Monday, October 02, 2006

Wide World of Wrongdoing

The Ick Factor, Due: poor Jan Ullrich, already in the doldrums I suspect with the recent loss of some high-paying sponsors, now figures in the most gack-inducing rumors since the Hamilton pregnancy-hormone allegations, namely the hottest new masking product on the market: a detergent enzyme, amusingly enough a stain remover, that brings one's EPO level down to zero, a tip-off as some ought to be naturally occurring, with more than 10 over-clean samples so far at the Swiss antidoping federation checks alone. The unappealingness: apparently, you dip your fingers in the powder, manhandle the works and the issuance therefrom, and voila! clean as a whistle (the sample, that is.) Aw, yick! Jan, have you *no* dignity?

Meantime, in yet another career-tanking screwup from the circus clowns at UCI, Phonak's Santi Botero has been cleared of any wrongdoing by Colombian cycling authorities for his Operacion Puerto links, interestingly enough after admitting contact with the fine Dr. Fuentes but only, of course, for his health. Where this leaves Botero in the wake of Phonak's collapse, current sponsor paranoia and the recent devolution of equal talents to continental teams is anyone's guess, though I imagine T-Mobile's most unlikely. And, in bigger fish, the Italian federation says it needs more time, one presumes to either clear Basso entirely, bolster themselves against the inevitable road rage from bogeyman UCI, or to get a jump on the monster litigation which is sure to follow either way against any poor SOB the CAS allows him to sue. Basso's attorney has also said he's not currently under investigation in Spain. I must say, much as I hate to see lawyerly skill triumph over actual justice, and the circumstantial evidence against Basso sure doesn't look optimal, I am developing quite a collegial soft spot for Basso's most excellent attorney, if not his actual client--lessons some other scandal-infested riders' hired guns might do well, if not do good, to emulate. Perhaps it's really more my visceral disgust with UCI's voracious incompetence than any professional admiration kicking in, given my own relentless legal-martyr impulses, but either way, allez Basso's counsel!

Anyhow, segueing to race news, the Basso decision, assuming it's "do nothing," will likely kick-start dormant chats between Ivan and CSC king Bjarne Riis on his future, though I imagine someone out there is willing to risk the taint to put a proven Giro-winner back on the podium in glaring sponsor garb. And race organizers are dearly hoping that Basso will be racing in the upcoming non-UCI two-man tt at Trofeo Citta di Borgomeanero, which already has the formidable matchups of Bettini/Tosatto, Cancellara/Basso or Peron, Tour marvel Sergeui Gonchar/Eddy Mazzoleni, Luca Paolini/Stefano Zanini plus Vuelta challenger Danilo DiLuca signed on, despite UCI's likely, and predictable, rabid foaming over suspending any of the scandal-free pros who might participate with the filth-clad Basso. Give it a rest, UCI, and try to focus on actually catching someone, already!

In other race news, Euskaltel up-and-comer/indispensable World's launcher/Vuelta stage winner and top ten finisher Sammy Sanchez took his first classics win in a rainy Zuri Metzgete in an uphill charge over #2 Stewie O'Grady #3 Davide Rebellin new world tt champ Cancellara and a bummed out Michael Boogerd. That oughta be money in the bank for (the amply deserving) Sanchez, particularly with Euskaltel hell-bent on cheapskating poor Iban Mayo! Speaking of whom, Saunier Duval's denying the latest reports that they've signed an unhappy Mayo, who is reportedly looking to recreate his Lance-challenging dream year at a new team, though he's still apparently got til Oct 11 to accept Euskaltel's dope-slap of a deal. Well, with Sanchez and 2-year re-signer Haimar Zubeldia on a tear, and we love Iban in a seemingly permanent semi-funk, can you really blame Euskaltel? Why yes, not being bound by journalistic objectivity, we sure can! I note though, that if being nestled in with the climbing gods in orange isn't enough to make Iban live up to his potential, perhaps an internship with peerless Italian mountaineer Gilberto Simoni would do the trick. We still believe, Iban! And, speaking of Spaniards we like, Valverde's now got the ProTour jersey comfortably in hand ahead of his run to the Giro di Lombardia, with Sanchez vaulting into 2nd over Cadel and, with the spat with the Grand Tour organizers out of the way, I think the boy deserves a podium, a party, and photo op with the babes at last. Cough it up already!

While we're on contracts, disgraced and demoted alleged dope fiend Danilo Hondo's off to a new Italian continental team; CSC's extended with Inigo Cuesta, Gustov, and Ljungvist; and several young Comunidad Valenciana refugees (no word on the oldsters) may have a new home with a reformed team under a new group of Spanish sponsors; and, despite a rumored deal with ProTour hopeful Unibet, Phonak's Lelangue is looking for a new gig. Hmmm. Doping disasters...Tour de France win. Doping disasters...Tour de France win. I'm sure someone'll take the chance!

Bionic Men: poor Floyd Landis' hip resurfacing went well, and with luck (and a team, and a smacked-down UCI in his post-New Year's hearing), he'll be back in time to race and on form next year. And, about the only guy today who hasn't been busted in a doping scandal, amazing Credit Agricole youngster/new US inspirational figure Saul Raisin is back schlepping up the cols already with the sole limit that, due to ongoing brain injury issues, he can't race for fear of crashing for another 12-18 months. Venga Saul!

Interbike Me: last but not least, my on-the-ground intrepid reporter at Interbike tried out some sweet road rides in the desert, passed a bread basket to and had a chat with phenomenal voice of cycling we love Sir Phil Liggett (quite politely declined the former, was most amiable in the latter), met Dauphine king Levi, Vuelta/Tour standout Thor and esteemed talent Fast Freddy, gained nutritional wisdom from George Hincapie and Jason McCartney, saw a natty Greg LeMond, a rather more casual but always lovable Bob Roll, and a suavely unbuttoned Mario "the Chest" Cipollini on a panel, met the artist of the very fine "mike the bike" (no promotional connection here I swear, though I'm open to offers), brought back buckets of "Clean Sport" and "Dopers Suck" gear for the pure of heart and bod everywhere(my enthusiasm for which is only slight selfishly diluted by the lurid entertainment value of the pleasingly slutty ongoing scandals); and tossed back countless cold ones with the only mildly debauched cycling industry, all to the betterment of this beautiful sport I'm sure. How does one scam a way into this thing, exactly?

No comments: