Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Three Is a Magic Number

And, with Sergio Paulinho's exciting win on a rolling stage, Astana makes it 3 on top of Vinokorouv's prior two-fer. Take that, UCI! Unfortunately for Astana of course, young Paulinho is headed to Discovery next year, but considering he was initially implicated in Operacion Puerto (free Joseba!) I think Sergio's giving them a fine farewell. The stage finished in dramatic fashion as an excellent breakaway of stage contenders (Mayo, Ventoso, Karpets, etc) began trading alternating attacks and wait-and-see slowdowns, and I was utterly crushed when Iban Mayo, who clearly had legs yesterday, took off but was immediately glommed on to by fine-sprinter Ventoso, obliging Mayo to call it a day as he lost out in all the politicking, and leaving it to Paulinho to eventually pounce and leave the rest of the gruppetto several seconds back. Venga Iban--reward my faith already! Meanwhile, ever-equable Sastre finally snapped after CSC, which didn't even have the maillot oro to protect, was forced to chase down the break because of vague GC threat Karpets, and slapped Iles-Balears for wanting to win the Vuelta without ever doing any actual work. Valverde, of course, whacked back, saying if CSC didn't have a GC threat up in the break unlike his team then it was their own damn fault they had to work. Fair enough, but because I'm personally not under any obligation to be whether the merits demand it or not, I'll still arbitrarily take Sastre's side on this one. We love Sastre! Today, Discovery continued its top-20 takeover as Egoi Martinez took the stage alone with time to spare to zip up his jersey for the sponsors.

The Old Cog and Chain: Congratulations to newlywed Jan Ullrich, who sure as hell needs some good news, and a big "you stink!" to the German sporting authorities for their wedding-gift demand that Ullrich immediately submit to a DNA test. Might we not be sporting enough to let the boy eat his wedding cake (and whatever else he wants to celebrate with) before we break out the handcuffs? Meanwhile, Ivan Basso's most competent lawyer shut the door on that one with a nice clean "as long as I'm defending him, Basso will never have a DNA test", and that he'd better be treated along with the usual protocols instead, unless of course they want every pro rider to submit to the same, which I admire from a purely tactical standpoint, but which does leave me wondering why the waffly Riis isn't taking a stand on that and suspending rather than "he's just not riding" him, particularly since Riis was so recently crying about how Basso's making him look bad. In other news, Italy's antidoping head Di Rocco is punching back at McQuaid's accusations of dirty Italian Basso-backing by reasonably pointing out that he's been begging UCI to investigate actual team management as a possible source of the doping problem (heavens no!), but sponsor-coddler Basso-bigot McQuaid has refused to do so. I love infighting. Finally in the nefarious world of drugs, Great Britain world's team manager has conceded that appointing St. Millar to the team "is not the greatest message", but of course he really, really feels very bad (*cough* about getting caught *cough*) after all.

Aw, Heck!: We love Oscar Freire, thwapped out before the Vuelta due to yet another entry in his annals of odd medical troubles, is looking out of the Worlds now, still whacked from his endless dizzy spells and his resultant lack of training and race time. Rats, can't anyone worth watching this season catch a break? Certainly not poor Denis Menchov, who finally bailed out of the Vuelta with stomach problems, or perhaps just an overall mental and physical crack under the weight of his sadly-won 2005...title. There, I finally said it, even if I still can't stand it. Free Heras!

Phonak Phallout: phinally, I note that the very fine Nicolas Jalabert has found a new home at Agritubel, and Aurelien Clerk is headed to Bouyges Telekom. Which is all very nice I'm sure (though I hate seeing any of these guys going to continental teams, no offense), but which begs the question, where in the world is Axel Merckx?

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