Cyclingnews TV   News  Tech   Features   Road   MTB   BMX   Cyclo-cross   Track    Photos    Fitness    Letters   Search   Forum  

Recently on

Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

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

The New Dynamic Duo
Boonen's Hairdo
Viral infections and antibiotics
George Hincapie
What do you think?
Track World Championships
A little bit more about blood doping
Blood testing issues


Letter of the week

The New Dynamic Duo

I share Tim Shame's (and David Melville's) excitement about the upcoming Giro, but want to add one more twist to the speculative fervor. The 2005 race has been built up by most as either a repeat of the infinitely entertaining Cunego-Simoni backstabbing bout of 2004 (who said "Bastardo"?) or else as a duel between DC and Ivan Basso, the Tour's latest nearly-man.

So here's my perspective: this year's Giro, more than ever, is composed of two kinds of difficulty - steep climbs and ITTs (this may seem obvious for a stage race, but other Grand Tours have difficulties like TTTs or the Vuelta's legendary crosswinds that do not feature here). So what kind of rider is likely to win a race like the 2005 Giro? Of course, it's a skinny guy with huge climbing talent, who can also TT well, and has a strong, well-drilled team to support him. Guys like this are rare, since most really good climbers (like Basso) are at best average time trialists (an obvious exception to this pattern is that guy from Texas, who has been quite successful in that one race they have in France).

So, where do we find this super-climber with good to great TT ability and a strong team, the guy who can go head-to-head with Damiano and Ivan in the mountains (I'm sorry, Gibo is too old and won't figure in the GC) and then smoke them in the TTs? His name is Tom Danielson, and Discovery Channel's master strategists have been playing him very close to their chests so far this season, trying to keep the lid on. We've known for a while that Danielson has huge climbing talent, not only from the ride up Genting that won the 2003 TdL, but also the way in which he did not just break but positively vaporized Tyler Hamilton's record at the Mt Washington hill climb in 2002 (for the sake of completeness, he's also the record-holder at the longer Mt Evans event in Colorado).

What got me thinking of him as potentially the kind of complete rider who will go on to dominate Grand Tours was Stage 5 of Setmana Catalana.

He conceded just under 0.5 sec/km in this 16 km ITT to a man whom everyone, I think, will accept as one of the most talented short-TT riders alive today. Presumably Fabian was not soft-pedalling, as he started early and so had no way to know for sure what time would be required to win the stage. More importantly, you could put Cancellara on a mountain bike and he would take more than 0.5 sec/km out of Basso or Cunego. So, here's my stake in the ground: Giro 2005 will be a three-way contest between Cunego, Basso, and Danielson, and I think we have a good shot at seeing the first American victor since Andy Hampsten; at a minimum, he's a shoe-in for the podium.

Alex Parker

Massachusetts, USA

Saturday, April 2, 2005

Respond to this letter

Boonen's Hairdo

Of course, it goes without saying, Tom Boonen is a superhero for winning the Tour of Flanders (Discovery is probably kicking themselves for not doing everything in their power to stop him from leaving), but looking through some of the race photos, then perusing Tom's website, I noticed something of even greater importance than his palmares - his new hairdo.

Although it is difficult to tell because in most of his photos he is either wearing a helmet or a baseball cap, it would appear Tom is sporting one of the coolest looking mullets I have ever seen. It's sort of like Cunego's more conservative semi-mowhawk/mullet, only way more extreme, making it that much sweeter. Judging by how extreme Boonen's new 'do is, I suspect he is even cutting it himself.

I know Boonen is not the first in today's peloton to sport a smart looking mullet - Brochard is the current king in that regard. Vladimir Karpets also had a swell mullet, although I prefer Brochard's because it is a bit 'bigger'. But Boonen's takes things to a whole new level…sort of punk, sort of metal, sort of disco…sort of WAY COOL!

