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Letters to Cyclingnews - May 4, 2007
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.
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Call that a race?
Mr Emerson's complaint about Amstel Gold conclusion being "very poorly thought out end game" makes me puzzled. The end game was a textbook example of well thought of team play by Gerolsteiner. Even if a win to either one of Gerolsteiner riders was likely when it became evident that the breakaway will stay clear, it was still exiting to see if there was any rider still strong enough to play the game alone.
While watching the Spring Classics, it must be remembered that no matter how spectacular shows they turn out, they are not show wrestling. A top rider's top priority is not to please the audience but to make the team win! Generally riders are not interested or instructed to help other teams win, so any co-operation is bound to break in the last kilometres. Gerolsteiner riders and directeur sportifs knew this and they exploited it to the full.
Still, there was a window of opportunity for any rider to jump to Schumacher's wheel when he made his move. This time nobody had the reflexes or the power needed to do it and it would have been idiotic for any single rider to go after Schumacher when he was already 20 metres away. Experienced riders as they were, they kept cool and waited for someone else's nerve to break, but none did. So team Gerolsteiner's win was sealed a long time before finish line, but you can't always have a bunch sprint. And if you had, how boring would that be! TDF flat stage fans anywhere?
Classics are true classics. Sometimes they are decided in hours of battling in the fields of Flanders, sometimes in a fraction of a second burst of action as in this time. Everybody was waiting for Gerolsteiner to attack, yet they did manage to pull 1-2 this time, and I can tell you it was not because the others didn't want to win. Classic stuff!
Yes, it's great that Schumacher won, and by golly, he didn't even need to take out any of his rivals this time!
It's funny that fellow American's are bent out of shape to pay for a picture and autograph with a sports celebrity like Landis. Maybe they have not been in the sports collectibles market and don't know that athletes, retired and current, get paid big bucks for signing their names.
These days $25 is a small amount to pay for a big time celeb, or any celeb's signature. Ask a collector how much Jordan, Magic Johnson, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Derek Jeter, Wayne Gretzky, or even Pete Rose, etc., charge for their autographs! A lot more than Landis and they do it for profit, not to fund a legal battle who's outcome will make or break his career!
So, honestly, I don't see a problem with him charging for his autograph. It's nothing new since I was a kid in the 80s standing in line to meet the great Joe Dimaggio... for a fee which Joe pocketed for profit. (In fact, it was more than what Landis charged and this was in the 80s before the huge boom in autograph prices of the 90s and current). But in Landis' case, he's using it for a reason, his livelihood. Can you fault him for that? It's not like he's making the that a Derek Jeter or Jordan make... indeed far less comparably.
So I hope Landis comes to my town! I'll surely help fund his campaign for a nice memory and memento.
Pose with Landis, at a price #2
I took a picture with Floyd at the Tour de Georgia and he was very kind. It cost me nothing, and he was more than happy to autograph a picture for my son too. This guy is in a battle for his career and reputation, something we will never understand.
Micah said "Something like this would have never happened to Lance Armstrong during his Tour de France victories..."
No, it wouldn't have... but Tom Danielson is not Lance Armstrong, and this was not the Tour de France. I think Discovery played it well. They got a top rider in a break and then won the overall, teams, and two stages.
A job well done.
Danielson should leave Discovery #2
I am not sure whether Johan should be faulted or whether his tactics simply reflect the new post-Lance reality at Discovery.
With the exception of races like the Tour de Cali (where Levi was designated) or the Giro (where Basso was supposed to be leader), Discovery doesn't have riders so clearly superior that they can be designated leader ahead of time. If Johan picks someone who folds early, they end up like Euskaltel in the Mayo years, beheaded after a couple stages.
Last year's Vuelta illustrates Johan's dilemma. As much as I like Tommy D, he wasn't showing much early on in the Vuelta. And in the early and middle stages of the Vuelta, Brajkovic shone. If Johan had picked either as a leader ahead of the race, he would have had problems - either early or late.
So one of the ways Johan addresses this dilemma is a kind of survival of the fittest way of designating a leader. He sees who rises to the top in a given tour. Brajkovic can't be faulted for getting into the stage 3 break - that is standard practice. The problem is more than Tommy D and Discovery let the stage 3 break get away.
I don't buy Johan allowed it to stay away by design or because Brajkovic was in the break. Remember this sort of thing happened on a really rainy stage of the Tour de France with Lance, a break got away and he was like 27 minutes behind.
Because other than Basso and arguably Levi, Johan doesn't have any riders strong enough warrant pre-designation as leader. So he lets them fight it out. This worked in the TDG because it was a domestic race, but it won't work in the big European races. There you need someone like Basso, designated ahead of time.
