Letters to Cyclingnews

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. We will normally include your name and place of residence, but not your email address unless you specify in the message.

Please email your correspondence to letters@cyclingnews.com.

Recent letters

Kicking off with what I expect will be our last letters on the subject of the Linda Mccartney team, Marck Sharon and Gary Fryett don't think Paul McCartney should have stepped in to save the team. It's certainly true that he had no ethical or legal responsibility, and no doubt had good reasons not to get involved. It would have been a great gesture, but the world is rarely a cuddly place.

Tom Fort welcomes the IOC's determination to tackle EPO with a caveat that EPO is no longer the number one sports drug; that title has been taken by human growth hormone, he says. It's our understanding that for the needs of cycling ­ a long-duration aerobic activity ­ HGH is a far less effective ergogenic aid than EPO, and EPO is considerably more harmful in the short term. If it's a matter of priorities then it makes far more sense to tackle EPO first within cycling. If you really want to worry about the next wave of abuse of technology in sports, hunt down a copy of a short story called 'The Mickey Mouse Olympics' by Thomas Sullivan, and consider how close we are to using genetic therapy to treat diseases…

Philip Higgs returns with more on Actovegin and the IOC, questioning the difference between the IOC's original position of banning the drug and its apparent recent softening. My take ­ and I stress this is purely a guess ­ is that the IOC initially banned Actovegin in the light of the French investigation into USPS, then someone went and did some actual research and discovered the marked lack of evidence for Actovegin's ergogenic or harmful effects. Since the IOC needs one of those to ban a substance, the organisation has backed down a little. You can certainly see this as retracting the earlier ban, but you can also see it as taking a sensible attitude to doping: requiring proof before something is banned, Pity that sensible attitude was absent previously. Gotta love legislation by media.

On the Espy Awards, Glenn Simolunas points out that Tiger Woods' achievements were simply huge in 2000 and more than just a Tour win was required to overshadow them.

Peter Lindeman wonders if there's such a thing as reverse sand-bagging: moving up a grade by choice when you're not really good enough. I believe that's called 'masochism'.

Iain Dyer doesn't want to see Julian Clark return to managing a team.

Michael Shannon points out that David McKenzie was not the first Australian to win a stage of the Giro.

Regular correspondent Regis Chapman wrote last time about his cycling skills transferring to the ability to drive fast and close. It's not a notion that impressed several of our readers, who've been quite forthright in their condemnation of Regis' high-speed driving antics.

Finally, a long but amusing essay from Jon Anderson on the cyclist ritual of shaving the legs. As the Cyclingnews team's dedicated "hairie" I'm almost convinced. Only almost though

John Stevenson
Letters editor

Linda McCartney
UCI and anti-EPO measures
Actovegin and the IOC
Espy Awards
Moving Up
Sponsor behaviour
Tour Down Under
Racing in the streets

Linda McCartney #1

In reply to Scott Goldstein no one should have to ask why Paul McCartney didn't help the team out, but here are three reasons:

1 You know what they say about the rich - they didn't get that way by spending money - especially ones from the North of England (almost joking!)

2 Sir Paul is moving on to a new life and anything that reminds him of Linda is probably very painful.

3 Sir Paul is a businessman and he realised that the team was no longer a going concern, and sentiment does not apply.

We all knew about the team because we follow or lead cycling, but to the public at large the team was probably the most poorly marketed team of all those at that level. For a team to survive it must prove that it is giving excellent value for money to sponsors. If it had been then potential sponsors might not have been so reluctant to pursue the option to take over.

If my own plans to form a new team had been further advanced I would have stepped in to help the riders. The irony is that the scandal of Team Linda McCartney's demise actually made it difficult to solve its problems. So if there is anyone out there willing to put their company's money where their mouth is and gain Europe-wide exposure then let me know!

Mark Sharon
London, England
Mon, 26 Feb

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Linda McCartney #2

I do feel a little sorry for Paul McCartney with regard to this sordid little event. McCartney has pretty much no control in this matter. One should remember that the Linda McCartney name is just a trading name used under licence by a food manufacturing company (a bit like Shimano making Look pedals). The fact that Paul McCartney could come across with some financial help is not the issue. What concerns me is that in a mainly "corporate" sporting world with agents and lawyers in abundance and only too willing to take their 20% riders are still being left "high and dry"

Gary Fryett
Thu, 1 Mar

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UCI and anti-EPO measures

I am happy to see the UCI finally take some aggressive actions to minimize EPO use in the pro peloton. Unfortunately, it is another instance of too little - too late as EPO is no longer the performance-enhancing drug of choice. EPO's heyday was the 90's, the drug of choice nowadays is human growth hormone, and the UCI seems to be doing nothing in order to develop a test for it.

