Cyclingnews TV   News  Tech   Features   Road   MTB   BMX   Cyclo-cross   Track    Photos    Fitness    Letters   Search   Forum  

Recently on

Mt Hood Classic
Photo ©: Swift

Letters to Cyclingnews - March 12, 2004

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; please stick to one topic per letter. We will normally include your name and place of residence, but not your email address unless you specify in the message.

Each week's best letter gets our 'letter of the week' award. We look for for letters that contain strong, well-presented opinions; humour; useful information or unusual levels of sheer helpfulness.

Please email your correspondence to

Recent letters

WADA and Mr Armstrong
Speculation about Genevieve
Aero helmets
Brad McGee
Chubby Lance?
How many more have to die?
Iban Mayo
Lance's Performance
Marco Pantani - who is guilty?
Rabobank and U. S. Postal
There's more to life than sprinting
Tour without Kelme?


Letter of the week

A signed copy of William Fotheringham's Tom Simpson bio is on its way to Steve.
Click for larger image

Radios #1

Interesting that the race radios issue would come up again, suppose the $64 question is how effective and valuable are they in the pro peloton if a seasoned rider like Johan Museeuw can blame a faulty radio for not riding a race well. I should think by now he can read a race. What on earth did the riders and directeurs do before, if you listen to how most describe their worth.

Understand this, I realise that cycling is a big business venture and with the very tight competition for sponsor dollars, a DS is going to do anything to see his riders up on the podium, and doing what they are paid to be, moving advertisements in photo ops. Makes them look good and the sponsor smile. However, with radios and televisions in team cars, what is there to really race for? The sport has fallen into a monster wasteland of sameness and predictability, where the helicopter seems as interested in strange tifosi made structures and people lining the roads in silly hats.

Like that damn helmet law, I don't buy into the safety issue of radios. Try to imagine this. Here you are, in the stinking rain and fun of March in Belgium, pelting along rubbing bars, shoulders and bums with 100 other fellas, all getting screamed at by both their team mates and DS - how much of that incessant chatter can you tune out? One moment's lack of total concentration at 50kmh and maybe you and 20 of the blokes behind you will be getting personal in a big pile. One of the others was the prize team sprinter, gone for the season with injury, who gets the blame?

The riders have themselves to blame also for not getting up on their hind legs and complaining what they don't like and doing something about how or why they want to race, or maybe this is the way the new pro is going to be - just a brightly coloured blob selling carpets and hearing aids.

Steve Stewart-Sturges
Surrey, British Columbia
Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Respond to this letter

Radios #2

In the midst of this "to radio or not to radio" controversy, I wonder if the UCI commissioners have considered creating (or helping the creation of) a "radio free" race. Such a race would interest fans for its novelty – there is some truth to the UCI's claim that radios have changed race development/spontaneity – and it would also avoid rider/manager controversy, because those who are interested can ride, and those who are not can skip it. Furthermore, because a radio free course would be designed with the concept in mind, obstacles (about which riders need team directors' warnings) would be minimized/eliminated. The unique radio free concept, perhaps marketed as "pure" or "retro", could also draw new race sponsors. Overall, it seems safer, more interesting, and more feasible, to create "radio free" races rather than a blanket ban on radios.

Piotr Brzezinski
Thursday, March 11, 2004

Respond to this letter

Radios #3

As a former National Coach and DS I am in favour of banning two-way radios for riders in all categories. Jacques Landry has the right idea as far as young riders are concerned, whilst for the professionals the response to attacks is far quicker when a DS sitting in his car watching Tv. screams orders over the radio, instantaneously negating any attack. Taking things to extremes and in not too distant a future, a physically strong block-head could win the Tour if he was automated! We already have robots conducting a symphony orchestra!

VDB has the right sense of priorities otherwise we'll end up with Schumacher type racing which defeats itself since the public get bored or blasé so look elsewhere.

Having viewed some Tour tapes it is certain that Armstrong himself would have seriously fallen foul on occasions of some "real" tactical moves, if he hadn't been forewarned by radio. To say that Jean Wauthier is trying to restrict the development of cycling as a sport, is a nonsense. Who'd be the first to pass comments, when some kid producing 250 watts takes the World Hour record at 60kph? Why not go the whole hog and transplant the brain with a computer?

Have these people who are in charge of teams really thought this through before responding? Built-in obsolescence means no DS or Team Manager will be required to direct these robotic riders since they will all be pre-programmed in the laboratory with all the computations to counter other's attacks or to take the final sprint "à la Cipollini" at just over 100kph.

