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Letters to Cyclingnews - March 28, 2003
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Congrats to Brits in Europe
Just like to note the true grit shown by Bradley Wiggins and Julian Winn in riding the whole of the Paris-Nice, and Max Sciandri's excellent placing in the Tirreno-Adriatico - only a minute down on the winner after seven days of racing is pretty good going.
I have only traveled over from the UK by road to see the race but as for flying into the area, I couldn't give you any definitive answers. Obviously the race starts in Compiegne, approx 50 miles north of Paris so there should be plenty of flights there, otherwise check out Lille airport as it is adjacent to the race route.
To watch the race, you have to be mobile. The first time I watched the race was in 1993 and that was with an organised coach trip so plenty of rushing onto and off of buses.
The last time I saw the race was 2 years ago when I drove over to France by car. Firstly, you need a good map, the route is also printed in L'Equipe the sports newspaper but is difficult to follow on the ground without a very detailed map, remember most of the roads are no more than farm tracks. If time allows check out the pave sections the day before and plan a route, into and away from each section as parking with the number of spectators is quite tricky. Remember you may have to park quite a way from the route so a bit of fitness helps, running from and back to the car before racing off to the next section. I estimated to see the race once an hour starting at the first pave section at Troivilles right through to the velodrome in Roubaix. We managed it, (only just a couple of times!!). That particular day was muddy and we got splattered with mud which added to the fun. Some of the locals were obviously dressed in their "Sunday best" and got a bit dirty when the support vehicles went through sending mud everywhere, great fun. So, be warned if its is wet, wear something appropriate.
Seeing Paris Roubaix - hire a car
The best way to experience Paris-Roubaix is to travel to Paris (airport "Charles de Gaulle" probably) and hire a car and drive to the race. Next to the forest d'Arenberg all "zones pavés" are popular places to watch the race so it's advisable to be their early in the morning. With a little luck you'll run into some people who'll have a TV on them and you can watch the race with them until the riders pass you by. To get to the race from the airport I think it's best to hire a car and perhaps a road map from the North of France.
Another thing you should take in account is the fact that the fuel prices in Europe are higher then in the States so you might want to hire a car with an appropriate engine.
Seeing Paris Roubaix - hole up in a bar!
We usually watch the race at Cysoing/Carrefour l'Arbre (sectors 5 - 3) you can see them go through the village then get on your bike and see them go past the famous bar on the last really serious cobbled sector. (Lille would probably be the best airport I suppose)
The atmosphere is always great (the bar is open, and there are thousands of cheery Belgians about) and you get to see the stars pretty much one by one as they come through.
Watching Museeuw framed by Flanders flags passing through a corridor of his countrymen is comparable with Pantani on Alpe d'Huez, awesome.
You can also have a really good ride if you get there early, the three sectors are quite close together and you can keep doing them in a loop over and over again.
I'm desperate to get info on the Gent - Wevelgem and the Paris - Roubaix races next month.
We're going to France in a week and hope to attend and cheer on the Posties. However, there aren't any tourist/logistics - oriented sites for these two events that I can find.
At this point we're planning on hopping on a train and showing up in the towns - not my idea of a plan, but we can't find any info on how to get about, when the race starts, ends, etc. Any help would be greatly appreciated!
My fiancée and I are traveling to Switzerland this summer for our honeymoon, and at the end want to hop over to France to watch some of the mountain stages of the Tour around July 11, 12, 13.
We're doing a Backroads tour in Switzerland but are on our own in France. We're assuming that all accommodations anywhere near the Tour route are going to be incredibly booked, and are just wondering if you know of any resources for finding accommodations including campsites during that period.
Thank you for any help you can provide.
If Lance really wanted to help promote cycling in the U.S., he would use his current fame to add prestige (in U.S. eyes, Europe already values other races as highly as the tour) to some of the other great events in the cycling calendar. Armstrong has proven in the past he can win one-day races, so why not make a serious attempt at a spring classic or two? He can win a 3 week tour, so why not introduce the American public to the Giro, or Vuelta?
By fostering interest in cycling as a whole (and not just the TDF), cycling has every chance of becoming a more popular sport in the States. By sticking to the tour only, cycling will only ever be considered a sport that has a three week season in France.
I am not opposed to wearing a helmet, but I don't feel that it should be in someone else's hands to decide if I should or not. You see, this is a very sore subject for me because I have lost two very close friends in bicycle accidents and they both were wearing a helmet. And not to sound cold hearted, but I'm sure Garrett Lemire was wearing one too? Helmets DO NOT SAVE LIVES!! They do help reduce the potential of head injury, but as an avid cyclist (riding 250+ miles a week) it should still by my choice. If someone feels that riding is so dangerous and is silly enough to think that a little helmet is going to save their life, then they shouldn't be out riding a bike to begin with. I've been riding for nearly 25 years now and other than in races, I would say that 90-95% of all cycling related accidents are due to the riders lack of knowledge to their surroundings. Let's teach people how to ride bikes before putting them out on the open roads and keeping the statistics high. And for God sake, let people have their own choice as to how and what they do. I can only hope that when my time comes to meet my maker, I am out doing what I love to do. Riding my bike.
