Tuesday, July 31, 2007

We Now Return to Our Regularly Scheduled Posting

Ahem: having settled down considerably with a nice cup of tea and a nap, and lacking either the inclination or the source for any stronger tranquilizer, we now can turn to Le Tour in Review:

The Body Count: by my estimation, this was easily the bloodiest Tour ever, with bodies careening through the air--and assorted windshields--like acrobats on acid and with poor Stuey O'Grady's spectacular lung-crushing takeout making Joseba Beloki's excruciating career-blowing thigh snap a few years back seem like a harmless schoolyard kickball boo-boo. Forget the usual peloton touch-of-the-wheels and expected early-race twitchiness--road furniture, wandering dogs, slug-paced spectators, and incredibly moronic brake-whacking team cars made this the most casualty-prone race one could fathom short of use of weaponry. Oh wait, ETA did blow up a couple of bombs along the course--sensibly, for Euskaltel's sake I presume, after the peloton had passed. Heal fast boys, we could use at least a few of you at the Vuelta!

The Sprints: Well, Thor Hushovd took one so I can't complain, tho' I was sorry for adrenalin's sake not to see we're-annoyed-by-Robbie "the Ego" McEwen around to head-butt somebody at the line in Paris. While we're at it, yes I know that idiot Al Trautwig always picks him, but that's because he doesn't know any other sprinters besides Petacchi and he thinks his name is really neato, whereas I sincerely believe that, given the right conditions, the grossly underestimated boy can actually blitz a sprint. Allez Thor!

The Breakaways: Oh Jens--almost. Better luck next year!

The Mountains: this jailbait Maurizio Soler was clearly the revelation of the Tour. Sure, he finally bonked at one point, but it's his first freakin' Grand Tour for heck's sake--why would he or Barloworld have even thought in London that they'd need to plan this one out for the long haul? Score of the Tour: Barloworld had the sense and Soler had the lack of it to resign with the team for two more years despite the obscene cash he likely could've commanded from the open market even mid-race--enjoy that inevitable upcoming ProTour license!

The Criminal: well, if Lance Armstrong, some previously-dull ex-mountain-biker, and a painfully diplomatic team-leader-ex-team-leader-team-leader-again-then-ex-again weren't enough to up American interest in the sport, I sure heard a hell of a lot of excitement from coworkers who can't tell Armstrong from armwarmers after first Vino, then Moreni, had teams fleeing willy-nilly in the middle of the night like hopped-up amateur burglars caught in the act. Of course, these pale besides the truly astonishing number of Op Puerto riders (not to even mention the whatever-happened-to-the-QuickStep-ex-rider-takedown) who I'm sure, thanks entirely to UCI's refreshingly open refusal to read the file when they need bodies at the startline, who likely hit the road and doped their way up the cols. And, I see that Jan Ullrich's lawsuit target Dr. Werner Franke has taken aim at Alberto Contador, claiming that he's the mysterious "A.C." mentioned in the Spanish prosecutor's docs that "fell into his briefcase", on the outrageous assumption, one imagines, that anyone nurtured by Manolo Saiz at ONCE and Liberty Seguros would actually dope--as if. But you did get two, I mean three guys, UCI--way to reclaim your legitimacy!

Finally, the Hosed: Forget Petacchi getting knocked out before the start for slightly overusing the asthma meds the UCI hands out like candy. And fine, Contador's young and impressionable so mistakes or no he's still the next Indurain, yap yap. But I really do think that--while I find it highly implausible that Rasmussen couldn't tell the difference between, say, the cuisine terrain and languages spoken in Mexico vs. the Dolomites, or that he wasn't somewhere announced (if indeed he was) without good reason--Michael Rasmussen was completely screwed out of the yellow jersey, and should at least have been allowed to lose it to Contador fair and square in the time trial. You've got half the peloton blitzed on the dope-du-jour, and Rasmussen gets his Tour taken away for *not* doping during the race? What total bull@#$%! And ASO--sorry, but a French guy *still* didn't make the podium anyway. Tell me again what the point of this smarmy hypocritical charade by the teams and governing bodies is?

Well folks, it's on to the Vuelta. Venga Venga!

Monday, July 30, 2007

Tour de Shut the Hell Up About Iban Already Goddammit!

Every Single Human Being On Earth Can Bite Me: yes, I heard, and yes, you can all just blow. I am absolutely certain that this one alleged unproven freak moment of weakness from Iban Mayo, even if true, is merely reflective of the massive psychological pressure our poor fragile flower has been under since all the post-Giro yap about his brilliant return to pre-meltdown form after 3 years of post-beating-Armstrong press-wanking-misery. Frankly, he was better off last year with the cameras jammed up his nose recording his every drop of sweat during every stage's spectacular crack. Dammit people, are we trying to totally make this delicate boy pull a Vandenbroucke and utterly self-destruct?! Back off, you yellow-journalist National-Enquirer-wannabe vulture bastards!

Oh Iban. It didn't even freakin' *work*!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Vin-tage Stupidity

B-Dazzler: yep, Gazzetta's reporting that Alexander Vinokorouv's B sample has, unsurprisingly, tested poz for homologous blood doping, leading the reasonable to roll their eyes and ask yet again, damn, Vino, what were you even *thinking*? Let's face it--throughout your career, you've cavorted like a carefree nymphet with the best doping providers the sport has to offer, and two years after Hamilton had to mortifyingly argue he'd inhaled his own twin *this* is the best method you and your handlers could come up with? Perhaps poor Kloden is right to suggest, in his depressed-yet-paranoiac musings this morning, that anyone could be tampered with at any time...then again, perhaps you're just an arrogant !@#$ smirking through your entire 2006 "Saint of Liberty Seguros" routine and soullessly jacking over, among others, not only Kloden but also 2x Giro god Paolo Savoldelli and untold numbers of mechanics, masseuses, soigneurs, musette-packers and assorted other lowly serfs who worked their !@#es off to serve your voracious need for validation at any cost. I'm not actually sure which is ticking me off more at this point--the actual doping, which seems so rampant as to be almost impossible to rue, or the selfish moronothon ego-stuffing which leads the high to act so densely and so destructively towards others. And is anyone else doubly irked that it's highly likely that, as Vino and Moreni's associates fry like eggs, more than one other rider in that sizeable Tour peloton is riding, shall we say, less than clean? That, and Rasmussen never actually tested poz for anything before his jersey was handed over to baby savant Contador. But on the plus side, Petacchi's off the hook for abusing his generous Therapeutic Use Exemption at the moment, at least until the Italian Olympic Committee of all entities appeals it, so we know the system's working for some folks, right?