Danielson should leave Discovery #3
To say that the break on stage three in Georgia should have been pulled back by Discovery to help Danielson assumes that the break could be pulled back without the help of the other very strong teams who had riders in it.
CSC didn't want to chase, Navigators and Priority Health had riders in there too, as did most every other strong team in the race. Bruyneel had to make a calculated decision. They had two riders in the break, and would get no real cooperation from the peloton. Do they burn out their big guns just before Look-out Mountain. and Brasstown, or do they go with a card that is the most likely to play out
Just another example of why Bruyneel is the leader of Discovery, and why armchair directors are always questioning his tactics and remaining in their chairs as he leads his team to success race after race.
Danielson should leave Discovery #4
Micah writes, "Tom Danielson should leave Discovery. He was supposed to be the outright leader for the Tour of Georgia, but like he did during the Tour of Spain, Bruyneel has once again ditched Danielson mid-way into the race."
There are always readers and fans who ask these types of question. They are the same readers who say Discovery somehow betrayed Levi Leipheimer by bringing him to the team then subsequently signing Basso (of course the whole Basso thing might be a moot point now with his release by Discovery).
Where is the betrayal? I think a lot of people are way too impassioned by this type of thing. What they fail to do is recognize that cycling teams are businesses, first and foremost. The riders are employees. No more and no less. They are paid to ride bikes. The business of the team and the team's only objective is to ultimately promote their sponsors.
The way they promote their sponsors is by winning races. It doesn't matter which of their riders win. The teams are not there to promote the rider's own personal cause and ambition. Discovery (and any other cycling team) could care less who wins the race as long as it is one of their riders and not the rider of a competing team. Plain and simple.
Some people just don't understand that sports (pro cycling included) are just a business. I am not being sarcastic. That is the reality.
In response to Zach Jones' letter about Davide Rebellin…
It just doesn't matter that he doesn't attack. It just doesn't matter that he doesn't pull back a break. And it just doesn't matter if he sits and waits until the last minute to win. The man is paid to ride a bike, and in some races, he's paid to win them. He does this. Doesn't matter how he does it, but he does it.
Sure you don't like his "style" and all, but again, it just doesn't matter. It's almost silly to have this somehow nostalgic view of racing as one against the many, and that sitting in and waiting for a win is less than honourable. Look, those guys he beat had all day to try and rid themselves of Rebellin. They didn't get rid of him though, and he won.
Davide Rebellin #2
Glad to see that I'm not the only person who thinks Davide Rebellin is the worst wheel-sucker on the planet. It was pretty evident that his team-mate Schumacher won the Amstel Gold because all the rest of the lead group did not want to chase and thus open the race up for Rebellin.
When I was a Pro in Britain (MANY moons ago), all the British Pros had nicknames (There were only 30 of us), and the worst one was a guy from Liverpool, who only ever appeared at the front at 200m to go.....I can't remember his real name, but the nickname stuck...."Maggot"
Davide Rebellin #3
This is in response to Zach Jones' letter regarding David Rebellin:
They don't ask how, only who.
Davide Rebellin #4
It is certainly your prerogative not to like Rebellin's racing style. It is obvious that you are fairly new to the sport because you are not aware that Davide won 11 races in 2001, won twice the Clasica di San Sebastián, won stages in the Giro, wore the pink jersey for several days at the Giro and you will find more if you search his biography.
The guy is 36 and he has been a top rider all of his career. How many racers you know that will race from March to October and perform up to par? I might sound like the President of Rebellin's Fan Club, but I am not. I just like smart clean riders who earn their pay in every race they do.
Davide Rebellin #5
That was an odd letter from Mr Zach Jones from Colorado [April 25th]. He doesn't like to see Davide Rebellin win because of his "passive" riding style...well, I just have to say that I love to see Rebellin win because of his intelligent riding style. Some riders break away and win, yes, and "make the race". If they had a finish like Rebellin's, I'm sure that most of them would ride like he does.
And what is this about him "hardly" having won anything before 2004? A rider who is a Giro stage winner, who has won Tirreno and Tour de Méditerranéen, a winner in San Sebastián and Zürich, and of numerous other big one-day races like Veneto, Tre Valli Varesine, Friuli, Henninger Turm and l'Emilia?
Mr Jones makes his wins sound like so many lucky punches, and that's a bit hard to stomach. A guy who "just" follows the best, and then beats them at the line, I wouldn't mind being that guy.
Anders P. Jensen
Give me a break. Hot on the heels of the "clean" LBL come the additional revelations from Spain. Is there a rider in the peloton that wasn't being looked after by Fuentes?
