Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Shakespeare in Love

Catfight!: Having left T-Mobile for Astana on the dubious premise of eagerly playing second banana/superdomestique to Alexander Vinokorouv at the Grand Tours, upon which report T-Mobile snarked that they offered Andreas Kloden team leadership but he couldn't take it, the highly talented Kloden and swiftly-imploding T-Mobile squad have now descended into full-scale b!@#$-slapping, trading accusations of management incompetence vs. Kloden & Kessler's selfishness in the mountains as the reasons why Kloden, and hence T-Mobile, lost the Tour.

Enjoyable as this all is to watch, you suck, T-Mobile! Having systematically allowed your team to eat its own in the last couple of Tours, then this year seemingly deliberately jacked over about 80% of your Grand Tour GC and stage win contenders with cheapskate contract dithering then shoving them out the door (okay, he's no spring chicken, but ditching Serguei Honchar-Gonchar? He just handed you two incredible Tour stages, you nits! And letting Kessler go to Astana, which is starting to shape up as the next, well, T-Mobile?) without so much as a "thanks for saving our dignity after the Ullrich-Pevenage fiasco" and thereby preemptively decimating your chances for next year, and making endless wanky comments undercutting your own boys, you're going to ditch the blame on a multi-Tour-podium finisher for your problems?! Physician, heal thyself!

And speaking of poor Ullrich, Jan's cannily corrected his nimrod manager's apparent reports that he told T-Mobile to blow, and in fact the parting was a severance-package-friendly mutual affair. I'm sure the check's in the mail!

Legal Strategy 102: So clearly, students, Ivan Basso's lawyer's got it right, when upon Basso's thorough grilling by Italian authorities the legal rep kept it to a simple "the documents are insufficient and the evidence is indirect", then shut the hell up for posterity to let Ivan briefly say he's done nothing wrong and to thank the fans. Right on Ivan, give that guy a raise! Floyd Landis--watch and learn. Nope--stop right there! don't say anythig!--just *watch* and *learn.*

Can I Get a Witness: In other doping news, the very fine Perdiguero is calling quits on his career after being nipped to death about doping; UCI and Dick Pound are bloodying each other over the issue of the best time of day to test the riders--like anything they're doing is gonna work, as they've only managed to come up with positive tests on about 2 guys this year (though I'm sure the rest of the peloton is genuinely perfectly clean); and Pat McQuaid continues to go on about how Ullrich and now Hamilton are certainly going to fry once the secret news is out, and watch out everybody else too 'cause the Guardia Civil's soon-to-be-released docs are going to let the UCI sic their Dobermans on everbody else's filthy cheating corpses. Gee, we couldn't get a nicer bunch of guys guarding the riders' virtue!

Meantime, I note that ex Olympian/world champ/misogynist perv Gary Neiwand has pleaded guilty to stalking after an admirable prior record of similar offenses. Frankly, I think the sport's got enough problems without this Cro-Magnon crap going on, don't you?

Can It *Get* Any Better?

Bettini's already taken a stage, Sastre's won the maillot oro, Thor Hushovd's still in gold (after some controversy over whether Maggy Backstedt actually rightly took him in a sprint in which case presumably with time bonuses it might've gone to Maggy instead--they should at least fix that for the record books if true, since they can't undo who wore it the other day), Stewie O'Grady who suffered so valiantly with a cracked vertebra in the Tour is placing well in the sprints, and best of all, with poor Petacchi still on the mend, the Milram boys were sent to lead out ageless workhorse we love Erik Zabel yesterday who handsomely took the stage. I don't know when he's going out, but if it's soon and certainly I hope it's not, I'm delighted it's with at least one brand-spankin'-new Grand Tour stage under him. Hooray Zabel!

Meanwhile, the Relax boys are presumably delighting their sponsor with camera-friendly endless solo breaks, and Euskaltel sent one of theirs out in the flats yesterday in a continuation of their surprising new strategy--I'm hoping that not only does it eventually succeed, but that it doesn't draw their focus off their gorgeous prowess in the mountains. Which, finally, start today with a hell of a bang up la Covatilla. Now let's let the mountain goats out to play, and let the real action begin!

And, in pleasing news about the Americans, usually fairly quiet in the Vuelta, I note that the versatile Chris Horner is doing a fine lead out for his boy in the flats, and as he can also power up the mountains quite nicely and still manage to shake up the field on the Champs-Elysees in the Tour, I imagine he'll be of similar help the whole way and I hope get a chance to make a run for it himself. Fast Freddy Rodriguez is riding well also and is looking forward to supporting Horner at the Worlds. What is it about American riders in particular that they seem to peak so beautifully as they get older?

Sunday, August 27, 2006

La Vuelta, Baby! And How Do I Not Love UCI, Dos

Woo-hoo for new maillot d'oro we love Thor Hushovd, who took second in today's bunch sprint over Robbie "We're Still Annoyed With You For Head-Butting O'Grady Last Year" McEwen as Paolo Bettini of all people snapped off McEwen's wheel for the surprise win. Not bad considering it was a pure sprinter's finish, and I think he's much more suited to the rolling terrain at this year's Worlds which he is supposedly here to prepare for anyway. Vai Paolo! Still, Hushovd takes gold after a slugfest with Maggy Backstedt over the intermediate sprint points, so between 'em both, I'm damned happy. Poor Petacchi though is still recovering unfortunately from his busted kneecap and did in fact let Zabel out to play, but the latter finished only an uncharacteristic 10th. Next sprint, Erik! Sastre unluckily punctured but luckily within 3k of the line, so he's counted in with the bunch and 7 seconds down with most of the rest of CSC. Go Sastre!

UCI Yapfest: Pat "Guilty Til Proven Innocent" McQuaid has generously pointed out that Ullrich's facing a lifetime ban; a new name has popped up in the Operacion Puerto report but he won't say who; and he's going to commission an "in-depth" audit to figure out what makes an individual rider (apparently, "a team" is not a category--wouldn't want to make the management all itchy I suppose) dope. I'm glad we're not paying tax dollars to finance this crap. Speaking of Ullrich (and when is anyone not?), Dr. Franke is glorifying himself yet again over an affidvait Ullrich supposed swore to saying he doesn't know Fuentes and ergo never paid Fuentes 35k euro for doping products. (A racer? Lying about doping? Can you believe it? Thank goodness Dr. Franke is here to deflower us all on that point!) Isn't that precisely the sort of comment that Jan's injunction against Franke was supposed to quash? Get on the stick and collect his monster fine, legal team! (Heck, after Ullrich's manager threw away Jan's severance package the other day, the poor boy could probably use it.) Meanwhile, does anyone else think it's a wee bit incongruous that Ullrich's been removed from the ProTour rankings, presumably because he's no longer employed by a ProTour team, while Basso, who similarly has never tested positive, is still on them? Not to condone doping of course (though I'm not in love with the skanky preemptive career assassination by the various leak-happy authorities, either)--it just seems a bit unfair.

