Thursday, May 31, 2007

When the Moon Hits Your Eye...

Like a Big Pizza Pie, That's Simoni!: well, he didn't leave DiLuca or Cunego quite in the dust (for long, anyway), but we love Iban Mayo did blow Liquigas neatly apart at the base of the climb and faithful KOM Piepoli did manage to just barely break the legs of a phenomenally resurgent baby Schleck, and while DiLuca's still got his Giro and his champagne and podium babes in Milan, Gilberto Simoni gorgeously attacked an at-last cracking Il Killer to take his final Giro stage win and even a temporary 3d place on the podium on the fearsome Zoncolan. You can go ahead and hit the mountain bike from now on if you want, you gave up that one last stage for me baby--woo-hoo!

Tour de Petty Bull!@#$: yep, endless sad-sacks Unibet have been formally dissed out of the Tour de France in favor of wildcard freakin' Barloworld, and even Unibet was finally forced to concede that the team had been forced into a "coma." Y'know, could UCI have shown some !@#damn spine and backed them for once instead of pimping them to their PR repair after taking their money and getting the innocent boys on the team into this hideous mess? Meantime, who else is wildcarding into this Tour determined to purge "every" doper from its ranks (except all 107 riders from Op Puerto, Quick Step, T-Mobile, and any and all stoked French riders) ahead of the start line? Why, natch, it's Guardians of Riderly Purity Astana, with Walter "Doping? On Telekom?" Godefroot conveniently being dropped from the pre-Tour prep right as soigneur-from-Satan Jeff d'Hont's book comes out, and Alexander "I'm Not Vino" Vinokorouv and Andreas Kloden (along with pal Jan Ullrich) all now under investigation by the IOC over their threesome of road-race medals at the 2000 Olympics while they were all cavorting on T-Mobile together. Well, CSC's in hot water over Bjarne Riis' presumptive coddling of a doping Basso at least, right? Wrong! Christian "Holy Crap, I Need Riders in This Tour" Prudhomme has backed off his (admittedly stupid) holy vow to kick CSC out of the Tour, merely pulling the rug out from under Bjarne Riis in a shocking reversal of his general policy of coddling doping-ignorant management like the fragile flowers they clearly are. But what of Gerolsteiner and T-Mobile? Well, Christian Henn and Rolf Aldag have everyone's confidence of course, so paradoxically from Riis' perspective his own wah-wah confessional was for naught, while Patrick "Nyah-Nyah!" Lefevere's smug prediction that the Tour can't afford to lose its tainted management (not riderly) talent is coming quite true for everyone but Bjarne. And, Erik Zabel finally won his reprieve from a clearly relieved Milram, at least til he's done leading out Petacchi in the Tour this year, giving them several months to revise Ale-Jet's pale-blue train before they have to make a decision on breaking Zabel's 2008-season contract. Can someone please take a consistent stance on *something* for five minutes, so at least my head doesn't explode?

Monday, May 28, 2007

Baby, It Ain't Over Til It's...Oh Wait, It *Is* Over

Il Assessino Strikes: Clearly, I'm a complete nit, because I just wasn't pegging Danilo DiLuca as the Maglia Rosa in Milan, but if Simoni and Cunego still didn't have the legs to take DiLuca on Tre Cime after an afternoon of merrily making him wear himself out pacesetting the chase with no teammates in sight, and DiLuca still had the power to take off unchallenged after that, Simoni in particular is flat-out hosed and the Giro is over right now. I was actually thinking DiLuca was going to crack yesterday--since when did DiLuca become such a Euskaltelish mountain goat?--but if he doesn't blow tomorrow on Zoncolan, and Simoni doesn't also leave Cunego in the dust while we're at it--unlikely, the way Lampre's been performing--I think they can pretty much just skip the entire last week, except the question remains who baby Schleck is going to ignominiously knock off the podium. Crap, I still want Simoni to take it! I'm particularly interested, though, to see how sudden-Cancellara DiLuca does in the flat stage 20 time trial--anyone else getting especially twitchy Heras- and Basso-vibes after this season's sudden improvement in the field? Oh, Gibo, at least take a final stage win...

Volta a Op Puerto: well, Sammy Sanchez seems to be back on form over at the Volta a Catalunya, but then, so are Oscar "I'm not Sevillano" Sevilla and Francisco Mancebo, while Denis "You Still Don't Deserve Heras' Vuelta" Menchov shockingly took a stage win. And Jorg Jaksche, suspended by Tinkoff and knocked out of the Giro? Why, he's off winning Circuit de Lorraine in Tinkoff team kit, which leaves me utterly befuddled as to why St. Oleg still has it in for the similarly-stoked Tyler Hamilton, unless he somehow missed that Tyler was actually out for 2 years over a positive test before Tinkoff hired him, which seems to be the only real difference between him and Jaksche. Meantime, Milram continues their moral conundrum over Erik Zabel's mea culpa, failing to come to terms on firing or not firing him after a 7-hour argument the other day, presumably because they really, really want him to lead out Petacchi in the Tour, I mean, because they're having a serious ethical debate over whether his voluntary confession on EPO cancels the horror of his long-ago week of sin in the 90s. And speaking of the Tour, Christian Prudhomme is having a mighty struggle over whether to kick CSC out of the Tour--yeah, right!--because (1) Riis sets a very, very naughty example for the cleanmeisters over at, say, T-Mobile, and (2) L'Equipe is loudly proclaiming that there's no way Bjarne didn't know Basso was working with Fuentes, and who wants those muckrakers on your @#$ in Paris? Then again, he could always boot them because Carlos Sastre openly backed Riis on his website, and if you're never going to hold management actually responsible for doping there's a rider you can comfortably take out your vendetta on...

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Il Grande Gibo

That's Right, Gibo: Fine, today's the queen stage of the Giro d'Italia, with a brutal series of climbs up from Trento, and everything I'm about to say is going to be proven egregiously wrong in about the next two hours, not the least of which that Gazzetto dello Sport's poll saying Cunego is the best climber in this Giro is absolute crap, which means he'll probably take the stage and make me look like a total moron today, like I can't dig my own grave without help. So I'm going to focus on what I really love--and is concurrently most exasperating--about Gilberto Simoni: his utter lack of verbal self control. Sure, he's easily the greatest whiner in all the peloton; but can anyone not adore him for his viciously self-excusing--and of course, perfectly prescient--attack on Ivan Basso at last year's Giro for being an "extraterresti"? (Bonus points for playing cyclist etiquette police and knee-capping Basso for bailing on a verbal agreement over a stage finish by cheerfully going for the jugular [actually, rather lower] and proclaiming "he is not a man.") But I gotta say, Gilberto, you flat-out blew it yesterday by lighting into the hapless RAI motos for allowing Garzelli to draft off 'em like a cheating lazy-ass and thereby steal the stage from you, the rightful winner. With all due respect, quit being such a baby! It's the second stage this Giro you got pipped at the line, are they both everyone else's fault? And even if it's true, Garzelli's 5:26 back and in no danger of taking your spot on the podium unless you completely blow up the next two days or the group is stupid enough to let him off the leash on an attack or breakaway which they won't be, why look like a sore loser *again*? You can match your earlier slanderous heights and still take the Giro as well if Di Luca bonks even with Liquigas' astonishing (and dare I suggest, otherwordly--did anyone really expect them to take the team time trial?) performance--hold it together, and choose your targets wisely!

