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Thursday’s mail bag: All Cipo’, all the time

Editor:Last year I went to France to follow the Tour. I was well aware of the history of Mario Cipollini in the Tour, good and bad - but my feeling was that the Tour de France went beyond what was reasonable and into the realm of personal vendetta when spots for additional teams opened up after the 2002 Giro and Cipollini's team was not selected. I enjoyed my trip to the Tour immensely, but in every sprint, I knew that the best was not there, though Cipollini had done what the Tour had demanded, reinventing himself with breakaway wins, courageously traversing mountains, a grand-tour finish

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Editor:
Last year I went to France to follow the Tour. I was well aware of the history of Mario Cipollini in the Tour, good and bad – but my feeling was that the Tour de France went beyond what was reasonable and into the realm of personal vendetta when spots for additional teams opened up after the 2002 Giro and Cipollini’s team was not selected.

I enjoyed my trip to the Tour immensely, but in every sprint, I knew that the best was not there, though Cipollini had done what the Tour had demanded, reinventing himself with breakaway wins, courageously traversing mountains, a grand-tour finish and the winning of every sprint finish in last year’s Giro.

The Tour de France has a long tradition of protest, and the riders of the Tour need to right this wrong. They need to demand Cipollini’s inclusion. Lance Armstrong has the stature to speak out — and so should every living past winner of the Tour.

I had looked forward to returning to France, a country that I love, to watch this year’s Tour, which promises to be much less predictable. I am heartsick about the attitude of so many Americans toward the French over the Iraq situation and detest our ignorant boycotts, but with the organizers’ decision to snub Cipollini in the Centennial Tour, I have decided to exercise my own boycott. I will not go to the Tour de France in 2003 or perhaps ever again.

Long live the Giro! Thank you, Mario Cipollini! And to the Tour de France organizers, it is not too late to do the right thing.

John L. Smith
Bloomington, IN

Snubbing Cipo’ is a PR gaffe beyond belief
Editor:
While recognizing the right of the Tour organizers to invite whom they like, the Tour de France is not a little local stage race for French teams – it’s the world’s biggest and most well-known event, recognized internationally by cyclists and non-cyclists alike.

So, who is likely to get the most publicity for the Tour and cycle racing – a bunch of no-hopers from a second-rate French team, or the current world champion, one of the few riders capable of enlivening the dull flat stages with his sprinting prowess?

Cipollini is always an entertaining rider and a consummate professional who gets stacks of press coverage, win or lose. This is noticed by potential sponsors and shows that cycling is a worthy publicity vehicle. Pro cycling without sponsors is an impossibility, and the Tour organizers should remember this when they choose the teams. Let’s face it, nobody would miss Jean Delatour, but the bunch sprints will be much less exciting without Cipo’ and his lead-out train. Leaving Cipo’ out of the Tour must rate as the PR gaffe of the year.

Tony Taylor
London, England

Speaking of PR . . .
Editor:
Let me get this straight. Mario is the reigning world champion; just won two stages of the Giro in as many days; is the biggest media draw in the sport next to Lance (this is only my opinion); and his team has such cool uniforms that even non-cyclists might watch the Tour. And now his team is excluded from the most prestigious bike race?

That’s like Wimbledon excluding Andre Agassi, or the Masters deciding that Tiger Woods can’t compete because he’s not the type of player that they want in the tournament.

I’d like to land the public-relations contract that France is going to need after this year. I’d be a rich man. Corbett Mortensen
Omaha, NE

Cipo’ brought it on himself
Editor:
Sorry, Mario, no tears from me. Sure, you are a great sprinter, but the most overblown part of each Tour is the first week of sprint finishes.

Injuries aside, if you don’t finish the Tour, then you should be stripped of your stage wins. I don’t buy including a lousy French team because it is French, but I also don’t buy including a team because of one guy who may win a few stages and doesn’t even attempt to finish the Tour.

If Mario had won stages and gone for the green jersey in the past, then include him. Since he hasn’t, au revoir with no regrets!

