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Letters to Cyclingnews - June 30, 2006, part 2
In the midst of pre-Tour hysteria and the hype for every potential winner, I feel that Mancebo has a unique talent in the mountains. Oh yes, Garzelli , Mayo, Cunego and Valverde are all great climbers but it takes a unique mindset to race 10 days of the Tour before getting to those big freaks of nature known as the Alps and the Pyrenees. Many climbers loose sight of their goals. Long before the hills the yellow jersey seems to have slipped over the horizon. Some of the mountain goats may try, like Rasmussen did in 2005, to have a big day in the mountains, beating everyone by 5 or 10 minutes. Wow. Sensational. Then the next stage arrives and it becomes inevitable that they begin to slide back further and further. It seems impossible to have two sensational days in a row. Two great ones perhaps, but to push it too far... You have to pay the toll sooner or later. Measuring out your energy for the whole 3 weeks and for each day is more difficult than the training and the mental stamina needed for a long tour. Mancebo seems to have this key quality. I think he has the potential to grab the podium, second place. Yes, the odds are quite high. But so many have picked their top three for the Tour finish, and Mancebo isn't on anyone else's card. So now he is on mine.
After all, would you be impressed, if I said I was picking Ullrich and Basso?
Hincapie was named one of the team leaders. There was also Savoldelli, Azevedo and Popovych. The road will decide will be the most protected. A marketing ploy? Race to replace is a marketing ploy, Hincapie as a leader is not. Do not forget he came in tenth in the Dauphine and has been hanging in the mountains for the past two years.
People are sorely mistaken if they think this team does not have any GC contenders. I was always under the impression that this Tour plays into the strengths of the team better than the Giro and that Savoldelli should have concentrated on this instead. It is going to be interesting to watch this years Tour, I just wish that they would cut down the coverage a bit to twice a day and increase the other Grand tours in the process.
Hincapie to lead Disco #2
I agree. Without Lance the Discovery team lacks a real challenger in the Tour this year. The American media should pay more attention to the other leading Americans, Levi, Floyd, David, Bobby, Christian, Chris Horner, Freddy, and George who may surprise people in his overall performance this year.
But as usual the media gets it wrong and can't see the forest for the trees!
John D. Brown
Hincapie to lead Disco #3
If you followed the tour last year, George finished 23 minutes down. Levi and Floyd were the only Americans besides Lance to finish ahead. Why would Discovery and Cyclingnews make a big deal out of George, and not the other Americans? Because he is a hell of a great rider, and now a great tour rider. It's by no means a ploy, Discovery actually has a strong team. George is actually a strong rider. Do you really think Discovery cares that an American finished first or that the big sponsor name finished first? I'd say execs at Discovery are more concerned with their big name, and not some tiny little Spaniard, Italian, Russian, or whoever on the team wins.
No one, not Floyd, Zabriske, Horner, or George will have the marketability of Lance. You say Lance and people know, so I don't think Discovery cares about an American or not winning. The Discovery Channel and all its shows are seen worldwide. George is a GC contender, he has worked hard on his TT, climbing, and leadership. I'd say Disco is not making this a ploy for attention. I'd say Discovery has more experience in the tour than any other team, not to mention, more experience on GC than any other team. So Stephen, I'd say you're wrong in your analysis about George.
By the way, where did Horner, Zabriske, and Fast Freddie finish in the Tour last year? Oh yeah, after George. Stage one, who finished higher George or Floyd? Stage 2, George, David or Floyd? George again. Stage 3, George listed higher again. Goerge was also part of the TTT win, not to mention Stage 15. How many stages did Floyd, Levi, or Freddie win last year? Give George his props, he's earned it. As for the other Americans, hey I'd love to see the entire top 10 be all Americans.