(Time) Trial of the Century (spoiler, if you didn't wake up in time this morning): Wow, what a nailbiter, and such beautiful work by we love Sastre (yes Sastre--I'm speaking relatively here)to put 4th in the bag! And, I can't help but wonder, as I bask in the embarrassing glow of finally approaching extreme dopus Al Trautwig in stage-prediction accuracy, if Levi Leipheimer hadn't had to bust himself helping Contador (though certainly deserving) in the mountains after Johan Bruyneel publicly and horridly wrote him off to every reporter on earth as a craptastic nonissue of a slug-on-wheels, would he have gained enough of those mere 30-odd seconds back in the hills just past to be standing in yellow on the podium tomorrow in Paris? Let's be honest, Cadel sucked wheel through the Alps and Pyrenees too, and he's still one up on Levi in second. Perhaps it's just because Contador's barely old enough to have his driver's license and Levi is an old coot headed down the mountain to imminent retirement in cyclist years, but am I the only one feeling protective here?

I'm Just Sayin': finally, admit it people--given the events of the last year or so, I wasn't the only one thinking what I was just barely in the very dank recesses of my heartbroken cynical brain thinking as Contador crossed the line in such smashing time today, even if I felt really, really, really bad about it, sortamaybe notreallykinda. Anyone else willing to cop to such mean and dastardly thoughts?

Allez Thor--and Saunier Duval mechanics, I suggest fleeing from the hotel and David Millar's righteous wrath--and just to be safe, perhaps Europe entirely--in the dead of night tonight!

Tiiiii-iiiime Is On My Side

Yes It Is: my dead-wrong prediction of today: Levi Leipheimer. Then Cadel, and I don't remotely see Contador in 3d. Shameless St. Millar Defender: good luck to your boy, but I still think Levi can take him! Oh, man, now he's jinxed....

French Revolution: so I see rumors are floating that the outraged anti-doping riders--or at least the ones who are ticked off they didn't win a stage and/or are freaked out they're about to get caught themselves--are planning a mass protest/work stoppage dead in the middle of the Champs Elysees tomorrow, though possibly leaving 3km for the sprinters' teams to get their acts together. (Highly amusing: weeping confessional T-Mobile DS Rolf Aldag is all for it.) If you guys are going to screw over we love Thor Hushovd, morally admirable or no you can all go to hell! (Yes, I know Boonen's going to take it. I'm still rooting for Thor and Zabel.) Speaking of fear, rumors are also meandering about that yet another "prominent" rider tested poz atop the epic Plateau de Beille--that leaves out T-Mobile and all the French squads (sorry Casar!), any guesses?

Finally, a Note to the Prince of Darkness: if you're not already considering taking Vinokorouv down your end when (most sadly) his time on earth is up, you might reconsider, because according to gazzetta dello sport Andreas Kloden is considering retirement as a result of his Tour being utterly blown. Sure, Kloden, first as part of T-Mobile's legendary dope squad and then, well, Astana, possibly has in lifetime partaken of something rather stronger than Gatorade--but he could have been up there on the podium tomorrow if not for your gross stupidity you thoughtless selfish goon--aaarrrrggghhhh!

Friday, July 27, 2007

It's a Cruel (Cruel!)/ Cruel Summer

Tricky Dicks: unsurprisingly, Dick "Dick" Pound, Pat "Dick" McQuaid, Christian "Dick" Prudhomme and even Patrice "Dick" Clerc have decided to join forces to free the sport of doping by turning on each other voraciously like lunchless members of the Donner Party, with WADA calling an antidoping summit, UCI complaining that Pound has no respect for the obvious success of their antidoping crusade (like letting an unknown yet likely huge number of the Op Puerto riders ride the Tour, for example), and, most outrageously, Christian--who spent the entirety of last year burning Floyd Landis at the stake in interviews with every imaginable media outlet, taking his Tour away before his arbitration was up, and playing provocative video of mirrors shattering as Floyd's evil cheating visage loomed in the background like Stalin's, as his own country's lab chimps repeatedly proved themselves incapable of reliably analyzing the contents of a glass of tap water--whining that everyone is innocent until proven guilty and he is shocked, shocked! and horrified that riders aren't being given the benefit of the doubt (unless they're French.) Interestingly, the only rider unilaterally declared *not* under suspicion at this point by the Dicks appears to be Manolo Saiz' own protege/Liberty Seguros refugee new maillot jaune Alberto Contador, which seems, if a positive sign of due process in action, rather odd, as if I recall a horde of the team youngsters actually testified in front of the Spanish inquest that Saiz had rather a habit of slapping mystery-substance-bearing skin patches on the obedient boys like the temporary tattoos one finds in a box of Cracker Jacks. I'm sure they were just vitamins though, as they must have run out of the Fred Flintstone ones. Am I the only one repulsed by this disgusting charade?

Oh Right, There's a Race On!: I must admit, I normally pay no attention to breakaway stages unless Paolo Bettini's in 'em and thereby sure to crush the rest of the field, but what a relief to watch a pack of riders just annoyingly dither around the last 500 meters without being hauled off in handcuffs for once--like a Sno-Cone on a 100 degree day. Congratulations to Benna-Jet for finally validating the season's sprinterly egofest, and we love Jens!