Tomorrow, the Vuelta's longest stage, and a rolling finish--rather Bettini-ish one would think except for today's neat trick, no?

Saturday, August 26, 2006

The Heat Is On

We Love Sastre!: In the Vuelta's prologue, a short sharp tt, CSC obliterates the rest of the field after a slightly slower start to put the maillot oro on the shoulders of the inexhaustible 3-Tour starter Carlos Sastre. Right on! Meanwhile, in a second place shocker (to me anyway), Caisse d'Epargne/Illes Balears sets up Valverde and theoretical support Pereiro right after they were all the hell over the place at the beginning to take the next slot in a great finish, ahead of Milram, which, too, would be a surprise on virtually any other time trial course, and having no real GC contender they didn't need it anyway but can't help but be pleased I imagine--must've thought it was just a loooong sprint. Euskaltel, home of we love Mayo of course and also most of the other riders really worth watching in the mountains, turned in a surprisingly decent performance to keep Iban well out of the panic zone. Rabobank, whose group form leaves something to be desired, brought Menchov in at 18 seconds back, with poor Rasmussen panting like a dog in what reminded me uncomfortably of his ignominious tt tank at the Tour last year (yes, I know the course is vastly different, I'm just sayin'). Speaking of Menchov, my stomach is absolutely churning at his rather dispiriting belated maillot oro presentation the other day--apparently, either Heras' lawyers have officially called it a day, which is still painful no matter the merits of his actual case, which I rather assume are crap, or the Vuelta grew an unexpected spine and wanted to tidy up the record books ahead of whatever lawsuit Heras' people would whack 'em with for doing it anyway. Dammit!

Contract shockers: What the hell is wrong with T-Mobile--have Ullrich's unshocking problems completely ripped the sense out of their skulls in a total implosion of management ability? They jerk Andreas Kloden around (presumably over his Ullrich defending) all month after he handsomely salvages their dignity in the Tour (even leaving aside his Regio victory), Kloden understandably says he's entertaining 3 offers the other day, then he signs with Astana of all teams while T-Mobile says, hey, they offered him team leadership so it's not their fault. What? If they wanted him, why did they screw him over so long? And is Kloden truly voluntarily giving up team leadership and his so recently-reiterated desire to win the Tour in favor of playing domestique to Vinokorouv, just for the honor of working for him? Because, having personally been right there with Ullrich in the mountains while Vinokorouv personally bushwhacked his team leader right in front of him (and honestly, I think Kloden had a bit of an issue there as well), and particularly given that Saiz jacked Vino out of the Tour entirely this year, Kloden can't possibly think that Vino's going out to let him out to play for GC next year. Frankly, I'm mystified. Better start focusing on those classics, Andreas! Additionally, T-Mobile's confirmed they're letting Kessler go--another self-negating move by the squad. Who exactly are they going to hire who's going to serve them better than these boys for next year?

And in other surprising contract news, the brilliant Stefano Garzelli and 06' Giro-stage-winner Joan Horrach are both leaving ProTour teams (Liquigas, Caisse d'Epargne) for continental teams (Acqua e Sapone, Barloword), despite beyond-decent palmares for both of them. And Jose Acevedo is calling it quits on Discovery sadly to race domestically in Portugal to spend more time with his family--a noble calling, but sucks for us. What a year this is turning out to be in shake-ups!

The Nefarious World of Dope-Dealing: Germany's chief public prosecutor has announced he's going after Ullrich for fraud, just as Jan's been disastrously short-sheeted out of money to defend himself by the World's Worst Manager, who while Jan was finally accepting his firing also lost Jan his lucrative T-Mobile post-sacking severance deal by saying Jan's voluntarily not riding with T-Mobile next season--which he had to offer to do to grab the cash. I smell a lawsuit! Meanwhile, Saunier Duval (ex-Liberty's) Koldo Gil was barred from the Vuelta based on possible Operacion Puerto involvement, Super Mario Cipollini denies reports that he ever had contact with the esteemed Dr. Fuentes, and digraced doper Frank Vandenbroucke has been riding Italian amateur races with the smooth coverup of a license with a photo of none other than mildly recognizable World Champion rider/chick magnet Tom Boonen. Honey, when even Phil and Paul are going on during the Tour de France coverage about how the Belgian dreamboat makes the ladies swoon, it's perhaps time to pick a photo of some obscure continental domestique to cheat with instead. Not that he ought to cheat. I'm just sayin'.

Tomorrow, a sprint stage, a chance to see if Petacchi's really back from his poor cracked knee, and a presumptive transfer of the maillot oro. Go Thor, and either way, yay Carlos!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Pain in the Peloton

Fandemonium: in a truly sucky (though sadly fair) win for Gerolsteiner's fine Stefan Schumacher, imminent Eneco tour winner/unfortunate Tour de France near-tanker/beloved big George Hincapie tragically had his win literally knocked out from under him when Schumacher, unexpectedly dodging a flailing idiot spectator, slammed right into Hincapie's line (and Hincapie) and sent the latter crashing to the ground while Schumacher managed to stay upright and place neatly in the sprint, leave poor George unbroken but jacked, via calculation of time bonuses, out of the overall win, which to add insult to injury went to inadvertent culprit Schumacher. Schumacher felt bad (as bad as you feel for a multistage race win); Discovery protested and was overruled; Hincapie was completely sc^%^d. Thor Hushovd. Sandy Casar. Paolo Savoldelli. Now Hincapie. Not the quash the enthusiasm of the fans--particularly speaking as one who would've gladly shoved a digital camera up Gilberto Simoni's nose in the Dolomites if it would've gotten me a good shot at the Giro--but can't anyone control these morons at the line? Perhaps an additional barrier 1 foot in front of the ones we're made to stand behind, just to keep the riders from getting whacked? I can't fault the judges, as I can't imagine that Shumacher was acting out of tactical aggression over sheer split-second primal threat avoidance. But poor Hincapie!

He's In, He's Out, He's In, He's...yep, out again of the Vuelta, this time perhaps even for certain, as poor Freire's dizzy spells keep on kickin' in. Rats! While perhaps not a traditional glass-flats power sprinter like Boonen or Petacchi, on a more rolling finish in particular hardly anyone else can take him, and when on form he's beautiful to watch. Please don't miss the Worlds, Oscar! And thank goodness for his bank account he re-upped with Rabobank presumably before this situation fully kicked in. Speaking of contracts, earlier reports that homeless Phonak rider Bert Grabsch had found a place to park his bike proved inaccurate, and he's still hoping for a contract with fellow German homeboys T-Mobile or Gerolsteiner. Perhaps if T-Mobile inexplicably keeps jerking poor Andreas Kloden around, there'll be an opening whether they like it or not?