Not all the cyclist/motor vehicle collisions are caused by uncaring/inattentive motorists. Far too many cyclists completely disregard the rules of the road. Some cyclists just plain ride dangerously. Worst of all, many cyclists (myself included) occasionally impose their vulnerability on motorists to make motorists yield their rightful right of way to the cyclist. I have been cycling (commuting, training and recreational riding) on urban streets since 1970. In my experience, motorists are FAR less hostile and more considerate toward cyclists now than they were when I started riding.
Last summer, I ran a red light in front of a motorist who was coming the opposite direction and had a green left turn arrow (as I knew from my knowledge of the intersection.) There was plenty of space and I in no way impeded the motorist. The guy crossed the yellow line, gunned his engine and tried his level best to run me down! Fortunately, I am not prone to panic and made it to the sidewalk with maybe two inches/a small fraction of a second to spare. I don't believe running me down or risking running me down was worth him making his point, but I got his point. Many motorists will never respect our rights as long as we, with impunity, (1) run stop lights, (2) run stop signs at close to 100% of our approach speed, (3) impose our vulnerability on them to wrest right of way and/or (4) disregard the rules of the road in general.
I have come to the conclusion the solution to mixing cyclists and motor vehicles on the same roads is one most cyclists abhor: enforcement of traffic laws against cyclists on the same basis as enforcement against motorists. Adult cyclists should be required to obtain cycling licenses and traffic enforcement officers should be required to enforce the rules of the road against cyclists just as they do against motor vehicle operators. (Motorists aren't cited for failing to come to a complete stop at stop signs and neither should cyclists.) Cyclists should lose the privilege of cycling if they accumulate an excessive number of violations in a given period of time, just as motorists can lose their licenses.
I am sure the vast majority of your readers strongly disagree with this approach. But only when we obey the rules of the road AND motorists believe we are exposed to the same risk of fines and loss of operator privileges to which they are exposed will a substantial majority of motorists truly respect our rights.
Rob, I feel your pain. I was one of the organisers of the wheels of justice rally held in Adelaide after the death of Ian Humphreys. You may remember he was killed by Eugene McGee in a hit and run. I have been thinking about improving rider safety a lot lately and two things come to mind.
First, we have a day declared 'rider safety day' world wide. That is every year, there is a day when motorists are reminded of their responsibilities toward cyclists. When we as cyclists ring every talk back radio station, write to every newspaper and get every TV station to discuss rider safety world wide. If we all do something at least once a year, attitudes will change.
The second thing, (and I am giving up a business idea here, because I don't know where to start) is to use technology for us. Often we don't report incidents because we don't have the plate number or a witness. My thought is to make a small camera, which records to a memory card on 10 or 15 minute loop, (like a taxi camera) except the small recording device sits in your jersey pocket and the camera fits to your helmet. Every 10 - 15 mins, you hit a button so it starts recording again. That way if there is an incident, you don't hit the button, the footage is kept and you have evidence to go to the police with. As soon as motorists find out we have this device, the roads will be safer and we will be able to report every incident, and show the law makers the true state of road safety.
What do you reckon?
Unfortunately Rob, I can't tell you you're wrong.
There's something about being in the unnatural position of being in charge of a ton of steel, and 100,000 watts that causes temporary psychosis, and leads to competitive "point scoring" behaviour towards any other vehicle encountered whether it be a 40 ton 18 wheeler, or a flesh and bone human being on a bike.
And while mistakes made by airline pilots, train drivers, and other safety-critical occupations are investigated thoroughly, and those at fault sanctioned, over-confident, aggressive, and deliberately intimidatory driving are all accepted by society, and the steady toll in deaths, injury and economic losses are accepted as an inevitable toll.
Drivers have become so used to this, that they now expect to be allowed to behave as they like, and complain when road laws are enforced - witness the campaign against speed cameras in the UK. Governments, and law enforcement agencies are supine before the might of a spoiled, brattish motoring public who think that their freedom should be unfettered, and that they should not be held accountable for their actions.
Even when brought to court and prosecuted, lenient sentences are handed out for the most outrageous behaviours because courts consist of a jury of 12 drivers, presided over by a driver in a wig.
