Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Belgian Waffles

Close, but No Cigar: Within days after Belgian newspapers run a giant wad of disparaging stories about Quick Step head/virulent anti-doping Basso-slappin' team-crusader Patrick Lefevere under the ambiguous headline, "LEFEVERE: 30 YEARS OF DOPING", alleging, largely via a convicted killer cyclist and a current non-killer QS rider, that not only did Lefevere himself imbibe as a rider but that he and the QS/Mapei team doc intentionally ran a teamwide doping program up to and including the present day, a rabid Lefevere sensibly announced his intention to sue...yep, the Belgian senator who last year broadly accused "3 top Belgian cyclists" of doping in a completely unrelated case. What? Anyhoo, Lefevere quickly re-tuned his relevance radar, and also threatened to sue into a crying mass of yellow-journalism jelly the actual newspaper, the writers, the editors, the criminal pervert ex-rider, presumably the current anonymous rider, and every else who besmirched his virtue except when they were talking about the minor incident or two in which he may possibly have sought some chemical enhancement while in the saddle a hundred years ago which doesn't even count because everyone knows Quick Step and he in particular are relentlessly clean anyway.

This, of course, seemed to be news to the beloved Lion of Flanders, who rather sheepishly bailed out of his current agreement with Quick Step on the grounds that he shamefully had sought, in the very twilight of his career, to boost his final results as a pro with things that may not have been totally approved for use at the start line. Proving that no good deed goes unpunished, and that the "repent and be ye saved!" evangelism of the antidoping Dobermans is a pack of lying @#%%, Belgian police promptly called for an investigation, not of Lefevere apparently, but certainly, now that he's passed from current peloton cash cow to adored if irrelevant legend, of Johan Museeuw himself. Ummm, am I the only one thinking they're missing the point here?

Ever-amiable Tom Boonen, meanwhile, loyally (and literally) called bull@#$% on the allegations, particularly since, I imagine, he deems it decidedly detrimental for some masked current teammate to claim that higher-level QS riders, of whom he may reasonably be deemed one by even lesser rumormongers than myself, enjoy the privilege of an especially strategic doping regimen with the added bonus of substantial contributions to the team doc's tip jar. We love rider advocate/world champ Paolo Bettini, by contrast, merely regretted the revelations by Museeuw, whether for their actual content or simple yip-yappin' lack of discretion unclear to me at least. And our friends at UCI and WADA? Why, outraged, of course, that anyone would leak such vile unsubstantiated rumors about a *team* without even any proof. Am I the only one who finds this sudden solemn invocation of the sanctity of due process and the slow but necessary course of justice completely nauseating coming from these sponsor-snuggling self-promoting trolls who think nothing of carelessly calling for the wholesale career destruction of, among countless others, proven GT winners and contenders who haven't even tested positive for a minor excess of espresso much less anything else and guys implciated solely on the basis of nicknames attributed to family pets and the egregious crime of staying at the same hotels as every other rider? Ugh! I don't know which of the players in this whole sordid drama disgusts me more at this point...oh yes I do!

Midnight (Blue) Train to Georgia (well, Qatar, anyway...):...as Tom Boonen recovered from his slightly wobbly form of late last season to take the stage 2 sprint from Petacchi's revamped blue train, which in a rare misjudgment apparently popped too early. Between Boonen's unjust dope-slapping at the hands of the Belgian press last season, and Petacchi's unfortunate hand-crunching team-bus boxing match just as his poor cracked knee was mending, I honestly don't know who to choose as a favorite here, except that I hope later in the season the consistently underrated (and perhaps undersupported) Thor Hushovd takes 'em both. Allez Thor!

Monday, January 22, 2007


Jan Ullrich Contract Watch: who gives a rat's @#$? We love Joseba Beloki may have to @#%%&^% retire because he can't get a contract this year! @$$%! Sure, he's not recovered as we dearly wish he had from his excruciating leg-snap in the melting tar of the 2004 Tour. And sure, Manolo Saiz is a heinous allegedly dope-distributing control freak who's managed to smack the career of every poor sap in his employ without a single positive test (outside of the 'renegade' Heras he wussily denies any responsibility for). But Beloki's at least perservered, and come back to be a worthy superdomestique in the mountains, more'n some folks who've gotten contracts this year. And if the unsupported sketchy Operacion Puerto allegations are really the dealbreaker, then why the hell, no offense meant, is @$%^&&*! Allan Davis reportedly about to sign with @#*&^%! Discovery and @@#$%&*% Beloki's the only one from Liberty Seguros who can't get a contract?! $#@*!