And if Friere's sense of vertigo hadn't already kicked in, the first few stages of the Vuelta sure as hell wouldn't've helped: it's flat, it's mountains, it's flat again, it's..I imagine the pure sprinters will have a tough time not completely bonking in the sharp transitional days, and I'm strongly hoping Petacchi's wobbly knee will hold up. If not, perhaps he'll let Erik Zabel out to play? Meantime, I assume it's between Discovery for its perfect synchronicity and CSC for its pure power for the prologue tt. Not to diss Discovery, which really could use a boost after the Eneco fiasco, and not to blow off Bjarne Riis' untimely whining, but we love Carlos Sastre, so go CSC!

Still thinking of the Vuelta (as usual), is it kicking anyone else in the nuts to read Astana's formal start list, talent-packed though it is? Free Joseba to ride or charge him, UCI, you witchhunting skanks! Without regard to Beloki's actual culpability, am I the only one reminded of the old witch trials where you were thrown in a pond and if you floated and lived, you were guilty, and if you sank like a stone and drowned, you were innocent?

Fer Cryin' Out Loud: German TV stations announced their new contracts allow them to ditch sports coverage if a doping scandal erupts. I admire the 1st goal--clean sporting--if I'm neutral on the 2nd--calming down flipped-out paying sponsors (if that's how TV works in Europe). But let's be honest--I won't speak to other sports, about which I know squat--why don't you just freakin' drop cycling coverage preemptively, now? Another disreputable doctor will trip up. Another Festina or Liberty Seguros will occur. Another rogue domestique or fading GC hopeful will choke trying to amp up his prospects. Knowing this, are we going to cave like babies at the first sign of trouble, or are we going to face the realities of the sport head-on without fear, enjoy its beauty when we can, and try to vanquish its demons when they do appear? Don't pander to the pocketbook, TV channels--show the races!

Finally, apropos of nothing, is it starting to make anyone else nervous when someone improves exponentially in the individual time trial in the off-season? Heras. Basso. I don't have anyone else in mind at the moment. I'm just sayin'.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Ick Factor

So more revelations about Tyler Hamilton's alleged doping practices are out, and they ain't pretty. In 2003, he's alleged to have used EPO and steroids--comparatively speaking, no biggie--but also to have covered up their use with a healthy dose of a pregnancy hormone. Now this, to me, seems highly suspect, if only because frankly most guys can't hear the word 'tampon' whispered across a crowded room without keeling over on the floor in actual clinical shock. So the idea that a gentleman would actually voluntary ingest anything to with women's reproductive systems strikes me as implausible to say the least, and I'd be surprised if even the lure of the maillot jaune or glory at Romandie came halfway close to being enough of a prize to overcome it.

In other doping news, I see Bjarne Riis is starting to sell Basso down the river, like that takes any guts, and is, of course, complaining that his image (Riis', not Basso's) has been ruined. First, CSC got off far more lightly than most teams implicated in the scandal; no-one seems to be claiming that any problems are systemic, which would absolve Riis anyway; and CSC has absolutely wailed in the Tour and pretty much every race since without any apparent snarkiness or doping-mutterings from anyone, so what the hell exactly is served by this? Just take your (extremely fine, incidentally--Sastre, Cancellara, Stewie O'Grady, Inigo Cuesta--sweet!) team to the Vuelta, let the boys put the focus on Sastre where it belongs, and see if you can double-podium your perfect climber in the grand tours this year already! And in a half-@#$ed vote of confidence, UCI's Pat McQuaid has confirmed that Astana's still in the Vuelta--for now--and that there's not much point to knocking Phonak out either, particularly since they're already dead in the water and the remaining riders have to make a decent showing to pimp themselves for a livable price to the other teams anyway. Boy, that's a pleasant motivator!

The Perils of Leadership: So Oscar Pereiro, whom we love, is generously pegging Alejandro Valverde as the likely winner of this year's Vuelta, but did sort of mention that the circumstances on the road will shake out the team leadership question and anyway that they're sharing it. Now, I don't know if this is all okay by the team--or Valverde--but I'd just like to point to the cautionary example of T-Mobile in a recent prior Tour or two as what can happen to a supposed leader when other strong teammates get restless. Not to cast a cloud on the very hardworking and as I said beloved Pereiro. I'm just sayin'.

Monday, August 21, 2006


So Astana, via Marc Biver,'s formed a new management company to run the show untainted, if there still is a show after the UCI and ProTour go postal over rumors that Manolo Saiz (who sold his shares in LibertyWurthAstana's Active Bay corp) is still heavily involved with the team and may have actually called a riders' meeting. Not to besmirch the Astana riders, whom I greatly admire, but even if this were true they and their handlers would have to be utterly insane to even consider such madness. And after Saiz' recklessness essentially stole Vinokorouv's likely Tour podium spot (or at worst, I strongly believe, a couple of stage wins), thereby reasonably sending intial-defender Vino on a total press rampage--in addition to dimming if not outright extinguishing (at least temporarily) the stars of a constellation of talented riders--what the hell makes him think they'd want to? Maybe, while we're at it, Rudy Pevenage and Eufemiano Fuentes could place an ad in the Velonews classifieds for rider services, and see who openly responds to that, why don't they?

In better news for Astana, and certainly for the displaced nonriders at Phonak, Astana's also acquired a good half-dozen Phonak team mechanics and masseuses. Unfortunately, though, only five or so of Phonak's actual riders have found new homes, including Steve Zampieri and recent whiner Bert Grabsch, but not Axel Merckx. Not Axel? Managers blame the glut of riders over open slots; I simply mourn without regard to cause. Someone give Axel a job and a decent contract, for goodness' sakes!

General Hospital: So sprint god Alessandro Petacchi's still on the mend and bravely aiming for the Vuelta despite a slow road back to form, and the inimitable Oscar Freire was the other day still beset by dizzy spells and probably out of and now decidedly in for the Vuelta. Geez, if he's not injured from a crash, he's sick. If he's not sick, he's smoking the field in virtually every race he rides. Can one imagine what this 3x world champ could do if he *weren't* constantly on the fritz?

Race News: Tyler Hamilton again took about the only race outside of a schoolyard trike challenge he's still allowed to race, the Mount Washington climb (again edgining unbreakable legend Ned Overend), just in time to enjoy the press leak of his alleged 2003 doping records from Dr. Eufemiano "the Typewriter" Fuentes; now there's a prize for you! But in better news, I see ever-thrilling-to-watch Paolo Bettini is on the Vuelta roster for Quick Step, and I'm hoping that with the choppy rolling terrain of even the purported sprints, he'll surge ahead of the flats specialists to handily take a stage or two. Vai Paolo! Meanwhile, teammate Tom Boonen's on a major tear at Eneco (which Bobby Julich unfortunately conked out of, but Hincapie is leading in after a beautiful tt win), which bodes well for the Worlds and will hopefully shut up the naysayers who were so wanky to the poor race-king-man-candy over the Tour. And can T-Mobile finally get over whatever's irking them about Andreas Kloden and come up with the dough he deserves for next season after his smashing Tour (again) and his just-win at Rothaus Regio? He's acted like a pro and busted himself to the team's glory, so pay up already!

