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Letters to Cyclingnews - March 24, 2006
I would have to disagree with the letter written by Gerrerd Abrams about the lack of American names on Discovery's team. Think about this in terms of other sports, baseball, soccer etc.
When you become a fan of a team, you don't discriminate against members of that team based on geography. If I am a Boston Red Sox fan, I don't denigrate my team because they don't have a lot of players from Boston on the squad, or for that matter if they get a lot of players from outside the country (which they of course do). Same could be said for Manchester United in soccer if they start bringing in guys from Spain, Brazil, or even the United States.
Cycling more than other sports makes it difficult to root strictly for a team. I am a Discovery fan primarily due to my appreciation for Lance Armstrong. But, I also really like Johan Bruyneel, and Paolo Salvodelli. I thoroughly enjoyed watching Il Falco come back in last year's Giro to keep his Pink Jersey. That was one of the most exciting days in racing last year! At the same time, I root for guys like Levi, Floyd, and other Americans to do well in all their races. And, I am very much looking forward to following the career of Tommy D and I hope that someday soon he can win the TDF for Discovery. But, I would still root for him if he were to move on when his contract is up.
Oh, and by the way, most of the names that Mr. Abrams mentioned on the Discovery squad from other countries (Popovich, Eki, etc.) were there helping Lance over the last seven years, so why should I stop rooting for them just because they still have contracts with Discovery. Should they all be summarily fired so we can bring in some not yet ready Americans who still need a few years racing in this country before they are really ready to tackle Europe? I really don't think so.
I can understand Mr. Abrams' frustration over the difficulty for American racers to enter the elite pro peloton. It's tough to break into the elite pro ranks of any sport regardless of nationality. And I respect his choice to not cheer on the Disco boys. However, if we apply similar logic to other sports and teams, we'd be left with no one to cheer for. Take the Great American Pastime for example. Every single major league baseball team has a bunch of non-American players, many of whom don't even speak English (gasp!). Yet we can still rout, rout, rout for the home team. Where do we draw the line? Should I stop cheering for the Kansas City Royals because none of the players were born and raised in Kansas City? How many foreigners play for Real Madrid? How many Italian drivers are on Ferrari's Formula 1 team?
I'll continue to back the Discovery team for a host of reasons. We live in a global community and cycling's an international sport. The team is owned by an American company. The primary sponsor is an American company. They've provided an opportunity for several American cyclists that may not have been available otherwise. Discovery's success will encourage more American teams and sponsors to shoot for the big time. Discovery's success will encourage sponsors to support cycling at all levels. Discovery's success will provide continued exposure of our beloved sport here in America. All of which will create more and more opportunities for cyclists of all nationalities and abilities.
In response to the bizarre letter about the lack of American riders on Discovery. What a load of chauvinistic bull! I for one have no problem rooting for guys with names like Paolo, Viatcheslav or Jurgen, (or Ja-Ja, Pou-Pou, or Rey Leone) just as many non-American's have no problem rooting for guys with names like Floyd, or Bobby.
Cycling is an international sport and teams are international. Sure some teams are mostly made up of riders from their home country, but very few are made up of one nationality alone. Do you think Belgians have trouble rooting for an Italian Olympic Champion named Paolo Bettini, riding for Belgian team Quickstep? When a Belgian rider, riding for a French team, is leading a Tour de France stage do you think the French won't pull for him because he's Belgian?
Expounding your narrow geocentric view of the sport just reinforces the stereotype that many around the world have of Americans in general and American cycling fans in particular. I disagree with everything he said, and as this is an international website I hope those readers around the world who see your letter will not believe that all Americans are so naďve and narrow minded. I got into cycling by watching a young kid, with the weird (to me) name of Eddy Merckx, destroy fields of riders with names I couldn't pronounce and had never even seen before. I root for champions, whatever their name, and wherever they're from.
In response to Mr Abrams letter "Discovery's American riders":
How about just falling in love with bike racing, and then simply cheer for the riders that excite and inspire you, regardless of their nationality or the number of attempts it takes to pronounce their name somewhat decently?
To me it would be a sad state of affairs, if we are unable to appreciate race
performance, the hope and the passion put on display, just because the rider
has the "wrong" nationality.
I think we all need to take responsibility for trying to keep the cycling community culture different from that of European soccer and North American hockey. I am not suggesting anyone burn their flag, just that we make sure we do not get all entangled in it, so we cannot see the race.
I don't disagree with Gerrard's observation that there are many foreign riders on America's one Pro Tour team. However, what he's not really saying is that most foreign pro tour teams are multinational as well. Floyd Landis rides for a Swiss team. Bobby Julich and Dave Zabriskie ride for a team from Denmark. Chris Horner rides for a Belgian team. Saul Raisin rides for a French squad.