Tom Fort
New Mexico USA
Mon, 26 Feb

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Actovegin and the IOC

What's most interesting, perhaps, is the almost total lack of response this inquiry has generated in these pages. Don't all these people busting their nuts about Lance vs. Tiger care that their hero is presumed in some quarters to be a drug cheat?

You do well to clarify the two positions if the IOC regarding oxygen transport vs. oxygen uptake; it is a distinction I understood. My point was that I find this kind of thing to be hair-splitting and a little disingenuous. In its response to my letter, Cyclingnews writes "All this puts the IOC in a hard place, as they need evidence of ergogenic effects or harmful effects -- and preferably both -- before they can ban something." What then does this statement, made by the head of the IOC's medical commission Alexandre de Merode (as reported by Cyclingnews), mean? "I think we need to be very precise that the position of the medical commission is that this [Actovegin] is a banned substance. There may have been a bit of hesitation a few months ago. This hesitation no longer exists today." Are they "hesitating" again? Why? I wrote that the IOC is retracting its earlier position. Yet you seem to disagree. Why?

Philip Higgs
New York, USA
Mon, 26 Feb

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Espy Awards

Lance Armstrong is a very unlucky man. He accomplishes an incredible feat the same year the Tiger Woods re-writes almost all of golf's record books. What Armstrong did was miraculous; however, we also need to respect what Tiger did in Y2K. Last year as a "20 something", Tiger established himself as the Indurain or Merckx of golf! I propose that Armstrong would have to win the Giro, the Tour and the Vuelta in the same year to match Tiger's accomplishments. Armstrong was a victim of bad timing. Any other year than last he would've/should've won the Espy.

Glenn Simolunas
Virginia, USA
Wed, 28 Feb

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Moving Up

I also agree -- take a full year as a Cat 4; learn as much as you can. When you upgrade to 3 you will hit the ground running so to speak.

Here's a gripe in the opposite direction. I was a cat 4 for 2 full seasons; my first was fairly decent but then my second really good; all the things mentioned before. My buddies jokingly called me a sandbagger. I upgraded in September after meeting the official upgrade requirements and preparing a nice formal letter and all that stuff. I was proud to upgrade to 3.

So then I find out over the winter that several teammates of mine, who were nowhere close to meeting the upgrade requirements, have upgraded to 3 as well. I suppose it shouldn't bother me; they can drop off the back in a 3 race just like in a 4 race. It will be a quicker exit for them, that's all. But it *does* bug me that they were allowed to upgrade in the first place, unless of course they lied to do it. If they lied then I am genuinely upset. I feel like I followed the rules and worked hard to get to cat 3 and they don't deserve it. I'm also confused as to why one would want to upgrade without the ability to go along with it. It certainly won't be easier.

Any opinions on a sort of reverse sandbagging?

Peter Lindeman
Arlington, VA, USA
Tue, 27 Feb

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Sponsor behaviour

Tom Kunich wrote "better luck next time Mr Clark" regarding the Linda McCartney affair. I don't agree. However I do hope that the talents of those who have yet to find work, do not go to waste. I've seen it reported that Sean Yates is currently working as a labourer. I doubt that many people would care for Mr. Clark's return to the scene just yet.

Iain Dyer
Wrexham, UK.
Wed, 28 Feb

Tour Down Under

Phil Liggett can call a bike race. Only he has now fallen into the trap of most journalists: "Don't let the facts get in the way of a good story'.

In the TDU on the last stage when David McKenzie won, Phil announced that he was the first Australian to win a stage in the Giro de Italia when he won a stage last year.

Just for the record here are the other Australians:

1882 Stage 5 Via Reggio - Cortone won by Michael Wilson
1989 Stage 17 Sandria - Meda won by Phil Anderson
1990 Stage 4b Cis Nola - Sora won by Phil Anderson
1990 Stage14 Circuit ' Klagenfurt' won by Alan Peiper.

As always, past winners are not recognised, you only have to look at the list of past winners of the Australian Men's & Women's Road Championships, the list on the recent website only goes back 2/3 years.

Michael Shannon
Shoalhaven Heads, NSW, Australia
Mon, 26 Feb

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Racing in the streets #1

Oh dear!

Regis Chapman seemed such a reasonable guy.

I suspect a lot of deaths are caused by amateur racing drivers 'making good decisions' at high speed in traffic. May I recommend a 'good decision'? Follow your new friends' advice and do your racing on a track, where everyone else knows what to expect and accepts the risks. Given last week's news from Spain, I found this all rather sad.

Benedict Leonard,
London, UK
Mon, 26 Feb

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Racing in the streets #2

I have a response to Regis Chapman.

