A column by Mike Imrem in Chicago's Daily Herald drew a flood of responses for our readers and forceWe had a phenomenal response to the article written by the Daily Herald's Mike Imrem last week in which it was suggested that Lance Armstrong was not a top athlete. In fact, so phenomenal was the response that Mr Imrem's inbox stopped receiving mail halfway through last week as procycling readers quibbled with his assessment of Armstrong's achievements and capabilities. There are too many responses for us to post all or even most of them, but the following few represent the views so many of you expressed: Mr Imrem I cannot believe your comments in the 7/26/04 article regarding Lance Armstrong. Do you even know what kind of training it takes to become a world-class cyclist? They do not just get up one morning and decide to become a professional cyclist and enter the Tour de France or any other race. I would love to see any of your "best athletes" even attempt to ride five miles up the Pyrenees or the Alps. It would be very interesting to see how far they can get - and try 100+ miles a day for 21 days. And they are not just cruising along at 8mph. There are great athletes in all sports - Lance Armstrong is great in cycling. Williams is a great football player. Gretzky was a great hockey player. (By the way, to say he could have won the Tour in his prime just because he was so skinny, is a ridiculously uneducated statement.) However, you are very wrong to say that professionals in other sports can easily do what Armstrong did. Just as a cyclist cannot play professional football, I highly doubt that a professional football, basketball or baseball player could cross over to cycling as easily as you think. I will not bore you with the details, but professional cycling is not just getting on a bike and riding as fast and as hard as you can - there is so much more to it than that. Perhaps one day, you will be so inclined to actually learn a little more about it before you decide to mock the sport. Judy Gagnon I've played football for 14 years in US Semi-Pro and European Leagues, and I've road-biked for with Local US Pros, CAT2 and 3s. They just don't compare. No player in the NFL has the physical capabilities or endurance to survive the Tour de France. They have no idea what it means to ride 20 miles up a 10% mountain at 96 Fahrenheit, after you've already ridden 120 miles. Every day for three weeks. Neither have you. Let's face it, the Santa Monica hills I ride up in twenty minutes would take you all day. And Lance would do them in five. On the same token, I think that Lance would be able to hold up a quarter or two as a receiver. The hitting is not what it's made out to be (I've played against 300lb MLBs that came straight out of NFL camp), as long as you're smart enough to get hit right. The point is, that in cycling your physique has to be very specific while in Football there is a place for many different types of bodies. It's impossible to compare. Thomas Richter Dear Mr Imrem, I am writing to you with regards to your article on Lance Armstrong. I am sure you have received quite a response already, and I am hoping that you are still reading them. I find it quite interesting that an accomplished journalist such as yourself, would have such a closed minded and ignorant view of sports in general, let alone the career and athleticism of Mr Armstrong. Did you know that Lance Armstrong was a world class swimmer? Did you know that he was an accomplished triathlete? Did you know that the Tour de France is over 3000km long? "Put it this way: Williams could peddle a bicycle for a couple hours in the Tour de France but Armstrong couldn't survive a single hit in the NFL." Let me ask you this Mr Imrem. Could Serena Williams survive a hit in the NFL? Could Wayne Gretzky? Your comparisons of an NFL player to someone who is in a non-contact sport are absurd. I am sure you are correct that in his current state (lean and thin) Lance could not take a hit from a pro NFL'er. But Ricky Williams could likely not ride well enough in his current shape to even climb one of the mountains in the alpes of France, let alone finish anywhere but dead last. But what does that tell us? All it says is that for all pro athletes, their training is specific to their sport. You can't say that Ricky Williams could ride the Tour De France anymore than Michael Jordan could play baseball for the Chicago WhiteSox (he proved very quickly that he could not). As far as the Tour de France goes, Lance IS undeniably the greatest ever. Even without factoring in his Brain, Lung and Testicular cancer. He has still won 6 straight Tours. Only 1 other cyclist won 5 in a row EVER. Not to mention that this years victory was as large a margin as ANY of his previous wins. Robbie from Toronto, Canada Dear Mike Imrem: I have just had the pleasure of reading your attempt to compare apples and oranges (Lance Armstrong versus "real" athletes). In essence, if I may be so bold as to further this analogy just a bit further, you are submitting apples are not as good as oranges because apples bruise and don't have pulp, while oranges have thicker skins and can bump and bounce off things and keep going. While it would be impossible to disagree with the underlying statements, it does not necessarily follow therefore that oranges are the better food product. That's basically why people say "you can't compare apples and oranges". It would appear that your definition of athleticism is based solely upon hand-eye coordination or the ability to withstand certain levels of physical abuse. But, not only that, the hand-eye coordination and ability to withstand physical abuse has to fall within categories of your choosing (hitting a ball, dribbling a ball, and threading your way through a maze of very large and menacing individuals who are intent upon smashing you into the ground). Cycling is a complicated sport which requires the analytical skills of a chess player, the physical abilities of a marathoner (and then some) but also a sprinter, the tenacity of a mountain climber, and the hand-leg-eye coordination of a soccer player (if you don't believe the last of these statements, I suggest that you try to keep a bicycle upright while having a bandage replaced on your foot while moving 20 to 30 miles per hour alongside a vehicle moving at the same speed). So, is Lance Armstrong the greatest athlete ever? That question cannot and should not be answered, because most individuals familiar with cycling (you're excused from that group) won't even say that he is the greatest bicyclist ever, or even that he is the greatest bicyclist in the Tour de France, only that he has won this particular event more than anyone else. I don't think you do yourself any favors by denigrating his accomplishments and, regrettably, you do yourself a great disservice by suggesting that other accomplished athletes could win the Tour de France if only they cared to do so. That is (and I'm attempting to summon up the totality of my diplomacy here) pure idiocy. You had a valid point, of sorts, until you suggested that any highly accomplished athlete could ride a bicycle and win the Tour de France. That's where you stepped in it. The only thing that made your snafu worse was to include, as part of your discussion and comparison, the unexpected retirement of a physically gifted, but emotionally challenged, football player as a comparison. Paul A. Landry, New Iberia, Louisiana P.S. I hope your information technology person has upgraded your system recently. My instincts tell me that my e-mail is not going to be the only one you receive.