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Letters to Cyclingnews - April 1, 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

Well done Ale-jet
Eyes of tigers....
Viral infections and antibiotics
Let's talk about cycling…
What's worth talking about in cycling?
First Ride of the season
The New Dynamic Duo
Blood testing issues
Sydney Thousand
UCI Pro Tour Grand Theft, not Grand Tour


Letter of the week

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

Well done Ale-jet

I was privileged enough to meet and get my photo taken with Alessandro Petacchi at the press launch of Mybike, a new Italian cycling festival, in Monticaterme I managed to get in to. The launch was on the Monday after Ale had given all the top sprinters a great kicking in winning his first MSR in style.

Petacchi seems to get few of your readers hot under the collar but I love the guy. He turned up at this launch with only his wife in tow, no army of bouncers or press people. Despite proving all of his critics wrong and exercising all his own demons he came across as a humble person, although now quietly self-assured. Above all else, throughout the press conference there was an overriding impression that he would far rather have been outside riding his bike. I don't think he does this for the fame or the money, simply he loves to ride and win.

Having also witnessed first hand Freire winning two stages in Mallorca this year, and with the ongoing progress in Tom Boonen's camp, I am already getting excited about the World's showdown in Spain - I think we can expect some fireworks from these three.

Ian Jackson


Tuesday, 29 March 2005

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Eyes of tigers....

Sirs, Having read that Mr Lance Armstrong has lost the 'eye of the tiger', I would be pleased to offer him two from a recent night safari in the Chessington Zoo. Not quite the thrill that there was when my legs were still sound and the eyes good out in the jungles of Ceylon. Battering down the gate and running over the security guard in the old Landy was a wheeze nonetheless. Surely this sort of thing ought to be easier in America where a good shotgun can, I'm led to believe, be acquired with one's morning edition of the New York Picayune, road rules are almost non-existent, and motor cars are the size of a moderate stately home? Then again, my in-depth study of colonial road markings suggests that they haven't even discovered the eyes of the common domesticated cat. But quite what all this feline ocular 'lost and found' has to do with bicycle racing is entirely beyond me... Tally ho!

Brig. Arthur Cholmondley-Smythe (ret) Chairman, Trowbridge and Wessex Association of Tiger Shooters

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

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Viral infections and antibiotics

I have been thinking of asking the same question about viral infections and antibiotics. In the example quoted by Dr Kaplan, we have detailed information about the virus in question but no information on why this counter-intuitive treatment method has been selected. Your reporters need to be more diligent and ask the doctors treating the patient or the individual him- or herself about why antibiotics are being prescribed.

Brian Johnson

Tokyo, Japan

Thursday, March 24, 2005

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Viral infections and antibiotics #2

Of course viral infections do not need antibiotics, but as these are highly-paid athletes their handlers are taking no chances and over treating them to avoid any athlete down time. This does lead to more resistant strains of bacteria and cannot be recommended. Don't forget that the public relations people that put out these announcements are the same types that always announce after surgery on a celebrity " All of the tumor was successfully removed", regardless what the surgery was and regardless of the ultimate outcome.

Gil Nyamuswa MD

Las Vegas

Sunday, March 27, 2005

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Let's talk about cycling…

Hey Alex Parker, your letter was great. Why does everyone criticise and complain about Armstrong and make him the main topic constantly? The new season has begun, and as Parker explained, there are many other great events about to take place in the world of cycling that do not involve LA. Here are a few that Parker missed, but judging by his character, I am sure he is already aware of and waiting for.

The GIRO: the 2005 Giro is shaping up to be the best grand tour of the year. If some of you are not aware, I will out line it. Simoni and Cunego (will they work?, will they fight?) versus Basso. Basso has been training on the climbs used in this year's course and with the recent passing of his mother will be more keen to win than anyone.

Simoni and Cunego are both absolutely flying and in killer form already. Can the only thing that will prevent a Lampre-Caffita win be Cunego v Simoni fued? Maybe they will work together. No one knows. They might be saying that they are mates now, but when they are climbing the cols with the race on the line, I don't think they'll be able to send their teammate up the road and see their chances of victory fade. The president of my cycling club, Gino Coranachia, went to the Tour Down Under and meet Simoni, and talked to him at a cafe. Gino is Italian so naturally they got on well. Simoni said that the Giro is his main focus for the year, and he wants to win at all costs. Whatever happens, it shall be very intriguing.

