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Letters to Cyclingnews - May 15, 2003
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Bums on seats
It is interesting to read the views of Ron Webb.
The fact that both tennis and golf are huge spectator sports especially on TV shows that even slow, unathletic pasttimes and repetitive, monotonous ones can be attractive and financially viable if the right package is built around them. Golf enjoys large public participation, which probably includes the people who decide what is going to be on TV, and with whom large corporate sponsorship dollars are to be spent. Tennis doesn't have the participation factor, but it does have the attention of the white collar world and hence it pulls the dollars too.
Track cycling is inherently more easily presented as a TV event than road cycling. It has all the TV features of motorsport with the added excitement of being able to see the athletes faces, hear the effort going in, and in the event of a prang, see the pain and agony in a way that no other sport can offer.
Unfortunately the traditional track programme does all it can to render a potentially exciting sport boring or incomprehensible. Take the Keirin for example. That is THE most exciting track event, basically a six-up scratch race for sprinters, with a rolling start. So why not MAKE it a scratch race with a rolling start? I am an ex trackie, I love track racing and understand it in my bones, but I can't see why we need the derny except to make the whole thing drag on and look stupid to the casual observer. And believe me, as someone who tries to make the track cycling comprehensible to friends and relatives every time the Olympics or Commonwealth games roll around, it does look stupid to people who haven't seen a derny before, especially with some fat ex-trackie sitting on it in mismatched clothing and a funny looking helmet.
Match sprinting should be a lap shorter. If a sprint match was 500m instead of 750, we wouldn't need a roll the first lap rule, or an inside rider leads rule. The thing would be on from the gun. There would still room for finesse but no need for explanation of why sprinters are going 5kph.
What about making it possible for a rider to put his world title up for grabs if the price is right? Could we see Sean Eadie vs Arnaud Tournant in Las Vegas on pay per view? With a pursuit match between Australia and Ukraine as the main support event, and a 150 lap points race to finish, with riders identified by big numbers like a NASCAR race. And computerised scoring that WORKS.
And to tie in another discussion, while rider cam in a road race would be boring unless it was on top of Tom Steels' helmet on the run into Bordeaux or the Champs Elysee, imagine rider cams being a requirement for all riders in the keirin and sprint, as a 'fair play' move so the commissaires could be right in amongst things before they ruled on rough riding. If Jens took out Florian and impeded Sean, imagine checking out Jean-Pierre's footage to see what really happened! Plus, we could also use bits of it in the stadium on the big screen, and in telecasts like they do at all the motorsort events these days.
Velodromes also need cameras on tracks in the ceiling so they can follow the action from above and slightly behind, and be able to pitch in the turns so spectators (and has beens like myself) can enjoy/relive the sensation of hitting a 45 degree bend at 65kph. There isn't anything else quite like it.
When the little guy rode with Rabobank, and was a an up and comer, I was cheering him on. Now, sadly enough, I don't care for the lad. He is reckless beyond the norm in sprinting. Yes, I know sprinting is done in close quarters, and that there is sometimes, if not always some incidental contact, but look at him. His head butt at the world's was terrible, I don't think he should have received a medal. He justifies it by saying he wanted Cipo's wheel, funny I don't recall anybody else (Zabel) head butting to get there. He is using nasty tactics to try and make up for his lack of foresight, or position. Now he throws an elbow in the Giro. "I didn't see anyone" initial comment, "I left enough room" a comment that followed afterwards. This second comment only solidified his intentions, he knew he was there, and intentionally did what he did. Yes elbows have been thrown before, but he is making a habit of it. I applaud the relegation, and hope that officiating continues to relegate anyone with similar tactics. I imagine a lot of sprint specialist would like to see a cleaner end to a stage, and let the best engine win, not the nastiest.
Michel van Musschenbroek
Robbie McEwen - gormless bravado
Please, can we have less of the words from McEwen's mouth? We all know by now that he is an arrogant thug with no respect for his betters, let alone his peers. I am afraid that I cringe every time I see a quote, and I am terrified that embarrassing fellow will release a book entitled "Cycling according to Robbie" or some such. Sprinters are generally larger than life characters, but McEwen's unceasing stream of whining conspiracy theories alternating with gormless bravado gives the press endless opportunities to make him look even less appealing.