David James
Thursday, March 11, 2004

Respond to this letter

Radios #4

I have already been against the introduction of race radios, it has made many races far more controlled and removed riders own intuition. However I do agree that with the amount of hazards on modern highways across the world, especially in Europe riders need to be warned with methods better than a policeman with a whistle and a flag.

The pressure of sponsorship cannot be underestimated in the resistance to remove race radios from the riders. It is a lot easier for the top teams to control races with the use of radios and so for example the US Postal machine in the Tour are a lot more likely to get the desired result. So it is possible to understand teams of this level would not be very keen to loose that level of control over the their ability to influence the result.

One of the key skills of a rider is his/her ability to read the race, what made racing in the years gone by so interesting was watching the shrewd tactics of the master tacticians trying to out maneuver a stronger rider who is perhaps tactical less astute. It was all part of the show. Just look at Museeuw a couple of years ago when he won attacking from 40k to go in Paris Roubaix, much to the astonishment of his manager but Johan did not have a radio as he refused to wear one. He felt it was time to go, he was right and made the race so exciting for the spectator. Others stalled on whether to chase him or not waiting for a decision from their team managers to come through their radios. I would have thought that the race behind Johan would have been very different if all those behind where not using radios and used their own intuition on what to do. The race would have been a lot more explosive.

Regarding the issue on safety the simple and to me obvious answer is that riders keep the radios but the directors do not issue instructions. Official race radio should just issue warnings and perhaps info on breakaways time gaps and riders in the breaks. The obvious problem with this is language but most riders speak some French, as this is the international language of cycling I don't see too much of a problem.

Tim Roberts
Winsford, Cheshire, UK
Thursday, March 11, 2004

Respond to this letter

Radios #5

Ear radios destroy the spontaneity of racing. Races have become a choreographed battle between team directors. When I race, the beauty of the race is in the decisions I make. When I see someone take a flyer, I decide whether to chase. I decide when to hammer or soft pedal. Pros see a break away and the first thing they do is radio back to the team car. Dull. I want to see races where a racer’s competitive instinct is driving his actions. Instead, we get the same thing every time. Ride hard for the first 30 km until a break goes away. Time the chase so the leaders are caught in the last kilometer. I say ‘Ban the ear radios! The sooner the better!'

David C. Brayton
Santa Rosa, CA
Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Respond to this letter

WADA and Armstrong #1

I a little confused by Mr. Armstrong's comments regarding WADA. Didn’t Lance give a non negative or positive result in the ’99 tour for cortisone, a banned substance? I know he was cleared because he had a note from his doctor. I think his claim was he was used it for saddle sores. So wouldn’t that make it a performance enhancement drug? It’s hard to put power to the pedals with a saddle sore. So we should believe Lance that not all the riders at the tour are taking drugs, or WADA that they all are? I just find it funning that someone with his status in the cycling world would want to get in to a pissing contest with WADA. He should just quit wining and ride his bike.

Mike Schopfer
Saturday, March 6, 2004

Respond to this letter

WADA and Armstrong #2

Mr. Pound makes the statement "the riders of the Tour de France and the others take banned substances" and mistakenly assumed that Lance would understand that he meant to say "the riders of the Tour de France and the others take banned substances, all EXCEPT Lance". Who would not take Mr. Pound's statement as a personal attack? That Lance has won the last 5 tours, it is reasonable that the public might believe that the statement is directed specifically at Lance, and required a rebuttal.

I find nothing personal in Lance's reply, just opinion and it is restrained and measured, in contrast to Mr. Pound's near-hysterical response ("astonishing" "disingenuous"? give me a break!) Why is Mr. Pound so shocked that Lance refuses to be painted with Virenque's brush? What I don't understand is why aren't Ullrich, Hamilton, Beloki etc. writing the same letter?

Ken LaFleur
California, USA
Friday, March 5, 2004

Respond to this letter

Speculation about Genevieve #1

Everyone speculates and someone's word becomes gospel in others view when they don't really know what goes on behind the scenes. Being on the road most everyday training, watching nutrition constantly and keeping spirits up in a grueling world of cycling pros is something we should give credit to those whom are fortunate enough to be able to be that good. Our society is such that we want to see the best of anything fall from grace, instead of encouraging them all! Let's root for the pros instead of trying to knock them down. Gossip is a tragedy of our times and is like a virus, spreading within minutes, doing damage that could be avoided.

