Monday, August 21, 2006


So Astana, via Marc Biver,'s formed a new management company to run the show untainted, if there still is a show after the UCI and ProTour go postal over rumors that Manolo Saiz (who sold his shares in LibertyWurthAstana's Active Bay corp) is still heavily involved with the team and may have actually called a riders' meeting. Not to besmirch the Astana riders, whom I greatly admire, but even if this were true they and their handlers would have to be utterly insane to even consider such madness. And after Saiz' recklessness essentially stole Vinokorouv's likely Tour podium spot (or at worst, I strongly believe, a couple of stage wins), thereby reasonably sending intial-defender Vino on a total press rampage--in addition to dimming if not outright extinguishing (at least temporarily) the stars of a constellation of talented riders--what the hell makes him think they'd want to? Maybe, while we're at it, Rudy Pevenage and Eufemiano Fuentes could place an ad in the Velonews classifieds for rider services, and see who openly responds to that, why don't they?

In better news for Astana, and certainly for the displaced nonriders at Phonak, Astana's also acquired a good half-dozen Phonak team mechanics and masseuses. Unfortunately, though, only five or so of Phonak's actual riders have found new homes, including Steve Zampieri and recent whiner Bert Grabsch, but not Axel Merckx. Not Axel? Managers blame the glut of riders over open slots; I simply mourn without regard to cause. Someone give Axel a job and a decent contract, for goodness' sakes!

General Hospital: So sprint god Alessandro Petacchi's still on the mend and bravely aiming for the Vuelta despite a slow road back to form, and the inimitable Oscar Freire was the other day still beset by dizzy spells and probably out of and now decidedly in for the Vuelta. Geez, if he's not injured from a crash, he's sick. If he's not sick, he's smoking the field in virtually every race he rides. Can one imagine what this 3x world champ could do if he *weren't* constantly on the fritz?

Race News: Tyler Hamilton again took about the only race outside of a schoolyard trike challenge he's still allowed to race, the Mount Washington climb (again edgining unbreakable legend Ned Overend), just in time to enjoy the press leak of his alleged 2003 doping records from Dr. Eufemiano "the Typewriter" Fuentes; now there's a prize for you! But in better news, I see ever-thrilling-to-watch Paolo Bettini is on the Vuelta roster for Quick Step, and I'm hoping that with the choppy rolling terrain of even the purported sprints, he'll surge ahead of the flats specialists to handily take a stage or two. Vai Paolo! Meanwhile, teammate Tom Boonen's on a major tear at Eneco (which Bobby Julich unfortunately conked out of, but Hincapie is leading in after a beautiful tt win), which bodes well for the Worlds and will hopefully shut up the naysayers who were so wanky to the poor race-king-man-candy over the Tour. And can T-Mobile finally get over whatever's irking them about Andreas Kloden and come up with the dough he deserves for next season after his smashing Tour (again) and his just-win at Rothaus Regio? He's acted like a pro and busted himself to the team's glory, so pay up already!

Finally, Gerolsteiner's shaping up nicely with contract extensions with Beat and Markus Zberg, the very fine Fabian Wegmann, and Giro ultimate-stage winner-canny-tactician Robert Forster. Which begs the question, where's Georg Totschnig, and if not with Gerolsteiner, who are you grooming for grand tour GC contention with Leipheimer out of your hair and over to Discovery?

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