A Note to the Dear Newbies, Again: see how nice this sport can really be? Pay no attention to the men behind the curtain, and just enjoy the GC being decided at the pure rider-against-the-clock Saturday time trial, and of course we love Thor Hushovd taking the stage on the Champs-Elysees again. And the screaming happy carefree fans. And the pretty lion stuffed animal you get from the French bank sponsor for the stage win. And...

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

French Kiss, and, Holy Crap! (Spoiler)

Holy Crap! News Update: Bad enough that Rasmussen was booed today like a Yankees fan at a Sox game (see below) as he took the Col d'Aubisque, but now the boy's been rewarded by being yanked from the Tour by Rabobank for "breaking team rules"--that they've known of for about a month? How is it possible that a proud 100-year history of doping cheating lying and scumly backstabbing is only now bringing this beautiful race to its knees?!

Screw the Tour. You got your win now Bruyneel, whether your "Next Lance Armstrong" even fully earned it or no. Meantime, I'm going back to the Giro and the Vuelta. Can't these disorganized @#$%s run a goddamn race?

Be Careful What You Wish For: yes, mere hours after the French teams whined in unison sharp enough to shatter glass and a righteously enraged Eric Boyer of Cofidis railed that "[Vino] told us that we French didn't know how to manage, that we were weaklings. Now we can conclude that he was a real bastard...I demand that the whole Astana team leave cycling!", his own boy Cristian Moreni not only tests poz for exogenous testosterone and gets led off by the narcs like the Dope-of-the-Day on "Cops," but he refuses to even request a B sample test, leaving Cofidis no choice but to flee the course like vampires from sunlight. What was that you said again about bastards and leaving, Eric? Don't worry Cofidis--I'm sure you'll manage to pass this off as just another renegade Pantaniesque cheating dirtbag Italian spoiling the purity of a fine French team, just like with Richard Virenque. Oh, wait...

In Vino Veritas, at Least On One Issue: while we're at it Cofidis, I'm indeed sorry about what happened, but whatever else Vino did or didn't do, he's clearly right--at the moment, by and large, the French *don't* know how to manage, and their riders *are* relative weaklings (we love impending retiree Christophe Moreau excepted). After all, when the hell was the last time any Tour GC contender was trembling in his cleats waiting for FDJ to put the hammer down? The truth hurts?--fix the problem, and stop crying that every other team doping but yours is the reason your kids can't win more'n one race a season! Meantime, as the detectives crawled over Astana's team bus extracting bags of evidence, Vinokorouv took time from relaxing in Monaco to believably promise the press that he's clean, and this whole homologous blood doping hoo-ha was, his doctors have assured him, merely a function of a surfeit of his own blood in his hurt-and-healing thigh. What? Anyway, it's damn lucky he wasn't on course today, as the poor little Chicken, by contrast, was verbally abused by outraged fans presumably still pissed that the French haven't won a Tour in like 80 years, I mean, that a sport they love has been brought into disrepute solely by Michael Rasmussen's failure to update UCI on his schedule when his flights changed. I'm sure the latter's really the root of the hostility!

Movement for Contaminated Cycling: Y'know, entertaining as all this has been in a furtive shameful National Enquirer sort of way--particularly in the wake of the French and Germans forming a get-tough gruppetto to cleanse the sport (being such sterling examples themselves, right T-Mobile?)--I must ask UCI and ASO, who have spent the last year attacking Floyd Landis for daring to speak out in his own defense while they prematurely raked him over the coals to every TV show and magazine on earth short of Sesame Street and "Highlights," where is your outrage over the blabbermouthed protocol-ignoring and above all incompetent LNDD lab monkeys leaking Vinokorouv's results to everyone on earth (just like with Floyd) before the ink's even dry on the latest set of mislabeled samples? Forgive me, I must have forgotten that the rules needn't be enforced against the self-righteous hypocrites who knowingly let a gigantic pool of dopers into this year's Tour in the first place...

A Note to Our Dear Disillusioned Newbies: Sure, this all maybe doesn't look so good, but don't give up on this beautiful sport yet. This is merely the latest incarnation of a reliable ten-year doping-scandal cycle that will surely blow over, just as did, say, the Salem Witch Trials, if with rather a similar body count. Additionally, 99.9999% of people on this earth could snort enough amphetamines to double their body weight and *still* not be strong enough to climb in a lifetime what the lamest undoped boys in the peloton can do in a leisurely off-season spin before breakfast, so let's at least recognize the base level of athleticism we're dealing with here. And come on--do you really think those goon-squad football players you watch all season have necks the size of municipal sewer pipes *naturally*?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Burn in Hell, Vinokorouv!

No, Not for Doping: for screwing Andreas Kloden with your reckless stupidity, you wank! Who gives about your alleged homologous blood transfusions at this point, with half the Op Puerto riders apparently clogging the peloton--what possible moral and performance difference is there if you're all equal dope fiends? I don't care if you sucked Kashechkin dry frankly. But did you *have* to take Kloden down with you, after he lost valuable GC minutes dragging your sorry @#$ back to the peloton in the Alps? Aaaaiiigggghhhh!

