Monday, April 30, 2007

Cancel the Tour

P.I.M.P.: All right, so Ivan Basso's sudden post-Bruyneel-meeting "resignation" from Discovery pretty well makes him look as guilty as hell, even putting aside that yesterday his most skilled and ardent defender, brilliant lawyer o' the gods Massimo Martelli, while still denying most of the Basso allegations could only manage to gack up an uninspiring "we will see" when it comes to the actual Fuentes blood bags (and I can't imagine how it helps to have hired Jan Ullrich's lawyer over in Spain, as he couldn't keep the boy's blood bags away from the Germans, but one can only do so much). And it's very sweet and diplomatic of Basso, one must concede, to say he was resigning from Discovery totally "voluntarily" and only because "the team's trying to find a new sponsor" and his situation is "a distraction" from that and the fine bike riding they are putting in this year. Indeed, Bruyneel himself maintains that no-one there wanted Basso to leave, though as I recall he'd actually started imprinting his boot on Basso's shapely spandex @#$ the second the CONI investigation reopened.

But all that is total @#$%^&*, kids--you're a spineless sellout wuss, Bruyneel! Why? Because Johan and Discovery wasted no time pimping Basso alone and unprotected to the authorities, and immediately began covering themselves against any forthcoming legal action by anyone in the most weaselly technical lawyer language imaginable--and I say that with a mixture of disgust and respect, seeing it often as one of the loathed profession-- cannily claiming "we did our due diligence," i.e., Basso's a lying SOB we never once suspected ever might've doped, and no-one like us would ever, ever have something to do with anyone like him if we ever, ever had any clue whatsoever he wasn't the shining prince we so genuinely believed him to be.

Are you @#$damned kidding me, Discovery? And don't give that innocent til proven guilty wah-wah--there's an absolute difference between a necessarily careful and thorough adjudication by a neutral body that someone is, and a reasonable suspicion and willful denial from a potential and incredibly self-interested team that he might be. Op Puerto takes down Manolo Saiz, Eufemiano Fuentes, and the entirety of Liberty Seguros, Gilberto Simoni is calling Ivan a fraud and an 'extraterrestri' during the Giro (though I still don't think that's why Basso won by 12 minutes), and when Basso is subsequently implicated as a possible Fuentes patient he's barred along with half the other guys worth watching from riding the Tour. He denies any involvement, as is his right, and gets his lawyer on the case, as any sensible person would do. Meanwhile, though, the teams are freakin' out, then Landis gets busted, everyone goes into paranoid bunker mode as Pat "Dick" McQuaid and Dick "Dick" Pound go on a blood-lust inquisition rampage, Phonak goes down in flames, half of Liberty can't find jobs, Basso's lawyer is reduced to claiming that his dog is being entirely slandered as Birillo isn't even the pup's name, Bjarne Riis throws Basso completely off the bus and works poor Carlos Sastre into an exhausted nub the rest of the season, even the riders start howling for DNA samples for heck's sake, the sponsor-losing teams swear on their gentlemanly honor they won't hire anyone implicated in Op Puerto, Spain indicates that their weak antidoping law unfortunately precludes asking any rider for a blood sample, CONI therefore reluctantly closes up shop on the Basso case, and what do you do? Completely screw Levi Leipheimer and the rest of the teams and immediately sign Basso for a sweet 6 million euros with the smug declaration that Ivan will be "happy" to submit DNA samples to "any future open investigation," which totally coincidentally Op Puerto and the CONI inquiry are not and (you wrongly guessed) won't be. So now that Ivan's busted again, where's your upright moral support for your upright moral rider now, hypocrites?

Take No Prisoners: meantime, Floyd Landis, beset by a seemingly endless parade of monstrous wrongs by the incompetent French lab chimps, is now on the attack for a whole 'nother reason: he claims the lab electronically destroyed original records of his tests and that the remaining data may well have been tampered with. Can this repulsive farce get any worse? Let's leave aside whether we're burning a totally innocent man at the stake, instead of a guilty one--how the hell would I know? But the great tragedy here is that thanks to the gross mismanagement and malfeasance of almost everyone involved--from WADA to USADA to UCI to the lab itself--no-one else will truly know (aside from Landis himself that is), either. A just process conducted openly engenders, if still perhaps a minor assortment of paranoid conspiracy theories on both sides, at least some reasonable level of trust that the truth has been well and fairly determined. But here? Never. As it is, if Landis wins, even if he is graciously given back the Tour victory to which he is entitled, there will still always be doubters who will be convinced that Landis got off on some scumly sort of a technicality and Pereiro got jacked. And if Landis loses, there will always be doubt among anyone with half a conscience as to whether an innocent man's gone down in flames. Either way the sport--let alone the riders, the teams, the tifosi, and Landis--loses. Clean house already, and give us a system and a result we can respect!

He's the One They Call Dr. Feelgood: finally, according to an additional 6000 page Fuentes dossier, another 49 riders in the peloton are now implicated in Op Puerto, making a grand total of 107 riders who, according to ASO director Christian "Oh Man, Should I Really Have Said This?" Prudhomme, shouldn't be at the start line at the Tour de France in July. For that matter, if if Prudhomme isn't a raging hypocrite (which I'm inclined to think he might be if, say, any French squad or riders turn up on the list), he'll also have to kick out the entirety of Quick Step (due to current allegations of systematic doping by their anonymous rider) and T-Mobile (due to an ex-soigneur saying the current team docs engaged in doping as far back as the Telekom days--oops, so much for the team's 2007 UCI Guardian of Purity (tm) Award!). Which, out of 180 riders that annually start the Tour, leaves us, by my reckoning, with a pathetic 55 or so--hardly enough to get us through the prologue, much less 3 weeks in the mountains, no? Take out the truly freakish proportion of the peloton with Therapeutic Use Exemptions for completely coincidentally oxygen-carrying performance-enhancing asthma drugs, and we've got, frankly, virtually no-one left. Hmmmm, maybe set up a bunch of wheezing ex-pro directeur sportifs to pitch in for the ride? Nope, can't do that, either--Quick Step's Lefevere and CSC's Bjarne Riis have also been whacked with career-doping rumors they've barely bothered to dispute. Well, you might find a few unpromising tykes on tricycles who haven't been busted for doping yet....

Friday, April 27, 2007

At Play in the Fields of the Peloton

Burn, Baby, Burn: with Ivan Basso looking increasingly unlikely to be available to slug it out mano-a-mano with Gilberto Simoni again at the Giro, the retiring star's thoughts have lightly turned to voracious personal attacks (however, since we dearly love Gibo, and his nasty remark last year about Basso being an "extraterrestri" or doper--then derided as snarky sour grapes--may well prove prescient, we don't care). Anyhoo, Gibo snorted that Basso "only loves the money," particularly for offering Simoni cash for the stage to Aprica last year and consequently lost all Simoni's respect, in contrast to, say, Fleche-Wallone king Davide Rebellin, who actually loves the bike and doesn't need to "travel to Spain"--nice!--to make things happen. And angelic baby champ Damiano Cunego? Basically, a renegade tool for defying team orders for Simoni to take a stage in '04, and more, a marionette weakling "dependent on the strength of others" to win. Man, tell us how you really feel, at least til someone bushwhacks you off a mountainside in the Dolomites in May!

