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!

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