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Letters to Cyclingnews - November 18, 2002
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.
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Bas Van Dooren
It was good to read Van Dooren's response to his positive test for EPO. "Yep I did it, brought it in Germany, cost me $400EUR, needed it to get the results. Injected it six days before so I wouldn't get done. Inspectors came early, I'm busted."
None of this, "I don't know how this happened, I have never doped. It was the lollies my wife's Mother's dentist prescribed."
I feel something should be said: "Congratulations to Bas Van Dooren!" A very belated congratulation also goes out to Jerome Chiotti. These riders need praise for their courage in coming out and talking about their experiences. I believe it is only with riders such as these that the doping problem can make a move in the right direction. The more people know about it, the methods, the conditions etc, the better.
The more riders talk about doping, the easier it will be for other riders to talk in the future; and eventually, hopefully riders will realize that they are not alone out there and that it is OK to be "clean" and / or talk about it. Riders such as Chiotti and Van Dooren have been penalized for their actions (which is only fair) but they are in a different category to the majority of doped riders. They still have a conscience. For that I believe they need all the support they can get, not only for them, but as an encouragement to others.
"Congratulations Jerome and Bas. Although we do not support your original actions, we do support your honesty; and hey, some of us may even understand WHY."
Name and address withheld
It's a bit sad that in a year that finds several good sponsors running for the exits and several good riders in a jammer just trying to find work that there are riders like Tom Boonen that want to have their cake and eat it too.
Boonen has been brought along at a conservative pace, so as to make his career as fruitful as possible and with an eye on the long term. The people that have helped him get where he is (not that it didn't take work on his part, or that he doesn't have talent, he did and does...) must be wondering why Tom has gone from just happy to be here to get me outta here in such short order. I am sure that the Belgian boss at Quick Step among others have given young Tom plenty of verbal encouragement in the form of pumping up his ego and making him feel like the world will fall at his feet if he just leaves USPS for a Home team. But here's hoping that Tom has the sense to make the best of it and look forward to a better year with more racing in 2003 while at USPS.
He might feel like he knows what is best, and given his new star status, he is probably surrounded by people that will tell him anything he wants to hear, or for that matter, anything that will get him into a Quick Step jersey (Patrick Lefevere). It must be nice to already be compared to Johan Museeuw and might be nice to ride on the same team at Quick Step. But, should young Tom not be properly protected, he could wind up not being the next Museeuw and instead be compared to another Quick Step rider that went too far too fast. I don't think Boonen wants to be the next Frank Vandenbroucke.
Tom Boonen #2
What's up with this guy? He's stuck in a contract and grumbling all the time... A heck of a lot of people would kill to ride for a professional cycling team. 1) He's fortunate to have the talent to be a top-level cyclist. 2) He's damn lucky to be riding as a pro and actually have a contract at all.... I remember reading that there were 100+ pro's in Italy still without a contract not too long ago. Some people just don't know when they have it made... But who knows - is there more to the story?
Has anyone else noticed that Cyclo-cross racing in the states is a bit down this year? Yes, there are more UCI races, which is great for anyone looking for a spot on the national team for the World Championships, but the lack of a SuperCup series this year seems to have watered down the competition a bit. I remember in years past, when events like the Monkey Hill Cross, and the Seattle Metro Series where considered tune-ups for the big event, which was the SuperCup. It was, and remains so, the only Cross event that would consistently draw the top competitors from all across the nation. Now we have the Nationals in Napa Valley, CA to look forward to, as they seem to be the only event in the country that will draw all of the top competitors. Hopefully, this lack of a major series will not make our team weaker when it comes time to race at the World Championships, but I feel that will be the case.
Not that these guys aren't racing hard, it is just that there is no longer twenty super-strong guys at same event anymore. Why cross the country when you can score points in your own backyard? My point is that we need the SuperCup back in 2003. It would help bring unity to the sport as well as strengthening the field of American Cyclo-cross Racing.
As well as Stuart O'Grady, two other Australian athletes have this condition, and have had to retire from their chosen sports because of it. Tri-athletes Bruce Thomas and Greg Welch both have this problem and retired from elite level competition as a result.
Atrial Fibrillation among the pros #2
It will be interesting to hear the results of comments from your readers concerning A-fib amongst the cycling population. I personally am aware of three recreational cyclists who have experienced it while training as well as two professional athletes. The recreational cyclists are trying to deal with it through meds but the pros took a different approach. One opted for laser ablation of the nerve bundles on the heart which act like a speed governor for his heart rate. He actually had a podium finish at the TdF after the procedure. The other has retired from elite competition but still does some masters racing.