A Parallel: y'know, I know there's going to be all sorts of idiot howling in the non-cycling press that obviously Vino was stoked in the time trial, how could he possibly have won it otherwise? Well, I've got two words for those morons: Floyd Landis. That's right, Floyd Landis. Doping or no (and of course given Vino's history my presumption is yes), I seriously doubt that's how Vino took the stage, at least by that sweet margin. First, both Landis and Vino had suffered spectacular cracks the day before. Second, therefore, they both had incredible blood-lust to redeem themselves the following day. Third, both crushed their rivals, Landis because the peloton grossly miscalculated and, preoccupied with remaining-GC-contender infighting, let him get far too far up the road without reeling him in, Vino because, well, as everyone's rightly been saying, the other boys, Cadel perhaps excepted, just didn't have it that day--they almost *all* rode worse'n expected. So if Vino was doping, it still wasn't enough to save him for the overall, and likely wasn't even decisive in the stage; it might've been a lot closer, but could that really have given him that much time over Cadel? And if Landis was doping on the way to Morzine, which I highly doubt (or at least I doubt he did so knowingly)--he didn't need to either. While we're at it, and rather unrelated to Floyd, I don't think Vino's success despite injuries was a tipoff, as my brother has already surmised--unless the blood he snarfed was spiked with an anaesthetic, he's just another Hamilton slogging uphill with a busted collarbone or a Petacchi riding along with a busted kneecap, typical bulldog Vino and cyclist status quo. So before everyone starts yipping how a la the Landis affair any dumbass would've seen he was cheating, can we all just keep in mind that (1) it likely didn't make such a big practical difference anyway, and (2) hardly any of you Nostradamuses were saying this the day before yesterday?

"I" is for "Irony": Of course, what's most interesting about this whole debacle is that a guy who's cavorted for years with the Social Register of European doping nonetheless managed to reinvent himself in the wake of the Liberty Seguros and T-Mobile takedowns as Prince Pureheart of the Cleanest Team on Earth, while teammates and DSes fell like dominoes all around him. Not that I don't wholly believe that your B sample will be as sparkling as you hope it will be, but nice work there Vino!

Reaction Roundup: Shameless St. Millar Defender, I was all set to give big points to your boy for shutting his yap fairly quickly on the situation, particularly given his knocking himself out for Iban Mayo the other day--though I was cracking up at his claim that he thought Vino "had class" til just now, as I suppose now that Millar's clean he's all kinds of Charm School--til it appeared he'd started sobbing for the cameras over yet another blow to sport and integrity. Damn, Millar, it's not like someone dear to you fell off the wagon after a long humble struggle with addiction--if he did do it, it's just another money-and-glory-grubbing s.o.b. caught in the act. *Must* we go over again exactly what led to your own martyrly 'fess-up? Meantime, ASO and UCI--the former, notoriously forgiving of any French rider with a banned supplement and a dream, the latter, having done quite a handsome job keeping the Op Puerto riders at the Tour start line since they 'ran out of time' to read the file--have predictably gone on the warpath again. So half the field is probably still stoked and riding thanks to you guys, and you're going to go all morally righteous over Astana? Please!

I Could Tell You Things About Peter Pan/And the Wizard of Oz, There's a Dirty Old Man!: well, deep in my post-newsbreak funk, I'm thinking that Jorg Jaksche might be right at this point, and maybe 3 percent of the peloton is clean. So, in an effort to cheer all us longtime but disillusioned tifosi up, and to not lose those sweetly naive newcomers to the Tour over the perception that there's no honor in this beautiful sport, I propose we all play "Who's the Cleanster?", on the grounds that there's gotta be *someone* for heck's sake. I'm banking on Jens Voigt and Carlos Sastre, Jens for his pure joyful slobbering attack-happiness, Sastre for his quiet hardworking humility. Anyone else care to play?

Tomorrow's Horoscope: sadly, panic for the lot of you, (1) scampering to recalibrate your tactics without Kloden to watch out for and (2) wondering which of you filthy cheats is gonna be both stupid and luckless enough to be caught next. On the plus side, things are looking up for Cadel, Levi, and we love little Sastre in the battle for 3d on the podium. Allez, allez!

Monday, July 23, 2007

Anonymous My @#$!

The Long Arm of the Law: so, the Swiss high court has rejected Jan Ullrich's appeal to have his bank account records hidden from the German prosecutors handling his fraud case; in fact, they ought to get 'em this week. you better have had a better coding system than that blockhead Fuentes, Jan! Jan, however, protests merely that, far from their being any nefarious reason for wanting to hide his records from the German vultures, it's a simple matter of personal privacy, as only his wife gets to see them. Not that I doubt you Jan, but I hope you had a better coding system than that blockhead Fuentes! In Ullrich's defense, though, ex-teammate/regretful doper Jorg Jaksche helpfully explained that Jan in fact did not commit fraud, as in the 90s, everyone was openly expected to dope, and therefore, it wasn't actually dishonest at the time. And, he himself--though swearing to take down the doctors, managers, and assorted other remoras--won't bust on his fellow riders, given their hapless-pawn status, and frankly, given T-Mobile's astonishing record of skank-filled docs, soigneurs, and managers, I can't say I disagree that these smug weasels knew exactly what was going on. I mean, don't they know what they're pumping into their own boys' bloodstreams from the syringe they're holding? Right on Jorg! Meantime, Jan himself has apparently gotten over his righteous indignation at the other T-Mobile yappers he's scorned so fiercely, promising that the time to talk is coming soon and he has "already written down some thoughts." Looking for a post-fess-up directeur sportif job, are we? I'm sure Bob Stapleton is hiring!

Young Franke-nstein: And, in more Ullrich legal news, Jan's defamation trial against freakishly fanatic grudgemaster Dr. Werner Franke heads to court in August, with Franke promising to back up his charge that Ullrich paid Fuentes 35,000 euros for doping products with a stellar cast of witnesses including Dr. Eufemanio Fuentes himself, Rudy Pevenage, Rolf Aldag, and, inexplicably, Ivan Basso. Um, I'm really looking forward to their testimony Werner, but aside from setting up a subsquent prosecution for your own witnesses on perjury charges, what the hell exactly do you really expect out of these guys?

The Italian Stallion: finally, in about the last bit of doping news I can stomach this morning, I see Alessandro Petacchi is headed for a chat with the gentlefolks over at CONI, assuring Gazzetta dello Sport this morning that he "won his races clean." I agree absolutely, as it happens. After all, why dope when you can use a UCI-stamp-of-approval Therapeutic Use Exemption to blast enough oxygen into your own single chest to stoke the entire equine field at the Kentucky Derby?

