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Letters to Cyclingnews - March 13, 2003
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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Vale Andrei Kivilev
My sympathies go out to the family, teammates and friends of Andrei Kivilev. Having lived through my teammate and friend Nicole Reinhart's death... they will have a long path to understanding, but will find it in time. I'm so sorry.
I feel that the sport of cycling has been tainted by drugs, and more importantly scandals regarding drugs for too long now. If we assume that with the current protocol, very few riders are willing to come forward either after or during their careers to admit to drug taking so I believe a change is needed. There should be an amnesty, whereby riders can say 'Yes I did take drugs because it was what we all did' and this would be the end of it. There would be no fears of reprisals in the form of fines, suspensions, or police involvement.
It would be naive to say that any riders who did take drugs only did it because they wanted to cheat everyone. The truth is that so many people took drugs that the sport has become institutionally corrupt. While this is unfair on the riders who did not take performance enhancing drugs, I believe that this is the only way forward. It would bring an end to the problems that still haunt riders like Pantani and Vandenbroucke and would allow them to focus on his riding. While I believe that Pantani surely took drugs, I would also say that what has happened should be left in the past. We should forget this history and look to the future.
Any riders who are caught taking drugs after the beginning of an amnesty should be banned from the sport for life. But those who admit to having taken drugs prior to it should be left free from prejudice. By implementing such a policy I feel that the UCI would safeguard the glory of the past, while protecting future generations of cyclists.
I don't think US Postal would have finished 1, 2 at Het Volk if Boonen had stayed. My understanding is that Max Van Heeswijk was picked up to fill Boonen's spot on the team after he left. That's why I was smirking when I saw that he finished ahead of Boonen at Het Volk, although he probably rode from a protected position. Lately I've read some pretty degrading remarks from Patrick Lefevere regarding Max Van Heeswijk's ability and professionalism, so I'm glad to see him find success with a new program. I agree with most of the hype about Boonen's potential, but it doesn't appear that USPS has suffered from his loss as of yet. Quick-Step had better watch out for George, Eki, and Max (and later Lance) at the classics this year! There's going to be some great match ups!
Once again Hein Verbruggen (Too many teams) has shown that the sport of Professional Cycling has no real leadership. It's time for this guy to step down and be replaced with someone who can see a true future for the sport, not just in Europe, but worldwide. Too many teams? What does the rider's union have to say about this? What does Mr. Verbruggen think about the people who may lose jobs because of his thinking? What about income generated by these riders and teams? Major league baseball tried to contract last year by buying out two teams. It didn't happen because the MLB Players Association was to strong. The thought of letting that many members be without work was just not going to happen.
No, Mr. Verbruggen, let's find out why our sport has suffered so much under your leadership and downsize you instead.
Sometimes old cycling heroes would do their reputations a favour by keeping their mouths shut. Roger de Vlaeminck was a great champion in his day but things have changed and his achievements are not comparable to modern day ones; it can be argued whether that is in his favour or not. Many Danes have admired de Vlaeminck, not least due to Jørgens Leth's film "A spring day in hell" about Paris-Roubaix, but by "declassing" victories which are based on teamwork is a mistake that may reduce the number of admirers. Road racing, except for individual time trials is about teamwork. Today so many sports are so based on individuals that it is refreshing to find at least one where teamwork is essential and practiced. And to some Johan Museeuw is greater than de Vlaeminck because of his ability to be part of a team.
And by the way, journalists would also do both themselves and their "old heroes" a favour by not asking them!
"When your good months are as good as Lance's....you don't have to race the whole year."
Oh, but you do.
Which makes Lance not as good a rider as you fans would like to think. There will come a day when the only cycling event anywhere for pros will be the TdeF, and why? because that's where the sponsors will stick their money. Stars won't race (as opposed to ride) anything but the tour, everything else will be training fodder. Look at Mr Armstrong's program post-Paris. A ride here, a ride there and for what? some glory and/or some bucks. When lance has enough months to prove himself a good cyclist I'll think otherwise; 'til then cycling will be dying.
Of course that lance has no opposition is a moot point to most correspondents. Look who he as at the moment; A demented pirate; a Teutonic Peter Pan, some failed Italian druggies and a whole raft of wanna-bes talking the big talk. No wonder Armstrong finds the season so short.