Atrial Fibrillation among the pros #3
Among pro cyclists, Bobby Julich had this problem, too. I can provide insight since I had this problem corrected via the procedure myself. I'd first experienced this problem in 1994 as a one-time occurrence, but by the Spring of '96 it was occurring every time I tried to ride hard. Needless to say this made it impossible to train for racing.
A scenario that typified what I was going through: a typical Saturday morning training loop we'd do in Phoenix had a short hill in it, and every loop we'd do KoM sprints. My heart rate during the sprint would typically be in the high 180's or low 190's, which is where it should have been. On the ensuing descent, my HR would drop to 180... 175... 170...but instead of continuing to drop, it would suddenly shoot up to 225, I'd have heartburn and be very short of breath. I could keep pedaling, but if I stopped and tried to stand up, I'd get too dizzy and crumble to the ground. My heart rate would stay this way for a few minutes, and if someone either placed pressure on my ribs or rolled me on my side, my heart rate would suddenly drop back down to normal in an instant and I'd be fine.
My cardiologist explained that this was caused by the presence of accessory pathways; in my layman's terms (well, as layman as Electrical Engineering technology can be :-)) it was as if my heart had been wired with electrical pathways that shouldn't have been there. Just the way I was made. Under stress, these pathways kicked in and caused the arrhythmia I was suffering from.
The procedure you're referring to, which I had, is called an "Electro-Physiology Study and Catheter Ablation." Both parts of this procedure require the insertion of a catheter into the heart via the femoral vein (i.e., in the groin). Via the EP study the cardiologist figures out the electrical road map of the patient's heart. Immediately after this is done, the cardiologist uses a laser (again, inserted via the same catheter) to make precise, pinpoint, burns which essentially open-circuit the pathways that are causing the problem. In my case, 11 or 12 burns had to be made.
The most noticeable side effect of the surgery - I couldn't walk for four days! The insertion, as I said earlier, is through the groin, and for three or four days afterwards, it feels like you've pulled your groin and you just can't walk properly. Four days afterwards, I was fine. The only other side effects were annoying more than anything else.
Because of where they inserted the catheter, they had to give me a bikini shave. Also, they had to shave pretty much all of my chest hair off because of where they had to place the electrodes for the EKG. So, for about two weeks I was constantly having to scratch my chest and doing everything I could to avoid having to scratch, well... you know, in public while everything grew back. But those were the only negative side-effects.
I'd asked the doctor how I could test his work and he said to go for it as soon as I could ride again. I was surprised about how green a light he'd given me, but he was confident he'd cured me. Because of the side-effects I described earlier, this didn't happen until 5 days later. I raced 6 days after the procedure on a very demanding course with a very gradual 4.5-mile climb to the start/finish. While I got dropped at the very end of the second lap, as far as I was concerned that race was a 100 per cent success. Believe me, if my heart were going to act up it would have. Yet I was able to spend an awful lot of time at my absolute limit and had no problems whatsoever.
Hope this helps; if you have more questions feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Atrial Fibrillation among the pros #4
My mother is by no means a Pro bike racer but she does suffer from A-fib, she is at a point now where medication is no longer effective in controlling this. She underwent a procedure where they run a catheter up the aortic artery and cauterize the effected aorta to re-set the heart beat. This is a relatively new procedure (less than 100 of them have been preformed in Tampa and at Duke University less than 180) and it is relatively high risk. During her procedure the surgeon accidentally punctured her heart at which time the procedure had to be stopped. She is now scheduled to have open heart surgery in mid November to correct her problem. My only reason for responding to your letter is that if they are suggesting the same surgery for your brother be sure to ask a lot questions about the risks involved, it was a very scary day.
Atrial Fibrillation among the pros #5
I cannot speak as a professional cyclist although I raced as an amateur in the 50s, 60s and 70s. Your correspondent referred to Atrial Fibrillation but I believe that Stuart O'Grady suffered in the TDF from a condition called Super-ventricular Tachycardia. The former is essentially an irregular heartbeat whereas the latter is a very fast but regular beat. I believe Stuart O'Grady's heartbeat in fact went up to 230bpm during the TdF.
I have suffered from both conditions and recently had the Ablation procedure. This apparently improved the Tachycardia but a week after the procedure I had a bad attack of Atrial Fibrillation and was back in Hospital for a few hours...I am now back on medication and fingers crossed! Having had the problems for nearly 20 years I have only once suffered on the bike....its usually in bed when I'm asleep! It's not an easy problem to resolve but I'm still alive and pedaling so don't give up!
While it would be nice to see the World Champion's Jersey (stuffed with Cipo of course) throwing his arms up in Paris, I don't think it matters whether he does it winning the last stage, or at a disco, surrounded by half naked women the night of the finish after having been there for a few days "resting" and celebrating multiple stage wins.