Piling On: And, in the wake of the contentious riders' association meeting where the Spaniards (we're innocent til proven guilty) and French (we're lighting the funeral pyre under you *now,* which is utterly unrelated to the fact that we've had no results for several years) came rather to loggerheads, retiring Cofidis wallflower Brad "the Executioner" Wiggins sez he's glad Basso and the rest of the filthy bastards are going down in flames where they belong, and that it's all the damn lawyers' fault for obscuring the truth in Madrid and with Floyd anyway. Wrong (at least to the second point, anyway)! One, make no mistake, this is driven by the paranoid guilty clients of the lawyers--the riders--not the pinstriped saps they hire to do their dirty work, and two, poor Floyd Landis for one wouldn't need so much lawyering to fairly defend himself if the vengeful French lab monkeys and bitter emasculated anti-doping officials followed justice-ensuring protocol for two seconds straight. I swear the Millars and Wiggins of this sport irritate me more than the Festinas!

ASO for God's Sake Already!: ASO, while I have mildly taken you to task for your displaced aggression against Unibet, I have been perhaps your strongest apologist (or perhaps just the only cycling fanatic who's also legal wonk enough to care). And I did this despite the fact that innocent riders were suffering, because I felt that your righteous battle with UCI served a greater good--the preservation and self-determination of some of the most beautiful bike races on earth. But now, you're ignoring a *judge's order* to let Unibet play at Liege? I can't condone that crap! Plus, you already crushed UCI on the 'peace deal'--what more do you want than a judge saying the whole promise-nothing emergency agreement was nonbinding? You're on your own ASO--eat the 5 million euro a day fine if it makes you happy!

And on a purely practical note, by Mr. Prudhomme's own rules, you're about to lose about 48 guys who might otherwise start the Tour de France (let's leave aside the fact you apparently don't want to screw with Quick Step, or you'd be taking Tom Boonen and the rest of them out for their own rider's assertion of ongoing systematic doping at the team.) Can you really afford to lose 8 nice guys including Baden Cooke who are about the only Tour-worthy riders *not* embroiled in some grotesque scandal? I'll say it again--it's totally disgusting to ban the Op Puerto riders over others accused of doping on similarly-sketchy allegations unburdened by positive tests or DNA matches. Does anyone really think one evil Spanish doctor is the only dope-dealer working the peloton right this second?

Yes, Virginia, There Are Bike Races: with Gerolsteiner rising handsomely from the ashes after Levi's exile with wins at Amstel and Fleche-Wallone, and Petacchi back on form at the Giro del Trentino, the women took on the fearsome Mur de Huy in the women's Fleche, with world champ Marianne Vos knocking out a killer field including Nicole Cooke and USA's Amber Neben and Kristin Armstrong. With the USA women just having established a new training camp in Europe, can anyone doubt they're ready for the big leagues? And sponsors: sure, the men's race is longer, but doesn't anyone who can attack up the Mur after a hard day's work deserve a raise and a hike in the glam factor? Bring on the moolah, the podium babes and the champagne already!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Money (That's What I Want)

500k Down, 9.5 Mil to Go: well, the 500 grand raised by the Floyd Fairness Fund so far turns out to be a woefully inadequate drop in the bucket, as Floyd Landis claims a combined loss in salary, endorsements, legal fees and assorted suckage of nearly $10 million, leaving him a crappy 9 and a half mil in the hole, and, he claims, near bankruptcy. Now, not to minimize what this hellish witchhunt has cost what is hopefully a wrongfully accused honest sportsman (and certainly, a horridly procedurally abused sportsman, honest or not, which ought to carry its own price for the accusers), both financially and otherwise. But considering that Tyler Hamilton still owes me $15 for the hat I defaced defending his honor (assuming he was guilty, that is), and that I was seriously in danger of having to sell off some fairly dear-to-my-heart organs and/or relatives to fund my last-year's trip to the Giro, I'm afraid he'll have to do without the $2 I've managed to keep clinging to my wallet nonetheless. Anyhow, who was it who said that good wishes are more valuable than gold? I'm really pulling for you Floyd!

Media Monkeys: and, while we're on the subject of Landis, can the cycling know-nothings writing all the stories in the non-biking press please try to learn themselves, before they try to brainlessly explain to the masses, exactly why there's so much suspicion among certain cycling freaks that Landis is being completely railroaded? Let's forget Floyd's personal rep as Boy Scout of the Peloton. And let's even ignore the massive emotional crisis the French lab seems to have whenever the issues of "fair play," "transparency," "due process," and "we never did get to nail Lance Armstrong for anything" come up. And I know I've excessively yapped about this issue in the past, so I apologize for beating a dead horse here. But best as I could tell, the peloton flat !@#$% up in giving Landis an excess of dignity-reclaiming leeway on the road to Morzine after his previous day's humiliating mountainside crack, and didn't realize their mistake til he was already back in GC contention. And he had his team car two inches from his face giving him constant food, drink, encouragement, and advice for about a thousand kilometers--a key luxury the presumptively podium-bound boys back in the group did not enjoy. So before we treat him like some indisputably steroid-stuffed bodybuilder who's visibly gone from 98-pound weakling to linebacker overnight, can we at least point out that drugged to the hilt or not he had other help in winning that day?

Singin' In the Rain: Bjarne Riis, dangerously close to being obliged to watch his ex-beloved ex-moneymaking ex-protege Ivan Basso win the Giro (and likely podium at the Tour) on the amoral watch of Team Discovery, had his near-disastrous decision to ditch him utterly vindicated by Discovery's completely spineless bailout on the boy the second the Italian prosecutors stuck their necks out again. Bjarne, of course, was decidedly smug in victory, admiring Discovery for its suddenly-principled stand but opining he didn't want to be bothered any more by the whole Op Puerto hoo-ha in any case, as pure'n'humble CSC just wants to "ride our bikes." Awwww. And you really didn't want to twist the knife into Johan Bruyneel with your extensive "no comment" comments either, I'm sure! Meantime, Alejandro Valverde, irksomely confronted with the renewed blood-bags fuss at his pre-Fleche-Wallone press conference as the Basso banishment scandal exploded, smoothly deflected any adverse reflection on himself by pointing out that after all, *he's* being allowed to ride it. Sure, he may not have taken the race yesterday, but he certainly wins for press-handling!

Desperate Times/Desperate Measures: and, in a sign that Basso's lawyer Massimo Martelli has about reached the limit of what any counselor can do for a hopeless cause and is set to execute Plan B if he has to, Ivan's hired gun did denounce the latest round of actions against his boy as a "massacre," but, more ominously, went on to say that there are 50 riders implicated in Op Puerto, and that--and this is really quite fair, I think--if Basso's gonna be called on the carpet, every damn one of the other riders is gonna join him there. Hear that, you SOB directeur sportifs? If you're gonna try to let Basso take the fall, your filthy boys are all coming down with him! And, in a sign of even more desperation, the ever-tranquillo Basso even talked to reporters himself, slagging the powers-that-be for dropping a "time-bomb" on him two weeks before the Giro after letting him train all winter, and what's more, he already said anyone who wanted his DNA can have it. Um, leaving aside the totally revisionist history on that latter point, does it occur to anyone else that he could come up clean against the existing Fuentes blood bags, but still have actually doped with Fuentes another way? As always, great job with what you've got, Massimo--we'll see what you can come up with on May 2nd at the meeting with CONI!

