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Wednesday’s mailbag: Bon voyage, Tugboat; Merckx vs. Virenque; methadone; pronunciation; Yanks vs. French; and course design

The Mail Bag is a Monday-Wednesday-Friday feature on VeloNews.com, but will appear daily during the Tour. If you have a comment, an opinion or observation regarding anything you have seen in cycling, in VeloNews magazine or on VeloNews.com, write to WebLetters@InsideInc.com. Please include your full name and home town. Letters may be edited for length and clarity.Bon voyage, TugboatEditor:I heard the very sad news this morning that Tyler Hamilton's dog Tugboat would be put to sleep. I think everyone who has lost a beloved pet knows exactly how bad Tyler must be feeling right now. This is no

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The Mail Bag is a Monday-Wednesday-Friday feature on VeloNews.com, but will appear daily during the Tour. If you have a comment, an opinion or observation regarding anything you have seen in cycling, in VeloNews magazine or on VeloNews.com, write to WebLetters@InsideInc.com. Please include your full name and home town. Letters may be edited for length and clarity.


Bon voyage, Tugboat
Editor:
I heard the very sad news this morning that Tyler Hamilton’s dog Tugboat would be put to sleep. I think everyone who has lost a beloved pet knows exactly how bad Tyler must be feeling right now. This is no ordinary dog, either. This dog has traveled with Tyler to many of his races and even joins Tyler on his training rides (from the team car). Let’s all take a moment today to think about Tugs.

Bret Martin
South San Francisco, California

Win one for the Tugger, Tyler
Editor:
Being a greater fan of dogs then I am of most humans, it was with much sadness that I read that Tyler Hamilton lost his biggest fan on Wednesday. Here’s hoping that Tyler can take the pain he is feeling right now and pass it on to Lance, Jan and the other pretenders for the jersey.

Steve Alexander
Kingston, Ontario, Canada

What was Axel thinking?
Editor:
It’s unfortunate and quite dishonorable that Richard Virenque reneged on his deal with Axel Merckx on stage 10. However, I have only one question for Merckx:

Did you really think that a Frenchman would broker a deal that would have him finish second on Bastille Day? Especially on a parcours that suits Virenque and not you?

Axel is a victim of his own naivete.

Barrie Mollitor
Hartford, Connecticut

Why would a cyclist use methadone?
Editor:
Does anyone else find it odd that someone would get kicked out of a race for methadone use? The stuff is for heroin addicts and does not have any benefits (that I know of) to a cyclist. Makes no sense. Advil would be more performance-enhancing than methadone.

Matt Hastings
Tulsa, Oklahoma

Yeah, Matt, that one had us scratching our heads, too. As we understand it, methadone is a synthetic opiate first synthesized by German scientists during World War II because of a shortage of the painkiller morphine. Originally developed for use as an analgesic, methadone is mainly used today as a substitute for heroin in an attempt to relieve some of the problems associated with heroin addiction. – Editor

What’s in a name? Part II
Editor:
In response to Dennis Bird’s plea to correctly pronounce Jose Azevedo’s name, I have this to say. Our good friend Phil Liggett has been calling bike races for, what, 30 years? Never once has he looked at a pronunciation guide. He had at least two ways of pronouncing Indurain, neither of which was comprehensible to any Spaniard. I heard him say Bernard Hinault at least four unique ways. The first time I heard him call Claude Criquielion’s name in a race, I wondered just who the hell Chong Kachillion was.

Sherwin’s also British (look up the phrase “Hobson-Jobson” to find out just why that’s an excuse, or at least a historical precedent, for not even trying to pronounce things correctly). Trautwig’s horrible, and Bob Roll is, well, Bob Roll.

As for Liggett, he reminds me of someone your widowed aunt might marry late in life. Not the most charming or charismatic guy ever, but pleasant and nice, if excitable, and very likely accident-prone. Pronouncing names poorly is just who he is. Baseball had Harry Caray, who couldn’t sing a note to save his life, but belted out “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” for half a century. Caray had his song, Liggett’s got his mispronunciations. Does it matter, Joe-say vs. Ho-say? I say yes. But c’mon, it’s Uncle Phil.

Daniel Smith
Cincinnati, Ohio

For those of you too busy to Google it up, Daniel refers to “Hobson-Jobson: A Glossary of Colloquial Anglo-Indian Words and Phrases, and of Kindred Terms, Etymological, Historical, Geographical and Discursive,” by Sir Henry Yule and A.C. Burnell. You can find an online version here.

What’s in a name? Part III
Editor:
When it comes to names, nothing drives me ’round the bend like Thor Hushovd. Can somebody please tell the blessed announcers that it’s pronounced “hoose-HOV-ed,” not “hush-OVd?” (Gesundheit.)

Cite your source: Norwegian Finance Ministry staff … I’ve not talked to The Man, yet …

Dan Benson
Croydon, United Kingdom

Can’t the media get it right?
Editor:
I recently heard two separate media outlets claim that Ullrich finished second to Armstrong five times. The first was our freshman cycling announcer Al Trautwig, during the closing portion of (I believe) stage 8; the other was an AP press release from the same stage (wonder who was listening to whom).

