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Letters to Cyclingnews - June 12, 2003
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US Pro Championship for US pros only
It is time to prohibit foreign-born riders from competing in the US Pro championship race. Not only have five of the past seven winners been foreigners - but four of the top five finishers Sunday were not from the United States either.
Other countries do not allow foreigners to participate in their national championships. It is far past time for the United States to do the same.
I have a tremendous amount of respect for the efforts most cyclists put in to become and remain professionals. Whether they race on the continent or in North America it is a grueling, demanding sport. It is my understanding that very few cyclists are paid well and that most ride because they are passionate about the sport. I do not believe that money is a motivator to suffer up a col a the end of five hours of racing. I grant that there are exceptions, but few.
When a chance comes along to finally earn a pay day in a sport that enriches few it should be seized. Gord Fraser had this opportunity in 2000. He did not ask for the prize money to be presented in the fashion it was, he just went after it. When he was on the verge of claiming the prize a tragic accident occurred. It was right to support the fallen rider. It is also right to fulfill commitments one makes.
My name is Simone Toccafondi and I am Specialized Road Team Manager. In a nutshell my job is to take care of the Domina Vacanze Team on behalf of Specialized. I'd like to respond to Mr Valette's letter.
First of all let me write that I respect your feelings and opinions whatever they are. I also understand that Mario Cipollini is not your favorite cyclist and there is nothing wrong with that.
The reason why Mario Cipollini's exclusion has generated so much interest is quite simple: Mario Cipollini is the best sprinter in the World and mainly the current World Champion.
It is clear that Cipollini's aim at the Tour is to win mainly flat stages. Nobody can deny this. But in what he does he is definitely the best or one of them. I want to keep his flamboyant way of being aside for one moment and take in consideration his sport achievements through all his racing career, impressive!
Unfortunately for Mr. Leblanc, nobody can assure him that he will arrive in Paris; not even Armstrong, though, Mario has tried to express it through a letter. He did not promise, but wrote that his aim was to win in Paris, maybe crossing the finish line wearing the world champion jersey or even the green one. This was Mario's plan, other than that what can he possibly do? Of course in the past he has not kept his promises, but he has always been an important player in the Tour scene.
Also, when you refer to Mario's crash at the Giro, I wonder where are your facts? Being present at the crash, later at the hospital and then in the hotel where the team was staying, I can testify that Mario's condition did not allow him to make many choices or take many risks. The crash had been severe and the doctors that attended him advised Mario to quit the Giro. Mario had a severe injury close to his lower vertebrae and nobody wanted to take the risk of letting him start the next day. The x-rays did not detect anything, apart from a bone fragment close to the vertebrae. But a broken bone can be detected after few days. Well, I repeat: a risk nobody wanted to take!
Furthermore, the next stage was the one that finished with the climb of the Zoncolan (27-28 percent). Not a stage where you can recover, nor a stage that you can ride in the middle of the pack letting it carrying you up to the finish.
Mr Valette refers to Pantani and Petacchi taking the start the next day after they crashed. Look at Petacchi then, Mario's main competitor at the Giro this year. The day after he crashed the stage was completely flat. He had the time to ride it and take advantage of the rest day the day after. When he got to the first difficult stage he had to give up. Also, Petacchi's injures were severe but also in a less critical area than Mario's.
By the way, Petacchi has admitted himself all of what I am writing and I also think that he has been brave and absolutely extraordinary to do what he has done.
I can't believe it, I've finally read someone (albeit a fan) who lists Tyler as dangerous to Lance.
Why is it that all the riders and commentators all seem to say that Ullrich is the only guy who can actually challenge Lance. That is such BS. Tyler Hamilton has got to have the best chance out of anyone out there to beat the unbeatable. He can crush in the TTs, climbs like crazy, has a team that will rock in the TTT and support him in the mountains, and most of all, has more heart and determination than anyone - do you think anyone else would have finished 2nd in the Giro with a broken shoulder?
Please, give credit where it's due.
Mr. Bridge writes that "...it would have been an exciting Tour with Ullrich, Indurain and Armstron all at their peak."
I agree, but only to a point. We've *already* seen Ullrich at his peak. That was in 2001, when many experts agreed that he was in better shape than in '97, when he won the Tour. Still, Armstrong simply destroyed him. I expect to see the same thing this year.
My composite team would be: Merckx, Indurain, Coppi, Jiminez (three mountain jerseys), Hinault, Lemond, Fignon, Delgado, and the winner of the mountains jersey in 1980 - Raymond Martin. Now where did I put that time machine? Could one team bus hold all those egos?
Raymond F. Martin
It is very true that previous wins don't guarantee future wins, a fact that Lance himself emphasizes constantly. But by the same token, Indurain's eventual defeat doesn't offer any predictors of when Lance will eventually lose. Sure, it's a different race every year, but Lance is a different man than Miguel.
In what way is Pantani one of the 'best riders available'? He's not even in the top ten of the best climbers available, much less being a genuine contender for GC in the Tour. All this fuss for the UCI # 375 ranked rider? Or do you mean to say the best available noisy, resentful personality from Italy who dropped out of the last tour he participated in?