The Danish Inquisition: so yawn, Bjarne Riis confessed to doping throughout the 90s and during his Tour, and with Christian Prudhomme merely suggesting it would be nice of him to hand his actual yellow jersey back (as he already offered) but also acknowledging the futility of finding anyone halfway high in GC that year who wasn't also stoked to award it to, it seems clear that nothing's gonna happen to the puppetmasters as usual, and every rider is, as always, a rare rogue acting in utter isolation from the guidance and leadership of the sponsors, the soigneurs, the doctors, and, most of all, the directeurs sportif. Is it me, or is it rather unjust that it's the poor SOB slogging up the endless Cat 1 climbs in a sleetstorm instead of the overstuffed ex-pro scarfing pastries in the team car who's always made the scapegoat in this? Indeed, Patrick "Everyone Else Who Dopes But Me Should Burn in Hell" Lefevere smirked as much, noting that if Prudhomme is really planning to hold management accountable for their riders, there's only gonna be two crap continental squads led by talentless Boy Scouts left to drive the Tour de France's ratings and revenues completely into the tank, so we can all guess where Captain Morality over at ASO is going to come out on that one. Which really makes me confident you're gonna rush to read the 6000 pages of Op Puerto docs you just got whose names you don't want to surface, you hypocrites! What's really tragic about this whole situation is that one can't help but wonder if Marco Pantani's disastrous implosion would really have played out as it did if he hadn't been, by sheer bad luck, the lone fall guy for every cowardly bastard-on-a-bike during that time who hit the GC without him, happily secure in the knowledge that they had a team doctor who made sure they didn't have the crap isolated luck to test positive. I can only imagine that 10 years from now, the same cynical remorseless stupidity is going to play out again--hell, can there be a grander scale than Op Puerto? and that's ridiculously assuming riders not implicated there aren't getting their own drugs in Belgium or France--and Jan Ullrich's going to be completely redeemed after a decade of hitting the bottle while his competitors tearfully admit that Fuentes got their dog's names right, just as another Festina makes its filthy degraded way into the headlines and the revisionist history lesson predictably draws attention from the new doping scandal then actually at hand. Spare me, everybody--can't any of you overpaid prima donnas draw a lesson from the dedicated amateurs stuck in a cubicle all week at a real job and just race?!

Friday, May 25, 2007

What Else? Il Doping, and Il Grande Giro

What Becomes of the Broken-Hearted? And, an Explanation: Well, I thought I'd successfully made the transition from naive ditzbag idealist to jaded cigar-chomping curmudgeon since my eye-opening experience at the Giro last year, but apparently not, because my guts absolutely dropped to the floor when I read that we love Erik Zabel admitted to taking EPO "for a week" in the 90s, but stopped because of the side effects (right, Aldag I wasn't surprised was lying). Dammit, dammit, crap! Let's leave aside the peculiarity of how the Op Puerto judges weren't able to nail anyone on, say, Liberty Seguros, much less human vending machine Dr. Fuentes, for the negative health effects of doping which then were the only violations covered under Spanish law, since Zabel is making it clear that at least EPO has some negative side effects. I'm going to defend Erik against the distinct possibility this is merely a lame extension of the clear bull@#$% Ivan Basso "I smoked but I didn't inhale" defense, if only to make a last-ditch effort at preserving my innocence, but I gotta say, Milram's goddamn stupid if they fire him over this as Zabel was sobbingly afraid they'll do. After all, with virtually all the powerhouse that was Telekom in the 90s now retired and dominating the ever-unpunished management ranks, is it really fair to take it out on a Telekom rider in the last season or so of his career? And while we're at it, I haven't noticed Christian "Doping Bad, Unless We Need the Riders" Prudhomme expelling the 3/4 of the peloton that by his own roaring demands ought to be ejected from the Tour de France over the Op Puerto scandal, so until the money-grubbing hypocrites at the top are willing to put their dough, and the speed of the races, where their mouths are, it seems damned unfair to nail the riders they're clearly pressuring to do it. Either purge from the top down, or admit you want these boys stoked to up the TV ratings on Alpe d'Huez, you skeezbags!

Incidentally, I've now been very amiably dope-slapped twice over my disgust
with St. David Millar, so I just want to make the source of my vexation clear. It's not that he doped--fine, it's Cofidis, who didn't? It's not even that he's now an advocate for clean sport, which is honestly really nice and all. It's that he's a goddamn sanctimonious hypocrite about it. He didn't confess out of the goodness of his heart; he was sitting in his freakin' hotel room practically with a needle in his !@# for heck's sake! So to shove your face in the TV cameras bawling about how reformed you are compared to all the filthy unrepentant cheats you voluntarily left behind and how very, very bad you really feel is just beyond irritating. If Carlos Sastre's not doping, for example--and for all I know Millar still is--he's not making out with his own reflection over it and whoring himself everytime a RAI crew comes into sight; he puts on his team kit, climbs onto the saddle, keeps his mouth shut and does his goddamn job without expecting fireworks and a parade every morning. Learn it, Millar, and live it!

Le Montagne, Baby!: The sprinters having frolicked for several days, Petacchi recovering his strength dignity and supremacy, McEwen getting satisfying smacked around and Hushovd having crushed my soul for the 4th straight sprint in a row, it's time for the mountains, baby, and holy crap is DiLuca absolutely wailing in the high passes far better than I ever thought he could. Simoni, I know you've got far more domestique firepower in the big mountains than liquigas (vai Iban!), but watch out in the Dolomites!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Barrell o' Monkeys

I Fought the Law, And...You Know How That Goes: well, USADA miraculously managed to hold an entire cross-exam of Floyd Landis without once questioning him about actual doping, predictably playing instead to the nimrod soundbite-sucking press by slamming Landis on the colossal irrelevancies of (1) his manager's scumly stupidity; (2) Landis' alleged attempt to brush it under the rug and (3) Landis' trying to intimidate Greg LeMond by deliberately wearing a dark suit and tie. Gimme a break, you freaks--not only should Landis be outright congratulated for improving his sartorial sense from his backwards-baseball-cap 7-11 hangout wear, but does USADA's lawyer really think LeMond is such a candy-ass? Landis' camp, meantime, sensibly struck back with an expert who demolished the French lab chimps for their impressive inability to conduct testing, or, for that matter, even operate and understand the applicable software. God, could anyone even trust these nits with an eighth-grade science-class worm dissection? The closing arguments, meanwhile, slammed Landis yet again for being a real, real meanie, and on Landis' side, still remained focused on the science. Even if Landis is a doping testosterone-inhaling weasel--and it's USADA's job to prove that he is, which they seem sorely to have botched--at least I can halfway respect his legal team! Ah well, on to appeals....

8675309: no, not the Tommy TuTone one-hit wonder--it's the total number of longtime T-Mobile, I mean Telekom, riders who've now copped to long-term systematic doping in the 90s! And now that these boys are all the guardians of the vestal virgins over at T-Mobile Gerolsteiner and Astana, among others, they're all going to be thrown to the lions in light of the teams' zero-tolerance policy and the need to set a good example to the current riders, right? Wrong! T-Mobile's Bob Stapleton, for one, is just swooning over Rolf "I Never Took Anything" Aldag now that he's confessed he actually did, and in fact, it's indicative of just how forthright, honest, and worthy of leading the team's current crop of squeaky-clean racers he truly is, at least while the team's inconveniently between dope-providing team doctors while their old ones clean up their little mess in Freiburg. And Gerolsteiner? Well, they're not quite so happy, but they, too, cherish anyone with the guts and longtime guilty conscience to confess a day after they're already exposed in the newspapers, so it looks like pretty much every DS in the ProTour can hit the stage with Dr. Phil tomorrow for a St. Millar after-the-fact wah-wah confessional and still keep the paychecks a-rollin'. If there's anything I respect, it's that sort of dedication to clean sport that these teams all embody!