Joseba Beloki Contract Watch: Now? And with ex-Liberty Seguros teammate Michele Scarponi getting called up to face the music with Basso? Yeah, right! So explain to me again why precocious baby champs/Saiz-picked Luis Leon Sanchez and Alberto Contador aren't being dragged down by this too? Oh, right, they're *currently* coming up with stellar results....

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Floyd Who?

Man Overboard!: Gee, could Discovery have raced away from Ivan Basso any faster if Bruyneel himself were hopped up on the strongest speed-enhancers the dope-dealing doctors had to offer? First, the Tour opines "Op Puerto riders not welcome"--Discovery instantly cries "Levi's been our man for the Tour all along." (Riiiiggggghhhht.) Next, Italy pipes up, "we might be interested in Fuentes' blood bags after all"--Discovery instantly drops Basso from Fleche-Wallone and Liege-Bastogne-Liege. Now, a few more details emerge--a schedule of blood transfusions under "Birillo" (alleged/denied to be Basso's dog) or "No. 2"(perhaps the cruelest allegation, considering Jan Ullrich's code name was allegedly "No. 1"--after all, when was the last time Ullrich took a Grand Tour?), 100k of Basso's euros floating around, a reference in Italian to a Swiss bank account, and oh yeah, the totally innocent reference to "'Birillo' coming in 16 seconds back with Simoni," which Basso totally coincidentally did in a stage of last year's Giro, along with Davide Rebellin and Serguei Gonchar, who apparently have different dogs--and Discovery suspends Basso from competition completely. (Hell, even the Basso-fawning apologists over at the Giro were forced to gack up an admission that his participation there this year will be "difficult.") Anyone else thinking it'll be about 5 more minutes before Johan "Stand By Your Man" Bruyneel unceremoniously sends his photogenic cash cow off to the slaughterhouse entirely? Not bad for 24 hours' work, Johan!

Don't get me wrong, folks. I love Ivan Basso. Watching him ride from a half-meter away is truly a study in grace, efficiency, and skill--doped or not, you can't fake that. And I particularly love Basso's genius lawyer Massimo Martelli (who if he can weasel Ivan out of even this one, by the way, ought to be promoted to King of All the Universe). But I !@#$%! *hate* hypocrisy, and while I certainly can't condemn Basso for being worse'n anybody else in the peloton, it still rather smacked of injustice to see him ostentatiously kissing his bambino for the cameras at the Tour of California while Ullrich staked out his place on the unemployment line. But most disgusting by far in this whole affair: yep, Team Discovery. Bruyneel, you were fairly warned. If you're gonna take advantage of the other teams' squeamishness in signing the boy, you've got to take the bad with the good, and accept the fullness of the pretty-boy burden you were all too willing to profit from. To ditch him so speedily now is the height of cowardice and hypocrisy. Either grow a spine and stick up for your tainted goods, or publicly admit you didn't give a rat's @#$ he might've doped, you babies!

On Basso's end, let's look at options in both guilt and innocence, shall we? As I see it, they are (1) claim sudden lingering injury from early season crashes, retire, return as directeur sportif in a couple of seasons to indignantly defend your new team's riders from doping charges; (2) deny, and ride it out--that's worked great for Roberto Heras and Floyd Landis, right?; or (3) pull a St. David Millar, sob your shame and regret to the press til we all want to punch you, sell incredibly lucrative exclusive tell-all confessional to Gazzetta dello Sport and take all your sanctimonious lying critics in the cycling world down with you. If it weren't for the fact that all these born-again cleansters make me sick with their self-congratulatory media-mugging mea culpas, I'd say his best bet is #3--anybody?

Oh Massimo. You have my sympathy. With a client this allegedly roguish, there's only so much even the finest counsel can do. Best of luck--you'll need it!

Monday, April 23, 2007

Target Practice

L'Equipe's Been Working on the Railroad, All the Livelong Day: yep, as you've no doubt heard, the dreams of every whipped French cycling journalist still smarting from their failure to nail Lance Armstrong have finally come true, as L'Equipe joyously reports that Floyd Landis' B samples--of As from the Tour that tested clean under one method--have fortuitously tested dirty for exogenous testosterone under a different method. Phew! Since the lab utterly denied Landis due process by screwing up the Morzine samples that originally ripped Landis' Tour victory out from under him, it's good they were finally able to peg him for *something*! The catch? Well, according to Landis' exasperated team, in addition to giving the lions a second chance to down the prey they humiliatingly--and publicly--missed the first time, the lab utterly denied Landis due process this time around, too, by failing to allow, as required by the rules, one of Landis' own experts to observe the proceedings. Nice work reaching your foregone conclusion, you apes!

Look, from a legal perspective, I have decidedly mixed feelings about those rare instances where due process concerns trump actual facts. But what's incredibly clear in this case is that none of these idiots should be allowed to judge a kindergarten schoolyard dispute over the rightful ownership of a spit-covered lollipop, much less a complex scientific determination as to whether someone's hard-earned career oughta be blown to bits. Destroy him fairly and honestly--fine, them's the breaks for Floyd, justice is served. But if you can't, suck up the pain of your unjustified suspicions and acknowledge either that he's really not guilty, or you haven't the competence to prove that he is. Y'know, I've got nothing but admiration for France. The food; the wine; the history of brazen imperialism almost as impressive as our own; not to mention the Tour de France organizers satisfyingly smacking around the irksome crybabies over at UCI at every opportunity. But can the yellow journalists (and I say that with the utmost respect, as I can only aspire to be one) over at L'Equipe please get over their grudge about the French losing the Tour every year in recent memory and at least wait til they can nail any American they can find with some halfway credible evidence?

Do You Feel Lucky, Punk? Well, Do Ya?: lest anyone in the peloton implicated in the dead-in-the-water Op Puerto welcome the Landis diversion too happily, UCI's Pat "Dick" McQuaid has now appealed openly to the Spanish sports minister for help, begging him to allow the 100ish blood bags seized in the investigation to be made available for DNA comparison, citing rumors that the wily Dr. Fuentes is at it again (said whisperings xenophobically fueled, apparently, by the Spaniards predictably crushing everyone else in the peloton in their hometown Vuelta a Pais Vasco.) This, one might surmise, is likely to make many of the ProTour teams and their favored riders a bit twitchy, particularly considering their perhaps retrospectively ill-considered promise to make DNA samples available for future scandals--though they could always argue that this old-news witchhunt doesn't count, and I imagine the dozen-odd anonymous riders who refused to sign onto that pledge (now, not to speculate, but anyone else guessing Ivan "Come Within 800 Miles of Me With a Q-Tip and My Lawyer Will Chew Your Face Off" Basso is one of them?) aren't flipping out too badly yet. Hell, there's plenty of time to weasel out of this one til July!

