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Letters to Cyclingnews - June 3, 2005
I agree. Followers of professional cycling can only sustain a high level of interest in the overall GC outcome while the final placings are unresolved/in doubt/open to change/surprise. The Giro has it all...a dozen contenders still in the frame at the half-way stage and five still battling it out with just days to go.
For the Tour, the problem is simple. The organisers have given out to self-hype and the finish is, and probably has to be, in the heart of Paris. For drama, the answer is to have the final days in the Alps, with the very last day finishing somewhere exciting...like at the top of Alpe d'Huez.
Surrey, England, UK
In answer to Michel's comparison of the Giro vs the Tour (vs the Vuelta). It's about the players, not the route. Just look at the last week of the 2004 TDF. Lots of potential drama save for the domination of Lance. I recall lots of speculation on how second though fifth would shakedown. It's just that 1st was sewn up. With the unfortunate illness of Basso (don't CSC have their own chef to greatly eliminate this possibility? If not - best get one on the payroll fellas), we don't have a dominator in this Giro.
In this Giro, If one of the contenders dominated the early TT & all the uphill stages (as a certain Texan seems to do in France every year) to this point, the Giro would be a carbon copy of the past few TDFs. With one team riding tempo, defending a massive lead.
Michel van Musschenbroek writes that an "Alfred Hitchcock movie where the killer is revealed" early on would be dull. This is a particularly inapt analogy. In the Hitchcock film 'Rope' the killers are revealed to the auidence early and the rest of the film is people talking about this and that and, of course, Jimmy Stewart's growing realisation that two of his students have killed a third.
In addition, Hitchcock argued vigorously that it is more exciting to reveal the bomb and then have people sitting round a table talking as the timer counted down than it is to just show the bomb blowing up. The excitment, in other words, is not the big event, murders exposed, bombs exploding, or the presumptive favorite winning a race, but rather in the events that lead up to the big event. Examples might include: small children and small bags bringing down a presumptive winner, time trialing past one's nearest rival, radical dehydration during a TT, the arch-rivals charging up mountains, and so forth.
I agree 100%. Whoever decided that the Tour de France is the greatest cycling race? I have been fascinated with the Giro this year and the whole time, I'm thinking, this is the greatest race I've seen. If the Giro organizers could get it together a little more; more languages on their website, more items to purchase, spread the word, the Giro could easily surpass the Tour.
I'll be glad when LA retires, and I hope to see Basso or Cunego or anyone for that matter, win two Grand Tours in the same year, to shut everybody up about how impossible that is.
San Antonio, TX
I completely agree with you.
Le Tour is very predictable; more like a media frenzy, with Lance everywhere in the spotlight, and only in 2003 was there some emotion in between, provided to us by Jan almighty. The Giro, however, had attacks over the mountains and flat stages, mountain finishes, beautiful scenarios, mountains everywhere, four or five people with the chance to win, emotions everywhere - in two words, RACERS RACING, not taking care of who is around.
Thanks bella Italia, and its Giro, for three weeks of countless emotions, vibrations, examples of courage & determination. Au revoir le Tour, and benvenuto Giro
San Jose, Costa Rica
I regard Ivan Basso as a very good competitive rider. However, it's amusing to read letters from people who are pining to see a Giro-Tour double win, touting Ivan Basso as the most likely candidate. How about Ivan winning ONE grand tour first before dreaming about winning two, let alone two in the same year. Like the Grand Slam in golf, you have to win the Masters first before you can worry about the U.S. Open, British Open, and PGA. The same goes for other potential double winners.
The old days of the big boys showing up at every major race and going hard are gone for good. The best teams are training for a TDF win by using a power management methodology. If competing in the Giro was the best training for the TDF, then Discovery, T-Mobile, Liberty Seguros et al would have their A teams at the Giro, and they haven't done that. Discovery isn't even fielding their best B team for this Giro, which would make a win by Salvodelli even more impressive (and he lost his best climber, Tom Danielson over a week ago).