Genevieve is one of the nicest, humble young women that is most dedicated to her sport and team mates! She will be an asset to the US. Go Genevieve!

Saturday, March 6, 2004

Respond to this letter

Speculation about Genevieve #2

I'm from Canada, Quebec specifically, and am fully aware of all the controversy. I think Geoff raises some good points.

I personally don't care if Jeanson got a license from USA cycling. I'm not commenting on Genevieve's guilt or innocence. Her coach on the other hand is extremely aggressive. I also don't believe that Genevieve lives in Arizona. She travels a lot but I think she spends more time in Montreal over the entire year than anywhere. I know very well the principals involved in the Quebec and Canadian associations, and I believe Genevieve not receiving her license until more questions are answered has a much to do with Andre Aubut's aggressive tactics than whether or not they believe Genevieve.

Nandrolone also has accounted for many positive tests I have heard from a few sports medicine people that it can be from impure supplements. Regarding Altitude tents, from studies I have read, it is possible if you overdo it to raise hematocrit level. I'm very concerned regarding Genevieve's statements that they haven't verified the tent's effects since 1999! In my view that's negligence on her handlers behalf. They should have been more careful at the World's. Her not receiving a license could, perhaps should, be punishment for not only embarrassing team, but leaving the team without her services.

Allan Daigneault
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Monday, March 8, 2004

Respond to this letter

Doping #1

Amidst all the finger-pointing, soap boxing and moralising on the subject of doping, remember one thing: doping only means taking illegal substances. Doping does not refer to the taking of performance enhancing substances. Cyclists who do not dope still receive drips, injections and tablets. The difference is one of legality - the substances that some, and hopefully most pro cyclists introduce to their systems are sanctioned by the UCI. Witness Pedro Delgado taking Probenecid in the 1988 Tour, which he won; Probenecid had not yet been declared illegal.

Readers of Paul Kimmage's "Rough Ride" (which has exactly the same clueless innocence of an Adrian Mole novel, but without the irony) will recall Kimmage refusing an injection as part of his (admirable) determination not to succumb to doping, only to discover subsequently that it was a vitamin B injection.

As has been famously remarked, I think by Jacques Anquetil, the Tour is not ridden on lettuce and mineral water.

James Reinhardt
Cape Town, Brightest Africa
Saturday, March 6, 2004

Respond to this letter

Doping #2

I believe there is only one way to try and fix our sport in terms of doping. They are pretty drastic, but it is these types of measures that show to the people of the sport and the public that it is to be taken seriously. Firstly they need to pursue the 'sporting fraud' aspect and treat it as a criminal offence in the country of the registered team. Then once proven they need to banned for life, no ifs or buts and the team penalised as well, which would make the management ensure their riders were on the straight and narrow.

Unfortunately in all aspects of life there are those who think they need to cheat to prove themselves better than the next man. Whether that is closing a multi million dollar deal or sprinting down the Champs Elysse(sp?) when there is money or glory involved there will always be cheating. I don't believe that we should accept it and treat it as a hazard of the job. Can you imagine a world where every encounter you have with someone you don't know whether they are telling you truth or not. I can't.

Sean Doyle
Monday, March 8, 2004

Respond to this letter

Hematocrit, Jeanson, doping, etc.

It seems to me that the issue involving Jeanson’s license is yet another reiteration of a (sadly) long running discussion about doping within the not only the sport of cycling but sports in general. There are many problems with the way it is being handled, and though I know that I am opening myself up to a flurry of ridicule and condemnation I feel that perhaps I ought to weigh in on the subject, if for no other reason than get my own opinion off of my chest.

When speaking of hematocrit levels, we all know that there are a number of things that can contribute to a high hematocrit level, with dehydration and the effects of altitude or altitude simulation being the most obvious. Though it is generally accepted that these are weak arguments, they are still valid. Without more water tight proof of doping than a hematocrit level which registers above the allowed limits, then all the finger pointing in the world is really just tantamount to accusing someone of doping because they have turned in the performance of their life, without having set the precedent for doing so previously. Indeed, in some circles, this is proof enough and will certainly get the rumor mill churning. I for one will acknowledge that it rightfully raises a few eyebrows in certain instances. Remember Rumsas’ TDF performance prior to his wife’s run-in with the authorities? I recall more than a few murmurs. What it comes down to is whether or not there is proof. If not, get over it. There is nothing you can do about it, it won’t stop until there is, and the constant badgering will only scare off fans, sponsors, and promoters.