Can anyone stop Petacchi? I think every professional sprinter in the world of cycling must have almost cried when they saw Pettachi climbing like he has never before in the Milan-San Remo and Tirreno-Adriatico. Is this guy stoppable? The Giro and the rest of the season will be very interesting in relation to Petacchi's performances. The top Aussie in the Tour is another interesting question - Will it be McGee, Rogers, McEwen or Evans? This is possibly the hardest question I have ever formulated. McGee has a new found climbing ability and has always been a noted time triallist. He is aiming for the Tour, and will be under 70kg. Rogers is also an amazing time trialler but is yet to show he can trial in a grand tour. Evans is simply flying at the moment. He claims he is not in form and gets second to Simoni on Mt Foron. If he keeps improving like this he may well be a top five hopeful come July - we all haven't forgotten his Giro from the Mapei days.

Julich's great form and the Bettini-Rebellion-Boggard battle during the classics are another two aspects of the season to look forward to - the cycling world is in full swing - so enjoy it!!!!

David Melville

Brisbane, Australia

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

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What's worth talking about in cycling?

An issue regarding the ProTour is the points system for stage wins as opposed to GC performance - I think wins in individual stages really aren't worth as much as high GC finishes because it is much easier for an 'average' rider to succeed in an individual stage as opposed to a high overall performance. The top riders on GC and their teams may or may not think it's worthwhile to chase them down if the rider going for the stage win is very low on GC.

Thomas Kanyak

Thursday, March 24, 2005

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What's worth talking about in cycling? #2

And I thought I was the only grump around! Who cares that Bob Bottom-Bracket finished hanging onto the back of the gruppetto by his fingernails when there was a hair-raising bunch gallop involving non-Americans going on at the pointy end of the race? It's not heresy bike fans, it's being a bike fan. Well done the man for telling it like it is - there's so much more out there.

Andrew Dacanay

Halifax, Nova Scotia

Thursday, March 24, 2005

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First Ride of the season

I live and work in the Southern Maine area; it's a 16 mile commute east to work at the University of Southern Maine where I am a cross country and track (running) coach. Monday, March 21st I rode into work, the first time on my road bike since October. It felt great, getting back on the bike, back in shape, and saving over $3.00 in fuel (ha ha). I made it to work at USM safely, took me just under an hour for the sixteen mile ride (way out of cycling shape).

I can't deny how strange it felt riding my road bike with six foot snow banks on each side of me. Before last fall I wouldn't think of riding my road bike if I couldn't wear my shorts and a jersey. My intentions were to leave work at about 5:00 pm so I could make it home during the last bits of daylight. During the day I found out I had a road race meeting at 7:00pm. It's a 5km road race I'm organizing to benefit the Maine Children's Cancer Program and it's progressing very well. We've raised over $1,000 in direct financial contributions, and with race participants we should raise another $2,000.

Anyways....after the meeting I started suiting up for the ride home in the 30 degree (f) temps of a spring night in Maine. Even before I got on my bike for the journey home I was wiped; pretty tired from the day. For the most part, the ride home went smoothly, I didn't feel especially great, but it's nice getting out there and riding. I'm about half a mile from my brother's house in Waterboro, riding just to the left of the white line to avoid cracks in the pavement and sand on the side of the road. There were no cars in front or behind me. I have my light shining in front, and a blinking red light on the back of my pack, so I'm as safe as a peanut in bubble wrap.

Knowing I am close to home I begin to relax, sit up on the bike, glide a little bit, pay less attention to what's in front of me, you know, like the cool down phase of riding. All of a sudden, 15 feet in front of me where the majority of my light shines, something runs into the road. Keep in mind I'm going close to 20 mph, on a slight downhill. By the time I see this cat-sized animal and make the reflex to try and swerve, it's at my tyres; I tried to lean to miss it because I certainly didn't have time to turn. Thankfully I was able to avoid it with my front tyre so I didn't go over the handlebars, but unfortunately my rear tyre hit it - I felt the bike lift up. Bump Are you ready to hear what kind of animal it was...?