Bruyneel Giveth, and Bruyneel Taketh Away: and, in the wake of the Prudhomme halfhearted "Op Puerto Riders Go Home" hoo-ha, Discovery master Johan Bruyneel remains surprisingly unperturbed by the suggestion of Basso's forced nonparticipation in the Tour, shockingly claiming that we love Levi Leipheimer was "always" to be their leader at the Tour de France, and Basso was ever only really hired to defend his Giro. Really? Am I the only one whose gut response to that announcement is "that's crap!"? Why else would an American team almost exclusively fixated on the Tour, with an American fan base that's barely even heard of the Giro, have handed over 90 gazillion euros to secure Lance protege Basso? Luckily, Levi's smashing recent performances at the Tours of California and Georgia give Johan something halfway plausible to hang one's hat on, at least if one ignores the preening press conferences and uber-gentleman Leipheimer's curiously late and flat response that accompanied Basso's signing. As to Prudhomme's request re: Basso particularly, Bruyneel maintained a stoic "no comment." Man, do we have to go through all this drama at the Tour de France start line *again*?

Sunday, April 22, 2007

A Pound of Fleche

The Wild, Wild West(ern Europe): so poor hijacked Unibet, barred from both Liege-Bastogne-Liege and the Fleche-Wallone (neither rejections boding well for the Tour de France, of course) have joined forces with their actual (yet still mysteriously blameless by the team) culprit-pimps UCI to sue ASO over their exclusion from these beloved Classics and force their place at the start-line on Wednesday. Why, oh, why, Unibet, do you continue to fail to see the light over whose fault this problem actually is? The Grand Tour organizers made it clear they loathed anyone else who was gonna even try to grab the last two-ProTour-licenses-too-many, yet you bought one anyway, sweetly trusting UCI to value the obscene wad of cash you paid them and actually fight to protect you. Well, you were right on the first count at least--I'm sure UCI did appreciate the money before they sold you out in Brussels to smooth the road to Paris-Nice! And while ASO's conduct might be, well, more sporting, last I checked petty towel-snapping of an easy target wasn't a clear criminal or civil offense. God, can all these unbearable toddlers just bury the hatchet they keep jamming into each others' backs and let the defenseless pawn riders in red (or question-mark green, whichever) get their bikes out of the garage to liven up the peloton with the rest of 'em?

And Landis Causes Global Warming, Too: wasting no effort to avoid responsibility for their own incompetence, and spinelessly blame a target who's got far more important battles to fight these days, I see that the organizers of the late-season Zuri-Metzgete have now blasted Floyd Landis of all people as the absolute reason for the cancellation of their event for 2007. Why? His nefarious conduct discouraged the shocked sponsor, who had apparently never heard of doping in the peloton before, and if that's really the case, had also apparently never heard of the freakin' peloton before. Since it seems that one or two other races with corporate sponsors are still on for this season despite the boy's dragging the sport into disrepute--say, the Giro, the Tour, the Vuelta, and all the Classics--explain to me again why Landis is the obvious boogeyman in this case?

Jorg of the Jungle: not satisfied with signing with endless-well-o'-funds Team Tinkoff while we love Joseba Beloki's still stuck at home cracking open a cold one in front of the TV, new hire Jorg Jaksche has yet again slammed everyone in his path for the disaster that is the year's worth of failed doping affairs, snarling that "someone has to pay" for what's been done and that cyclists, once revered as honest humble sportsmen (when exactly was that again?) have now been reduced to the status of "beggars." While we're at it, it's clear from rumors in the peloton that Jan Ullrich is totally innocent, and moreover, it's downright unjust to peg Tinkoff as Home of the Dope Fiends just because of him, Hamilton, and Hondo at the start gate, particularly as Gerolsteiner (don't ask me what his grudge is with them, over every other presumptively disingenous team claiming purity) and its riders all have something to be ashamed of, so everyone should just shut their yaps and let him ride in peace. Um, I'm completely sympathetic to the fact that you and everyone else in Liberty Seguros were cement-shoed into a river without concrete evidence against you, but could you kindly not wah-wah about being treated with contempt 10 seconds after you've just signed a pretty handsome contract while some riders with equally admirable palmares in your exact same situation remain unemployed?

Friday, April 20, 2007

Tour de 5 or 6 Guys

Operacion Decimate the Tour: So Mr. Prudhomme, organizer of our beloved (if perhaps recently controversial) Tour de France, has laid down the law, sort of, for the teams, informing them that he doesn't want any of the riders implicated in Op Puerto in the race, especially in light of recent info that some of those ninety-odd blood bags actually belonged to at least one well-known boy just retired from the peloton. Ummm...did Prudhomme think to count how many quality riders were actually implicated in Op Puerto? The way I figure it, if he's really gonna stick to this, that puts Valverde Sastre and Kloden on the podium (not necessarily in that order), depending on whether he considers Vinokorouv as tainted by Op Puerto both by his association with Lord of the Doping Rings Manolo Saiz (*cough* Beloki! *cough*) and his apparent presence in Fuentes' very own wallet, or conveniently decides that doesn't really count. Looking forward to that rationalization, pal!

Now, this is not to say Prudhomme's actually downright forbidden the filthy shameful presence of all these riders--but he did talk to Johan Bruyneel about it, thoughtfully giving him Lance and Ivan plenty of lead time to sue the bike shorts off everybody who tries to bar babelicious pinup talent Basso from the start line. And fortunately, Prudhomme's also still got plenty of time to decide how seriously he Supports Drug-Free Sport, as if he's really gonna ban everyone implicated but not convicted in Op Puerto, in fairness he also oughta take out the Quick Step boys recently busted in the Belgian press for their own escapades, as well as everyone else hit by recent scandal--and while we're at it, exactly what freakish percentage of the peloton has totally necessary Therapeutic Use Exemptions for oxygen-carrying asthma meds?--so by my reckoning we're pretty much going to have our podium finishers and maybe a couple of backup domestiques from Cofidis on hand, which really doesn't seem like a big enough group to get us through the Prologue, much less three leg-crushing weeks in the Alps and Pyrenees. Hell, why not just cancel the whole thing now and go straight to the wrap party in Paris instead?

Everyone Else is a Wuss: Sure, you've blasted up some serious cols with a broken collarbone, bounced back after being hit by a tractor during a training ride, and hopped right back on track after some ditzbag fan's wandering tot has taken you out with a plastic bag entangling your handlebars--but have you ever charged to victory over some of the best riders in the country with the specter and strain of imminent cervical surgery hanging over your head? Not unless you're Erica Allar, you haven't, but if you are, you've beaten the fearsome road warrior Tina Pic in the ride of your life at the Central Georgia Cycle for the Cure. No money, no support, no glory--all guts. Right on sister, and wishing you a speedy recovery!

Shameless Patriotic Rah-Rah Moment: while we're on the Tour de Georgia (or thereabouts), and still reeling from the mortifying 29 minute breakaway the other day (anyone testing these guys?) that took out nearly everyone from GC contention except a couple of guys from Discovery and a passel of Euro-scorned domestic squad riders, I thought I'd mention that we love Levi Leipheimer handsomely won, and we also love back on form Dave Zabriskie very nicely smoked everyone else but him in, the Tour de Georgia time trial above a field of such fine (if irksome) specialists as St. David Millar. Yeeeeeeee-haaaaaaah, watch out Tour de France time trialists!