Buon Anniversario!: To Manolo "Briefcase? What Briefcase?" Saiz and & Dr. Eufemiano "It's Just Vitamins! I Swear!" Fuentes on the 1 year celebration of the Op Puerto bust. Y'know, in retrospect, I still feel entirely justified, if mortifying naive, in yelling "Liberty Seguros, how could you?" into the team car at last year's Giro after the scandal broke (and if I'd known then that that cowardly troll Saiz was going to simperingly blame everything on the insatiable drug-bloated appetites of we-still-love-Roberto-Heras-anyway, I'd've yelled in a few choice other things, too.) Oh, those halcyon youthful days when I didn't yet realize that most everyone in the peloton is a drug-snarfing amoral cheat....

Monday, May 21, 2007

It's (Almost) The Mountains, Baby!

Andiamo!: So potential Gibo GC threat/star ascendant Ricardo Ricco' has diminished his team-leadership overthrow chances by sending both his DS and Gilberto Simoni into a rage by falling out of the giant (and successful) breakaway including every other team but theirs yesterday, thereby bagging any reason the Liquigas boys might have had to bring it back without the high-placed Ricco' in the mix, and forcing Saunier Duval to bust their own nuts, which they sorely needed to preserve for the critical stage 10 mountains, in the last 20k chasing it down to prevent any serious threats to Simoni's overall aspirations. The Italian press, of course, leapt onto the disaster, claiming (if my abysmal Italian is any guide, and I caution it may well not be), over the horrified protestations of poor Ricco', that he and world champ/apparent muscle Paolo Bettini made a deal that Ricco' would bail and leave the break to the big boys. Hell, with Basso and Simoni no longer available to dope-slap each other for the press each night a la' 2006, why not set up Saunier Duval for morale-destroying fireworks on the team bus?

The Drunken !@#hole Defense, Part Deux: yep, Landis' ex-manager has now hit the Celebrity Slur Trifecta, first aced by guys like Mel Gibson and what's-his-name-from-that-medical-drama-I've-never-watched, having (1) made a repugnant, explicit (and in this case, openly threatening) remark to an innocent party; (2) blaming it all on the booze; and (3) heading straight to rehab. Well, that clearly means you're really a very, very nice guy after all, champ, and not the sort of general !@# who taunts (and extorts) someone about their childhood sex abuse--I can't wait to tell you my deep, dark secrets now that I know you're sober! Meantime, the complex chromatography evidence, as well as USADA's own witnesses, continues to seem to support Floyd Landis, and with Landis' case already in the tank thanks to that idiot and damn near everyone else in cycling hell-bent on nailing him anyway, it's just a low-down shame. Forza Floyd--I'm not optimistic, but perhaps there's still hope!

Apropos of nothing, am I the only one surprised to read that we love Gilberto Simoni tested poz for coke back in the day? Hell, put him, Ullrich, and the speed-and-heroin-scarfing 'Pot Belge 'crowd together in a room, and I imagine you've got quite the party!

Landis and Butthead

You Said "Butt": so Landis finally takes the stand, and actually makes a pretty well-said case that no, he didn't take a damn thing, and, more usefully for the moronothon non-cycling press if they bothered to listen, explained the actual strategy and mass peloton missteps that were the real cause of his spectacular rebound on the stage to Morzine. My issue? Damn, Floyd, you knew about your idiot manager's juvenile extortionate phone call, and you actively decided not to call your lawyers because it was LATE? What the possible crackheaded brain-frozen @#$% were you thinking? I know you're not a lawyer or anything, but even to a layperson--particularly one who's been welded to a giant pack of them every waking moment since July of last year--it ought to occur that that, say, blackmail against a witness over his childhood sexual abuse is something it's nice for your defense team to, well, know, especially since most of us do NOT begin our trial prep with tips along the lines of "please let me know if you try to intimidate a witness like some third-rate knee-capping goon" mixed in with the "tell the truth" and "answer the question you're asked" routine. Next time, Captain Blockhead, don't worry about interrupting our beauty sleep--if you decide to freak out Greg LeMond at 2 am in a drunken rampage, just give us a little ringy-ding, all right?

Speaking of Floyd, there was all sorts of other technical stuff about how the lab results are crap, but I'm utterly incapable of explaining them coherently, so I would honestly head over to Trust But Verify ( I think), a pro-Floyd site, for anything approaching thorough analysis. But please--there are comments opportunities--be kind to him will you? I suspect he's rather heartbroken at the moment. Grazie!

At the Volta a Catalunya: yep, it's a star-studded gallery of the Most Likely (Or Ought) to Be Evicted From the Tour de France This Year lined up at the beautiful Volta, including Oscar Pereiro, Alejandro Valverde, Vinokorouv, Francisco Mancebo and Oscar Sevilla, with impending Vuelta podium finisher Sammy Sanchez and we love Erik Zabel stretching their gams as well. Venga Sammy!

The Commentators Are Getting Restless: indeed, still relentlessly sucks for jacking me out of my Giro, but luckily it was Cyclysm Sunday over at Vs., and Phil Liggett and Bob Roll were on quite the ungenteel rampage, mostly at Ivan Basso's helpless expense. First, the ever-amiable Phil stopped to admire the passing-by of the hometown of Ferrari, pleasantly noting that many of the Italian riders of course own Ferraris and would enjoy the opportunity to meander about were they not otherwise occupied in the peloton, but that "some, like Ivan Basso, will probably have to sell them now." Sweet! Meanwhile, the cheerful Bob Roll unabashedly pimped Johan Bruyneel's utter bull@#$% line about how the evil Basso completely duped the naive and innocent Bruyneel into genuinely thinking he had no involvement whatsoever in doping or Op Puerto when they signed him, which rather passes the smell test with the same efficacy as a pile of vulture-engulfed road carrion--Bob, if you're gonna shill that ridiculous line for that PR-sucking revisionist weasel Bruyneel, oughtn't you disclose your own personal ties to and particular affinity for Discovery at least? I call bull@#$%! And, back to the actual Giro, it's one more sprint chance today for always-a-bridesmaid we love Thor Hushovd before we hit the high passes, so pull it together Thor!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Il Grande Giro, and the '06 Tour, Again

The Tour Can Blow: Well, not only is Alejandro Valverde not his dog "Piti" in the small matter of the Eufemiano Fuentes blood-bag code-names, just like Basso's not his dog "Birillo" though actually he is, but Galician Oscar Pereiro--who veers disconcertingly (in the sense of, is he going to hold it together, or ought a veterinarian be on standby with a tranquilizer dart) on the subject of the Tour de France from humble deference to Landis to discreet hope it may yet be his to slavish dedication to Valverde's interests to the outright assertion that Valverde's too weak to take it to total screaming rage if he's questioned while not in the mood--is apparently not his dog, "Urko," either, because as any idiot knows "Urko" is a hill in the Basque country, while it is the far different "Urco" that is actually a mythological Galician dog, so it is clearly impossible that he could be a Fuentes client, presumably because Fuentes, besides being the Most Meticulous Record Keeper Ever, is not only a great speller generally but also a noted expert in Spanish regional fairy tales. What's more, if Pereiro's gonna be asked to submit a damn DNA sample to match against "Urko's" blood, the Tour de France, which is a meaningless minor ride after all anyway, can completely screw, 'cause Pereiro, as a matter of honor and not avoidance of doping charges, will simply ride the far more prestigious and well-known Vuelta instead, as any rider with half an eye towards eternal glory would prefer. Forget the 'roid-rage mood swings, Oscar, that DNA stance makes you look just great! (And while we're at it, your freakin' Therapeutic Use Exemption didn't give you enough gas, you had to scarf a pile of crapola on top of that? ugh) Anyhoo, by my reckoning, if Floyd gets stripped, but Oscar then makes Tour king Christian Prudhomme twitchy, I believe this puts Andreas Kloden in the '06 maillot jaune (and we love Carlos Sastre on the podium at last, in 2nd, woo-hoo!), which then puts Kloden in the interesting position of being the winner of the '06 Tour but forced to go solely to support Alexander "I'm Not Vino" Vinokorouv--unless of course *he's* barred again--as his domestique for '07, and I absolutely have no recollection of who that sets up for last year's podium in 3rd. I don't know about you, but my head's starting to ache--can we just give this thing to some half-@#$sed French neo-pro from F. de Jeux and call the matter settled once and for all?