Furthermore, perhaps it is time to discern between professional and amateur athletics. I strongly believe that amateur athletes, in large part because they tend to be juniors, or early in their careers, should be strictly monitored for doping and even over-training. You only have one body, and young minds can sometimes forget this when the desire to excel overpowers their narrow perspective. However, professional athletics is another story. Do I believe that doping is an example of good sportsmanship, or for that matter a wise decision? No. But I know that it happens and that it will continue. I also feel that it would be safer if it were being undertaken carefully, in a supervised manner, and with certain controls in place. Sure, we’ve all heard stories of the organized doping programs undertaken by everyone from the ’98 Festina team to the Finnish XC team in Lahti, but for every one of those, there are a dozen neo-pros engaging in dangerous, unsupervised doping, often encouraged by unscrupulous peers, DS’s, etc.

In addition, there is the valid argument surrounding the use of oxygen tents. Where do we draw the line? Which performance enhancing supplements go too far? Why are certain substances OK in one sport but not another or permissible out of competition but not in? With the amount of money involved in the sport of cycling anyone who thinks it isn’t a cold, hard, unforgiving business needs to think again. And anyone who longs for the “clean” days of yester-year needs to read about Tom Simpson. For you and I it is a sport. For many of these folks it is their only shot at making something out of themselves. “Judge not lest ye be judged yourself” may be a fitting cliché here. I am certainly not in their shoes, and though I’d like to think that I’d behave differently if given the chance, if my job, and the safety and comfort of my family were on the line, I may just be inclined to do whatever I had to do to take care of those around me. I do feel for the clean athletes out there. It is not fair for them. But people will continue to make the choices they have to in order to achieve what they feel they must. These people aren’t heroes, they are simply athletes. In some instances they are entertainers. It is one thing to be in awe of what they can do on their bicycles. It is another entirely to allow the harsh realities of how this is attained tarnish the true sport of cycling. Professional athletes are not, nor should they be, role models for you or your children. That is your job. For the time being keep dreaming of a clean sport, keep watching your favorite athlete perform at the top of their game, stop second guessing everything you see, and most importantly, go ride your bike.

Shane Blay
Fort Collins, Colorado, USA
Friday, March 5, 2004

Respond to this letter

Aero helmets #1

There are a few legal aero helmets out there. It takes quite a bit of research to find. So far, I have found three that seem to be available to the public, though only two can be bought in the US (home for me). The one I can't find is the Italian LAS that Illes-Belears uses. It's at www. in all Italian so I can't figure out how to get one. The others are (of course) Louis Garneau and Limar.

Interestingly, Limar has no info about the helmet on its website, but it is available on www. I am interested to see if mortals can get the Catlike that Kelme and other pro teams have. It looks like a Kompact with no holes. Not quite teardrop, but still more aero than my helmet. Regardless, there are helmets out there and, thanks to UCI, I am counting on more companies jumping into the foray.

Ben Faulk
Concord, NC
Friday, March 5, 2004

Respond to this letter

Aero helmets #2

I have to agree with Mr. Dunford on this one. There just seems to be something missing from the Time Trials without aero helmets. The long slender covers (sometimes personalized) visually separated TT events from the rest of road racing events. Why IS it so difficult to make such a helmet that actually protects the head? I would love to see them back by the TdF.

Warren Beckford
Bloomfield, CT - USA
Thursday, March 11, 2004

Respond to this letter

Brad McGee #1

Not sure how anyone came away from reading Brad McGee's commentary thinking he had done a good thing. Telling the press to F##K OFF two or three times in a couple of paragraphs isn't going to get them treating you nicer. Making an "innocent 'til proven guilty" statement would have made the point.

Raymond F. Martin
Friday, March 5, 2004

Respond to this letter

Brad McGee #2

There's quite a few riders that are suspended for positive drug tests. You read it every week. Usually lower tier riders (wannabes?); a lot of names I never recognize. MTB, track and road. Why isn't this good news? People cheat and they're getting caught quite regularly. Why is there such distrust of the technology of testing?

Darrel Stickler
San Mateo, CA
Friday, March 5, 2004

Respond to this letter

Brad McGee #3

I am wondering how Seamus Weber knows that the "inner world of cycling" has remained silent? Because he hasn't read a black list of names on Cyclists who know of or suspect doping amongst their colleagues are more likely to inform the authorities, allowing a formal investigation, than spout off to the media. Going first to the media would be deeply irresponsible and have some nasty repercussions. It would harm the cyclist's reputation both in the peloton and out and certainly wouldn't provide the sponsors with the type of attention they hope for. Not to mention the possibility of some fairly nasty libel cases.