A bit of a delicate subject here, as I have been diagnosed with epididymitis by my doctor and have gone through the required treatment and was feeling better. As I have started riding again, however, I have had a residual flare-up of soreness from riding and have stopped again. The doctor says that I need to back off riding and get on anti-inflammatories to knock back the tenderness until the inflammation is gone and then, and only then, should I start exercise again. Was curious if anyone had similar experiences and what the outcome was, and how long off the bike.
I think that there are legitimate questions that could be asked about the CPLD but that Mr. Thompsen isn't asking them. There are serious questions about doping that revolve around detection and the actions of athletes in this regard.
Surely the CPLD is being quite logical in claiming that there should be limits to the drugs that athletes use legally if there is a possibility that these drugs could be used to boost performance. We could conceivably end up with the entire peloton claiming asthma and using drugs simply to get the benefits of the drugs.
Although the various asthma drugs are considered performance enhancing, there has never been any definitive studies on the matter. I believe that many of the drugs on the banned list are there because they show certain activities that are deemed to possibly enhance performance.
Asthma inhalers are self regulated and because of that and the characteristic disturbance that breathing problems causes asthma victims, these drugs are usually very much over-dosed. Since there is a delay between the application of the medication and the action of the drug most asthmatics will re-apply medication before the effects of the initial application are felt. The result is sometimes many times the necessary dosage to achieve the desired remedial action, especially in cases where the asthma victim has substantial debilitating effects from his disease. This is why most governing bodies in sports ignore positive findings for these drugs in asthmatics.
So both sides in this argument have good points. If the specific drugs being used can be shown unarguably to be performance enhancing drugs.
I don't question the authority of the CPLD or their motives which I believe to be of the highest quality. But I do think that the CPLD needs a lot better support to ban riders such as Sr. de Galdeano from competition and I think that the French courts would probably agree to that.
De Galdeano and the CPLD - he should ride
I agree with Brett Thompsen. Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano should be allowed to ride the Tour. Igor followed all the rules and reported his asthma condition and medications properly according to reports I've read in Cyclingnews.com. He has done nothing wrong and in fact, seems to be a model pro rider. I admire his quiet style and the fact that he lets his legs do the talking. The fact that he has overcome his asthma makes his accomplishments even more impressive.
The action of the French anti-doping council brings up a point of concern. Have the Society du Tour and the UCI lost control of the Tour? First there were the police raids in '98, then the unjustified harassment of Lance, and now Igor. Who is next? Are we now seeing the ugly downside of years of permissiveness related to drug abuse in the peloton? It seems to me that Igor has become the latest unlucky victim of the past misdeeds of others.
The thing to remember is that cyclists are only paid if they get results. If you choose to make other people your role model you will be disappointed sometimes. Best to train and race for intrinsic reasons I think. I am sure the temptation to take drugs to train harder and recover faster is great. The comparison to a stoned high school student might be weak but this is a culture that uses drugs, legal and illegal, for lots or reasons. I don't want cyclists or any other athlete using performance enhancing drugs because it's dangerous and it's unfair, but I wonder... if someone had a magic ampule that would let me perform at the world class level, let me hear the crowd scream for me, would I take it? would you?
This is written in response to the letter published about why cyclists should not use drugs. Well, of course cyclists should not use drugs, but then no other athlete should either! The reason why drugs have become pandemic in ALL sports-from bodybuilding to yachting-is that drugs do in fact work and drugs do allow the athlete to remain competitive with his peers.
And, I might add, competition is what athletics are about. In order to reach the world class level in cycling or in any other sport you must ask that you go far beyond the ordinary functionings of the human body. And for someone riding at the top professional level you are riding at speeds and distances that 99 percent of other riders would have a hard time dreaming about. So: drugs are here to stay.
The intelligent question (and let us toss out all this hero-worship BS since athletes are just as human as the rest of us when they are not competing) is how can we help athletes who DO use drugs to use them safely and effectively so as to save them from ruining their health and yes, even from dying? As we saw last year with the Rumsas affair following the Tour (where authorities literally found an entire pharmacy in the trunk of his wife's car) drugs have become an integral part of elite level cycling and putting one's head deep in the sand and wishing for it all to go away is simply silly. These various drugs, from EPO to growth hormone to anabolic steroids do enable riders to ride a race as grueling as the Tour and it ought to be the policy of enlightened governance to acknowledge this rather than tossing these riders in jail just because they want to remain competitive with their peers.