Blake Terry

Kansas City, USA

Monday, April 04, 2005

Respond to this letter

Viral infections and antibiotics

After the discussions about pro cyclists and antibiotics, a couple of things worry me. On the surface it does not make any sense to prescribe antibiotics for a viral infection. Antibiotics are only useful in treating bacterial infections. In fact, we should all be aware of the dangers of over prescribing antibiotics, in respect to the evolution of antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria. This is why your doctor and pharmacist tell you to finish all the pills regardless of whether or not you are felling better.

The reason that all these cyclists are being prescribed the antibiotics is as a preventative measure. Having a virus works the immune system hard and if you are a high level athlete you are at a higher risk of general infection (both bacterial and viral). Thus doctors prescribe a broad spectrum antibiotic prophylactically to prevent a secondary infection. This is common practice whenever there is a significant risk of secondary infection. However, this may not be the strict case for the riders, but in such a competitive environment teams do not want riders down any longer than is necessary.

Daryl LeBlanc PhD

Burlington Ontario

Friday, April 01, 2005

Respond to this letter

George Hincapie

I agree and I say it is with our own selfishness as cyclist and fans of the sport and fans of Hincapie that we would like to see him achieve the status we feel he is capable of and would hope for him. Hincapie is as highly a respected cyclist in my eyes as any I've watched in my time. In my meeting him I was impressed with him and those I know speak well of their time with him also. It can be hard when you see someone so great not getting glory for wins. None the less, George Hincapie is my 'cycling hero' more than any Tour Winner.

Brad Williams

Virginia, USA

Sunday, April 3, 2005

Respond to this letter

What do you think?

Speculation is widespread about Armstrong's upcoming press conference at the Tour of Georgia. Is he going to announce his retirement, or something else? Here is my wild speculation on his upcoming announcement:

Maybe Armstrong will announce that he is going to ride the Giro, and that he will ride to win. Why else would he be attempting to resolve matters with the authorities in Italy? After winning six Tours and setting the all-time record, what else can he do to go out with a bang? He has already done what no one else has ever done, right? Maybe he would like to do one more thing that no one else has ever done, something which many say is virtually impossible in the context of modern cycling - namely, win all three grand tours in the same year. That would be a fine way to enter retirement at the end of 2005, unless, of course, he wanted to ride no grand tours in 2006 and go for the Pro Tour title instead.

Joel Williams

Florida, USA

Saturday, April 2, 2005

Respond to this letter

Track World Championships

It's unfortunate, but there were no real surprises for the USA track team. I felt Rebecca Quinn would have made the podium if she was not taken out on the final turn. The team really needs support for training and coaching, and without a corporate sponsor, the USA team will continue its poor results. There wasn't even a men's pursuit team - I cannot believe the United States lacks four qualified men to compete in Los Angeles.

This was a chance for the sport to shine in the US. The high-tech bicycles were an amazing sight, except for one blown tire and one broken fork. It was, however, shocking to see the men's keirin heat go an extra lap by mistake - at least the athletes made it an exciting event to behold.
There are plans to build an Olympic velodrome in the Bronx, New York, if it is selected over its rivals Paris, London and Rio de Janeiro for 2012. But I wonder if some of the weaker teams can survive the decline of financial support for track cycling. It would be a shame if this great sport, once so widely popular throughout the world, became the sport of the privileged few (for example, bobsledding)

Timothy Shame


Tuesday, April 5, 2005

Respond to this letter


Where has VDB gone? More importantly, where has his lead out dog gone? I figured one of them would have made an early season appearance by now. One of them has a contract with Mr, but is it to race, or just make headlines for non-participation? Thanks.