Helmets - medical opinions
While it's interesting to hear the opinion of a 5th Year Medical Student from the University of Western Australia, ("From the reports of the crash and surrounding medical circumstances it seems unlikely that that wearing a helmet may have saved Andrei's life"), I'm more convinced by the opinion of an actual doctor, who was on the scene; in this case Cofidis team doctor Jean-Jacques Menuet, who is quoted as having said Kivilev almost certainly would have survived if he was wearing a helmet.
Helmets - Pascal's wager
This is really a response to the different positions taken by Joel and Simon. I'd just like to highlight Simon's last sentence. It's a version of a philosophical position called Pascal's wager. If wearing a helmet does not increase your chances of injury or death, and not wearing one does then the ONLY logical conclusion is that you should wear a helmet if you want to decrease your chance of injury or death. And who doesn't want to do that?
Helmets - individual decision
To see anyone killed or badly injured whilst taking part in their favorite past time or indeed their profession, is tragic and all of us would surely support any measures that reduce the possibility of such events. At the same time, everyone knows that we are involved in a risky sport and accidents go with the territory.
Most of these accidents are minor, some of them involve injuries to the head and only a very few are of a 'serious' nature. Each and every individual knows what the risks are and will have his/her views about how best to deal with that risk. Some of us think that wearing a helmet is a sensible option - the level of protection it provides is worth having, even though its clear that there are some accidents in which no helmet will help . But modern polystyrene helmets will surely prevent most of the injuries that Jo Average Cyclist is likely to suffer - one would have helped me in 1981 when I picked up a large gash across the back of my crust, I'm sure.
Even if your helmet won't save your life, the point is that IT MIGHT: and you never know when its your turn to deck it. It certainly won't help you if its on a hook behind the outhouse door, and really, the price of reduced comfort is now so minimal that it can for all intents and purposes be ignored.
What happened to Kivilev, and Casartelli, was unusual, and very extreme, and should not be used by any of the governing bodies to impose helmet use - that would be far too insensitive. However I would support compulsory helmet use in all races including the pro/elite categories. After all, Race promoters, riders, ther UCI etc have an obligation to all riders, including the kids who so avidly follow the sport. Outside the start and finish lines, well, that's up to the individual to decide.
Helmets - benefits are minimal
I would like to respond to the letter regarding helmets by Simon van der Aa. He mentions an important statistic that says that cycling was reduced 30% while fatalities went down only 11%. For some reason he thinks this as a plus without, apparently, thinking of the rest of the story.
In the first place a 30% reduction in cycling with only an 11% reduction in fatalities is a net gain in the risk for every cyclist that dons a helmet. So instead of increasing safety, helmets have made it more unsafe. Now, I would guess (without any data) that the increased risk comes from a reduced road presence of bicyclists and hence less attention by motorists. But nevertheless the helmet was the indirect cause of REDUCED safety.
Furthermore, those cyclists who stopped riding their bikes must be doing something with that time.
If they were commuters perhaps they switched from bicycles to walking. The result would be a greater risk of fatal injuries since walking near traffic is more dangerous per mile than bicycling. Perhaps the ex-cyclists are now taking their cars. Again, they are increasing their risks because occupants of a motor vehicle are twice as likely to have a fatal injury as a bicyclist. There could be combinations of walking to public transportation, taking the trolley, then walking at the other end that could conceivably meet the same safety statistics as bicycling but the truth is that those who stopped riding their bikes for transportation are now more at risk.
If they were recreational riders what are they now doing? Perhaps they switched to indoor riding on a trainer? I don't think that likely. It is a rare individual who can ride a metric century on a set of rollers. I would guess that those who stopped riding because of helmet legislation would switch to another sport for their exercise. Unfortunately, most other sports have a greater risk to one's life than bicycling. The end result, yet again, is that the ex-bicyclist is now in greater danger than before bicycle helmet legislation.
There are those who think that we should only be discussing bicycle racing and indeed, I agree, but I only wanted to point out the flaws in Mr. van der Aa's thinking before covering that.
There are study after study using traffic fatality information that demonstrates that any effect that helmets may have on serious or fatal head injuries are minimal at best. And the helmet manufacturers haven't helped matter by insisting that helmets were designed to save lives. Because of this dogmatic insistence that this was an all-or-nothing campaign there are no reliable studies on the real effects of helmets on what they might conceivably be quite good at - preventing or minimizing minor injuries.
