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The Mail bag: First the lawsuit, now the t-shirt

Dear Editors;On the heels of the revelation that the Bell-sponsored Health Net cyclingteam and its leader Gord Fraser are being barred from marquee nationalevents over an unrelated two-year-old legal dispute, Bell Sports has launcheda "Free Gord Fraser" campaign, complete with protest t-shirts and a grassrootspost card mailer, to try and get Fraser and the team reinstated. "We really think the parties involved need to look at what's good forthe health of the sport and not let a lingering dispute get in the wayof competition," said Bell Sports Marketing Manager Toshi Corbet. "We'reselling

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The Mail bag: First the lawsuit, now the t-shirt

The Mail bag: First the lawsuit, now the t-shirt

Photo:

Dear Editors;
On the heels of the revelation that the Bell-sponsored Health Net cyclingteam and its leader Gord Fraser are being barred from marquee nationalevents over an unrelated two-year-old legal dispute, Bell Sports has launcheda “Free Gord Fraser” campaign, complete with protest t-shirts and a grassrootspost card mailer, to try and get Fraser and the team reinstated.

The Mail bag: First the lawsuit, now the t-shirt

The Mail bag: First the lawsuit, now the t-shirt

Photo:

“We really think the parties involved need to look at what’s good forthe health of the sport and not let a lingering dispute get in the wayof competition,” said Bell Sports Marketing Manager Toshi Corbet. “We’reselling ‘Free Gord’ t-shirts for fans to wear at the events and show theirsupport for Gord, Health Net and the sport.”

The dispute goes back to the 2000 season when Fraser, then with theMercury cycling team, won the first three races in the four-race BMC Softwarenational series promoted by Threshold Sports. Fraser had the chance towin a $250,000 bonus for sweeping the series, but the men’s event in thefinal race was canceled after the death of Nicole Reinhart in the women’srace. Despite attempts to settle the bonus issue, the case has ended upin court.

Threshold, who is promoting both the USPRO Championships in Philadelphiaon Sunday and the San Francisco Grand Prix in August, has rescinded HealthNet and Fraser’s invitation to those events for reasons related to thebonus dispute. Threshold officials claim they are under a gag order andrefuse to comment on the issue, according to a report on the VeloNews website.

While the Bell reinstatement campaign is somewhat tongue-in-cheek, thereare some serious underlying issues, according to Corbet.

“Threshold has done a lot of great things for cycling in the US andwe understand that none of us on the outside know the full story,” he explained.”But to have our best domestic squad banned from the best events in theUS does a disservice to us and their other sponsors.

“Additionally, you have a company like Health Net stepping up and footingthe bill in a very poor sponsorship climate and the sport is not doingmuch to make it worthwhile.”

For its part Bell is selling “Free Gord Fraser” t-shirts at cost ontheir web site and have posted a post card that site visitors can printout and mail to Threshold Sports asking for consideration on the matterwww.bellbikehelmets.com.

Don Palermini
Bell Sports

Let’s be big enough to deal with this
To the Editor:
I do not know Gord Fraser. I do know Dave Chauner. (see “Bigbucks, bikes and lawsuits: Chauner speaks“)

I also know how fragile this sport is in the United States and I wasin Arlington to watch Nicole Reinhart’s last race. It was truly a sad dayand emotions were high and tears came easy.

I feel it is wrong to deny any qualified rider or team the opportunityto participate in any race hosted under USA Cycling rules. This only squandersyears of training and denigrates one of the too few sponsors willing torisk valuable public relations capital that could easily be redirectedto a less complicated involvement.

For way too long, the close knit cabal that has run Professionalcycling in this country has operated seemingly as an entity unto itself.I don’t know if this was due to years of weak leadership at the governingbody level or just the inability to separate personal viewpoints from operationalresponsibilities. But it is time for the new USA Cycling leadership tochange this.