Recon Missions: hooray! the Giro d'Italia is but weeks away, so soon-to-be-road-retiree Simoni, tow-headed boy wonder Damiano Cunego, and crash-plagued/OP implicated Basso have all been testing out the Zoncolan and Tre Crime di Lavaredo ahead of the race, with generally positive reviews for the climbs they'll be grimacing in misery on, and I imagine a few things yet to settle between Gibo "Basso Non E Uomo" Simoni and Ivan "It's Not My Fault I'm Better Than You" Basso from last year. Since Basso'll still probably shove his way onto the start line at the Tour no matter what Prudhomme throws at him, and Cunego's got about a hundred years left before his career tanks, I'm rooting for Simoni on this one. Vai, Il Trentino!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Call Me Sometime When You Have No Class

Joseba Beloki Contract Watch: No, but !@#$%*! Astana could've said so more nicely, instead thundering that the rumors of his signing were "absolutely false" and, moreover, snarking that all its riders must be an appropriate fit in both "sporting" and "image". Am I on complete crack here, or was Fuentes walking around with a business card with Vinokorouv's name on it, which is a hell of a lot less tenuous an association than Beloki's link to Op Puerto by his mere place on Liberty Seguros? Don't sign him?--no sweat, neither has anyone else after all. But to react with such a nasty attack on a guy who's already down over a simple rumor there's no show he even started is beyond a knife in the back. That's it--Vino's off my list for the Tour just for his team being such a wank. Allez Valverde!

The Real Hell of the North: well, the ink's barely dry on the history books, and every team that didn't win Paris-Roubaix is already eating their own young. Discovery DS Dirk Demol undiplomatically blasted Gusev, Devolder, and Vaitkus; Quick Step's master deflector of blame Patrick Lefevere whomped Van Petegem and Steegmans for their incompetence (Van Petegem) and lack of confidence (Steegmans); and pretty much everyone everywhere is slamming Boonen's pathetic performances all season, though I've heard the boy's actually pretty decent on a bike. That really oughta make your riders want to work for you, management!

Tour de Francs (Well, Euros): Finally, I see Floyd Landis is on a nationwide tour to raise money for his Fairness Fund legal defense by offering photo ops with starstruck fans for $25 a pop. I wonder what...y'know, I was about to ask something so beyond rude even by my standards, but I just couldn't do that to poor Floyd and his nice family, as after all I'm really deep down rooting for him. Forget I suggested anything!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

It's All About the Benjamins

Would You Buy a Used Car From This Man?: as if having his reputation sullied, his place in history destroyed, his future in pro cycling management tanked, and his talent, integrity and general worthiness mocked by the German press weren't enough, Jan Ullrich's last hope for making a living, his endorsement gig with X-Bionic, is now in doubt as the company polls its customers to find out whether they still would, or now wouldn't, buy any Jan Ullrich (TM) gear in the wake of his disgrace. Not that they don't genuinely want to project an image of wholesome innocent athletic success and good sportsmanship--but they might be talked out of it if the euros are right. Well, they may be mercenary, but at least they get points for not convicting the boy before a trial! Hear that, UCI?

Redemption Song: Aching to find Floyd Landis guilty of *something*, and thereby redeem their current reputation as the Three Stooges of the scientific world, the hapless techs at the French lab who so skillfully mishandled the Landis Morzine-day samples are now having a go at the different-day B samples whose As tested negative, all at the behest of even-more-eager-to-convict USADA. Now, it seems to me that Landis is in a bit of a Catch-22 here: if the B samples test negative, confirming the results on the A samples--which the Landis team of course would not contest--the lab gets to say, "see, we're both honest and competent after all!" But if the B samples test positive--which the Landis team of course would vigorously contest--the lab gets to say, "see, we told you Landis is a dirty doping lying pig!" So as far as I can tell, either way, they win and Floyd is jacked. Besides polishing these clowns' sterling rep and sinking Landis by implication, can anyone give me a legitimate reason this exercise is taking place?

Can We Pleeeeaaaassseeee Not Talk About Doping At Quick Step?: yep, Patrick "So What If I Did?" Lefevere has joined the chorus demanding that the investigation against Dr. Fuentes be reopened, this time elaborating that he's--horrors! at least in the sense that not everyone in the peloton might have access to it--providing a new alternative to EPO that is not yet detectable. Deflecting attention a bit from your Belgian press humiliation, are we? Meantime, Danilo Hondo's Swiss court date has been put off yet again, leaving in some doubt when the Tinkoff transplant can get back on his bike, which is just as well as it gives Tyler Hamilton some time to get up to speed and prove that he rides just fine when he's tested every two minutes.

Where in the World Is Iban Mayo?: most recently, playing domestique to J.J. Cobo and Koldo Gil at the Vuelta a Pais Vasco in his run-up to supporting Gilberto Simoni at the Giro. Oh, Iban. Is Saunier-Duval ever going to let you out to run in your own right, even outside the pressure-cooker of the Tour?

O ('Grady) My!: Sprinter. Grand Tour GC contender. Classics man. Between catastrophic injuries, it seems Stewie O'Grady's been all 3, until he, and CSC's incredibly wily team tactics, firmly whapped him into the pantheon of timeless classics champions with his truly butt-kicking breakaway victory in Paris-Roubaix. Right on O'Grady! Bonus points: CSC first choice/2006 defending champ Fabian Cancellara disrupting the French press interview to clamber all over O'Grady in congrats; Lars Michaelson's grand farewell performance; and the immediate public smackdown between usually amiable Tom Boonen and the rest of his failed gruppetto over whose fault their chase choke really was. Allez!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

The Hell of the West

Live (well, the morning after) From the Sea Otter Classic: so it was a muddy, freezing, pouring wreck of a Sea Otter, with the vendors standing inches-deep in filth and slop dashing to get their merch off the ground, the women's circuit race cancelled midway from the deluge and the men's circuit utterly phoning it on the track with the exception of the two leaders, presumably, or at least hopefully, 'cause the track (usually beseiged by race cars) was still wet oily and treacherous. Celebrity sightings: mountain goddess Shonny Vanlandingham, by whose august presence I was entirely too bamfoozled to go up and speak, and downhill king Brian Lopes, who emerged from slaughtering his competitor looking as refreshed and relaxed as if he'd just gotten up from a nice nap. All in all, a drenched and filthy wallop o' fun--see you next year!

Joseba Beloki Contract Watch: holy crap, he might be signing with Vinokorouv over at Astana for a year and go play at the Vuelta? Take that, Saiz, you wretch! (Oh right, and Tinkoff continues its bid to become the Festina of the New Millenium by taking on alleged dope fiend/recently dumped Jorg Jaksche.) Somebody sign Roberto Heras when his sentence is up in August, and I'm in heaven. Oh, Jan....

