Thursday, March 29, 2007


Prince of Slides: well, I never thought I'd have to feel sorry for sprint king/Cipollini-in-waiting Alessandro Petacchi, at least not this decade, but, as he himself dispiritedly predicted, he bailed mid-stage in the Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali, a day after the race organizers already had to stretch the time limit in the team time trial to keep him alive, from the "psychophysical" stress still plaguing him from his spectacular tank in Milano-Sanremo. Could it be, then, that it's not just the shaky recovery from his smashed kneecap and resulting leg-strength power imbalance, nor just his embarrassing, if nicely healed, broken hand from its rage-induced team-bus meeting, but also the combined effects of the smack-talking by surging next-generation Daniele Bennati, the grim assessments of Cipo and lead out/elder master Erik Zabel, and the growing onslaught of press and fan abuse over his sudden decline and potential irrelevance have finally been getting to the poor boy? If that's the case, I'm inclined to say let's lay off him a bit and see if his funk rises ahead of next-target Gent-Wevelgem in April, but also that, if for whatever reason he hasn't the goods at this (hopefully brief) moment, he really oughta bite the ego bullet and let setting sun we love Erik Zabel, who proved last season he's still got game, out to play. Allez Erik, and Ale, snap out of it!

Vuelta a Castilla e Coppi e Settimana y Bartali: speaking of the week's two big races, I note briefly that Saunier Duval youngster/Vuelta a Espana stage winner Francisco Ventoso's taken two stages in the Vuelta a Castilla, Alberto Contador took a hotly-contested stage and the leader's jersey on team orders over Koldo Gil, and over at Coppi e Bartali, Ivan Basso dope-slapped any doubts about his recovery by taking about 6th in the time trial, two spots over a sleek Levi Leipheimer. Y'know, I'm sure it's just dedicated training, capitalizing on poor SOB Bjarne Riis' nurturance, the off-season wind-tunnel tweaking and Discovery's egregiously deep pockets in finding the perfect position and all, but again, does anyone else get a slightly disconcerting Roberto Heras flashback contemplating Basso's sudden power in the time trial? Brrrrrrrr!

Joseba Beloki Contract Watch: No, but !@#$%^$ Michele Scarponi from Liberty Seguros !@#$%%$ took a stage in Coppi e Bartali riding for &*(%$! Acqua e Sapone. !@$%#!@!

The Wounded: Happily, Tom Boonen's bum back has apparently been alleviated by a bike switch, enough to have him take a day's race in Belgium over a Robbie "the Ego" McEwen still sore from his crash in Milano. T-Mobile, meantime, whose management bungling seems to be exceeded only by its even worse luck this season, has possibly lost the entire spring of previous Gent champ Andreas Klier to a broken cheekbone and concussion sustained in a deeply uncomfortable hook-up with a tractor. Finally, leg-snapped Milano casualty David Kopp may see road time before season's end, if not by much, and Caisse d'Epargne's Jose Joaquin Rojas is eager to take his thrice-fractured spine over the cobbles at Hell of the North. Is it me, or is this the most disastrously, and early, accident-prone peloton in years?

Alors, Some Tours: the humdinger route for the 07 Deutschland Tour is out, and the question is, will anyone besides defending god Jens Voigt be allowed to hit the pavement? T-Mobile, desperate for wins, doesn't want anyone from Op Puerto in the race at all, which takes out about 1/3 of the peloton right there, and whines it may even boycott the race if any one of 'em shows; by contrast, the antidoping hawks over at the Tour itself have suddenly snaked out of their tough-guy refusal to let Basso and compatriots in, now claiming it's up to UCI to take action. A little nervous you'll throw a party and no-one'll come, boys? Weasels! Meantime, the Dauphine is set to take on the fearsome Mont Ventoux, with we love Levi Leipheimer defending (don't screw him on support just to save Basso's butt in the Tour, Bruyneel!), with Vino, Valverde, Pereiro, and Schleck all out for glory. We love Levi!

Dopers, and the Dopus Ex-Dopers Who Condemn Them: I see Johan Museeuw's endless old-news trial for buying dope from his vet has been delayed again, sure to set off the righteous alarm bells of tireless (and Lord, is he also tiresome) self-promoter St. David Millar, raging that the "buck stops with management" (now there's a revelation) to control the riders' baser instincts and hire the virtuous ones, like him, and more, the whole industry ought to model itself and its regimens o' purity on clean queens T-Mobile. Well, once the teams see how well T-Mobile's been doing this year, why *wouldn't* they jump on that bandwagon? Nit!

