Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The French Revolution

Mon Dieu!: Irked by the natural decision of French teams Bouyges-Telecom, Cofidis & Francaise de Jeux to ignore the UCI's idiot demand that they boycott their hometown ride Paris-Nice, UCI has now stooped from mere strong encouragement to active threats, blustering that they'll whack the teams with "severe sanctions" if they fail to fall into line with the rest of the ProTour squads--who, if my understanding is right, didn't actually promise Pat "Dick" McQuaid anything with regard to Paris-Nice when they met with him last week at the Tour de California anyway. The renegades, however, remain unimpressed, politely accusing McQuaid of being "totalitarian," and reasonably noting that their ProTour contracts in fact require them to attend it and other ASO events as well, so what is a poor team to do? Unibet, meantime, which has a lot more to lose in biting the hand that just fed it a license, wisely targeted an impassioned plea solely to the race organizers to, for the love of cycling, treat them with the respect they were due and the races they were promised, and, in a more likely effective tactic, playing the classic schoolyard "wuss card" by taunting the Grand Tours for presumably being afraid of Jose Rujano taking another King of the Mountains jersey or GT podium spot away from one of their talentless pampered lily-livered Continental also-rans who couldn't possibly earn it otherwise. When in doubt, emasculate!

The Spanish Civil War: I see that the generally innocous decision of Illes Balears to bail on team sponsorship, apparently on the dual grounds of crap TV coverage of Spanish races and thus their jerseys, and the whole doping thing being a less than attractive image for a tourist destination to project, has turned into a bit of a political hoo-ha, with a home party objecting that the whole thing bit anyway from the start because it was cheating domestic talent by blowing 3x the entire sports budget for local athletes on some team from Pamplona. Now, though the end of the sponsorship would therefore seem to be a good thing to these guys, for me, it's a freakin' disaster--for the life of me, while I had a reasonably competent handle on "Illes Balears," I have no idea how to pronounce "Caisse d'Epargne," particularly "Caisse." Anyone?

The Wounded: Well, we love George Hincapie is fortunately recovering nicely from plate-and-screw-inserting surgery to stabilize his nasty broken wrist from the Tour of California--and an unsurprisingly amazing job from Hincapie riding on that thing and in fact leading the charge for Levi the rest of that stage, by the way--but Johan Bruyneel has all but confirmed that George won't be riding his beloved Paris-Roubaix, as the cobbles would take him out even if he could already pull off an ordinary road ride by race day. Poor George--Basso, you know he'll similarly work his heart out for you in July, you'd better let him take a stage in the Tour de France! Meantime, big Maggy Backstedt, who just had his shoulder plate and screw removed from his track smack in October, still has an outside shot at making it to the Hell of the North. And, in yet another tale of cyclist masochism, Karsten Kroon didn't even realize he'd snapped a rib at the Tour of California Stage 1 pileup til this week, well after he'd finished the whole Tour anyway. Hamilton buzzing along with a busted collarbone, these guys toughing it out with useful upper body parts in disarray--these boys make the rest of the planet's injured athletes look like a pack of toddlers whining over boo-boos!

Baby, It's Ull Right Now: so with Jan gone, the accolades are pouring in, and though the press seems unapologetic for hounding him out of the sport, he's at least got Miguel Indurain and Eddy Merkcx on his side, admiring his tremendous and long-running career and lamenting the brutal psychological pressure he unfairly faced over his compatriots. So in the spirit of similar sensitivity, is there any particular reason the press felt compelled to publish approximately 1500 interviews this week with every single other Op Puerto implicated-and-dumped rider--some with reps as bad as Jan's, or worse--who signed a contract with another team this
year? Give him a day, for goodness' sakes, before rubbing his nose in it again!

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