"The Next Lance Armstrong": God, Bruyneel, why not just fire Levi Leipheimer's poor hardworking @#$ instead of humiliating him in the press by making out with Alberto Contador and treating poor Levi like last weekend's beer-goggled-frat-house-hookup reject--mightn't that be more merciful? First he's not the team leader. Then, he's on the podium. Now, you're basically writing him off for that. Sure, you're probably right, but must you share with everyone? This is in part your own doing Bruyneel. He's not Ivan Basso. You bet on the wrong pony (knowing exactly what you were doing hiring him) and lost. Get over it, and back the boy you hired for the job, even knowing he's had it--after all, your constant dissing even after you turned to him after the Basso debacle can't have helped. Hell, even Contador, who ought to have a giant ego after what he's pulled, has publicly backed Levi and noted he himself has time to take his own Tour. And while we're at it, a cautionary note: Iban Mayo. Ivan Basso. Alejandro Valverde--oh wait, he was "the next Indurain." If I find you a deep-pocket sponsor for 2008, will you cut the disgusting cowardly history rewrite and show some love for Levi already?

Your Mama Wears Combat Boots: just when I was sorely missing the lively smack-talking of Gilberto "Basso Non E Uomo" Simoni and mourning the dull dusty politesse of the this Tour's riders, comes Contador finally taking on Rasmussen, whacking him for bailing on an agreement to give him the stage win in exchange for helping the maillot jaune and making the youngster, most unfairly, have to work to beat the Chicken at the line (not that it looked that way, to Contador's credit.) Is that why Contador was poking at him with constant assaults at the top of the Peyresourde yesterday like a pesty younger sibling in a long boring drive in the back of the ol' family woody wagon? Allez Alberto!

Nap Time!: finally, with yesterday out of the way, and Vinokorouv completely (if blamelessly, given his own situation) jacking Kloden out of contention by pursuing his own ambitions to smashing effect, if nothing else seems clear it's this: teammates or not (nice try passing the blame Cadel), neither Cadel Evans nor Levi Leipheimer really has the legs, or perhaps worse, the fire, to attack, so as far as I can tell--and Levi, I still think you have it in you somewhere despite that sanguine exterior--they're hosed (hey, I'm not Levi's DS, I can sure as hell pipe up!). Sastre maybe, though certainly he's been suffering. More important though, to me anyway--Iban, where are you?! There's only one more day left in the Pyrenees! Dammit, I *knew* this might happen when everyone started paying positive attention to him again--$#%^ing rider-crushing press dirtbags!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

You Say Goodbye, and I Say Hello (Spoiler for About Another Hour)

Goodbye: I still think Vino's going to come back to kick Andreas Kloden in the nuts and back into his place as perpetual second banana, but til then, I'm rather inclined to cut him a little bit of slack, both for his total lack of self-control and forward planning, and for his spectacular triumph of mind over of matter of yesterday, however ill-advised vis-a-vis the overall. And is it occurring to anyone else that whatever poor Alejandro Valverde's stopped taking, he might for his GC chances', or at this point even just a stage win's, sake start to reconsider? (Not that he is now nor has ever taken anything. In fact, in case his lawyers are reading this, I'm utterly certain that he is and for all time has been, to paraphrase an Irish Spring commercial, clean as a whistle. I'm just sayin' that an extra pre-race espresso might be in order tomorrow, is all.) Meantime, Iban, if you're going to ask Saunier Duval to blow itself all to pieces setting you up and, worse, chasing down two of your own boys in the breakaway, might you not make sure you at least have the legs first? You can do this Iban--just choose wisely, there's still two more days in the Pyrenees for you to move. And you sickening press vultures jamming your cameras up his nose yet *again* while the poor boy cracks right when he's starting to get his ego back for the first time in three years--buzz off!

Hello: again to baby genius Contador, who not only miraculously escaped the clutches of Liberty Seguros and Op Puerto unscathed after half the team copped to Manolo Saiz slapping mystery medicinal patches on their arms every day, and survived a near-fatal accident as a rising star a few years back to boot, but also managed to wipe the floor with Rasmussen after, it must be noted, making him work to defend his jersey but still taking a reasonable number of pulls himself. And am I the only one thinking that Maurizio Soler is looking at one hell of a monstrous salary increase, and a guaranteed ProTour slot, the coming season? Contract or no, pay up or be prepared to lose him, Barloworld!

What the Hell?: Okay, we get that Levi and Cadel are measured, cautious, "slow and steady wins the race" sorts. But until Rasmussen kills himself in next week's time trial--and remember, he was supposed to do that already in the one just past and didn't--and with Contador looking brilliant and Johan Bruyneel openly discouting you in the press every single day, Levi, I think it's not going to be enough for you to suck off other people's wheels the next two days. Show some initiative and attack, dammit--don't you want to win this race?! Aaaaiiiggghhh!

Tomorrow: come on Sastre. You whacked yourself in three consecutive Tours last year because of the Basso disaster and still managed to play formidably in all of them. Jens is still in attack-dog mode--take it, take it!

Sink, Sank, Sunk: finally, Patrik Sinkewitz' B sample is due back Monday, and with his lawyer already equivocating and setting up the plan-B (no pun intended) legal challenge, I'm guessing it ain't gonna be pretty. Still, with the Official UCI Virginity Pledge such a reliable indicator of truth, and the remaining 6000 pages of Op Puerto files surely containing nothing of interest to anyone, it's nice to know he's the only guy left in the field who's still even possibly dirty. Hey, I'm convinced this is the end of all the doping hoo-ha--aren't you?

