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Letters to Cyclingnews - June 11, 2006
Are you kidding me?
I had to laugh when I read that Simoni accused Basso of offering to sell him stage 20 of this year’s Giro. How can you prove it? His word against Basso’s, right? When the disciplinary committee of the Italian cycling federation sits down and decides weather his claim is true or false I wonder if they will look closely at footage from the race. I didn’t see any of the coverage here in the US but I ‘m sure they weren’t chatting it up during the climb, so why not look at the 5k mark which is where Simoni said it happened and see if any words were exchanged. I will be looking forward to the news to see if they come to a conclusion.
The answer why Simoni is so popular is Italy is probably cultural. My theory on Cipo is his popularity, especially in Italy, is as much for his tremendous sprinting ability as it is for his playboy approach to life – some of the suits he wears are certainly “out there”. Same goes for Tomba in skiing.
The difference is Tomba and Cipo do not seem to be as negative as Simoni, and it is disappointing that Simoni carries on in the way he does. All it does is create bad press and detracts from what has been a very successful career.
The Simoni-bashing continues. Is it deserved? I don’t know. Did Basso offer to sell the stage? I don’t know that, either. However, for those who are indignant at the mere suggestion of Basso discussing buying and selling a stage win, please wake up. This sort of thing happens at all levels of bike racing. I’ve sold primes to a breakaway mate to get him to work when I was more interested in a shot at a rinky-dink amateur win than a few bucks. Basso, for all his perceived class, is a creature of the professional peloton just like the rest of them, and the peloton is rife with deals, overt and otherwise, to which the rest of us are not privy.
Ian M. Leitheiser
I think Eric Nordsieck's summation is about right, and I too believe that Basso would have won stage 20 no matter what (Gibo, exactly what "cards" would you have played?). However, I believe that Simoni had a definite impact on the Giro. Since Jose E. Gutierrez has now been "benched" by his team as a result of the Spanish doping affair, I'm thinking that maybe Simoni deserves second place. Basso's fabulous performance aside (and I too am a big Basso fan), I think Simoni rode as gutsy and gritty a race as he could. Great competitors hate to lose, and the frustration-born verbal remarks by Simoni immediately after the stage, while not excusable, are possibly understandable.
Should Simoni be more circumspect? Of course, but cut the guy a little slack. Basso was unbeatable this year but Simoni did beat Savoldelli and Cunego. Two years ago Simoni was the only rider to finish in the top 20 of both the Giro and the Tour. Yeah, the guy needs to suck it up, but there is no question in my mind that he is one of the most talented riders in the peloton.
Also, I'm fairly certain that stage wins are occasionally bought and sold, though hopefully not too often. I can't recall the rider’s name, but a few years back, after a stage win and during the post-race interview, said rider unwittingly revealed that Paolo Bettini had offered money to this rider to allow him (Bettini) to win the stage (the rider quickly tried to take back what he said but the words were out).
Assume for argument's sake that what Simoni said was true about Basso offering to "sell" the stage to him. Basso would only do this if he knew he were the far stronger of the two, which he clearly was. If Simoni "buys", then Simoni wins the stage, gets the glory for the day and adds to his palmares which always helps come contract renewal time. Basso already has the Giro locked up and already has 2 stage wins, so it's no skin off his teeth to let Simoni go. So, assuming Simoni's pride kept him from saying yes to Basso's offer, then Basso answers by riding away from him. Basso dosen't need the money, but no one would give away a Giro stage for nothing. Far fetched? Possbly not. I thought that some of the comments made by Victorio Adorni, Giancarlo Feretti and Franco Ballerini, when asked by reporters to respond to Simoni's comments, were somewhat telling in this regard (http://www.cyclingnews.com/news.php?id=news/2006/may06/may30news).
Toward the latter part of that incredibly difficult stage 20, I saw only Simoni riding with Basso and no one else. In the end however, and to paraphrase Norm from the TV show Cheers, in pro cycling (as in life?) it's a dog-eat-dog world and in this year's Giro, the entire peloton (including Simoni) was wearing Milk-Bone [dog biscuit] underwear.
Congratulations Ivan on a fantastic Giro victory.