But, above all else, do not worship a bike rider simply because he can ride up the Ventoux twice as fast as you can. Or because he can ride Liege Bastogne Liege in half the time it would take you to do so. We do not worship a surgeon because he can do things with a scalpel and other implements that most of us could never do. Nor do we worship a chef who prepares a meal that few of us could ever match. Why then do we worship athletes and thereby put them on pedestals that most cannot hope to live up to? Do your best, ride your bike, eat sensibly, train well but for heavens sake do not turn a cyclist into a God because he is a better bike rider than you are!
Cyclists not paragons
Anyone reading Fraser Hogg`s letter could be forgiven for thinking that pro cyclists and their supporters were responsible for the slaughter of the first-born.
I`ve read all the contributions to the " must cyclists be better ?" debate and none is remotely advocating that pro cyclists:
If Fraser Hogg is claiming that anyone is advocating the above then his reading of these contributions is deliberately obtuse and tendentious, the views he attributes to people are not the ones they hold.
This debate started with a perfectly natural and legitimate reaction to a naive, other-worldly expectation, almost a demand, that pro cyclists be morally superior to all other people simply because they are role models (for some) and in the public eye, and that they remain unaffected by wider social forces, practices and habits etc. in short, that they be saint-like.
Pro cyclists do not reach their position by being morally superior to other people, but by being physically superior to them. Pro cyclists are not "useful" only as long as they set an example, they do not have a duty to make us better people. They, like other professional sportsmen, give enormous pleasure to many, many people , they entertain us, they can motivate us, inspire us, some of us even imagine being them, but we cannot demand that they be perfect. Pro cyclists have a duty to act in morally responsible ways, we expect them to, and the vast, vast majority of them do.
Pro cyclists are not paragons of virtue ( very few people are ), but I reject both the notion that their moral values are impaired, and the assertion that their supporters condone irresponsible, immoral behaviour on their part.
If Fraser Hogg seeks absolute truth and perfection, he must not expect to find it in professional sport.
Look in the mirror
I can understand the sentiment, but I disagree. Cyclists are not being paid to be moral standard bearers or heroes or roll models, they are being paid to ride well. To win bike races. Some are being paid to advertise products. That's it. To get the mind set that it is anything else is fantasy. I feel it's unfair to them and myself.
Case in point: When the Armstrong's separation was announced I was actually upset. Why? It's not like I know either Lance or Kristin. Why did I care? I don't like to see any married couple go through such difficulties, but my reaction was too strong for the situation. I was taking it personal.
What I finally realized was that I felt my "hero" had let me down. What a crock of bullshit. I had no right to put Lance or any other human being in that position. I caused myself pain by creating this fantasy where a human being wasn't allowed to be human. I also realized that if I were in his shoes, I probably wouldn't have done nearly as well as he has. Being a husband is the 2nd hardest thing I've done to this point in my life (for me, being a father is the hardest). I love my wife and I'm glad I'm with her, but it is hard work to grow & maintain a marriage. A "labor of love", but labor nonetheless.
But I was reminded of a great truth for myself. If I want a hero, roll model, or "moral standard bearer", look in the mirror. I need to hold myself to a higher standard, not some guy on a bike that I only "know" through the media's coverage. Instead of looking outside myself for a hero, I need to be heroic myself. I'll let Lance be Lance, instead of trying to make him my hero.
One or two replies to my original public letter to the director general of Unipublic seem to segregate us followers of professional cycle racing into three different groups, with the following distinct philosophies:
1 All drug use should be banned, blocked, prohibited and with extensive testing to ensure that everyone is clean
2 Drug use is so inevitable that everyone should be allowed to take whatever they want as spectators don't really care one way or the other
3 Many riders will try their best not to resort to drugs and only do so under extreme pressure. Steps to help them should be made.
I count myself in the latter camp and my aim in asking if the Vuelta could change to consist of teams of 12 riders, with only six in action each day as the others have a day off to recover, is just one way of bringing the pressures down a notch.
I reckon 90% of riders take something or other, but many of these are looking not to do so. What has bemused me as much as anything was the report of Lance Armstrong taking Christophe Bassons to one side and asking him to shut up, to call off his anti-drug crusade. Why? Probably because Lance knew that sponsors, including his own, need clear water between themselves and widespread drug use.