My Hero, Giro: well, I imagine the boys in Pepto-Bismol pink can let go of the breaths they've been holding for a second at least, as T-Mobile might keep their sponsorship after all with the glory of the Maglia Rosa in hand for the moment. But the real news for me--besides the fact that boy, has Petacchi come back out of nowhere--is the classifica generale, with Di Luca suddenly looking like the man to beat but, with the mountains hard by after a couple more sprint stages, the rest of the GC contenders all within shouting distance of each other, with blonde bambino Cunego just shy of a minute back of him, Savoldelli an additional 13 seconds back, Garzelli--and man, is A&S looking suprisingly strong!--another 20-odd behind and Gibo Simoni in slightly more, but certainly not insurmountable, trouble, a further minute-plus in arrears. My question? Riccardo Ricco', still ahead of Simoni in GC and looking rather stronger so far, is playing modest second-banana to Simoni as he should at the moment, but then so did Cunego in '04 as I recall and we all know how that turned out, so is Ricco going to show some loyalty to his mentor or stab him in his yellow-clad back the second Simoni starts to bonk on a Dolomite? Me, I'm rooting for Simoni for the overall, which actually, if Basso and Guitierrez both get it stripped from last year, could suddenly make the two-time champ a four-fer. Vai Gilberto!

Oh, Yeah, *That* Guy: y'know, tired as I am by the ubiquitous "Drunken @#$hole" defense, now whined forth by Landis' ex-manager over the Greg LeMond witness-intimidation hoo-ha (does anyone else know people who call other people when they're loaded and taunt them about their childhood sex abuse? 'cause everyone I know who "cells drunk" at 2 in the morning just blubbers disastrously to an ex's answering machine or something), I have to say it's a damn shame, because to my confused and scientifically talentless eyes, it seems like USADA's expert conceded that the testing methodology relied upon by the French lab actually uses a less accurate evaluation method than is currently the standard, leaving the true testosterone/epitestosterone ratio in some doubt, plus that the chain of procedural disasters does tend to speak to the general competence and ability of the lab itself, thus leaving Floyd with some fairly colorable arguments on his behalf. Or does this not matter at all now that Landis, thanks to his moron manager, has been utterly flambeed in the press?

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Bite Me,! (Part II)

Giro? What Giro?: well, it was apparently a pretty rip-roaring finish up stage 4 to Montevirgine with the GC contenders all hot on each others' wheels and we love Iban Mayo making a very fine ride of it, and also quite the lively sprint today (with we love Thor Hushovd right in there) considering half the peloton was sore from a nasty array of crashes on wet pave' yesterday--not that I'd !@#damned know it with the coverage I paid for completely unable to function! Here I am, finally making peace with the concept that I have to gack up extra dough for the Giro and Vuelta above my general subscrip, and even psyching myself into feeling rather grateful for the opportunity given that I quite enjoyed the Classics beyond a few irksome snafus and that lame US television can only be bothered to show about 2 hours' worth of Giro coverage a week, and even accepting the problems I've been having since the new website came up--like I have to kill my computer's firewall to get it to come on at all and the extra-bitchin' bit rate I paid for comes in with the approximate clarity of one-bit-per-computer-screen and there's no sound at all--since I've already sent friendly emails alerting tech support to the problem and certainly even the finest site ought to be given a fair and reasonable time for technical tweaks, when voila'--a particularly unpleasing midweek stomach bug legitimately buys me two days at home from work with nothing to do but lump miserably on the couch clutching my guts and watch...nothin'! Nothin'! Bring me back my !@#damned Giro you hacks!!

National Lampoon's Vacation: so in the wake of Ivan Basso and Michele Scarponi's suspension from the Italian cycling fed, and the interesting revelation from the prosecutors that Basso has mysteriously backtracked from his earlier promise to be open about the nature and extent of his doping activity and overall knowledge (you weren't tipped off to that when all he'd cop to was "trying" to dope for the '06 Tour?), it turns out that Ivan Basso, Jan Ullrich and Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes were all totally coincidentally vacationing at the exact same German hotel at the exact same time just before the start of the '06 Giro, which is really nice that the teams gave the boys some completely unquestioned time off right then considering I'm sure neither Jan nor Ivan had anything else they were supposed to be doing for their teams, like, um, training, at the time. Speaking of CSC and T-Mobile, T-Mobile is now apparently questioning its sponsorship because since they pushed the riders to actually stop doping their results have been in the tank and they realize the extent to which they've screwed themselves with their hypocrisy, I mean, they've just got too many commitments elsewhere to be bothered, and CSC kindly reassures us all that the two riders who were nailed for blood 'irregularities' were really within normal limits after all, and would you please ignore the man behind the curtain? Finally, Caisse d'Epargne has seemingly come to the conclusion that they can't rely on Pereiro for the maillot jaune in the Tour even with half the field theoretically disqualified by Op Puerto, because they've decided to back Alejandro "I'm Not Valv" Valverde after all, noting a la' that oily wank Bruyneel that the boy promised to give DNA if asked, which they've got a hell of a better reason to think won't happen in Spain than it did to Basso in Italy, so see, we've proved he's clean you rumormongering naysayers!

Y'know, I'm so touched by the teams' genuine pursuit of clean sport I'm welling up. Truly. Now, could you goons over at please fix my freakin' Giro, so I can go back to watching the actual sport?

The Fat Lady Sings

If It Wasn't Over Before, It's Sure As Hell Over Now: Okay, let's forget that Greg LeMond (beloved enough for dope-slapping Lance Armstrong all over the planet) said that Floyd Landis admitted in a cell phone call last August to doping when pressed to do so by LeMond, particularly since the "admission" apparently consisted of the highly noncommittal and easily-attackable "what good would it do?". Landis is history because LeMond claimed something entirely irrelevant but far more disgusting: that after LeMond confided to Floyd he was sexually abused as a child in the context of the hardship of hiding dark secrets, some utterly foul goon, later identified as Landis' manager (and promptly fired upon said revelation in the courtroom), called LeMond on his cell under the pervish child-molestery ID "Uncle Ron" and made threatening and sexually explicit remarks implying the world would hear all about it if LeMond didn't back off. Still want to claim the mantle of Boy Scout of the Peloton, Floyd?

