Grand Tours back down...for now
Armstrong and Simeoni
Help - what’s on the TV?
Cycling on TV
Lance Defends His Title!
Hamilton movie role downplayed
Blood testing issues and Hamilton
I really don't know when it happened


Letter of the week

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

In Defence of the Pro-Tour

I'm fed up with people trash-talking the ProTour. To be credible and successful over the medium-term (3-5 years) and to build a financial base upon which a sport can judiciously expand into new and existing markets, a sport must offer its sponsors a level of exposure that is both guaranteed in terms of visibility - ie - a minimum number of events - and consistent in nature and format - a minimum benchmark criteria level of events. Only then will sponsors and their money seriously consider that sport as a viable alternative to other sports.

If I sponsor a football (soccer) team I know that for x number of weeks per season I will have my name plastered on the shirts, the home stadium and the placards by the side of the pitch, and so I can take a reasonable estimate at the number of column inches this will generate, and the consequent 'recognition' factor of the athletes I then have the right to use in my product-pushing commercials. Likewise, if I sponsor a golfer I know my name on his hat will be present for the Masters, US PGA, The Open and the US Open plus a strict number of other specific-level tournaments during the year. However, until this year, if I sponsored the T-Mobile cycling team, I would be hoping for one potential appearance from one individual in one race, where admittedly one cold/flu bug could very quickly reduce my exposure to nil - for the entire year! And if that were the case, what would my compensation be? Very little; maybe the individual in question would appear in other races to make up for the absence, but then maybe again he wouldn't.

There previously existed too many uncertainties. A company looking to increase its sales wants constant and ongoing exposure from Paris Nice to Giro di Lombardia. On placards by the side of the road, on the rider's jerseys, on the winner's podium, on the interview backdrops and in opening credits on TV coverage. And it wants TV channels that will guarantee a certain number of hours of coverage per year, it wants to know how many other brands will be sharing this airtime with it and whether it can pay more to increase its exposure compared to its competitors. And it will be willing to pay for this right, handsomely, if the payback from the cycling investment complements the company’s strategic objectives. This is precisely what is offered by the ProTour.

I was brought up in France. I know cycling is unlike other sports (and that April Classics and the Vuelta have nothing - certainly not the riders - in common) but I also know how to showcase the glorious sport best to attract money and investment that ensures future generations can enjoy all races and not just the Tour de France every year. And that is by adopting the ProTour.

David Thomas

London, UK
Friday, February 25, 2005

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Grand Tours back down...for now

The three Grand Tours are right to stand strongly against being required to hold a UCI licence to run their races. They believe that they should own the rights for commercial gain, and they are absolutely correct. It is apparent to me that Verbruggen's long term goal is to emulate Bernie Ecclestone (Formula 1) and take full control of professional cycling. Verbruggen is following exactly the same tactics as Ecclestone - control of the rules, creation of a calendar of events, control over licensing, financial control, etc. It is very dangerous for all of the power in any sport to reside in one place; I am afraid for cycling. I am also very surprised that the cycling media have not commented on this.

John Bridger

Thursday, February 24, 2005

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Armstrong and Simeoni

I couldn't agree less with the implication that Armstrong’s relationship with Dr Ferrari makes him a guilty party! Lance Armstrong's connection with Ferrari is no secret, but that is not the same as him having used EPO - or does a friendship now make you responsible for what your friend has done? Simeoni is in my mind the questionable one in this game. He had tried to break away several times during the Tour with no luck. In a race you have you be better than the rest of the bunch and he is not – whether he used drugs or otherwise. He just wasn’t good enough! Why on earth should Lance let him go?

I agree with Bernard Hinault, who said "pas des cadeaux" - you have to earn your wins. But this is too much for the ordinary spectator - winning is good but should not be carried to extremes.

Joan Blomsterberg

Allerod, Denmark
Saturday, February 26, 2005

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Help – what’s on the TV?

