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The mail bag: Off-road epics and on-road passion

Editor:Yes, mountain bike racing has changed. The early 1990's were cool, no doubt, with big fields and the big show at nationals. But the big events now are the epics – 100-milers and 24-hour races. Heck, anyone who has gone to a 24-hour race in the last year could not say that the sport is dying - tons of people just off the couch, giving it a try because it sounds fun. Think about that – fun. These events cater to general participants. Tinker gets the same treatment as Joe Tennis Shoes with his skater helmet. Grass roots is alive and well. Riders in southern California will have

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Editor:
Yes, mountain bike racing has changed. The early 1990’s were cool, no doubt, with big fields and the big show at nationals. But the big events now are the epics – 100-milers and 24-hour races. Heck, anyone who has gone to a 24-hour race in the last year could not say that the sport is dying – tons of people just off the couch, giving it a try because it sounds fun. Think about that – fun.

These events cater to general participants. Tinker gets the same treatment as Joe Tennis Shoes with his skater helmet. Grass roots is alive and well. Riders in southern California will have enjoyed 11 weekends of consecutive cross-country racing, including three 24-hour races, by the time Memorial Day gets here.

So let’s give up on the TV, okay? Let’s go race our bikes, get dirty and get on the podium. Note that none of this requires semi-trucks, show money or autograph sessions. Heck, none of this requires USA Cycling – they can either figure it out quick or become completely marginalized and irrelevant.

Dave Roth
Los Angeles

Do what you love, and love what they do
Editor:
To C.B Bechtel: (see “Ride for the love, not the money”) It’s not watching “someone else do what you could be outside doing yourself” that attracts me to watch cycling on TV. It is watching people do something I love in places I will not be able to ride, and watching people who spend hours a day on a bike teach me how to ride a bike better, faster, and safer.

I have ridden in nine states and nine countries. I was lucky enough to ride in the Alps, along the Mediterranean, around some Pacific Islands. There is no place I’ve found in the U.S. to match the beauty of riding in Europe. So I really want to make riding here as close as possible to riding over there.

To do this, cycling has to be accepted as a “legitimate sport,” and major racing series need to start drawing audiences. To accomplish these tasks, we need the high-dollar riders and high-dollar Stateside sponsorship. U.S. Postal Service gets a lot of advertising dollars for their cycling dollars. Maybe they can be the model to persuade other corporations to sponsor teams and multi-day stage races in the States.

I don’t race in the States because my lifestyle does not permit the time needed. Instead I challenge myself on my rides. I find challenges that I have to work for, such as how long can I hold a speed, how hard can I go on a particular hill. So I agree. Get out and ride. But don’t discount the working professionals that make it possible for us to have shifting without removing our hands from the bars, clip in and out of the pedals without loosening the straps, and staying cool while wearing a helmet.

Professional and amateur, we’re all in it together. We need to make the biking experience something for everyone. And leave the whining and pouting to Pantani and Team Coast.

Jeff Keeton
Sacramento, CA

Passion can trump profession
Editor:
I just hung up with a close friend, the one responsible for sucking me into this cycling vortex, and his burning question for me was whether a new position at a job he’d love is more important than his once-a-year week vacation on RAGBRAI (seeing as how he could risk the position by stating a condition straight away).

He’d be leaving a job he’s not happy with (are any of us ever really happy, except you guys who write about what you love every day?) and going to a job that not only promises better opportunities, but more money as well.

The bottom line: RAGBRAI is the only chance he gets to forget everyday life and just get out and ride, all day, every day, with a bunch of great guys who have been riding together for years (you should hear the stories!). He can’t imagine a summer without it. Now that, my friends, is passion.

And to agree with C.B. Bechtel, turn off your TV, get out there and ride. And if that idea scares you, have a cold one first.

Christine Holman
St. Paul, MN

Coast should be canned from the Tour
Editor:
Though I do believe that having Jan Ullrich in the Tour would be a good thing for the sport, I wish that they would eliminate Team Coast from this year’s Tour once and for all. They are not taking care of their riders. If they keep Coast out for the year, you cannot convince me that their riders won’t be picked up. Talent is talent, and those that have it will keep on riding.

On the positive side it would open up one more spot in the Tour. Instead of having a team that is questionable, you could add some of the French teams everyone seems to want in and also reward teams like Euskatel, Domina Vacanza and Milaneza. These teams are doing what they are supposed to be doing, both on and off the road.

After all, wouldn’t that make a better Tour?

Mike Hawley
Eldridge, IA

High-dollar Ullrich can’t be helping matters
Editor:
We keep reading of Team Coast’s on-again, off-again, financial troubles, which seem to have been going on since before Jan Ullrich signed with the team. But I wonder how the salaries of Jan and his “entourage” have made a bad situation even worse.

Under the picture of Jan in today’s VeloNews.com article you write, “Ullrich must be regretting that CSC decision.” I’ll bet the other riders on Team Coast are regretting it just as much, if not more.

One guy who made out well through all this is Tyler Hamilton. He has definitely shown that he deserves to lead a team and hopefully is getting paid accordingly. There’s no denying Ullrich is a great rider, but as far as CSC is concerned, let Jan and his distractions ride someplace else.

John Robinson
Los Angeles, CA

War of the mutants
Editor:
A year or so ago, an article in The New Yorker magazine pointed out that Lance Armstrong has unusually long thigh bones and like Secretariat (the most successful racing horse of all time), a larger-than-average heart. Add those superpowers to his list

And what about Geneviève “Death Strike” Jeanson: isn’t it time for her to start playing with kids her own size? Jeanson’s continued dominance of women’s North American road racing is borderline ridiculous. What does Jeanson gain from soloing off the front, race after race?

Earlier in the year, I read that she was interested in preparing for the women’s Tour de France. Why isn’t she racing in Europe where her powers will be stretched to their limit? Better yet, why doesn’t she line up with the pro men at the upcoming Tour of Connecticut? She’s already proved that she’d tear most of their legs off, too.

Jeanson versus Tom “Cyclops” Danielson – now there’s a battle I’d pay $10 to see.

Marc Bertucco
New York, NY