Bob Lufburrow
Davis, CA

Cipo’ in the mountains? Now that’s exciting
Editor:
Watching to see if Mario Cipollini can survive the mountains and win his promised Champs-Elysee stage might be even more interesting that watching to see if Lance Armstrong can win his fifth yellow jersey. The Tour de France organizers are throwing away an opportunity to create a legendary race, and we’re all losing out because of it. Where can we send our petitions?

Arlo Leach
Chicago, IL

And he’s not a doper, either
Editor:
In a typically French decision, a mediocre French team is invited and the greatness of Mario Cipollino is disregarded.

It is incomprehensible that Mario Cipollino will not be in this year’s Tour. He is the world champion. He is the greatest sprinter of our time. What should also be remembered is that with all the drug scandals and embarassments that have surrounded the Tour and cycling in general, Cipollini has never been accused or suspected.

Ed Shendell
Bayside, NY

Cipo’s exclusion a joke
Editor:
I can’t believe the world champion isn’t riding the Tour. This is a personal issue, because SuperMario has been snubbed for several years now.Some like Mario, some don’t. But one thing we can agree upon – he’s a strong sprinter, and his exclusion from the Tour is a disservice to the other sprinters and the fans around the world. What a joke.

Travis Johnson
Tampa, FL

Who’s better for sport, Cipo’ or Ullrich?
Editor:
What’s this silliness about giving the Team Toast slot to some “new” team (Bianchi, Al’s Car Wash, whatever)? I can’t imagine Jan “Poor Me, I’m Depressed So I Have to Take X and Run Over Stuff While I’m Driving Drunk” Ullrich being a better ambassador for cycling than the rainbow jersey.

Dave Hixson
Longmont, CO

Wanna-be’s make for a dull Tour
Editor:
The 2003 Tour has been severely diminished by Leblanc’s idiocy. Lance will likely dominate, and Cipo’ gets screwed again. What’s the point in watching a bunch of second-rate wanna-be’s getting their arses kicked by Lance? Cipo’ would have been one of the few bright spots in what will otherwise be a dull Tour. If only we could have a Tour de France without the French.… B. Kirby
Meriden, CT

Milaneza-MSS deserves a slot more than Delatour
Editor:
The French are only concerned about themselves. Jean Delatour was invited just because they are French. In that case, why not Big Mat or Oktos? If Leblanc says an invitation should be based on results, then Milaneza-MSS should be the one at the Tour, if not Domina. We would then see much more attacking in the mountains.

Also, Coast should not be there for all their fiascos, never mind Ullrich. I don’t even think he can challenge Armstrong.

L.H. Koh
Singapore

“LeBlank” has disgraced Le Tour
Editor:
History will remember Mario Cipollini and J-M LeBlank correctly – one for breaking Alfredo Binda’s great record and providing the cycling world with some of its most exciting moments, and the other for disgracing the world’s greatest race on its 100th anniversary by excluding the world champion from the peloton. I’m sure Jean Delatour will give us hours of entertainment this tour.

Brian Hargis
Bakersfield, CA

Mario provides both show and competition
Editor:
Mr. Leblanc said that the Tour De France is not a show, it is a competition. Last I checked, a guy kicking the world’s best asses is a show and a competition.

I think there should be should be an open letter from VeloNews, Specialized and OLN deploring the snubbing of Cipo’. Steve Wagner
Snoqualmie, WA French should not control our greatest race
Editor:
I think it’s time to come up with a race to replace the Tour as the race to race. If an international field is ready to race at their best for a “Super Bowl Race,” then the race should be internationally run. France shouldn’t have this control. To hell with history! Look who’s at the top of their game!

Paul Demers
Montreal, Québec, Canada

Cipo’s team is getting screwed, too
Editor:Mario Cipollini isn’t the only guy getting screwed by the Tour organizers’ ludicrous decision. His lead-out team, (Lombardi, Sciera, Ongarato, et. al), are the best in the world at what they do, and deserve the chance to show off their abilities at the world’s greatest bike race (although it won’t take many more bone-headed moves like this for the Tour to lose that status).

