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Letters to Cyclingnews - October 24, 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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I question the logic in the decision by the Tour de France organizers to limit the maximum time a team can lose in the team time trial to two and a half minutes. I understand not wanting some teams that are weak in that discipline to lose large amounts of time. Yet, where is the incentive for teams to push themselves to their max? With the mountains still a week away after the team time trial, the question may be moot since the main riders will have had ample time to recover from that effort. But there are bound to be teams that now will shut down their efforts if they don't envision coming within 2:30 of the top team. While the time gaps may be closer on paper, in reality the gaps to the top teams may in fact grow since some of the lesser teams may save their legs for the coming stages. As long as they finish within the time limit for that day, why should they go harder than need be if they will only lose 2:30?
In the past, some teams with a potential top 10 rider, who are nonetheless weak in the team time trial event, had to include at least a couple of work horses on the team to ensure not losing too much time in that event. Yet they still could only manage times right around the 2:30 mark. Last year Rabobank came in at 2:41 (albeit without Leipheimer); Saeco could only muster 3:02 with Simoni; and Euskatel managed limiting their loss to 3:22 with Zubeldia and Mayo. If Euskatel went nearly all out last year for the Team time trial and still finished 52 seconds slower than the proposed max time loss for next year, why would they put in as much effort for that event in the 2004 Tour? The same can be said for Saeco and Rabobank. These teams might now choose to include a couple of extra climbers, for the later mountain stages, in place of riders previously chosen for the time trial.
The Tour de France may be won by only one person, but it is still a team event. The top teams pick riders that can carry their captains through all stages, including the Team time trial. If the lesser teams don't bring a squad to the Tour that can be competitive in that event, that is their choice and they should suffer the time losses and take it like men. It shouldn't be up to the Tour organizers to level the playing field.
WOW! Just as a true cycling fan would have imagined. This Tour promises to be something else. Just looking at the parcours of the 2004 Tour de France, one can only admire the organisers. If you keep in mind the epic battles we had during 2003 in the three-week saga of triumph, defeat, bad luck, good luck, sportsmanship, fighting to the limit of human possibilities, ... well, PURE excitement, coupled with the historic opportunity that Lance has to become the first in achieving what no one has achieved ever, we MUST look forward to the 2004 edition.
I will mark two stages with a thick red marker in my calendar: Stage 13, mountaintop finish at the Plateau de Beille where Armstrong already crushed his rivals once. A couple of days after, Stage 16 could even be more decisive. As we all remember the "Look" of 2001, we know that a certain German wants his revenge on this stage. But all in all the TT to l'Alpe could result in history by itself, namely the fastest ascension of the Alpe ever. And time trials in the mountains are always something special (see Vuelta 2003).
Let's not forget the excellent opportunities for the sprinters as Belgium will welcome the opportunity to see Cookie and Robbie, Erik and Sandro battle it out during the first week.
With Ulle back to his old "Mannschaft", Lance promising to be "better prepared" for 2004, new domination in the sprinting class by Petacchi, rising stars such as Igor the Champ and other classic contenders that may have a shot at the Maillot Jaune (Beloki, Sevilla, Botero, Basso and the like) and finally Tyler Hamilton who now will be in command of what looks like an impressive Phonak team... WOW! I can hardly wait... Only 36 weeks and 2 days to go!
After reading the article about how the UCI wants to make a pro tour, I was left scratching my head at the certain result. In the last few years, the UCI has limited the number of riders per team, now they want to mandate the number of races that a given team must race and also mandate which riders must participate. This would increase race days for every rider, which would increase the stress on a rider's body, and possibly make the rider(s) more likely to seek outside assistance in order to maintain a competitive edge over a longer period of time.
I realize that many people including myself would like to see most of the giants of the peloton at every big event throughout the season, however this is not the 1970s or even early 1980s. Races that were formerly training rides do not exist, because younger or less well known riders that want to do well are targeting these races the same way that Jan and Lance and Joseba are targeting the Tour de France. Cycling in the 21st century needs to play up its strengths, which are competitive racing year round and a certain amount of unpredictability, not try to bring back the '70s.