I give Brad McGee the benefit of the doubt. He's too intelligent and too passionate about his sport to do it any further harm.

Sarah Bartley
Sydney, Australia
Friday, March 12, 2004

Respond to this letter

Chubby Lance? #1

Most of the pictures that I've seen are of time trials. And during these all-out efforts the riders try to get as much oxygen as possible. It does appear that he looks thicker, but I think it is just the expansion of his enormous lung volume! If you check out Ullrich you see the same thing.

Jason Kilmer
Friday, March 5, 2004

Respond to this letter

Chubby Lance? #2

While noticing that Lance has been slightly chubby during recent races, serious fans would also realize that Lance is traditionally slightly chubby during this part of the season, and then he trims down as part of his training and preparation for the tour. Jan is looking a little chubby these days too (see photos from the Vuelta a Murcia Time Trial) I seem to remember similar discussions of Lance's weight last year on There are several advantages to having extra "reserves" during training, not the least of which are maintaining excellent health, and strength development. (ever notice the large number of pro cyclists that skip races because of ailments?). I would speculate to say that thin cyclists that over-train are more susceptible to ailments because their bodies have little in reserve to maintain health.

Personally, I think Lance is looking good and is right on course to contest one of the most exciting Tours, the world has ever seen! Lance is already time trialing in excellent form (a 1st and 5th so far this year), and just imagine how much faster he will be when he drops a few pounds! With other top riders realizing they have a remote chance to contest Lance and Jan at the Tour (Hamilton, Mayo, Beloki, Zubeldia, Heras, Vino?, etc. ), this year should prove to be the most exciting yet! Here's to having all the top pro's in top form, ready to contest the greatest race known to man!

Bob Boggs
Berkeley, CA
Friday, March 05, 2004

Respond to this letter

How many more have to die?

Garner is right on the money regarding amateur races, both here and in Europe. I started racing in 1966 and have raced all over the US since then. There has always been talk about "what someone is taking" at just about every race, and that includes from the Junior level on. I never personally saw any one taking a "banned substance", but then how can you tell? I know of, and saw people taking "Vitamin B" injections, but is that what it was? What about that rider getting ready in the next car over popping a couple of "aspirin"?

Interesting too that Garner lives in Washington D. C. My last year of serious racing was 2 years ago in the DC area. In the Masters races there was significant talk about one Masters team having an MD closely associated with the them, and they were being provided with banned substances, including EPO. Obviously not confirmed but there was enough talk, and rider performances to make you wonder. Again, how can we tell? In all my racing years I have never been asked to test (not that it would have mattered) even when I did well in the races, and that includes Cat. 1. Without testing at levels other than the Elite, there is every opportunity for those looking for an edge to take advantage.

Finally Garner notes his time in Europe. I have heard similar stories from US cyclists, both amateur and Pro, who have raced in Europe regarding amateurs, Juniors and even Masters. In addition Cyclingnews has on numerous occasions discussed the large question of money spent for medications in Italy and the concern for doping in the Junior and Masters levels there. It would appear that perhaps some "habits" may be acquired early, and continue on.

Rex D Gilmore
Friday, March 5, 2004

Respond to this letter

Iban Mayo

While following the stage-by-stage results of the Vuelta a Murcia, an interesting thought popped into my head: What if Iban Mayo has learned how to time trial?

I realize that this is the beginning of the season, so Iban Mayo's loss of only 19 seconds to Armstrong in the stage #2 ITT of the VaM may not count for much. But. WHAT IF? Suppose Mayo could stay within a minute of Armstrong and Ullrich in a flat TT. I think we'd have the next TdF champ on our hands.

So, as we move through the season, we should pay special attention to Mayo's TT performances. If he shows up at Le Tour climbing as he has in the past and as a top TTer, I think the rest of the bunch will be in deep doodoo.

Jim Strange
The Snow is Melting Off the Passes, Nevada
Friday, March 5, 2004

Respond to this letter

Lance's Performance

Is it just me, or is Lance really seem to be pushing it early in the season. I really am wondering what the plan is, either he will be is extra super condition a the tour, or he'll peak to early. I've never been a huge LA fan, but I am a big Tour fan. So without a 100% Armstrong, Ulrich really will not have a serious competitor. Sure there's a lot of other strong riders, but Armstrong and Ulrich take it to a whole nother level. I guess we'll see what happens!