Even given those criteria, I'd still have picked Cipollini -- at least he's on a Division I team and wouldn't have had to ride someone else's coattails to get a start. Though the rules that allow that are not Pantani's fault, that's a pretty small-time way to get it done. I'd rather see fakta or Phonak than any of these guys.
I enjoyed Scott Goldstein's letter but I must say that everyone already knows that Simoni is no threat to Lance and Co. Call me crazy, but, I think Aitor Gonzalez is the one to watch out for!
Let me explain. Remember Lance's "bluff" a few years ago? I believe Aitor Gonzalez did the same thing in the Giro; he bluffed a poor performance in the mountains and wants to be seen as an underdog for the Grand Boucle! Maybe I'm wrong, maybe not, Aitor was the Terminator in the first ITT (possibly just stretching his legs for training). Also, look out for Santiago Botero as he has been quiet also and may be doing some secret training in preparation for the Tour. Not to say that Armstrong hasn't been training himself but you never know who is doing what; Lance fooled everyone, why couldn't someone else?
If I'm wrong, I'm wrong, it won't be the first time (or the last), but I think Lance will have a harder challenge this year than he has in past years. I wasn't around during the Indurain years because I started cycling in 1997, so I don't know if the competition got tired of seeing him win as much as they dislike seeing Lance win. Point being, a lot of people want to see him go down this year and some of those people have been reserved in their comments, and some have not. I would worry a little more about those who are! On a last note I will have to say: GO TYLER!
I agree with Scott Goldstein that the competition usually is fiercer in the Tour than in the Giro and in the Vuelta (if that is what you are implying). However:
1) The climbs in the Tour are different from those at the Giro and the Vuelta. In the Giro and the Vuelta they include climbs which are steeper than in the Tour. To my knowledge the Tour never puts in mountain stages like the Angliru and the Mortirola (they tried it in the seventies but the riders complained so the Tour decided to abandon the idea). This probably means an advantage for pure mountain climbers as Simoni, Heras and (an in form) Pantani.
2) As I remember it Simoni had a big time margin against Garzelli in the last part to Chianale. Why should he risk getting in trouble by following Frigo who wasn't a threat in the GC?
As an Italian who rides for an Italian trade team why is the Tour more important to Simoni that the Giro? By using exactly the same parameters of argument I ask why doesn't Lance turn up in Italy, at least once anyway? At least, tired or not tired, Simoni has been to the Tour.
"Every once in a while the Giro acts like the Tour for a stage or two"
You may criticize the Giro for the 'formulaic' way it is raced but who says the French way of racing is better or right? The last few Giros have been extremely exciting and remember the top ten in last year's race all being within a handful of minutes of each other going into the final stage. Can anyone remember the last time the Tour was that close in the final week? I also tend to concur with Kelly Milam, who says that riders like Garzelli put it all on the line, rather than being paralyzed by the fear of losing; it is all about the bravery of the endeavor.
Forza Italia! and bring on Cipo.
Stephan Esleben states, "Almost every year we hear the same refrain from a Giro winner of how he is going to make Armstrong's life hell in the Tour, normally in the mountains. It's now Simoni's turn - we've had Pantani, Garzelli and Savoldelli in the past." Perhaps Pantani and maybe Garzelli made such claims, but I recall Paolo Savoldelli showing incredible humility after winning the Giro last year with the following quote in cyclingnews: "I am Italian, and the Giro is above the Tour for me. To combine the both, you have to have the right head. I doubt I've got that. Don't forget I came to the Giro to win a stage! Look at who can win more than one big stage race: Indurain could do it, now we have Armstrong. I am Paolo Savoldelli; a good athlete but no Armstrong. He is a cyclist with superior qualities; otherwise you wouldn't overcome cancer and return to win multiple Tours." If Mr. Savoldelli has changed his toon this year I stand corrected, but it is difficult for me to imagine Paolo Savoldelli saying he is going to take it to Mr. Armstrong in the Tour mountains.
I assume Matt Krebsbach has never won a bike race and has never experienced the euphoria related to endorphins, adrenaline, super muscular and cardio-vascular condition, not to mention the emotions enhanced by the home town fans etc.
I, for one, would rather see a race with Pantani, Simoni, and McEwen, as there is so much more interest generated by these large hearted, spirited, emotional, braggarts. Have them both. You would not eliminate Cipo because he brags would you?
I have won a bike race or two before and know firsthand the emotions that cocky overconfidence can and does bring to the winner, and am glad I didn't have 100 reporters asking questions at that time or I am sure I would have sounded like Simoni.
He's on top of the world, but he's a champion. Let him enjoy his victory and
his feelings as they will be gone
Well, it is shaping up as another great tour, even if the GC battle is seemingly already won in most people's eyes. Here are a few thoughts on a couple of riders who would do better to keep quiet and let their legs do the talking.