Monday, March 26, 2007

Muckraker, Muckraker, Rake Me a Muck

Riis' Pieces: Hot off the Belgian newspapers' recent field day with tales of Patrick Lefevere's decades o' doping, Belgian TV now reports, via a soigneur who I presume no longer wants to work in the biz, that Bjarne "CSC Stands for Clean Sport" Riis used EPO at Team Telekom to win the Tour de France, provided, apparently, by another rider via the ever-helpful team medical corps. Nice! More, his current rheumatism is allegedly linked to its use, quite an irony for the poor Op Puerto investigators who weren't able to nail anyone for doping-related health effects this century, outside perhaps a few pulled shoulder muscles from hefting dope-fueled trophies and outsized champagne bottles on the podium. Riis, meantime, hit back furiously with a monstrously empty nondenial, opining merely he doesn't like to focus on the past, though I'm not convinced he really wants anyone looking too closely at the present, either. Back to Telekom, while natch then-team director/tainted Ullrich associate/now Astana cleanster Walter Godefroot was not directly involved in the riders' hijinks, he did seem to concede he was "aware" of it at the time. So much for your golden boy, Astana--weren't you warned off this guy already when you hired him? Hearteningly, Erik Zabel, after a onetime concession, apparently dismissed the performance enhancement as unnecessary "for him." We love Erik, even, and maybe especially, if a little mightn't hurt a sprinter's chances in his twilight years! Most interestingly, Patrick "Not Me" Lefevere seemed quite ticked about the whole subject, snarling "What do you want? For everyone to get down on their knees and confess?" Well, yes, if you're gonna be a raging hypocrite and sue the offending newspaper for outing you for doing what you seem to be shrugging that you actually did do, jerk! Then again, if one more red-handed crybaby chooses not to pull a Millar and make us all utterly nauseous with his sanctimony, I suppose I'd be just as grateful for that. Please, just let this all end!

Teeming Masses: so, I've read an insightful suggestion or two that Tyler Hamilton's ignominious, and uncharacteristic, DNF in Tirreno-Adriatico was perhaps due to an unhelpful lack of doping activity. Y'know, it's certainly possible. However, in part because I proclaimed my faith in Tyler in indelible fabric paint on a Hamilton Foundation hat I laid out $15 for, I like to think it's because the boy hasn't been allowed to race against anyone more formidable than your typical caffeine-stoked weekend warrior (intimidating as they are, especially to the lame likes of me) for two years, and that, in cyclist years, he's perhaps getting a bit long in the tooth without the steady training that might possibly otherwise let him pull an Eki. Come back, Tyler--at least for a day or two in the Giro!

Feed Your Head: Look, I truly Support Drug Free Sport. To think that almost no-one but the recently canonized David Millar is clean is a knife in the chest. But the great Eddy Merckx has called it unrealistic, Indurain and many others have copped to popping various performance-enhancers like Mentos, and who gets busted and who doesn't seems an utter triumph of superior discretion over reckless stupidity. However, it also seems just wrong to simply throw in the towel. Suggestions, from the inevitably-wiser-than-I?

Lovely Weather for a Bike Ride Together: it's almost the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon, and welcome back to a fine field of boys, some fresh off the disabled list: Basso and Sastre, Oscar Pereiro, Levi, and Paris-Nice baby champ ascendant Alberto Contador. There's an opening time trial and I hope Levi's in shape a la Tour de California to take it. Venga Levi! Meantime, over in Italy, it's the Settimana Internazional Coppi e Bartali, with a humbled Petacchi, Cadel, Giro gods Savoldelli and Simoni and the afore-dissed Tyler Hamilton slugging it out for glory. Alright, I'm still annoyed by Discovery coldly tossing Savoldelli to the curb. He won't take it, but vai Paolo!

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Crash Cart

Freire Oscar: Dormez-vous, Oscar, you earned it! Meantime, the rest of the pack was a (literally) bloody mess, as David Kopp was knocked unconscious and out with a broken nose, Axel Merckx, Davide Rebellin and countless others also hit the pavement in varying degrees of speed and pain, and Moletta flipped upside down and whammed head-first into the pavement on a break with Popovych after a nasty airborne encounter with a light pole. Yowch! Luckily, no-one seems permanently worse for wear, though I assume Kopp's season is pretty far in the tank, and after a last valiant solo charge by Popo and a dangerous attack by Phillipe Gilbert and Riccardo Ricco, the group glommed together behind a perfect Milram lead-out, Petacchi bonked, and Friere neatly shot off his wheel to take the win by a bike length. The man of the race? Besides the obvious, I call Paolo Bettini, who was caught out at an excruciatingly bad time behind a crash, clawed his way back from the autobus to the front of the race, set up the chase-down of Gilbert, and only faded at the very end--a testament to his sheer tenacity that he ever got halfway back in the first place. Vai Paolo! Meantime, Petacchi was bummed if generous towards his teammates in his 8th place finish, while Erik Zabel, who peeled away in the leadout as required but still came in ahead of him in 6th, seemed a bit more miffed at both their outcomes, remarking glumly that it was "in his contract." And Petacchi trash-talker du jour Daniele Bennati? Somewhere round about 26th if I recall. Try not to go too nuts over your earlier pounding of the old boy, Daniele!

Joseba Beloki Contract Watch: Nope, but @#%%^! Allan Davis from @#$^*&! Liberty Seguros came in second at Milano-Sanremo with Discovery's logo on his @$*. !@#%%*^!

Achtung Baby: Finally, it seems the Germans, lacking immediate means to exact belated vengeance on betrayer ex-unquestioned-cash-cow Jan Ullrich, have decided to go after the rest of the peloton in frustration, requiring escorts of all test-subject riders from the line to the, well, testing site, mandating that any rider whose A & B samples test positive be suspended by their teams no matter what crap legalistic nonsense (like, say, deal-killing error or actual innocence) the sporting courts throw their convictions out on, and, as earlier promised, barring any boy remotely 'under suspicion' from any start on German soil. Man, given that last giant arbitrary invitation-to-petty-revenge, is there gonna even be anyone left to start at the Deutschland Tour?

