Thursday, August 24, 2006

Pain in the Peloton

Fandemonium: in a truly sucky (though sadly fair) win for Gerolsteiner's fine Stefan Schumacher, imminent Eneco tour winner/unfortunate Tour de France near-tanker/beloved big George Hincapie tragically had his win literally knocked out from under him when Schumacher, unexpectedly dodging a flailing idiot spectator, slammed right into Hincapie's line (and Hincapie) and sent the latter crashing to the ground while Schumacher managed to stay upright and place neatly in the sprint, leave poor George unbroken but jacked, via calculation of time bonuses, out of the overall win, which to add insult to injury went to inadvertent culprit Schumacher. Schumacher felt bad (as bad as you feel for a multistage race win); Discovery protested and was overruled; Hincapie was completely sc^%^d. Thor Hushovd. Sandy Casar. Paolo Savoldelli. Now Hincapie. Not the quash the enthusiasm of the fans--particularly speaking as one who would've gladly shoved a digital camera up Gilberto Simoni's nose in the Dolomites if it would've gotten me a good shot at the Giro--but can't anyone control these morons at the line? Perhaps an additional barrier 1 foot in front of the ones we're made to stand behind, just to keep the riders from getting whacked? I can't fault the judges, as I can't imagine that Shumacher was acting out of tactical aggression over sheer split-second primal threat avoidance. But poor Hincapie!

He's In, He's Out, He's In, He's...yep, out again of the Vuelta, this time perhaps even for certain, as poor Freire's dizzy spells keep on kickin' in. Rats! While perhaps not a traditional glass-flats power sprinter like Boonen or Petacchi, on a more rolling finish in particular hardly anyone else can take him, and when on form he's beautiful to watch. Please don't miss the Worlds, Oscar! And thank goodness for his bank account he re-upped with Rabobank presumably before this situation fully kicked in. Speaking of contracts, earlier reports that homeless Phonak rider Bert Grabsch had found a place to park his bike proved inaccurate, and he's still hoping for a contract with fellow German homeboys T-Mobile or Gerolsteiner. Perhaps if T-Mobile inexplicably keeps jerking poor Andreas Kloden around, there'll be an opening whether they like it or not?

And if Friere's sense of vertigo hadn't already kicked in, the first few stages of the Vuelta sure as hell wouldn't've helped: it's flat, it's mountains, it's flat again, it's..I imagine the pure sprinters will have a tough time not completely bonking in the sharp transitional days, and I'm strongly hoping Petacchi's wobbly knee will hold up. If not, perhaps he'll let Erik Zabel out to play? Meantime, I assume it's between Discovery for its perfect synchronicity and CSC for its pure power for the prologue tt. Not to diss Discovery, which really could use a boost after the Eneco fiasco, and not to blow off Bjarne Riis' untimely whining, but we love Carlos Sastre, so go CSC!

Still thinking of the Vuelta (as usual), is it kicking anyone else in the nuts to read Astana's formal start list, talent-packed though it is? Free Joseba to ride or charge him, UCI, you witchhunting skanks! Without regard to Beloki's actual culpability, am I the only one reminded of the old witch trials where you were thrown in a pond and if you floated and lived, you were guilty, and if you sank like a stone and drowned, you were innocent?

Fer Cryin' Out Loud: German TV stations announced their new contracts allow them to ditch sports coverage if a doping scandal erupts. I admire the 1st goal--clean sporting--if I'm neutral on the 2nd--calming down flipped-out paying sponsors (if that's how TV works in Europe). But let's be honest--I won't speak to other sports, about which I know squat--why don't you just freakin' drop cycling coverage preemptively, now? Another disreputable doctor will trip up. Another Festina or Liberty Seguros will occur. Another rogue domestique or fading GC hopeful will choke trying to amp up his prospects. Knowing this, are we going to cave like babies at the first sign of trouble, or are we going to face the realities of the sport head-on without fear, enjoy its beauty when we can, and try to vanquish its demons when they do appear? Don't pander to the pocketbook, TV channels--show the races!

Finally, apropos of nothing, is it starting to make anyone else nervous when someone improves exponentially in the individual time trial in the off-season? Heras. Basso. I don't have anyone else in mind at the moment. I'm just sayin'.

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