My response is that he has a lot of damn nerve driving like that in traffic. If you were really a bike racer, you know that riding in the peloton is dangerous. When you box people in they try to break out; at speed and stuck in a group you can't avoid stray water bottles or other obstacles; if someone takes a turn too hot and slides, he takes down a whole line of riders. People have accidents. And accidents at 100+ mph on I-5 kill people.

You're perfectly welcome to ride like that in a crit, or drive like that on a track. But forcing non-participants into the game (using them as obstacles, etc.) is immoral. Me and my wife and three kids didn't choose to join your roller derby. If I ever see you or your friends driving like that, I'm calling the cops.

Matt Chanoff
Mon, 26 Feb

Racing in the streets #3

Riding is also about being SAFE and appreciation for other skilled and less skilled riders around you. I appreciate the point you're trying to make, but it seems to me like you and those two other drivers were taking unnecessary risks with other people's safety.

Vancouver, Canada
Wed, 28 Feb

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Racing in the streets #4

Having read Regis Chapman's letter about cars racing on public highways, I hope he will take time out to read the sad story of the Ochoa brothers.

Now, cycling is probably not allowed on the roads Regis refers to in his letter, but a driver's enjoyment of danger and the sensation of speed, is unfortunately not limited to roads that are not open to cyclists. I find it hard to accept that a cycling fan would condone, let alone take part in, 100+ mph car races on ANY public roads, given the perils of accidents. Car speed, dangerous driving and irresponsible driver attitudes are Public Enemy number one if you are a cyclist, wherever you live in the world. If biking fans are out there driving like crazy, how can we ever expect Joe Public to wise up and drive sensibly?

I would say that by driving irresponsibly, wherever, this just adds to the general trend towards speeding and recklessness and pushes the public one step further towards anarchy on the highways. Clearly this puts all active cyclists in greater danger: it certainly does not enhance safety.

Let all cyclists drive their cars in the manner they would expect others to drive: its the least that can be expected.

Keith Richards

Leeds, UK
Thu, 1 Mar

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Racing in the streets #5

I don't know if Regis Chapman tale of racing his car in a pace line on a freeway is for real or if he just trying to get outraged mail from people who read him. Well, I am outraged at such totally irresponsible behaviour. Doing it is bad enough, boasting about it even worse especially coming from somebody who professes to be training presumably young athletes, If he was training a child of mine, I would withdraw her (him) immediately from the program. Well, I only hope in his next letter he will tell us he was only joking.

As for the skills of bike racers in pace lines, I can say that at least twice I have been injured after stopping for a pile of fallen racers only to be thrown on top of it by the guys following me in the pack. Either they were deaf or thought they were superman and did not need brakes.

François Siohan
Thu, 01 Mar

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Bicycle racers ride in a pack, forming a group with a very distinct style and unmistakable presence. Fit, muscular, tan, marbled legs, and skin-tight lycra crying out in color combinations that make you want to run for cover. Neon-yellow, powder blue, florescent-pink, purple-fade-to-red, and everything in between; all at once. The rule is, "No rules." Racers wear gray helmets, pink and green sunglasses, fire-engine-red jerseys sprayed with canary-yellow logos, black shorts that shriek the sponsor's name in brilliant white lettering, leopard-striped socks, and shoes that casually combine white, blue, red, and lime-green. They sit on top of bicycles colored the same orange that invariably assaults us during road construction season. Each team has a mind of its own--calling it a mind is a bit of a stretch, or maybe dramatic license. It's more like unfocused chaos. When teams combine in a racing pack, the result is a gruesome, high-tech, multicolored, rolling nightmare.

This horde of hard core "riding is better than sex" bicycle racers, proudly flaunt their psychedelic independence. Their deceitful display of individuality is only a facade. A common bond sneaks in, slithers about, and slyly rears its scaly head. Each and every rider has hairless legs! I've often wondered, "Why don't bike racers have hair on their legs? Is it Mother Nature?" Not hardly, try "Mother BIC"--these guys shave their legs. What in the world could possibly possess a grown man to shave his legs? Well, I think I can shed a little first hand light on this question.

I've spent the last couple of years maturing as a bike racer. I measure my development in three stages; these stages correspond closely to my thoughts about leg hair. When I first started racing, I realized bicycle racers shave their legs. In my head I heard, "No hair! What the ####? Shave my legs? Never! Not in this lifetime." As these "hairless wonders" regularly rode my tail into the asphalt and thrashed me at the races, my perspective shifted. I started thinking, "Maybe cutting off the leg hair cuts down on wind resistance, makes you lighter, or improves aerodynamics. It somehow makes these guys go faster. Shave my legs? Well, probably not." Eventually, I was strong enough to ride as an equal. My tune changed, "Shave my legs? Seems reasonable. But, how do I explain it to my friends, the kind that don't race bicycles?"