EPOh No I Didn't: Frank Vandenbroucke's alleged confessional statement in his new book, "EPO? Everyone did it. Me too," has been brusquely retracted and blamed on the ecstatic excesses of doofus publicists, though sadly there's no such luck for retracting Frank's prior claim that the drugs he was busted with in about 2002 were in fact destined for his dog, apparently because he was getting cruelly mocked at the park by the other dogs and dope-slapped in the press about his pathetic stamina in playing fetch, and, cracking under the relentless pressure, had no choice but to succumb to the filthy lure of EPO. Is anyone else thinking that Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes took a page from that playbook?

I Love You, Spartacus: Finally, I see Belgian teen-dream (and quite a fine sprinter, I've heard) Tom Boonen's kicking off his lucrative Northwave ad campaign with a studly skirted photographic homage to the iconic movie "Gladiator." Yes, because if his sword-bearing nemeses had had to take on Russell Crowe while he was wearing Northwave cleats instead of sandals, they'd have doubly gotten their @$$# kicked. Wouldn't, say, Dorothy on her little Toto-bearing basketed bicycle have been a more relevant movie icon to copy? Then again, I suppose even Tom mightn't've looked quite so manly in blue gingham...

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Totally Unbelievable Evasions

And the 2006 Tour Goes To: well, maybe not Oscar Pereiro after all, who tested poz for the banned asthma medication salbutamol in the 14th and 16th stages of the 2006 Tour de France. The catch? Why, our friends at UCI granted him a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) for the drug, though entirely by accident Pereiro failed to submit the required medical documentation until yesterday to the understandably peeved and skeptical French antidoping honchos. Ironically enough, who's hitting back? Again, the fine folks at UCI, gone quite postal at the suggestion that these things are handed out like candy to costumed tots at Halloween and thus tend to undermine UCI's constant antidoping bleating by permitting every second cyclist to scarf something off the banned list at the start line. (So now they're whining that the French care too much about doping? Perfect).

Anyhoo, apparently, a pre-'96 Olympics study showed that somewhere in the range of 45% of the cyclists, who for those of you unfamiliar with, say, the Tour the France, routinely climb gigantic mountains repeatedly in the course of a single afternoon, seem to have been diagnosed with some sort of asthma requiring meds. Let's leave aside for the moment the unusual suggestion by Pereiro's own doc that a normal amount of these asthma meds shouldn't have caused a positive test, and the fact that curiously, a similar proportion of the peloton shows no medical need for, say, downers as it does for drugs which may totally accidentally increase one's oxygen-carrying capacity. And let's leave aside even Pereiro's particular case, because we've no reason to doubt his particular integrity. However, a brief review of medicinenet.com sez that asthma, the most common chronic illness in kids, only affects *5%* of adults in North America. Now, certainly I'm no mathematician--hell, I have trouble enough figuring out the proper tip for a mocha at Starbucks. But am I the only one to whom these stats seem a bit, well, odd?

Oh, Pat: meantime, perhaps in a bid to divert attention from the embarrassing Pereiro situation, particularly given that he shamelessly attacks anyone (like Ullrich) who actually *doesn't* test positive, UCI's McQuaid has now slimed yet more innuendo on poor Jan, suggesting that he's heard the Swiss have more'n just the Fuentes situation to stickpin on him, and that he "speculates" that there are also ongoing investigations into Jan's scumly conduct in Belgium and Germany. In the interests of evenhandedness, Dick I mean Pat, therefore I "speculate" you're flat pissed you haven't been able to nail Jan fairly, so you're bushwhacking him with yet more impossible-to-defend- against baseless accusations, you cowardly troll!