Cipo has finished the Giro (winning in Milan to take stage number 6) and I doubt anyone thinks he can't finish a TdF. But doing it just so somebody can see him suffer will do nothing for him or for cycling. And doing it just to "let us watch the mountains chew you (Cipollini) up and spit you out" is about as useless as telling Lance or Beloki to stick their nose into the bunch sprints so that we can see them get scraped up off the road with a spatula, or picked out of the barriers with a fork.
Cipo wouldn't bother many people, at his age, if he chose to simply show up, show off and leave Paris for the green jersey guys. I think the Cipollinis, McEwens and Zabels are more entertaining anyway, as they do their stuff elbow to elbow at 60+ kph rather than the guys who win the Tour by simply out lasting each other in the mountains at less than half that speed...
I just hope that Cipo gets to ride the Tour this year. It's sickening to watch as "the Society Du 2nd rate Teams" barks and crows about how they were justified by choosing some B.S. French team because they win one stinking stage, or because they "animate" the race by sending a few no-hopers off the front (Jackie Durand not included, he ROCKS!). But they feel ok to leave out a guy who has won what three or four stages in one go, and defines the word "Animate" with almost every move he makes...
If you want to see Cipo do mountain stages, just look at the Giro, where he has finished several times. And by the way, the mountains didn't chew him up. He always wins the last stage(s). This year he won six stages (out of 21) and won the points jersey again.
In response to Sam's letter it would be great to see Cipo get to Paris, however Cipo is Italian, rides for Italian teams who want to see their main man compete in the ultimate Italian race. Cipo has shown year in year out that he can race and win consistently, before and after the mountains, in the Giro. The Tour is not every rider's ultimate objective for the year (does Johan Museeuw ever get criticised for not winning stages in the Tour?). The Giro is by no means easier than the Tour, in fact it is consistently more undulating and mountainous than the Tour, yet Cipo still manages to win the penultimate stage into Milan. It seems that all of this is forgotten when he lines up in the Tour (if he gets invited).
When I read Sam Johnson's desire to watch the mountains 'chew' Cipo up and 'spit' him out, I was struck by the tone of resentment and bitterness in the email. Rather than appreciate a thing of beauty, he would prefer to so contrive a situation that Cipo would be seen to fail. But what a stupid suggestion it was in the first place: one might as well criticise a Ferrari for not being able to carry seven people in comfort. It seems that some people gain more joy from the prospect of another's failure than from their own success - perhaps because they've never enjoyed success!
U.S. Postal has a strategy, talks about it, and yet no one duplicates the formula. I was taught that the difference between a plan and a strategy is that you can just as well share your strategy with your competition because a strategy takes advantage of strengths the competition can't counteract.
In Postal's case, they have Lance, who is the very embodiment of a team leader--high personal performance (TT and mountains) and a tremendous work ethic in training, thereby instilling the resolve for the other team members to train hard and to suffer for him in stage racing. They KNOW he will win if they suffer. Doesn't lessen the pain I imagine, but it would make a big difference to me if I were out there pulling the train that I could gain some measure of comfort visualizing the team's success. Killing yourself knowing your team is divided and Postal isn't--how motivating can that be on a 20 km HC climb?
TdF 2003 #2
Nice note re USPS Teamplate for winning the TDF 2003 etc. I'll be fun to see who challenges, Lance and the boys in 2003, challenge they might, but defeating USPS in 2003 with Lance at the helm is not possible.
TdF 2003 #3
Is it just me or has anybody else noticed that for the first time ever there is a very good chance of a podium sweep by Americans at the Tour de France? Armstrong, Leipheimer, Livingston, Hamilton, Landis, all potential tour winners/podium takers. I hope this wonderful show of America's cycling power does not go unappreciated in the US as has our soccer team at the World Cup (Almost no one is aware of the US' fairly good showing at this year's Cup). The US is ready for more cyclists and more cycling. The impact such a sweep could have is, among other things; more events, sponsors, cycle lanes, and support and respect from people in general (drivers!) as well as politicians.
Armstrong seems to be the absolute safe bet for this year's Tour but I sure would like to see an all-American podium, and reap the benefits it would bring me and cyclists of all sorts all across the US.
As some one who has a naturally high haematocrit level (53.7 % last blood test), and having talked with a lot of medics over the years, to say 49.99% is ok and 50.01 is cheating is just stupid. Dehydration (common first thing in the morning after a large meal) can play a very important role in providing the false "positives" that can ruin the future of an innocent rider. Bo Hamburger was, I feel, a bad example in this article as the second test gave a negative. Was the test rushed through I wonder? An awful lot of money is made out of testing and I rather doubt that a few innocent victims is going to worry the money men at all.