I must whole heartedly disagree here. When the winner of a sporting event is declared the clear assumption is that the result was due to sporting effort - within the context of the known rules! Argentin's comparison to the hare in middle distance running rings false since all involved (spectators and participants) know the runner is there to set the early pace and has been PUBLICLY paid to do so. Offering money outside of the publicly known parameters of the race compares to paying someone to take a fall in a boxing event. If true it makes a mockery of the athletic event.
If you agree that money offered under the table is allowed to determine the outcome of sporting events then you haven't room to complain when Bill Gates is award the rainbow jersey.
Just a guess, but since each country had only one support vehicle at the race, and each support vehicle could only accommodate four bikes, I would think that Bobby was lower on the priority list than some of his team mates.
Not to mention the neutral support bikes he could have requested...
Bobby Julich at world's #2
I agree with Mr. Higg's assessment of Bobby Julich's problems at the Worlds. It's insane that he did not have a spare bike to use after his problem occurred. It was very disheartening to see him nearly 1 minute down coming up Beckett Drive on the second lap.
Overall the U.S. team was a huge disappointment. I don't know when they supposedly rode hard. I saw the entire race at various points on Beckett Drive, Claremont Access, and the start/finish line. With the exception of Chris Horner, virtually no U.S. riders were ever in the first twenty riders as they passed by. Hincapie was consistently in mid-pack or near the end. Everyone watching the race knew the decisive move would be made with one or two laps to go. Unfortunately, Hincapie and Rodriguez chose not to be aggressive and the U.S. once again turns in a terrible performance. Congratulations to Chris Horner for riding with the ferocity that was missing from his teammates.
Bobby Julich at world's #3
This is a response in part to the letter about Bobby Julich at worlds in Hamilton. How could this happen? Even an amateur will check his/her equipment the day before, if not the day of an event, especially an important event! It is frustrating to hear this news for me, a spectator, imagine how the rider must feel? What a waste of preparation on the riders part when it appears the very BASICS have been completely overlooked. My heart goes out to Bobby Julich for what might or might not have been, at least he would have been able to be in the race. What a frustration and embarrassment for all involved.
I do not stay current on who's saying what in the cycling world, but I feel bicycle racing in America is about as popular as it was in the eighties, seventies, etc. Sure the competition is faster and stronger as it is in all sports. Yet the popularity as an entertaining exciting sport for the average American is about the same as it always has been - not much. Lance Armstrong is a big star and still the public knows little about "bicycle racing." Just having watched Lance on last week's David Letterman suffer the most obvious (dumb) questions about the Tour is proof of that. I think Lance is popular because he is a human who survived cancer and went on to do great things. Not because he is this hot bicycle racer who was lucky enough to survive cancer.
I too would like to offer congratulations to Millar and Cooke. I have always thought Millar was overrated as a cyclist since he was Britain's only real talent on the road or recent times. Nonetheless he has actually completed a major victory that he had planned ahead of time and worked toward. There is no denying his talent, but what pleases me most is that there a much more professional approach to this world's time trial than say the TDF time trial he won this year. To me it shows greater focus and maturity and that he is on the way to being able to complete himself as an athlete. Traditionally I think of the most talented man in cycling as Jan Ullrich, but considering his 'lesser performance enabling attitude' Millar may very well outstrip Jan if he continues to mature. Good on ya David, you're turning a hard critic into fan.
As for Nicole Cooke if I ever have a child I want them to see that race and hear the CBC interview with her. She was the strongest of the day physically but a lack of motivation in the final corner may well have cost her the win. What impresses me most? Despite doing an awful lot of work (which I commend her for, I would have done the same for better or worse) and getting rather worked over by the Russians especially, AND losing when she probably had the strength to win, she still realised it was a fair outcome and pinpointed her most crucial mistake within minutes of finishing. I wish I had that talent. My heart goes out to her for losing and handling it perfectly and my congratulations go out to her for a suburb result at a young age. Surely she will light up women's road scene for some time to come. My thanks to her and Jeanie Longo for animating such a wonderful race.
