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!

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