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Letters to Cyclingnews - March 24, 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

What’s worth talking about in cycling?
Blood testing issues
Chris Davidson!
The beauty of bicycle racing
Drama around Lance
Is Lance getting soft?
Lance has lost the Eye of the tiger
‘Viral’ infections and antibiotics


Letter of the week

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

What’s worth talking about in cycling?

Good grief, people! How many times have I read in this letters column about what a drag it is that the cycling media focuses so much on the minutiae of Lance Armstrong's life, or how most North American cycling fans are such complete cretins because they don't care about anyone but Lance? And then what do we do but reinforce the stereotype by flogging the tiniest Lance-related dead horses we can find to death in the letters column! Seriously, did the first letter on how Lance showed up to Paris-Nice fat, got sick, and dropped out, really require 15 cookie-cutter follow-ons? Is there nothing else worth talking about in the whole wide world of pro cycling? In case you've not noticed, this lovely website brings you news of races from around the world, even those that LA, or any other American, doesn't compete in.

In the spirit of trying to contribute something positive, now that I've got that rant off my chest, here are a few recent developments that I think are at least as worthy of a good chewing over as is Lance's rock'n'roll lifestyle:

1. Anyone noticed that Oscar Friere has finally figured out how to win more than one bike race in a year? Or that he's going head-to-head with Petacchi with better success than anyone has in the last three years? He's already won more races this year than in the last three combined, and could conceivably become the first ever to win the road World's four times. Imagine that - a record that would certainly have staying power comparable to so-and-so's six Tours.

2. On the flip side, Petacchi has already won more races this year than some lame-ass French teams won in all of 2004. AND he's lost weight without losing speed! Is anyone besides him and Oscar going to have a chance in non-cobbly one day races this year? Not looking likely right now.

3. Under the old UCI points system, those two guys would be well on their way to turning the year's best (highest-ranked) rider into a two-man race. With the ProTour format, though, their stage wins count for almost nothing, even at Tirreno-Adriatico, where there was as tough a field as many Classics boast. Do you think that's reasonable? I sure don't.

4. Erik Dekker looks finally to be back, after two years of struggle with silly injuries that wouldn't heal. Warms my heart - he's a great guy and a canny racer, and every race he's in, on form, will be more fun to follow with him. What great news!
5. While we're on the subject of Dekkers, his 20-year-old teammate Thomas finished Paris-Nice only 5 minutes down on Bobby J, but more significantly managed to finish in a very select lead group of 20 on the last stage. He hung in that group all day, while Valverde tried everything he could to get away from motor-pace animal Jens Voigt and the CSC machine. He's 20 years old. And 22-year-old Thomas Lovqvist went even better than him on GC! I can't remember the last time there were so many shockingly strong youngsters coming into the pro ranks at once. Be scared, Damiano, be very scared...

6. All of last year's hand-wringing about the ProTour being the death of smaller races because the stars wouldn't ride them doesn't seem to have materialized yet. No one seems to have cottoned on to the fact that the even-larger PT teams would need even more venues than before to get racing days in their riders' legs (there are only 27 PT events, after all). Heck, even Lance Armstrong (oops, mentioned him) is going to ride a cheesy little race like Paris-Camembert! (Sorry, couldn't help myself). Happy letter writing,

Alex Parker

Natick MA, USA

Friday, March 18, 2005

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Blood testing issues

Let me begin by noting that I am not a doctor.

That said, the question at hand seems to be very simple: how often does this blood doping test yield false positives. This can't be very difficult to determine since it simply requires that you test people who either/both haven't had a recent transfusion or who have never had a transfusion. If it was shown that the test doesn't yield false positives or does so very very rarely, fine; whoever has tested positive should get the penalties that they deserve.

What mystifies me is that the forces involved haven't released this information, since doing so would not compromise the test in any way. This leads me to believe either that the false positive testing doesn't exist or that the test does in fact yield false positives. If anyone knows more about studies of false positives using this test I would be very interested to learn of it.