Thank goodness it's over! When Mario took the World Champion's jersey last year it seemed that it was the most inevitable outcome for the brilliant sprinter from Italy.
However, with 20/20 hindsight, his year with the rainbow jersey was a disgraceful nightmare. The only high point of the year was his record, 42nd stage win in the Giro de Italia. Other than that, we were treated to a show of how ordinary Alessandro Petacchi can make almost all other sprinters look, including Mario. Unfortunately, Mario's exploits while wearing the rainbow jersey were very lamentable, capped off with his double crossing of the Vuelta organizers. No wonder so many important Domina Vacanze riders are going elsewhere in the coming year.
I really liked Mario until it became apparent that he ended his year with the crash that took him out of the Giro. And, I especially felt badly for the Domina Vacanze team when they got excluded from the Tour de France. I feel the DVE/Acqua&Sapone team have added lots of excitement to races, with or without "Super" Mario on board. But Mario really exposed himself in a very bad way this year, and cast a sad shadow on the championship jersey, through his antics, chicanery and lack of appearances. I feel we won't be seeing him on the top step of the podium very often in the future. After this year, I can't say that I will be sad about that.
Ralph Michael Emerson
You know what? I loved the world's races with or with out Lance, Cipo and Jan. It has been a long time since Lance has given proper respect and training to an event the won't help his tour and that's a legitimate choice, it sure works for him. The Tour Of Hope is a much bigger contribution than his going around and doing nothing but be there like the Olympic road race in 2000. Similarly Cipo would not have animated this course so no hard feelings on his not being there, I mean why bother if you're unable to contribute or gain anything?
As reigning champ and something of a spectacle, win or lose, it would have been fun to see him ride around in a novelty jersey but really I seem to miss the reasoning that justifies flying abroad and devoting so much time for an athlete who obviously need to rest and revamp for next year if he is to hold off the ignorant critics who devalue his hard work and shut up only when he has a season to the caliber of his 2002 season. (On a side note I must say beat the heck out of Bettini's this year, and I hope it gives some insight into the difficulty of his accomplishment)
Jan on the other hand has animated many post-Tour races and may have been able to garner a RR win in Hamilton. However he is determined to focus on the Tour and all the power to him that's his career move. If he wasn't going to be in proper shape, why bother showing up to sign autographs?
Cipo fell and damaged his back in the Giro (on a stupidly designed course) and as anybody who has had back trouble knows it can take a long time to sort itself out - remember Biaggi falling and taking weeks to recover, and that was just to race a motorbike for 40 mins? So how long would you be off a bike with a bruised vertebra?
To his credit he did say that it would be unfair to go and possibly spoil someone else's chance of winning by his presence in the team .
Barry R Taylor
Thanks for the recent article on Sarah Tillotson and Kelly Benjamin. I've seen 'em race several times here in the American Midwest. They truly are great competitors.
One comment stuck out, though: "Cycling . . . is sadly overlooked by the media." Ah, yes, the old lament.
I know as an editor many of my colleagues - even in the sports department - think bike racing is a hobby not a sport. That's one reason it's overlooked, especially at the local level. However, the cycling community is part of the problem, too. My experience suggests we do a poor job of promoting cycling outside of our own ranks, and not always there either. This seems to be the case with the local clubs as well as top pro teams. It's ironic. Our sport depends on sponsorship yet we don't seem to do much to increase our exposure beyond the cycling community to further benefit the sponsors and ultimately ourselves.
Perhaps a national media awareness and outreach campaign by USA Cycling would work (ala the NBA, the NFL, the Area Football League, etc). But since that's unlikely anytime soon, we should start closer to home. Simply put, we need to go to the media. That's why I modestly offer a few tips to increase cycling coverage in your local newspaper.