The Tour de France (2006): apparently conceding that the French lab monkeys screwed up so irretrievably in both the procedural chain of custody and practical results on the Floyd Landis epi/testosterone ratio that they've completely lost any chance of stripping him of the Tour, and aiming it seems to help the French hand the '06 Tour over to Pereiro before the next one hits the road, USADA of all people is asking to re-test the B samples for the days Landis actually tested clean in in the seeming hope they'll belatedly be able to nail him for something. What unmitigated bull!@##, USADA! First, you're missing the point. The lab @#$!%* up. If you can't nail him and he gets to keep the Tour, too bad. Isn't it consolation enough that even if he's actually innocent, you've completely wrecked his name for all time? (And hopefully for Landis, it's consolation enough that no less a luminary than Paul Sherwen believes you.) Second, even if you *are* able to nail him for these samples, it's meaningless. The A samples already tested clean, and you're gonna look like a pack of lying desperate emasculated weasels if you try to claim the B ones are dirty. God, USADA, have you really no more shame than, say, Pat "Dick" McQuaid from UCI? Anyhow, Landis' teams got right on the problem, demanding that if the testing takes place at all (and that ought to be the first thing they address), they want it done by a smarter US lab, which protests it has the talent to figure things out, but not the equipment. Hmmm...the French have the equipment, but choke on every sample they touch; the US has the ability, but not the means to get it done. Put them together, and I think we've almost got a whole lab here folks!

Carnage Update: with half the peloton taken out at Ghent with broken bones on the Kemmelberg, and the other half a la Thor Hushovd absolutely gobsmacked by the disgusting and long-lived stomach bug plaguing the group, it's unclear who's actually able to get out of bed enough to stagger to the Paris-Roubaix sign-in, but it's not been much different over at Vuelta a Pais Vasco, with a mass tangle taking out a good portion of the Spanish contingent and, collectively, leaving about 2 guys left for the remainder of the pre-Giro, pre-Tour prep. On the other hand, we love ex-Discovery/now Liquigas' Triki Beltran took a stage, so who really cares? Right on Triki!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Turmoil, and Another Proposal

The Hundred Years' War: well, the conflagration between UCI, the Grand Tours, and stomped-on offal Unibet continues, as in a pathetic bit of self-preservation UCI's Pat "Dick" McQuaid is now threatening to sue ASO and RCS for breaking the vaunted pre-Paris-Nice "peace deal" to let Unibet romp in their races, after ASO disses 'em again for Liege and Fleche-Wallone, citing legal barriers. Anyway, in a humble attempt to put this drama to rest once and for all, and let everyone get back to bike racing (remember that, you clowns?), I propose the following:

UCI: in addition to being generally loathesome, you acted like a pack of fascist knee-capping bullies in gratuitously jamming known unwanted additional ProTour licenses down the Grand Tour organizers' throats. So they want to invite Chocolade Jacques to the Tour de France, what's it to you? Apologize to them for your deliberate, petty, power-grabbing provocation, and give them a giant wad of cash to buy Unibet's inclusion in the major races (we know they're already letting in Astana.) Then, cut the ProTour license giveaways next season, and quit whining. While we're at it, shut the hell up with the leak-happy dope-fiend-rider slander til you've got concrete proof to back it up.

Grand Tours: you're entirely in the right to resent and despise the way the 3-year-old jailbait ProTour organization tried to hijack you and yours, the most beautiful bike races on the planet. However, you are entirely wussy for targeting helpless baby pawn Unibet for revenge instead of your true, and more formidable, prey UCI. Either sue UCI for interfering with your gigs, or don't. While we're at it, I know Baden Cooke is no Vinokorouv (not least because their roles are so different), but if your bar-none cutoff is really 18 ProTour squads, if you really respect the efforts of the riders--who after all are totally innocent in this--you'll show both some spine and some fair play and either ban both Astana and Unibet from your races, or concede your juvenile gamesmanship on this point and let 'em both in.

Unibet: face facts. UCI pimped you to ASO in the emergency agreement by knowingly acceding to unenforceable language "promising" to "favorably consider" you for their races, in order to protect older, more powerful teams. ASO/RCS' conduct towards you is certainly unfair, but UCI is the true cause of your misery. If they jacked you making promises they couldn't or just plain wouldn't keep, sue em for every damn cent you paid for that useless ProTour license and every damn cent it's cost you since. And next time--be more careful. You took 2 calculated risks: (1) that France and Belgium would keep not enforcing their gambling-advertising rules as they did before you got your license; and (2) that the race organizers would not only do so, too, but would not target you selectively. You lost. Them's the breaks. You did the right thing with those bitchin'-publicity-stunt question mark jerseys, but if that's not enough, and you have to give up the sponsorship, please do right by your riders, soigneurs, and directeur sportifs, and help them find new gigs for '08--don't disgustingly pull a Phonak and shove 'em all out the airplane without a parachute.

Now, shake hands, and go off to your separate rooms for a time-out until you've learned to control yourselves. I've had it with the lot of you, and anyhow it's time for Paris-Roubaix!

Monday, April 09, 2007

Just Say No, and a Proposal

Jan on the Run: so Jan Ullrich, hurt apparently by the German press' unjustly destroying his reputation over such trivial questions as why a notorious doping provider was seemingly in possession of a bunch of his blood, has decided to limit any future remarks on his situation to the more controlled environment of his personal website, plaintively claiming he's not only innocent, but "blameless," and promising that, while he must unfortunately keep his explanations to himself for now, all will be revealed in due course. (Y'know, if he'd just kept it to the ambiguous "blameless," he could've really sold any or all of his handlers down the river as the "blameful" parties in this matter, and claimed helplessness under the pressure, should he really get busted this time. Not that he oughta do such a lame and cowardly thing. I'm just sayin'.) Anyhoo, his lawyers, by contrast, seem less welded to the idea of his actual purity, speaking hopefully of their "good working contacts in Bonn" amidst rumors they're working on a plea bargain. Jan, you're either a doper or you're not, and your lawyers at least publicly should be toeing the party line--get your message together, people!

Misery Loves Company: on the plus side for scapegoat-o'-the-peloton Ullrich, the ProTour teams' association, in a shocking (and rather suspicious) bit of fair play, is now demanding that the teams make all the Op Puerto-implicated riders turn over their DNA now for comparison to Fuentes' extensive stash, officially closed Spanish investigation or no. Don't worry, IPCT, I'm sure--as I'm sure you genuinely believe--every one of the teams'll eagerly comply. After all, they kept their word on the ultra-successful "gentlemen's agreement" not to hire any of these accused skankbags in the first place, didn't they? Oops, wait a minute...

A Proposition: Tyler. Floyd. Jan. 10 or 12 others I can think of. Now, I know it's all too easy to Monday-morning quarterback here. But still, it seems to me that certain legal and other matters might've occasionally been approached, well, slightly differently to date. So, as a devoted believer in truth, equal application of the rules, and fair sport, and having a vested interested as a fan in not seeing 1/2 the pro peloton banned from racing for life (if only so we needn't all yawn our way through the next few Grand Tours), I'd like to humbly offer my legal services to the various riders clearly unjustly implicated in Operacion Puerto and similar baseless scandals. Qualifications: a genuine love of cycling, a general disgust with hypocritical authorities, a relentless attraction to losing causes, and a nascent-and-growing ability to bellow "slander!" "libel!" and "significant monetary damages!" in several pertinent languages. Alternately, if you're Ivan Basso's genius lawyer Massimo Martelli, I'm actually pretty content to toss years of training in the tank and just do your Xeroxing (TM) or something so I can watch you in action. Free the OP 50!