This will not change until the oil runs out.
Like Karen Hanson, I too read the piece on Juniors and I found Hanson's comments poignant and a little inspiring. Too bad she forgot that USAC has it's own agenda and it only includes what they want to do. Having been involved with a fantastic junior team run on a shoe string budget, I tried to up the ante in 2005 with a more extensive European racing campaign. However, despite getting invites (and funding help) to several UCI races in Belgium and Germany I hit a brick wall of funding shortfalls and logistics after a European based sponsor pulled out. Still, I believed that USAC would help in some way, but once again I was dead wrong!
Actually, to his credit, Gerard Bisceglia was super helpful, but hindsight being 20/20, I can see that no one else cared what he thought. Bottom line is that I was told, there was no need to take anyone over to Europe, I should go to Super Week and try to get them on the World's team; I cannot think of a bigger waste of money. I was dumbfounded that no one would lift a finger to just make some calls to help arrange for housing (which we would pay for). In the end I scrapped the whole program and have moved on from junior development after too many frustrations. However, I wrote this to send a message to someone out there that YOU DON'T NEED USAC to race in Europe! Toby Stanton's been doing it for years.
I just sent a rider over to Portugal this summer and have been working with Carvalho Ciclismo to develop racing opportunities for juniors, U-23's and even seniors. It's not free, but we hope to develop an extensive network and open up Europe to anyone willing to take a chance. Women haven't been on my radar, but Ms. Hansen's letter has made me rethink this as well.
Chris Harnish, M.S., HFI
One of my favorite quotes. A sprinter talking to a climber: "I am a sprinter, it's my job to suck your wheel. You are a climber, it's your job to drop me. DO YOUR JOB!"
Firstly, well done to the Spanish authorities for their recent operations, which were much needed. However, the operation needs to be closed without the daily speculation, rumours and leaks on individual riders' involvement. It is unacceptable to run an investigation in this manner.
Authorities should be able to wrap up the investigation relatively quickly by matching existing blood samples with DNA from the bags of blood found in the doping complex. The remainder of the dopers should be relatively easy to identify since a plea bargains for the first of the doctors / medical staff / couriers to explain the their records could be offered. Cyclists themselves also tend to talk once the evidence of their guilt is available. This could then be confirmed by cross referencing phone company records showing cell locations, riders' racing calendars and bank statements. News that the investigations are proceeding in this manner would be welcome.
Given that less than 500 cyclists globally earn enough to pay thousands of Euros for doping, of which probably four fifths could probably be immediately eliminated, the investigation isn't exactly looking for a needle in a haystack.
What is happening with this "sport"? The past few months leading up to the Tour De France have provided nothing short of a doping and allegation filled soap opera - to say nothing of what the last 8 years have been like. I am sick and tired of all the baggage that goes along with this sport. I never wanted to admit that these cyclists were by and large taking all matter of performance enhancing drugs. But when you look at everything that has happened...when you weed through all the "botched testing methods", the Virenque epiphany, Hamilton's vanishing twin, Operation Puerto.....it just goes on and on, but are we really any further from the truth? I suggest we aren't. I have to admit to myself that a spade is a spade. I am not surprised that many of these elite athletes maintain their "innocence" despite their positive tests. The charge...the mere specter of cheating in sport is worse than not winning at all.
No one (outside the French) remember who finishes second. We live in a world where second place is merely first loser. The fact is that nothing seems to be working here. If the Operation Puerto is anything to go by, doping is as big a problem as it was at the height of the Festina affair. These guys are simply not getting off the juice....all that is happening is that they are finding more clever ways to mask it and then defending themselves with vigour when they are found out. The UCI doesn't seem interested in a "single strike you're out" policy. So why don't we try the reverse? We may as well make all drugs in cycling legal - all of it. Sounds crazy doesn't it? We aren't getting anywhere with the current methods - everyday there is a new scandal. If we legalized any and all use of drugs in this sport, at very least it would level out the playing field and also ensure that the doping that goes on does so with proper doctor supervision. By and large, I am being sarcastic here. I would prefer the racers to stay clean. But it is only to draw attention to how comical this whole sport has become - it really has become a joke. I hope the cycling world gets its act together and soon. It just doesn't have the shine it used to for me - I suspect others feel the same.