Finally, if you are Ivan Basso and have the Maglia Rosa, you don't suddenly decide to do a training ride and lose 40 minutes to the field. You must defend the jersey. What's impressive about Ivan was that after he fell out of contention, he recovered and won two stages.
New York City
I used to be an Armstrong fan; autographs, etc, but lately he has deterred my thinking. It started last year with the Simeoni incident, which I thought was very unprofessional, and the way he rubbed it in Floyd's face at the Tour de Georgia when he clearly knew he was the strongest rider there, and then badmouthed a loyal lieutenant I find myself wanting him to be beaten.
Also, the way they (Discovery Channel) try to obtain any rider who might be a threat (like Basso) - the team reminds me of the Yankees, so the way Rujano just rode they will doubt lure him.
I'm a cycle fan and love when any rider of any team makes an epic effort. I'm a Landis fan and now root for Phonak and CSC and truly believe Basso will win the tour with his new found TT ability, which I accredit to Dave Z and a lot of hard work. I know Discovery have a strong team, but if they falter and Landis can't win I hope he helps Basso or Ullrich and then points to the clock like LA did to him.
Can they do no wrong? Clearly not. Year after year, the former USPS (now Discovery) team have taken pros who have lost their way in other teams and rejuvenated them. Lance aside, Salvodelli has come from two years in the wilderness at T-mobile to a fairly certain second Giro win. This would give 'team Bruyneel' its eighth Grand Tour victory in six years. Surely this speaks volumes for the sheer attention to detail and investment in perfecting each rider's riding skills that the team management have applied.
With Lance surely entering into his last Grand Tour, the end of one era and beginning of another has arrived. The transition should be all the sweeter when you consider the depth of talent Discovery have - in a sense - discovered. Savoldelli aside (he is a youthful 32 after all), Popovych has clearly been brought into the team to take over the team leadership when Lance steps down. In fact, I would go as far as to say the biggest threat to Lance winning his 7th Tour will be from his own team. Not that Popovyich will attack Lance but there is a definite strategy to have a strong back up should Lance not command as we have been used to. Certainly the tour should be won by Discovery. With Salvodelli, Popovyich and Azevedo as super mountain domestiques, Lance arguably has the strongest team of all his seven tour campaigns. And should he not dominate as we have grown used to, Popovyich, Salvodelli and Azevedo for that matter, have the ability and team to see through a second Grand Tour victory in '05.
I must say that Jose Rujano has burst into the spotlight of pro cycling. He was an absolute gem to follow in the Giro. I am a big fan of the guys who can dominate in the mountains. In Rujano there seems to be the makings of a Marco Pantani type of rider. A pint sized Rujano can power up the mountains with his 49 kg frame with great ease. I couldnt help but notice that his ears are exactly like Pantani's were. He has the elephantino ears - as Armstong labeled Pantani in the 2000 Tour. It's borderline scary to me...he really reminds me of Senor Marco, and with such similar abilities it seems like - a guy who would lose time in the time trail but gain a lot back in the mountains.
What a thrill it is too see a "true climber" like Rujano in the peloton - I think he is the next big star. Its' ironic after a stage win in the Giro - he said he wore an earring like Pantani and wanted to be like him, as Pantani was his hero.
Perhaps like most others in recent years, I anticipated this Giro only for the reason that as soon as it was over that we would be that much closer to the start of the Tour. I had some hope that Simoni might do something special and was hoping that the "underdog" might get past some of his troubles from last year. Now that the Giro is finished, my views have gone 180 degrees on both thoughts. This year's Giro was absolutely EPIC! The major climbing days were incredible and the drama just amazing. This year completely reinvigorated my interest in the Giro.