Leif Blower: well, as both my faithful readers know, my calls on the Tour de Flanders were complete crap, and as absolutely everybody knows by now, upstart 3 Days of De Panne champ Alessandro Ballan unbelievably surged past 3x-a-bridesmaid/certain victor Leif Hoste right on the line, despite a very fine tactic to simply wear the former boy down and out of sprint contention, by half a wheel. While Ballan was kind in victory, poor Hoste was so obviously destroyed by his incredible loss I can't help but root for him desperately next year. That, and on a personal note I was also sad to lose the chance to smack around Discovery for ditching Hoste so ignominiously over to Predictor-Lotto. You can do it, Leif--Predictor, start your planning for next year now! And, amongst all the bodies littering the pave' this year, possibly the most bummin' is vet we love Erik Zabel, whacked out of Ghent-Wevelgem and the Hell of the North with a sorely bruised hip and shredded, if otherwise undamaged, arm and knee. Hold it together Erik--you must go out with at least one last stage in the Tour!

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Ronde and Ronde We Go

Pave'-retto: yes fans, it's time for the Tour of Flanders, home to quite a brace of nasty climbs and some truly tire-shredding pave'. Who'll take it? Well, not discombobulated recent flame-out Alessandro Petacchi, cooling his jets after his late debacles and planning a gentler, and perhaps less scrutinized, run-up to the Giro, leaving Erik Zabel as Milram's great baby-blue hope. (Daniele Bennati, I notice, has been hyping his own fabulous form for days, a mosquito in the ear to poor Alessandro.) And not "Pocket Rocket" Robbie McEwen, zapped with a bout of the flu. As for Oscar Friere? Well, the spine of our oft-injured boy in orange emerged surprisingly unscathed from his recent battle with the pave', and he'd sure like to add this baby to his palmares. And CSC? Well, Fabian Cancellara's got some reckoning to do with Boonen for his near-victory at the E3 Prijs, and with clear Grand Tour fave Basso absconded over to Discovery (well, more like shot off a trebouchet by Bjarne Riis, but that's neither here nor there), CSC's got reason to focus on the classics. And the natural faves over at QuickStep? Well, the only problem for hometown hunkmeister/3x winner Tom Boonen is that Paolo Bettini rather seems to want it too, especially after last weekend's infuriating race-busting mechanical in the Prijs, though fortunately he seems to be backing off that a bit by complaining about ongoing rib pain, and along with old hand Peter Van Petegem (and after a few uncharacteristically stern, or perhaps just optimistic, words from Boonen about how he's confident the two will come behind him entirely), appears inclined to help Boonen to his own detriment after all, at least should it come down to the clear big Tom tactical advantage of an impending bunch sprint. Well, my money's on Boonen, but my heart's rather on Oscar or Bettini. Vai Paolo!

That's FrankenSTEEN: So, Patrick "Do As I Say, Not As I Do" Lefevere is hysterically (in both senses of the word) demanding a UCI investigation into the brand-spankin'-new activities of the disgusting Dr. Fuentes, on the grounds that he's heard the disgraced medic is active yet again in the peloton. Even if it's true--and frankly, any rider working with him at this point should be banned from the sport for life for sheer stupidity, forget any actual freakin' doping--can he really be the only physician (or other rogue with a syringe and a dream) on earth servicing the peloton? Or it just that...well, on second thought, I'd better stop right there!

You Can Call Me Al: the kudos: NBC aired same-day coverage of the US Open Cycling Champsionships this weekend with Bob Roll and Frankie Andreu, whose commentary is generally both lively and, a nice bonus for newcomers in particular, enlightening. The dope-slap: NBC also tapped relentless nightmare Al Trautwig for the task. Aiiiiiggggghhh! What *is* the allure of this schmo? Is it the amiable-doofus/deer-in-the-headlights mystique that so incomprehensibly entrances my countrymen (and women)? His familiarity to NBC viewers via his coverage of other sports, which to his credit in those endeavors he seems to have watched at least once before? The mellifluous chime that is the very name "Trautwig"? This is the reverse catastrophe of wasting we love Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen on some nimrod bull-riding competition! Please, please don't do this again to those who know and love, or might someday know and love, this beautiful, intricate sport--why, NBC, why?

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Fall Out Boy

Your Nose Is As Long as a Telephone Wire: so, as every other dope-likely prospect from the Op Puerto investigation remains unscathed, the German press, no great friend to Jan since, oh, ever, are natch all over the Ullrich situation, dubbing the fallen hero "unbearable," "embarassing," and a "liar." Sure, probably none of those assessments are entirely unfair, but really, what kind of spine does it take to kick a man when he's down? And, between the doping, the off-season excess poundage, the high-times partying, his prodigious talent, and his legendary, fruitless rivalry with Lance Armstrong, oughtn't you be even a little bit grateful for all the euros you've been making off his notoriety the last 10 years? Meantime, T "Lords of Discipline" Mobile, somewhat out of the press of late for sheer lack of results and still needing something to justify their money-sucking sponsorship, couldn't resist, claiming to be "not surprised." Now, is it me, or were they also "not surprised," but perfectly happy to glom onto him like a leech, by the constant explicit doping allegations that were thwapping him for the many years T-Mobile was joyfully making obscene amounts of money off his dirty legs? Even little Team Volksbank is shedding him from their management team. Perhaps, say, Discovery could use him?

UCI Can See Clearly Now: Predictably, UCI's Pat "Dick" McQuaid crowed about the Ullrich matter, and vowed again that everyone else is still in his sights. Well, that's one out of about 50 you've nailed, Pat...anyone else quaking in his bike shorts yet? And, the entire noble ProTour immediately re-swore to make DNA samples available for testing in actively investigated doping disputes. So they needn't cough it up yet...but they really promise to. Hmmm...could Bruyneel (and the rest) have copped to this sincere effort because Op Puerto--the only real threat to, among others, Ivan Basso--has already precluded that possibility by its closure? Positive publicity and a total lack of accountability--nice work, Discovery!

Basque the Way (Uh Huh, Uh Huh) I Like It: and, it's a mountainous Vuelta a Pais Vasco on tap, with my personal fave for this year's Vuelta a Espana, Euskaltel-Euskadi's Sammy Sanchez, set to hit the slopes with Haimar Zubeldia, last year's taker Gomez Marchante, baby genius/potential spoiler Alberto Contador, and, of course, a Tour-prepping Alejandro Valverde. Fine, spit it out much is this one gonna cost me?

Joseba Beloki Contract Watch: like that's gonna happen *now.* Thanks for nuthin', Ullrich!