Contact the local sports editor on the phone, via email or in person (it's hard to ignore somebody in front of your desk). Your goals are to introduce the local bike racing scene and have ongoing coverage during the season. Let them know about your local team/club, event and/or standout rider(s). Offer to arrange interviews, photo ops, etc. Be ready to explain race tactics, equipment (and its cost), training/lifestyle demands, etc. Offer to take a reporter on a training ride. After an initial article, be sure to submit a race report, photos, results, stats, etc. after an event. Many less popular prep or recreational sports get a lot of coverage this way.
Try the features, or lifestyle editor if the sports department isn't receptive. You'll probably get a one-time feature there. It's not ideal, but it's a start.
Contact alternative or community weekly newspapers, too. It's usually easier to meet the editor at a weekly since they often answer phone and work the front desk. These papers never have enough staff or stories, so you're all but assured a warm welcome. The circulation may be smaller and the resulting article less than perfect. However, weeklies in general are more popular and read more thoroughly than larger daily papers.
Regardless of whom you contact, be persistent and follow up your attempts. Newspapers of all sizes crave local news (it's the one thing you're going to get only in your local paper) so you're doing the paper a service. There are thousands of great untold stories among the local cycling scene. Editors especially love good local stories that walk (or should I say ride) in the front door.
I have seen many comments regarding the death of the German cyclist killed by Heather French that blame the cyclist for "crossing outside the crosswalk". According to the account in the Louisville Courier-Journal the cyclist was in the right hand lane, south of the intersection when stuck by Mrs. French. I think that it is unfortunate that many have assumed that the cyclist was somehow riding in an unsafe manner (other than that she was not wearing a helmet), when in fact Mrs. French has said that she could not see due to the sun.
I'm sure that she did not expect to hit a cyclist, but she was driving a 5000 pound SUV when by her own admission she could not see. Placing the blame on the cyclist is a disservice to her friends and family, and to all cyclists that ride safely and legally. A photo and account can be seen at http://www.courier-journal.com/localnews/2003/10/13ky/met-front-heatherm 1014-5593.html, showing that the accident was nowhere near the intersection, but a good 100 feet down the street.
Heather French Henry #2
In response to Jim Hess' letter I would like to say that I reckon most readers of this forum are pro safe cycling and pro safe motoring. My guess is that most readers are also car drivers.
The death of any person, howsoever caused, is most sad and tragic for their friends and family. The fact that the victim was a cyclist once again shows just how vulnerable non motoring road users are. It seems that over the last year there have been a high number deaths caused by motorists to cyclists in America. With the US car culture being what it is, regrettably I don't think that there will be an improvement.
Maybe cyclingnews.com original reporting of the incident was basic, but maybe that was the only information they had at the time?
Mr. Lester doesn't see the extreme potential of having both Vino and Ullrich back on the same team. How is it so different than the Armstrong/Heras union? That is part of the problem with cycling these days; there is less and less loyalty to teams and sponsors. As soon as a cyclist has a modicum of success they're off to lead another team. If they were smart they would do exactly what the Posties (and ONCE for that matter) have done - stick with the team and maybe your team will win. Has anyone ever thought of that?
Personally I'm glad that Vino has such honorable loyalty to the team he's with. He came in third at this year's Tour yet still worked for Zabel in the sprints! Now that is a true cyclist. Personally I'm looking forward to the Armstrong/Heras, Ullrich/Vinokourov match up. Its going to be good!
It is not poor management at Kelme that causes its top riders to leave, it is the limited budget. Heras left because a huge financial carrot was dangled before him (and who can blame him?), likewise Botero, Gonzalez, and now Sevilla. These riders may bleat about other things, but it is not difficult to determine the real reason why they move on. It is also worth pointing out how poor most of them have been immediately after leaving Kelme. The only one who has achieved anything of note is Heras (though it took him several goes to win the Vuelta again), and he is being forced to limit his own ambitions in return for the very large paycheck at US Postal. Indeed one might suggest that the management at Kelme is outstanding, because on a limited budget and despite its top riders being lured away on a regular basis, it still seems able to unearth new talents capable of top honours in major stage races - it is just a pity that once they become successful they take the money and run, though as I said before one can hardly blame the riders for doing so.
