Sunday, August 13, 2006

(Almost) All About Spain

Phonak Eats Its Young: So the rumor mill's a-swirling that Andy Rihs is going to announce the official end of team Phonak, and that iShares is also bagging its pickup sponsorship in the wake of the Landis debacle. Tyler. Santi Perez. About seven other doping scandals at the team in recent years. Am I the only one who remotely thinks at all that the team may somehow, somehow be the tiniest bit responsible for its own demise? Meanwhile, late-to-the-party grump Bert Grabsch has decided to publicly lash out at Landis and vociferously express his desire to be let out of his contract extension for greener (and presumably less tainted) pastures. Man, get a couple of cracks in the pubic bones in a crash and lose a 50,000 euro Tour bonus and the gloves really start to come off, don't they?

The Follies of Euskaltel (Dos): So Iban Mayo takes the Tour of Burgos in dominant form, and has now won the Subida a Urkiola as well. Okay Euskaltel, as races go they're perhaps not as high-profile as a certain 3-week circus in France, particularly to the average once-a-year fair-weather fan (who doesn't know who Mayo is anyway, yet another reason to cut him some slack), but I think it's fair to say he's done his penance for embarrassing you in the Tour (even considering the endless caresses and tick-like tenacity of the noxious TV cameras as he cracked). Are you *still* gonna short-sheet him on his new contract? Do you really want to lose this stellar local boy to the guys in yellow over at Saunier Duval, and watch him live up to his early promise without you? Apologize, and pay up already!

Road to Spain: So Sastre, testing out his legs ahead of his official announcement Wednesday, Valverde, Mayo, and last year's second-place finisher at the Vuelta what's-his-name all went on a tear and looked extremely strong at the Clasica San Sebastian (despite not taking the win). Even without poor Comunidad Valenciana in the mix (goodbye CV! they shut down August 20th), should be a well-fought Vuelta!

Contract News: It's Oscar Friere to Rabobank for 2 more seasons (and after his smashing Tour, I hope they gave him a solid deal), and, assuming he can find out what's going on with the dizzy spells, he still plans to be in the Vuelta and ready for another run at the Worlds. Go Oscar! Meanwhile, mystery solved on why ever-helpful mountain man Triki Beltran got the shaft from Discovery at the Tour: he's signed on with Liquigas, home of wonderboy Danilo Di Luca. Or did he sign on with Liquigas because Discovery gave him the shaft at the Tour? Either way, who cares. We've missed you Triki!

I Fought the Law, and the Law Won: in apparent payback for the court-ordered judgment for 1.6 million euros in back pay they've been ordered (and have no apparent plans to) cough up, sore loser ex-team Coast is considering suing Jan Ullrich for breach of contract and buckets'o'cash on the theory he may have been doping in 2003, strictly forbidden of course in his deal. Now, I don't know what the statute of limitations is in Germany, but in my own court of public opinion, it's particularly lame to kick someone when they're already down, much less on a crap legal theory in a crankypants toddleresque pique. And in news tangentially related to Jan, apparently the latest conspiracy theory is that Noble Protector of Riders' Health Fuentes has offices all over Europe, including perhaps 3 in Germany. I imagine a fair number of non-Spaniards are flipping out a bit over the implications of their phone and travel records at this point! And if it's also true that UCI & Tour are considering suing Landis for destroying the sport and bringing the Tour into disrepute, back off, you babies! First, let's face it, no one outside of cycling freaks knew who UCI was 10 minutes ago, so for them to go after Landis smacks of a shameless publicity stunt (and a genuine desire to clean up the sport, make it safe for family audiences, and protect innocent young aspiring Lances testing out their training wheels, yap, yap, yap.) Second, as for the Tour itself--you survived Festina (hell, hardly anyone in the US making such a huge thing out of the current scandal has even heard of it), 2 world wars, and 7 years of Lance utterly humiliating French riders, you'll survive this, all right? Speaking of French riders and Festina, 7-time King of the Mountains Richard Virenque (who the French practically bronzed after his post-Festina tearful apology, so much for the sanctity of sport) is recovering from an unfortunate crash involving a line of stitches and a broken schnozz--wishing poor Virenque a speedy recovery.

Man, I don't know if I can take any more drama. Oh, sure I can!

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