The Tour is not the only race
I am overwhelmed by the response to my letter. The sentence "the season spans ten months - Lance performs for one month" was a provocation and of course an exaggeration. And apparently a successful provocation. The reason for provoking is that I do not feel that the Americans give other races than the Tour the credit they deserve. For me (and many Europeans) a victory in Ronde van Vlaanderen or Roubaix or Liege comes close to a victory in the tour. Thus I am disappointed to see a great champion like Lance Armstrong does not give a real go in the spring but uses the races to do miles at race speed and also help Hincapie or others. Lance is now up there with Merckx, Hinault end others in terms of Tour victories. He is not even close in terms of victories in the classics or one day races. And that is a shame.
Museeuw and Bettini have what appears to be the flu (a virus), and so the first thing that is reported as their treatment is a course of antibiotics? Why?
Geez, no wonder there's a drug problem in cycling if antibiotics are routinely given for viral infections.
Mr. David Johnson, the mere fact that you spoke out, via a letter to Cyclingnews and told us of your own condition and your appreciation for Floyd Landis' own newfound appreciation for people in wheelchairs, well, in my opinion that makes you an inspiration in your own right. You may not be able to ride anymore, but in your heart and soul (and my opinion as well) you will always be an athlete.
I'm an able-bodied athlete - cyclist and runner - who on a daily basis thanks the Big Guy in the Sky for his working legs, arms and lungs (and more) and at the same time realizes that we are all just so ever close to joining the ranks of the wheelchair-bound. We can all be as careful as ever possible - helmets, defensive riding, maximum alertness, etc. and still get mown down by a car or hit by some other seemingly unavoidable accident. It can also be something "innocent," something we'd have never seen coming, such as ALS or MS, that puts us in a wheelchair.
Yes, indeed, we must all be thankful for able bodies - as long as we have them. We must never forget that the wheelchair-bound may be avid cycling (or other) fans as well and would likely be right there, riding or running alongside us if they could.
Peas in a pod.
Scott Goldstein has forgotten something else. When comparing Lance and Simoni you should look at the results head to head. The best case in point (which Simoni always brings up himself to prove he's a better climber than Lance, I don't know why) is the 2001 Tour de Suisse. It was after Simoni made his greatest achievement and before Lance had his greatest performance in the Tour. The result: Lance dominated the race while using it for a testing ground for new equipment. He destroyed Simoni, best example being the uphill time trial (I can't remember but I think he won it by about 2 minutes, while switching bikes at the base of the climb). Someone needs to clue Simoni in on something, rarely is the Tour de France won by great climbers. Lance and Jan are the big hitters because they can climb well, but mainly because they can time trial. That is where the Tour is really won. I would argue that Simoni doesn't have the climbing abilities of a Beloki, and look what he's accomplished against Lance. I don't think Simoni could hang on Heras' rear wheel for that matter! The simple fact is this: you must be an all around rider to win the Tour; able to keep up on the flats and in the mountains, and be able to race against the clock. Only one of those things Simoni is good at, other than running his cocaine candy sucking yap. The only riders that will concern Lance is those who have proven themselves in the Tour. Namely Jan and Botero.
I have long been a huge fan of Miguel Indurain both for his athletic prowess and the manner with which he conducted himself. Although the debate regarding the achievements of Merckx vs. Indurain vs. Armstrong etc should rightfully never be over, I would like to put forth my perspective. Merckx's era was never defined by specialisation in any one race and therefore, all pros were on a level playing field as far as the number of races they participated in as well as their place in the season.
However, specialisation has increasingly become the approach necessary for success in major Tours since LeMond's era. In the same way that Johan Museeuw is not criticised for his lack of Tour success, why are Tour 'specialists' criticised for their relative lack of success in the Classics?? While Indurain did largely focus on the Tour de France, he also won the Giro and the Tour in successive years ('92, '93) and this is often overlooked when criticisms and comparisons are leveled in the vein of Merckx vs. Others. I feel that Armstrong's phenomenal achievements would be underlined and brought to the same level as Indurain's, for example, if he were to win a Giro (or two). However, this is a great risk today as few riders are competitive in both major Tours. As far as who would beat who in a "head-to-head", all I know is that I marvel at their abilities and each one was "King in their Day" (surely the only criteria that one can be subjected to)?