Friday, March 23, 2007


Bettini, Tiny Problem: well, the bodies continue to pile up ahead of Milano-SanRemo, as world champ Paolo Bettini's 'mild discomfort' from his crashouts at Tirreno turns out to be in fact a fractured rib, which presumably means, if he's still in, as I imagine he will be, he'll end up supporting sprintalicious Belgian man-candy Tom Boonen, himself thwapped alternately with an aching back and a cold. Over at Milram, the managers are already bemoaning the expected tank of we love Erik Zabel due a sore throat, and, in a demoralizing smack to the only healthy guy left in the peloton (and a pretty decent rider, I've heard), helpfully pointing out that aged-goods Alessandro Petacchi's form is inexplicably crap despite what was clearly a completely meritless aberrational run of early-season wins, as he certainly did "nothing" at Tirreno. Mario "the Chest" Cipollini, meanwhile, encouragingly echoed the sentiment that "something's wrong there" with the creaky old boy, putting his money on emerging talent/ego trip Daniele Bennati, and, perhaps, a resurgent we love Oscar Friere. Which seems reasonable, since besides Pozzato who wouldn't mind redoing his 06 win, the only other two sprint-capable boys left alive, Thor Hushovd and Baden Cooke, are now out with the ubiquitous gack-inducing intestinal bug felling the rest of the riders and a painful back, respectively. God, between the psychological abuse being suddenly heaped on poor Petacchi and the mass peloton implosion-of-the-body, is there going to be anyone left in one piece at the start line?

RCS and UCI Down by the Schoolyard: yep, the playground battle between the Grand Tours and UCI continues, this time by email, as the Giro organizers spam a pack of journalists that Tirreno and other RCS races oughtn't be considered part of the skeezbag ProTour, and UCI (never one to let legal niceties like, say, justice and due process, much less contract technicalities, get in the way of its own warfare til this point), whine back that, per the emergency agreement hammered out between all parties, while the Grand Tours needn't be bound by any ProTour obligations, UCI needn't remove the races from their calendars, either. So there! Meanwhile, ASO continues to take out its emotional issues with UCI on defenseless saps Unibet, denying them a start at the beloved Hell of the North despite the latter's desperate agreement to name their team after their bikes and wear entirely different Halloween-colored jerseys at every French start line they hit. You're still entirely right to noogie UCI into submission, ASO--but can't you just concentrate on pleasing the crowds by humiliating Pat "Dick" McQuaid at this point and leave the poor quivering directeur sportifs at Unibet alone?

Yellow-Belly: so I see St. David Millar, fresh from his admittedly very fine ride at Paris-Nice, is going for the general classification at the Tour of Georgia as his next big goal on his holy road to dope-free recovery. Aside from generally loving George Hincapie, this is just another reason to hope he--or anyone! Jesus Manzano, anyone!--takes out Millar at the line by a mortifying margin. I'm sorry, sort of, to be such a lousy sport here, but until Millar quits making out with his own reflection like some ghastly spandex-clad Narcissus, I swear I'm pretty well set to actively root against him--hopefully, though at this point not even necessarily, for someone who's also (declared himself, anyway) clean. Allez George!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

WADA Farce!

Wa, Wa, Wa(da): irked by the Spanish decision to drop the Operacion Puerto case despite conceding widespread actual doping, and bouyed presumably by El Pais' massive assault on the judge in the case, WADA has quite belatedly petitioned the court a la UCI to be named as a party in the Spanish investigation so they can get access to the legions of damning files and conduct their own damn investigation, as both they, and UCI's Pat "Dick" McQuaid, are clearly (and literally) out for blood (bags). Man, WADA, you and UCI haven't required any actual evidence so far before you've gone around destroying the careers of every rider you don't like--why the sudden change in strategy? Meantime, El Pais, as noted, has helpfully lambasted the judge for a multitude of failings, including interpreting a lame law he didn't write, condoning illegal wiretaps, ignoring evidence that a combo of EPO and vitamin A caused brain problems for an anonymous cyclist, denying that Liberty Seguros throwaway Marcos Serrano's '06 Giro hospitalization was doping related, and letting Santi Perez and Tyler Hamilton off the hook for their blood-doping sins. That, and he smells, too!

T-Immobile: already whipped by a mortifyingly unsuccessful early-season run, with notable tanks in the Tour of California and virtually everything else they've competed in, implosion queens T "Eat Our Own Young" Mobile faced yet another humiliating smack as Andreas Kloden, tossed off the team for his egregious friendship with Jan Ullrich and wisely snapped up by Vinokorouv and Astana along with up-and-comer Mattias Kessler, took the overall at Tirreno-Adriatico in fine form after a second place finish in the time trial to Gerolsteiner's Stefan Schumacher. Am I the only one thinking the team managers are starting to bang their heads against a pole in the sudden painful realization of what their vengeful short-sighted conduct towards these boys last season has cost 'em? Somewhere, at least if he's half as mean as I am, Jan Ullrich is smiling. Just a little.

