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Letters to Cyclingnews - July 1, 2005
Am I the only one to notice that the pre-tour talk campaign comes in on a different tack this time around? Other years it seems that the idea was to let doubt about Armstrong's form grow unchecked. The stratagem appeared to be to encourage competitors to think they had a chance of dethroning him, perhaps inducing them to play their cards early.
This year we get a very upbeat message about Lance's fitness from his fitness man. When he doesn't win on the Ventoux this time there is an explanation rather than a void of doubt. When he suffers a fall there is immediate reassurance about his state.
Why this change? Is it a Bruyneel double bluff? Or is Lance not quite at the top of his form as we are lead to believe?
The Vowels of Cycling:
Dan Coyle, author of "Lance Armstrong's War", writes a piercing, unbiased, insightful and shocking cycling story line that will unfold in front of you, so you can make individual assessments of the best cyclist's today; especially LA. Is Lance the Machiavellian? Find out for yourself.
E-Evolution and technology:
Think of how pure, raw, and spontaneously entertaining Tours would be if leaders didn't know how far up the road their foe were, didn't have instantaneous access to their DS's, or Dr. Ferrari by cell phone in a race. Remember the 2000 Olympic Mens RR? The technological evolution of cycling has allowed for the generation of mechanistic, probabilistic & predictably boring tours.
LA is an industry more than a bike rider, just look at his multiple businesses, bike stores, endorsement deals & philanthropic cash flow. His 'businesses', which financially depend on, and have thrived on, his myopic, TdF quests are the key. LA thrives on individualism, and has skewed 'the boss' role so significantly that excellent, disgruntled, riders perpetually leave his 'owned' team(s), unless they profess their 'borg-like', docile, obedience to the cause. Isolation is the only way to beat LA. In the 2003 TdF, and I'm sure most other successful tours, LA was without a leading team-mate less than 10% of the time. Johann, LA, and Cyclingnews state yearly how Postal/Discovery have had the strongest teams year after year. An absent earphone would force LA to make his own quick decisions and possibly become isolated in bad situations.
If you read personal stories about Landis, Basso, Vino, Ullrich, Mayo, Leipheimer, Kloden…you'll like them immediately. They are explosive/entertaining riders with the ability to make you sit on the edge of your seat, dream of a breakaway or bridge, or attack in situations. And, you can watch them throughout the year too; what a concept. Even Ullrich will race at the Olympics! Did anyone watch Landis in last year's TdF - he could've placed in the top two. Remember when Floyd and Voigt dragged LA up to Ullrich's exciting, solo break? Can you imagine if LA even partially rode for Floyd so he could recover over the last 20 or 30 kilometres? Instead, LA drafted everyone until the end, sprinted and fist pumped in exultation for cycling alone for 600 feet. Floyd, Basso and Ullrich will be in the top three or four this year if they have half the help of Lance.
Despite being a little too overweight, nice, unmotivated, look at his last eight TdF finishes and his corresponding team support. Put LA on any of those teams and tell me he would have the same totals; not likely. Look at 2003 - Bianchi team and still he took second. If he is not febrile, has assistance on the climbs, and a supportive team…we will see a change in Paris.
Just my thoughts on cycling's current state of affairs before the tour starts. Oh, I hope it turns out to be a real battle, regardless of who wins…with Mayo, Basso, Landis, Ullrich, Armstrong, Vino, Levi L et al. challenging each other daily. Another boring train of similar teamed riders mechanistically eroding the race by attrition is a horrible thought.
Calgary Alberta, Canada
Having failed miserably in past years' TdF tipping competitions with my naive strategy of "informed choices based on observed athletic performance," I took a new tact this year. My dream team members for 2005 were chosen on the basis of much more general figures of merit than, for example, ProTour points, Grand Tour podium finishes, or any such tripe.
How did I come upon these fail-safe predictors of TdF performance? Well, have
you ever noticed that riders who are, shall we say, "vowel-challenged," seem
to have that extra vein of steel in their heart? For example: if a rider named
Ira Shoopie attacked, nobody would take notice...but if Gyvshnikth Zhschurncki
attacked, a wave of fear would surely ripple through the peloton. Indeed, the
first effect would be a collective loss of breath as 180 riders struggled to
pronounce the vaunted aggressor's name.
