Monday, February 26, 2007

Ull Over!

Rich-o, Suave: well, he's out--despite a hope-inducing recent training, or I guess pleasure, ride in Mallorca with ex-teammates Kloden and Kessler, Jan Ullrich is off the bike for good, and into a presumably lucrative "consulting" role (I imagine on the nutritional end) for upstart Austrians Volksbank. Jan, though, was adamant that this is a joyous, fully voluntary move, insisting he had 7 offers to ride including several from ProTour teams, but, one Tour de France (and pretty much everything else as well) win later, he was just plain satisfied with his career. As any cyclist should be, with his stellar palmares--but I call bull@#$% at least on the ProTour teams, Jan! You didn't want to defend last year's victories? You didn't want to pound out one more winning time trial, one more stage or podium finish at the Tour? My !@#!

Now, I've heard suggestions that poor Jan is just plain tired out by all the doping hoo-ha, and just too depressed by all the accusations to continue. But hell, if that's the case, couldn't he have just pigged out on schnitzel and Ecstasy like he always did in the off-seasons to soothe his soul? It's called displacement, people! Regardless, this really bites, and I'm truly sorry to see him go. Yap, yap, yap, he's a filthy convicted Armstrong also-ran who never valued the inestimable power of his natural machine--but still he triumphed over similarly tanked-up counterparts who even so couldn't match his record. Yap, yap, yap, he never fully realized the promise of a beautiful early career--well, read it and weep, he never really went downhill despite the constant unwarranted press slaughter and persistent (and, given his interest in winning races throughout the season, pointless) comparison with brilliant freakishly focused one-trick pony (and I say that in the most complimentary way) perpetual icon Lance Armstrong. Pudged out early in the season to a monstrously bloated 2 or 5 kilos over his race weight, unmotivated by internal team backbiting, injured, too lazy to take the initiative up the mountainside, or just plain whining, Jan even at his worst was a force to overwhelm 99% of the rest of the peloton throughout his career. And does anyone really believe that the fallout from Op Puerto truly fell fairly on the shoulders of all his peers, including the others who haven't tested positive for anything this round? Real and imagined doping aside, he was a pretty good sport too (if no Jens Voigt perhaps) as these boys go, certainly not unconfident but largely gracious in winning and in defeat despite the plague of egomaniacal grandstanding that seems almost a prerequisite for a rider at his level. Condemn Ullrich if you will--and man, will folks ever--hell, I sure have--but I, for one, feel the loss and, on the doping end, can't abide the foul stench of hypocrisy. We'll miss you Jan!

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