We must find a way round the double standards by team managers and sponsors like "I want a win - do whatever it takes" and "Your contract is unlikely to be continued as things stand" or "I did well on a blood count of 60 so here's a couple of phone numbers but you didn't get them from me." The proposal for the Vuelta won't bring drug use to an end but it would be an useful step.
I for one am really looking forwards to Le Tour this year, with the way Tyler Hamilton's been riding. No slight to Lance, but I'd really love to see Tyler win the Tour, although Lance getting #5 would be great too. And not to forget Levi Leiphimer, who was 10th last year. Where has he been lately? Is Levi on target for the Tour? It may not be likely, but an American sweep of the podium is at least in the realm of possibilities!
Americans in the Tour
Right, and after hitting the trifecta, we'll start calling the race the "Tour de Freedom."
I must take issue with the author's characterization of Lance's performance in Liege-Bastogne-Leige. Lance made THE move at LBL, and CSC countered the move successfully, launching Hamilton to victory. Armchair riders may critique the move after the fact, but during the race, rider's don't have that luxury - their decisions must be made in the heat of battle. Armstrong's aggressive style at LBL clearly demonstrates his respect for the race, the riders, and the sport. His pulling up in the last few kilometers of a race in which he was the prime animator (and, according to Tyler, the strongest rider) demonstrates only that he knows when he is beaten. If Lance can deal with 20th place, perhaps the rest of us mortals ought to try.
Despite what you or I, or the media, or even Eddy the Cannibal think Armstrong 's chances of winning a particular race are, based on our perception of his fitness level, none of us are in a position to question his approach. He trains for and gets results when and where he wants them. Armstrong tests his fitness level at certain points during the season ( sometimes in race situations ). If the opportunity for a high placing in an early season race presents itself, so much the better. But it is NOT his primary objective. It ain't about winning every one, it's about winning the big ones - the ones your whole training program are built around. And if you think Lance is alone in his approach, ask Tyler Hamilton about targeted training.
I too would be tickled yellow to see an All-American podium in the Tour "day" France - perhaps then Jean-Marie Leblanc would be convinced to let the U.S.A host a stage of the Tour! However, here is my prediction for the 2003 TdF:
1st - Lance Armstrong
I basically agree that it would be nice to see Lance go all out and try to win even the "test races". But it is important to keep in mind that he will have all the time in the world to win an LBL, Amstel Gold or Ronde (if he decides to keep on going) after he wins the "grande boucle" for the 5th and hopefully 6th time. The risks that he would face now, at this time are for too great for him to accept. The worst case scenario: Lance is in the lead group for one of the classics, attacks on the last hill, breaks away, and gets caught by another driver who lives for just that moment in time and does not give a hoot in hell about anything else. Lance and this guy fight it out, a false movement, a momentary lapse of concentration, they both touch, Lance crashes, breaks a leg, season over. However, playing it "safe" (like he did it this year) he largely reduces these risks but nevertheless achieves the goal of "testing" himself for the "Tour" preparation.
We have to admit that it would be far more exciting to see an Eddy Merckx II in Lance, but the risks far outweigh the possible benefits involved.
I also agree that the Americans look great this year. I go around for a few months already telling people to watch out for Tyler as a Tour-rider. The excellent win at LBL only confirmed my expectations in Tyler but winning a great tour is a different matter. Last year's Giro was a preview of bigger things to come and, hopefully, an indication of another American name to be written in the golden book of Tour de France winners.
Depending on the race you are trying to simulate there are a number of ways to gain access to this information and you'll probably need to use more than one of them to replicate the stage as well as possible. The Giro website and that for the other Grand Tours and World Cup Classics have useful information about the general elevation changes and distances of most stages. Some of them are quite good to use as a start. For example, the website http://www.rvv.be contains information about the entire route of the Tour of Flanders including information about each of the hills or bergs on the route. It provides average gradients, maximum gradients, elevation changes etc... along with some good graphics.