Jesus, Floyd. Even if you didn't dope, you're ruined anyway--if what LeMond said today is halfway freakin' true, pack up your !@#$ing bags, head for home, and shut the hell up for all eternity. Some guy tells you about the worst possible violation a child could face, and you yap to some @#$hole about it? Let's forget the little bit about "Uncle Ron's" subsequent (and, let's presume on the dearly-held hope that you possess an actual soul, completely unknown to you, or else your damn lawyer should be fired while we're at it for not ferreting this out ahead of time) witness intimidation, blackmail, and generally just about the most repulsive defensive tactic ever played--I repeat, some guy tells you about the worst possible violation a child could face, and you yap to some @#$hole about it? Nothing that was said before in this arbitration is ever really going to be remembered, and nothing you and your team say from this point out is ever really going to be listened to. I don't care if you've got 3 computers up there evaluating the evidence on the actual doping issue--even a few lawyers, I've heard, are human, and it's damn near impossible at this point that the arbitrators up there, particularly the two that were already happily hobnobbing with your pals UCI and WADA before this debacle began, are going to be able to forget LeMond's testimony even if they genuinely try, even though that's not actually the question before the panel. And if they can continue to evaluate your doping arguments objectively, *and* if they come down on your side on this point (two exceedingly big ifs, frankly), what the @#$! sponsor is going to want to hire you with this in print? Either way you look at it, I think you can fairly--unless LeMond's credibility is somehow totally destroyed, and while we're at it I doubt your counsel's bringing up his whining legal battles with Armstrong is going to cut it--call it a career. Is anyone else thinking it's best for all concerned to cut their losses and settle out this circus-sideshow trainwreck for some punishment equally unsatisfactory to both sides whether Landis actually doped during the Tour or not?

Tuesday, May 15, 2007


He's Baaaaa-aaaaaack!: after yet another fruitless, if valiant, breakaway gets caught virtually within sight of the line, viciously-derided bone-broken has-been Alessandro Petacchi firmly smacked around his many naysayers by--finally--taking a sprint stage in a race that really counts for the first time since his agonizing knee-smash in last year's Giro, even with baby-blue train Milram blowing his lead-out for the second straight day in a row, collapsing sobbing over his handlebars and bawling out his gratitude to his supporters for "the most important win of my career." Allez, Jet--well, that settles *that*, you dope-slapping hacks at Gazzetta dello Sport! Even more satisfying from my end, he took the points jersey off endless annoyance Robbie "the Ego" McEwen, while Gasparotto took pink back from a presumptively-ticked Di Luca and we-love-but-think-he's-cursed-in-this-Giro Thor Hushovd got knocked over into the barriers 600 m from the line, while baby GC threat Damiano Cunego emerged fairly unscathed from his tumble and Simoni managed to stop just short of the general carnage. Vai, Gilberto!

Didn't I Already Weasel Out of this One?: Well, nope, as Caisse d'Epargne finally decides it's got the goods on--or can no longer avoid firing--Alejandro Valverde and is forced to "investigate" his links to Op Puerto after the Italian press complained about him last week. Um, wasn't he actually openly linked to the scandal almost a full *year* ago by the wily code names "Valv" and dog "Piti," and you hypocrites happily kept him on so long as it looked like he was going to snake his way out of this? Speaking of which, the repulsive Johan Bruyneel was on the wah-wahing attack against Basso again yesterday, crying "Ivan deceived me" and "Basso lied to me"--of course he did, you ass, you flat-out wanted him to! You "did all we could to ensure we were signing a rider without legal problems"--yeah, without *legal* problems, not without *doping* problems, you guessed wrong Op Puerto was dead now suck up the consequences of knowingly signing a cheat, you oily disingenuous hypocrite!

The Executioner's Song: Yep, Landis' predestined-outcome kangaroo court is in session, with USADA's expert defending the incompetent French lab chimps and contending that Landis snarfed testosterone from an astonishing array of sources, and Landis' team blasting the lab's, and USADA's, tactics, ability, and bias. Meantime, both sides have lined up cycling legends to explain the benefits, and not, of said testosterone, and at this point I'm personally so irritated by the craptastic legal debacle that is this arbitration that I'm rooting for Landis to take it if he'd whacked himself with drug patches over every damn square inch of his Phonak team kit (and elsewhere). Go Floyd!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Hitting the 'Gas

Feeling the Burn: I hope I'm not the only dense enough to be surprised to see Liquigas of all teams smoke the opening team time trial at the Giro, but I was even more surprised to see the heart-on-his-sleeve Danilo DiLuca, who appeared completely enraged when non-team-leader Gasparotto took the maglia rosa from him by coming in first at the line, later sweetly lie for the cameras that he didn't want to punch his face in and was just so very happy that dear Enrico got to wear it instead of him. That, however, was neatly resolved at the end of stage one, as the race organizers weaselled some inexplicable scam to get DiLuca into the maglia rosa and right in action with the podium babes, and I was forced to endure the highly irritating spectacle of seeing Robbie "the Ego" McEwen take the sprint ahead of Paolo Bettini (forget Petacchi, and the press sure as hell has nastily written him off), while we love Thor Hushovd was spit out the back of the last climb like some unwanted tobacco-juiced loogie. Pull it together Thor!

Bring Out Your Dead: as if the outcome of this week's Floyd Landis hearing hadn't already been decided for all intents and purposes by the leaking skanks at WADA, Tour de France organizers ASO decided nonetheless to get a jump on all the tiresome paperwork his 'possible' guilt might entail with director Christian "Dick" Prudhomme peremptorily ordering all records of the poor boy to be eliminated from the 2006 history books, including, natch, his win. Note to Christian: nice try, but a French rider *still* didn't win it. Keep trying, though!

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Il Grande Giro, Baby!

The Hosed: T "Despite the Fact that Our Riders Doctors and DSs All Keep Getting Busted, We're Morally Superior to You" Mobile, as high-GC-placement-hope (though not actually podium contender) Sergeui Gonchar gets pulled for unusual--but clearly not doping-related, avers the team--blood readings at Liege-Bastogne-Liege and Romandie. That sure explains the "bad cold" he's been suffering from the last week! And, as usual perpetual sad-sack wannabes Unibet, whose court challenge to force their participation in the Giro was helpfully met by Milan officials promising they'd issue a ruling 9 days after they miss the start line. If that sort of considered-yet-timely deliberation isn't justice in action, I'm hard pressed to know what is. We'll let you know if you win your death-sentence appeal a week after you fry, we're sure you'll feel posthumously vindicated! Surprisingly, last but not least among the most yanked it's team time trial specialists CSC and Discovery, who freely admit they're scared as hell by today's hilly windy course, as half the teams abandon their time-trial bikes for fear of getting knocked over with the lack of control and the other half, led by predictably unsympathetic (and crap time-trialist) Robbie "the Ego" McEwen, helpfully opining that if you don't suck, it ought not to be a problem, like for him. Anyone else hoping Petacchi and Hushovd absolutely (though honestly are unlikely to) crush his irritating @#$ in every single sprint?

The High: well, still everyone, according to the tirelessly self-promoting incompetents at the French lab eager to do anything to project a positive image ahead of the Landis hearing, noting that due to the mass unwillingness to test for exogenous testosterone (certainly not WADA, UCI, or the teams' fault, natch) half the post-purge peloton is still stoked. And the other half? According to the ever-philosophical Paolo Bettini, with Basso and Scarponi blowing everyone's cover and Fuentes off the market, they're now manipulating their blood at a new bank in Valencia--which makes it even more entertaining that the Italian riders are threatening to boycott the Vuelta as the dirty Spaniards continue to ride and win races with dope-fueled impunity, as the poor and pure Italians muddle along with nothing more powerful at the start gate than a pre-race cappucino. Riiiiiiight!

Where in the World is Iban Mayo?: hooray! still in unpredictable form, but back in action to support Gilberto Simoni in the mountains, and--please, Iban, if for no other reason that it's about time to make the dope-slapping press grovel at your altar--game to try a stage. Vai Iban!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

What's the Difference Between a Catfish and a Lawyer?

