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Letters for Monday

VeloNews.com welcomes your letters. If you run across something inthe pages of VeloNews, or see something on VeloNews.com that causesyou to want to write us, drop us a line at WebLetters@7Dogs.com.Please include your full name and home town. By submitting mailto this address, you are consenting to the publication of your letter.Letters for MondayFabio and others like him are an inspirationDear editors:I was quite moved by your articleon Fabio Selvig, the racer run down by an oil truck in Massachusetts,in no small part because it parallels the stories of some close friends.Sabine Pater, tibia,

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Inspiring recovery; Still more on that pesky yellow line, the last word on the matter (we can hope) and a warning to be heeded

VeloNews.com welcomes your letters. If you run across something inthe pages of VeloNews, or see something on VeloNews.com that causesyou to want to write us, drop us a line at WebLetters@7Dogs.com.Please include your full name and home town. By submitting mailto this address, you are consenting to the publication of your letter.Letters for MondayFabio and others like him are an inspirationDear editors:I was quite moved by your articleon Fabio Selvig, the racer run down by an oil truck in Massachusetts,in no small part because it parallels the stories of some close friends.Sabine Pater, tibia, ankles, and a femur destroyed when she was hit bya car in Santa Fe in 1997, made it past possible amputation of her legand a life sentence to walking with a cane to swim and bike competitivelyagain.  Jason Boardman, hit from behind by a Suburban in Austin, TX,went through a series of diagnoses not unlike Fabio’s: not likely to live;might not talk; brain damage; won’t walk, ride, race.Jason — like Fabio and Sabine, young, fit, and determined — made itpast each successive step. He raced NORBA Expert last year and retiredupon the birth of his daughter in May. Despite lingering memory problemsfrom the accident, Jason is finishing his doctoral dissertation in sociologyand recently accepted a teaching job in Boulder (which will, I suspect,challenge his decision not to race again).What’s the point of this paean to Sabine and Jason? Certainly it’s aboutadmiration and lessons learned, as is your article on Fabio. But it’s alsoa chance to reflect on the simple fact that these stories are not nearlyas unique as they should be, insofar as each begins with a cyclist gettingmowed down by a car. I’m not sure what the answer is, and I certainly don’tdevote the time to local cycling-advocacy programs that I feel I should.But it’s sure hard not to be pissed off after reading another story aboutanother cyclist smashed to pieces by another car.Brandt Peterson
Austin, TX (writing from San Salvador, El Salvador, where trafficis*really* shitty)
 Valley of the Sun saga continuesDear Editor;It’s easy, from a comfortable, detached perspective, to do some Monday-morning quarterbacking concerning the problems that arose during the second-stage road race of the Valley of the Sun Stage Race.  Based on reports,however, several points emerge:1) Clearly, a starting gap of 5 minutes (as specified on therace flyer) between the Pro/Cat. 1 and Cat. 2 fields was too small fora 100-mile race, and 100-rider fields.2) A little humor might have been worked better than tellingthe Pro/Cat. 1 field to go faster (if indeed that’s what was done), however,a more practical approach would have been to stop the Cat. 2 race onceit was clear they would catch the Pro/Cat. 1 field (assuming there wasadequate radio communication to provide such information in a timely manner),keeping track of any groups and their time gaps as they came in, then re-startthem after an appropriate pause according to position when they were halted.This is not only for safety reasons, but also for fairness (not lettingone race affect the other), and the sake of judges scoring the two separateraces.