Barnaby Nygren

Friday, March 18, 2005

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Blood testing issues #2

Ok, I take Trevor Thorpe’s points. But I still find it hard to believe that Hamilton and Perez, along with their medical expertise, should have been so stupid/careless…(even I had heard the rumours about some new blood testing methods at the Olympics, and I only followed the issue briefly from my armchair)

I’m not desperately trying to defend Hamilton and Perez. And I also believe that the vast majority of athletes getting caught in doping controls actually are guilty (And they deserve even harsher penalties than they get today!) But on the other hand, I believe there are so many unanswered questions in this particular matter that I think it merits some sort of debate, or at least that all relevant information in the case is brought up.

More light should to be thrown on the new testing method. I am therefore, once again, grateful to John Winnie Jr for providing the interesting points about blood testing methods in his March 11 letter. If this is how it actually works in practice, it sounds a bit frightening and unfair to me. But perhaps the occurrence of the odd false positive is the price one has to pay to get rid of (or at least reduce) doping? In any case, the athletes should be informed about this beforehand, so they can decide for themselves if they are willing run the risk of being caught when not guilty. The doping authorities should come up with a clear statement based on scientific evidence on this issue: i.e. - is there a probability of producing a false positive, and if so, are all athletes tested with an equal probability of producing a false positive?

Kai Larsen

Oslo, Norway

Friday, March 18, 2005

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Blood testing issues #3

In response to the wide variety of explanations, excuses, and accusations recently put forth about the Perez/Hamilton/Phonak doping 'issue', I'd like to put forth a simple plausible theory that doesn't take a hematologist to understand. It goes like this…Hamilton and Perez were both blood doping with their own blood, using the same doctor/lab/trainer/coach for assistance. Somehow the blood got mismarked/mishandled, and mistakenly given to the other for use.

Each had the blood infused thinking it was their own, when in fact it was the others. Certainly does explain the near simultaneous positives of these two riders. Of course, for this theory to work, they'd have to have the same type of blood (or they might get sick in the middle of a race and not be able to continue), info not made available to the general public. Also, we'd all have to accept the fact that pro athletes, Tyler Hamilton included, will go to extreme ends to meet everyone's (and their own) expectations of being the best/fastest/strongest...maybe sometimes training just isn't enough. Acceptance of doping problems in pro cycling doesn't equal approval, it equals understanding - and that's where the solutions to the problem will come from.

Jim Church

Port Orchard, WA

Friday, March 18, 2005

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Chris Davidson!

To Chris Davidson...I am just writing to let you know that I enjoy reading your Wrenchin' column every time it appears. It is fascinating to see racing from within the pits and, as a mechanic myself, I relish the tech tit-bits you throw out. I know that many of the bike mechanics here in Wellington, New Zealand also read the column, as info about this sport we love from the perspective of those who fix the bikes is rare indeed. Thanks for taking time from what must be a hectic schedule to keep us informed and entertained. Thanks also to for pushing the tech side of cycling so very well. Cheers!

Oli Brooke-White

Wellington, New Zealand

Monday, March 21, 2005

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The beauty of bicycle racing

I cannot help but express my recent feelings towards being a spectator of the sport of cycling and mountain bike racing.

Prior to starting competitive cycling just under five years ago I was struck by the speed, power and sharpness of road racing as well as the technical ability of mountain bike racers and the originality of the sport. Yet, as time passed and I became a competitive mountain bike racer and racing cyclist, I wanted to form part of the action, and being a spectator instead of racing was not to my liking.

As my knowledge and interest in the sport grew, I have recently realised how fulfilling, varied, original and competitive bicycle racing really is. It is far from boring when compared to motorsports (where have the good old Formula 1 days gone?), football, basketball, tennis, running and other popular sports.

If you think about it, bicycle races have the most action and unpredictable number of events than most other sports because of their rather lengthy duration and huge number of participants. Predicting a winner in a road, mountain bike, track or cyclocross races is the hardest to do when compared to most sports.

Cycling has never been any nicer to me. And until late I used to think - 'If I would no longer remain a competitive mountain biker and racing cyclist I would disassociate myself from the sport both as a rider and administrator'. Yet, having accumulated my knowledge and experience over the years, I can simply say that the sport is awesome, even though I'm not feeling too well physically!

Ishmael Muscat


Wednesday, March 23, 2005

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Drama around Lance

With all the Lance-haters it reminds me of the end of Indurain's reign. Same talk, same insults, same defense. Still, Indurain is now an icon, and Lance will be forever remembered positively when it's all said and done. Why must we tear down the greats before we can cherish them? Just enjoy the competition, and let the best man win. I'm a Lance fan, and a Jan fan, and I'd be happy to see Cunego smoke them both. I guess I'm just a cycling fan. The beauty is in the fight, not the winner or loser.