Without Simoni the Giro would have been an even duller affair than it turned out to be. I for one salivated in anticipation at the most mountainous Giro route ever but thanks to Basso and CSC's early work it was done and dusted by the time the mountains really rose upon the horizon.
Without the shadows of Gibo and his teammate Piepoli and their obvious threat to Basso the three weeks would have been a washout. Who stuck to Basso up the Mortirolo? Only one man, an allegedly moaning old soul who's passed his prime. Don't forget that Simoni makes for great entertainment in and out of the saddle and I for one will be sad to see him retire.
Gilberto Simoni seems to be taking quite a beating in the court of public opinion in his latest war of words! It seems like he is just not happy unless he’s winning. It’s clear he’s a sore loser and that is certainly not a quality anyone likes. His all-too-public feud with his teammate Damiano Cunego was the first peek we got into his character. Later, he got just a bit too overconfident in comments directed towards Armstrong and how they’d fare head-to-hear in le Tour. We all know how that one turned out.
Now he’s made the mistake of taking on Ivan Basso. That’s a big one. It seems the handsome, soft-spoken Basso is the public heir apparent to Armstrong even before the tour has begun. His progression in each tour surely supports that perception. Basso’s public image coupled with Simoni’s as a whiner has doomed Gilberto before anyone can look at the facts. I’m not crazy about the way Simoni has acted in the past, but look at the facts before making a decision.
Basso admits asking Simoni not to drop him on the descent before the final climb. Basso had already won more than one stage in the Giro and was in the process of lengthening his six minute advantage on second-placed Gutierrez in the final real stage of the race. Simoni had not won a stage in the Giro and it was his last chance, and at age 35, maybe the last of his career to stand atop the podium. Couple that with the fact that this edition of the Giro was expected to be one of the best in years as the real difficulties were packed into the final week of the race. Basso’s dominance made the race a bit of a dud and without Simoni’s efforts to fight to the very end; the final week would have been unwatchable.
Despite his reputation, Simoni has been generous in that regard. Simoni and the Mexican, Julio Perez, rode a beautiful mountain stage during Simoni’s first Giro victory and Perez’s companionship was rewarded with a stage win when the stronger Simoni clearly would have won the sprint. Finally, people say it is inconceivable that Basso would have asked for money for the stage win. Please. I love this sport, but like a beautiful woman, it never ceases to disappoint. Money for a stage win is has been proven in the past. Look at all the scandals in our sport and tell me something as inconsequential as asking for some green for a stage is impossible.
Simoni is a good rider, a two-time Giro winner and a proven sore loser. Basso may be the next great cyclist. I agree with both. I ask that just because Simoni has been a fool in the past, it doesn’t make him a liar in this case.
I've been a gossip fan all my life. I love trashy magazines like People, and Hollywood Insider. I love soap operas too. If there's trashy intrigue, I'm there.
That's why I've now become the ultimate cycling fan! Who knew that the world of cycling could actually be more scandal-filled than Hollywood (I guess I should have known when my cycling friend assured me that Lance would never "Go Hollywood" - and then he dumped his loyal wife and mother of his children to date Sheryl Crow).
Where do I start? We have Simoni's cry-baby tantrums, and his bizarre allegations. There's always a drug scandal to be found, and this latest one looks like one of the best. Hundreds of athletes implicated? Who knows who might be next? I can't wait.
And then there's whole three ring circus with WADA, UCI, the police, L'Equipe, and more (I guess it's a seven or eight ring circus). Never has a more incompetent group of people done such a great job of behaving like children - it's just delicious! I haven't seen this much backstabbing since I was a tennis fan! And it really demonstrates the star power of Lance - he's retired, but he still draws an audience, and he always ends up as the only one still smiling.
It's exactly like a real-life soap opera. How long until Dick Pound is fired, and how much damage can he do until that day? Will he go insane, tackling riders in the middle of races while screaming "Cheater, Cheater" (perhaps he will if there's a camera around). Will Tyler return to the show, or is he to be written out entirely? Can Jan keep the pounds off this year, or will he spend June partying? Tune in next time and find out!
I'm cancelling my subscription to "People". I'm throwing out my old "Dynasty" tapes. I'm hooked - I'm a cycling fan now. I'm so into this, I'll even be launching a new magazine soon, called "Peloton Insider". Look for it at a newsstand near you. Who knows, I might even find some space in there to cover racing too (but I'm not making any promises).