Finally, Gerolsteiner's shaping up nicely with contract extensions with Beat and Markus Zberg, the very fine Fabian Wegmann, and Giro ultimate-stage winner-canny-tactician Robert Forster. Which begs the question, where's Georg Totschnig, and if not with Gerolsteiner, who are you grooming for grand tour GC contention with Leipheimer out of your hair and over to Discovery?

Saturday, August 19, 2006

How Do I Not Love UCI? Let Me Count...

So the UCI president reassures us that there have been no systemic problems at Phonak, and it's all a case of approximately eight hundred individual riders acting totally independently from the voraciously anti-doping team management for approximately the last eight hundred years of team sponsorship. If that's the case, and we can't pull a Liberty Seguros on them and wholehandedly obliterate the careers of everyone involved neatly at once whether they deserve it or not, might they at least be nailed for blind stupidity? I'm also ticked because the second UCI & co.'re done speed-mumbling their lawyer-mandated script of "he's innocent til proven guilty", they immediately start to rip Landis for all the damage he personally, and he alone, has done to the sport the last few weeks. Ya think the 24/7 leaks--without even the courtesy of a preexisting phone call to the parties involved--constant ego-driven yodeling by the antidoping agencies the labs and the cycling federations, and ridiculous protestations of shock might've contributed, just the tiniest bit, to the perception that the sport, the doctors, the sponsors, the management, the riders, and everyone else right down to the soigneurs are a bunch of money-grubbing game-playing long-term-health-disregarding integrity-impaired justice-hating dope-snarfing crack hos?

And speaking of doping, the Swiss cycling federation's saying that Jan's case is moving along and he's not going to like what he sees (it's gonna get worse than what's already been reported? aren't we actually statistically running out of drugs to accuse him of taking here?), and the Germans are busy raiding doctors' offices ahead of a likely expansion of an investigation that may give the Spanish teams a moment to breathe easier but conversely send the Germans into collective hyperventilation. Meanwhile, can the UCI please either spit out what they've got on the remaining Astana 3--Davis, Nozal and of course Beloki--or clear them to race already before they hit retirement age (not so far off for Beloki at least)? If they're not okay, why is Allan Davis complaining that he's still being completely kept in the dark? I understand that Spain's criminal evidentiary standards may be quite different from UCI's civil ones, but if you're convinced they're too dirty to race, why not prove it to at least the riders and their reps before you smear them by omission to the rest of us?

And not speaking of doping, I almost forgot a belated if fond farewell to the most excellent Erik Dekker on his retirement, who didn't get his heart back in the game for the rest of his last season after his ugly crash in the Tour, but to the benefit of all cycling I'm sure is heading straight into team management. Thanks for so many lively races Erik! Meanwhile, Belgian dreamboat Tom Boonen, who alas is not riding the Vuelta but did in my opinion get unjustly hammered by the press in the Tour for someone who wore the maillot jaune for 4 days after all, is decimating the field in the ENECO race, and it is beyond lovely to see him continue to be back on form. So this leaves I believe McEwen, Zabel, O'Grady, Friere, Hushovd and a recuperating but still perhaps a bit shaky Petacchi for the sprints, so despite being unfortunately Boonen-deprived it still oughta be a well-fought run up to the line on the flat finishes. Come on Zabel, one more for old times' sakes!

All right, doping's horrible and everyone who does it is rightly going to hell where they'll burn forever trying to schlep up the Pla de Beret in driving sleet on a crappy ten-dollar Huffy with tinfoil gearing, rubber-band cables and flat tires. But honestly, am I the only one out here who misses watching Ivan Basso and Jan Ullrich ride?

Friday, August 18, 2006

How Do I Love the Vuelta? Let Me Count the Ways...

Before I go into everything that's ticking me off about the UCI today, I thought I'd reflect, for those unfamiliar with the upcoming Spanish Tour perhaps in part because OLN completely freakin' ignores it in favor of the latest in rodeo clowns, on the glory that is the Vuelta. Why do I love it?

1. It's not half the circus that is the Tour de France--it's all about the racing, baby.

2. Almost everyone who ought to be in it this year, is in it this year (again, unlike the Tour, and more on the 'almosts' later). Valverde. Mayo. Sastre. Zubeldia. Pereiro. Freire. What more could one want (except perhaps that the boys from Comunidad Valenciana find new homes soon and aren't be too horridly heartbroken watching the race this year from their living rooms)? And to have pulled this off this year in the ignominious glare of Operacion Puerto is simply fantastic.

3. The mountains. Forget the hype at the top of Alpe d'Huez. Is anything more beautiful than the jagged isolation of a Basque mountain stage?

4. Euskaltel-Euskadi's merry orange-clad band of clamoring fanatics. They will show up anytime, anywhere, in any race, in any country, in any weather, at total critical mass. But to see them out in force in their own and their own team's home stomping grounds is to see the love of sport at its purest and most insane.

5. Roberto Heras. I know he's not in it this year, and I know he probably shouldn't be. But I don't give a rat's a#$ about last year's sudden inexplicable improvement in the time trial or whether he took enough to EPO to leave Menchov crying in the dust like a toddler who's dropped his ice cream cone or last year's miraculous speed. I'm talking about his form in the climbs, even if it can only now be seen in reruns. He's Dave Zabriskie on a time trial bike. He's Paolo Savoldelli on a descent. He's Tom Boonen in a sprint. Perfect.

7. Euskaltel and Iles Balears finally get the annual spotlight they deserve after the Italian, French and German teams have hogged the headlines all season. Oh right, and the Americans, if not the way we'd like to lately. But it's the Vuelta, and it's the fabulous Spaniards' turn, so who cares?

6. It's in Spain, for God's sake. The food, the art, the terrain, the language. What more could one want?

Well, I was going to blather on about the things that are aggravating me today, but I won't taint this post about this race and spoil it. !Viva la Vuelta!

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Yap, Yap, Yap

Give Me a Break: So the ProTour teams (sans AG2R, Astana & Phonak) have mostly unanimously asked UCI to suspend Phonak and Astana from the ProTour and the upcoming Vuelta. Oh, please ! If every single existing rider and every single existing manager and every single staffer on every single existing ProTour team is clean--and I mean actually clean, not just testing clean--I'll personally eat the stylin' black vinyl banana seat off my bitchin' copper 1972 Ross Apollo 3-speed chopper. Until they are, concentrate on cleaning your own houses before you run a white-gloved finger over anyone else's dusty mantlepiece, you hypocrites!