A skunk... eeeeeeewwwwww

As soon as my rear tyre hit it, and was back on the stable pavement, I mashed on the pedals and let out a yell, knowing a skunk's stench can taint something anywhere from three to six yards away. About 50 metres down the road I finally sat back down on my saddle - I was in hysterics, and the adrenaline was just on it's decline from the climax. Whooo, what a rush! If there was anyone on the street, they would have thought I was nuts, not only for riding a road bike in the middle of March ,in Maine in the dark at 9:00 pm, but also nuts for the way I was laughing and acting, like there was someone next to me. As I neared the driveway up to my brother's house I sat up to stretch. When I leaned back on my bike I could smell it, the stench of a skunk. After later inspection the furry creature got the best of my 1998 Lemond Maillot Jaune. I had to leave it outside last night - thankfully the weather didn't spit on it. I guess it's time for the spring cleaning I was planning to put off. No bike shop will want to deal with the either... (ha ha). At least I can laugh about it now...!

P.S - when driving to work the next day I saw no signs of a dead skunk or a skunk smell at the site of the incident. So for you animal lovers, I'm certain the skunk is okay.

Greg Dolbec

W Newfield, ME

Thursday, March 24, 2005

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The New Dynamic Duo

The race not to miss this year will be the Giro d'Italia. It is more than the race itself. It is the two riders who will replace the Armstrong/Ullrich era. They are Cunego and Basso. Both of these men are focused on Italy this year. Both are U23 champions (Basso in '98, Cunego '99 ). Cunego may have bested Basso in the Tour of Lombardy but Basso proved he can climb with the best in France last year. Basso has expressed that he learned last year to focus on just one race and to avoid key mistakes (look at his ride on Alpe d'Huez last year where he lost over two minutes due to soreness and gearing errors.) Cunego, who has relied on his climbing ability, will need to limit his losses over two ITT (41km and 31 km). They will not be alone of course, as Simoni, Garzelli, Leipheimer, and Popovych have all targeted Italy as well.

If my Italian is correct, I see stage 14 focused on the Stelvio ( a towering climb at 2758 m). Stage 17 includes a stretch of 6 km at 11%. Stage 18 is a time trial. Stage 19 is another big day in the mountains with a new climb that includes climbing over 8 km after the paved road gives out to dirt (at 9% no less). Both Cunego and Basso have their best years ahead, and both have said they want to target the 2006 Tour de France. They respect each other but they will be watching each other. Do not miss their first historic battle on the slopes of Italy this year.

Timothy Shame


Friday, March 11, 2005

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Blood testing issues

There are few tests in human technology, if any, in which it is not possible to yield a false positive. The authorities now examining the Tyler Hamilton case are no doubt reviewing the voracity of the related homologous blood testing procedures and the likelihood of a false positive, however miniscule. Keep in mind, if there is ANY chance of a false positive, Tyler Hamilton could be innocent while being declared guilty. Having considered all this, I understand the underlying technology is quite reliable, though I for one am skeptical, to say the least, when anyone claims a test procedure is 100% reliable.

Doug Erwin

Thursday, March 24, 2005

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Blood testing issues #2

This issue is considerably more complex than most either think it is, or want to acknowledge. First things first- in the situation concerning Hamilton and Perez, one must call into question the test itself, and the investigator who devised the test.

Considering that this individual has taken it upon himself to be the saviour of pro-cycling by cracking the secrets and providing an unbeatable test seriously compromises the integrity of the science behind the test. That being said- analysing samples for banned substances has never been the problem (aka the idiots from BALCO who thinks they know how to beat the system) but rather the ability to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the concentration warrants further investigation.

Basically, quantifying these substances, and determining suitable 'cutoff' values has become the issue. A cutoff value is simply a pre-determined limit of an allowable concentration of a substance within an individual's sample whether it be blood, urine, hair, etc. This is particularly the case in naturally physiological 'freaks' - as some pro -cyclists just happen to be. I am not saying that I believe everyone is drug free - quite the contrary - but as in all forms of science, you cannot (should not) come to conclusions without every bit of evidence humanly possible...which is hard to do in the cycling world when test results are wanted almost immediately. Much more research needs to go into these tests - I mean they started using them without even having other experts check the validity and reproducibilty! That is simply ridiculous!

Matthew D. Davenport

Amherst, MA

Saturday, March 26, 2005

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Blood testing issues #3

More on blood doping...

The paper describing the research performed to establish the current test used to detect homologous blood doping opens with the following sentence: "Blood doping is the scourge of endurance sports since it provides immoral athletes with an illegal performance advantage." (Nelson et al, 2003. Haemetologica, vol. 88:11). How prevalent is this "scourge"? The tests described in the aforementioned paper yielded just one alleged positive out of all of the athletes tested at the Athens Olympics. This is not much of a "scourge", and raises a serious issue about both the testing protocol and the probability of false positives.