3) Once the packs merged, the race should have been shutdownimmediately, since the field limit for either race had been exceeded bya large number.  (You can even make the case that 75 would have beena more reasonable limit for each field, given that he course was open.) It still would have been possible (though more difficult) to separate thefields, and re-start.4) When the packs were allowed to race together, it became inevitablethat numerous competitors would cross the centerline through no fault oftheir own.  Nonetheless, officials had little recourse but to removethem, however unfair it might have been.  This is why allowing thepacks to race together was so fundamentally  flawed.5) Rolling enclosure is often desirable, but as has been pointedout, it’s often not possible to get it.  Requiring that it be presentfor a race to “attract professionals”? Well, it was clearly stated in theVOS race bible that the centerline rule would be in effect; if the professionalsdidn’t want to race under this rule, they would/should havestayed home.USA Cycling could not have “step[ped] in with a little muscle and aNational Race Calendar designation to help the organizing club get a nicelights and sirens rolling enclosure.” NRC designation is awarded on the basis of a promoter’s applicationfor it (and according to available space on the racing calendar.) The type of closure (or lack of it) depends on what the local authoritiesallow, not on NRC designation or USAC “muscle.”Without some sort of closure, the centerline rule is a must; it is not”absurd.”  How it is enforced depends on the volume of traffic present,course characteristics, and the nature of any violations.The big downside to closure is that if a car does get on the course,the results can be catastrophic, since riders will not be expecting traffic,and may be positioned where the motorist does not expect them.6) If the official(s) really did use truly abusive language towardsriders, it should certainly be reported to the USA Regional Coordinator,and to USA Cycling national offices, however, it is unclear whether thereis a staff member clearly charged with handling such a matter, since USACycling eliminated the position of Technical Director early last year.Charles Howe
Olmsted Falls, OH…and continues…Cheers to both Suzanne Sonye & Chris McDonald! As a former Category-I Track & Road Cyclist, and an Olympic-trials participant in non-cycling related athletic events, I have encountered more than my share of similar situations.With the exception of my track and road-racing experiences (which werevery-positive) while living and training in Texas, my racingexperiences outside the United States, and a few very-well organized US-races(i.e., The Tour of Somerville, The Tour of Nutley),  I left competitive cycling due to such experiences, and with little respect for the USCF (who’scurrent president, had a reputation during his active racing days of treating non-professional and non-Category-I cyclists as “second-class” citizens), and USCF officials (who clearly have serious control-issues).The “Center-Line” rule was always difficult to implement and objectivelyenforce. USCF officials routinely treated cyclists in a demeaningmanner. Apparently, some things never change. What do people say?  Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach (andorganize). Let cyclists race!Matthew H. Leddy, Ph.D. M.D.
Como, Italy…and continues…I’ve been reading a ton of comments all over the web on the controversyover this year’s Valley of the Sun stage race.  Unfortunately mostof it seems to be either finger pointing or evading responsibility.What we need to make this more than just whining about one thing oranother is to try to understand why so many people are upset.  I havecompeted in the Valley of the Sun many times since it’s inception havesupported our local club racing there many times, have served as a USCFofficial and mechanic,  and am deeply involved in promoting a similarNRC event in the same region.Let’s analyze the problem by a brief response to several of the latestletters regarding the VOS.  Alan Atwood you are correct, the raceshould have been stopped, but no one with the authority to do so had thegrit to ruin everyone’s day.The officials are also responsible for the fiasco of  the 2’s mixingin with the pro field and creating a totally unmanageable situation. The officials who were DQ’g everyone whose number they could take downshould have taken control of the situation and not allowed the Cat II field to catch the Pro’s, by whatever means necessary.The official’s were not in control of the race and this is what resultedin many of the acrid exchanges between riders and officials.  Thereare several reasons behind this.

 1) adequately trained and experienced USAC official’s arehard to come by and expensive to bring in from out of state.2) This is a small time pre-season training race that has grownvastly beyond it’s organization’s ability to control it. 3) It was USAC’s responsibility to inspect and approvethe course for safety prior to issuing a permit, it should be obvious toanyone who understands how bike races work that a 126 rider pack on roadslike that was going to be constantly going across the yellow line and theyshould have taken this into account when examining the course.How could these problems be solved?Better and more officials would require not only a greater commitmentto the betterment of the sport from the membership than seems currentlysustainable, but a much greater emphasis on this problem with investmentof large amounts of time and money from USAC which does not seem to feelthis is a priority.The promoters have obviously overreached the capability of their volunteerbase in an effort to provide a “bigger and better” event and don’t havethe sponsorship money to pay to have the jobs done that their volunteersand local officials can’t handle.  They need to examine why they areputting this race on and what limits their own abilities should put onit.The USAC officials responsible for approving course safety, have a vastarea to cover with a small budget and only volunteer help, they also havethe pressure of trying to keep the sport growing by having “bigger andbetter” races.The burden of most of the Regional Directors work falls on a few volunteerswho unfortunately make up a very small percentage of those who “participate”in cycling events.  USAC got rid of the state reps several years agoand the Regional reps are simply overworked, underpaid, and can’t findenough people to work for free to properly carry out all their responsibilities.USAC is supposedly bringing back “local” reps, although I don’t knowabout the progress of this initiative It is much needed. In my mind the root of the problem is USAC’s complete indifference to helping the sportgrow at the grass roots.  USAC needs to be spending MUCH more timeand effort in training race promoter’s and volunteers to professionalizeand standardize their contributions.  They also need a much greateremphasis on creating an infrastructure of trained officials, and much moreemphasis on supporting and training local clubs.  This is the onlyway we are ever going to get the sport going, spending all of our efforton elite teams and racing is completely counterproductive but seems tobe alright with the majority of USAC membership.(which is generally soapathetic about the way the sport is governed that it is extremely rareto get enough of them to vote in any election to even make it binding).Mark Bertucco, USAC will not “step in” for many of the reasons listedabove.  VOS cannot achieve NRC status without meeting certain USAC mandated criteria which their organization and financial base makes impossible,either USAC has to work toward helping them reach the mandated criteriaor USAC and the promoters have to realize that what they have is a localtraining race and run it accordingly.Another problem was stated that in the staging the riders were unableto hear the race announcements, I have found this to be a common failingat many races, blame rests in a large part on the riders as well, theydon’t want to listen to the announcements. If you  can’t hear themyou should be vocal in protesting your inability to hear.  The otherthing disturbing about these announcements is that in almost every race very stern yellow line warnings are given yet they are rarely enforcedthus causing a lot of bad feelings when it is enforced on someone.

