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?

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