In my previous two letters (March 11 and 18) I outlined basic problems with both the researchers' and testers' logic in using this test to begin with, and problems associated with false positives. The fact that the test is very good at preventing false negatives (which it was originally designed to do), while producing unknown numbers of false positives (there is currently no alternative test to confirm positives), leads to two obvious conclusions when considering the results of the Athens Olympics blood tests:

1) Since the test rarely yields false negatives, the practice of homologous blood doping is extremely rare or non-existent.
2) Since blood doping is extremely rare or non-existent, and there is some unknown probability of false positives, it is reasonable to expect that:
a) False positives could easily outnumber true positives or,
b) All positives are false. Like many others, I find the prospect of a false accusation far more repugnant than the prospect of letting a very few cheaters get away with their crimes. Until there is an alternative test to verify positives (as is the case when an initial HIV test is positive), the current test for homologous blood doping simply should not be used.

John Winnie, Jr.

Bozeman, MT

Thursday, March 24, 2005

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Blood testing issues #4

Cycling's latest blood doping scandal has certainly aroused a number of scientific, ethical and legal debates. Legally speaking however, I wonder by which standard Tyler Hamilton will be judged.

In American civil trials, a defendant is judged guilty if the "preponderance of the evidence" is against him. In criminal trials, a higher standard, "beyond a reasonable doubt," is required for conviction.

It seems to me, these distinctions could play an important role in the outcome of the case.

Marc Bertucco

New York, NY

Friday, March 25, 2005

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Sydney Thousand

I was interested to see discussion of John Scott's plan to revive the Sydney Thousand.

Riding in one was among the highlights of two seasons I spent racing in Australia in the '70s.

The race was held at Camperdown, and there were both amateurs and pros on a packed programme. Several of us were invited to come up from Melbourne, and we flew together on a late afternoon trip; Malcolm Hill and Murray Hall were the pros invited, and Colin Fitzgerald and I were the amateurs. It is a long time ago - there may have been others.

The venue was packed. I don't know how many people were there, but there was no room for any more spectators. It was a lovely warm Sydney evening and the atmosphere was incredible.

There was an Aces omnium as well as the Thousand for our code. All I can recall of the omnium is feeling outclassed and struggling with the tight bends on the Camperdown track. The Thousand was interesting, the heats had been run at a prior session, and we were inserted into the final without having to qualify! I felt quite embarrassed about that, because getting in major wheelrace finals was so difficult, and I didn't manage many. I was on 10m, on my own, and the next guy was at 40m. Scratch was frightening - Fitzy, Kevin Nicholls, Kenrick Tucker and Gary Sutton. Shane Sutton was somewhere in the field; I suspect he was also on scratch but can't exactly recall.

Gary Sutton won the thing, and the clear recollection I have of the final (after I had done my bit) is watching them on their last lap, Gary flying around the last of the front markers, with Shane on his wheel making damn sure nobody was getting around them.

There is nothing in the world like a big time Aussie wheel race, and I mean that literally. It is an Australian phenomenon. I believe the endless string of great Aussie cyclists your country produces is possible in part because of the unique track culture there.

Gary Sullivan

New Zealand

Friday, April 1, 2005

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UCI Pro Tour Grand Theft, not Grand Tour

When ASO's Patrice Clerc was referring to an American sports model, as opposed to the traditional Euro sports model for team structures in his latest comments regarding UCI's Pro Tour, he judiciously avoided making reference to another nefarious American model that the UCI wants to impose with Pro Tour TV revenues - the "Tony from Philly" model.

Just say this with a Soprano's-style accent, "Yo, I'm Tony (read: Hein) and me and my associates are gonna be your new partners - we'll take 50% off the top". Even us dopey Americans can recognize a smash-and-grab job when we see it. In earlier rounds of discussions when the top three promoters were baulking at falling into the UCI Pro Tour program the Hein-ster mentioned that the promoters need the UCI more than the UCI needs them - dead wrong, Mr. President.

If you need some perspective from other sports businesses, take a look at F1 and Mr. Ecclestone, and the rebelling F1 constructors and CART and Indy League in the US. Who needs who, Mr. Verbruggen? The UCI doesn't promote a single event - when you start telling the people who truly are responsible for the growth of the sports business that their properties can be easily replaced - or "Nationalized" by the UCI - you are seriously deluded. It's time for a serious house-cleaning in Aigle - or maybe just a change in their meds.

Tom Simpson

Pilarcitos, USA

Sunday, March 27, 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