As for Simoni…I couldn't be more disappointed in an athlete. There is no doubt that Simoni is an incredibly talented rider. However, at what point is he going to take accountability for his results? I am so tired of hearing his endless gripes about who wasn't there to help him. On the contrary, Savoldelli knew he had no significant help going into the Giro and made the most of it. Not only did he make the most of it, he simply executed flawlessly on his strategy and knew the goal. He used the resources available to him and made the most of it, and not just finish with a strong result, but with a WIN! All Simoni seemed to be able to muster in his commentary was the classification of fellow riders as clowns and the comparison of the peloton to a caravan. It's too bad that Simoni might likely be recalled more for his relentless whining and criticism than for what have been strong results over the years.
Hats off to Savoldelli for his sportsmanship, his respect for the peloton, and his respect for what is a major event for our sport.
In response to Tim's letter about how to beat Armstrong, I wonder if he even paid any attention to last year's tour. Last year's race deficit that was put into all of Armstrong's rivals was never as a result of past Armstrong moves where he accelerated near the finish of the stage.
He let his rivals beat themselves up by trying to keep pace with his stacked climbing unit and added any time bonuses possible with the time trials. Armstrong will likely continue his strategy of last year and only mark his rivals if they attack. Ullrich's flaws of the past couple of years have been in his training leading up to the tour and his odd strategies during the mountains. I can't think of too many times when a race contender has attacked on the second to last climb and not been chased down successfully by the teams of every other contender.
I also question Jan's personal trainer's idea of working on losing weight less than three months before the Tour. Anyone with an ounce of physiology knowledge knows that an aggressive weight loss only leads to a loss of energy. I believe that for Jan Ullrich to win the tour he needs to find a different trainer or new training style. Perhaps that has happened this year as he has said a few times that he's on schedule or slightly ahead.
No matter who wins, I believe this tour will be an epic battle.
I have different take on this. To my mind, if the Tour was four weeks long, Ullrich would have won them all. Each time he seems to come in and feel queasy in the first week. Then he hits the mountains and seems to get stronger and stronger. So, my suggestion to him and his directeur is to do a really tough stage race just prior to the tour to get him into shape. It would appear that Ullrich has a body that needs punishment to get him into top condition.
Of course, the other thing he needs is a team without sprinters. This is a huge plus for Armstrong. However, Zabel is not going to be left out. Ullrich should do a deal with him. If Erik agrees to be a domestique during the tour, Ullrich returns the favour for him in a few classics.
I 100% concur with Leith Brown's thoughts on Eddy. Listing him as the greatest cyclist ever is so obvious, but why isn't he considered one of the all time greatest ATHLETES. He won more events over a longer period of time than other's frequently named to this list: Michael Jordan, Jim Thorpe, Secretariat, you name it. Maybe folks don't understand just how hard a 120 mile bike race is, or that winning a mountain top finish is as different from winning a sprint as polo and water polo.
I'd add to the list of all time greatest slights the lack of recognition for the turn-of-the-century racer Marshal "Major" Taylor, who at one point held seven world records and was the highest paid athlete in the world, despite being banned from some races because of the color of his skin. When I hear someone say that somebody is the Jackie Robinson of this or that field, I always point out that Jackie Robinson was the Major Taylor of baseball.
Peachtree City, Georgia
Thanks for the fantastic, emotive and compelling coverage of the Giro d'Italia. What a great race it was! Nice to see Salvoldelli keep hold of the Maglia Rosa all the way to Milan...I congratulate him and also Johan Bruyneel. What a great Director Sportif he has turned out to be. Everyone talks about Riis as a great DS, and Basso's heroics help to show that he is, but Bruyneel is the only team leader I can think of that has won all three Grand Tours in modern times, and with three such different riders! Of course Bruyneel is rightly famous for inspiring Lance Armstrong's belief in himself as a Tour winner, but it looks like his talents as a DS don't end there. I fully expect him to put another man or men on the Grand Tour podiums in the coming years...Tom Danielson or Yaroslav Popovych - who will be next?