James N. Wilson

Stanford, CA

Tuesday, April 5, 2005

Respond to this letter

A little bit more about blood doping

Yet more on blood doping…

The fundamental problems with the current test for homologous blood doping can be illustrated with the following scenario:

Suppose I come up with a test to determine whether someone is a Martian cleverly disguised as a human being. The test uses DNA and looks for the presence of any of 10 different Martian genes. Essentially, I apply 10 different tests to each individual. Each of these 10 tests has some small probability of a false positive, say one in 100,000. I try the test out on 24 known humans and three known Martians, and behold, the test works! They are all correctly identified. No surprise, since the chance of getting a single false positive among the humans is 0.0024 and the chance of not detecting any one of the three true Martians is infinitesimally small (all 10 of the gene tests have to fail in order to miss a true Martian - even if each gene test has a high failure rate [false negative rate] of 10%, the probability of all 10 failing at the same time on the same individual is only 0.0000000001). From this, I conclude that this is a good test and should be applied to the entire world population.

Suppose further that there are 100 Martian spies living on this planet and 6 billion humans. Given the false positive rate for the test above, we will falsely accuse about 600,000 humans of being Martians, and correctly identify the 100 Martian spies on the planet…

Suppose even further that there are no Martian spies living on this planet and we perform the test. In this case, we falsely accuse 600,000 humans of being Martians and catch no Martians at all because there are none to catch!

So, what is wrong with this test? The same things that are wrong with the current test for homologous blood doping:

1) The background rate of true positives is very low or even zero (as witnessed by the results from the Athens Olympics)
2) No one knows what the false positive rate is
3) There is no alternative test to confirm positives
4) Because of #1 and #2, false positives could easily outnumber true positives, or even worse, all positives could be false.

John Winnie, Jr.

Bozeman, MT

Tuesday, April 5, 2005

Respond to this letter

Blood testing issues

Marc Bertucco asked:

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.
The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency uses the same standard as the world anti-doping code, which is "the comfortable satisfaction of the hearing body". This is potentially even weaker than the "preponderance of evidence" standard. It seems likely that the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) would use a similar standard.

It also seems that there's no right to a speedy arbitration, as the
Hamilton case has been inexplicably left open for almost a month now.

The political pressure surrounding this case is HUGE. This is THE big case for the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), and WADA wants decisive action. WADA is already unhappy with Phonak's ProTour reinstatement (which was a CAS decision). And if CAS were to decide that the case against Hamilton was so flawed that it needed to be tossed, it would be a crushing blow to WADA, and a massive embarrassment to UCI. The scary part of this is that, due to WADA's emerging power, CAS is becoming increasingly more dependent on WADA for it's livelihood.

Given this, it would have been easy for CAS to immediately rule against Hamilton, if he had failed to raise any serious issues in his favour. So we can safely assume that he has raised serious doubts. And now we have to wonder if facts, or politics, will ultimately decide the case.

Thomas A. Fine

Cambridge, MA

Wednesday, April 6, 2005

Respond to this letter

Blood testing issues

For many months now, the debate concerning Tyler Hamilton's case has centred on the accuracy of the test. It goes like: 'the test was designed to minimize false negatives so false positives are a possibility, it's a brand new test, blah blah and also blah.'

But I've heard very little discussion, save on the Tyler site, of the absolutely bizarre blackmailing situation, complete with fake moustache.

Now, when Rebellin won the brilliant triple of Amstel Gold / La Fleche Wallonne / L-B-L, the prob-stats guys came out of the woodwork with their take on the odds of such a feat. So my question is - what are the odds of someone randomly selecting two cyclists from the entire pro peloton to come up positive on their next drug test?

Okay, that's a bit facetious. But in all seriousness, have I missed a news story that explained this? You throw blackmail into the equation, with the correct prediction of two drug test positives, and the next obvious question is; have we proven beyond all doubt that the chain of custody of these samples was maintained? See ya at Stage two of the Tour de Georgia!

Steve O'Dell

Peachtree City, GA

Wednesday, April 6, 2005

Respond to this letter

Recent letters pages

Letters 2005

  • April 1: 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
  • 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
  • Letters Index – The complete index to every letters page on