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Vinohmygod! (Spoiler Post)

Kloden's Hosed: well, so far as I can tell, that's it for poor Andreas Kloden, since if Vinokorouv wasn't already planning to jerk the choke chain in the Pyrenees to rein the self-interested boy's ambitions in, once Vino took an incredible 1st and Kashechkin a handy-yet-definitively-inferior 4th today I imagine he sure as hell's planning to now. Dammit! Still and all, one can't help but admire what our resident peloton wingnut is capable of (if also wonder how exactly he pulled it off, given his many friends in low places), and it will be one of the most spectacular comebacks in history (even over Floyd's, given the team-car advice-and-hydration coddling he had on his spectacular stage) if he can remotely come in sight of the podium. Sorry Kloden--even your fabulous form and obvious right to team captaincy can't begin to stand up to Vino's voracious ego and desire for '06 vengeance!

Arf!: and, I'm blown away by 'Piti' Valverde's suckmaster of a ride today, particularly given his recent freakish improvement in the discipline and a nice little rest day most of yesterday. With Cadel (who I continue to disregard for some reason, then again I'm usually wrong) on such smashing form, and even Levi nicely rescuing what looked initially to be a surprisingly lame performance at the early time checks, I think you'd better move tomorrow Alejandro, even assuming Cadel and Levi's continued overreliance on the dull Jan Ullrich strategy of glomming onto other guys' wheels rather'n ever attacking on their own. While we're at it, a bittersweet goodbye to we love Iban Mayo's unexpected GC chances, and a colossal "you suck!" to the press for stoking the hype around his still-slowly-reemerging confidence, but I'm still banking on you to take a stage win any day now, so allez Iban! Finally, I note with decidedly mixed feelings that I was egregiously wrong in choosing St. David Millar this morning. See what happens when I try to be nice? Well, that's enough of that!

And while we're at it, anyone else wondering if it's really just the maillot jaune that makes one ride like two men? After all, even Rabobank's own DS was glumly mourning the state of the Chicken's time trialling the other day....

Let's Get It On!

Now or Never, Baby: yep, it's the time trial today, and the GC, or at least most of the podium, is mostly gonna be decided here, especially if all the contenders can stay glommed together in the Pyrenees. Obviously hosed: Rasmussen, dear little Sastre (who still managed 4th, or 3rd (sorry Floyd!), last year, thank you very much!). Obviously stand to benefit: Levi (damn Bruyneel, can you possibly demoralize the boy any more by constantly musing on how much he sucks--why not just hand over the crown to Contador and quit publicly mourning your glory days to the detriment of your squad, already?), Kloden if he can keep pounding his coccxyx into submission, Cadel. Obviously bummed: me, 'cause Dave Zabriskie isn't here to take it as he ought to be from missing the time cut the other day. Aw, heck! Wildcards: we love Iban Mayo, who's been so slobbered over lately by the press I continue to fear he'll fall out of merely mediocre in the time trial to a downright choke, Vino for deciding if he can't have the GC he'll take or at least put some pain in any stage he can, and remember, he took the sprint to Paris rather recently so I discount him for nothing. Makes me twitchy: Alejandro Valverde. Special wind tunnel tweakage, yap, yap. Intensive time trial training, yap. Anyone else starting to get that same itchy feeling I had when Heras & Basso suddenly became time trial specialists? Not that I'm suggesting anything about Valverde, who, along with his dog Piti, has an unblemished reputation. I'm just sayin'.

Loser Prediction of the Day: yes, I would've predicted a breakaway for yesterday, so yes, I'm going to go over the edge if heaven forbid I turn out to be even denser than Al Trautwig, and today, I know I ought to pick Cancellara who will probably take it, but still, in a rare inclination towards mercy, I'll toss some points and some love to Shameless St. Millar Defender for the boy's incredible discretion the last couple of days in not crying about his own doping travails during the Rasmussen hoo-ha, and choose Millar, which likely actually still has the added benefit of ensuring that, like all my other picks, he won't win. Allez allez!

Don't Step on My Blue Suede Shoes: as if anything could look crappier for the offensively-timed 'revelation' that is the Rasmussen Danish worlds/Olympic team bans over his evasion of off-competition doping controls in June, a US mountain biker and his doctor pal are accusing Rasmussen of trying to get the MTBer to transport bags of unapproved oxygen-stoked veterinary blood substitutes in a SIDI shoe box through nefarious trickery in 2002, thwarted by pouring the stuff down the toilet in shock and disgust (because mountain biking is clean, I presume) and leading a ticked and dopeless Rasmussen to go postal over the wasted cash. Oh my word--even this boy is doping himself like--well--a T-Mobile rider, the sport is finished! Pleasingly, though, ASO and UCI have decided to turn on each other instead, with ASO accusing UCI of influencing the leak in prime time with the Chicken in the maillot jaune to destroy the Tour (hilarious enough with Christian "Dick" Prudhomme always quick to fry any rider, like Floyd, on no evidence), and UCI outraged that their integrity (has anyone previously thought they had any?) would be questioned and threatening to sue. What the hell is it about cycling that it is so compelled to eat its young?

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Denial Ain't Just a River in Egypt