All Right Already, the Landis Situation: in the wake of Landis' open letter to Phonak after the team-demise announcement, I continue, during my progression (or more accurately, vacillation) through the 5 Stages of Grieving, to be jerked to a stop by my sheer inability to get my head around the Stupidity Factor. Not knowing Landis personally of course, so having no more or less reason to doubt his integrity than anybody else, I can nonetheless conceptualize what must be the truly staggering pull of desire for the maillot jaune, and the almost intentional recklessness which might reasonably ensue in its pursuit. But in the most highly-doping-scrutinized Tour in years, under the very same paranoiac preemptive scrutiny that took out Basso and Ullrich without even a positive test, with the knowledge that the hawks are circling, the press and anti-doping agencies are grandstanding, the check-writing sponsors are freaking, the glove-clad medics are hovering, and the fans are watching for signs of unusual prowess, to take something *synthetic*? It just seems *so* stupid--well beyond even the arrogance that Julich seems to believe Landis is incapable of--as to confound the senses. To trust a "my body is naturally this way" argument to plausibly bypass high natural hormone results? Eye-rolling, but not beyond the pale. To take a synthetic for which no biological explanantion, no matter how weaselly, is possible, even with the friendly backup of a guaranteed magic masking agent? Under the perfect storm of the current circumstances, beyond reckless, beyond arrogant, beyond simply the ordinarily dumb, and deep into the realm of Jerry Lewis. Although I'm normally not surprised by extreme stupidity, this truly seems to be an hors category screw-up that no-one in this time and place, even given the prize at hand, would make. But then, what the heck do I know?

And to end tonight's rant on a sort of Davy-and-Goliath positive happy note: !Es verdad!: Carlos Sastre is officially on for the Vuelta. I hope he gets on the podium again (without the secondhand grimy cloud of scandal this time). We love Sastre!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Drugs, Drugs Everywhere, and Not a Drop to Drink

Yep, It's Official: Phonak's out, and it's the fault of their skanky cheating riders and the filthy cheating sport but not the sainted team itself. Nice to know you had nothing to do with your perpetual endless stream of riders who tested positive, you clowns! I'm particularly sorry for Axel Merckx for some reason, though I assume even being in his twilight years and, well, not his dad, his excellent work ethic and really very fine riding'll land him on his feet (or in his pedals, so to speak.) Allez Axel! Meanwhile, this presumably frees up Phonak's Pro Tour license for Astana, which has been having a hell of a time trying to wrest one from Saiz and his company (what exactly is Saiz expecting to happen here? That he'll be cleared of all the charges he basically copped to by scalping Heras and reanointed with another team of Spanish stars, who are all lining up I presume to re-associate themselves with someone who managed to get his whole damn team knocked out of the Tour on the eve of the formal team introductions? Come back some other way if you want, but you completely jacked Vinokorouv and about a zillion other employees so give it up Saiz!) And in what I hope will be a dignified farewell for Phonak, who whatever did or didn't happen with Landis en route to Morzine really did do surprisingly well for him considering the caliber of the other teams in the Tour, they actually have quite a nice team for the Vuelta, with Perdiguero, Ryder Hesjedal and Jalabert lined up, so perhaps they might take a stage and if management shuts up with the poor-me crap leave on rather a nice, if still sad, note.

Euskaltel Wises Up, Mostly: So DS Juliam Gorospe, who has apparently had a bit of a rocky relationship with both excellent ex-pro/now management Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano and we love Iban Mayo, is out, and while I bear him no ill will whatsoever, having no reason to, and wish him a very happy and smashingly successful career somewhere else, I'm very pleased if this will seduce Iban to stay with lords-of-the-mountain Euskaltel. Though not to sound all American and mercenary, but you might also throw in a bit more cash to seal the deal, no?

Ullrich Keeps (One of) the Hounds at Bay, for the Moment: It must be no small satisfaction for the besieged Ullrich to have slapped one of his primary tormentors in the German press, the esteemed Dr. Franke, with an injunction that'll whack him with a 250k euro fine the next time he yaps about Jan paying 35k euro per year for doping products. A fine exchange rate and damn fine lawyering, I must say! Meanwhile, in other legal intrigue, crybaby Saiz is also suing the director of the Spanish governing antidoping body for falsification of documents. Whose--Fuentes'? His own? And don't even get me started on his own statements regarding we still love Roberto Heras again, unless those were slanderous lies as well. Ugh. Even if Saiz were as pure as he suddenly retroactively claims, I do think this ain't helping. Just callate' until this whole thing settles down already!

Media Follies: Speaking of not talking, did anyone else think it was beyond funny that perpetual camera ho Lance Armstrong was cautioning Landis to back off with the press and just lay low for a while, as the media will never give a rider a fair shake? Lance is actually right I think, but not for that reason--the doping-accusation press siege sure as hell never made Lance a retiring wallflower---poor Floyd's simply not as charismatic and talk-show friendly as cancer-survivor-hero/rock-star-magnet Lance. And props to evergreen good-guy Bobby Julich, who in justly mourning the whole scandal on ESPN did nonetheless basically back Landis and note that he didn't think Floyd could be that arrogant, and that maybe people around him influenced him or even slipped him something. Who knows, after all, but that was nice. And in self-aggrandizing kick-em-when-they're-down pit bull mode, WADA's Dick "Dick" Pound courageously attacked Landis and also suggested that the US Anti-Doping Agency, in an egregious example of doper's lap-dog syndrome, might actually favor dirty-boy Landis. Can any of these guys actually step back from their chest-thumping press preening long enough to actually *do* their jobs?

And on a pleasant note, it's so very nice to see Thor Hushovd for the Vuelta. If only Petacchi were truly back on form (and I dearly hope he is by then!), and McEwen and Boonen would show, we would really have a perfect contest for the sprints (both of them). Onwards!

Sunday, August 13, 2006

(Almost) All About Spain

Phonak Eats Its Young: So the rumor mill's a-swirling that Andy Rihs is going to announce the official end of team Phonak, and that iShares is also bagging its pickup sponsorship in the wake of the Landis debacle. Tyler. Santi Perez. About seven other doping scandals at the team in recent years. Am I the only one who remotely thinks at all that the team may somehow, somehow be the tiniest bit responsible for its own demise? Meanwhile, late-to-the-party grump Bert Grabsch has decided to publicly lash out at Landis and vociferously express his desire to be let out of his contract extension for greener (and presumably less tainted) pastures. Man, get a couple of cracks in the pubic bones in a crash and lose a 50,000 euro Tour bonus and the gloves really start to come off, don't they?