Jason Kilmer
Berrien Springs, MI
Friday, March 5, 2004

Respond to this letter

Marco Pantani - who is guilty?

I have myself suffered from depression, and have coached athletes who have suffered from depression.

The worst – or best – thing that ever happened to me, was to consult a psychiatrist. When I saw his paunch, and gait, and wheezing, I understood better who had the problem.

But that doesn’t help those whose souls are seriously disturbed over a long period of time.

I was very saddened – and shocked – by the news of Il Pirata’s death.

Climbers have always been the riders to inspire me.

There is a tendency to blame 'The Media' for the relentless pursuit of the famous until destruction.

But are the media to blame?

Do the media drive us. Or do we drive them?

Would those employed in the media have any jobs if we didn’t buy their newspaper, watch their TV programmes, log-on to their internet sites?

The matter that really needs to be addressed in my opinion is that of adulating the first across the line, and evidencing that adulation by inappropriate monetary reward.

Is a baseball player really “worth” $US200m over ten years?

Who pays for those endorsements? I can (just) remember being able to afford to play tennis, before the sport became professional.

Is the winner really the first past the post?

Perhaps we need more images of Fabrizio Macchi riding one-legged, of Hinault and LeMond cresting l’Alpe D’Huez side by side, of thousands taking part in charity rides and runs - and fewer of drug failures punching the air having set yet another “record”.

Colin Oberlin-Harris
Southampton, England
Saturday, March 6, 2004

Respond to this letter

Rabobank and U. S. Postal

In your recent interview with Lance Armstrong (March 5), you state that U. S. Postal had, at that time, more victories than any other team, by 7 to Rabobank's 6. But my calculations at that time had Rabobank with 8 victories: Robbie Hunter's two stages and overall at Qatar; Freire with the Luis Puig and one of the Challenge Balears stages; Marc Lotz at the Tour du Haut Var; then De Jongh's Murcia stage win and Bartko's Driedaagse stage win, both on the same day of the interview. Am I missing something? How is it that US Postal has more victories than Rabobank? While I am on the subject, do KOM, Points, and other jerseys count as victories? Does anything under 1.3 or 2.3 count?

Javier Ruedas
New Orleans, Louisiana, US
Monday, March 8, 2004

Respond to this letter

You're right - we missed Freire's wins. - Ed

There's more to life than sprinting

I couldn't stay away from this one. I suppose I'm the antithesis of a climber so I figured I'd give the other point of view. With all due respect, by the way - I've learned the hard way how much hurt a climber can put on someone when things go uphill. And then they attack. Egads.

Climbing focuses on a combination of power to weight ratio and a high aerobic capacity. I liken this to being a triathlete or a runner - being very fit is critical to performing well for these athletes. Sprinting emphasizes tactical astuteness and fast-twitch muscles - it's hard to sprint well without those two traits. Well that and a bit of the need for adrenaline. Although the pro sprinters have to be fit, in the real world of Cat 4's and 3's, sprinters do not have to be as fit - they just need enough fitness to get to the finish.

I tend not to be fit and I have a decent jump. I absolutely love strategy and tactics (bikes, cars, games, whatever). Being a sprinter is a natural outlet for this combination. Given the choice between a long climb in a road race and close quarters, elbow to kneecap, skewer to pedal riding in a crit, I'll always take the latter. I can't climb to save my life - I've tried and failed miserably at that (ditto time trialing).

My two favorite training rides are based on sprinting. One now-defunct ride was the SUNY Purchase Tuesday night sprints. Imagine doing a sprint per lap on a 2 mile circuit for two and a half hours (!). Cat 1's to Cat 4's (there were no 5's back then) would show up in a field of 100 or more. Teams would practice leadouts and on the "nice wind" days, speeds would exceed 45 mph (75 kph) in the sprint. The other ride is one that we sometimes unofficially have, the Summer Street Thursday Night Sprints in somewhere in Connecticut. We'd ride at some odd time, like 10 or 11 PM, and do a couple hours of laps on a (coincidentally) 2 mile loop. With all one way streets (or two ways with medians), you never have to worry about oncoming traffic. And with a 35 mph speed limit, you can use cars, trucks, or even police cars as leadout men (the latter judiciously).