German TV Strikes a Pose: can someone explain to me the point of German TV, in the wake of the shocking--shocking!--Patrik Sinkewitz testosterone positive, bagging Tour broadcasts til the B sample sez what we all know it will? I mean, it's not as if these guys weren't perfectly happy to suck money off the clearly tainted T-Mobile's ratings back in the day til they suddenly decided they loathed Jan Ullrich, so what gives? Let me just clarify my position on doping here, as my views of late on guys like Jan (railroaded), Heras (horribly screwed), and Floyd Landis (thrown to the sharks like a bikini-clad bimbo in a 3-D Jaws sequel) may make it seem that I, well, actively support cramming all possible substances down riders' throats like ducks being force-fattened for pate'. Not true! Look--doping bad. Very bad. And I particularly believe that anyone who's contributed to a rider's physical or (like Pantani or Vandenbroucke) mental destruction should pay tremendously. But what I find even more irksome than cheating is selective enforcement, so if you're gonna run around calling southern european countries "mafia nations" while treating, say, the Belgians (who have a whole drug cocktail named after em for heck's sake) and Germans (can one even count that high?) like saintly teetotalers, or ignoring the entirety of the Op Puerto file right when you need buckets of warm bodies for the Tour de France, turning poor Landis on a spit while silently watching as the rest of Phonak's notoriously stoked riders sign sizeable contracts, and wholly ignoring the crucial role that sponsors, managers, team doctors and assorted other money-grubbing leeches play in actively encouraging the trade, I'm gonna call you down. After all, what the hell possible good can it do to scapegoat select high-profile targets who dope and *don't* suck--like Ullrich Heras and Ivan Basso--while letting entirely off the hook riders who dope and *still* suck (you know who you are!)? If you want to take this sport back, UCI, WADA, ASO, and all you other doublespeaking disingenuous goons--and I'm counting the smug German TV stations in this group for their meaningless publicity stunt, who ought for the sake of fairness to boycott every other damn sport plus the next Olympics while we're at it--you can't just pick and choose your little angels; we need consistency, people!

Oh, and my pick for today's flat stage was Boonen, and no I haven't watched the stage yet, so yes I fully expect I was wrong, but Friere and McEwen are out, Petacchi's at home, Thor's whacked with an antibiotic-sucking virus, and much as I want Erik Zabel to take a stage win, as far as I can tell Milram's not interested in helping him. Allez Thor!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Cuervo Gold/ The Fine Colombian/...

Make Tonight a Wonderful Thing: wow, what an amazing first Tour for no-name baby Maurizio Soler and a fine thank you from Barloworld to the Tour organizers to boot (okay, Unibet still got hosed, but at least one of the wildcards've earned their keep)! Am I the only one who never heard of this boy before today--when the hell did he rack up those KOM points? Meantime, I'm glad to see we love little Sastre and Levi Leipheimer still in it, but if wonderboy Valverde keeps this form up and doesn't crash or get sick, I think folks are actually going to have to start thinking of him as more than just a one-week pony. (Bonus points to Levi by the way for uncharacteristically blowing his cool for the press and dope-slapping Saunier Duval for not chasing down the split in the leading group--like they're gonna bust it for your sake when you've got two boys of your own up the road?) And not that I'm not thrilled about Iban Mayo absolutely kicking @#$, but in the face of all the sudden press coverage about his brilliant form and his post-letdown resurgence, and even his own newfound confidence with the press corps, can we please all keep in mind that that's what made the poor boy crack for three straight years after all the Next Lance Armstrong hype and back the hell off so he can hold it together? (Fortunately, I have no power whatsoever, so I can swoon openly as much as I like. Allez Iban!)

Karma, Baby!: so you doped your riders til they oozed, tossed 'em overboard like traitorous sailors when they got finally got busted, and butt-kissed the DSes that totally honestly had nothing to do with any of it til their rumps were raw. Most notoriously, you abandoned your cash-cow meal-ticket Jan Ullrich despite his resolute (if perhaps ill-advised) unwillingness to take you down, no matter how much you deserved it, and threw Andreas Kloden and Matthias Kessler over a cliff for supporting him. I truly wish you well, T-Mobile--or at least the truly fine stable of jailbait hopes-of-tomorrow you've been assembling so diligently. But you're down about five riders now, and poor Marcus Burghardt even had the rotten luck to whack some dopus spectator's dopus meandering Labrador Retriever. And in hot-of-the-presses news (thanks Gazzetta!), your spectator-thwapping Patrik Sinkewitz just learned he tested poz for elevated testosterone levels on a surprise control June 8 (sez the boy predictably, "I know nothing about it." I'm sure it was just his Chinese herbalist, like with Kessler.) Not to suggest any broader cosmic forces at work for this unfortunate series of total coincidences, T-Mobile, but...

If a Vinokorouv Cracks in the Peloton and Nobody Hears Him, Does he Make a Sound?: nope, but it sure looks bad for poor Vino after finishing back in the pack, which is surprising given his typical-cyclist ability to gack through the agony the first couple of days before he dismounted, rather tearful, after this one. Y'know, I *do* deeply want Andreas Kloden to clock him in the GC, but not like this--mano a mano, in good health for both (though after all, it's not like Kloden's not in his own particular agony with his tailbone busted). Feel better soon, Vino!

Hip, Hip, Heras!: yep, I'm rip-roaring delighted to hear quiet Vuelta god Roberto Heras is in talks to return to the pro (continental) peloton when his EPO ban is up on October 27. The catch--he won't return for some lame "30,000 euros"--he has, after all, his "dignity." Wait, I've been extolling your tainted !@# for the last 2 years and you're gonna cry like a baby if you can't get paid 8 gazillion euros to RIDE YOUR BIKE? And apropos of nothing, has anyone else noticed he's stopped protesting his innocence? Anyway, yes I'm against doping, yes it's a disgusting rider-wrecking scourge and an insult to honest sportsmen and women everywhere, but no, I *don't* give a damn about Heras, particularly when Denis Menchov has still shown himself just yesterday that he's utterly unworthy of taking Heras' '05 Vuelta, so yes, perhaps I am a raging hypocrite except that half the peloton currently riding is still stoked, but y'know, I'm at peace with that. And if you *don't* get a decent contract Roberto, I say pull a damn Manzano for a sweet 100k, and take that sellout pimping bastard Saiz down with you!