Most bicycle racing in the USA requires helmets. They do not require helmets because they save lives but because they reduce the mandatory insurance costs. And they do that by reducing minor head injuries. When someone falls off and hits their head they no longer have a scalp laceration and the ringing in their ears that would be the result of a bare head. They don't go to the hospital and they don't go though a battery of tests to determine beyond the hospitals ability to avoid malpractice that there is no injury. This in itself is a laudable accomplishment and one that ought to strongly qualify helmets for bicycle racing anywhere in the world.
However, professional bicycle racing isn't the same thing as amateur racing. When professionals race in a strictly professional setting they are performing at a different level. Professionals, themselves, have determined that they can race faster in some circumstances without helmets and that they prefer to do so. That should be their prerogative. The second guessing of bureaucrats and fans won't change any of that.
Since professional bicycle racing is about the absolutes in performance on a bicycle, inflicting a handicap known to reduce performance is nonproductive. Don't argue about fairings being illegal because bicycle racing is supposed to be about a man and his bike.
In closing I must wonder about the huge ego of those who would believe that a 150+ lb. body hurling at 15+ mph could be spared serious damage by a miniscule percentage of about 8 ounces of foamed plastic.
Helmets - spurious correlation
"Helmet laws caused cycling levels to drop by 30 per cent in Australia while head injuries fell by only 11 per cent".
From my long past college days, I remember the idea of 'spurious correlation'....and this sounds like an example to me! Two statistics put side by side to suggest an outcome or a link, when they might not even be related.
Not on the subject of cost, but on the subject of congestion charges.
I visited London yesterday for the first time since the City introduced a congestion charging system. What a breath of fresh air! THere seemed to be almost as many bikes as cars and both were free flowing - no jams or congestion to be seen - and we're talking here of City of London - in the heart of Europes most important financial services district. It was far better than I've ever known it and my experience of the place goes back to 1986.
Still rather be in the Yorkshire Dales though.
Ride to work - costs
People commute on nice bikes because often the bulk of their riding in any give week is the commute. For me, four days of commuting is about 110 miles, including significant hills in each direction. It's a ride, and I like to enjoy it. Therefore, I commute on a nice bike, which I keep in my office. My city also provides secure, weatherproof facilities for bikes for those who can't bring their bikes upstairs. If I didn't commute on 'nice bikes' I wouldn't be able to justify possessing them, at least in economic terms. Many people are like that, many commute more than two-five miles to the bike rack by their office. Why not ride your nice bike -- it's a ride, isn't it? I'm happy to be doing it, not merely virtuous.
Bike commuting has added quality of life values not represented or served by lists of car vs bike maintenance costs, and unless you "account" for those, you're missing the point. If those values aren't attractive to people, then bike commuting won't happen en masse in any case. That's what buses are for, and buses are cheaper than bikes.
Ride to work - cost of cars
I departed for my regular bike commute from Alexandria, VA to Washington, DC - an 11 mile jaunt, at 8:30 am. Today - war day - it was raining heavily, and cold - classic Belgian weather.
I took Washington Blvd, because they have brick in the sidewalk and proceeded to pass the obsolete BMW/Mercedes/SUV brain cramp at a leisurely pace - 12-17 mph.
If I passed 300 cars (which is a humble guesstimate), worth $30K each (b/c we are talking Alexandria here), my $1.5K bike passed $9 mil worth of car. In any event, I got into work far earlier, and far more refreshed.
Whilst every sympathy and best wish goes out to Dan for his speedy, successful and hopefully not too painful recovery, can I ask what penalty the car driver will receive for his/her part in this accident? I can imagine perhaps a small fine or similar. Wouldn't it be good to see "at fault" drivers suspended for 6-12 months following accidents where another person was injured - and make them complete compulsory "driver skills" training at their expense before they can start driving again.
No one has the right to injure or maim another person, even if you are driving a car. If you inflicted that sort of injury on someone in any other situation you would be charged with grievous bodily harm and spend time in gaol.
Jordan, how would you prove that you qualified for a rebate? How would you document at the petrol pump that you had in fact ridden 100+ km that week?
Rebate for riding - what about non-drivers
What about people who don't own cars and don't buy petrol? Do we get extra rebates off our tax instead?
In response to the first part of James Kelly's letter:
* Paris Nice
Still a fairly long list for Mr Armstrong to get stuck into if he was so minded. However, the real debate isn't about what Lance Armstrong chooses to ride, but how the current structure of cycling encourages a Tour winner to concentrate solely on the Tour.