The Follies of Euskaltel (Dos): So Iban Mayo takes the Tour of Burgos in dominant form, and has now won the Subida a Urkiola as well. Okay Euskaltel, as races go they're perhaps not as high-profile as a certain 3-week circus in France, particularly to the average once-a-year fair-weather fan (who doesn't know who Mayo is anyway, yet another reason to cut him some slack), but I think it's fair to say he's done his penance for embarrassing you in the Tour (even considering the endless caresses and tick-like tenacity of the noxious TV cameras as he cracked). Are you *still* gonna short-sheet him on his new contract? Do you really want to lose this stellar local boy to the guys in yellow over at Saunier Duval, and watch him live up to his early promise without you? Apologize, and pay up already!

Road to Spain: So Sastre, testing out his legs ahead of his official announcement Wednesday, Valverde, Mayo, and last year's second-place finisher at the Vuelta what's-his-name all went on a tear and looked extremely strong at the Clasica San Sebastian (despite not taking the win). Even without poor Comunidad Valenciana in the mix (goodbye CV! they shut down August 20th), should be a well-fought Vuelta!

Contract News: It's Oscar Friere to Rabobank for 2 more seasons (and after his smashing Tour, I hope they gave him a solid deal), and, assuming he can find out what's going on with the dizzy spells, he still plans to be in the Vuelta and ready for another run at the Worlds. Go Oscar! Meanwhile, mystery solved on why ever-helpful mountain man Triki Beltran got the shaft from Discovery at the Tour: he's signed on with Liquigas, home of wonderboy Danilo Di Luca. Or did he sign on with Liquigas because Discovery gave him the shaft at the Tour? Either way, who cares. We've missed you Triki!

I Fought the Law, and the Law Won: in apparent payback for the court-ordered judgment for 1.6 million euros in back pay they've been ordered (and have no apparent plans to) cough up, sore loser ex-team Coast is considering suing Jan Ullrich for breach of contract and buckets'o'cash on the theory he may have been doping in 2003, strictly forbidden of course in his deal. Now, I don't know what the statute of limitations is in Germany, but in my own court of public opinion, it's particularly lame to kick someone when they're already down, much less on a crap legal theory in a crankypants toddleresque pique. And in news tangentially related to Jan, apparently the latest conspiracy theory is that Noble Protector of Riders' Health Fuentes has offices all over Europe, including perhaps 3 in Germany. I imagine a fair number of non-Spaniards are flipping out a bit over the implications of their phone and travel records at this point! And if it's also true that UCI & Tour are considering suing Landis for destroying the sport and bringing the Tour into disrepute, back off, you babies! First, let's face it, no one outside of cycling freaks knew who UCI was 10 minutes ago, so for them to go after Landis smacks of a shameless publicity stunt (and a genuine desire to clean up the sport, make it safe for family audiences, and protect innocent young aspiring Lances testing out their training wheels, yap, yap, yap.) Second, as for the Tour itself--you survived Festina (hell, hardly anyone in the US making such a huge thing out of the current scandal has even heard of it), 2 world wars, and 7 years of Lance utterly humiliating French riders, you'll survive this, all right? Speaking of French riders and Festina, 7-time King of the Mountains Richard Virenque (who the French practically bronzed after his post-Festina tearful apology, so much for the sanctity of sport) is recovering from an unfortunate crash involving a line of stitches and a broken schnozz--wishing poor Virenque a speedy recovery.

Man, I don't know if I can take any more drama. Oh, sure I can!

Friday, August 11, 2006

The Riding Wounded, and Ego Trouble

In great news, Credit Agricole's fine young climber/US cycling's next-generation hope Saul Raisin, who almost died after a crash earlier in the season and pulled himself back from a coma, was not only on the rollers already recently but hit the road the other day with his dad on a 90-minute training ride--phenomenal. Didn't CA wear bracelets or a patch on their jerseys for him during the Tour--quite a bit of inspiring airplay for the at-home Raisin with Hushovd on a tear! Meanwhile, in an unlucky two-fer with an incident earlier in the season, Liberty/Wurth/Astana's Alberto Contador crashed again (this time heading back to the team bus after a stage at Burgos), got back to his hotel, then lost consciousness. Can this poor promising boy *not* get a head injury after every crash? Sidelined sprint-king/ongoing-Italian-pinup-boy Alessandro Petacchi is nominally back on his cracked knee, though he cut it short at Castelfiardo, ahead of the Vuelta. And sick-or-stellar Oscar Friere has been experiencing dizzy spells (inconvenient to say the least in a sport that depends on balance) and headaches for an undetermined reason since the Tour, but is still hopeful for the Vuelta and the World's (where he always seems to recover from whatever disastrous career-threatening ailment that's dogging him), and took the Vattenfall classic anyway. If this boy weren't a world-class athlete, I imagine he'd be a sniveling lump huddling on the couch watching too much Spanish Dr. Phil waiting to heal between catastrophes--hell, I would!

I see that Pereiro's heading to the Vuelta, and with Tour triumphantly in hand (almost) seems not so sure anymore that he wants to play occasional stage-winner/superdomestique to returning team leader Alejandro Valverde--they will help each other depending on who's stronger. Run that one by Alejandro yet, Oscar? And I note that saintly UCI won't be turning over Ullrich's blood to the Spanish cops for tests, because they keep them solely for research purposes, not to collude with the cops--in which case, ya think they might lay off with the press leaks, pre-due process rider sell-outs and self-righteous anti-doping grandstanding a bit? Allez!

Bite me, Euskaltel-Euskadi!: I normally have nothing but praise and fondness for these intrepid Basque climbing gods and their fine team management (and particularly admire the guts, if not yet the success, of their quite surprising new attack strategy on the flats), but apparently they're offering poor wonderboy Iban Mayo, whose ignominious tank in the Tour wouldn't have been half so prominent if the Spanish TV vulture bike camera hadn't been jammed up his nose while he was trying to climb, an extension on his contract--for less than he's making this year. He's kicking #$% at the Tour of Burgos, so you suck Euskaltel! And he might go to Saunier Duval instead? What the hell is he going to get to do there?! Hold out for more cash, Iban!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

How Many Times Can I Say It?

So Jens Voigt absolutely smoked the rest of the field during the Tour of Germany time trial, including Levi by well over a minute, and now barring total catastrophe is poised to take the race by upwards of a minute and a half. We're so sorry for Levi, whom we dearly wanted to win in a two-peat and to redeem his iffy Tour, but we love Jens! (I note as an aside that Vinokorouv, who seems a bit stressed about his and the rest of the shamefully-Beloki-less Astana team's rusty form ahead of the Vuelta, came in at a highly respectable fourth in the tt, so perhaps he can relax a bit.)