Let's pull our heads out of the sand. Any rider that is consistently performing at the very top levels is doping in some way or another, legal or not.
The evidence is overwhelming. I believe for example, that Geoff Kabush, an absolutely spectacularly talented cyclist, truly is riding clean. Do you really think he's that much less fit/genetically gifted/skilled than the World Cup leaders who give him a thrashing when he competes in those events? I don't think so.
Between the evidence that makes it to public scrutiny (always a tiny sliver of the real story) and my conversations over the years with friends who have been pro riders or have worked with pro riders, I have zero doubt that the overwhelming majority of top-level pro cyclists at the MTB World Cup or road ProTour levels are doping. Period.
At a certain point, you've got to think, "So what?" The playing field may be corrupt, but at least it's level in the sense that everyone's in on the game. We can simply delight in the human drama that these uber-athletes play out, we can root for the minority that we believe to be clean, we can write pro cycling (and pro soccer, baseball, football, track and field, etc.) off and leave them for dead. But arguing about whether the sport is clean, whether it should be clean, whether it will be clean...that's a big fat waste of breath, ink and pixels.
When Discovery signed Basso, knowing full well that they would incur the wrath of the entire ProTour and that he was still implicated in a huge doping scandal, I assumed that they knew something we didn't. My guess was that Bruyneel and Basso had had a very frank discussion, and that Basso had assured Bruyneel that he was not involved in Puerto, and that neither he nor the team had anything to fear from an (inevitable) DNA comparison. Now, we'll see.
If his DNA test comes back as no match, Discovery and Bruyneel get to tout themselves as the upholders of innocent until proven guilty, and Basso gets to be a poster child for the witch-hunting-is-bad backlash against Puerto. Frankly, for the sake of SOME positive news in the sport, I hope this is the case.
But based on the actions of Basso and Bruyneel this week, I'm not optimistic. If they expected the test to exonerate Basso, why are they meeting with lawyers? Why is Bruyneel involved at all? Why isn't Basso just planning to show up, say "I told you so, now let me go race," and leave? Why is he breaking down in tears instead?
I want to be optimistic. I want to believe that Bruyneel and Discovery hired Basso because they knew he was clean. But I'm afraid we'll find out on Wednesday that they hired him because they thought the allegations were beatable, and that Basso would find a way to avoid a DNA comparison. My faith in pro cycling is battered already. I really don't want to subject it to another savage beating.
I'm up to here with this stuff, let's forget about these losers. That's right that is all they are, they cannot proof their innocence and we all know it. Let's focus on the other 300+ cyclists on the ProTour and Continental teams. I hate to say this because I'm almost worshipped this three guys and now I realized they lied to all of us. Cycling is bigger than any name. Long live the Grand Tours and the Classics. That's what I'm talking about.
So, here we go again. It feels just like May of 2006 but instead is May of 2007. Once again the great Puerto has raised its ugly head and we are about to watch yet another season of several athletes' careers destroyed. Why does this have to be so hard? Worse yet, it is the same old, same old - everyone guilty until proven innocent. If we are going to pillory these guys - again - then let's have some facts.
And by the way, for me it needs to be more than blood bags. That a rider's DNA might match that of a blood bag in some doctor's possession is still nothing more than circumstantial evidence, without documentation that said blood was actually used in a manner against the UCI rule book. It's ludicrous at this point - either open the case or close it, either bring charges or not but for god's sakes let's just get this over with already.
I am quickly reaching the point that I just won't bother anymore and it has nothing to do with the riders and everything to do with the race organizers and national federations.
And by the way - why is no one going this hard after ASO for blatantly violating the rules regarding Unibet and L'Equipe and the French labs for violating every modicum of protocol regarding fair and unbiased testing?
Basso is not refusing to give a DNA sample. He's been willing to give one since last fall if asked.
I think all the Puerto riders need to strongly investigate the handling of the blood found at Fuentes' office. I work in blood collections and know that, unless frozen, blood products have a short shelf life before the integrity of the product is altered.
For example, it was reported that the bags supposedly associated with Basso are labeled as early as August 2005 but were found in Fuentes' office in early Spring 2006. How were these bags stored? And now, in the Spring of 2007 they're starting to do DNA comparisons. I hope this blood was stored properly in the beginning and frozen since because I don't think they can promise completely accurate results otherwise. I'm not an expert, just someone with some experience in the field giving my opinion.
I don't agree with doping but feel awful for the guys involved in this mess simply for the way it's being handled. A lot of the support these riders are getting is as a result of the way they're being treated. If you check out Floyd's web site, you'd see mostly positive letters. And for those of you who think they are all from Americans, well, you'd be wrong. And for those of you who think that now we can sure the peloton is completely clean, well, you'd probably be wrong about that too. For all the suspected dopers who claim they are innocent there are probably twice as many real dopers in the current peloton.