When Mr. Fraser was winning every race in sight that year (2000), the promoters never failed to exploit this talented competitor’s achievementsas seemingly their own to help in the promotion of the BMC events. I amsure if Nicole were able to send a message about what is being done toa rider whom she respected as well, she would be appalled at what is beingdone in her name.

There is clearly a message in all of this and it is the wrong message.USA Cycling must step up to the plate and exercise its role to protectthe integrity of the sport. Racing is done on the streets. Lawsuits aresettled in court. They are two different things. This sport is too smallto be so little about it.

David Pelletier
Salem, MA

And had they looked, they’d have found a gentleman
Editors;
In his interview with Brian Jew, Dave Chauner said that a sponsor shouldcheck out “how they (athletes) comport themselves.”

In my years of association with both Threshold Sports and with GordFraser, I’d have to say that Gord has always comported himself as a professional.He is the class act of the domestic peloton.

I have no idea of the details of Gord’s lawsuit but to dis-invite ateam, including viable contenders, to a “National Championship” becauseof it is an act that smacks of a childish approach to conflict resolution. I imagine that Wachovia must be wondering about the wisdom of putting moneywhere people that apparently infantile have control of it.

Mike Hardaway

In praise of pops
Editor;
Gord Fraser is one of the most respected professional cyclists ridingtoday. That’s what any check of the record or references would have shown.

Noel Schatz

Gord is a gentleman, is Dave?
Hello and good morning.
As a Tucsonan Cyclist I must voice great disappointment with ThresholdSports and their lack of professionalism regarding the Health Net teamand Gord Fraser. I’ve been racing for a long time and Gord Fraser is afriend of mine, someone who I ride with every week and someone who trulyexemplifies what a professional is on the bike and off of it too.

Sometimes though organizers feel that they are doing the right thingand are making the right decisions with every rider in mind. I agree withthem sometimes and sometimes I disagree with them at others. In no way,shape or form should a team and/or a rider be punished for what occurredthree years ago. A life was lost and the pro circuit acted like pros…theygave the race winnings in memory of Nicole Reinhart. The same thing happenedat the Sea Otter Classic this past year for the Lemire family in the lossof their son Garrett.

But Threshold didn’t live up to its end of the deal. Why, did they insiston not inviting Gord? Why do organizers go ahead and not act like prosas well? I’m baffled, disappointed and altogether shocked. I hope thatGord and his team, really put their best foot forward as they know howand ride their bikes. These are friends of mine and should not be punishedany longer for something that is not their fault.

Sincerely,
John Nowak
Tucson, AZ

Dave should stay quiet
Editors;
That comment from Dave Chauner in his latest interview is a cheap shotagainst not only Gord Fraser, but Health Net. They (Health Net) knew theriders and what kind of personalities they were signing. Chauner effectivelycomplimented them for getting involved, but then calls them stupid!

Not only did he insult Health Net leadership, but I could only surmisethat they would pull their sponsorship as a result of his comments.

Mark Young
Salinas, CA

But will Dave be good for the $$$$?
Editors
Wow. Sure looks like another attempt to slap ol’ Gordy right acrossthe face in full public view. His deal could get interesting in
court. From what I’ve been able to read, it seems like Fraser mighthave a case. Granted, Nicole Reinhart’s death shut down
the day and effectively ended the bonus program for the women’s side,but should it have carried over to the men’s series as well?

Was the tragedy used as an excuse to avoid the possibility of payingthe bonus? These are questions that will be asked, and I
for one am very curious to find out how a judge interprets them. $250,000is a huge amount of money to a bicycle racer, and
to have the potential to win it just written off with no attempt tore-run the event or assign another event as the final qualifier just
doesn’t seem right.

I see the potential for a settlement here, based on the fact that Fraserwon all the necessary races leading up to the final, and on the evidencethat the promoter apparently canceled the bonus program on a whim. It’sall too bad, really. None of it is good for the public image of bicycleracing in the U.S., It just reinforces the stereotype that Americans baseeverything on money, not passion. I can’t ever remember seeing the prizemoney announced for a European Classic, a major tour or the World Championships.