Meeting of the Minds(less): I see UCI and the Grand Tours are set to meet again as promised in April, apparently over the GT's nonfulfillment of their nonpromise to take on Astana and Unibet as automatic wildcards in all their races. Y'know, if that's what you really wanted, UCI, why'd you walk away without it? It's not like you've hesitated to throw your bloated crushing weight around til now, to the detriment of the most beautiful races and most talented cyclists on earth. Afraid that every French rider in the peloton was gonna defy your poseur oligarch proclamations and show up at the Paris-Nice startline with or without your impotent threats?

The Wounded: Finally, Milano-SanRemo, already decimated by the combined effects of crashes and particularly disgusting viral infections, has taken a whole 'nother pack of hits, with Thomas Dekker and Danilo DiLuca out with the gross flu afflicting most of the rest of the peloton and Jose Joaquin Rojas knocked momentarily unconscious, but apparently luckily otherwise undamaged, in a nasty training-ride encounter with a car. At this rate, only Petacchi's going to be in shape to show up, in which case he might as well walk the freakin' corsa and save the wear and tear on his bike. Please, everyone who's left, try to hold it together just til this weekend!

Monday, March 19, 2007

We'll Always Have Paris

Spanish Acquisition: well, it was a rip-roaring end to Paris-Nice, as Manolo Saiz' lost opportunities/kings o' the future Luis Leon Sanchez and Alberto Contador took the last two stages and the latter, after a brutal assault on the peloton and particularly the yellow jersey by Levi Leipheimer and Tommy Danielson and a smashing solo attack by Contador himself, the whole shebang from a valiant, if just plain beat, Davide Rebellin. So is he the new Miguel Indurain, as the press instantly began howling? I don't know (and to his credit he hasn't copped to it), though I'm beyond impressed, but I sure as hell do know that before he takes that hype to heart he oughta look at the cautionary psychological tale of we love Iban "the next Lance Armstrong" Mayo. We still believe in you, Iban!

Joseba Beloki Contract Watch: sorry Jan, but despite Wolfie's optimistic yammering to the contrary, I'm afraid you may be a lost cause at the moment, so speaking of Spaniards we love, the lately glum Joseba Beloki seems to have cheered up a bit, opining he's got two seasons left to ride and is actually in talks with a couple of teams, including perhaps Euskaltel-Euskadi. If there's any squad who could pull him out of his lingering post-Tour-accident, post-wholesale-Saiz-and -UCI-career- destruction funk, I imagine it's the reigning peloton mountain gods. Hire Joseba already!

Ow Italia: yep, briefly-upright world champ Paolo Bettini has crashed yet again in Tirreno, thwacking a pole dodging a skidding Elmiger, though he seems set, along with a back-sore Tom Boonen and a for-once *not* agonizingly injured Oscar Freire, to head out on the attack at Milano-Sanremo, which is more than one can say for poor Ivan Basso, continuing the Crappiest Start to the Season Ever by having banged up his wrist harder than initially thought in his crash in Tirreno and deciding to bail on Milano, his other major warmup for the Giro. Aside from his truly masterful avoidance of Jan Ullrich's fate and resultant Bill Gatesian bank balance (*cough* give your lawyer a raise! *cough*), is there anything that can go right for the boy this season?

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Pot (Belge) At the End of the Rainbow

Magic Carpet Ride: well, it's at least a change from this week's rash of crash-outs in the unusually uncoordinated peloton, as Francaise de Jeux's Thierry Marichal, (very) late of the old Lotto squad in the 90's and the perplexing never-ending litigation of its doping scandal, dropped out of Paris-Nice to deal with a call-up from the Belgians, still investigating him (and a solid wunk of his ex-compatriots) for the use and sale of Pot Belge, a lively mix of methamphetamine and heroin. Now, I understand the performance value of methamphetamines, but heroin? Why not just fit up a hookah and some chaise lounges in the back of the team bus and turn it into an opium den for #$%^'s sake? Speaking of which, in a handsome parallel bit of legal hijinks, a Belgian court cleared Acqua e-Sapone-why-the-hell-is-Stefano-Garzelli-on-a-Continental -squad-this-year's Frank Vandenbroucke of EPO use, not because he didn't, but because UCI already nailed him because he did. I love double jeopardy, though I imagine Frank loves it more. And, Jan Ullrich propaganda god Wolfgang Strohband's bold prediction that Ullrich would return to the peloton somehow looks a bit more unlikely after his attorneys appealed to Spain to block transfer of Dr. Fuentes' blood bags to the Germans. Not that there's anything wrong with that, and I'm sure it's utterly unrelated to any actual culpability for anything on Jan's part. Oh heck, I still miss him!

Luck o' the Italians: yep, the body count continues to mount, as Ivan Basso recovers from his nasty crash in the Tour of California with yet another smashup that took him out with a sorely whacked but luckily unbroken wrist in Tirreno, his theoretically relaxing warmup to Milano-Sanremo. Fortunately, world champ Paolo Bettini, who also tangled wheels, remains reasonably unhurt, but GC threat Gutierrez is out with a vicious crack to the shoulder. Meantime, we love Carlos Sastre is still recuperating from his smashed lower spine and hip, and, with no apparent fractures, appears bound and determined to get back on the bike as soon as possible, with Vuelta a Castilla next on the agenda. Venga Sastre!

