Saturday, February 17, 2007

? and the Mysterians

Unibet Your !@# They're Ticked: AFter being first forced to wear anonymous, if fortunately media-grabbing, question-mark jerseys on French soil due to weird and apparently inconsistently applied rules on advertising gaming (correct me if I'm wrong here, but Predictor-LOTTO, anyone?), then officially barred from the Giro, and now finally cut from beloved classics Paris-Nice and Paris-Roubaix, all as pointless hostage/collateral damage in the ongoing war between protectors-of-the-faith Grand Tour organizers and egomaniacal power-grabbing upstarts UCI/ProTour, the sponsors are finally starting to get twitchy, not unreasonably wondering if despite their early-season results it's worth it to pay the substantial salaries of guys like Jose Rujano and Baden Cooke if they're not gonna be able to get camera time with their de rigeur garish jerseys at any rides more publicized than a race by a couple of kids to the end of their own driveways. Now, I understand entirely why the oldest and most beautiful races on earth don't want a pack of self-interested corporate stooges in a jailbait system pretty near everyone concedes is deeply flawed making the rules for them, but Unibet didn't form the ProTour for Christ's sake--it just wanted to enjoy its benefits. Bad enough these poor s.o.b.'s had to pay out the hoo-ha and still almost lose their slot to Manolo Saiz and Active Bay's desperate fruitless deathgrip. But, really, why them? I mean, are they actually less deserving of a spot at the Giro (or Milano-Sanremo, or Tirreno, or...) than, say, Tinkoff or freakin' Agritubel? Y'know, I love you, Grand Tours. But it doesn't take much guts or muscle to slap around the newest, weakest link in the arrogant impotent ProTour chain. Pick on somebody your own size, instead of the defenseless little brother of the big kid on the block!

Meanwhile, the teams, who really could put their foot down on this one so to speak, don't feel attached enough apparently to Unibet to take the risk of getting their own boys kicked out of the big ones beyond a vague and almost certainly bull@#$$ threat to boycott Paris-Nice or something, particularly since ASO is also going utterly ballistic over inconsequential details like Gerolsteiner screwing up its paperwork, though Discovery for example has taken the opportunity given to weigh in on the Unibet situtation by bravely snarking at the Tour de France with their predictable annual wank about favoritism towards lesser French teams, instead of anything that's actually relevant. Meantime, this whole situation may be resolved by reports that the ASO and UCI have reached out to each other for sincere talks about their differences, which seems to mean that Pat "Dick" McQuaid assures ASO that he really, really likes the ProTour but is willing to talk, and Patrice Clerc assures Pat that the entire ProTour is "illicit" and McQuaid and Co. can bite him. Sounds like a promising start, boys!

Actual Racers Actually Racing: Well, it's another fine start to another season, and a heck of a way to thank his new team, for unusually fine jailbait Liberty Seguros refugee Luis Leon Sanchez, who took the overall at Challenge Mallorca over a host of stage wins by guys like Oscar Freire. Speaking of Iles Balears, Valverde and Pereiro have seemingly met at a happy understanding regarding the Tour de France, with Valverde warmly continuing to proclaim co-leadership and Pereiro conceding he's not gonna be in the top tier of podium candidates barring some unforeseen circumstance at the start (and really, what could happen?), and that he's looking forward to helping Alejandro as Alejandro will, as co-leader, generously help him. Anyone thinking that, say, T-"Eat Our Own Young"Mobile could learn a little bit about PR from these guys?

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