Saturday, December 02, 2006

Astanishingly Stupid

Unbelievable Cycling Imbeciles: in a gross injustice, Astana--home of, let's recall, Alexander Vinokorouv, Andrei Kashechkin, Andreas Kloden, Matthias Kessler and (if they can manage to hold him at this point) Paolo freakin' Savoldelli, for God's sake--has been denied the one remaining ProTour slot they so richly deserve by UCI--who, let's also recall, still managed to leave one in the pointless dirty deathgrip of Manolo Saiz' Active Bay. Why? Well, it's the Kazakh backers' fault, of course, according to our friends at UCI, for failing to provide the financial info that left the required paperwork incomplete by the deadline. That was apparently news to a pissed-off Marc Biver, who so far as he knew had that squared away by Ernst & Young well ahead of time, and who feels they're being treated rather differently than others in the hunt--whose riders, I note, haven't been unfairly @#$%*@ out of the Tour this year by apparently blameless association with Manolo Saiz then utterly cleared in any UCI fantasy scandal while UCI's revenge jones against Saiz for *his* wrongdoing still goes unslaked. I'm sure it's just a coincidence though. Anyhow, they've got to December 7 to appeal, but I'm sure by then Unibet or Barloworld'll have a lock on it. Luckily, though, as of today Saiz's application's in hot water (begging the question over why not just make up some bull@$$% reason for getting rid of him, rather'n constantly having to search for technicalities to strip him--gotta appreciate the search for honest justification though I suppose) over his listing Astana as backers for his license, which promptly sent Biver postal, saying they cancelled the damn contract and don't think he has any place in cycling at all anyway no matter what clown excuse Saiz has for saying otherwise. So Astana may get it yet, if they can hold off say Barloworld--and no offense to them, how can't they? Vino, though, with Vuelta win in hand, remains philosophical, opining it just undercuts the supposed supremacy of the ProTour teams to have Continental teams of this caliber (not unfair, either, given the exodus of brilliant riders this year to Continental gig), and it's not like they won't get all the ProTour wildcard invites they can handle anyway. Still, free Astana!

Wah, Wah, Wah: So Bjarne Riis said recently that if Basso had agreed to DNA testing earlier, he could've stayed with CSC. Since he didn't, and Op Puerto's future was uncertain, they had no choice but to bag him instead. Hilariously, Basso's lawyer Massimo "you'll have to pry Ivan's swab out of my cold dead mummified sarcophagi'd hand and I'm still going to slap an injunction on your @#$ from my grave" Martelli replied that, well, Bjarne just never asked. Leaving aside that one might be reasonably discouraged by such an attitude from expressly requesting a sample, one must admit that if Martelli's assertion is true, he's got a point. Anyhow, cry me a river, Riis! If you hadn't been so eager to leave skid marks on Ivan as you ran him over with the team bus exiting the parking lot the second the scandal broke, you might've salvaged the relationship. And what possible reason would Basso have had to take a DNA test, anyway? Doping wasn't illegal in Spain at the time. The OP investigators indicated they won't require tests of implicated riders. Why set yourself up for problems? Sure, it's disgusting, and presents a reasonable inference of likely actual guilt. But can you really blame Basso for trying to save himself? Your conscience or your tainted rider--like Discovery, you made your choice, so quit cryin'. At least, unlike Discovery, you've still got your dignity!

Jan, Jan, Jan: The Swiss authorities, meanwhile, have announced their intentions to fry Jan Ullrich early next year, and are willing to slog through whatever Spanish bureaucratic dithering it takes to get the goods to crush him, despite Jan denying their jurisdiction in the wake of his license resignation, and presumably fishing for a friendlier, more rider-friendly license by training diligently in Italy (but they'll never treat Jan with the deference they do Basso though, poor baby). Tinkoff, meantime, blamed Jan for blowing off a possible deal with them, and announced there's basically no way he's on their roster for this year when they've already confirmed Tyler Hamilton. Not to worry Jan even further, but is there any squad this late in the year that has the kind of cash left in the bank they'd need to sign him? And, not to be outdone, German TV and the Tour of Germany have both announced that no matter what kind of legal abuse they're sure to face there's no way in hell those two dopers are gonna ride that race. I don't recall these guys complaining about Ullrich getting dirt on their white gloves every single other year Ullrich was smothered in doping allegations (since he's turned pro, essentially)--getting desperate for pre-season publicity, are we?

He's Baaaa-aaack!: Speaking of Tyler, in his first interview since becoming the king of Tinkoff, he throws his support to ex-teammate Landis 100%, saying that in his own case, staying silent was his worst mistake, particularly since it was never his or his legal team's defense that he was "chimeric" or had a "vanishing twin", as the press so constantly mis-reported. For those of us who would love to see Tyler cleared, or at least explained in a way we're not too technically stupid to understand, what the hell *was* his defense then? Unsurprisingly, I'm genuinely bewildered here. In the meantime, with contract in hand, he's hoping to get back in the Giro and to win Liege-Bastogne-Liege this year. With both Tyler and Danilo Hondo on board, and the ProTour on a shiny-clean-image rampage, I'm guessing it'll be a lively news day when he tries to!

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