Climb Every Mountain: and, Discovery continues to earn its keep (and beg for sponsors) in Paris-Nice, as Popo snags a mountain finish in a sweet tactical ride, and Rebellin continues his day-old grip on the yellow jersey, for which I'm particularly grateful given my ongoing extreme annoyance with David Millar, though I'm still pointlessly rooting for Bobby Julich to grow wings in this race. You just wait 'til the next Classic, you shameless naysayers! Finally, in American race news, the Longsjo Classic is introducing a time-trial in 2007, and as it's a category in which the Americans have particularly smoked in recent years, I'm excited to see who turns up and justifies a long schlep along the Mass Pike to the glory that is Fitchburg. Woo-hoo!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Ciao Italia (e Francia)!

The Rain in Spain: well, all may now be sunny in Spanish skies, assuming the prosecutors' unsurprising appeal of the Op Puerto case closure gets tanked, but over the rest of Europe abuse is still pouring on the beleaguered peloton and its OP-tainted inhabitants. AG2R's Lavenu is incensed that riders clearly cheated and won't be punished (apropos of nothing, am I the only one wondering if any rider on any team not caught up in this scandal had the discretion to use another source besides the notorious Dr. Fuentes?), the organizer of the Vuelta, no friend to UCI, is urging them to go ahead and ferret out all concerned, and the Tour finds it "inconceivable" that the rogues caught "red-handed" should ever return to the peloton. And of course, what would doping be without Kelme leftover/grievously misnamed Jesus Manzano crying about how his lawyer was offered 180 thousand euros to go away, which, tragically, appears not to have worked--look, if *I* pay it, will you finally? Meantime, UCI, never one to shut its yap no matter how many times it's discredited by its own disgusting behavior, shall "absolutely" soldier on in its persecution of parties rightly or wrongly disgraced. God, doesn't anyone just run bike races anymore?

Break Like the Wind: over at Paris-Nice, new CSC signup/breakaway remnant really? Alexandr Kolobnev? nicely proved his worth to Bjarne Riis' Basso-smacked squad by just holding off the charging peloton at the line to take stage 2, as an oblivious (though afterwards typically good-natured) Tom Boonen mistakenly raised his arms in victory. Ouch! And today, one of Manolo Saiz' squandered genius jailbaits, now-Disco's Alberto Contador, thrillingly took an exhausting (multiple Cat 2s, a Cat 1 finish) mountain stage away from both an early break and a pounding Davide Rebellin, who took the leader's jersey off poor bonking Pellizotti as the struggling sprinter gacked off the back. And, with a fairly quiet American presence so far--surprising too, in light of the last few years' results--it was nice to see we love Levi Leipheimer in the day's top 10. Which begs the question, with Levi bearing such a fine palmares indeed at the shorter stage races the last couple of seasons, is Disco actually going to back him as he deserves with Contador already so smokin' this season, or will they make the youngster earn his place with a series of occasional stage wins and give Levi at least something remotely resembling what he signed up for (then had to settle for)? Allez Levi! And, over at Tirreno-Adriatico, Robbie "the Ego" McEwen snagged the first sprint, with Pozzato, we love Paolo Bettini, we love Oscar Freire and Ivan Gutierrez set to scare the @#$$ out of everybody the rest of the ride. No offense to Bettini, but Oscar was in the tank with injuries last season, so go Freire!

The Wounded: My, it's an ugly start to the season for the peloton, with Danilo Di Luca out of Tirreno with the flu, Boonen napped out from a cold, Basso's knee thwapped harder in the Tour of California stage 1 pileup worse'n initially thought, no-luck classics god Hincapie setting his revised sights on the Tour of Georgia while his arm heals, and T-Mobile purged of late by a particularly unappealing stomach virus. On the plus side, young comeback king Saul Raisin continues his astonishing recovery from his near-fatal brain injury, taking to the bike for his "Raisin' Hope" foundation and raising Credit Agricole's hopes that he'll soon be back in their midst. Get well soon, the lot of you!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

True Confessions

Gripe of the Week: Forgive me for being a broken record on this point, but can we please all stop the endless media ass-kissing of St. David Millar for admitting he doped (most recently wah-wahing after his Paris-Nice prologue tt win)? Yes, it's very nice that unlike everyone else who's guilty he actually copped to it in a timely manner. Indeed, under other circumstances, and if he weren't so self-congratulatory about it, it'd even be admirable. But it's not as if he admitted it after a positive test, and it's not like some random guy's unidentifiable blood bag was code-named after Lassie and found hundreds of miles away from him for God's sake--he was sitting there in his @#$%% hotel room with it when he was busted! What the hell else could he have done but suck it up? Frankly, it almost makes me want to cheer for some amped-up hoser openly jamming a needle in his rump in front of the cameras instead. You won clean, Boy Scout--we know, you've wept and preened for the press for a hundred hours already--but you're hopefully not the only one, so shut the hell up and ride without asking for a freakin' medal after every race! Y'know, when I was but a tiny tot, I took a few stickers from a store on a dare and immediately felt so horrible I ran back in and put them back. That was the absolute end of my life of crime, and I wasn't even caught. Ya think I ran around crying for a ticker-tape parade over it?