Equal Opportunity in Action: now that women have really made inroads into this beautiful sport, I see that 2001 World track silver medalist Tammy Thomas, banned for life in '02 for testing poz for the obscure steroid Norbolethone, pleaded guilty in US federal court this week to lying to a grand jury in connection with the mostly-unrelated-to-cycling BALCO scandal, proving we can be just as venal and seduced by glory as the boys. Max penalty for each count: 5 years in the big house and a $250k fine. St. David Millar, however, got off the hook in French court, not because he didn't dope, but because there was insufficient evidence presented to determine whether or not he did it in France. Apparently, Millar's wah-wah confessionals stop when it comes to saying where he doped, if it could get him into additional trouble. Glad to see you're willing to come clean when there's an actual current risk to you, David!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Goofus and Gallant

Lessons in Diplomacy: formally responding to UCI political analyst Pat "Dick" McQuaid's freakish take on Mafia-nation doping conspiracy theories by letter, the head of the Italian cycling federation gently took McQuaid to task, noting he makes unfounded accusations against some countries, while "fawning" over others to sow discord, when indeed many national federations are working together diligently with UCI to stop doping and by the way he is quite proud to be Italian, and despite Pat's oafishness encourages dialogue among the parties. Note to Pat: telling other countries they're part of a murderous organized crime network, even if it's only on the deliberate doping syndicate side, does *not* constitute dialogue.

Speaking of Which: WADA has announced its preliminarily revised anti-doping code, which helpfully includes doubling the penalties on riders whose doping is found to have been part of a wider doping scheme. Congratulations, WADA, you obsequious management-sucking tools, you've managed to completely avoid holding the right parties responsible again! If they're part of a "wider doping scheme," you nits, might not your double secret probation tactics be better aimed at the party (teams! *cough* teams!) actually responsible for setting up the program?! Impressively, WADA has also managed to rid the system of that bothersome due process entirely, allowing riders to be busted without even a positive test if there's third party testimony to justify it. It's nice that you're openly inviting people to take out their vendettas against each other, particularly against the better riders who might pose a threat to a team or another rival, by crap testimony and innuendos--what the hell are you even thinking, WADA?

Jan Ullrich Contract Watch: As *if*. Born-again bleach-clean T-Mobile, though, gamely wasting no opportunity to justify completely imploding their own team this past season, has dope-slapped poor Jan yet again by saying that it wouldn't take Jan back even if the DNA test comparing the Fuentes blood bags completely clears him--they've seen the Op Puerto docs and know he's guilty anyway. Y'know, at this point, I'm getting to be on Jan's side even if I see him actively injecting EPO into his @#$ right in front of me. What is it with this disproportionate slamming of one alleged doper among dozens by the entire planet? While we're at it, if you've still got a deal out there Jan, please, for the love of God, SIGN!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

It's Showtime, Folks!

Uh-Oh!: German prosecutors, currently nailing Jan Ullrich for defrauding T-Mobile by doping in violation of his contract (is anyone going to prosecute T-Mobile for unceremoniously screwing all of their riders at the end of last season?), are about to get the coded blood bags seized from the fine Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes by the Spaniards and, far worse, are planning to compare them to a DNA sample which the witchhunting Swiss apparently scraped off Jan earlier for their own investigation. Luckily, Jan has until the end of January to appeal against the use of his DNA for this terrifying purpose, which means he's got til then to fire his entire monstrously incompetent management and legal team and sell off everything he owns on this earth to raise whatever it takes to hire Ivan Basso's genius Teflon lawyer. Have you still got a contract offer lingering out there, Jan? I don't care who it's from or what kind of humiliating crap terms they're offering--SIGN, dammit, SIGN!

Insult to Injury: German TV, meanwhile, has just announced that it won't cover the Tour of Germany if any rider implicated in the Operacion Puerto affair is allowed to participate, which means the race won't even be held, which doesn't actually mean much anyway, because if they really stick to that impossible standard, then there's only gonna be Jens Voigt, Carlos Sastre, and St. David Millar left qualified at the start line, so they might as well haul the podium babes and champagne out now and save everyone the trouble of schlepping around on their bikes. Which brings us to...

V is for (Hyper)Ventilating: Angel-of-anti-doping-wrath Alexander Vinokorouv, whose presumptive name "Vino" was found jotted on a card from a cyclist-frequented hotel, coincidentally located in the wallet of our pal Dr. Fuentes, along with such other common cycling nicknames as "Popo" and "Valv," and who strenuously denied any involvement with doping or the OP affair, stating firmly "I have never even met the man." Now, not to be paranoid or, more boringly, overanalytical, but is anyone else thinking that that really leaves a monster-sized hole open here as there's no specific denial Vino never met, say, one of Fuentes' phlebotomist flunkies? But I am hard-pressed to believe that the brilliant, and dearly press-favored, Vinokorouv will be in any real trouble, particularly in light of...

