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!

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