Speaking of the Vuelta, we love Carlos Sastre has apparently decided to sign on for his third grand tour of the season after crushing himself for the disgraced Basso in the Giro and despite a disastrous final tt and a fine rise to the task of unexpected team leadership by taking fourth (or third) in the Tour. He's going to have Cancellara with him, which will be nice to see, and I hope his legs still have something left--apparently, they do. Hooray! With Mayo and Valverde on hand gunning for glory at home and looking to put their unfortunate Tours behind them, this ought to be a lively Vuelta. Who to root for, who to root for...well, it ain't gonna be Menchov because of Heras (no fault of Menchov, to be fair, but I'm not particularly inclined to be fair) or Vino because of Beloki, so that rather narrows the field!

Oh Floyd: you're off message *already.* The minute you start yapping on Leno how it's possible you ingested something involuntarily, to Americans you might as well have copped to having Lelangue sprinkle testosterone on your Wheaties right in front of you. While Americans will engage in all sorts of stupid conspiracy theories on all sorts of whack-job topics, somehow "unknowingly ingested" just smacks too much of some dessicated dissolute English king bloating in his throne at the dinner trough waiting for some poor sap courier to taste his food for him then promptly keel over dead, poisoned in some nefarious plot--a nice medieval fairy tale. Stick to the script, Floyd!

Monday, August 07, 2006

Legal Strategy 101

A Humble Suggestion: Now, I don't know how it works in Europe, but first, Floyd, Americans freakin' *hate* lawyers, particularly aggressive ones (though when informed of the consequences of reasoned discussion in their own matters, these same gentle flowers are the first to tell their own lawyers to go all pitbull on your @#$.) Second, Americans hate hearing a bunch of highfalutin' eggheaded testing protocol this and due process that. They like their explanations clean and simple, whether or not they're actually true when they're put that way. They particularly don't like a bunch of highfalutin' eggheaded weaselly lawyer explanations that keep changing, whether or not there's a good reason for it. You say something, you stick to it, even in the face of absolutely contradictory facts and common sense. And since they don't mind, Floyd, as some of us might, when you sell your own lawyers down the river to the press for these failings, since they inevitably deserve it, you (and your legal team, should you continue to retain them), ought to simplify and clarify your message, and it is this: "The lab is crap. Worse, it's anti-American commie socialist lily-livered pate-eating *French* crap. Ergo, the lab results are crap. I don't know why they're crap, but they are crap, and I'm going to find out why they're crap, and I'm going to make them pay." That's it. Hear me? Now shut up, and don't say another word. Nothing. Nada. Ever. And when it's all over, whether you actually did it or not, you're going to apologize to your scapegoat lawyers like a gentleman, and then you're gonna sue everybody into oblivion. Get it? God!

We Love Jens (Part IV)!: So the unstoppable Jens took another mountain stage today by two seconds over Levi Leipheimer, putting him 20-odd seconds ahead of Levi (who in typical good-sportmanlike form, now tags Jens the favorite) with only the tt to make it up. Normally, I'd say "no problem," but with the disastrous Tour tt only a few short weeks ago, and Jens in form in every terrain, it's possible Levi could be right. I very much want Levi to win, and give Gerolsteiner a fine farewell at the top of his game, but who could be unhappy if attack-happy-man-of-all-races-good-guy Voigt takes it all? We love Jens!

In contract news, promising youngster Bernard Kohl is leaving T-Mobile for Gerolsteiner, yet another reason to wonder if T-Mobile is bent on second-string team status for the coming year or is simply cleaning house in a post-Jan orgy of pointless change. Speaking of which, I've also been wondering if Frankie Andreu's ignominius sacking from Toyota-United was really due to his other commitments like OLN, which I imagine wasn't news to them, and his freakish desire to see his kids for a day, or whether he's perhaps fallen victim to the years-out leak of his confidential testimony about the Lance doping allegations. My, what a year it's turning out to be in staffing intrigue!

Sunday, August 06, 2006

We Love Jens! (Due)

And Erik and Levi and Fabian, for that matter. CSC continues its post-Tour tear with dog-reliable strongman Jens Voigt grabbing the Tour of Germany lead (though not the stage) from never-winning-but-always-triumphing sprint king Erik Zabel, who despite finishing second or third in each and every sprint in each and every race for the last two years or so has the benefit of enough (if slightly worn) power and superior tactical sense to sneak every possible point along the way to have previously had the lead. Meanwhile, after a shades-of-this-year's-Giro labor strike by the riders to protest the inclusion of an hors category climb in sleet and ice (babies--the TdG organizers say they won't let them pull that crap tomorrow; if they're going to cut down the speed of the peloton with all this no-doping nonsense they might as well increase the TV ratings with some spectacular career-threatening crashes I suppose), no-excuses-straight-shooter Levi redeemed his early intentional-or-unintentional tank in the opening tt to power up the mountains and handsomely take the stage, now less than 20 seconds back in the overall and in good shape for the GC two-peat if he doesn't crack, as is his occasional immediate post-victory curse, in the next day's run at the mountains. It's nice, since Gerolsteiner let him go, that they will perhaps in a day or two regret the ease of their giveaway at least a tiny bit.

And hooray for Fabian! Despite the unfortunate apparent lapse with Giro god/man-candy-in-limbo Ivan Basso, Bjarne's cultlike boot-camp mentality continues to pay off as the Tour-deprived Cancellara neatly snags the overall in Denmark. A great way to prove himself, though he certainly doesn't need to, and CSC as well.

In a cave-in nod to the current mainstream press feeding frenzy, I would like to take this opportunity to gently beg these ignorant clods to please stop the painful orgy of self-love by saying how any idiot would have known that the ride to Morzine was solely acheived by evil doping, particularly when they seem to have so swiftly forgotten how they waxed so rapturously about this glorious proof that the power and determination of the human spirit can transform even the frailty of human flesh into startling victory only a few short days ago. Can someone, anyone, please explain to these nits that, while he may have indeed won the stage by say a few minutes out of sheer will and ultra-careful hydration and feeding(and maybe a testosterone patch), the only reason he got 8 entire minutes back was because T-Mobile, Caisse-d-Epargnes and CSC, in their quickly-rejiggered decisions to focus on only each other for GC threats after the spectacular crack of the day before, made a calculated (if in retrospect ill-considered) choice to let him slingshot off the front without a challenge until it was far too late to reel him back? Either let someone write the sports columns who's cared about cycling since they busted their last Big Wheel, or yap about some sport like golf that you do know about already!

And boy, T-Mobile really *is* in a snit at poor Jan-defender Andreas Kloden. Kloden's now complaining that the team unfairly denied him a de facto podium-victory lap in front of the hometown fans by leaving him out of the two-man tt at Buhl. So the question now is, who is the disgruntled free-agent Tour threat going to bail to? If he'd prefer to stay local, rather than bailing for a foreign squad, perhaps Gerolsteiner would like a proven grand tour GC contender, if heir-apparent hardworker Georg Totchsnig doesn't work out...with Leipheimer gone, I imagine they've got at least some of the cash!

