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!

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