Saturday, September 02, 2006

Being Alexander Vinokorouv

What a thrilling and heartbreaking mountain stage yesterday, as Mayo came into his legs at last, Sastre stayed right up there with the final breakaway, Valverde definitively called team leadership over a flat-whacked Oscar Pereiro, and a gorgeously surging/almost certain winner (I thought so, anyway) Vinokorouv visibly crumpled like wet tissue paper as he was overtaken by stage winner Valverde then swept up by the rest of the break as well only 200 m or so from the line. Holy moly, what a finish! Either way, it was dandy to see Vino both set himself apart from the stronger-so-far Kaschechkin and, even better, firmly slap the reminder into the powers-that-be exactly why he had no place whatsoever being jacked out of his rightful participation in this year's Tour. Though I'm not his biggest fan by any means, nice work Vino!

Then today, redemption on a sprint finish of all stages, as big Maggy Backstedt's perfect set-up for Liquigas was utterly blown when an overconfident Luca Paolini mistakenly thought he could hold off the bunch in an attack a whole kilometer from the line, and it was Vinokorouv of all people blasting around him and leaving Paolini and the rest of the confounded sprinter's teams quite in the dust. Wow!

Meantime, back on US soil, Dave Zabriskie handsomely smoked the rest of the field in the USPRO time trial, and he'll back on Sunday as he, Hincapie, and a pack of really very solid domestic pros take on the road championships. Had poor Hincapie, who was so cruelly (if not unfairly) denied his ENECO Tour win by Stefan Schumacher's unfortunate fan-dodging crash-inducing swerve and along with Discovery understandably went nuts, not been quite so wanky as to say he'd thrown away his second place trophy, which seemed to me to be a crappy gesture to an apologetic Schumacher and the judges who rightly placed the blame on fate and a stupid spectator and not on any malice by Schumacher, I'd be rooting for him, but as it is and in recognition that unlike Hincapie we love Zabriskie did not get to wear the maillot jaune this year, and his penchant for asking random weird questions to fellow riders in the peloton, I'm rooting for the latter in the road race as well. Go Dave!

Tomorrow--watch out! It's the nastiest stage of the Vuelta, and after 3 cat 1 climbs, 2 cat 3 climbs, and an hors category mountaintop finish, we'll see who is in the race for GC, and who is out of it. Since Iban Mayo has said he's opted himself out of the overall and instead professes to be shooting for merely a stage win, I'm hoping that with his legs clearly under him this time around and guys like Zubeldia (and basically everyone else on Euskaltel) to lend a hand in the high passes he'll make the showing he's more than capable of and prompt team management to seriously up the dough on his contract offer for next year. Come on Iban!

Ugh, More Doping: So Germany's decided to massively expand its antidoping efforts and plans to keep an extended blood profile on each of its riders from next year, which is certainly a noble calling, except they're also including the 15-and-under riders. That's great. Let's just rip the pudding cups right out of the hands of the cheating little @#!%@%$! among the training-wheel set at snack time and subject em to lab analysis right after we bring the tots in for a urine test when they get up from their post-recess naps, why don't we? And, a number of pro cyclists allegedly hit the road to Hamburg (even after Fuentes' arrest)in May and June to have blood taken coincidentally ahead of the Tour coincidentally by associates of Fuentes, but I'm sure again it was just to protect the riders' health, and it was a pack of squeaky clean Boy Scouts one and all on the slopes of the Alps, but I assume the paper trail that Fuentes seems to keep so diligently will clear all that straight up, assuming he's not been running around incorrectly identifying riders by the wrong dog name again like he's accused of doing with Ivan Basso. Can there be just one day without some ridiculous drama?

Anyway, tomorrow's Vuelta will certainly be dramatic, and like I said despite my wish for Sastre for the overall (particularly if Mayo's called it quits, and I would also be pretty happy for Valverde to take it after his nasty crash-out at the Tour), venga Iban!

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