Sunday, September 24, 2006


Che stupendo, Paolo! After scaring the hell out of me by starting his attacks seemingly too early many and fast in the last lap to go, it's apparently simply a case of brilliantly strong overeager legs as Bettini jumps ahead at 500 meters to go with Zabel Valverde and Sammy Sanchez, Valverde hops too soon, neverending class act Zabel goes for the wheel but Bettini punches forward and takes it with time to raise his arms at the line--fantastic! A huge bacio for the camera, a leg-wrapping pounce on his big soigneur, a great hug for his wife, a quick sit-down for his interview with the near-hysterical Italian commentator--which is swiftly cut off by you suck WCSN which can't be bothered to stick around for interview, the podium presentation, or even confirmation of the final standings, presumably in favor of world championship shuffleboard or similar nonsense. Right on Paolo!

And though it wasn't a pure sprinters' finish, with guys like Paolini Cancellara Vino and Boogerd smacking around the field with a few km to go, most of em (not Hushovd--dammit!) made it up there nonetheless, so major congratulations not only to the amazing Erik Zabel of course but also to big Tom Boonen, who had to haul his unfortuante carcass up the same sharp stretches of climb 26 times and still managed to come in comfortably in the top 10--a noble if failed defense on a course that reasonably could have seen him much farther back. Hooray for Stewie O'Grady as well (and to be fair for once, some admiration for McEwen too), as the former's versatility has really made him an asset and a surprise this year in some unexpected places.

Well, I can't imagine what else Bettini could have wanted out of this season--from classics to Grand Tours to mountains to rolling terrain to a pure sprint in the Vuelta to this, he's really been not only astonishing, but incredibly consistent from the start of the season to the finish. Vai Paolo!

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