One's a Bottom-Dwelling Scum-Sucker, and the Other's a Fish: in the wake of the Landis arbitrators' disgusting-but-unsurprising spankin' new 2-1 decision to completely screw Floyd Landis over without actually consulting the third arbitrator on a B-testing challenge, as required, Floyd at his press conference today came out with a true shocker: USADA's lawyer offered him a *month's* suspension in exchange for giving up Lance Armstrong. The problem? Floyd couldn't give Lance up, not only because he's not inclined to be the same total ass!@#$ to Lance that Lance has til recently been to him (that's my comment, not the far-nicer Floyd's), but because he never saw Lance do anything wrong. His reward for his integrity? As noted above, the stacked panel's preexisting Salem witch trial, and the total destruction of his career, his rep, his Tour, and his place in cycling history. Really fair to Floyd either way, guys!

Y'know, my verdict was actually out on Landis til this moment, even after Bobby Julich suggested 'way back that the only way Floyd could've tested poz was if he was slipped something on the sly--after all, how many other heroes have proven themselves corner-cutting drug-scarfing weasels?--but if this is true, Floyd's got even my utter support. Why? Because even though capturing and destroying Lance Armstrong would be a dope-busting prize above any other-- easily including Landis, plus tossing in Ullrich and Riis, plus the rest of the freakin' peloton while we're at it, no offense--any cycling body that (1) truly loved and valued this most agonizing and beautiful sport and (2) truly believed that Landis was actually guilty would never allow a man who stole the monument-of-all-of-cycling Tour de France to get off with a measly month suspension. I mean, he'd be riding the Tour this year, for Christ's sake! And if they *would* whore the Tour de France for a case against Lance Armstrong, and if they *don't* believe Landis is actually or even just arguably culpable, and they're *still* willing to force this farce of a three-ring-circus to its likely and forever tainted rider-crushing conclusion, they goddamn ought to be dissolved.

Go get 'em baby!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Duck, Duck, Doper!

What the @#*$?: Can someone please explain to me how, with over 100 names having been harbored by the Spaniards in total in the Op Puerto affair, and a solid 58 or so perfectly clear to them early last spring, pretty much the only guys publicly identified and written off the Giro start list half a week before it begins--forget even the Tour and Vuelta--are the same handful of late-career downward-spiral dope fiends who were already barred or still serving other suspensions *last* year? What the hell kind of sense does that make, and how the hell is that really gonna clean up the sport? If the smirking hypocrites over at the teams, UCI, and the Tours are randomly gonna pick and choose who gets to ride in some stupid children's game in order to keep a halfway quality peloton in play, isn't it really more fair to just let every Op Puerto (and Quick Step, and T-Mobile, and...) dirtbag in so at least the playing field is technically fairly level for the majority?

Now, now, I'm not advocating doping or even amnesty for dopers, so put down the pitchforks and torches, people. But I am saying that if Pat "Dick" McQuaid, Dick "Dick"Pound, Patrick Lefevere and Johan Bruyneel and all the other oily self-interested doublethinkers are really sincere about not letting dope-implicated riders hit the corsa rosa, then they should be unequivocally willing to keep all 100-odd boys out right from the get-go and let the races take whatever hits they must--up to and including a start list slashed by 2/3 and a handful of gasping domestiques pushing their bikes up the Dolomites by hand--in order to preserve the integrity of the sport. Right? Um...Pat? Johan? Anyone there?

What the !@#$?, Part Due: Correct me if I was completely hallucinating at the Giro podium last year, but I seem to recall that the boys standing there looking all excited and dripping sweat all over the poor podium babes were, in order, Ivan Basso, Jose Enrique Gutierrez, and Gilberto Simoni. So here we are pinning the numbers on this year's racers, and it's not Basso wearing the prized and honorable No. 1--we all know he was totally clean in the Giro but unsuccessfully trying to dope at the Tour, so he can't do it--nor Gutierrez, who rode for Phonak, I mean was implicated in Op Puerto, so he can't do it--so by rights, with no public implication of Gilberto Simoni in anything more scandalous than calling Basso a wuss, fraud, and drug addict, it oughta be Simoni, no? Well, no, because apparently some people have a bee up their @#$ about giving Simoni the credit he deserves and the crown he will likely be given someday anyway, so it's going to current World Champ, rightly adored Jack-of-All-Terrain, and decidedly not third place in GC last year we love Paolo Bettini. Can any of you cowards who profess to be so mightily in favor of rewarding the pure either give up the goods on what you have on Simoni, or give him the damn No. 1 tag for heck's sake?!

Oh, Tyler: Even Tinkoff has it's limits, it seems, whumping you under "suspension" as if the same ancient allegations about your wife faxing Fuentes were miraculously just discovered by
them yesterday. Tyler, it breaks my heart--but it can't take away your palmares, and it's time to give it up. Please, please call it a career before I have to read about you fighting for a spot on some ignominious Team Tricycle or something! On the other hand, Ivan Basso's already got an offer from McDonalds....

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

You'll Have to Pry My Giro Out of My Cold, Dead Hands

Bite Me, Simoni!: his vaunted 10-page confession to CONI to the contrary, as you've all heard our hero Ivan Basso actually didn't admit to doping, copping merely, in his press conference in Milano today, to "attempted" doping--that is, sure I met with Fuentes, and sure I gave him a bucket o' blood, and sure I gave him more euros in a week than the poor bastard lowly domestiques who serve me earn in a year, and I entirely did intend to plan to dope for the Tour de France, til you career-busting clods at the whining anti-doping agencies wrecked my chances and kept me out of the Tour before I even had the chance to snort all the EPO I paid fair and square for. What's more, I never doped at the Giro either, which as with every other race in my career I won absolutely clean, even though Birillo is in fact my dog and there are all those funny phone calls between Labarta and Fuentes citing stats totally coincidentally identical to the ones I reached in any given Giro stage, so hands off you has-been wannabe Gilberto Simoni, it's still MINE MINE MINE! Oh, and I still feel really, really, really bad. Um, not to malign Basso and his obvious integrity, but is anyone else's bull!@#$ meter going off the charts besides mine?

What's really interesting is the Italian tifosi's response to this whole thing, at least on the comments page on Gazzetta dello Sport. I'm actually quite touched, and even rather swayed by, the commentators who say that Basso is but a man, not a hero, they love him still (and some of them, frankly, seem to love the babelicious attempted-dopester in an "I wonder if I ought to get a restraining order" sort of way), and they will truly welcome his return to the peloton after he has, to his credit, willingly paid his penalty. Then, of course, there's the pro-Gilberto Simoni crowd, who generally seem to support the sort of forgiveness last shown by the righteous warriors of the Inquisition to hapless heretics--hell, you gotta admire their passion, if not their lack of inclination to turn the other cheek! Then again, I can't say I don't admire that too.

And the fallout? Natch, none at all for Team CSC and Discovery, who smoothly reiterated their total genuine ignorance as to their fantastic cash-cow's unforeseeable evil deeds, despite, say, his astonishingly Roberto Heras-like instantaneous improvement in the time-trial under their stellar guidance, since we all know that the teams who profit from these boys never, ever, ever pressure them to actually post results against their equally-doped-up competition. And as to the riders, well, Tyler Hamilton for one won't be at the Giro in the wake of the post-Basso Grand Tour crackdown-on-a-few-selected-riders-who-were-already-named-
-and-talentwise-jack-over-the-TV-ratings, so for my money, he just as well oughta hang up his cleats and call it a career right now. And I'm presuming Michele Scarponi is out, thereby totally jacking poor Stefano Garzelli out of key help, though bizarrely he still keeps turning up on Giro start lists even after the Basso confessional. But the main fallout, I imagine, is going to land squarely on Floyd Landis, who though uninvolved in Op Puerto will likely, particularly given an "independent" (but still hired by people who have expressed a decided anti-Floyd opinion about the case) lab's recent validation of the Landis test results, be the focus of a reinvigorated pack of loathesome self-congratulatory witchhunters eager to add to their own rider-frying palmares. Don't let these goons get to you, Floyd--whatever Basso, "Valv," "No. 1," and the rest of the Puerto cheats are rightfully found to have done, the lab still screwed you over!