Mike McCabe
Bridgewater, MA

Restraint of Gord?
Editor;
In the U.K. at least there is a law regarding restraint of trade whichwould prevent something like Chauner’s banning of Health Net and Gord Fraser.If you earn your living doing “x” and someone tries to suspend you, orban you and in so doing prevents you from plying your trade and earninga living they may be breaking the law. Is there such a law in the U.S.?

regards,
Kirsten Begg

But didn’t he want the money donated?
Dear Editor;
Can someone clarify for me,
a) Did Gord Fraser say “please donate the winnings” and b) didthey Chauner’s group…donate the money to Nicole’s foundation. If theanswer is yes to both then I gotta side with the promoter on this one. Please clarify for me.

Mike Threston

In 2000, BMC Software promoted a four race series that offered a$250,000 bonus to the man or woman who could sweep all four events. InArlington, both Fraser and Nicole Reinhart were in a position to do that.One question now in dispute, is whether there were separate $250,000 prizesfor each or whether dual winners would have to split that between them,leaving $125,000 for each. At the time, both riders were convinced thatthey were each competing for separate $250,000 prizes. Again, that questionis now also a point of contention. BMC donated $250,000 to the Nicol Reinhartfoundation soon after her fatal crash that day.

A quick search came up with the following BMC Software release, issued just prior to the race in Arlington, MA, on September 17, 2000:

The BMC Software Cycling Grand Prix exists within the Saturn USPRO Cycling Tour, a 17-event professional cycling series with a definitive professional points system. At stake in the BMC Software Cycling Grand Prix, in addition to Saturn USPRO Cycling Tour points, is a bonus of $250,000 to any cyclist, male or female, who wins all four BMC Software Cycling Grand Prix events. Gord Fraser (Team Mercury) and Nicole Reinhart (Team Saturn), by virtue of winning the three previous BMC Software Cycling Grand Prix events. Gord Fraser (Team Mercury) and Nicole Reinhart (Team Saturn), by virtue of winning the three previous BMC Software Grand Prix races, will be riding for this bonus in hopes of making September 17 in Arlington, MA, the most lucrative day in professional cycling history.

And this one issued earlier, in June of that year:

SAN JOSE, CA.(June 1, 2000) At the BMC Software Tour of San Jose on June 24, Gord Fraser (Team Mercury) and Nicole Reinhart (Saturn) will be looking to move a step closer to the $250,000 bonus awarded to any cyclist who wins all four BMC Software Cycling Grand Prix events.

Okay, is that one or two?

In filing his lawsuit, Fraser has asked for the opportunity to closeout the series, a request he says he’d made within weeks of the Arlingtonrace. – Charles Pelkey, News Editor

Leave, leave his Pod alone
Editors and letter-writers;
Hey, lighten up on Mr. Rogers!! (see “iRidetherefore iDeaf” in letters – June 3, 2003) He is no more deaf totraffic around him than people with monster stereos are riding in theirfour-wheelers of all sizes from Civics to Humvees.

As he said – in a situation where he feels reasonably safe, let himride as he wishes. If he gets smacked through his own error, that’s hisdecision and he can live – or die- by it. Suggesting there is only ONEway to ride and ONE motivation is the kind of elitist bullshit that impliesyou have to be a serious roadie to really love cycles and cycling. I knowthis is a “serious rider” publication – remember, though, the majorityof riders and voters are those not-so-serious types may not indeed worryabout the latest team jersey or whether they have a beer after a ride -but they keep the bike companies afloat.

Who knows, unlike the ultra-serious nose in the air (you know the sort- the ones who suffer from a cerebral/anal interface) rider who won’t evensmile or wave at a “fred” along the road, they may be the ones who actuallyare a pleasure to ride with, or stop to help when someone breaks down.

David Parish
Houston, TX



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