Shaved legs are a symbol of the bicycle-racing cult. We come up with all kinds of ways to rationalize it. "Saves three seconds in a forty kilometer time trial," and "Makes road-rash easy to clean when you crash." Like three seconds matter when you're beaten by ten minutes, or planning ahead for road-rash (lost skin) and broken bones is a sign of intelligence. In reality, racers shave their legs as a badge of courage, a rite of passage, and membership in an elite club. Also, there are a couple of ladies out there who find it sexy.

The fateful day arrives. I am totally, fully, completely, almost committed to shaving my legs. I enlist the help of a trusted sidekick, my wife Jackie. Over the years, hair has seized a large portion of my body. At least I don't have hair on my teeth--yet! The soft, black, tangled, hair wildly circles up my legs like vines smothering the branches of a stately, hundred-year-old, Louisiana, pecan tree. Jackie fires up the electric shears, then strips the first layer of hair off my legs. I feel a gentle tugging on my skin as the hair fights to stay rooted. The shears expose bright tracks of skin that contrast absolutely with the surrounding fields of brown. The shrill buzz of the clippers vibrates and echoes through our minds, like a crazed swarm of bees bouncing around inside our heads. I think ahead to Monday (at work) and my peers innocently asking "Whadya do over the weekend?" And my response "Oh, went to a movie, did a little training, worked some in the yard, spent time with the kids. Oh yea, one other thing, me and the wife got out the old razor and whacked all the hair right off a my legs. Had a hell of a time." I force the knot in my throat back to my stomach and tell that inner voice to shut up. The buzzing persists until that last hair topples. Then, we stand in utter silence and peruse the damage: piles of dark curly hair lay at my feet like lifeless leaves severed from a limb in late October.

Next, Jackie lathers my long legs starting at my bent, crooked toes and works her way up to mid thigh (covering about four feet of legs with half a can of shaving cream). Despite the lather's piercing, poignant, menthol aroma, our long-slow-deep breaths embrace the invading scent. We decide the razor should rest in the hands of experience--hers. The remaining stubble is no match for her, laughing and giggling, she cuts it away with long, smooth, sure, razor strokes. Jackie instructs me on the ins and outs of shaving, with comments like, "Be careful shaving round those ankle bones and behind the knee, cut one of those veins or tendons, you'll end up bleedin to death" and, "You have such pretty legs, you should wear a dress." Such useful information. Maybe I can discuss leg-shaving techniques with my boss at work; that golf ball in my throat instantly reappears.

Afterward, shaving complete, we admire our handiwork. My hard, glassy, sleek, polished legs shimmer in the light; the hair banished from the throne it held for decades. Prickles, tickles, shivers, quivers, and tingles scamper wildly across my newly shorn skin. Buried sensation's emerge and invigorate my restless legs; they tremble within. Rite of passage complete, I join that elite group of bike racers with smooth, hairless legs.

The racing season winds down, the year ends, the hair grows back, I sit quietly, and ponder. Shaving my legs is a complete and total act of non-conformity; however, I did it to gain acceptance. Non-conforming deeds in order to conform. Go figure. I often do things just to be different, so yielding to an unwritten law of bicycle racing is a bit out of character and slightly absurd. Nevertheless, if you see me next summer, you will find me wearing outlandish, multicolored lycra; pedaling with shaved, silky, smooth legs; and sporting a smile. Why? We only get to make one trip through life, so we might as well enjoy anything that curls our mouths into sly, impish, little grins. It just plain feels good!

Jon Anderson
Baton Rouge USA
Tue, 27 Feb

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The last month's letters

  • February 26 – Ochoa accident, Actovegin, Cycling as a Skill Sport, Espy Awards, Moving Up, VDB's problem
  • February 16 – Sandbagging, VDB, sponsors, teams, Pantani, the Espy Awards
  • February 12 – Sandbagging, VDB, Julian Clark, cherry picking, drugs
  • February 9 – Sandbagging, cherry picking, doping, US Postal and Kelme
  • January 30-February 2 – Cherry picking, drugs, US Postal and Kelme
  • January 24-29 – Linda McCartney, Armstrong's conduct, Actovegin, JCTDU
  • January 19-23 – TDU TV coverage, Armstrong, Texan law, Cannondale's new bike, Actovegin
  • January 14-18 – Drugs, TDU coverage, US Postal, Texan law
  • January 11-13 –Drugs, Virenque, TDU coverage, French media, wooden bike
  • Letters Index - The complete index to every letters page on cyclingnews.com