Paris-Nice Job Pellizotti!: After a lively Stage 1 where Jean-Patrick Nazon unexpectedly (though handily) took the sprint, stage two excruciatingly reeled in lone breakaway leftover Thomas Voeckler within a kilometer of the line, Quick Step and Lampre inexplicably began reeling around like drunks tossed onto the pavement after last call, and Pellizotti of all people attacked out of nowhere (and with no discernible reaction from anybody) to coast over the line with buckets of time to showcase his jersey full-on for the cameras. Was I the only one completely taken aback by this? Bennati, if you're gonna talk smack about a guy like Petacchi, explain yourself!

Manolo-no, Not Again: Manolo Saiz, asked about his Op Puerto vindication and unwilling to talk before he consulted with his lawyers until two seconds later when he did anyway, said that unfortunately it wasn't a "personal satisfaction," but that pleasingly, his "family and friends" have been "strengthened." Like Roberto Heras and Joseba Beloki, you goon?! Aaaiiigggghhh!
Meanwhile, in perhaps the most hilarious piece of news to come out in weeks, the teams have begun weighing in on the pointless destruction of Op Puerto and how they would've been glad to help the Spaniards if they'd only been asked--in fact, Bouyges Telecom's general manager asserted that not only was he eager to hand over his boys' DNA samples to the investigators, but he encouraged Johan Bruyneel to come along with him with Basso's sample in hand in order to compare it and clear Prince Charming on the spot--and surprisingly, Johan refused. Hmmmm...on second thought, I better stop right there.

Jan Ullrich Contract Watch: I wish, but Wolfgang Strohband for one seems to think it's possible, claiming today that Jan might come out of retirement. Unfortunately, this looks a little less likely in the face of allegations that Ullrich's lawyers sought a deal in which Jan would pay a fine in exchange for the Germans dropping their investigation--which, as the German prosecutor noted, was rejected because it amounted to a guilty plea, which in turn required some actual evidence. Well, if they don't have any this late in the game, oughtn't they drop it anyway? And, in the last bit of legal drama I can stomach tonight, I see Quick Step manager Patrick "30 YEARS OF DOPING" Lefevre has decided to smoke out the offending in-house rider turncoat who sold him to the press by asking all his boys to sue the newspaper too, and seeing who refuses--so far, with the entire Paris-Nice squad apparently knuckling under to this wily demand, we can rule out Tom Boonen at least. Good work, Nancy Drew!

Olive Branch: On a positive note--and man, it's nice to see one in this sport--the embattled team Unibet has apparently been asked to ride Milano-San Remo. That's really sweet, and bodes quite well for the Giro I hope. ASO, you sure despite the righteousness of your position with regard to the ProTour as a whole you don't want to follow this noble example with regard to this really rather likeable team?

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Operacion Pointless

De Nada: Sure they doped. Lots. But suitcases of euros, EPO-boosted blood, mystery race-day skin patches, congratulatory phone calls and medical proceedings so unusual that the patients preferred to be code-named by their family pets weren't enough at the time to get you nailed criminally in Spain so long as the riders' health wasn't actually harmed, so Operacion Puerto, it seems, is closed. Natch, the prosecutors are planning to appeal, and none of this kept Pat "Dick" McQuaid from rushing to reassure the momentarily relieved riders that he's still gonna fry them personally, and there's also nothing stopping the Swiss and Germans, now in possession of the allegedly incriminating documentation, from remaining both irked and litigious. Then again, so are the riders' attorneys, so I see lots of additional futile bloodshed ahead on all sides. Meantime, the 2006 Tour was decimated for no (*&^$#@ reason, and we love Joseba Beloki, Jorg Jaksche, and two entire Spanish squads, not to mention the magnificently flawed Jan Ullrich, were completely destroyed for all history in the process for no reason. Nice work, !@#$%^%$$!

Paris-No-More-Mr.-Nice-Guy: well, a French court has formally rejected Unibet's last-minute bid to force ASO to admit them at the Paris-Nice startline tomorrow, while, in yet another excruciating knee in the nuts to these innocent pawns, their pastel-clad ProTour wildcard compatriots Astana get to gear up for the Prologue and a lively week on the roads. Damn, UCI, I know this one's more on ASO's head, but couldn't you have done better by these guys? Notwithstanding this debacle, I'm dearly hoping more Americans will be seduced into this beautiful sport by the presence of a truly stellar US lineup, including short-stage-race genius Levi Leipheimer, time trial god Dave Zabriskie, everyone's favorite bulldog Chris Horner, and, of course, 2005 champ we love Bobby Julich. Allez Bobby!

Vuelta a Holy Crap It's Windy!: After a wind-whipped smackdown of Euskaltel-Euskadi mountain munchkins at the Vuelta a Murcia also took poor we love Carlos Sastre out of the race entirely with a twisted back and bashed-up hip, Thursday's stage was wisely cancelled because the wind at the top of the day's Cat 1 climb was presumably going to twirl the lighter boys off the mountain like so many Wicked Witches on their bikes in a cyclone. Luckily, the festivities resumed Friday, with Graeme Brown, who's really on quite a tear this season already, taking the sprint over Unibet's Baden Cooke (like the poor bastards over there really need any more bad luck), and jack-of-all-races/Caisse d'Epargne king Alejandro Valverde taking the stage, and the leader's jersey, ahead of tomorrow's finale. Venga Valverde!