It is understandable that Lance bases his season round the Tour, most riders would do the same in his position. After all it is by far the biggest race and ensures his earning potential and possibly the ongoing sponsorship of his team. Whilst understandable, it is a shame for cycling that one of its most talented riders chooses not to compete, or does not compete seriously, in the rest of the sport's major events. This isn't really Lance's fault, as if he tried to race the whole season competitively he would probably be beaten at the Tour by a rider with more specific preparation, not what his team wants regardless of how many Classics he could win.
But the absence of the sports biggest name detracts from the status of other events in the eyes of the wider public. Without public attention it becomes more difficult for races other than the Tour to attract media attention outside their locality and therefore sponsors are less interested in becoming involved. The overall result is that the Tour gets bigger whilst other races struggle to survive e.g.. Paris Nice, Midi Libre which have both had problems in recent years. In addition, sponsors are unwilling to support teams unless they get a Tour ride meaning fewer professional teams and riders.
All of this has to be bad for the sport and is particularly detrimental to increasing the popularity of the sport outside the traditional European heartland. It is eminently possible that the Tour could become to cycling like Wimbledon in the United Kingdom. Wimbledon causes intense interest in tennis for two weeks and then the British public forgets about tennis completely, end result is few decent British tennis players.
Therefore the endless arguments about the rights and wrongs of Lance Armstrong's season are a side issue to the main debate which is how cycling as a sport can ensure that its best riders want to ride all of the big events, not just one of them, in the same way that a formula one driver competes in every Grand Prix, even if their style is not suited to a particular race. It might also liven up the Tour which is consistently the most boring major stage race of the year, not a good way to encourage new people into cycling.
Lance Armstrong should support Roberto Heras in the Vuelta
I think it would be wonderful to watch Roberto and Lance ride together in the Vuelta as well, but I can understand why that is not possible. In the case of the San Francisco Grand Prix, it is one of only a couple races that Armstrong participates in on US soil. Plus, with that kind of publicity, there is a boost in interest for cycling in this nation (which is great for the rest of us enthusiasts). Like Darrel Stickler stated, Tom Weisel has a huge stake in the SFGP, so it is a favor that Armstrong commits to it over the Vuelta. Besides I like having the option to see the likes of Armstrong, Hincapie, Landis, etc., without having to book a $1000+ flight.
Besides, who are any of us to say what Lance or any of the pro riders should or should not do?
I just had subscribed to RAI International (provided by COX Communications through their digital cable network in Southern Cal). While it was frustrating to see some of the cycling being cut due to that senseless war, the RAI coverage was outstanding.
OLN should take note:
Not only did RAI never seem to miss anything important going on, the reporters also were very knowledgable and generally knew the rider's names and what was going on (an impression that I don't always get from OLN).
They also only had two commercials, lasting about 5 secs each (I am not exaggerating, I was gone the weekend, so I had to tape the race; When I saw the commercials come on, I reached for the remote to fastforward, but by the time I was ready to hit the FF button, the commercials were over!).
The only thing I take issue with they stayed very long on the crash of Derganc (I was able to fast forward, but it made me sick to my stomach still).
So I now hope they broadcast other classics as well and also the major tours. The coverage is so much better than OLN that it's well worth the extra 10 dollars a month.
I'm a budding track cyclist in Birmingham, Great Britain. I'm heading over to Moscow in September for 18 weeks as part of my University degree and was really hoping to get involved in the track scene whilst I'm there. I'm planning to take my track bike with me but I know nothing so far about the practicalities about riding out there or even if it's possible for me to do so. Can anyone tell me a bit more about the opportunities for riding at the velodrome in Moscow? Unfortunately I haven't been able to get hold of anyone so far and would appreciate anyone's advice and knowledge. And if there are any trackies in Russia out there then I'd really like to hear from you! And finally, how do you train during the Russian winter?!
Pronounced veins are a sign that the athletes are hot and the body is trying to cool itself down.
Maybe it was a scorching hot day in that photo; maybe the wool jerseys they used to wear were hotter than out specially designed synthetic jerseys of today; maybe athletes back then did not hydrate themselves properly, hence the increase in body temperature; maybe cyclists in the longer races lost far more weight during the course of the event than they do now in this age of sports science.
Does anybody remember seeing the legs of the cyclists on the podium after the road race at the Atlanta Olympics? The race had been run on a hot and humid day. The guys legs looked like roadmaps of Manhattan, it was insane.
Maybe we just need to stop and think about things before forever jumping to that drug conclusion.
Just a quick note in regards to the recent Pantani "looks" photo sequence: funny, funny stuff! I've always been impressed with the cyclingnews.com team's dry, subtle sense of humor but this takes the cake. Thanks for the morning laugh and keep up the good work!!
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