Thomas A. Fine
Jan is the man!!
Funny how everyone bags him till it looks like he might do well in the Tour, huh!
I wonder how many of you will still be cheering him on if this year proves once again not to be his year?
I am a Jan fan, always have been and always will be. It takes a special person to win the Tour on your second attempt, and a very special character to still be trying for that elusive second victory nine years later. For all of you who truly believe in him, let's hope this year is his, but if not, it will take a true champion in the likes of Ivan Basso to beat him!
Bring on the best month of the year; I for one can’t wait.
Thanks for the tech article on the return of non-round rings. When I open the CN page every morning, I find I click first on any new tech article and they are always informative.
I remember well the Biopace design, even took them for a spin and found them not hard to get used to. But I will not yet be tempted to try any of the new and improved crop - even if some respected pros are paid to use them.
Why? Because none of the articles that purport to analyse non-round ring use acknowledge what helps me and probably many others go fast, especially uphill; that we repeatedly alter our position and pedaling style throughout a particular climb.
At the risk of giving away any "secrets" to potential competitors, I have learned to climb very well, for a big man, by focusing on: relaxation of upper body and breathing, mental attitude and pace [love climbing and feel drawn uphill faster and faster as I go up], and alternating position and technique. It is this last area that I am afraid could be compromised by non-round rings.
Sometimes the alteration is a dramatic change, like from sitting to standing. But often the changes are subtle, just subtle enough to relax certain muscle groups for a few seconds recovery, while others keep the power and speed high. Shifting back or forward on the seat, changing from a heel down to a toe down pedalling style, sitting up higher or straighter - these and other changes also lead to changes in effort and stress on quads, hamstrings, calves, as well as the concurrent changes with respect to forces exerted at different points on the pedal stroke.
I should say that I am no scientist or physiologist, not at all! But I have learned through trial and experience that these subtle shifts in technique, which also change the effort around the pedal stroke, give me the feeling of an "extra gear" when needed, either preventing me from "bogging down" or even increasing speed an extra 1 or 2 kilometres per hour when attacking.
Thus, in my cycling world, it is not just consistency that makes me fast - it is also inconsistency. Does this make sense to anyone else? Does anyone else use these techniques?
Indeed, maybe these techniques would be unaffected by non-round rings, or maybe even enhanced. But so far, the tests and articles I have read only look to the one single most efficient pedal stroke - and I don't think that this is how we ride in the real world.
As long as there has been competition there have been persons attempting to find "better ways" of defeating their opponents. Why? Because of the old nemesis, ego.
In modern day competition there is an additional interest to supplement personal ego, monetary gain and pressure from sponsors to be "the winner". All these egos and all this pressure brings out the propaganda..."he did this, they did that...I let him win...he asked me for money…" My god, it sounds like a bunch of children around a sand pit! "I'm taking my toys home because you don't play the way I planned it".
It's sport we are talking about here.
Given, the sponsors have evolved it into a business and many, many families are dependent on this business for their livelihoods, but it is still sport.
The likes of Bettini, Pettachi, Boonen, Zabel, McEwen, Valverde etc are the star performers and are keeping the masses happy in an entertaining sport. Yes, some of them are flamboyant, yes, some of them are aggressive and at times, appear to be self centred and egotistic but you don't get to their level of competition by being otherwise. Who cares what colour helmet they wear or for that matter which team for whom they ride...they are the entertainment. How mundane would the sport be if all races were as calculated and administered as some past events?
Every rider in the peloton deserves respect for simply being there in the first instance. All of them being human explains the occasional error in judgement and the occasional statement made after an exhausting stage or classics finish.
It's sport, competition, a personal challenge and a statement as to who each rider is as a person, with all the warts out there on the stage for all to see and make judgement upon. There are no doubt others, however congratulations must go to Jens Voigt who obviously still has his mind clearly in perspective and has exhibited what it means to be a sportsman, competing in a sporting event.... for the fun of it.
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I think this is a bit unfair on Hincapie - yes, Jens Voigt showed great sportsmanship, as he has done so many times. And I think everybody appreciates his attacking riding style and guts. So all credit to him, he really deserves all the praise he can get. But in my view, Hincapie should be excused for his behaviour in the stage win.