Thursday, March 08, 2007


Race to the Sue: Yep, the padded gloves are off, as in the wake of ASO's promising, well, promise to consider Unibet favorably for wildcards--and subsequent re-rejection for the Paris-Nice startline anyway--Unibet seeks the French equivalent of a temporary injunction to force ASO to let 'em start on Sunday. More, they blasted all the Grand Tour organizers, demanding an end to the 'cartel' that so unjustly keeps them from competing. Y'know, I'm not without sympathy for Unibet, who was apparently completely pimped by the ProTour as its sacrificial lamb to the Grand Tours and Classics in its desperation to broker an emergency agreement ahead of Paris-Nice and Tirreno. But really, isn't that UCI's fault? The GT organizers have been, if nothing else, relentlessly honest from day one about their hatred of the entire useless corporate ProTour system being rammed down their throats. And what does UCI do when they reach detente, and the GTs agree to suck up 18 teams at every start line stealing spots from their sentimental, if irrational, hometown-favorite Continental squads? Why, they helpfully jam two more unwanted ProTour licenses up the GT's @#$$@ in a move utterly guaranteed to piss them off. Okay, Astana the GTs have to cave to, if only because it would be an outrage to any true lover of the sport--as I genuinely believe the organizers are-- to deny the start line of every--or any--race to Alexander Vinokorouv. But Unibet? Them they can target, if quite cruelly (and to Unibet's credit, they graciously agreed to wear those ridiculous question-mark jerseys whenever asked)--no offense to the truly fine Jose Rujano and Baden Cooke, but they're not yet in Vino's league. And sure, Unibet is in fact suing the pants off UCI for breach of contract, which should be resolved sometime around the time their team leaders fossilize. But is it even one iota ASO's fault these guys paid UCI eight gazillion euros for benefits they chose not to deliver by selling 'em out to keep the peace in Brussels? Take out your wrath on UCI solely, Unibet, and leave the GTs alone!

Boonen et Aequm: before we head into the joys of the Vuelta a Murcia, permit me a belated nod to the Belgian races--after a disappointing (for him, though I imagine Filippo Pozzato's quite happy) Het Volk, Tom Boonen handily redeemed himself, or more accurately was redeemed, in the next day's Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, with a smashing chase by a beautifully unified QuickStep overcoming a heroic, and nearly successful, breakaway with upstart--and perhaps underrated--wildcard reject Unibet well in the mix. Should it really have been Boonen's race though--or ought he and the QS leadership have let Gert Steegmans take it? After all, it's one thing for your lead-out to completely exhaust himself and have to peel away well ahead of the sprinter before the finish line; but Steegmans had to sit up in a victory cheer for his leader for quite a handful of seconds to avoid taking Boonen out well ahead of the line. Either way, cheers to excellent sport Steegmans for doing his job without whining, and for Boonen's typical grace in giving everyone else the credit, and to Boonen's 7th win so early in the season--deserved, if not necessarily quite earned. And I see the battle of the egos heating up (among sprinters? the shock!) with Daniele Bennati, who smacked Petacchi all over Algarve, noting that poor sap Ale-Jet, and Robbie McEwen while we're at it, can't help but fade into the sunset against him and Boonen as the geriatric sods are already over 30, with no future but decay. Remember you said that in 4 years when some next-generation jailbait sings your decrepitude, Benna!

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

All Together Now

Magna Carta: well, the meeting's been held, the season's been saved, and everyone reserves the right to hate each other's guts for all eternity. The upshot: this is an interim agreement, so don't get your hopes up, because everyone reserves the right to sue later if they don't hammer out a final resolution by the end of the season; the 18 'accepted' ProTour teams get to ride all the Grand Tour/associated races; Unibet and Astana get to wildcard in, with the caveat that Unibet may still need to wear those random question-mark jerseys in France, and the Grand Tours still don't like 'em; and finally, the Grand Tours won't be involved in any way in letting the winner of the ProTour white leader's jersey be awarded it within a thousand miles of one of their podiums. Not bad, IPCT--on to Paris-Nice!

Jaksche All, Folks: in the wake of the Deutschland Tour brazenly tanking ex-Liberty Seguros refugee/OP nonconvict Jorg Jaksche's deal with Volksbank by threatening to kick them out if they brought to the boy to the start line, or even simply aboard, poor Jorg has become the latest OP victim whose career has been destroyed on pure speculation--yep, he's officially retired. Now, no doubt Jaksche's ex-boss Manolo Saiz seems rather, well, compromised from all anecdotal reports. And with the Germans in receipt of buckets of OP documents they have yet to translate into Spanish, it's quite conceivable that some, well, unflattering revelations against one or more riders may someday be forthcoming. But Beloki, Jaksche, and Ullrich are all in the land of the departed now, while Mancebo, Sevilla, Scarponi, Prince Ivan and pretty much the rest of Liberty Seguros, totally coincidentally the promising youngsters I'm sure, all quite similarly situated, remain riding. And as far as I can tell, it's largely UCI and WADA, with their career-death-by-innuendo bull!@#$ leakmaster rampages, who are to blame for this. This is manifestly unjust--an arbitrary witchhunt, I would argue, is far worse than a slash-and-burn all-or-nothing slimefest, as bias, passion, favoritisim and ego dictate the victims--who have, after all, tested positive for nothing--with unchecked impunity. Free Joseba Beloki dammit--aaarrrrrgggghhhh!