Even worse, in all this mess the last few days, I believe I utterly forgot to mention what a pleasure it is to see that the excellent late-(re)bloomer Bobby Julich's back in action after his cringe-inducing tt crash. Welcome back!

Saturday, August 05, 2006

I'm Not Talking About It

Except for Pereiro's comments in El Pais that he feels 99% like the champion of the Tour. I can't blame him, but it's still devastating. I can barely even be happy that this puts the very fine little mountain goat Sastre back on the podium in third. And now that the wolves, previously merely snuffling about, are now actively baying about the whole thing, would they kindly shut the %$^ up?

You Suck, Vinokorouv!: So Vinokorouv, I mean Astana,'s announced his lineup for the Vuelta, which includes accused but cleared dopers Alberto Contador and Sergio Paulinho but not accused but cleared doper Joseba Beloki. He's also nowhere in sight for any of Astana's other upcoming events. He better have goddamned asked to be excluded, or be heinously discombobulated by a seriously unpleasant saddle sore, or otherwise injured or sick, because despite the up-and-coming Contador's obvious abilities I don't see the rest of the lineup, fine as they are, justifying tanking proven quantity Beloki. Accuse him and fire him or use him already, you wuss!

Friday, August 04, 2006

This'n'That from the Peloton

Invincible: Fabian Cancellara, an exceedingly engaging rider to watch who was such a good sport (at least publicly) about being dropped from CSC's Tour squad in a last-minute substitution by Vande Velde (who did indeed ride beautifully all Tour and more than pulled his weight incidentally), snagged himself and CSC a win in the Tour of Denmark on the same day that Jens won his stage in Germany and Ljungvist won his at Paris-Correze. Whatever else you can say about Riis, he's built an astonishingly deep team that makes even T-Mobile look like circus clowns on trikes. Even without Basso, and even with their domestiques spread out over three races at once, is there anything CSC can't do?

Speaking of T-Mobile, what the heck are they thinking jerking poor Andreas Kloden around without a contract offer? Is it his persistent friendship with the disgraced Ullrich (though honestly, given Kloden's Vino-like tendency to bushwhack Jan on critical stages, I never understood it--clearly I'm misinterpreting something here)? His two-time podium hits on the Tour without achieving the top spot (which sure as hell would have argued against keeping Ullrich around the last seven years)? A cheapskate will to undercut the team's near-term future by shortsheeting an excellent rider on a decent contract? Not that I'm a colossal Kloden fan by any means, but he's earned his keep, so cough up the euros T-Mobile!

And speaking of strategic decisions, with Vino on a post-Saiz-lover's-quarrel puritanical rampage against all that is dishonorable about the sport, what the hell is Astana doing hiring Godefroot as directeur sportif after T-Mobile sacked him for letting Ullrich drag the Pevenage-of-ill-repute, with his explicit doping-porn phone crooning, back on the team? Sure, a good (much less excellent) ds is hard to come by, especially since they all seem to be heading towards a turn in the big house these days. And sure, Godefroot's probably just a hapless innocent scapegoat for an irked corporate sponsor stung by the natural results of the pressure they put on a beleaguered off-season party boy. But this is the white knight you call on to start things off?

Rope-a-Dope(rs): So Basso's been named a substitute for the Vuelta for CSC, and goodness knows it would certainly be fascinating to see him there, but--oops!--the Italian authorities have thoughtfully scheduled his hearing on doping charges for 3 days *after* the Vuelta starts. Like they absolutely positively can't tweak their schedules a bit to squeeze the boy in a day or two before it starts?

While we're at it, if Spain, which seems to have done quite a thorough job with Operacion Puerto so far (at least judging by all the leaks), was utterly unable to nail our beloved Joseba Beloki for anything, despite Saiz briefcases full 'o' fun and profit and that blockhead Fuentes' fanatical record-keeping and a grand conspiracy running through Liberty Seguros and a million other purported fellow riders-in-crime in exceedingly close proximity, can Italy kindly get off his @#$ then?

And holy moly, is there anything Jan Ullrich *isn't* accused of taking?

Free Joseba!

We Love Jens!

So perpetual happy attack dog Jens Voigt took Stage 2 of the Tour of Germany, which is most dandy, and Levi Leipheimer, who either tanked or wisely took it conservatively given the lousy weather in the tt depending on how you look at it, is an entirely recoverable 42 or so seconds back as the boys hit the mountains. Redeem yourself, Levi, and make Gerolsteiner regret letting you go! (to the extent that anyone needs to "redeem" himself after placing 13th in the Tour for goodness' sakes.)

Meanwhile, a surprisingly good crowd is left for the Vuelta despite the Puerto scandal, including the excellent Iban Mayo (and if another freakin' moto crudely sticks its camera in his face on a hard day waiting for him to implode, I'm gonna implode), an on-the-mend Valverde, Tour-shredding Friere, and diplomatic-good-sport Pereiro. Oh right and whats-his-face with Rasmussen on hand to gamely try again to haul his #@$ up the mountains as he was unable to do through no fault of his own in the Tour. Go Mayo!

Oh, Floyd (terzo): I wasn't going to mention him again, but I see he's hired *Tyler's" lawyer now. Oughtn't he choose someone, like Lance's faithful Dobies, who've actually successfully helped somebody beat the rap?

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Not About Him

A Failure to Communicate: So I see that Ivan Basso, who just the other day was waxing poetic about his amiable relationship with Bjarne Riis and his fond intention to start the Tour of Denmark, was quite close in time in fact unceremoniously suspended indefinitely by CSC. I'm sure it was just a minor miscommunication due to the language barrier though.

Meanwhile, what the ^%&* is up with the Vuelta? Sastre not being certain to start I can understand--he whacked himself in the Giro for Basso, he was thrust into unexpected team leadership pressure in the Tour--and Petacchi I guess is still on the DL (though it's nice to see he's training) and Boonen's probably out, but I don't think of the Vuelta as a sprinter's game in any case. But can someone please explain to me why Beloki Nozal Paulinho Davis and Contador plus basically all the Comunidad Valencia riders have been cleared by the Spanish courts and they're still not being cleared to ride the thing? Okay, maybe Labarta and Saiz weren't as discreet as they might have been, and perhaps their positions can occasionally wield some slight influence over a rider. (Of course, that tool Saiz has utterly disavowed that possibility in his eagerness to sell Heras down the river. But I digress.) But if they're cleared, and you think they ought to have been cleared, then clear them to race, and clear them fast. In fact, I hear it can be somewhat advantageous to know if you are supposed to be training for a grand tour and not a ride to the local unemployment office. And if you still think they did something, and that they just haven't been stupid enough to get caught at it in a lab sample, or if you think the Spanish courts or investigators are incompetent, then grow a spine and spit it out already. And while we're at it, does it absolutely kill anyone else to see the press refer to "2005 defending champion Denis Menchov"? Aaaaiiigggghhhh! Oh, Roberto...