If there is any rider who knows how it is to do most of the work, only to see that his team captain or someone else win and getting all the praise, it must be Hincapie. After all, this is rider who devoted himself 100% to Armstrong in all of his seven Tour wins; setting the pace in the mountains, shielding his captain from the wind on the flats, etc. And it is also the rider who had to do the spring classics with limited team support (we all know that it was only the Tour that mattered for US Postal/Discovery during Armstrong's time, and the best riders had to be saved for July).
So, I think Hincapie can sit back and enjoy his stage win without feeling guilty of bad sportsmanship. And all the best of luck to him in July. I don't think he has the capacity to beat an in-form Basso and Ullrich, but a podium place is not without reach (if he is selected as the Discovery team captain)
While I too applaud the sportsmanship of Jens Voigt I think we need to go a bit easy on George Hincapie. Yes his stage 15 win came at the expense of Oscar Pereiro. Pereiro did all of the work while Hincapie sat on but how many stages did Pereiro and the rest of the peloton sit behind the slipstream of the Disco Boys over the last few years. Hincapie has riden tempo on the front of the peloton for years and while he's busting his butt on the front all the others sit in and wait till he blows up then they take off. He deserved the win. Pereiro was just sour grapes.
Jens Voigt is a strong rider, no doubt about that. But he is a man paid to do a job, and does it well. His job is not winning. It is helping his team captain win. Just before the stage's conclusion, we saw him talk with his director. Bjarne Riis no doubt reasoned that there was more to be gained by making friends with the powerful Quick Step team in view of the coming Tour de France than by getting another win in this Giro, in which CSC had already reached all of its lofty goals.
Jens Voigt is not the romantic hero some think he is. He is just a damn good worker fully dedicated to the best interests of his employer. In today's world, that is even more admirable.
I strongly disagree with the letters slamming Hincapie for not giving stage 15 of last year's Tour de France to Pereiro. Being a strong rider and having a good day are important, but tactics are part of racing, too. Voigt's decision to give the win to Garate was beautiful but there would have been nothing dishonourable in taking the win himself. The same is true of Hincapie's win.
Yes, Jens Voigt made a classy move in conceding the stage victory, but don't diss George Hincapie.
If you think about it, George's strategy was no different than the strategy one takes in going for the GC win in any stage race. If you want to be in yellow in Paris, you take care to mete out your energy over 21 days of racing, giving it gas when the situation calls for it. You don't win by being the strongest rider all day every day. Basso is a great rider, but he wouldn't have won the GC if he had tried to be the strongest rider the entire race. When was the last time a Giro/Tour/Vuelta GC winner won all 21 stages?
A big part of racing is riding smart and giving it the gas when you have to. And it would seem that's just what George did.
By the way, I'd be very interested if anyone knows the answer to my question. I'm sure at some point in the history of the grand tours someone has been in pink/yellow/gold for the entire race. I would be surprised however if it's happened more than a few times.
Eric S. Cahill
I don't know of anyone who doesn't love Jens Voigt, but wasn't he wrong to give that stage to Garate? After all, isn't the point of riding at the back of the break all day as a "watchdog" that your team wants to discourage the break from staying away? The message to the break is you should come back to the peloton because our guy isn't going to work and you're just going to give him the stage if you stay away.
When Voigt gave the stage to Garate, didn't he tell the peloton that they don't have to worry about Voigt as a watchdog? Now, if the point in the race comes where CSC is no longer worried about the break staying away, then at that point Voigt ought to work his share before going for the win (same story with Hincapie).
He was entitled to his Tour stage if he was telling the truth when he said that he simply could not come to the front in the closing kilometres of that mobbed climb - I have my doubts but Pereiro seemed to have accepted Hincapie's explanation after the initial heat.) But as long as CSC (or Discovery) wants the break to come back, then isn't it right that the team's watchdog is entitled and even obligated to his team to sit on and take the win if the break can't shake him?
Tactics are complicated, and I'd be glad to hear why I'm wrong on this one.