The problem, however, is that most of these sites don't contain sufficient information about major climbs. After much digging, I recently found a website available in English, French, and German that does a great job providing specific information about climbs in most European countries. Its address is www.salite.ch This site offers extensive information on thousands of climbs including over 1,400 in France, 1,300 in Italy, 1,000 in Spain. In addition, it includes information about the important climbs in the World Cup Races and other classics. For almost all of the climbs, changes in gradient are reported every km. For the more well known ones (e.g., Angliru), changes are reported over smaller distances.
Other sites you may want to check out include: www.altimetrias.com (for information regarding climbs in Spain); and www.geocities.com/yosemite/Gorge/2922 for climbs in the Alps, Pyrenees, Switzerland, and even one in the U.S. (Mount Washington Auto Road Climb).
Finally, when I was visiting Spain this past April I picked up a magazine called Ciclismo a Fondo (Special Issue) that contained some useful information with respect to the major climbs of the Grand Tours. Some of the climbs had incredibly detailed information available on them. For example, the section on Angliru had gradient changes available for some parts of the climb for every .1 km.
I have used this information to simulate World Cup and Grand Tour Stages on my Cardgirus trainer and have been fortunate enough to also be able to ride the real thing in some cases. Whether it was the Muur Kapelmuur, Ode Kwaremont, Sierra Nevada, or Mortirolo, the information allowed me to do a reasonable job simulating the routes.
There's plenty to see if the camera is rear mounted. I've been having fun doing some filming here at the velodrome in San Diego. We soon worked out that all you see with it facing forward is the back of everyone's head. Imagine the kind of footage you'd get with the camera rear mounted under the seat of Cipollini's final lead-out guy. All the elbow bashing in the fight for his wheel in the final few kilometers... that would be something.
Check out the Butt Cam clip in this link: http://www.sdbc.org/html/videos.html
The best way to change "stupid law enforcement" is to get involved with cycling advocacy groups and introduce new legislation to make fines greater and penalties more severe. There is current legislation in Arizona to increase fines when overtaking a cyclist on the road, but also to give motorists more leeway on the road pass safely (cross into the center turning lane to give a cyclist 3 feet when passing). Calling or meeting with your legislators is the best way to lobby. Emails don't have much of an effect.
Nick, have you heard of World Cycling Productions? http://www.worldcycling.com/ They are based in Minnesota, here in the U.S. They have a connection to Cycle Sport magazine, through Phil Ligget. In fact, he does commentary on their videos. Anyway, my latest catalog from WCP shows TDF videos for 94 and 95 listed at 19.95 in U.S. dollars. WCP does international shipping, though rates vary. They are a life saver for me! (So is Cyclingnews of course) I don't get any live TV coverage, unless one of my co-workers takes pity on me, and invites me over. Of course, the only rider he has heard of is Lance Armstrong, and he knows nothing of race tactics. So I have to tune out his ridiculous and/or ignorant comments. (Marc, if you are reading this, the Tour de France is in JULY, ok? that's July. Am I still invited?) Whoops, got sidetracked. Hope this info helps.
Tour Videos #2
In response to Nick Boyden's letter about where to get Tour Videos. The following two UK websites offer videos for sale: http://www.bikingstore.co.uk/cyclesport-catalogue.asp and http://www.bromleyvideo.com. The bikingstore.co.uk videos are cheaper (about $20 AUD) and I think the videos are also produced by Bromley. Also, the UK cycling magazine Cycle Sport (look in a local newsagent) has special offers on such videos from time to time.
Tour Videos #3
They are available on Amazon in the UK - don't know if that helps.
Do you know of a website that has betting on cycling events?
Thinking fondly back to my days of braces, I would say that you have to be rather careful about what foods you eat, either on or off the bike. The biggest problem would be breaking a bracket, which means another trip to the dentist and more money. I would definitely avoid Powerbars and anything else very sticky and chewy. I also sometimes got in trouble with very hard foods, such as tough carrots. Fig Newtons, however, shouldn't be a problem. Good luck with the braces and the riding.
I'm looking for any information or contacts concerning cycle racing in Italy around 1925 to 1935. My father, Domenico Facciolla was an avid racer and won many competitions for his area, Calabria. My father is no longer with us and all I have is a photo of him in his racing uniform with the words, Cicli Facciolla. I have checked the Internet and have found many old photos of previous racers but never a contact person or network.
Thank you for any information about my father's racing career you might send my way.
Adriana (Facciolla) Jewett
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