Jeff Oliver

Durham, NC

Friday, March 18, 2005

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Is Lance getting soft?

I somewhat agree about Lance getting soft, and in fact, thought the same thing as I read it on the coverage of the race that Armstrong had pulled out. I do believe that Lance is a great cyclist, and he is no doubt one of the best ever, but as previous letters mention - it would be so much more exciting to see Lance win a classic or some other races (not pre-Tour warm-ups like he does every year) aside from the Tour de France.

However, even though I do somewhat agree, I guess most of us probably don't know all the behind-the-scenes happenings such as the pressure he puts on himself to try and win the Tour, the huge amount of sponsor and team pressure, his personal happenings (Ms Crow), and other family obligations with his kids, etc....We as outsiders only see him showing up in July and stomping the competition in the greatest cycling race in the world.

So, perhaps we're "judging" him too prematurely or unfairly? Or, maybe he really is getting soft? By the way - I'm looking forward to seeing him show up again here in Georgia this April for the Tour de Georgia...and I wonder if he'll turn soft for this race...since he won it last year.

Scott Fast

Alpharetta, GA.

Friday, March 18, 2005

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Lance has lost the Eye of the tiger

All this nervous speculation, theorising and hypothesising about Lance going soft - it's way too early to predict anything. As we can see, the weather in Europe has been putrid and various forms of flu, scurvy and disease are knocking just about everyone on their backs.

However, let's face reality. He isn't going soft, he's getting older, like everyone else does. And he has probably realized that at 33, it may take a bit more effort to be where he would be at this time of year. It's not like he's just getting in shape for the hell of it - he is aiming to win the Tour. But he's not 25 anymore. And keep in mind; he hasn't just DONE six Tours in a row. He's WON six in a row.

No matter who you are, that is going to take a bite out of you somewhere down the road. He may win, he may not - but no matter what, he can't make time stand still. As for cavorting around with his girlfriend; let the guy have a life - he's successful, he's rich, he's entitled to go out and have fun. He's won six! Give the guy a break.

Marlene Blanshay

Montreal Canada

Sunday, March 20, 2005

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Lance has lost the Eye of the tiger #2

Ah, Captain Cubicle,

How your own nom de guerre belies your fighting spirit! Dear Captain, do get off your ‘Survivor’-watching butt and go play with the big boys in Europe - not at some imminently forgettable club race Stateside. May I be so bold as to suggest that your ‘six years of fandom wasted’ rather suggests the ultimate ‘girly’ activity - watching passively from the sidelines as bigger and better boys roar by you.

For all the girls who actually play with the boys, instead of just whining about them: "Eat my dust, Captain!"

Joy B. Davis

Rochester, NY

Monday, March 21, 2005

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‘Viral’ infections and antibiotics

Dear Cycling News:

I keep reading about riders with colds, respiratory infections etc and am constantly amazed that they receive ‘antibiotics’ when most of these infections are viral so antibiotics are useless. I am not a medical doctor, but a microbiologist and a public health professional.

A case in point from 20 March 2005 cycling news, "Liberty Seguros' Igor González de Galdeano has finally found out what has been weakening him these last weeks, resulting in his abandon of Paris-Nice. The medical analyses carried out a few days ago have indicated a cytomegalovirus (CMV), a viral infection similar to mononucleosis. The doctors have prescribed Galdeano antibiotics and a rest for two weeks to fully recover...."

What do antibiotics have ANYTHING to do with a viral infection? Can a medical doctor shed some light on this apparent incompetence?

Warren Kaplan, PhD., JD. MPH

Boston, MA

Sunday, March 20, 2005

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Recent letters pages

Letters 2005

  • March 18: The Forgotten Hero!, Way to go Bobby, Bobby J, Lance has lost the ‘Eye of the tiger’, Blood testing issues and Hamilton, With all Due Respect, All this Lance Talk..., Is Lance getting soft?
  • March 11: Blood testing issues and Hamilton, Cycling on TV, In Defence of UCI president Hein Verbruggen, Defending the Pro Tour?, Is Lance getting soft?, Lance has lost the "eye of the tiger"
  • 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