Monday, October 16, 2006

Race Roundup

Are We There Yet?: Well, this is a week late, but anyway, it was a surprising if slow-moving 100th anniversary Paris-Tours, as a huge chunk of the peloton--including likely top finishers Erik Zabel and Tom Boonen--threw a collective tantrum after realizing that their failure to join the rest of the bunch in chasing an early break had actual consequences and whiningly bailed out en masse at the feed zone. Presumably, they were all sent packing in tears off to their team buses with their big sponsor stuffed animals for naptime after they were finished with cookies and juice. Anyhoo, the few survivors set off in halfhearted lumpen pursuit after later break obscure Frenchman FDJ's Frederic Guesdon, we love CSC's Kurt-Asle Arvesen, Cristian Moreni, Kevin Van Impe, and Enrico Gasparetto. Finally, with the break too blase to organize itself for victory, and the peloton finally hitting what appeared to be dizzying speeds of 15 mph in pursuit, Guesdon takes off, Arvesen eventually goes for the wheel, Van Impe might've but was jacked by a slow-hissing rear leak right when the race organizers had sent the support cars back on the bogus theory that the peloton was interested in taking some sort of action, Guesdon (who rightfully deserved the win for being the only guy all day to take any real initiative)and Arvesen suddenly engaged in such egregious tactical dithering that your average three year old on a Big Wheel could've taken em without even a Kool Aid sugar high, the peloton inexplicably stopped virtually dead rather'n take advantage and chase em down, and Guesdon took off again as Arvesen ill-timedly looked back to the limping non-threats in the bunch and handily, and justly, took the win, with we love both O'Grady and Hushovd first in the group. France is having quite the year at last coming out of Lance's shadow, no? Right on FDJ!

Tearjerker: And, at the Giro di Lombardia, a sobbing Paolo Bettini saluted the heavens as he crossed the line after a typically spectacular world's-reminiscent Bettini, while smacking around a promising Gerolsteiner threesome of Fabian Wegmann, Davide Rebellin, and Georg Totschnig, also blew apart the rest of his fellow breakaways (Sammy Sanchez, Danilo Di Luca, Frank Schleck and Cristian Moreni among them) on the Ghisallo, screams down a hair-raising (and arm-scraping) descent down the Civiglio where he leaves everyone but Wegmann far in the dust and viewers in a heart attack as he veers into guardrails and sheer stone drop-offs, then charges up the San Fermo, with a miserably suffering but tenacious Wegmann forced to slug it out fruitlessly with a surging Sanchez for second. Ticked as I am over the Iban Mayo contract debacle, I gotta concede that Euskaltel-Euskadi's hit the jackpot with this boy. Anyhow, no podium for Bettini nonetheless as the ProTour teams boycotted in in solidarity against the race organizers' diss of Valverde's official receipt of the ProTour trophy, which he got anyway in a later gala, but easily the most emotional race win I've ever seen, and a well-deserved end to an incredible and tragic season for Bettini. Vai Paolo!

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