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Paul, Who Should I Vote For?

Pacifist No More: Y'know, I generally think of myself as a gentle, peaceable person, and indeed I've never laid a hand on anyone in anger in my life, but I'm starting to think that someone ought to thwap Al Trautwig upside the head with a stick. I'm very sure he means well. I can even stomach him covering a sport like, say, gymnastics, in part because it's barely crossed my radar screen since the '76 Olympics. But this guy's already subjected us to his coverage of this gorgeous sport for a whole year now, and nonetheless, this week's edition of Cyclysm Sundays shows that his idiot quotient remains beyond the pale. Bad enough that he can't think of a single rider besides Basso or Vinokorouv who might be interesting to watch in the Tour de France this year, after a solid hour of coverage on the subject by people with actual knowledge of the sport. More irritating yet is his declaration that CSC is "rudderless" for the Grand Tours two seconds after Bjarne Riis reaffirms multiple 2006 podium finisher we love Carlos Sastre's leadership in '07, dissing the man who saved CSC's @#$ from the Basso debacle with both humility and grace by his ignorance. But he honest to God could not get through 60 consecutive seconds without saying something beyond moronic. I mean, you've got cue cards to help you! You're sitting next to Paul Sherwen and the deceptively knowledgeable Bob Roll for heck's sake, I'm sure they can give you some tips at commercial! Americans by and large have enough to learn about this sport as it is--give it to someone who cares, why dontcha?

The Floyd Landis Propaganda Hour: on the plus side, it was really interesting and sort of heartening to see Cyclysm's shameless bias in favor of Floyd Landis, particularly in the face of we love Phil Liggett's recent declaration that Landis is being shafted--Paul's understanding being that the process is grossly flawed, and Bob outright asserting that Landis wouldn't dope, though I suppose with Landis' personal coach right there the whole time to give his input one really mightn't want to say otherwise out of sheer kindness if nothing else. In that context, it was particularly gag-inducing to see Pat "Dick" McQuaid weighing in on the importance of due process and fair play to the sport, pretty impressive from someone who spent the last 8 months destroying the careers some of the best riders of the current and coming generations on crap unsupported speculation and the last 2 months trying to get the Classics to either bow to his petty whining will or shut down and decimate cycling entirely to serve his ego.

Gripe of the Day: Speaking of Op Puerto, and with all due respect to Ivan Basso, for whom I cheered wildly in the Giro I must confess, seeing him riding in Discovery team kit and being butt-kissed by every swooning cameraman lighting his lovely cheekbones with unending care while Jan Ullrich is sitting somewhere scarfing beer and schnitzel as his bike gathers dust is setting me into an absolute rage. Whether they're both innocent, both guilty, or one and the other, Ullrich is getting positively !@#$%^ relative to Prince Charming, and someone from Jan's legal team ought to be making someone pay. You suck, UCI!

Friday, March 02, 2007

Last Tango in Brussels

Countdown to Paris: With Patrice Clerc's nasty threat to the teams that if you don't show up for Paris-Nice, don't even bother trying to show up for the Tour de France, UCI's persistent brass-knuckling of any ProTour team who grumbles about riding any race that matters, the riders utterly flummoxed not knowing what the hell they're supposed to ride and how the hell to plan their form for the season, and Paris-Nice but 10 days away and counting, the ProTour teams association hastily met in Brussels and frantically, and quite diplomatically, urged the Grand Tour organizers and UCI to attend a "last-chance" meeting on Monday to save pro cycling, without even formally taking a position as to who they're going to blame if the whole thing falls apart and the livelihoods of their soigneurs, mechanics, masseuses, doctors, management, and riders are blown to bits by the gross stupidity and narcissistic testosterone-studded blustering of Pat "Dick" McQuaid, I mean, by the confluence of many different factors all of which are equally responsible for this disaster. Now, I gotta say I am almost entirely on the side of the Grand Tour organizers here, if only because I have a deep-seated problem with the most beautiful and historic races on the planet being held hostage by a passel of transient petty dictatorial bureaucrats. But really, motivation-by-fat-paycheck aside, these boys do like to race--can anyone watching Jens Voigt spring off the front of the main field the second Bjarne snaps the chain off his collar really doubt it?--so can any of these raging egomaniacs please cut the strutting long enough to free the poor riders from their ridiculous limbo?!

Benna-Jet: In actual racing, the Volta a Comunidad Valenciana is smokin' along, with Daniele Bennati taking 2 sprints even over a resurgent Alessandro Petacchi (and proving that his one-stage triumph-by-mechanical-problem was no aberration), with one more showdown to go. More, ex-Liberty Seguros jailbait Alberto Contador took a giant climbing stage over Alejandro Valverde, leaving Valverde the leader's jersey ahead of the last sprint stage tomorrow but showing himself as the serious future threat he seems to be. Y'know, one can say a lot of unflattering things about Manolo Saiz, and given my complete if not entirely rational bias towards we love Roberto Heras I certainly have and absolutely will, but between snagging and molding both Contador and Luis Leon Sanchez, I must concede he's got a hell of an eye for, and way with, incipient talent. Right on Alberto!