Saturday, August 26, 2006

The Heat Is On

We Love Sastre!: In the Vuelta's prologue, a short sharp tt, CSC obliterates the rest of the field after a slightly slower start to put the maillot oro on the shoulders of the inexhaustible 3-Tour starter Carlos Sastre. Right on! Meanwhile, in a second place shocker (to me anyway), Caisse d'Epargne/Illes Balears sets up Valverde and theoretical support Pereiro right after they were all the hell over the place at the beginning to take the next slot in a great finish, ahead of Milram, which, too, would be a surprise on virtually any other time trial course, and having no real GC contender they didn't need it anyway but can't help but be pleased I imagine--must've thought it was just a loooong sprint. Euskaltel, home of we love Mayo of course and also most of the other riders really worth watching in the mountains, turned in a surprisingly decent performance to keep Iban well out of the panic zone. Rabobank, whose group form leaves something to be desired, brought Menchov in at 18 seconds back, with poor Rasmussen panting like a dog in what reminded me uncomfortably of his ignominious tt tank at the Tour last year (yes, I know the course is vastly different, I'm just sayin'). Speaking of Menchov, my stomach is absolutely churning at his rather dispiriting belated maillot oro presentation the other day--apparently, either Heras' lawyers have officially called it a day, which is still painful no matter the merits of his actual case, which I rather assume are crap, or the Vuelta grew an unexpected spine and wanted to tidy up the record books ahead of whatever lawsuit Heras' people would whack 'em with for doing it anyway. Dammit!

Contract shockers: What the hell is wrong with T-Mobile--have Ullrich's unshocking problems completely ripped the sense out of their skulls in a total implosion of management ability? They jerk Andreas Kloden around (presumably over his Ullrich defending) all month after he handsomely salvages their dignity in the Tour (even leaving aside his Regio victory), Kloden understandably says he's entertaining 3 offers the other day, then he signs with Astana of all teams while T-Mobile says, hey, they offered him team leadership so it's not their fault. What? If they wanted him, why did they screw him over so long? And is Kloden truly voluntarily giving up team leadership and his so recently-reiterated desire to win the Tour in favor of playing domestique to Vinokorouv, just for the honor of working for him? Because, having personally been right there with Ullrich in the mountains while Vinokorouv personally bushwhacked his team leader right in front of him (and honestly, I think Kloden had a bit of an issue there as well), and particularly given that Saiz jacked Vino out of the Tour entirely this year, Kloden can't possibly think that Vino's going out to let him out to play for GC next year. Frankly, I'm mystified. Better start focusing on those classics, Andreas! Additionally, T-Mobile's confirmed they're letting Kessler go--another self-negating move by the squad. Who exactly are they going to hire who's going to serve them better than these boys for next year?

And in other surprising contract news, the brilliant Stefano Garzelli and 06' Giro-stage-winner Joan Horrach are both leaving ProTour teams (Liquigas, Caisse d'Epargne) for continental teams (Acqua e Sapone, Barloword), despite beyond-decent palmares for both of them. And Jose Acevedo is calling it quits on Discovery sadly to race domestically in Portugal to spend more time with his family--a noble calling, but sucks for us. What a year this is turning out to be in shake-ups!

The Nefarious World of Dope-Dealing: Germany's chief public prosecutor has announced he's going after Ullrich for fraud, just as Jan's been disastrously short-sheeted out of money to defend himself by the World's Worst Manager, who while Jan was finally accepting his firing also lost Jan his lucrative T-Mobile post-sacking severance deal by saying Jan's voluntarily not riding with T-Mobile next season--which he had to offer to do to grab the cash. I smell a lawsuit! Meanwhile, Saunier Duval (ex-Liberty's) Koldo Gil was barred from the Vuelta based on possible Operacion Puerto involvement, Super Mario Cipollini denies reports that he ever had contact with the esteemed Dr. Fuentes, and digraced doper Frank Vandenbroucke has been riding Italian amateur races with the smooth coverup of a license with a photo of none other than mildly recognizable World Champion rider/chick magnet Tom Boonen. Honey, when even Phil and Paul are going on during the Tour de France coverage about how the Belgian dreamboat makes the ladies swoon, it's perhaps time to pick a photo of some obscure continental domestique to cheat with instead. Not that he ought to cheat. I'm just sayin'.

Tomorrow, a sprint stage, a chance to see if Petacchi's really back from his poor cracked knee, and a presumptive transfer of the maillot oro. Go Thor, and either way, yay Carlos!

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