S is for Similarly-implicated: Alejandro Valverde's new, post-accusation ginormous windfall of a contract extension with Illes Balears, lining him and his euro-loaded pockets til a sweet 2010 no matter what the Op Puerto leakers are alleging. Lucky for T-Mobile, I suppose, who are running out of people to throw under the bus if they were obliged to clean house again if they'd managed to hire Valverde. Right on Alejandro!

Swiss Army Knifed: Sadly, Tinkoff newbie/doping oldie Danilo Hondo hasn't fared quite so well, with the Swiss upholding his two year ban, thereby delaying the start of his season until April 1st. Tyler Hamilton, fortunately, is a done deal for the season's start if the OP investigators can't come up with the threatened goods anytime soon, which didn't prevent him from being crudely smacked in his home-state press today by constant self-promoting nut-pain "Dick" Pound. Y'know, believe Tyler or not, he's paid his dues. Don't you have anyone else from a current doping scandal you can hit? Or are you too afraid of, say, Ivan Basso's swooning press- and fan-base, not less the power and sue-happiness of his power-mentor Lance Armstrong, to try to take him on?

The UnWounded: Finally, Floyd Landis, healed in body if obliterated in career, is working well on his spankin-new hip, just in time to be called to account on February 8 in front of the French, who don't hold Landis' racing license but, presumably having nothing else to do, can still bar him from competing in any French races. But even better than Landis' improving form is we love Oscar Freire's, finally reportedly on the mend from his endless weird dizzy spells, training hard, and aiming this season for some classics, a Tour stage, and with any luck, the Worlds. Allez Oscar!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Doggone It!

Yet Another Woof: Well, whatever the hell is or isn't going on with Alejandro Valverde and notoriously paranoid punishers-o'-the-innocent T-Mobile may not be going on anymore, after reports that clear-til-now Valverde's now implicated in the Operacion Puerto scandal, thanks to relentless recordkeeping of the esteemed Dr. Fuentes and his broad if indiscreet determination to name every single rider he's got a deal with after their poor slandered dogs. Anyone else wondering why 'Piti' suddenly started using Dr. Fuentes as his vet? I'm sure it was just to protect his health. Good boy, Piti!

On the Same Rider: the emerging allegations, though, have done nothing to stop T-Mobile and Illes-Balears from sniping at each other over the Valverde contract dispute, with Illes-Balears accusing T-Mobile of not only a total lack of ethics for trying to poach a rider with a valid contract by appealing to his natural base greed with giant buckets of euros, but also of a total lack of results that such an obscene bank account would reasonably lead one to expect. Right on, Illes-Balears!

Jan Ullrich Contract Watch: Nope, nuthin'. But our diligently training antihero is still negotiating allegedly with a couple of ProTour teams and a handful of Continentals, including the aforementioned Acqua e Sapone. I call bull#$%, Jan! If a ProTour team is taking the risk--no matter how lame the offer, no matter how willing they are to CSC your a$$ at the first sign of trouble--why the hell aren't you signing *now* for God's sake? Sure, there's been a truly impressive (or horrifying) exodus of top-line talent to Continental squads this year, so you won't be without support, but do you really want to have to worry about wild-carding into every race you really want to win? Meantime, you owe a giant butt-kissing thanks to Erik Zabel, who despite gently suggesting that you drove him off his beloved T-Mobile, kindly opined that you and everyone else implicated in OP by crap rumours and unsubstantiated innuendo be allowed to resume your "rightful place in the peloton" immediately. Take all the friends you can get at this point, pal, and send that man a case of wine or something!

Ouch: Speaking of Jan--or more to the point--riders who are being treated way better despite the exact same nasty rumors a-floating, Teen People-friendly pinup Ivan Basso has scored a sweet 1.5 mil endorsement with Nike, with the added possibility of his own signature gear should he pull off the '07 Tour. With Basso and his dog cleared of any wrongdoing, and everyone seemingly reluctant to tar cycling's most comely cash cow with anything, I imagine nascent Tour aspirants everywhere will soon be swooning about in Nike Basso jerseys. Look, I love Basso--but, unbe-freaking-lievable. Poor Jan!