What an incredible time this is to be following professional cycling. It's been very illuminating to watch as all those "little leaks"-- Emma O'Reilly, Ron Jongen, Jesus Manzano, the Andreus and others-- are on the verge of crumbling the dam of secrecy surrounding the pro peloton . Thanks for both the ongoing coverage but also the handy back-links that help us all watch the wheels come off. As more and more of the facade falls away, more and more things make sense-- I guess it's not just the climate that makes Spain so appealing to some of the U.S pros!
As Phil Van Valkenberg so rightly noted in his recent letter, a doper doesn't even have to win an event to affect its outcome-- a perfectly clean cyclist might win thanks to a doped-up domestique, and the winner himself might never even know the truth.
If the peloton is truly as dirty as now seems likely, I can only hope that the governing bodies will offer a general amnesty to all riders in exchange for truthful testimony, and that as a result the testing protocols can be strengthened. Personally, I'd love to see the whole pro peloton demand an "amnesty for honesty" deal, even if it means threatening to boycott this year's Tour-- after all, it's their health that hangs in the balance.
I understand that the Spanish paper has claimed that 58 cyclists are implicated in Operacion Puerto, however I was of the understanding that about 200 athletes had been implicated, so my question is, what about the other names? I have not heard, in all the time since this story broke weeks ago, the mention of one single athlete from any other sport. Is it only cycling that is subject to criticism by the Spanish press? How can we trust a paper that breaks the law in releasing information about a case that has yet to come to a court of law, yet expects athletes (well cyclists anyway) to have unquestionable integrity?
Furthermore, how can we trust a police force and justice system which leaks such information? Is the information even genuine? One thing I have learned to my dismay over the years is that newspapers are only interested in sales, not the truth or the law, and that most people are corruptible. In such a corrupt world, why should any athlete feel compelled to obey the rules, when authorities such as the police, governments and the journalists who should keep them in check behave with such disregard for ethics? They're just not going to are they?
The UCI recently requested Pro Tour riders to submit signed statements that they are not involved with the current doping scandal being investigated by "Operation Door" in Spain. If they are implicated in this case after submitting a statement, they would be terminated and fined by the team. This is unfair and probably illegal under the laws in most nations where the racing is done or where the riders or teams reside. I doubt if this requirement is in the rider's contracts or the UCI rule book. In the Southwestern US this sort of request would be referred to as pure "Toro Poo Poo."
I can't think of a single group of employees that has more masters and is treated more unfairly that professional cyclists. They need a strong union now that represents them. Until then, each rider should be extremely careful in what rights they give away in their contracts. Perhaps the current rider's association could develop a contract template that riders could use.
Cyclingnews, June 29th:
"The general consensus of many observers in the Tour de France press room in Strasbourg is that the UCI is not showing great leadership in the current situation, and that it is more interested in protecting the ProTour system than getting active in the biggest doping scandal that has shattered the sport since the Festina affair in 1998."
I find it quite surprising that the press corps is criticizing the UCI for its supposed lack of leadership with regards to the brewing Spanish doping scandal. While I have no doubt that there will be considerable fallout from the scandal, and would not at all be surprised to see some big names in the sport get taken down, how can any non government organization, such as the UCI, do anything to any rider so far implicated? So far, there is no "official" information that has been published or communicated to the UCI so far as I'm aware. Its only the press itself which has published the information. In the United States, we believe in innocent until proven guilty...I guess in Europe its "Guilty upon accusation," and the press corps acts as the prosecutors.
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