Thursday, September 21, 2006

All the News That's Unfit to Print

La Vuelta, El Fin: While Alejandro Valverde was certainly gentlemanly in defeat, Iles Balears was ticked that the infighting between the UCI and the Vuelta organizers precluded him from getting publicly awarded the ProTour leader's jersey, on which he has such a fine stranglehold--no jersey, no photo op, no kisses from the babes. Speaking of which, after 2 years of catfighting, Grand Tour organizers officially want out of the ProTour, or at least want more leeway to slip in continental teams--I'd say given Relax/Gam's valiant if futile breakaways, and Comunidad Valenciana's ignominious tank, give em a break already. Meantime, back to the Vuelta, Oscar Pereiro wasn't selected for the Spanish world's team due to his middling Vuelta form, though I assume he was trying to get around that with his part in the seven-odd man break in the runup to Madrid before a mechanical apparently took him out entirely after the lot of them got swallowed up. Man, there's no mercy in cycling--didn't he do okay in some other race fairly recently? Floyd Landis, maintaining his innocence and for once having the sense to keep it brief, was in Madrid as well, hitting the nightclubs and saying goodbye to his pals at Phonak, who I imagine may have had a few fond words to say about the utter destruction of their livelihoods on his behalf, given that at least a few of them wasted no time in b(*&^-slapping him to the press before the ink had dried on his dope-sample label.

Naturalmente, Las Drogas: While we're on that (and when aren't we, like it or not?) WADA okays high-altitude tents for now, even if it really, really thinks they're sneaky; the cops have disavowed earlier reports that they took a DNA sample from Jan Ullrich, given that he sensibly wasn't around to be swabbed; defending world champ pinup Tom Boonen is considering legal action agaist a Belgian senator for saying 3 top Belgian cyclists (no names) received doping in Italy in February, and despite the surfeit of stellar Belgian bikers his name might reasonably come to mind; CSC, still unaccountably if perhaps gingerly clinging to the mudslung Ivan "e cute, no?" Basso, is instituting new doping controls, though they seem to be the least of the pack to need 'em; Basso has his day in front of the Italian Olympic Committee on the 29th; and the endlessly scrappy Manolo "Briefcase" Saiz is now whining that a director of Spain's Superior Council of Sports sent unvalidated docs to Spanish cycling without a judge's OK--not that the docs aren't accurate, but that they're unvalidated. Weasel! That, though, doesn't seem to have impressed the UCI ProTour council, which finally booted Saiz and replaced him with a manager from Credit Agricole. Does it seem excruciatingly lame to anyone else that this seems to be the most effective action UCI--and I don't count their constant self-makeout in the press--has taken in this whole affair?

Goldmember: Over at emasculated ex-powerhouse T-Mobile, incoming general manager Bob Stapleton says T-Mobile will be an "international team of character" that will no longer concentrate on the Tour. Sweet! Why waste energy, after all? I'm sure that losing their constant stage wins and perpetual podium slots in the highest-profile race in the world was a carefully calibrated move to impress the sponsors, improve morale, and raise their stature anyway.

Contract Season: Finally, Quick Step DS Lefevre says recent stage stunner Filippo Pozzato's likely off the team after Quick Step already blew the bank on Boonen Bettini Steegmans and Van Petegem, certainly worthy choices all including youngster Steegmans, but leaving the poor DS (and even poorer Pozzato) without enough bucks left to meet Pozzato's (not presumptively unreasonable, given his season results) demands. Still and all, there's reportedly interest from Liquigas, T-Mobile (don't do it, Filippo!) and Astana, so sounds like he'll land on his pedals just fine. Speaking of Astana, Rene Haselbacher's headed over after a stint at Gerolsteiner; and, in "where in the world is Iban Mayo" news, Haimar Zubeldia, who does damn well deserve it, signed a 2 year contract extension with Euskaltel Euskadi. Come on Iban! And speaking of Gerolsteiner, which sure as hell has more sense than T-Mobile, relative jailbait Giro-due-stage-winner maglia rosa-wearer Stefan Schumacher is back with the German waterworks til 2009. Nice job Gerolsteiner!

Next Up: a slightly belated Worlds Preview. Vai Paolo!

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