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Letters to Cyclingnews - November 21, 2002
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Robbie McEwen & the media
Having read many of the letters re: Robbie McEwen I see another common thread of unfair criticism appearing which is not on Robbie or any other rider; but of the media. First off, I should point out that I am a member of the media - I work as a senior sports writer for "The Australian" newspaper. I was not at the world titles this year but at the Tour de France which I cover every year and have been for 15 years.
Now, with introductions aside, I notice that many people conveniently criticize the media or even say that cyclists are talking to the "wrong people" (that is, the media).
Well, that would be good if riders didn't talk to the media wouldn't it? There wouldn't be any reports about the races, there would be no sponsors, no teams, no bike races. The Tour itself started as a publicity vehicle in the first place. The media is not the enemy. Anyway, with that dummy spit aside while I do not deny that sometimes people are misquoted (everyone can make mistakes - sorry, to those who have never made mistakes), it is also a fact that riders (and I am not saying Robbie, but generalizing) and some cycling fans who only want to read public relations spin doctoring copy find it convenient to blame the messenger.
Albeit, riders may say things at a time when they are pumped up and the adrenalin is running and it is possible that an athlete may not recall saying something verbatim later. But that is surely not the fault of the media. It is the case of an athlete saying what they feel at the moment. It is a journalist's job to capture THAT moment as best as possible. Unlike TV where the image does it all, the written media has only words as their tool and they are used as well as possible within the confines of often restricted/limited space.
I am not saying that mistakes are not made in quoting. But when there are claims that it has supposedly happened it worth remembering that it can simply be a case of someone trying to back-track from claims made in public and which they regret. After a little thought, they can try to push the blame onto someone else. While I am not commenting on the case re: Robbie; I know for a fact that this has happened and only ask that people don't just assume the media is always at fault.
Covering events like the Tour is a costly exercise in time and money for individuals and the news groups concerned and when someone is sent to cover them - especially from countries like Australia where cycling is (sadly) not on the priority of events to cover, it happens with great thought and consideration. If "The Australian" didn't take it seriously, I would not go to the Tour but be held back in Australia every July covering rugby union football! Every industry has its mug. But for every mug there are a lot of decent people too. To always blame the print (especially newspaper) media is unfair; especially to those members of it who for all intents and purposes carry out their assignments with the full intent of reporting on what happens with clarity and in truth (even if THAT truth hurts).
I think we've done to death the subject of Robbie McEwen and the Tour, but, at the risk of navel-gazing, I'd be interested to hear what readers thnk of the media's role in cycling. - Letters Ed
I think that for a Belgian classics rider to ride with Museeuw in what might be his final year is probably akin to having the chance to learn basketball from Michael Jordan. I don't think there's much mystery there, and it's not surprising that he would try to see if he can force that issue. And no one wants an employee who doesn't want to be there.
That being said, I agree that USPS has no reason to refigure this contract in any way, and they should be able to expect Boonen to be a professional -- to act like one and ride like one under the contract he's agreed to fulfill. However, US pro sports, where professional athletes are treated better probably than anywhere in the world, is rife with players forcing their way out of contracts, usually successfully if they have any leverage at all. What would be interesting is if cycling had a 'trading' system like the major US professional sports; not good, necessarily, but interesting.
I guess I don't understand all the quasi-moral indignation about this. The perspectives seem really pretty clear from all sides, and the behavior falls well within the parameters of professional sports conduct worldwide. Which does not imply that it's 'right' or 'good' -- but it's not surprising at all.
In the US we'd probably attribute this to some theoretically vile agent pulling everyone's strings in his/her own interest; since agents seem to have less presence in this sport, it's left to wonder what's happening here between Bruyneel and Lefevere. I find Bruyneel's argument that the sponsor's presence hinges on some way on the presumption of a one year contract with Boonen a little specious -- especially in bike racing, where team change is very common, even on a yearly basis, especially with stars. Look at Museeuw lately --
Tom Boonen #2
Boonen is a talent, no doubt, and seeks to show it in the Classics. He feels he won't get his shot soon enough at Postal. But he should listen to Bruyneel, who is trying to bring him up slowly. If TB wants the longevity and success of Museeuw, he'd do well to keep his racing to a manageable level.