Fire Your Lawyer

Rudy Project: yes indeed, the German prosecutor's formally announced that DNA conclusively links poor Jan Ullrich to some of the blood bags seized from Dr. Eufemiano "Protector of Health" Fuentes--that, and the wily code names "Hijo de Rudicio" (Son of Rudy, one reasonably surmises Pevenage), and "Jan." !@#$, Fuentes, you couldn't have picked the name of his gerbil or his Ecstasy dealer instead? Anyhoo, it's not clear if the offending blood is actually doped, but on the whole, things have looked better for the boy. Jan, of course, immediately retaliated with the Wussiest Non-Denial in History, desperately suggesting that, with all the irregularities in the Op Puerto investigation "manipulation is possible." WRONG! The correct answer, Jan, is the lab absolutely choked, the prosecutor's absolutely corrupt in his quest for results, and the Spanish investigators are absolute clowns, and if any of you so much as exhale within 1000 feet of me I'll sue your sorry incompetent !#$$# for slander til you cry for mercy. Got it? Y'know, I'm all for truth and beauty and pure sport, but let's get to the real issue here: Jan, what the hell were your lawyers thinking when they let you trot right up to the authorities like an eager puppy and gack up a DNA sample?

Oh Jan. Just like with Heras, we love you anyway!

The Fallout: why, none, if you're Ivan "Prince Charming" Basso, not only an exceedingly comely talent-packed monster revenue-generator at the very peak of his career (unlike, say, aging debutante Ullrich), but also, not coincidentally, protected like the Pope in a raging mob by handy publicity-hound mentor Lance Armstrong and the smashingly amoral attentions of Machiavellian genius Johan Bruyneel, and further, the possessor of the Very Best Lawyer on Earth. DNA my @#$, UCI! As to the rest? I'm sure that even without Jan, and even with Dudley Doo-wrights like St. David Millar, at least one other star in the peloton is both hopped and the forever-anonymous possessor of one of Fuentes' blood bags. Can anyone at all tell me what the hell's been accomplished after all this hoo-ha?

The Final Tally: Op Puerto: 1. Well, not even Op Puerto. It's the German prosecutors. In a freakin' breach of contract case. Careers Destroyed: can one even count that high? Nice job, witchhunters!

Monday, April 02, 2007

Most Gentlemanly!

Points Jersey: has not only fixed its problem with the Prijs Vlaanderen coverage this weekend, but also very kindly and sincerely apologized for same despite my distinctly indiscreet rant about the loss of my coverage, as well as explaining their difficulties in coverage of the Giro--much appreciated, and I, too, apologize for my vitriol. UCI, ASO--anything you boys want to say to Unibet in the same spirit of earnest mea culpas, while we're at it?

Napoleon Dynamite: yep, the French are at it again, this time refusing pointless-tool-o'-vengeance's--but not Astana's--entry into the beautiful, and prestigious, Dauphine-Libere. Why? Of course, it's the unfortunate legal prohibition against teams from gambling enterprises competing on French soil, which poor hands-tied ASO can do nothing about, unless it happens to be any of the other ProTour gambling-sponsored outfits to whom they mysteriously won't apply the rules. Meantime, fearing also the denial of their entry into such no-name, no-status races as Liege-Bastogne-Liege and the Tour de France, Unibet has absolutely had it, giving up on ASO entirely and appealing directly to UCI to take some action on this whole sordid matter instead. They did, Unibet, don't you recall? They sold you down the river so every other ProTour team but you could ride their beloved Paris-Nice! What more do you want for your 8 gazillion euros, you whiners?

A Call to Arms(trong): in US cycling news, the poor nascent Tour of Utah's been cancelled for lack of funds, despite much interest from bereft US riders and both US pro cycling fans. Come on, Lance Armstrong, you're the most famous cyclist this country's ever known (sorry, we love Greg LeMond)! It's been almost 2 years in this short-attention-span media-sucking society since your last race and thanks to your high-profile Star Magazine speed-dating everyone still knows who you are--why aren't you out raising more money for this thing instead of dithering about contemplating a competitive life in speed skating? Help out your own here, for heck's sake!

Swim for It!: And finally, in highly amusing doping news, Dick "Dick" Pound's WADA has righteously decried the "serious breach of confidentiality" in leaking Ian "the Thorpedo"'s name and alleged doping to L'Equipe. Indeed, our noble friends at WADA are "especially shocked that the name of an athlete was given to the media" when there's been no clear positive test. Ummmm....Basso? Vino? Ullrich? Pretty much the entirety of Liberty Seguros? Anyone else see any inconsistency here? What asses. My advice: ditch the bikes, get down to your skivvies, and hit the water, boys--it's your only chance for justice from these gross bloated hypocrites!

Sunday, April 01, 2007

April Fools

Rant o' the Day: You suck,! I faithfully cough up $50 for your premium channel (which is still gonna hit me up for extra for the Vuelta and Giro, but I am so grateful for any scrap of play beyond crappy minimal US coverage I'm willing to suck it up, plus I digress) and conscientiously ignore any hint of other media coverage so I can happily watch the giant names swarm to the E3 Prijs Vlaanderen--and they do. So I watch O'Grady claw his way back from a monstrously ill-timed puncture all the way from the autobus to, ever so briefly, the breakaway, which is staffed by a stunning array of talent including but not limited to Tom Boonen, Fabian Cancellara ready to shepherd O'Grady to the sprint, and Philippe Gilbert, then Paolo Bettini smashes up the chase to nearly bridge to the leaders with a desperate then fading Oscar Friere on his wheel and O'Grady trying to pull his way back after Cancellara is obliged to leave him behind, the surging Bettini snaps his derailleur of all things in an utterly craptastic piece of luck and is suddenly gone entirely right as Boonen might've used the teammate, we're five kilometers out and what happens? Right, the coverage stops *absolutely* dead, a Zipp commercial pops up, and that's it! *5 freakin' kilometers* from the line you clowns!! Y' *think* we might've been interested in watching the outcome after two hours of surprising drama? Of course, Boonen was gonna take the sprint--but not if Cancellara was able to make a break for it and time-trial up to the finish--not that I was there to watch and wait for it, goons!

Joseba Beloki Contract Watch: no, but !@#$% Michele Scarponi of !@#$$% Liberty Seguros took the overall at Coppi e Bartali--as did @#$%^ Alberto Contador of !@$%$% Liberty Seguros the overall at Vuelta a Castilla e Leon. !@#$*!, Saiz, how can you stand yourself?!

First Scene Here: So I'm at the Beanpot Criterium today sizing up the US stars of tomorrow, and the Woman of the Day at least for sheer tenacity was the unknown (to me) rider from Williams, who fairly promptly fell well off the back of the lead group of nine then, as everyone else got lapped and pulled out, stuck it out all alone, and at a damned steady pace at that, for the 15 or 20 or so laps until, and through, the finish and her sweet top 10 spot in the stats. Right on sister, whoever you are!

Fast Track: Finally, I note that the late Isaac Galvez' partner Juan Llaneras paid a beautiful tribute to his mate by taking the points championship at the Worlds, and Olympic champ Anne Mears smoked not only the rest of the field, but also her own world record by a handsome margin, in the 500 meters. That, and in a completely unrelated road race, Jens Voigt took the GC at the Criterium International after taking a quite fine 7th in the time trial. We love Jens!