Welcome to "Reality" TV, where soap-style melodrama replaces real racing coverage. By including these tear-jerking moments, the networks are attempting to garner a larger audience (i.e. - market share) than just the cycling crowd, which only makes up a miniscule fraction of the total viewing public. In this case, there is no profit in preaching to the converted, and so in an attempt to prove to advertisers that their dollars are well-spent during a televised cycling event, we are forced to watch this emotional drivel meant for the less cycling-educated crowd. If it works for "Survivor", it has to work here, right?

Can you imagine watching a European football game, and in the middle of the first half, actual game coverage is suspended for a side story about the Beckham's new baby? Thank heavens there are still networks that don't fall for this visual plan.

The source of the problem appears to be the North American 30-second attention span; if something doesn't change in what a viewer is watching within 30 seconds, they will change the channel to keep themselves amused. The multitude of choices on American TV and the Internet have developed this "surfing" train of thought, and it doesn't appear to be getting better. In the case of cycling, a new viewer will not take the time to learn about the intricacies of the sport; they don't see why a group of riders 30 seconds up the road may not be a threat to the rest of the peloton. And forget trying to explain multi-stage race tactics to them. The fog over his or her eyes is reminiscent of someone who has just been given a three-hour lecture on particle physics (not my area of expertise either).

For my part I have lost patience with all forms of TV, and rely on sites like to keep me abreast of all that is happening in the cycling world, and I love every minute of it. I think if North American viewers (I am a Canuck myself) are looking for the type of in-depth coverage that doesn't bore or insult the intelligence of the average cycling enthusiast, then TV-land is no longer the place to find it. We are not a large enough market to influence a media dominated by commercial concerns and emotional heartstring pulling. My thanks to cyclingnews and all internet cycling coverage sites for providing what true cycling fans are looking for.

Darryl Huculak

Victoria, BC
Sunday, February 27, 2005

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Cycling on TV

I would like to thank Lance for riding the 2005 tour - this means we get one more season of cycling on OLN.

Chris Cyr

Yarmouth, ME USA
Saturday, February 26, 2005

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Lance Defends His Title!

I agree completely with the letter about Jan Ullrich! I admire and respect Lance too, but I am also a HUGE Ullrich fan! I was lucky enough to spend some time talking with him in Athens after the Olympic Time Trial. He is a class act!

After a somewhat disappointing Olympics, not to mention the terrible things the German press wrote about him, he was one of the few riders who came back out after the race and mingled with his devoted fans. He was smiling, engaging, and very patient with all of the folks who were there to see him. I greatly admire how he turned his life around after all the problems in 2002. Obviously, he had achieved enough in his career at that time, and was financially secure, so he could have just "called it a career", and gone off into the sunset. Instead he focused on his "new start", and climbed back to the #2 spot on the Tour de France podium.

That to me proves that he loves his sport, and does not just cycle to make a living, as is often said about him. How many people would call a Tour de France win, five second and one fourth-place finishes, and a Gold and Silver medal at the Olympics a ‘substandard career’? But knowledgeable cycling fans already know what a great champion ‘The Kaiser’ is! I will be glued to the TV each day in July to watch another epic battle!

Lisa Duffy
Tuesday, March 1, 2005

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Hamilton movie role downplayed

It's a shame that the producers have decided to downplay Tyler's role in this movie. I've been waiting for this one for a long time, and it remains to be seen if the wait will be worth it. Paul Sherwen was a great rider in his day, but...
Guilty of doping or not, the footage they shot with Tyler was real, and though I'm no scientist, I imagine the results all those electrodes gave up meant something.

I read that CSC forbade Tyler from shooting pickups in his old kit, so there's probably more at play here than I can guess, which is the case most of the time - but I'm tired of endlessly watching Breaking Away and American Flyers!