Wellington, New Zealand
With Paolo Savoldelli's comeback win at the Giro coming hot on the heels of Santiago Botero's career rejuvenating Tour of Romandie victory one has to wonder how far the 'kiss of life' from hapless T-Mobile boss Walter Godefroot can extend? At this rate Cadel Evans, another of Godefroot's 2004 discards, must surely be firming up as a Tour de France podium prospect. Talk about human resource management! This guy sure knows how to get the best out of people - after they've left the team!
I've just been looking through the Pro Tour Team Rankings. I am not sure exactly how they are calculated. Judging by the recently published Pro Tour team rankings, they must be scored based on the Overall Team performance category from Pro Tour races.
The official Pro Tour Team Rankings are:
1 Davitamon-Lotto 191 pts
I don't think that's a meaningful way to rank teams, and I don't believe teams or sponsors (or even riders or Directors) think about them that way. First of all, only a few (often marginal) teams really put much stock in going for the team rankings during a race. Second, these team rankings generate little publicity for the teams who do well. Furthermore, teams with strong GC, sprints (points) or mountains prospects usually sacrifice their team ranking for the benefit of improved rider rankings in the individually categories. I wanted to see a "team" ranking based on the sum of the Pro Tour points earned by individual riders on the team. This turns out to be a much more interesting ranking, and one that I think better corresponds to the interests of fans and sponsors. Here's what such a ranking looks like based on Pro Tour points through May 31:
1 Fassa Bortolo 288
Grand Total 2989
This ranking makes a lot more sense to me than the published Pro Tour team rankings. Fassa is top ranked because of 111 points from Petacchi, plus 65 from Flecha, 31 from Cancellara, 30 from Kirchen and a few others. Liquigas is second because of Di Luca (184) plus points from Backstedt, Pellizotti and a few others. Davitamon-Lotto drops from first in the Pro Tour Team rankings to eighth because their best individual rider is Nico Mattan with 40 points. And who really thinks Davitamon is having a great year so far?
I also submit that this sort of team ranking would be a good one to use if the Pro Tour decides to consider the relegation of a couple teams at the end of the year. Now that would add some spice to the bottom of these team rankings. Euskatel, where are you? Let's hope the Pro Tour adopts this sort of team ranking system. Until then, perhaps Cycling News can take on the job of calculating this improved team ranking system each month. I guarantee riders, directors and sponsors, as well as fans, would want to take a look at it.
I don't know where to start, but even Lance Armstrong's biggest haters, critics and rivals will miss the Texan when he is gone. A lot of people are too stubborn to warm to Armstrong's abilities, and despise the fact the he has dominated the Tour de France for the last six years.
Armstrong has brought the Tour back to such prestige after the major doping scandal in the 1998 edition. He has won every year since then. Lance has no weakness (maybe age) - he can win any time trial, and win any mountain stage of the Tour. Who else can do that? No one. The time trial guys usually lose time in the mountains every time. Armstrong gains on both. It's like he is at that perfect power to weight ratio. Never too heavy for the climbs, but strong enough to win a 55km time trial.
That's very tough to beat, and is why we still have to respect the talent, ability and determination of Lance.
I nearly fell of my chair at this letter. Can anyone be so naive to think that Armstrong would help someone else win "his" race.
You also make the mistake of expecting Armstrong to work for anyone else. Basically, since he became "Tour Lance" he has made a lot of promises to help others and nearly always ended his season before keeping his word. There was even talk this year that he was coming to do Flanders and Roubaix with the aim of winning. Now, if I was a certain George Hincapie, who has sacrificed so many possible stage wins in the tour for Lance, I would be just a little upset.
I must say that it really does get on my nerves that everyone thinks that Lance is such a great cyclist. He races a handful of races a year, cherry picks his team so that no one else is allowed any ambition in "his" race. In fact he never even attacked in last year's tour, but let his team burn everyone else off. He prepares awesomely for the tour no doubt, but he can never be considered a truly great racer because he doesn't race very often.
Personally I have far more respect for someone like Erik Zabel who races all year round including track in the winter. Now there is a real racer!
San Diego, USA
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