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Letters to Cyclingnews - May 27, 2005
What a race this year. Maybe the Pro Tour HAS made the difference that the UCI speculated.
Revelations like Danilo Di Luca (HEY! Where's his race diary now that we REALLY need it?), Paolo Savoldelli (Welcome back Carter!), and Gilberto Simoni. Disappointing performances from two gifted riders like Basso and Cunego (next year this is bound to be a knock-down, drag-out fight). And still more to come! Why, when I come to think about it I have to wonder how well Paolo Savoldelli would be doing if he had a couple of team members with him on the climbs. Go Discovery!
Pantani's Giro/Tour double in 1998 - can this be repeated? The answer has to be a resounding "yes". Until stage 13 of this year's Giro, the time seemed right for Basso to take what was within his grasp. Of the current crop of Grand Tour candidates Basso is more than a bike's length ahead. Armstrong is in the twilight of his career so the double is out of the question. Ullrich's aspirations are no doubt placed solely on one more win at the Tour before he also heads into retirement. Heras, Simoni and Garzelli are past their best.
Savoldelli is showing great form at the moment and clearly can lay claim to at least a podium finish at this year's Giro, if not the win. However, he also perhaps has only a couple more years at the top. The answer is; we can now look to the likes of Valverde, Cunego, Popovych and Basso for the next Grand Tour double. Both Cunego and Basso have said they want to be competitive at both this year. Of the two, Basso is showing the kind of form to achieve this.
At the Tour 04' the only rider to match Armstrong in the mountains was Basso. His weakness was in the time trials, where he effectively lost himself the Tour and second spot on the podium. One year on and we have a guy who has improved his time trialing no end. So what we have is a man capable of claiming the double - bring it on!
I don't know about UCI rules allowing or prohibiting 'cross tyres in a road race, but they make special tyres for Paris-Roubaix which will probably get used for the Colle delle Finestre. As an example, I think Vittoria's are 27mm tires with a real deep tread, pretty close to a Cross tyre. I don't personally think anyone would want to ride the entire stage on Cross tires, but we could see bike swaps at that point, especially for the GC contenders.
I'm in agreement regarding Cipo's farewell: for the PT Barnum of cycling, this was subdued and classy. I think he was overwhelmed himself and not in the mood for any hijinks. I certainly don't think we're going to see his like again for a long, long time. He was the best sprinter in the world for so long no one remembers who he supplanted. His successor will have trouble maintaining a Cipo-esque level for half as long as he did. Witness what happened to Ale-Jet in the Giro this year. Did I say half as long? Try a quarter as long.
In 1995 I broke my femur in two places after a bizarre crash was caused by a car, an unexpected boulder-sized pothole and a bit of excessive zeal and speed on my part. In truth I was lucky not to break my neck.
When Joseba Beloki crashed out of the tour a couple years back I experienced fellow-feeling with him. I limped for several years after that 1995 crash, and it was 3-5 years before I was anything like 100%, or capable of a top ten finish (although I raced well in some messenger alleycats). The high speed of pack racing was unattainable for me, and missing that top end 5-10% saw me dropped often. Demoralized, I gave it up. Ten years on, I feel that I am really back to 100 percent form, after three years of solid effort at training, and I'm looking like being back into category 3 in the US again later this year.
Therefore, using my experience as a guide, Beloki has a lot to overcome. I wouldn't expect too much from him, a leg fracture like that really messes a person up both body and soul. Switching to CSC with a patient positive thinker like Rijs, over a cajoler like Saiz would be a wise move.
Mark R. Kerlin
OK, I am sure that I about the last to weigh in on this point, but what better way to prepare for the tour than to have a stressful, but not too stressful, three week warm up race like the Giro d'Italia? I mean, it would be one thing to have to ride really hard and try to be competitive in both the Giro and the Tour (as you and your team previously stated you would do) and one cannot go back on one's word without losing face with the loyal and committed (committable?) tifosi.
But what if one was to "get sick" from drinking too much cold water and then
have to ride uncomfortably at the back of the grupetto for a few of the tougher
days in the mountains? That would suck. Then again you might be able to save
face by toughing it out for a few days and then bouncing back with a stage win
or two before Milan. No pressure to make the podium any longer but good opportunity
to check your condition and fire a few warning shots across the bow of the competition's
Whatever the heck Bjarne and co are thinking is fine by me - especially if this leads to an exciting July and some real heat for the defending champion. To Basso, Cunego, and the rest-go get 'em!
PS - Yep, I am an American. Yep I think Armsrtong is a great tour star. But
nope, never been a fan. Can't really say why - he just never caught my imagination.
Then there's his whole girlfriend thing, UGH - as those boys in the Undertones
article you ran say - less said the better on that!
Great review of the outstanding cycling film "Hell on Wheels." This is certainly one of the very best cycling documentaries I've ever seen - how wonderful, for a change, to see all those sprinters struggling at the back of the field where few cameras seem to go when it comes to TV coverage. You truly realize what a tough sport this is!
Your readers might like to know that the film has been playing on long-distance Lufthansa flights around the world. I've seen it twice now on trips between Vancouver, BC and Frankfurt, Germany. Lufthansa is a great airline - especially its business class - and now we know they have excellent taste when it comes to in-flight entertainment. Keep up the great work at cyclingnews.com!
Vancouver BC, Canada
I read the diary of Brian Smith on his last recollections of Matthew Wittig. While I was not friends with Matt, I will remember racing against him during his 2005 collegiate season. It makes me realize that anything can happen in bike racing, and there is so much more beyond just racing your bike, it is the connections you make with people.