Basso's DNA #2
Basso's DNA has been available for cross checking since he joined Discovery. It was part of his contract. Read his response to all this - Perhaps the tears he shed were out of sheer disappointment at the inequity and unfairness of it all.
Basso's DNA #3
I think everyone knows what the outcome of the DNA comparison is going to be. So, we'll have yet another case where a criminal most have extracted several bags of blood from Basso while he was asleep and taken it to Fuentes.
Last year, right after Jan and Ivan were excluded from the Tour, they both said that they would proof, as quickly as possible, that they had nothing to do with Fuentes and had never cheated. What is it they have done? NOTHING!
They just hope that everyone forgets about it so they can carry on. Both Basso and Ullrich said it was ridiculous to suggest that the bags of blood were theirs. We now know that Jan's DNA did match those bags, and soon, we'll know that Birillo, or No2 is in fact Basso. And I'll bet the bags they've found with the name VALV are not Erik Zabel's.
Simoni wasn't that wrong after all after last year's stage in Giro where he accused Basso of "riding at a different speed". All of these revelations, makes Superman Armstrong even more of a "man of 7 million" He defeated all of these "12 cylinder supercharged turbo guys" and made them look like bunch of amateurs for many years. I wonder what these riders consider as "cheating"
Jan obviously doesn't consider his blood found at Fuentes's as cheating.
Johan, beginning with the U.S. Postal squad, you garnered a well-earned reputation as a director sportif who won races with a combination of rider talent, teamwork and your own brilliant tactical knowledge. Under your leadership, the many Postal/Disco victories were hard-fought, well-earned and widely respected.
This ended when you signed Basso. Initially, your signing of Basso was reminiscent of your original partnership with Lance: taking a chance on a rider others feared to touch, you seemed to demonstrate the kind of faith and trust that won you such wide respect. Your failure to make Basso pony-up the promised DNA sample has upended this picture and turned your reputation on its head, raising doubts about your past achievements. Cherry-picking Basso and stalling on the DNA, you position yourself as a director who would win the Tour by having more money and fewer scruples than anyone else. Say it ain't so, Johan! Make Basso give up the DNA!
Ivan Basso was not found positive at an antidoping test, yet he practically served a year ban from the sport. Isn't that enough? Aren't we exaggerating in this crusade?
Let's remember the many riders that have confessed to doping (the whole Festina team) were never found positive. Any rider lives we the suspicion that the others are using drugs and are not caught.
The few unlucky that are caught should not have to pay for everybody.
Wow, the Operation Puerto mess continues. But what I am having trouble with is this. If Jan Ullrich and Ivan Basso and who knows who else have been doped during the Grand Tours in the past several years than Lance Armstrong really was some sort of superman.
I mean, if he could hold off these superb athletes that apparently were blood doping, then he was and truly is a superman. Was Lance really that much better than all the rest? If he didn't dope himself, and Ullrich, Basso et all were, then imagine how boring the Tour would have been had the others not blood doped. I mean Lance probably would have won the Tour by an hour or two over his closest rivals if everyone was a clean as Lance.
Come on now, are we really expected to believe that Armstrong beat these guys on his incredible training program alone. I leave it up to your readers to make their own conclusions, I have already made mine.
In my opinion it does not matter if Floyd is guilty or innocent. Any accredited lab should be made an example of when they continue to leak results, use white-out on documents, allow the one individual to test both a rider's "A" and "B" samples, and who knows what else that is against normal lab procedures.
If we let this lab continue to wreck careers with sloppy work, who knows what they will try to get away with next. If we must hold the riders to a higher standard, we should do the same with the labs. If they can sanction a rider for a single violation, they should sanction a sloppy lab for leaking results, and violating procedures, or any other unprofessional actions.
After seeing today's headline about suing the riders implicated in Operación Puerto it is obvious (and it has been from the beginning, really) that this is all about the ASO and the other two, honestly, minor organizers.
Why have WADA and the UCI been so quiet in this? Why aren't they the ones that are spearheading this push for final resolution? This "scandal" (pffft) has become an absolute circus. I'm ready to move on - tired of hearing about Puerto.
My my! Another 49 riders identified in the Puerto doping affair taking us up to 108. How many pro riders are there? It doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize the huge impact this is going to have on cycling. With so many riders involved no wonder it appeared the investigation seemed to be going nowhere. Insist upon DNA, identify all riders, expose the hypocrisy once and for all and let's see if it isn't possible to actually have a relatively clean sport.
This fan is sick and tired of drugs in sport.
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