I too admire Jens Voigt for his actions. However, I will not condemn Hincapie for his victory last year in the Tour or for others who may sit on for various tactical reasons. Frankly, if the strongest rider should always win, let's outlaw drafting and turn every race into a time trial and get it over with. Part of the heartache of cycling, and part of what makes cycling interesting, are the tactics. In a perfect world, the strongest/smartest rider should win, and most of the time, this happens.
I don't think anyone can argue that Jen Voigt's decision not to contest the finish of Stage 19 of the Giro was anything but noble. It certainly reveals him to be a man of high character and a role model for the entire sporting world.
However, I think it is quite another thing to call George Hincapie's win in the Tour last year "disgusting," "unjust," or "unfair." What makes bicycle racing interesting is that it is not simply a matter of who has the best genetic gifts, who undertakes the best training, who rides the best equipment, and thus, who has the highest sustainable power output. Events that boil down to those factors certainly exist in the form of time trials and triathlons.
Road racing is an entirely different sport from time trials or triathlons. George Hincapie's job that day in July was to get into that break and work to prevent it from gaining too much time on the field containing his teammate, the race leader. The rest of the break has to decide whether to continue the effort and take their chances with the guy who is going to sit on the break, or whether to abandon that move and try to form another one without the dead weight.
Let's also not forget that Hincapie is big guy who has been considered a classics rider and/or a sprinter. On that day, Hincapie was in a break with a bunch of true climbers, about to tackle a monster of a finishing climb. The bottom line was that several top climbers could not drop a larger rider who was sure to outsprint them, and therefore they did not deserve to win. Hincapie ended up in the break at the base of the final through smart racing tactics, and then he raced up the final climb in an intelligent fashion given his strengths. I see nothing "wrong" with what he did.
Also, let's not forget that Jens Voigt didn't exactly let the break go at the base of the final climb. He didn't say "well, I've sat on this break all day, so now I'll let them fight it out for the win." Instead, he covered attacks of other riders with his "fresh" legs, and it wasn't until the last half kilometre that he let Garate go. My point is that Voigt's gesture showed sportsmanship at its highest level, but I do not think it condemns others who made different decisions. If Voigt had the legs to outsprint Garate, I do not think he would have been "wrong" to do so.
I concur to some extent with all of the letters cheering Jens while criticising George for sitting on during the Tour’s Stage 15 last year. I am a fan of George Hincapie, but never did quite like how he won that stage. Anyway it seems that no one in the peloton had to get even with George, as I think the big guy upstairs may have done that for them.
Take a look at what happened to George in Paris Roubaix this year. He has arguably his best shot ever at winning what he describes as his favourite and most cherished race (he is strong, two teammates in the front group with him, Tom Boonen is isolated and tired) and his steering tube breaks just before the decisive move by Cancellara. Is that kismet or what?
Why so many of you all of a sudden put down Hincapie’s 2005 Tour stage win? Until now Hincapie was a OK for you (or us) because there was no one to compare to him. Everyone after the Tour agreed that he deserved it. Now, Voigt did what he did and you (or we) are taking a ride on Hincapie. To me, that is strange.
I agree that Jens was in exactly the same position as George was last year: 'the best domestique protecting the leader's team interest he sat in a breakaway and did no work'. The difference comes that one did sprint and the other didn't. You say that Jens showed class and George didn't. Jens did the honourable thing and George didn't.
Definitely I agree that Jens did the best and the most beautiful thing for the sport of cycling by letting Garate win. But why that should all of a sudden take everything from George?
This is the way I see it:
Jens didn't sprint because he felt that he didn't earn it. George did sprint because he felt he had earned it by doing such a great job of protecting the leader over the previous days that he could then enjoy the fruits of his hard work. Made no mistake, he was a strong force in creating/protecting Lance's time margin over the others.
Consequently that means if a leader of a team is in a situation like that (#1 on GC) the whole team is better off. They have certain privileges in breakaways others don't because they earned them in previous stages. So George felt it was OK for once to enjoy those privileges and after 7 years of being the most loyal domestique he finally felt he earned it. Also why should he have helped Pereiro move up on the GC? Especially when he was so close to top 10 himself?
So for me George has no less class then Jens. I hope you understand.
I agree with most of what was said in the letter thanking Voigt and Manzano. Until the writer took a gentle swipe at George Hincapie and his stage win in Tour '05. Voigt surely did an honourable thing and one that I believe came about more because of what he was instructed to do in his earpiece - in exchange for future favours - than for chivalrous reasons.