Imagine the headlines in Belgium if he went full-bore and burned out by 25 years old.
Interestingly, riders who are injured the year after a good year usually come back stronger the year after that. Shows what some good rest and recovery can do. Boonen needs a few top Belgian pros to pull him aside and tell him to develop his career slowly.
Hold the phone just a second.
I just want to make sure I am reading this right. We are congratulating people who have admittedly cheated? I'm not saying all the cheats are gone or that the excuses we are all hearing aren't really lame, but lets not say they (Jerome and Bas) were real stand up guys for coming to the front of the class and saying "I took dope." If Van Dooren hadn't peed in a cup and had then pulled off a medal winning finish at the worlds we wouldn't have heard anything about it. Even if he hadn't medaled we wouldn't have heard anything. While Chiotti had his own motivations, whatever those may be, to come clean, it was not for the LOVE of the sport. It wasn't the love of the sport that motivated him to take drugs in the first place. These two guys, on their way out of the sport, decided to make one last despite grasp for the headlines in order to accomplish something. What, exactly, I have no idea. They are the only ones who really know why they came forward.
Lets not congratulate them. Lets try and learn from their mistakes and make the sport better. That starts by shunning what they have done and asking that they no longer serve as genuine representations of our sport.
Bas Van Dooren #2
Let me be the first NOT to congratulate Mr. Van Dooren for cheating. He knew EPO was against the rules. He took it anyway. That is cheating. He got caught cheating. He has been punished. That is appropriate.
The fact that he has not concocted some ridiculous story to accompany his cheating does not lessen the original offense and it certainly does not make him some sort of tragic hero. Owning up to cheating after one has been caught is not taking the high road. It should be considered the first step toward forgiveness. Our sport has suffered enough of this foolishness. Due to the scourge of performance-enhancing drugs, successful riders are considered "suspect" regardless of the number of times they test negative. Now a man is proven a cheater and we praise him for not adding insult to injury? Where is the logic in that?
Regarding Jason Karew's letter stating that "that Cyclo-cross racing in the states is a bit down this year".
Jason's supporting evidence to this statement is the lack of a SuperCup Series in 2002. While we all miss the SuperCup this year, I'd like to point out that we have in fact had the same "twenty super-strong guys" racing in the first three rounds of the Verge New England Championship Cyclo-Cross Series as the SuperCup used to draw. 18 of the top-20 ranked US elite male cyclo-cross riders raced in the first three rounds of the series, while 9 of the top-10 ranked US elite women did the same.
Regarding the SuperCup, the statement "It was, and remains so, the only Cross event that would consistently draw the top competitors from all across the nation" is plainly incorrect. Our first three races saw Jonny Sundt travel from Washington, Carmen D'Aluisio, Gina Hall, Jackson Stewart and the rest of the Clif Bar team travel from California. Justin Robinson and Christine Vardaros also flew in from California, while Marc Gullickson and Brandon Dwight came in from Colorado, Todd Wells came from Arizona, and we had top Canadian talent from both B.C. and Quebec. This is of course in addition to the large talent pool already residing in New England: Riders like Josh & Jesse Anthony, Lyne Bessette, Adam Craig, Tim Johnson, Mary McConnelough, Mark McCormack, Alan Obye, Jonathan Page, and Jeremy Powers.
I invite Jason to take a look at the results from our first three races (coverage on cyclingnews.com) and tell me who we're missing? Having UCI cat 2 points, paying cat 2 prize money, and paying a minimum of $1000, and sometimes $1500 to the elite women (the UCI minimum is 600 Swiss Francs - barely more than $400US) brings the top riders out to race.
Personally I hope for the best regarding the future of the SuperCup. But in the meantime, let's spend less time bemoaning its absence, and recognize that the best racers are still traveling to the best races. Right now the Verge New England Championship Series is setting that standard.