Monday, May 07, 2007

St. Ivan of the Dolomites

The Redemption of Ivan Basso: yep, it's not been two seconds since Ivan Basso appeared before CONI and confessed to doping in the Op Puerto affair and already, the PR whoring has begun. No sooner had the news popped than he was already joining erstwhile dopehead David Millar on the path to sainthood, having shown, according to his lawyer Massimo Martelli, "great character" despite "shaking" in fear as he humbly knelt before CONI of his own volition, desperately needing to "lift the weight off his conscience" to confess his soul-scorching misdeeds. And next for Ivan, with his presumptive two-year ban (which L'Equipe muckrakingly speculated was being knocked down in exchange for his admission, which immediately sent Pat "Dick" McQuaid postal) nearly in hand? Why, he's going to "dedicate his life to the fight against doping." Anyone else hearing the blare of heavenly trumpets and mellifluous chorus of white-robed angels singing from on high as the skies open against the clouds in a pool of golden light?

Oh please, spare me the self-congratulatory faux-repentant bull@#$% wah-wah! I'm sure Ivan Basso is a sweet, kind man and true lover of the pain and beauty of cycling who would genuinely rather win clean than win dirty. And I can't begin to imagine the excruciating pressure that The Next Lance Armstrong must have felt from his handlers, teammates, directeur sportifs, family, friends, hero-hungry press, fanatic tifosi and, likely, own self to live up to the monster hype generated by the resultant publicity frenzy generated by his prodigious talent (though frankly, I'm not sure, given his phenomenal ability and his tendency to smoke even the most-likely-equally-hopped-up competition by significant margins, that he even needed to dope). But he clearly decided, like "I'm Saved!" media slut St. David Millar before him, that he'd rather win dirty than lose clean, and hardly expressed remorse when he was actually getting away with doping--he was damn near caught with a needle in his @#$, for God's sake! He lied when the scandal broke in '06, and still had a contract with CSC. He lied when CSC kicked him off the team, and was looking for a new contract. And, he lied when the equally-hypocritical Team Discovery handed him a cool six million euro to win the Tour, and hid behind Lance Armstrong's spandex skirts right up until the moment he "voluntarily" lost his contract. It's only when he's got nowhere else to turn that he finally 'fesses up, and while that's obviously human and even understandable--who hasn't tried to weasel out of some colossal screw-up of their own making?--it's certainly not a reason to claim the moral high ground and profess the right to lead the disgusting dopers he proudly and nobly left behind to his new and purer plane of existence. You want sympathy? Sure. Serve your time, shut your yap, and you'll be back in two years before a thrill-seeking public (me included) all too happy to forgive you, if for no other reason that it's damn sure half the peloton is still tanked on drugs even without your cheating presence, so you're hardly the only one who ought to take the fall. But til then, cut the sanctimonious self-love, and shut the hell up already!

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Giro d'Italia 101

Welcome, Giro newbies! So you hung out at the Tours of California or Georgia this year, or you've caught some recent "Cyclysm Sundays" on Vs. and decided, quite rightly, that it's pretty damn entertaining to watch a bike race. Perhaps you're even one of my two faithful readers who's learned the basics via my earlier, general "Cycling 101", but frankly, just don't know much about the Giro itself, one of cycling's 3 Grand Tours and, for my money, one of the most thrilling races on earth. So to get you started, I humbly present this "Giro 101":

The Upshot: 3 weeks of body-breaking riding in Italy, with 8 sprint stages, 5 rolling stages, 5 major mountain stages with 4 mountain-top finishes, two individual time trials and one team time trial. It's all about the mountains, baby, with the brutal Tre Cime di Lavaredo in stage 15 and the fearsome Monte Zoncolan at stage 17. Woo-hoo!

The State of Play: babe-magnet Ivan Basso, just fired, I mean voluntarily resigned, from Discovery Channel in the wake of his ongoing link to the Operacion Puerto doping scandal, won the Giro last year by a bone-crushing 12 minutes with Team CSC, which also kicked him off their team due to Op Puerto, and will not be defending his title. Notable last year: constant verbal abuse of Basso from two-time winner we love Gilberto Simoni, who variously accused him of being "not a man," (cannily counterattacked by Basso by posing for Italian newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport with his shirt off in a he-man pose), an "extraterrestri" (doper, since proven a not-unreasonable suspicion), and a "fraud" who offered to buy Simoni off to let him take a stage. Good sportsmanship all 'round boys!

The Players:
General Classification (overall winner):
(1) Ivan Basso (Discovery/CSC). As noted, he's out this year, but his comely shadow will color the race as this year's contenders lose their natural target, Discovery and CSC lose their leader, and the commentators strive not to talk about him too much.

(2) Gilberto Simoni (Saunier Duval): won the Giro in 2001 and 2003. A brilliant climber but a bit long in the tooth in cyclist years, he has vowed to end his road career after the Giro and head back to his ancestral stomping grounds of mountain biking, where he is reigning Italian champ. I'm assuming he'll take a stage or two, particularly with the smashing help of ascending jailbait protege Riccardo Ricco, but jury is still out on GC; I'm rooting for him though just for his total lack of verbal self-control.

(3) Paolo Savoldelli (Astana): won the Giro in 02 and 05. Nicknamed "Il Falco" for his stunning descents, was ignominiously booted off Discovery and found new home with upstart talent-packed Kazakh squad Astana, started by outraged 2006 Vuelta champ Alexander Vinokorouv in the wake of the Op Puerto scandal. Just won prologue time trial in Tour de Romandie and took second overall, ahead of superdomestique/07 Vuelta stage winner teammate Andrey Kashechkin. Question: will Kashechkin be around to help him, or save himself too much to help Vino in the Tour to be of any use to Savoldelli?

(4) Damiano "Il Piccolo Principe" Cunego (Lampre): golden-coiffed Giro champ at tender age of 22 in 2004. Has been unable to reach those heights since, and Simoni recently bushwhacked him in the press as a soulless unmotivated tool. His form's been good this year though, he's got good boys supporting him, and he's desperate to prove he's not a fluke.

(5) Stefano Garzelli (Acqua e Sapone): took the Giro in 2000. Downgraded this year to a Continental squad, as far as I can tell this year he's utterly !@#$ed because he hasn't got the domestique firepower to back him up.

(6) Danilo "the Killer" DiLuca (Liquigas): a smashing early season, and a man who desperately wants the podium. If Simoni or Cunego cracks, he may well get it.


(1) Alessandro "Ale-Jet" Petacchi (Milram): the highly-pressured successor to former Italian sprint god Mario "the Chest" Cipollini, he's still not fully recovered from cracking his knee-cap in the Tour, was almost back at the Vuelta then broke his hand decking a team bus when he couldn't find the man he was actually looking to hit in dispute over a sprint. Uneven this season, he's come back a bit the last two weeks, and really, really wants to prove to the abusive Italian press that he's capable of reaching his earlier heights.

(2) Robbie "the Ego" McEwen (Predictor-Lotto): more competitive than anyone alive, he's almost guaranteed to make Petacchi look like a wuss in at least one sprint.

(3) we love Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole): totally underrated, he took the last stage at the Tour de France into Paris last year. Whacked this year by stomach problems, but I'm seriously hoping for a comeback, particularly since McEwen completely gets on my nerves.

Everything Else:

(1) and only Paolo Bettini: World champ/Italian icon/perpetual stage winner, he excels at rolling stages and is a major attack dog, ergo a threat even in a sprint. Vai Paolo!