The reason I go to such length is that pro tour cycling is a world sport, not an Olympic event. Gerrerd sounds nationalistic for pointing that out about Discovery cycling, and not in a bad way. However, what I see is that very few teams on the Pro Tour hail from just one country. If you can compare cycling to the NHL, there aren't too many teams having players from one country either...but hockey is indeed a world sport too.
I understand what Gerrerd is saying about Discovery's lack of American content, but I would like to throw this out there as a reason. Floyd, Bobby, Horner and others now riding on European teams have done so because they could lead a team and not simply be a worker for then Postal/Discovery leader Lance. Isn't it better that we have more than one option to cheer for on the Pro Tour circuit? And where might all the American worker bees be?
Well they are riding in the USA on other American-sponsored teams that don't ride in Europe. Yep, it is unfortunate, but I imagine that these boys are quite happy to ride in the States, closer to their families, with riders they grew up with. As a plus they may also get a chance to win every now and then, where as on the European circuit, they may never see the front of the peloton. Let's face it, if you are going to be a domestique why ride 4,000 miles away?
Michel van Musschenbroek
This letter made my blood boil! I have no problem rooting for non -American riders on Team Discovery. In fact, riders like Eki, Popo, Chechu, Azevedo and Savoldelli are among my favourites in the peloton. I bet George Hincapie doesn't mind having Belgian strongmen on his team when he does Paris-Roubaix or Tour of Flanders. But just because Discovery has an American registration doesn't make it my team. And just because I am from the USA doesn't mean I have to cheer for Americans and against every one else!
That is what I love about cycling; I can root for a never say die Kazakh, an Italian cricket, a tiny Columbian climber or a big Swede. I can admire a big-mouth Aussie sprinter or a stylin' Italian one. And I'll proudly wear team kit from ONCE, Mapei, Davitamon-Lotto or Landbouwkrediet (go Ludo!)
Firstly, the sponsors are interested in a global market - Discovery has 1 billion viewers around the world, Trek has started selling bikes in China and wants to open a factory there, Berry Floor is a Belgian company - otherwise they'd be sponsoring a US domestic team.
Secondly, maybe the American riders Gerrerd thinks should be in the Discovery team just aren't good enough or don't want it bad enough. There's been a steady stream of riders from other non-traditional cycling nations (Sean Kelly, Phil Anderson, Sean Yates) who let their legs do the talking. I don't recall any Australian/Irish/British teams for them to get an easy road into the top level.
Before you go ripping on the Discovery boys about the team's diversity consider one thing: it wasn't built to showcase American talent. At no time has Lance stated that is his objective. The team was built to win. Period. It has American sponsors, true. Big-name companies like Nike and Trek are doing their best to come up with new advantages, true. But look at all the dudes and bros in the Discovery organisation as a whole. Lots of Belgians in support and managing roles - think Bruyneel - nothing wrong with that, in my honest opinion.
The American definition of success isn't a measurement of what town you grew up in or what language you speak. It's about having the drive to put every ounce of effort into achieving dreams and goals. Like anything Lance does, he figured out how to make the best weapon. The Il Falcos, Beltrans and Ekimovs of the peloton have real talent and tenacity. LA liked what he saw and decided to get them on board. Turns out he was pretty darn right, wasn't he?
Please, by all means yell and scream all you want about getting more Americans into the peloton! Trust me, I'll stand right beside you on Brasstown Bald, Alpe d'Huez, and Mortirolo (if I am lucky) shouting whatever you want. But, DO something about it. Volunteer at next year's Tour of California, Tour De Georgia, crit's, centuries, multi-stages, et cetera. Donate to the cause (Bike Town's a pretty cool project). Barring any of that, just show up to any cycling event and show support even when you're not racing.
Post-Lance America's cycling scene seems to be in a bit of a vacuum at the moment, but the atmosphere at Redondo Beach was awesome. Here's to hoping TDG gets good attendance numbers.
Your article Race Fatality Stuns Tasmanian Cycling Community, regarding Samantha Hellyer, claims that she was abandoned as a small child and that she spent time in an orphanage. This information is incorrect and I need to correct it as my family needs closure. Samantha was not abandoned as a small child and she had never spent time in an orphanage. Samantha lived with her mother Tracey Hellyer, sister Chantelle and brother Ben until she was 11.
I am her grandmother and my husband and I live in Victoria and we kept in touch by letter, phone, birthday and Christmas presents and visited at least once a year. Samantha was born in Bairnsdale, Victoria, 18 kilometres from Paynesville and lived there for 18 months under my guidance until Tracey and Samantha moved to Queensland and then to Tasmania.