But in the end, it's all to go sprinting at a race. There is nothing like the last lap of a crit where the field is together - it is one of the most intense experiences one of us regular racers can have in a bike race. Everything about the race is to be decided - it's not just a formality. The actual selection is about to happen. So there's that building of anticipation as the laps wind down, where (as a sprinter) you pray that all breaks fail. Then, as your prayers are answered, you're in a gruppo compacto at the clanging bell, with the cheering crowd, friend screaming at you to "move up! move up!", the unique sound of chains and tires humming along, noise and confusion inundating your senses. There's the frantic fighting for position, the nudges, the racers diving suicidally into non-existent gaps. The rat-at-at of skewers and spokes (and the pause where everyone waits for the crash, but when it doesn't happen, everything just keeps on going). The occasional politeness ("sorry 'bout that" or non-verbal "let me in that gap" look). The desperate 100% attacks followed by eager opportunists, teams trying to line up leadouts, sprinters hollering at their leadout men, the field snaking across the road as leadout men respond to final attacks and other leadout train surges.

And all the mistakes that everyone makes tactically, it's incredible. Racers go too early, too late, let gaps open up - lack of commitment is a big weakness in close quarters racing. The zen-like instant decisions - Follow my leadout man? Will he blow? What about that leadout train? Where is that big blue sprinter guy? How did I get here? Blasting through the last couple corners, feeling the tires digging in and sliding just that bit, feeling the pedals just touching the pavement, racers yelling, the burnt rubber smell as someone miscalculates and locks up a tire, chains just slamming into gears as people shift under 100% load. There is that incredible speed that racers find in their legs when a few minutes ago they were struggling to hang on - just how did they find 36 mph (60 kph) in their legs?!

Then finally the first jump goes, a huge jump, the one that is supposed to gap a surprised field right away, immediately followed by all the counters (by non-surprised racers waiting for it) fighting to get onto this last (now suicidal) leadout's wheel. The momentary pause tactically as everyone goes all out after this upstart. Then the surges on the sides as the field quickly goes from strung-out to curb-to-curb then squeezing and expanding as racers try and close doors all over the place. The quick calculations - should I go again now? Wait? Why can't I shift up - am I already in my 12? Can I fit through that gap? Squeeze a bit to the right to shut down the guy there. Jam the brakes as someone does the same to you. Jump again, swearing so much to yourself that Howard Stern would censor you, thinking to yourself that you'll never be that careless again. Duck under that elbow as you pass a behemoth on a bike. Scoot past that shoulder (of a blown leadout guy) coming towards you so fast he might as well have hit a wall. And then, when you are ready, you commit yourself and totally punch it, almost lifting the bike off the ground you're pulling up so hard on the bars, trying to keep the back wheel on the ground, Conti's scrabbling for traction. It always comes up in slow motion, everyone's positions around you burned into your memory like a watercolor, the sprint taking longer and longer, time slowing down. Legs just don't seem to turn any faster no matter what you try to do to them. Then finally the last few meters goes by and you're throwing the bike at the line no matter what because your mentor told you to never ever take a sprint for granted and then time accelerates and you're 200 meters past the line breathing hard and replaying everything over and over, planning what you'll do the next time you're here.

Jeez my heartrate is kinda high just thinking about all this.

Aki Sato
Carpe Diem Promotions/Racing, Norwalk CT
Monday, March 8, 2004

Respond to this letter

Tour without Kelme? #1

Not many Kelme jerseys in the hills last year, and with Valverde not riding the Tour, there probably wouldn't be many this year either. Euskatel is the new Kelme.

Martin McEwen
Friday, March 5, 2004

Respond to this letter

Tour without Kelme? #2

Valverde won the Vuelta a Murcia. His team has won the overall. Cipo will not finish the Tour de France (will he even contest the TT up Alpe d'Huez?) M. Leblanc - vous avez perdu le plot! We want to see teams that will try from the prologue to Paris, not some glory-seeking pumped-up poseurs that can win a stage or two, burn out and go back to their playboy lifestyle. If Cipo cycles into Paris having completed all stages on July 25th I won't eat my hat, but I hereby promise to donate £500 to any charity he cares to nominate.