But I take nothing away from Voigt and his excellent ride. I too was thinking as I watched the Giro stage about the parallels between this stage and the aforementioned Tour stage - the position of the overall leaders, the break allowed to go clear, the all around big guy in the break protecting the interests of the team.
Here though, is where the similarities end. George had done his job in 6 1/2 previous Tours without any shot of glory - his decision - but job well done. He finally got a chance to take his nose out of the wind and for once ride defensively for his team. To let some of those guys; Boogerd, Pereiro, Sevilla, Brochard, do some real work in the Tour. He outlasted everyone else and rode smart to take the win. If anything, he should have been the one to get gifted a stage but that obviously wasn't going to happen. So please, don't take a shot at George for not "pulling a Voigt" when he has "pulled" the whole peloton around France the last 7 years.
In regards to George Hincapie sitting on the slipstream of others in stage 15 last year, I was at the crest of the Peresoude, and that’s not what I saw.
I saw George in the first or second spot, at the steepest portion of the climb, taking his turn, pulling everyone. Watching the video later, as the group ascended Plat d'Adet and the last climb, the video replay shows most of the breakaway falling off gradually on each of the final climbs. Finally with one man left, George approaches the line and almost in an act of unbelief holds his hands to his head in awe and shock as the last riders’ legs are done.
Now as to the percentage that George was pulling in the breakaway, I did not see. But is not the job of a rider in a breakaway to situate the team leader for a crossover - and perhaps George was trying to slow the break some, for the eventual arrival of Lance, (which never transpired).
George Hincapie is one of the most selfless domestiques, and has been the most loyal person to Lance’s seven wins. domestique, heck, he is a champion of many forms of single day and multi-day classics. He has sacrificed himself countless times to help Postal/Discovery reach their objectives. George has proven an incredibly strong finisher, in the top 5 percent of Professional riders. Witness this in multiple Paris Roubaix, Tour of Flanders, Het Volk finishes, and so on. He won stage 15 in 2005 because he is one of the top finishers, period.
Jens Voigt is deserving of the respect he has earned as far as his sporting gesture in Stage 19 of this year's Giro d'Italia, but the comparisons with George Hincapie's win in Stage 15 of the 2005 Tour de France are not remotely valid.
For his entire career Jens Voigt has had a green light to go for stage wins in races like the Tour, it is only now that CSC has a bona-fide GC candidate that his freedom has been curtailed. George Hincapie, on the other hand, has ridden for seven years in the selfless service of US Postal/Discovery Channel team goals. He's the ONLY rider with seven autographed yellow jerseys, the first of which, in 1999, states:
“George, Thanks for all of your hard work and sacrifice, especially at a time that you could have ridden for yourself! Thanks my friend!” - Lance Armstrong.
Even George's infiltration of the breakaway in Stage 15 was with team goals in mind. Do those thinking Pereiro was "robbed" seriously believe that he did more work on the front of the bicycle race than George Hincapie did over the entire three weeks of the Tour? Pereiro may have felt robbed on the day, but it didn't stop HIM from sitting on to win the following stage in the 2005 Tour.
If he was so invested in HONOURABLE wins, why did he sit on the next day coming in to the finish? I'll tell you why: because he understood the nature of the sport of bicycle racing. He ratified and sanctioned George Hincapie's win on that day, as well, because the way he won his victory SAID he understood.
I am reminded of a stage in the Coors Classic oh so many years ago, in which Davis Phinney was away with Bernard Hinault. Hinault was riding that year to protect Greg LeMond's CC victory, in repayment for Greg's help at the Tour that year. In the last miles of the stage, Hinault sat on young Phinney then outsprinted him at the end of the stage for the victory.
Phinney was nearly apoplectic at Hinault's gesture, saying something about how classless such a victory was, to just sit on a rider and then come around. Hinault simply said, “Where was my young friend when I was pacing the peloton up the climbs earlier in the stage?” Phinney said sheepishly that he was coming off the back. Hinault was making the point that he'd paid his dues for the stage victory, even if he did not do it in the final kilometres or meters of the stage itself. No gifts.
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