Cyclo-cross USA #2
I've heard this before -- I'm not sure what it means.
One thing that happens in the US in '2nd tier' sports is that the yardstick for up or down refers only to the elite levels of competition. Soccer is not a 'major' sport because we have an inferior professional presence and inferior opportunity for professionals to compete.
However, soccer as an activity has never been bigger. It's huge at the youth sport level.
Cyclo-cross, at least in Oregon, with the very well run Cyclo-cross Crusade series, has broken rider attendance records by 15-20 percent this year. A visit to Seattle's Metro Series (sponsored by Microsoft!) showed no dearth of riders, and a larger women's field than I've seen there before. Cyclo-cross has become a citizen's activity, with increasing fields in historically under-represented demographics like women and masters -- and among riders who are not necessarily following a development curve that will lead them beyond their region.
Pro cyclo-cross needs reorganization, no doubt about it. But to say that the activity of cyclo-cross racing is on the decline is like saying cycling is declining because the USA Cycling doesn't run everything -- it overlooks what are arguably the most important elements of amateur sport, those related to direct participation by all of us weekenders.
Barry's letter misses the mark.
Riders with abnormally high red cell counts are given formal relief from the 50% rule. There are several riders that have registered red cell counts above or at the 50% mark and they have no worries. The riders that get caught are riders that are below the border all year then mystically pop up at race time (or they get tested early before the drug has had time to hide, a la Bas Van Dooren). If a rider's red cell count changes by several percent, it is hard to equate that to dehydration. Especially in the case of a Grand Tour leader, who is handled with such care that the type of dehydration required to change someone's red cell count by several percent should be pretty far from realistic.
While I agree with Barry that the UCI have it pretty good (and much better than their union members do), and don't do enough to hold teams responsible for their riders (who out there really believes that with the year round testing and monitoring by team doctors that teams don't know what is going on...) I also believe that far more people get away with cheating than are wrongly accused.
But what should we expect? When the cheats have the help of drug companies who spend a few billion dollars a year developing new drugs, and the UCI have a fraction of that money to develop tests for the new stuff, Who do we think will be one step ahead? The markers that are placed in EPO by the drug companies, so that it shows on a test are a classic farce, given that they wear off typically in less than a week, while the drugs effects are just kicking in about that time and then last for several weeks afterward. Another great example was Dario Frigo being caught with a drug that was still in the experimental stage and not approved for human use yet (did anyone ask how he got it?) With examples like this, does anyone doubt who the drug companies real allies are?
As for Barry having a 53 percent haematocrit level, that makes sense with his disability and respiratory problem. His body has responded to his problems by producing more red blood cells to carry a higher quantity of oxygen due to a lower capacity to move it (similar but different to the limited oxygen at altitude causing higher red cell levels in athletes who train high or use tents). While it makes perfect sense for Barry, I don't know of too many disabled asthmatic cyclists in the pro peloton.
I loved 7-Up pro John Lieswyn's diaries this year. He's an invaluable asset to Cyclingnews.com. His frank appraisals of his own, and others, racing is a pleasure to read. The guy's effort is unstinting. He's the best kind of rider, able to think tactically, ride hard and still be mindful of the sport's greater good. He was right when he claimed his team didn't get the respect it had earned, yet he rose above the slights and kept bringing it on all season. So Bravo to him and his amazing teammates; may they be both successful and respected next year.
In response to Charles Manantan's letter, I don't think Cannondale chose to leave Cipo. You have it backwards. Cannondale sponsors the Saeco team. Cipo left Saeco for A&S. A&S made a deal with Specialized. Cannondale has no say so in Cipo's career choices. Certainly, Cannondale would be proud to have a rainbow Cannondale for Cipo but I don't know if you noticed that Cannondales carry the rainbow stripes already.
As to their letter, I read it as a defense and I applaud Cannondale for trying to clarify and defend their position. Cannondale is proud of their product (rightly so) and don't want the stink of a drug scandal all over them. It would have been easy for them to abandon Saeco but I think they were thinking long term. I, personally, am glad to see a bike made in the USA being ridden in the pro peloton.