 Not that I think it is an excuse to break the rule, but as an officialI can tell you for sure that a certain way to create hard feelings andlots of protests and anger is to appear to enforce rules capriciously.Ernesto Ramirez, when you have raced a little longer in larger packsof experienced riders you will understand that it is not simply a obeythe rule or disobey the rule situation many times.  As to your speciousargument about NASCAR drivers, they aren’t paid to race on the streets,would you think it stupid and dangerous to make NASCAR drivers race ononly half the track and give them the choice of either crossing the lineand being DQ’d or causing an accident every lap?  The two situationsare totally different and have nothing to do with each other.Rob Selle, yes a rolling enclosure would be an answer but there aretwo major problems:1) they are extremely expensive and require a level of trainingand communication among all the agency’s, officials, and volunteers involvedthat is very hard to achieve with an organization as small as VOS. 2) In many areas rolling enclosures not only require thecooperation and agreement of all state and local agencies involved theyare actually illegal in some cases and the race organization will neverbe able to get one.In recap the problem is:There are too many self-centeredwhiner’s racing bikesVery few of these self-centered whiners wants to volunteerany of their precious training time to help promote or officiate at racesUSACofficials are under trained and overworked and too few and far between.The Race has outgrown it’s organization and as the governing body theUSAC should have recognized this long before such a dangerous situationoccurred. The sport is too small and insignificant to attract the levelof sponsorship required to pay for professional quality races put on bylocal clubs and organizations. USAC is doing nothing to develop the sponsorshipopportunities and infrastructure required to put on professional qualityraces at a local level. USAC membership is uninvolved and apathetic whenit comes to expressing a will to have these things done so they don’t getdone.So all you riders who were DQ’d or felt endangered or had some othercomplaint, take these complaints to the people who are governing our sport. Complaining is fine when done with the intent of getting something fixedthat needs fixing, otherwise it’s just whining and no one is going to takeyou seriouslySteve Farris
Silver City, NM
 Now a word from the promoting club…The WMRC is the promoting club of the Valley of the Sun stage race andis a nonprofit volunteer membership organization.Our number one goal for the Valley of the Sun race is to promote a safe,quality race for all categories.  This year was the 10th anniversaryof the race, but it has been over the past four years that this race hasgrown into a hugely successful event for over 800 racers.Tim and Janell Bolen and many other WMRC members have donated countlesshours over these past years to make this race a great event.Our organization learns something new each year that we promote therace and we try to correct any shortfalls in the following year’s event. This year we had the largest fields and the most professionals ever. We had to expand the Pro, I field from the 100 limit to 120 to accommodatesome Division III teams who did not register on time.  The field limitwill be strictly enforced at 100 in the future.The yellow line rule has been a part of the VOS from day one. “Cross the yellow line, get DQ’d.”  This rule is a part of every raceI have ever done in AZ.  This had been a minor problem in the pastwith few infractions.  In contrast, this year the Pro, I field incurredmultiple, major infractions.  The officials, including the USCF MountainRegion Representative, DQ’d racers who appeared on multiple officials’infraction lists. I believe there was a desire to set the tone for the2002 racing season with a renewed adherence to safety guidelines. The WMRC organization, in fact, had some of its top riders DQ’d. I am sure this decision was made with the safety of all the riders in mind. The other alternative would have been to shut down the whole race and thatwould have made for 120 frustrated racers instead of 30.The yellow line rule is enforced because these are the rules that theDepartment of Public Safety has for promoters who put on an event. There have been many great races in AZ canceled because racers could notfollow these rules. The WMRC would like nothing more than to be able toclose all the roads for VOS, but in reality, this will never happen. I believe the road racecourse is good for the early season, and every yearwe have a large number of racers tell us they really like our courses.Promoters do what they must to promote a safe, high quality race. TheWMRC will meet with DPS and discuss the possibility of a rolling enclosurefor next year’s race. If they do not allow it, then the Valley of the Sunwill again have the yellow line rule. There are different rules for differentraces and if you can follow the rules of VOS, we would love to have youback next year. I guarantee you the WMRC will do what it can to make the Valleyof the Sun Stage Race the safest and best race possible for all participants.Thanks,
Brian Lemke
White Mountain Road Club President
Phoenix, AZ