World Cycling Smackdown: Ticked at the Grand Tours' desire not to be enslaved to the pack of sponsor-ho'd prima donnas that constitute the ProTour, UCI has decided to whine straight to the European Commission over, essentially, accusations that the GTs are racketeering by trying to control who gets in their races and how. Now, not to discount the long and uncheckered history of the two-year-old ProTour, which everyone from the riders to the press to the guys who stuff the musettes was slamming as needless incompetent bureaucratic crap until, um...well, I haven't seen it stop yet, have you? But does anyone else feel that the Tour de France, the Giro, and the Vuelta have acquired, maybe, just enough history and legitimacy over, say, the last 100 years to outweigh the waa-ing and baa-ing of teams that change sponsors, fire their team management, and self-destruct with doping scandals every ten minutes? Allez Grand Tours!

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Just When It Looked Like a Slow News Day...

The Decline and Fall of Western Civilization: oily sponsor apologist Pat "Dick" McQuaid of UCI has now expanded his dubious expertise to xenophobic geopolitics, bizarrely claiming a "clash of cultures" between noble, clean-living "Anglo-Saxon" states (the Netherlands, Germany, England, and Denmark), and rogue dope-addled "Mafia" countries Belgium, France, Spain, and Italy. Worse, if the Anglo-Saxons don't win the fight for the heart of cycling, our fair sport is doomed. Ah, the notorious Belgian Mafia. Am I completely looped by the Chianti I've been scarfing, or isn't redeemed weepy golden boy and *convicted doper* St. David Millar a Brit?

Just in Time: Meantime, right as Floyd Landis gears up his on-line legal fundraising via the "Floyd Fairness Fund," his next target comes nicely into range: WADA's "Dick" Pound, who joyously convicted Landis in a neat one-man guillotine routine in the pages of the rather oft-read Sunday New York Times magazine, completely ignoring the tactical contributions of the peloton on Landis' stage to Morzine for a cycling-ignorant public, and further managing to tar him as a presumptively pervy ball o' raging man-stud illicit hormones, claiming that with his testosterone levels, "you'd think he'd be violating every virgin within 100 miles. How does he even get on his bicycle." Floyd, if your !@#$%^ legal team can't get your case tossed over this crap, or at the very least a huge defamatory chunk o' change gouged out of this guy, I swear you'd be better off hiring the last moron to prevail without even a lawyer on "Judge Judy." Landis' camp, of course, has at least managed to smack back that his testosterone level was fine, his epi was low, and that boy does this look biased. A good start, to be sure, but for my money, until you've made him hire a $450 an hour attorney, you haven't made him cry. Pick it up Floyd!

Jan Ullrich Contract Watch: Nope, he's still jacked, but ironically, inevitable Grand Tour winner Alejandro Valverde's apparently--hard to tell, given the flurry of enraged denials, affirmations, and just plain coyness on every side--in talks to join Jan's old hangout T-Mobile, with his Illes Balears contract alone worth a cool 3 million euro buyout. Not so happy sharing team leadership with Oscar Pereiro per the team's just (perhaps poorly-timed)announced '07 Tour roster, are we? Well, Valverde really deserves whatever he gets (so does T-Mobile, in my opinion, but not in the same way), so if that's what he wants, I'm happy. And this would leave Oscar's "I love him/I won't race for him" dithering mercifully moot, which is nice for Oscar as well. And T-Mobile's young squad is in a good position frankly to superdomestique Valverde up the mountains. Either way, ought to be a lively Tour!

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Jan Ullrich Contract Watch

Nope, He Still Hasn't Scored One: But he is, apparently, deep in negotiations with continental (what happened to your ProTour team, Jan?) squad Acqua e Sapone, inexplicably the new home of 2x Giro god (and still quite in the game) Stefano Garzelli. The problem? Well, according to team manager Palmiro Masciarelli, a few minor sticking points: (1) Jan insists three other riders come with, including similarly damaged-goods Oscar Sevilla; (2) he has to get a content Garzelli and the rest of the currently-happy boys to sign on; (3) he's gotta get the ok from the sponsors, who understandably are worried about (4) getting whacked out of the ticked-off Tour of Germany and other "Jan Bites" races, whose organizers he's also gotta soothe; and (5)Jan's got to have a license from somewhere, and they are awaiting word from the Swiss fed despite Jan's ardent claim that they've no longer got jurisdiction over him in any case. Is anyone else starting to feel less than optimistic on this one?