For the more conservative punter, however, I've devised an alternative criterion. We all know Lance is on the way out. But who will be the next great Tour champion? I've discussed the matter with my team of probability theorists, most notably my dog, and concluded that the new Lance will be the Anti-Lance. After all, what are the odds that two Lances in a row would dominate Le Tour for years? Armstrong's most likely successors, then, calculated on the basis of having names with most letters not in common with Lance, are:
Finally, if you can't decide between verbal iron and unLanceness, here are the rankings based on the product of consonant/vowel ratio and the NotLance score:
Clearly Bobby is head and shoulders above the rest; indeed, my dog assures me Julich is a 3:1 favorite. Happy betting!
For the first 60 minutes of this week's Cyclism II on OLN TV (Sunday, June 26) I thought I was watching an infomercial for Lance. Don't get me wrong - I have the greatest respect for Lance and understand the inherent bias in 'the hometown call'. But the surplus of misrepresentations and a blalant lack of objectivity made me feel like I was watching a high school glee club instead of professional cycling journalists at work. Case in point:
* Heras, Hamilton, Livingston (and presumably Floyd and Levi) have been at times branded "failures" since leaving the friendly confines - is the implication that if someone is to take a shot at fame and fortune and breaks the leash as a Lance sled-dog that they are failures? Must they win Le Tour to prove themselves "winners"? I would suggest their palmares and bank accounts prove otherwise (Tyler's extenuating circumstances notwithstanding).
* Lance 'beats' Floyd at Tour de Georgia - Lance didn't win any stages at the Tour de Georgia. Floyd creamed Lance in the ITT. Floyd, with a less than full strength team, held the leader's jersey until the penultimate day. Floyd and Levi were on the podium, Lance was not.
* Lance rubs in the fact that Floyd loses the jersey by pointing to the clock as he crosses the line on Brasstown Bald; Bob Roll claims it was "all in good fun, no harm intended" (something to that effect) - I've seen sore losers, but Lance takes the prize as a 'sore winner' by such a display of unsportsmanlike conduct. Same is true for his dissing Ulrich in the '03 Tour for 'not waiting' after the musette incident - anyone with eyes who watches the film sees Jan taking the apex of the curves and looking back for Lance on each one. How else does Tyler catch up to 'slow Jan down'?
* Ulrich not on form, but Lance is - perhaps Ullrich will come up short once again, but what has Lance done that's so special so far this season? Does anyone really blame Ullrich for not going into the red in the Swiss mountains?
* Lance "single-handedly put American cycling on the map" - say what? I seem to remember a guy named LeMond going where no American had ever gone before. Feuds aside, Lance owes a huge debt of gratitude to Greg.
Al Trautwig can be forgiven for being overrated (OLN execs, are you listening?), and Bobke, bless his heart, will forever be Lance's cheerleader (keep the pom poms under the desk though, will you Bob?). But Phil and Paul - when did the koolaid start getting to you?
The irony is that if this kind of overly biased coverage continues I may have to turn down the volume on the TV and watch the commentary on the online feeds.
Highland Park, IL
It appears that the gentleman in one of last week's letters (find link) is part of the problem not part of the solution.
If he wants respect as a legitimate road user he needs to act as a responsible road user. Running red lights reinforces motorist's views that cyclists shouldn't be on the road in the first place and reflects badly on all cyclists, including myself. Imagine if everyone blatantly ignored the road rules as casually as he seems to do. If he was struck down by a motorist who had run a red light I'm sure he'd be the first one to cry foul.
You say you don't endanger anyone, including yourself, by running red lights but the truth is you endanger everyone in the cycling community. Hey, I could cycle to work nude every day, that wouldn't endanger anyone either, but the fact is it's illegal, just like running red lights, and when grown-ups use roads which are paid for and used by the whole community, they also agree to abide by the rules. Rules which have been established for the greater good of all.
For the past six years, I have existed quite happily without a car or other motorized vehicle. In that time, I have lived and commuted by bike in various parts of Germany, in London, and presently in upstate NY. When I read Brendan Moylan's letter, I realized that there is not as great a difference between the idiots in cars and idiots on bikes as I had hoped.
Mr Moylan writes that he "run[s] red lights all the time. Have done [so] for years. Now I have a daughter I am a little more circumspect, but I rode to work this morning and probably ran five or so lights. Didn't endanger anyone, myself included." This is hogwash. Anyone, in or on whatever kind of vehicle, who refuses to follow the rules of the road, or in Mr. Moylan's case actively encourages others to break the rules, undermines the effectiveness of the rules. Not all laws demand respect or obedience, but traffic laws serve to regularise traffic and in so doing make them the weaker, and the least safe stronger and safer. Traffic rules are not perfect but they do ensure that, if everyone follows them, one can be sure that riding or driving through a green light means that no imbecile more interested in saving himself or herself some time will come tearing through the red light.