 …and the race promoter himselfThe following comments are strictly those of the race promoter and notthe reflection of our entire cycling club.  I have read many commentsabout The Valley of the Sun Stage Race, and could fill books with replies,however I have decided to bite my tongue on many issues so that I remainprofessional.  Even though many of your readers have stated throughthere letters that my wife and I are not.Basics:  What does it actually take to host an event ofover 800 riders for three days?  I can answer that, 7 months of fulltime commitment from my wife and I.  Not to mention 3 separate racedirectors for each day, but an additional 50 WMRC members who dedicatethemselves for helping in one fashion or another.  This is handledby monthly club meetings and monthly race committee meetings.The last two months before the event require bi-weekly and weekly racemeetings.  These positions are voluntary, as for my wife and I wedo it strictly because we love to ride.  We do it because we feelwe need to give back to our cycling community.  We do it because wewant cycling to prosper in America, even though we will never reach thestatus of our International counterparts.  And yes, we still do it,even though we both work professional jobs during the week.We come home exhausted from work and dedicate yet another 3 hours justfor VOS, we put strain on our marriage from the lack of time that we getto enjoy one another, we put pressure on our professional careers by havingto stand in lines for permits that at times take days to complete. Andwe return over 2500 phone calls in 60 days and answer over 1800 emailsthe last two weeks before the event.  All this is just the start ofit.I have read many rude and insensitive remarks regarding our race, somein which came directly from a pro’s themselves.  Not only are my wifeand I disappointed and discouraged to ever promote this race or any raceagain, but coming from paid professionals who should support cycling, shouldcertainly know how hard and difficult it is to actually pull a stage raceoff successfully. One that we have done now for 10 years.  I willnot argue that our race has grown in size, nor argue that our race is perfector has ever been perfect.  I will argue that we pulled off a verysmooth 3 days of events, and the only complaints come from the riders thatshould lead by example.Now I could get dirty and down right nasty with facts that I know arerequired for rolling enclosures, access roads and permits, yellow lineviolations, officiating, and promoters rights,  But I won’t. All I ask for is those who feel so strong to lash-out and bash a greatevent, that requires so many sacrifices from so many individuals, to emailme directly at Timothybolen@cox.net,so that I may answer to you directly.As in most cases, people are all to quick to judge others, while havingno real idea with what’s at stake.  I write only to support all thosewho volunteered for our event.  I write for all the cyclists who cameto VOS to race because they have a passion to do so.  I write forthose who promote other events, who sacrifice so much in there lives forother that we don’t even know.  And I write for those who are ungratefuland naive and quick to insult, for you will truly never know what is reallyimportant in life, peace, friendship and family.  But most importantfor me, I write for my wife Janell. Since I know personally how many hoursshe has spent devoted to this years event, only to read such ungratefuland insulting comments. In closing, unless you devote so much of your personal time tryingto coordinate an event of this size, I would just ask that you take a momentand realize the sacrifices that are made just to host this event. That everyone who helped see this race through deserves more than that. Just as you would expect yourself.. Thanks for reading, and thanks for all of you who have been kindwith your words and replies.Timothy BolenLet this be the final word on yellow-line fever (please?)Dear fellow readers:Please move on with your lives so we can get back to more meaningfulletters with content such as, comparing Lance to”………”.Or, “I’m better than Lance because…..”,or, “I’ll never subscribe again because of:A. Maynard
B. O’Grady
C. Soft-Porn
D. Mountain bikes
E. Road Bikes
F. Lack of grassroots coverageblah, blah, blah…GET OUT AND RIDE!
 
Barry Johnson
Salt Lake City, USAP.S.., it’s a beautiful 37 degrees in post Olympic Salt Lake. See youon the road!And now for something completely differentThis letter does not have anything to do with your current news (andfor that you shall have our eternal gratitude – Editor).However, I feel every athlete needs to remember what I have to say. We have been cyclist for many years.  For quite some time my husbandhad not been doing quite as well as he should.  Kind of out of breathmore, not as much stamina.  He went to the Doc.Many times and was diagnosed as having exercise-induced asthma. But in time we knew there was more to this story.Long story short, it was his heart.  Please if you are having troublebreathing or short of breath and you are told you have Athletic inducedasthma please go to a pulmonary Doc and make sure.  Then for goodmeasure have a stress test with a good Cardiologist.Your health is your life. May God be with all of you and may you ridefor many years in good health.Carol Papp
Longmont, ColoradoArchived letters:February 21 -22, 2002February 13 -20, 2002February 8 -12, 2002