I agree that Armstrong's first book, "It's Not About the Bike," was much better, but I enjoyed "Every Second Counts," anyway.
When Armstrong referred to Ullrich winning the stage in question, I'm sure he was extremely focused on what was, to him, a two-man race in the general classification. So he didn't pay attention to anyone else. As far as Armstrong was concerned, Ullrich beat him, so Ullrich "won" the stage. Nevertheless, I can see how the wording here can be somewhat confusing. I heard that the final chapter in "Every Second Counts," which covered the '03 Tour de France, was rushed to press at the last minute.
I've never felt the need to write in to you guys but anger on this subject has made me try to purge my angst on e-mail, why am I so angry, because of one guy - Raimondas Rumsas!
Why has this guy got a second chance? The UCI should have given him a lifetime ban for getting caught the second time in two years, he's employed again in the Mroz team, what sort of example and precedent does this set? It makes the cycling world look as if it is soft on dope cheaters, and sends a message out to his peers that even if you get caught out twice, hey there's always another team waiting in the wings to pick up the pieces.
My belief is that if you get caught with a doping offence the first time you get a year ban during the cycling season, you get caught again, that's it, you're banned for life, no ifs buts or maybes, how many warnings do you need, it's time for the UCI to get tough before the sport we all know and love becomes the laughing stock of the sporting world and press.
Jeff Jones replies:
For some reason, finding this Six-Day Racer movie intrigued me so I continued my research. I found two instances where the film had been screened for bike clubs, once in San Francisco in 1999 (http://www.bikesummer.org/1999/events/filmfestival.htm) and once in Seattle in 2003 (http://www.seattlebicycle.com/newsletters/march03.pdf).
Josh Switzky, who was the contact for the 1999 SF showing, indicated that at least the UCLA Film archive (not confirmed, but believable given the size and location of the archive) and a Leon Dixon, a southern California-based collector of classic bicycles, had film copies. The UCLA version is available for viewing onsite. Leon does not let anyone but himself touch the film reels. Josh had to pay his expenses (plane and hotel) for him to fly to SF and show the film himself. Leon's 1999 email was Oldbicycle@aol.com.
Heather Johnston, a contact for the Northwest Women's Cycling Club that put on the Seattle show, said the bike shop in Kingston, WA had a copy made of a TV movie rerun, though she couldn't remember the shop name. The only bike shop in Kingston is:
Kingston Classic Cycle
I have just read that the UCI has outlawed disc brakes for cyclocross. This is totally unfathomable to me. Why would they outlaw something that works? In my short time cycling, I have come to believe that the UCI's only purpose is to maintain continental Europe's hold on cycling, but I can't even find that purpose in this ruling. Has anyone seen an official explanation?
Can someone out there in the wide world of cycling explain to me why a 1959 Simplex rear derailleur has been bid past the $4000 mark on eBay?
Is there a story about this specific part? There is no reference to why this item is so valuable in the listing. I've got to know.
Here is what I can tell you about racing in Spain, as I did so last spring. First, make sure you have a UCI license issued by USA Cycling and a foreign permission letter. If you will not have health insurance that covers you in Spain, you have to buy it from the Spanish Cycling Federation. It costs 50 Euros. If you are a very strong CAT 3, and I mean very strong, try racing in the Elite category. If you are not sure, try the Ciclodeportista category.
You can get some more info about racing in Andalucia from http://www.andaluciaciclismo.com/. I'm in PA right now waiting for a work visa and then I'm heading back to Sevilla hopefully around Thanksgiving. Feel free to contact me with more questions.
Amateur racing in Spain #2
Try these URLs for additional info. They may contain links that will lead you to a good contact in Sevilla. Hopefully, someone who's raced over there will post here for you and help you get what you need.
If you require translation service on them, just type the URL (or text) in the window provided at:
Richard F. Stewart
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