Rob Roeder
Austin, TX

Mario makes first week fun, but he’s a quitter
Editor:
As much as I hate to defend the French, there are good reasons for Mario to not be there. Congrats to SuperMario for winning the last two stages of the Giro, but all the news before that was poor. Also, I can’t fight too hard for a guy who’s going to quit when the race goes into the mountains. I know you’re a sprinter, but freakin’ suck it up and get over the mountain. Robbie McEwen and Erik Zabel do, you can too.

But with all of that said, it would have been more exciting with Mario there. I can’t imagine following the first week too closely now.

Ed Feng
Stanford, CA

We need a great American stage race
Editor:
Jean-Marie Leblanc must be out of his mind. Team Coast is in the Tour if it can get its act together as Team Bianchi, but Mario and the zebras are out?

Maybe the Tour should become a race of young and upcoming teams and let the real champions fight it out in Italy and Spain. Or better yet, let’s start an American stage race that includes the best cyclists and rewards teams who race hard and win – even if they aren’t American.

Tim Swift
Mill Hall, PA

Picking Cipo’ and team would be questionable
Editor:
None of the letters to the editor seem to recognize that individuals are not selected to ride the Tour de France – teams are. With that in mind, what is the caliber of Cipo’s team? Is it a team of 14 riders who will quit when the Tour hits the mountains, like their team captain has done every time his team was selected? Loss of the team leader commonly kills the motivation of teams built around supporting them. If so, it would be questionable at best to fill one of the team slots with 14 non-competitive riders in the hope that one of them, could achieve in his twilight years what he was unable to do in his manly noon – seriously contest the finish on the Champs-Elysees.

And since some in their nationalistic froth seem to confuse the French government’s foreign policy with the Societé du Tour de France – the French turned out to be right about the lack of justification for invading Iraq.

Michael Jamison
Reno, NV

Mountain stages, oui; sprints, no
Editor:
I’ll watch every day of the Giro and Vuelta, but just the mountain stages of the Tour de Farce. What sprints?

Mike O’Leary
Adelanto, CA

Vive le autobus!
Editor:
I guess by populating Le Grande Boucle with a bunch of D2 French teams, Monsieur Leblanc is once again stacking this year’s Tour against Lance and USPS. I am sure Johan and Lance are shaking in their Nikes just thinking about what Jean Delatour, Brioches la Boulangere, and AG2R have up their sleeves. I can’t wait to see Patrice Halgand, Sylvain Chavanel and Christophe Agnolutto duking it out with Benoit Joachim in the autobus. David Tsai
Charlotte, NC

Cipo’s attitude did him in
Editor:
People of the cycling world, get over yourselves. Every year, everyone wants to pretend to be shocked and outraged that French teams were chosen over massively more qualified foreign teams. Pro cycling is not the egalitarian dream world that you imagine it to be. There’s a reason they’re called “wild cards.” They’re not selected on qualifications alone, if at all. It’s obviously not right or fair, but will you give it up?

The French are a proud people and not necessarily without reason. The Tour is a pretty big deal and the odds of the French allowing the Tour to go on with only nominal French representation are between zero and a negative number. Combine this with Cipo’s cavalier attitude and it’s no big surprise that he was left out.

What do I mean by cavalier attitude? Not finishing the Tour in previous years because he didn’t think he could get any more wins in the mountains and he didn’t see any honor in just finishing the race (which there is). Not contesting a field sprint for any position other than the win (this is just downright rude to all the good riders out there who would give anything just for a top-10 on a stage). And being a such a baby and pretending to retire because he wasn’t selected last year. He may be in his 30s, but he could take a few lessons on character from riders half his age.

Cipo’ – and Cipo’ fans of the world – grow up.

Geoff Rapoport
San Diego, CA

French flounder as Leblanc fiddles
Editor:
What a joke Leblanc has made of the Tour. It’s really sad. May the French teams flounder in mediocrity. Wait, they already do.

Tim McDonald
Richmond, VA

A new kind of “dope” test needed
Editor:
I strongly urge the UCI extend drug testing to include the Tour organizers, principally Monsieur Leblanc. He must be on dope to be such a dope.

Fred Crane
California

No finish, no start
Editor:
When was the last time our “world champ” made it to Paris when he was in the Tour? I think it would be super to have him there, but I would also like to see him at the finish.