Kevin C. Dines
I want to first start by saying I am a huge fan of Lance Armstrong. I agree that I would like to see him add the Vuelta to his schedule, I disagree in what should be his objective there. In my opinion he should go to that race to support Roberto Heras in the mountains just as Heras does for him at the Tour. Am I saying that Lance doesn't win the Tour without Heras? no that would be absurd. But wouldn't it be a lot more interesting to see what would happen if those two went head to head in a mountain stage with a fresh and protected Heras not riding tempo for Lance and practically controlling all of the other rivals until the 2km mark? Lance reward your apprentice. If Lance goes to the Vuelta the rest of the A squad would follow virtually assuring victory for Heras. It's only fair.
Would Manolo Saiz think the Tour was too big if one of his riders were able to win it? Excuse me, but I've heard just about enough from this blowhard. I read recently that he declared that ONCE deserved to win the Tour. Why? Because they won the team time trial? When they have a rider capable of winning (and team strategy doesn't dictate that they defend the jersey when it isn't practical to do so) and that rider gets to the top of the podium, then they will have deserved it. In the meantime, he should stop making a fool of himself. The Vuelta and the Giro are wonderful races, but the Tour is the Tour. (And this was so even before The American That Frustrates Him So began to dominate it.)
Currently, I'm reading Maillot Jaune by Jean-Paul Ollivier, which has tons of great photos of past Tour de France champions. One thing that has struck me as odd in many old photos is the riders' arms. The veins on their forearms noticeably stand out like thick ropes, and I don't think I see that on modern riders today. Could this result from the traditional "preparations" that racers of yore used to compete in the toughest race in the world? If I saw arms like that in the peloton today, I would naturally wonder "What is this guy on?"
Comment regarding Mister Heffernan's letter about cars and bikes.
Tim, you are not alone, and people like you make a difference. The image or outlook of any violent confrontation is never positive: it don't matter if one is in it or witnessing it. It don't matter if one is right or wrong. You make this place a better place.
I thought I would give Lance a bit of marital advice, which I expect will be about as welcome as the impromptu coaching he receives from the raving hordes at the top of Ventoux. Having been married long enough to have gone through a bad patch, when I was more unhappy than I ever expected to be in life, and to now be the still married and happy father of two, I would refer to the vows that are part of the marriage ceremony. They are very specific, and if what one says means anything, then one has to respect the covenant one has made and abide by it. If it's about suffering, well, you, Lance, are the undisputed King of Pain, and I expect that you can suffer circles around me. So suck it up, whatever it is, and make it work. There is nothing I can think of that I would not do for my kids.
The Armstrongs' separation - only nobodies get privacy
It is true that Lance's family life should be irrelevant to true cycling fans. However, Armstrong has played up the "fairy tale" that is his life to people who have no interest in cycling, and he had made tens of millions of dollars doing so. I have seen plenty of advertisements featuring all of the Armstrongs. I feel no sympathy about his desire for privacy, though I am sorry this is happening to him. But you can't have it both ways. You can't make big bucks selling the "dream", and then expect to be left alone from gossip when things go bad. Only the nobodies of the world have that luxury.
It may be cheap for Mark Hopkins of Delaware to drive to work, but in the rest of the world, where the cost of petrol has been weighted to try to make up for the huge environmental costs of using the stuff, this is not the case.
Mark Hopkins of Delaware is, like most motorists, being protected from paying the true costs of hydrocarbon combustion, and road congestion, by the taxpayers.
Riding to work is still the right thing to do!
Nigel White (Cycle commuter)
Ride to work - eat cheaper food
For a 20 mile round trip, with a day's work in between (so, really 2 x 10 mile rides) you need a gatorade, powerbar and an ADDITIONAL trip to the cafeteria (I presume you would normally eat lunch there)? Try drinking water on the ride, eating breakfast, a normal lunch and dinner. Your fuel cost will be close to zero, and you will actually lose some weight.
By the way, cost of running a car doesn't stop at the price of gas (but that's another issue).
Ride to work - no need for pricey food
In regards to Mark's letter, just one point. I am a elite cyclist (Cat 1 in USA) and have ridden all over Europe with my national team and won many races - I have not yet turned pro but have had talks with a pro team in the past and hopefully will turn pro next season. This involves a lot of training - and eating . Eating involves the following foods for an example: honey cake with zero percent fat and zero percent sugar with no-sugar jam, bananas, and the occasional sandwich, water to drink or if a intense ride a glucose/fructose mix that you can buy kilos of for next to nothing. But only a little - then more water.