This ain't all, but it oughta be enough to get you started. Forza!

Saturday, May 05, 2007

The Sacred and the Profane

In Order to Form a More Perfect Union: well, the constant backstabbing between UCI, the Grand Tours, and (at least some of) the teams seems to be momentarily on hold, as the "sacred union" of Pat "Dick" McQuaid, Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme, and Quick Step's Patrick "It's Only the Spaniards! I Swear!" Lefevere have now agreed that the teams will "temporarily" (now there's a caveat) bar riders "formally" (there's another sweet one) implicated in Op Puerto. To be sure, not *all* the teams are on board, though interestingly there's no word on which ones are dope-slapping the rest of the rider-barring saps and letting their boys hit the start gate--and of course, there's still 6000 pages of docs yet to go through to find the nefarious new 49, not to mention the original 50-odd riders no-one seems to be able to attach a name to, so so far it looks like no-one except the original poor bastard fall guys from last season, most of whom are already unemployed, retired, or booted down to Continental squads utterly unable to render them GC threats, is actually likely to take the hit. Ah, that's the sort of cavernous bull@#$* loophole even a Phonak could love! Stunning suggestion: did any of you overpaid clowns profiting off the wins of the carcasses you pretend to want dope-free, or any of your incredibly deep-pocketed Moral Majority sponsor-hypocrites, think to cough up a few bucks to hire a pack of half-literate nits with a list of active racers by their sides to skim through the docs for the names? (And while we're at it, no one in Spain thought to jot that info down while they compiled all that crap?) Y'know, I'm starting to think, while we're all on this "honesty in sport" kick, why don't McQuaid Lefevere Prudhomme and all these guys just tattoo "We Don't Really Mean It" on your !@#$# and moon the cameras at your next press conference already!

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Dodging the Bullet

Rainbows and Unicorns: so, the campaign to put a happy face on the disgusting injustice and foregone conclusion that is the Floyd Landis investigation is in full swing, with WADA's Dick "Dick" Pound expressing boundless confidence in the sadly misunderstood and truly diligent French lab, which of course has undergone the strictest quality controls in the world (damn, am I the only one thinking they seem to use more rigorous standards in the factories that pour melamine into dog food?) and USADA's lawyer humbly--and hilariously--asking us all to "reserve judgment" until "both sides have been heard." Well, if by "both sides," one means "WADA's, with Landis desperately forced to play catch-up with apparently deliberately limited access to grossly mishandled dubious evidence after he's been completely publicly bushwhacked and presumptively declared totally guilty at every polluted step by the endless leak-happy freaks involved in this hideous travesty," I suppose both sides have been heard...

Whew!: Just when it looked like the Grand Tour organizers would be forced to face the consequences of their ill-considered vow to bar "all Operacion Puerto-implicated riders" from the Giro, the Tour, and the Vuelta--said consequences being 107 cyclists having to be barred from the start lines, not to mention the other crooks-on-wheels implicated in various other on-tap doping hoo-has should the Grand Tours ever grow both a conscience and a spine--UCI's Pat "Dick" McQuaid reassuringly thundered that, due to the large volume of Op Puerto documents still left to review, the implicated riders fortunately--I mean, unfortunately--can't possibly all be IDd in time to bar 'em. The result? Ivan Basso, the retired Jan Ullrich, and a handful of Manolo Saiz' proteges excepted, most every cheating skank in the peloton will get to ride the Tours, and, for a select few, bask in podium glory in Milan, Paris, and Madrid to boot. Well, *that* sure saves the teams' (and frankly, the Grand Tour organizers') @#$es!

Doctor, Doctor, Can't You See I'm Burnin', Burnin': and, in the wake of the accused T-Mobile doctors' rather surprising refusal to sue their accuser/ex-soigneur for defamation over allegations of systemic doping in his spankin' new book, and the busy German prosecutors' recent announcement that they're opening an investigation (as is the docs' hometown university), a perhaps justly suspicious Bob "Everyone But Us is Dirty" Stapleton has suspended the good medics from providing medical care to his squeaky clean band of brothers. Hmmm...where to turn, where to turn...perhaps, say, Quick Step might provide some leads?

Michele, My Belle: so with a cheerful Michele Scarponi offering up his DNA to all comers at his CONI hearing--thereby assuring us all that, at a minimum, he wasn't stupid enough to leave bags of blood lying around Dr. Fuentes' pad, at least--the question remains, what of pretty boy-without-a-country (well, team anyway) Ivan Basso? Two hours into his hearing yesterday, it was adjourned by all parties, with the hope of a new date prior to the Giro, nothing accomplished, and no word on whether Ivan'll yack up a DNA sample. Luckily, it seems that Discovery never planned to have Ivan do the Giro anyway, pinning their hopes on Yaroslav Popovych instead, just as it was always going to be Levi Leipheimer for their Tour. Um, why exactly did they hire him in the first place then?

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Gag Me With a Spoon!

Or Rather, Un-Gag Me: capitalizing on the fact that the Floyd Landis investigation has been botched beyond the remotest chance of fairness or legitimacy, the dysfunctional trolls over at WADA have brazenly decided to make things even worse by lifting the USADA "gag order" on yapping unrestrained to the press basically whenever a rider has the temerity to assert his rights or innocence. Why? Of course, it's all Floyd Landis' fault, for publicly questioning USADA's actions for no valid reason whatsoever and thereby leaving the hamstrung innocents helpless to defend themselves against the boy's hideous unprovoked assault. What? Am I absolutely on hallucinogens here, or was any WADA pretense at silence and self-restraint utterly flushed down the toilet before the ink was dry on the mislabeled B samples by leaking the news of Landis' positive tests to the press without even the courtesy of a heads-up phone call, eviscerating Landis in a Sunday New York Times interview for a know-nothing non-cycling-fanatic public utterly unable to put Dick "Dick" Pound's remarks in context, and happily supporting USADA and the disgusting hacks at the French lab while they violated every substantive and procedural rule in the book throughout this entire filthy tainted process? Where exactly does USADA get off as the wronged party in all this?

Wonder of Wonders, Miracle of Miracles: And, in the latest example of team-management smarminess, CSC--the team sponsor itself--has decided it supports Bjarne "Clean Sport" Riis against all allegations of prior career doping, despite his angry but decidedly vague nondenials to the Belgian press on that point, sympathetically demurring that they "understand" Bjarne doesn't want to "talk about old times." That's so sweet, and I can't imagine why something like that would tend to undercut the fans' confidence in the teams' current commitment to purity. Speaking of which, T-Mobile is shocked, shocked! that the doctors they've had under contract for umpteen seasons might have participated in doping--or that if they did, they're sure they had no choice--as if a twentysomething rider with no medical training and a distinct lack of hired goons to back up their requests can really force a couple of physicians to come up with complex doping products and inject it strategically into them in amounts coincidentally undetectable by then-existing testing protocols. Hey, I'm convinced the teams have nothing to do with this!

Il Grande Giro: with ever-tranquillo Ivan Basso professing to have planned not to defend his Giro even before his "mutual agreement" to separate from Discovery (which was somehow "100% [his] choice" yesterday, but I digress), Savoldelli smoking the time trial at the Tour de Romandie, Simoni losing the latest target of his verbal rampage to aim for, Di Luca taking Liege , Tyler in the tank all season and doubtful for the race at all and Cunego still aching to redeem his boy-wonder cred, my thoughts are turning to who is going take the dear Giro in this tumultuous year. First question: if Michele Scarponi goes down at the meeting with CONI tomorrow, who on continental squad Acqua e Sapone can really do Stefano Garzelli any justice up against the ProTour likes of Astana and Saunier Duval?