Philip Bouscarle
Sunday, March 7, 2004

Respond to this letter

Recent letters pages

  • March 5 letters - Speculation about Genevieve, Brad McGee, Doping, How many more have to die?, Tour without Kelme?, Aero helmets, Chubby Lance?, Climbers and sprinters, Fixed gear, Mt Wallace climb, Stage 3 of di Lucca, TdF04 travel itinerary?, Tour de France 2004
  • February 27 letters - Climbers and sprinters, How to lean in corners, Chubby Lance?, How many more have to die?, Stage 3 of di Lucca, Cross wheels, Doping, Fixed gear, Tour de France 2004, Lance bikes, Mt Wallace climb, Oenone Wood, Oscar Egg bicycle
  • February 20 letters special: Remembering Marco Pantani - Cyclingnews readers' tributes to Marco Pantani, part 1
  • February 20 letters special: Remembering Marco Pantani - Cyclingnews readers' tributes to Marco Pantani, part 2
  • February 20 letters special: Remembering Marco Pantani - Cyclingnews readers' tributes to Marco Pantani, part 3
  • February 20 letters special: Remembering Marco Pantani - Cyclingnews readers' tributes to Marco Pantani, part 4
  • February 16 letters special: Remembering Marco Pantani - Cyclingnews readers' tributes to Marco Pantani
  • February 13 letters - Sevilla challenging for the Tour?, How will the Tour 2004 unfold?, Tour de France 2004, Marion Clignet diary: Training with the boys, More to cycling than the Tour, Teams & sponsors, Cross wheels, Doping, How to lean in corners, Phil, Paul and Bob
  • February 6 letters - Tour of Qatar, Team names, Australian team, National & world jerseys & regulations, Tour de France 2004, How to lean in corners?, Cyclo-cross & more in Japan
  • February 2 letters - Australian team, Cofidis: All publicity is good publicity? Anyone Traveling to TDF 2004? 24 hour race timing, World Jerseys, Team Names, Training location, How to lean in corners? Mullet time again? Tour de France 2004, Aussies Around the World
  • January 27 letters - Embarrassing Team names presented by Corporate Sponsors, Cycling and the heart, David McPartland, Tour de France 2004, Tour de France - Visiting, 24 hour race timing, How to lean in corners?, Mullet time again?, Riding Etiquette, Tom Simpson Ventoux Monument, World Jerseys, Wust on Armstrong, Zarrabeitia interview
  • January 14 letters - Cycling over-represented in heart fatalities, Fitness?, Tour de France 2004, Greatest of all time, Adham Sbeih, Clinger to fill Cipo's shoes?, How to lean in corners?, Riding Etiquette, Tom Simpson Ventoux Monument, Reader Poll - Best Bike, Tour de France - Visiting, The Ras
  • January 4 letters - Greatest of all time?, Reader Poll - Rider of the Year, Geniuses Feature, Flemish Flags, Adham Sbeih, Mountain Biking and Doping, Tour 2004, Heras: Mission Impossible?, Put me back on my bike
  • December 24 letters - Inverell Track Open, Tour 2004, Roberto Heras, Greatest of all time?, Mountain Biking and Doping, Positive Tests, Geniuses Feature
  • December 19 letters - Heras: Mission Impossible?, Eating Disorders and Cycling, Tour 2004, Garzelli, Greatest of all time?, Geniuses
  • December 12 letters special: Vale Jiménez - Cyclingnews readers bid farewell to Spanish rider José María Jiménez (more letters added December 24)
  • December 5 letters - Learning respect, Heras transfer, Beloki's choice of team, Roberto Heras, Simoni's challenge, Greatest of all time?, Giro d'Italia stage for the public, Put me back on my bike
  • November 28 letters - Anonymous sources, Simoni's challenge, Bobby Julich, Beloki's choice of team, Floyd Landis, Punishing fatal driving, Roberto Heras, Greatest of all time?, Italians spending €600 million/year on drugs, Put me back on my bike, Tour climbers analysed, Giro d'Italia stage for the public
  • November 21 letters - Tour climbers analysed, Beloki's choice of team, Simoni's Challenge, Floyd Landis, Roberto Heras, UCI plans, Cyclist of the year, Tour 2004 - TTT rule change, Punishing fatal driving, Hamilton world's, Italians spending €600 million/year on drugs, Amateur racing in France, 2003 World's video wanted, Put me back on my bike
  • November 14 letters - Simoni's Challenge, Italians spending €600 million/year on drugs, Cyclist of the year, Tour 2004, Heather French Henry, Drugs in Cycling and in Baseball, VDB, Uphill Battle, Armstrong's inspiration?, Bobby Julich at world's, IteamNova, The Hour, Whither Vinokourov?, Three Wheels?, Hamilton world's, Amateur racing in France, 2003 World's video wanted
  • November 6 letters - Cyclist of the year?, Tour 2004, Bobby Julich at world's, Heather French Henry, Whither Vinokourov?, Amateur racing in France?, Six Day Bike Rider
  • Letters Index – The complete index to every letters page on