Could someone tell these doofs that there was cycling before Lance, and Ullrich was a runner up then, too, first to Riis in ’96, then Pantani in ’98? I’ve only been following cycling for three years, but jeez! Can these professional journalists get a simple but very important fact right? What surprises me is that Al did the “Lance 5 Times Won” special for OLN where he covered the absence of Jan in ‘99 and ‘02. Does he even listen to himself or just read the cards? Thanks for the rant space.

Thomas A. Zanarini
Waterford, Connecticut

We try not to throw too many stones from our glass house, Thomas. Just today we misspelled “gruppetto.” – Editor

French teams and Yanks’ successes
Editor:
You make some weak arguments regarding the successes of Americans on French teams (see “Tuesday’s mailbag: “Horner’s a friendly guy, and a great racer”).

Yes, Julich came in third in the ’98 tour, but only 96 riders made it to Paris that year. If I recall, Festina, iBanesto, and ONCE, accounting for a large chunk of the race’s GC threats, all left the race in 1998. And Julich’s next three years of racing? All of them spent riding for French teams. The gaping hole in his palmares during that period is a pretty good indicator of how valuable he was to the team management.

And you really ought not to mention La Vie Claire. You know as well as I do that LeMond should have won the Tour in ’85, but was held up for four minutes by team directors (who refused to tell LeMond how far back Hinault was) so the Badger could win his fifth Tour. Then, the following year Hinault, apparently with the blessing of the management, tried to ride away with the race, failing only because he overestimated his own strength and ran out of gas on the climb to Superbagneres.

When LeMond returned to cycling in ’89, he had to sign with the Belgian ADR outfit (not with Team Z) because no French team would risk the money on him. Yet even with almost half his teammates bailing before Paris, he was still strong enough to win the Tour. Only then were the French teams interested in him again.

And Andy Hampsten. Please. Hinault probably put him on his team for the same reason he put LeMond there: to avoid having to worry about losing to him. Was Andy ever the leader of La Vie Claire? As I recall, his crowning achievement was winning the 1988 Giro. And he did that riding with Team 7-Eleven, a name that does not sound very French at all.

I agree that American cyclists have been successful on French teams, but I will never give credence to your implication that it was those French teams that brought them their success.

Cosmo Catalano
Williamstown, Massachusetts

In our response to that letter, Cosmo, we said (and we quote): “We can think of a couple of Americans who had a pretty fair ride with a French squad…” And we listed them, albeit while failing to note that LeMond was the best young rider at the 1984 Tour while riding for Renault. Frankly, this whole Yanks-vs.-Frogs blather is giving us a headache, the same way wire-service race reports that list a rider’s nationality, but not his trade team, do. The Tour last used a national-team format in 1968. Let’s all move on. – Editor

Following bike racing requires a little knowledge
Editor:
Thanks to Mr. Wright’s letter “Stupid, paranoid, anti-French . . .”; I was able to read, with eye rolling wonderment, Junior’s letter “Tour organizers trying to engineer Lance’s failure?” I would agree with Mr. Wright, with one exception. I support VeloNews in avoiding name-calling and politically-influenced comments.

Please allow me: Junior’s flag-waving, French-hating stance seems to be popular in Texas over the past few years. I can only speculate that Mr. Ramos may have only recently discovered cycling as a professional sport in recent years, as have many Americans. I could only assume that Junior’s next step is to create some false documents and start to invade the Tour organizers’ offices and start some type of reform.

Perhaps the Tour organizers are simply trying to get a full year’s racing in this event; since this is the only event that Lance enters with the goal of winning. The problem here is that most Americans do not understand the world of professional cycling. The season is long, there are many events, and there are many levels and strategies to the sport. The Tour is tough, it has always been tough. If it is too tough for you stay home, drink beer and watch NASCAR. They crash too.

Frank Daugherty
Gahanna, Ohio

They all use the same course, and best man wins
Editor:I am tired of reading that the course was designed to make it difficult for Lance to win his sixth Tour. Although the course has common threads each year, there are differences each year. The change in the TTT rules hurt Lance this year; but it would have been a lot worse if there was no TTT, as was the case in 1997, 1998 and 1999 (Lance’s first victory).

Unless age catches up with him, Lance will be the dominant player in the mountains , not Heras or Mayo. Heras and Mayo may have good stages, but Lance has the physical and mental capabilities to be strong on the back to back stages in the Pyrénées and the three days in a row in the Alps. I was fortunate enough to see Lance on the climbs in the Pyrénées in 2001 and the visions are still in my mind like it was last week.

The course changes, but the best rider wins. Hopefully, Lance and the USPS team.

Jeff Watson
Scottsdale, Arizona


The Mail Bag is a Monday-Wednesday-Friday feature on VeloNews.com, but will appear daily during the Tour. If you have a comment, an opinion or observation regarding anything you have seen in cycling, in VeloNews magazine or on VeloNews.com, write to WebLetters@InsideInc.com. Please include your full name and home town. Letters may be edited for length and clarity.