Oh Jan. You obviously can't control nos. 2-4 (and at this point I think you've pretty much tanked on controlling no. 5, too). And I truly do admire your sticking by your friends, as they've clearly (except for, say, the entirety of use-em-and-lose-em T-Mobile team management) all stuck by you. But to compensate for my own lack of imagination and therefore roll out an excess of tired, nay exhausted, cliches, don't look a gift horse in the mouth Jan! Particularly this late in the season (and the budget projections), beggars can't be choosers. And if they can barely afford your justifiably grossly expensive carcass, Jan, what the hell makes you think they can afford you, *and* Oscar Sevilla, much less two other pals, even if the anonymous last are pennies on the dollar? Sign, goddammit! Do you want to ride next season, or don't you? Aaaarrrrggghhh!

League of Extraodinary Alleged Dopers: in sharp contrast, tainted but still innocent late Saiz puppets Michele Scarponi and Jorg Jaksche have also found new homes in the Continental world (along with most everybody else except poor Ullrich), to Barloworld and Volksbank, respectively. Thank goodness these teams don't have a "gentlemen's agreement" they're each and every one sticking to like the ProTour, else there'd be no place for guys like these and Iva...oops!

Giro Don't Like It: Speaking of UCI, in response to the Grand Tour organizers' threat to limit the number of ProTour teams participating, the UCI ProTour Council has kindly offered to to cut the ProTour rosters from 9 men to 8 to leave room for the additional wildcards the GT organizers would dearly like to see--from 2 to 5, in fact. The Grand Tours, however, have politely noted that this solution was proposed 3 years ago, when UCI roundly rejected it, and in any case they've now concluded there'd be too many teams and too much chaos with the change. Not to discount your generous offer, UCI (particularly since at those tight margins even one rider can make the difference between a team leader's winning or losing, say, the Tour) but ya think it might've been better received if you hadn't spent the entire last season dope-slapping the GTs in the press?

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Let's Go

Relax, They Did It: It's a pretty fine start to 2007 for ex-AG2R alleged dopemeister Francisco Mancebo, who's managed, as rumored (despite some minor obstacles, like massive public "he's guilty" smacking by his prior team manager), to sign a contract with wild-card Vuelta attack dogs Relax-Gam. Given the drive shown by the squad in this year's race, if only to diligently promote their sponsors in fruitless daylong solo breaks, I'm curious to see if they'll be up to giving Mancebo some help when he needs it next year against whatever's left of Valverde after the Tour and against Euskaltel at their peak. Oh, Jan. You've been no more the subject (somehow, I can't quite bring myself to write "victim") of vicious doping accusations than Mancebo, yet you still can't pull off a contract with *anyone*? At the very least you could've been trading amusing (second-hand, I'm sure) pharmaceutical anecdotes with Tyler Hamilton and Danilo Hondo on a Tinkoff training ride right now. See what happens when you treat poor we love Erik Zabel like crap when you're on T-Mobile together and drive him off to Milram? Karma, baby!

Help! I Need Somebody: Not that I need another excuse to park my rear end on the couch, but with actual cycling season drawing nigh, and the "Vs." network sure to continue its manly emphasis on shows about shooting Bambi and bouncing on bulls severely annoyed by the application of tightened ropes to their nuts, I am becoming ever more desperate to find a US station that'll truly spread the gospels of Phil (Liggett) and Paul (Sherwen) and put on more'n a completely insulting two total freakin' hours of hyperconsolidated Grand Tour on TV, much less a classic or anything else not about Lance Armstrong. ESPN2? Anybody? Come ON! Does the world really need more air time devoted to monster trucks?! Aaaaiiiigggghhh!

They Call Me Mellow Yellow: While I'm still snorting smelling salts after seeing we love Iban Mayo in Saunier-Duval team kit, Mayo seemingly confirmed, in his presentation interview officially announcing his riding the Giro in support of and to learn from Gilberto Simoni to prep for the Tour (still not the Vuelta--dammit!), that it was indeed, as the press so constantly snarked, the pressure of team leadership at Euskaltel that was crushing his performance and he's now feeling "liberated" and training with ease. Despite the fact that there's now approximately 2 Spaniards left to race in August and I'm pretty darn cranky he's not one of 'em, I will suck it up as best I can and really hope he kicks @#$ in July. But is bailing on the Dauphine and killing himself for 3 weeks in Italy really gonna make him feel so much better spiritually when Spanish TV jams a camera up his nose the next time he cracks in France? Prove them wrong Iban!