Samantha started school in Tasmania and her potential to do well in sports was always there as she did well in cross country running and foot racing. Samantha was in Little Athletics and did very well, collecting medals and ribbons and that is where she met Sally Bell. I believe Sally did some of the transporting to and from Little Athletics. I did hear Sally say that Samantha once asked if she could go and live with her and her partner Jim and so if anyone abandoned anyone you could say it was Samantha who abandoned her family.
Tracey was a single mum on a pension and could not afford to give Samantha everything she wanted and she did have trouble coping at times so the children did spend occasional time in care. Samantha was a difficult child growing up and once told her mother she wished she was an only child. When Samantha was 11 she was giving Tracey a hard time and Tracey could not control her and because we lived so far away I suggested Tracey contact the Welfare Department. That is when Samantha went into full time care and later went to live with Sally and Jim where she was treated as an only child and they were financially able to give Samantha whatever she wanted. She did grow and blossom while she was with them.
My husband and I were in Tasmania in March 2003 and took the family out to dinner and we were very pleased with what we saw in Samantha, she had grown into quite the young lady and was a very different girl to when we last saw her. People who knew Samantha in her last three years saw a very different Samantha to the one we knew. She did have a loving side when things were going her way. Samantha had started writing to us and sending photos - in fact we got a letter about a month before she was killed. It was a great sadness that she was cut down in her prime and she is very sadly missed by her family.
Before the accident Samantha had started visiting and spending time with her mother Tracey and they were becoming close again and she told Tracey she loved her. Tracey does and always has loved her children. Tracey herself had a bad start to life, as her mother was an alcoholic and starved Tracey into malnutrition. Tracey is my husband's niece and we have raised her from 15 months, so we are the only parents she has known, hence we are mum and dad to her and nanna and pa to her children. Tracey has received unfair and unkind treatment as a result of untrue stories that have been told regarding Samantha's childhood.
The disparity in equipment visible from the pics of participants from the Commonwealth Games men's individual TT shows that the "wealth" is not "common" at all.
I'm not sure if you have heard but the UCI is flexing its non-steroid enhanced muscles once again. A local club has been conducting some non-sanctioned Sunday afternoon criteriums here in Boulder, Colorado. Being in a cycling hot bed, naturally many well known cyclists and athletes show up for these events.
The beneficiaries of these races are several local charities including the Tyler Hamilton Foundation. Entry fees are very low ($15.00) with a substantial portion going as donations to these charities. To increase crowds and participation, Tyler has ridden in several of the scheduled events, and as a result, the race has attracted very large numbers of entries in all categories.
Upon hearing this, the UCI in their ever so infinite wisdom, has threatened to suspend "ANY" UCI licensed participant for up to 30 days if they ride with Tyler in any race, sanctioned or not. The only losers are the very worthwhile charities benefiting from these events and the kids coming out to rub elbows with the pros. Where else would they ever get an opportunity to do so? The UCI needs to focus on promoting cycling and not discouraging participation.
Have you guys caught wind of this yet?
In Boulder Colorado, there is a charity race sponsored by the Tyler Hamilton Foundation where Tyler himself raced in on March 5th. Apparently the UCI found out about this and has threatened all other licensed riders that participate in this and other non-sanctioned events either suspension or fines. Apparently the UCI sent a letter to all local race teams with this warning. Really a shame considering this race is simply to help promote racing at all levels and raises money for people with MS.
Is it just me, or does it seem that Landis is quite a bit stronger then most of the other grand tour riders. Even Hincapie, who is an early season star, doesn't seem to be quite up to speed with Landis. People always talk about Armstrong focusing on the Tour, and not really giving other races a chance. Does Landis think he can be strong from February to August? That's a long time to keep peak form. Does he plan on peaking twice?
In my opinion Armstrong was a machine. His natural talent was beyond most, if not all of the pros (currently), and he has revolutionized the science of cycling, and even he was not able to effectively race strong for six months, or peak twice. I think Landis could win the Tour, but I think he would need to focus solely on that race. He seems extremely dedicated to his career, as we can already see early in 2006, but I don't think he have the physical gifts that Armstrong had.
I also think it is a mistake for Basso and Ullrich to race the Giro. If they just plan on "riding" the Giro, that's fine (Indurain did that almost every year, for Tour preparation), but if they plan on contending for GC, they seem to be committing Tour suicide! Don't get me wrong, I'd love to see someone win the Giro and Tour, I just don't think it's possible, with the type of racing these days. I really think that riding the Giro can benefit Ullrich, since his racing style is very similar to Indurain, but there is a fine line (overtraining, burn-out, etc), and a risk (crash, sickness, etc) I look forward to watching the races, and being proved wrong!
Seems like this is not a new subject...
"I still feel that variable gears are only for people over forty-five. Isn't it better to triumph by the strength of your muscles than by the artifice of a derailer? We are getting soft...as for me, give me a fixed gear!" - Henri Desgrange
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