Kevin Watson

Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday, March 1, 2005

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Blood testing issues and Hamilton

I just finished reading, "Hamilton hearing starts", (Mon. Feb. 28th) in which you announced the beginning of the Tyler Hamilton court case. You closed the article with, "Although the test is new in sports, the science behind it (cytology) has been successfully used for 10 years in hospitals for organ transplants and pregnant women,” which is misleading. There are fundamental differences in the way the test is used and interpreted in hospitals for matching blood types versus testing athletes for homologous blood doping:

1) The tests used in hospitals are specifically designed to reduce the incidence of false negatives, with virtually no regard for the frequency of false positives. Keep in mind that a positive means that your blood does not match the donor's blood, and that a negative means that your blood does match the donor's blood. In a hospital setting, a false negative could be fatal to the patient, that is, the patient receives blood that is not a near perfect match. On the other hand, when a result comes up positive (i.e. the test says the blood does not match), the donor blood is simply not given to the patient. In this latter case, hospitals have no way of knowing whether or not the positive was false or true - they simply reject the donor blood and move on to the next unit of blood. The bottom line here is that false negatives can kill a patient, whereas false positives can’t.

2) The hospital tests are not performed on mixed blood samples –ie- mixed blood coming out of one patient at one time. Samples from the patient and donor are analysed separately. In the case of athletes' blood doping, the samples are mixed in the athlete, and are analysed simultaneously. To date there is one published study where using the test in this manner has successfully detected mixed blood - and the researchers did not attempt to determine the test's false positive rate. Rather, based on the finding on three subjects who truly did not receive transfusions they concluded that, "False positives are apparently not a problem." If the researchers used this same logic on HIV testing, they would reach the same, erroneous, conclusion. If they were to test 27 people - three without HIV infection, and 24 with infection, we would expect a high degree of accuracy. Yet, false positives are still a problem with HIV testing despite nearly 25 years of development and refinement.

The above raise serious issues with the test's validity and suitability for testing athletes. The UCI has dealt with some of these issues in other tests - they have rejected tests that have high incidences of false positives. They would rather let a few through the net than falsely accuse an honest athlete.

Hamilton's lawyer is right; there are unanswered questions about this test, the two most serious being:
1) What is the false positive rate?
2) What are the factors that contribute to false positives?

Simply saying that, "...the science behind it (cytology) has been successfully used for 10 years in hospitals for organ transplants and pregnant women," doesn't cut it - you are comparing apples and oranges.

John Winnie, Jr.

Bozeman, MT
Monday, February 28, 2005

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I really don't know when it happened

I completely agree with Ruben’s letter about his passion for riding. I guess the great thing is that back when we were young a bike was our first true set of wheels. I used to spend hours and hours on my simple little bike just riding everywhere, and it never seemed difficult. The wind or hills never seemed to be a problem. Then as I grew up I slowly lost interest in the bike - girls, parties and study got in the way.

This year I made the decision to start riding again, I pulled out the rusty mountain bike and decided to commute to and from work. Living in Western Australia we are blessed/cursed with an afternoon sea breeze that can really test a rider. Every day I ride home on my bike, powering away into a heavy head wind; each day I think I am one of the tour riders struggling up a hill into the wind. Quitting is not an option, it’s too much a mental game; the pain becomes a background issue - it’s all about the bike, the elements and me.

When I finally make it home I look forward to my next ride. I have gone so far as to even sell my car and ensure that I ride at every single opportunity. I really can't wait until I get my road bike - I rarely get bikes passing me on my MTB, so on a roadie I should hopefully be like a bullet. I am excited!

Jonathon Bates

Western Australia
Tuesday, March 1, 2005

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Recent letters pages

Letters 2005

  • March 4: In Defence of the Pro-Tour, Grand Tours back down...for now, Armstrong and Simeoni,Help - what’s on the TV?, Cycling on TV, Lance Defends His Title!, Hamilton movie role downplayed, Blood testing issues and Hamilton, I really don't know when it happened
  • February 25: Lance Defends His Title!, Build it and tear it down?, Build, dismantle and donate!, Lance's Hour Record attempt, I really don't know when it happened, Can't get enough!, Dream on
  • February 18: 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!
  • 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