The notion that running a red light or engaging in some other equally illegal and dangerous activity on a bike that violates the rules of the road some how or another increases cyclists' ability "to survive the commute or the training ride or the short trip to the shops" is total nonsense. Most cyclists, as cyclingnews.com pointed out in its rebuttal to the initial slur of cyclists, observe daily idiots in cars breaking all manner of traffic laws. Indeed, because of our need to pay attention not only to the traffic regulations but be especially alert to morons, like Mr. Molan, who assume that their own selfish needs trump the law, cyclists are aware of the potentially deadly results of people breaking the law.
Just this morning as I rode to work a moron in a car, trying to shave 10 seconds off his motorized commute, jumped a red light and nearly t-boned me as I rode through my green. This kind of behavior results not only from a silly stupid selfishness, of the kind Mr Moylan trumpets as justification for his own idiotic behavior, but also from a general sense that minimal restraint imposed by traffic law is optional. Mr Moylan's argument and behavior encourages this dangerous notion.
Cyclists ought constantly raise holy hell with the police to actually enforce the laws as written and not make specious arguments designed to encourage chaos on the road.
Your response to the Daily Telegraph was well written and provides a timely reminder of just how many cyclists are being killed by motorists who receive nothing more than a slap on the wrist, particularly in instances when the motorist drives away from the scene of the accident. If the weapon was a baseball bat, the perpetrator would find themselves facing manslaughter charges.
Maybe you should offer a very public challenge to the author and to the Minister to cycle to work in Sydney for a week and follow all of the Australian Road Rules to the letter. Have you seen the article in the most recent edition of Bicycling Australia on page 16 titled 'Safety in Numbers'? Maybe this should be presented to them as well.
They should also be made aware that current Australian Road Rules impose what I consider to be several unsafe requirements upon cyclists (eg. the roundabout rule); provide less protection for a cyclist than for any other road user (or pedestrians for that matter), particularly when seeking compensation for injuries &/or damages; and provide latitude to a motorist who hits a cyclist to reduce or avoid responsibility and penalties by stating that the cyclist swerved into their path (didn't you have an article a few years ago where a motorist - stress accidentally - drove into a group of Australian female cyclists in Melbourne?)
Frankly, I would understand the criticism about Michael Rogers' decision to
ride for T-Mobile next season IF you could say that all the other high-profile
acquisitions over the last years failed because of factors that can be attributed
to their environment at TMO.
Here's the reason: All the Boteros, Evans, or Julichs simply couldn't cut it in the TMO sharktank where there are so many stars (like Ullrich, Vinokourov, or Zabel) and you just need a certain kind of character to come through. I mean, Botero is a nice guy, as are the others, but don't they appear maybe a little too modest, shy, introverted, sensitive, etc? Take Vino or Zabel; these riders possess very strong characters, and it shows in their success.
Two exceptions to this are Ullrich and Savoldelli. The former may arguably
have had an even more successful career riding for someone like Bjarne Riis,
and the latter just was unlucky with his injuries but then decided to change
teams, although he always got the full support from TMO (best race in two years
at the Tour of Britain 2004? That's a joke!). There are other riders like Wesemann
or Alberto Elli (who retired some years ago) who also fit that assumption. And
to me, Rogers seems to be mentally strong enough to go all the way to the top
(he has the will and the drive, and he also has the physical tools!)
I'm a mtb racer who follows most of the other disciplines as well. I'm very excited that you have chosen to give the mtb scene the little extra coverage I think it deserves, and I especially applaud the endurance racing coverage. Thanks!
Thanks guys. Great to see a bit of fresh MTB news. No other website is as frequently updated as yours - I sneak a peak everyday at least, and the live stuff was great while I was overseas with no SBS tour highlights.
Have a look at this picture... Can anybody notice something? They look like twins!
Nothing personal but I hope Levi and Lance don't both end up on the TdF podium at the same time - we need some diversity in our champions' appearance! Only one chisel-jawed American allowed (don't you think they even have the same restrained, dignified public manner?) We need a baby-faced Italian brunette or a freckly German or, fingers crossed, one of those super-cool Aussie dudes up there to give it some visual flavour...
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