Mark, in short, you can very cheaply supply your own energy source of water and the above things to eat at very little cost. These do much more for your body than the advertised "special high energy" drinks and foods, another product of our "consumer" based society.
Unfortunately everyone seems to think that you need packaged, sweet and promoted products to succeed. The fact is you don't; home made is cheaper and easier and better, and takes a maximum of five minutes to make.
The only time that these packaged foods are used are during races - but even then (even in pro races) the riders prefer to use the homemade foods and drinks.
A great book to read about your body and how to make it faster/stronger is Michael Colgans "Optimum Sports Nutrition" - give it a try.
Ride to work - Calorie consumption
"It would be nice to think a five mile cycle burns up 300 Calories each way, i.e. 600 calories for 10 miles but the reality is that it is about half of that, i.e. 300 Calories for 10 miles."
It's really not possible to generalize x miles = y calories. The number of calories burned will vary depending on a number of factors: speed, gradient, weight, and wind being a few. On flat roads with no wind, a 110 pound rider going 5 mph will burn about 3.2 calories per minute, while a 170 pound rider on the same road going 15 mph would be burning 13 calories per minute. Rider #1 is burning about 38 calories per mile, while rider #2 is burning about 52.
Ride to work - costs and distance
Expense: Why waste money on Powerbars and Gatorade for a commute, even a training ride? For high glycemic needs, I like Coke, OJ, or Archway cookies during the ride to work. For the afternoon hunger knock, don't waste a spare second in line at the cafeteria, bring along a peanut butter and jelly or peanut butter and honey on grainy bread. These changes should bring your expenses down to less than $1.50.
Short ride to work: One of my favorite things about commuting has been to take the long way to work. One route takes be up 6 hills, each about 4 minutes in length, and takes be about 2 hours to get to work. The short way is 17 minutes.
Ride to work - take the long way
Who says you have to ride only four miles to work? Your ride is as long as you want to make it.
Ride to work - commuter bikes
Ronald Nemirow is spot on with his comments on commute bikes. It is very difficult to buy something off the shelf which is suitable for the daily grind of getting to and from work. One excellent option is an old mountain bike. My 12 year old Giant Sedona with panniers, slick tyres, mud guards and SPDs makes an excellent commuter - there's no excuse not to ride, whatever the weather. Furthermore, it looks terrible so doesn't attract thieves. When a part wears out and it is not required, I tend to take it off and throw it away (front derailleur, cable, shifter, two of the three front chainrings, rear brakes, etc). It is amazing how little bike you actually need to make commuting a genuinely terrific experience. Having said that, in Canberra we have a good network of cyclepaths and on-road cycle lanes, showers and lockers at the workplace and secure parking (for those with bikes worth stealing) and car parking charges of $8 per day in the city. We also have beautiful lakes and black swans, but I don't want to boast.
Regarding the cost of commuting, my 24km round commute costs a new tyre every 6 months, some lube and the odd brake pad. I don't buy the argument about extra food counterbalancing the cost of car use as servicing and depreciation are ongoing, significant costs.
Ride to Work - the hazards
I have read with much interest the commentary on riding to work and car culture and felt I had to comment. I have been riding to work in the Sydney CBD for about four years. Very, very occasionally I take public transport - when it is absolutely pouring or when I am sick, but 99 percent of the time I ride. The average for the week is about 100km - so it's a fairly short ride and most times takes around half an hour door to door. Anyway enough background, instead I ask commuting (and other cyclists) the following questions?
* How many times have you had a car change lanes without looking over their
shoulder and squashing you into the gutter?
These things happen to me EVERY DAY. Is this malicious or deliberately dangerous behaviour? NO! Car drivers simply have no idea how fast cyclists travel, what the road rules are for cyclists and how close they get when they pass you. What is the solution? EDUCATION. What about compulsory knowledge testing for drivers every five years? What about questions on cyclist's road rules and speeds in the knowledge test?
Will this happen? Not without continual lobbying and persistence by cyclists. So write to your political representatives, join your local advocacy group and have polite but firm conversations with car drivers that offend.
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