I seem to remember a certain Marco Pantani a few months back claiming how calm he was with his inner self and newfound outlook on life. He stated that he could've gone to a Div 1 team and got automatic entry to the Tour but opted to remain in his Div 2 outfit and to (stupidly) earn a tour spot. How his tune has changed. Although his Giro ride was respectable, it did nothing to suggest he is capable of anything like his 'supercharged' days. He is now ready to jump ship, abandon faithful team mates just to ride the Tour. The only part of Armstrong he will hurt is his neck, as Lance will be looking behind him for Marco every time the road heads up. There are other people (Mario?) who are far, far more deserved of an invite but have accepted that they cant go. Marco should do the same and shut is mouth until he achieves anything barely resembling a podium finish in any race.
I liked Simoni until his dribbling started after winning the Giro. I agree that the garbage flowing from his mouth afterwards was not the words of a true champion. He was very strong in the Giro, but even if he can challenge Lance in the mountains (which he wont be able to do for more than a couple of stages max) he will be conceding at least 2-3 minutes in each time trial. I ask you Gilberto, If Lance has never faced a real adversary, then how will you rate these 'second rate' riders when they finish above you in the Tour? Oh thats right, you are too tired from the Giro! Keep your feet on the ground son and see how you go before making any more brash remarks. what is it with these Italians who have to always talk up their (slim) chances?
Would it not be funny to have the Pirate in the Barbarians team?
Mario is a great sprinter. He is also his own worst enemy. He also fusses over his hair. He draws attention to himself by breaching clothing regulations (for which he has paid hefty fines) and being generally demonstrative. But, despite "all that", he doesn't finish a tour. As soon as the road points up, he's out. All that sweat musses one's hair, ya know.
Guess what? The Tour organizers are sick of Mario and his antics. Mario gets to sod off in July while the more serious are racing and showing a little more respect. I agree. Cipollini's chickens are coming home to roost. Mario himself has laid an egg and the yolk's on him.
Has Mario learned his lesson? Maybe next year he'll spend a bit more time training in the mountains so he can finish some tours. With a little effort, I bet he could be in green. Then he would get some of the recognition a rider of his caliber deserves.
I want to know if anyone is sick of hearing Bob, Phil, and Paul talk about how good Simoni is and how he is a true champion 'cause he was kicked out last year. And then go on to say that his exclusion was not justified. Then they go on to bad mouth Garzelli as a cheat 'cause he "took," a banned substance. Simoni tested positive for cocaine twice! Garzelli tested positive for a drug that hasn't been effective for anything since the '80s. If you ask me Simoni has been partying with Cocaine Comesso a few times too often after (or maybe during) the races.
I've been following the recent debates on helmet wearing, and wait with eager anticipation to see what new fashions will emerge from this situation. I have to say that I am hoping for a definite improvement on the current situation, as there are not many of today's pros that stand out as being "cool" in this department. Take David Millar for instance: whilst often lauded for being 'rock & roll', his head gear style is very poor. Sporting the traditional cap is very commendable, however all attempts should be made to wear it without looking a complete & utter tool - i.e. don't pull it on as far as it will go. Suitable cap wearing role models to consider would be Saronni or Henk Lubberding (in the peak-forward position) or Sean Kelly (for peak-aft).
I think you're missing the point here. The fans do know who are the best climbers in the grand tours. They are the ones in the race leader jersey at the end. The idea behind the mountains jersey (and the points jersey and the Intergiro jersey and other intra-race competitions) is to provide for a little more action in the races and to give teams without a real GC contender some reason to come to the race. If points were awarded with a heavy weight towards actual mountain finishes, the race leader and the mountains leader would, more likely than not, always be the same person. What fun would that be? By offering enough points for mountain passes during the course of the race, there is enough encouragement for riders who have no real chance at final GC to spice up the race a bit with a few attacks, even if the vast majority of these prove futile at the end of the stage. Without these points, every mountain stage would simply become a race of attrition.
I think that any previews of NORBA races (News June 11) should at least mention a two-time defending series champion. John Kirkaldie of New Zealand has worked very hard in his discipline of Downhill to take the series for the last two years running, yet the media seems to ignore him utterly. To a professional rider whose income is derived from the publicity he generates this must be very discouraging. I can sort of understand the Americans' attitude, but you should try and taker a broader view.
If you want to know who would win, get a copy of the '94 Tour video and SEE who won. Check out Lance's interview after the TT.
Raymond F. Martin
Having followed the recent exploits of a certain very fast gelding horse, a physician friend of mine tells me he's considering the possible effects of testicle-removal upon human athletes -- namely, one Mr. Armstrong. It is well known that the lack of extra testosterone has rendered Funny Cide more lithe than he was before, and has significantly raised his pain threshold. Could it be, my friend wonders, that we have witnessed a similar effect in Mr. Armstrong's recent transformation from burly classics rider to super-climber and time-trialist extraordinaire? It certainly seems to me an improvement upon the thesis that the exposure to radiation somehow gave him superpowers a la Radioactive Man.
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