Dan Davis
Bend, OR

Cipo’ hadn’t earned his start
Editor:
Yes, Cipo’ is world champion. However, apart from some good sprints in Murcia (and one in Tirreno where he celebrated too early), he had not won much this year before the Tour selection.

Jean Delatour is a marginal team, but recent wins boosted their stock. Meanwhile, AG2R and Brioches have been riding hard all season and winning regularly, even if the wins have come in small stage races and French Cup events.

It is a shame that we won’t see Cipo’ going head to head with McEwen and Zabel in one last Tour go-round . However, the spot was by no means something to which he was entitled, regardless of his title. He is a great showman, and a great cyclist, but he is also not a man who established, before the selection date, that he and his non-Top Club team had earned a Tour spot during 2003 races.

Robert Kendrick
Rock Hill, SC

Who cares if Mario’s in the Tour?
Editor:
Mario Cipollini out of the Tour? Who cares? He rarely finished the race anyway, and as we’re seeing in the Giro there are plenty more exciting sprinters out there.

As for all the mindless French bashers, maybe you should organize an alternative to the Tour De France, the Tour de Freedom Fries. I bet Lance would show up for that!

John Spriggs
Oakland, CA

Where’s the injustice?
Editor:
Let the whining begin. If Mario had once challenged for the Tour’s green jersey, if he had once committed to finishing the race and not just winning a few stages, or if his team had hired even one all-rounder who could be a player over the three-week Tour, then maybe he was done an injustice. But that’s not the way it is. Steve Elliott
Angels Camp, CA

It was Milaneza-MSS that got hosed
Editor:
Why do we have rankings and points for teams? Looking at the rankings you can see that the team that really got the short end of the stick is Milaneza-MSS. While they are ranked seventh and have had a tremendous year so far, both Cipo’s team and Jean Delatour sit towards the bottom at 23rd and 26th, respectively.

I understand how everyone wants to see Cipo’ in the Tour. He is awesome. But in this Tour he may only be awesome for a few days. The Milaneza team would be a serious team with serious riders capable of finishing the Tour and winning stages. They are the true losers in this debacle, along with us.

Mike Hawley
Eldridge, Iowa

No, it was Phonak that got robbed
Editor:
Cipollini is a quitter and a whiner, and Jean-Marie Leblanc made the absolute correct choice not inviting him. Where Leblanc screwed up was inviting Jean Delatour. They in no way deserve to be there. Lampre has a doped-up cheater as their main man so they don’t belong. Milanezza definitely belongs but they didn’t turn in the paperwork for this year. So that leaves Phonak as the team that got ripped off. They are the ones who should be complaining, not Cipollini.

Joe Coyer
Boulder, CO

Does Tour invite trackies just ‘cause they’re champs?
Editor:
It seems strange not to invite the world champion to the Tour, but let’s get real. Does anyone doubt that the Tour is the greatest bike race on the planet? Shouldn’t we give the race organizers just a little credit for knowing what they are doing?

I believe Cipo has been invited to the Tour six times, and what does he do? He poaches a few stage wins at the beginning and then quits. To me, that shows disrespect for the Tour.

We don’t expect world champions of track racing to be invited to the Tour, do we? Cipo’ is a great sprinter. He is not a great Tour racer.

Marc E. Hawley
Mt. Vernon, IN

Cipo’s a one-dimensional racer
Editor:
I am amazed at most people’s indignant responses to the exclusion of Cipo’ from the Tour. The guy has never even finished a single Tour de France! He is a one-dimensional rider who can’t hack three weeks of grueling riding.

At least Zabel, McEwen and the rest usually have the guts to finish the race. All Cipo’ wants to do is grab a couple of stages in the first week and then go off to judge a beauty contest or something. I will not miss him one bit in the Tour.

Keith Larson
Cottage Grove, OR

No respect, no race
Editor:
I think it’s horrible that Cipo’ won’t be in the Tour, but in fairness he really has brought it on himself. He’s never shown any respect for the Tour with his showboating and early exits. I remember one of the all-time great sprinters, Sean Kelly, crying along the road when he was forced to leave the Tour in 1987 – totally different attitude.

Rob Clendening
Indianapolis, IN