I actually find your view of Cannondale's letter to be bizarre. The letter came across, to me, like a company that cares what the cycling community thinks. It would have been very easy for them to say much less. Maybe they are damned if they do, damned if they don't but damn, I'm glad they did!
Nice note, Lou, but don't count your chickens before they are hatched. It will be great fun to see who challenges Lance in 2003, but perhaps the USPS unit isn't as strong as it might otherwise appear.
Tom Boonen clearly doesn't want to be a part of it.
Also I would have said the same six years ago: nice to see who is going to challenge Big Mig and the Banesto train, then a couple of years later, with the Telekom Twosome of Riis and Ullrich. Everyone is beatable, and as someone who witnessed Chris Boardman's hour record attempts, most things are possible, however unlikely they may seem.
I believe I'm correct in stating that Bobby Julich did NOT suffer from atrial fibrillation. He had a ventricular tachycardia condition that was "cured" by performing a catheterization where they essentially burned out the responsible conduction pathway(s) in his heart. Stuey O'Grady's problem was also ventricular in nature, I believe.
Ventricular and atrial arrhythmia's are NOT one in the same. Their symptoms and treatments differ dramatically.
There is a great magazine that comes out monthly called "Cyclo Passion" (en Francais, mon cher) and they have very extensive listings of all the cyclo-sportif and cyclo-tourist events. I particularly like the section that lists the times for everyone who participates, under the heading "Vous etes formidables!"
Leslie Thomas Reissner
There are a huge number of websites giving information on cyclosportifs events.
One of the most complete I know of is:
It's very interesting to discover that Joseba Beloki, undoubted team leader of ONCE-Eroski in the Grand Tours that he enters, has actually won very little, especially in the way of Grand Tours.
The Spaniard has had several top three finishes (the most recent being in the Vuelta where he was pipped by Aitor Gonzalez and Roberto Heras) in the Grand Tours, but he's never hit the top spot of the podium roster.
Joseba 'Nearly Man' (dubbed that by me anyway) Beloki only won three things in this 2002 season and with competition fierce for leadership (Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano and Jose Azevedo challenging strongly, it would seem), I expect Beloki to shrink back into the background of ONCE's challenge. Only first is remembered.
What a winner, with the Sutton and McGee families at the helm, the two most likeable and talented families in Australian cycling, cycling is a big winner here.
Just wondering, if Ullrich is going to CSC, how is Hamilton feeling about it? Obviously he wont be the main guy at the Tour and how does he handle the situation after riding w/ Lance so long?
Yes, one does not become world champion by being a sluff. Lets hope the world champion jersey is in the Tour. Interesting that Lance has also been a world champion and many people have and still do criticize his successes.
I also think that the green jersey competition is very exciting to watch but saying that sprinting is just as tough as climbing is just a poorly thought out opinion. The pain and mental discipline that comes with climbing lasts for 30, 40 minutes at a time if not an hour or more. A sprint is typically a 10 second or less all out effort. Both talents are due their respect but they are hardly equal in the efforts required.
And it is certainly plain to see that the Tour officials seem to favor personal agendas rather than selecting deserving teams for the Tour. The French are good at selecting some worthless teams rather than ones with true talent in the lineup. Lets hope they do add Cipo's team to the roster as well as hope he competes to the bitter end for the Green jersey.
I know it's not cycling related, but reading John Mullarkey's comment that "one might as well criticise a Ferrari for not being able to carry seven people in comfort", I couldn't help but pass on the fact that there is such a beast! The Renault Espace F1 is a people mover on a F1 car chassis. Space for seven, top speed of 310 km/h and 0-100 in 2.8 seconds!
In cycling terms, that would be the sprinting capacity of McEwen matched with the climbing strength of Armstrong, in a package with the all-day heart and versatility of Museeuw. Now THAT would be a cyclist!
See http://members.lycos.nl/Vorden/espace.html for more info!
Simon van der Aa
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