Yes we want testing, to protect athletes not to catch cheats. Cheating comes in many forms, bribery / gambling being far more of a sporting problem.
So, how do we get tests that don't penalise the innocent but catch the offender? Or how many innocents do you WANT sent to jail to catch as many of the guilty as possible, and there are an awful lot of not guilty (not negative?) people in jail (be the wrong colour, sex or even that most heinous of crimes in the modern world, poor, then god help you, ´cause no body else will)
How about taking some of the pressure off the riders? Don't classify teams by the points that riders win, that are then bought and sold at the end of the year - should you be able to buy a first division place just by buying riders? Penalise teams and national federations not just the rider. The team, having almost forced someone into taking something (or given it to them saying it was something else) walks away after firing the rider, and with clean hands carries on as before. Whistleblowers don't ever prosper and are never forgiven or supported.
I will not even go into the " what if " of foul play / contaminated food / drink that third parties might use (would it be a betting coup if you could get Armstrong out of the Tour at the last minute, or even during it?)
Protect the riders, don't crucify them to preserve the five star life styles of the IOC, UCI and of the political animals that choose this as a productive means of self aggrandisement (win votes, line pockets etc). Witch hunts are rarely caused by witches misbehaving.
By the way, I'm disabled and have mild asthma, and can I promise you that I've never taken, or, to my knowledge, been given EPO (or anything similar) and my cardiologist sees nothing abnormal in 53.7%.
Please also decide what is and isn't medication / doping, too many people these days fail to receive treatment that is genuinely needed (e.g. Vaughters in the tour) because of the tests.
Barry Rothwell Taylor
Imagine having the best stage winner and sprinter in the business, a Classics winner, the World Champion and a Grand Tour winner on your team. Now imagine having them and tossing them out in favor of a guy who does little in the one day races (Di Luca), another who is noted for a drug scandal rather than winning a Grand Tour (Gibi) and capping it by getting ready to sign a struggling but highly talented sprinter (Quaranta). I wonder if Cipo and the Falcon are sad to be gone?
I hope that Cannondale are in the huff they should be, having their American competitor Specialized get the opportunity to produce a bicycle with World Champion zebra stripes after also getting the opportunity to advertise six wins at the Giro, MSR, Ghent etc. Cannondale's head honcho thought it a bright idea to include statements about quality bikes and technological advancements in his formal address about Simoni's extremely unfortunate drug problem. Although they may have felt that they needed to take advantage of the only marketing opportunity they had all year, I can't think of a better example of exploitation of an athlete and the drug problem in cycling.
My wife and I just returned from over two years living in Bruxelles and highly suggest it for a center due to the excellent train/air service throughout Europe, due to it being the EU capital. Check out Cycle Sport magazine for some great organized rides.
Plan on the Tour of Flanders ride the day before the race and Tilf-Bastogne-Tilf ride in June for the LBL course. Also there is another ride that does much of the Amstel Gold course. Most of these rides have thousands of people participating and are a lot of fun. If you need more info write me at email@example.com.
Sorry I can't help with the accommodations.
Good Luck, and you won't regret the experience. bring LOTS of warm waterproof clothes. I can put you in touch with some folks in BXL if needed.
I read with interest the piece on Raul Alcala and I wonder if Cyclingnews readers can help me. I watched an old video of the last stage into Paris of the TDF and Soren Lilholt of Tulip was first on to the Champs d'Elysees. Anyone know what Soren is doing now please?
The correspondent who complains of you reporting on Frank Vandenbrouke seems to be unaware of his Classics victories, especially on home territory in the Liege-Bastogne-Liege race. Admittedly his wins and good performances were quite a while ago, but they were monuments.
I noticed in the Navigators team listing that Tom Leaper wasn't included in the returning riders for 2003. Does anybody know who he will be riding with this coming year?
I was wondering whether you could help, or at least point me in the right direction. I am trying to find out about cyclo-sportif events in Northern France. Is there a publication that I can get that lists these or a website with a calendar of events?
I live in S.E. Kent, and took part in a cyclo-sportif in Sevenoaks last month which was great. I met a few people who said that these events are few and far between in the UK but happen all the time in France, and seeing as I am only a stones throw away, like the idea of taking part in some in France.
Many Thanks, I hope you can help.
My wife and I viewed the race on bikes last year without any problems. Get a room in Maastricht and you can easily ride and view many of the climbs. We watched the men's start and then started out and rode a lot of the women's course that includes most of the climbs. The course is pretty compact with lots of places to see the race many times. You can take the train from Bruxelles with the bike no problem with only one transfer. Book the room now though! Most of the hotels all around book up a year ahead of time. You might also try Valkenburg for a room.
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