Matt's perserverance through his first accident is remarkable and it makes me relish every ride. To those of you who take cyclling as a trivial pursuit of goals and results, maybe you should look beyond towards bigger picture of how good some feel just being able to race their bikes, regardless of how fast or how long. Rest In Peace Matt! The condolences of the Western Michigan Team go out to his family, friends and loved ones.
First I would like to say that if I were Ullrich, I would be more fearful of facing Basso and Cunego in 2006 than in squaring off against Armstrong this year. What would you do if you were planning the strategy for this year's Tour de France?
Ullrich must beat Armstrong in two mountain stages I feel. Since he cannot descend well or attack on two climbs back to back, he must attempt to beat Armstrong on stages 10 and 14. Why? The first major climb will thin things out a bit, including part of the Discovery train. There are two mistakes to avoid:
Firstly, driving your own team too fast and too early. This will leave you alone for most of the final climb; against Armstrong and his two best men, it's not a good idea.
Secondly, you cannot follow the Discovery boys until Lance is ready to attack
near the final summit. Even if you beat him up the climb, the few seconds would
be of very little value.
If you want to win, you have to attack. Following behind Armstrong too long will only put you into a position to defend second place. If you are a rider with a body like Ullrich, you know while power is not a problem in climbing, accelerating several times on a climb like Simoni is nearly impossible.
Mr. Weller's recent letter raises an excellent point about fines levied by the UCI. Some of them apparently are considered by teams, riders and sponsors to be "fairly good value." I am referring specifically to those fines levied against riders who sport nonstandard team uniforms. There seems to have been an explosion in this type of behavior recently. When a rider at the Giro is in the pink jersey for example, suddenly his shorts, socks, bicycle, sunglasses and even team car are pink. Not to mention the outrageous (in a good way) uniforms employed by a certain recently retired Italian sprinter.
Studies have shown that when fines that are meant to deter a particular behavior are not sufficiently punitive, they can actually encourage the targeted behavior. If the amount of the fine is less than the value of the additional publicity, then there is not only no deterrent, but there is a means provided for assuaging any guilt a team may feel over engaging in disruptive behavior. Perhaps the UCI should be consulting media buyers when setting their fines.
P.S. The yuan is pegged only to the U.S. dollar and the Swiss franc is not pegged to any foreign currency, so there is a conversion rate involved in the situation you describe.
So, I'm not usually one for conspiracy theories, but I just thought of something that would be, for me, quite impressive to see. Armstrong has already announced that he is retiring after this year's Tour. He has made statements saying that six was magic, but seven would just be another tour, or something along those lines.
Step aside and look at Yaroslav Popovich for a second. He was brought to discovery to be a grand tour rider, and has showed talent in grand tours already, having made the Giro podium. He's also showing good form in the Volta a Catalunya.
Given both of these conditions, how classy would it be for Armstrong, in his last tour, to work for Popovych, leading him to his first tour victory? Conspiracy theory, sure, but wouldn't it be fun to see?
I have to take issue with you regarding Eddy Merckx where you say:
"...but even a cursory glance at the palmares of Eddy Merckx shows that he is the colossus in the sport of cycling." http://www.cyclingnews.com/news.php?id=news/2005/may05/may22news
Shouldn't it instead read:
"...but even a cursory glance at the palmares of Eddy Merckx shows that he is the colossus of all sports."
When you look at the magnitude and diversity of events that Merckx won, and taking into account the toughness of the sport, I don't think anyone else comes near him.
Not Bradman, not Jack Nicklaus, not Heather Mackay, Mohammad Ali or Walter Lindrum. They were all greats, but Merckx could win on the track in both short and six day events, on the flat, in the hills and mountains, over one day or twenty days, etc.
Let's try and get more recognition for who must surely be the greatest competitor ever. It is sad that most people in the World have never heard of him or his great exploits.
Too bad that Ekimov has to pull out of this year's Tour. I'm pretty sure Armstrong is the one that will miss him the most!
But even considering how much I admire Ekimov, he still has a little bit to go before he can enter the books of history. Didn't Joop Zoetemelk complete 16 Tours in a row, almost all of them inside the top 10, including one victory and five or six second places? How that is possible is beyond my understanding, but it surely must rank among the greatest achievements in cycling history. And to add to this, he became World Champion at 39 (or something like that). Maybe there's still hope - I'm only 38...
What seems to have been missed by many who are commenting on the Bettini/Cooke incident, having seen it from internet photos or a two-second news highlight is that Cooke started moving down the left when Bettini was still almost in the middle of the road. After that, Bettini looked back twice, as he himself admits, but continues to move further and further to the left. For the Italian judges to say that an Italian in the maglia rosa was in the wrong is very telling.
You have let us down Paolo #2
In response to the letter by J McHugh of Westport; I'm sure you'll have many similar responses to this, but the photos J McHugh saw on the internet were AFTER Bettini had done 'the switch' - if there doesn't look too much room that's because Bettini presumably wanted it that way. SBS TV coverage in Australia showed the before scene and 'the switch' from the front, but the helicopter shot only showed the after scenario. The finish was a very, very gentle right curve on a two lane road that wasn't overly wide. Bettini started his sprint 20cm to the left of the centreline (ie: 'the long way round' for such a finish) and then moved very suddenly about 2 metres to the left (ie: going even more 'the long way round') just, conveniently enough, as a Mr B. Cooke was trying to come past - the photos on the internet pick up from this point. Hmmmmm, well, everyone's free to make up their own mind, but I know what I think....
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