The War of the Roses

Kneecap Problems, Indeed: All right, a quick post to comment as requested on why Andreas Kloden, in perfect position despite his gobsmacked tailbone to ambush a slightly-struggling Alexander Vinokorouv, not only didn't take the chance to do it Sunday, but actively dropped back to help the boy instead. Well, I for one am assuming it has more to do with the fact that Vino's Kazakh consortium signs off on his exhorbitant paycheck than any true sportsmanship or loyalty, but I'm also assuming that, should Vino show any weakness in the future, Kloden'll decide to bushwhack him anyway a la T-Mobile's spectacular backbiting of the Ullrich era and leave Vino in the hands of his lesser domestiques. What's more interesting, in my view, is that dog-loyal lieutenant Kasheschkin is now reported to be jumping ship, embracing GC ambitions of his own as the limping Vinokorouv--who, unlike with Kloden who was already a powerhouse in his own right, did make the boy a star--is left to wince his way up the mountains. Holy crap, Astana, I understand Kloden's got his reasons--like friendship with Jan Ullrich, a history of watching Vino soullessly attack his own leader, and a surfeit of podium finishes--to take out Vinokorouv, but you can't even control your domestiques? Enjoy the Pyrenees if you can Vino!

Loser Prediction of the Day: Iban, of course. Moreau would be nice, since he busted himself trying to shake up the GC the other day (no thanks to the overall contenders in the bunch who actually could've benefitted for jacking him!) And, in practical terms, I still think Levi Leipheimer's got to show some stones ahead of the Pyrenees to shake up his competitors given his uninspiring if solid enough performance in the Alps so far. But as I'm damned tired of watching the moto cameras humiliate poor Mayo every year since he took on Lance Armstrong then tanked under the pressure, allez allez Iban!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

What the Hell is Going On Here?

SPOILER--Stop Reading Now If You Ain't Seen It Yet: As both of you may have noticed, I didn't make a prediction for today, which is just as well, 'cause it was naturally wrong as I would've taken Valverde, but anyhow, what the hell is going on in the peloton?! Levi Leipheimer can't shake either Andreas "Ass of Agony" Kloden or Alexander "Bucket o' Gore" Vinokorouv? I know you had an ill-timed mechanical Levi, but that's clearly the least of your problems right now! (It does, however, suddenly make Discovery's repeated and confounding references the last couple of days to protecting both Levi and Alberto Contador make sense, as one doesn't usually refer to cosseting a mere jailbait stage contender.) Levi, I understand you're waiting, like a similarly-disappointed Sastre, for the Pyrenees, but with Valverde actually looking quite strong after an early-morning psych-out, and even Cadel Evans making me consider him for GC contention for once, I think you better hit the gas on Tuesday anyway just to show your rivals you're not simply a written-off overhyped wannabe. Sure, it probably doesn't help the morale that Johan Bruyneel's jammed a knife in your back everytime you've eased off enough to turn around, but Levi, you can time trial, you can climb, you can do this--where is your passion in this race? While we're at it, and speaking of write-offs, allez allez Iban Mayo--I'm so happy!

I Get Knocked Down, But I Get Up Again: and, what craptastic luck for the valiant Michael Rogers, who sure as heck woke me up with his brilliant ride til he took a head-on trip into the guardrail on David Arroyo's wheel, then was forced to drop out, sobbing, as the peloton finally passed him by. I don't know what the hell he hurt (though it looked like his wrist or collarbone from the way he was holding his hand), but it's not yet on any site I could find, but either way, what a shame for a rider who was clearly more of a threat than he seemed to be. Meantime, gazzetta dello sport's reporting that we love CSC's Stewie O'Grady has suffered multiple fractures of his spine and clavicle and suffered a pneumothorax as well, and apparently the ride back to the bus after the race was no better for the boys either, as Patrik Sinkewitz whacked a spectator so hard that the fan's in a coma and Sinkewitz has apparently busted his nose, and the team's reporting he may well not start tomorrow. Man, I know T-Mobile cursed itself with its own stupidity last season, but even they don't deserve any of this!

Say No To Drugs: Well, I'm of two minds as to how well St. David Millar's holier-than-thou reformed-doper wah-wah routine has paid off, because while his racing has certainly been exceedingly fine this Tour, he's reportedly signed a deal with crusading US Team Slipstream, which I gather is upping its international profile but seems quite a strange deal for a fairly young ProTour rider with a rather strong season in the bag. Any ideas on what's going on?

Oscar the Ouch: and, among the flatlanders, it's official that poor delicate Oscar Freire's saddlesore has taken him out yet again, a particular bummer given his near-win of at least two sprints this Tour, while my lame Italian translation skills raise the question of whether Robbie McEwen and Danilo Napolitano really finished outside the time limit and were not allowed by the race organizers to scam their way back in. Well, that pretty much leaves we love Thor Hushovd for Paris--unless Daniele Bennati, you can stop talking smack long enough to actually take a Tour sprint?

History Rock: finally, I've been asked about how and when teams came in to dominate the Tour de France, which I had no idea about, but so far as I can tell, right from the first Tours in the 1900s, some riders started off as pure individuals and some started off sponsored by bike manufacturers and the like, which right off the bat enraged the founder of the Tour, who saw commercialism as destroying the beauty and purity of the struggle of individual athletes against the land and elements. Still, by the 1910s or so, team powerhouses such as Peugeot and Alcyon were the CSCs of their day, which was then brought to a screeching halt around 1930 as the Tour instituted national and regional teams instead and xenophobic fans all over the Continent accepted the change without complaint. Then, after a brief back-and-forth, by 1969 it was all over, and fatcat corporate sponsors have ruled the sport til this day. Hell, you gotta centralize the doping regimens, I mean subsidize the stars' ridiculous salaries, somehow right?

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Brokeback Peloton

Body Count: is it me, or is this year's Tour a hell of a lot twitchier than most? First, Discovery loses sprint hope Tomas Vaitkus in a thumb-crushing tipover. Then, riders start flying through the windshields of nimrod brake-slamming team cars--to exceedingly unpleasant effect--like lightstruck deer on a dark country road. Now, Astana's implosion switches from the Vino-Kloden rivalry to mere survival of the fittest, as the luckless Andreas busts his tailbone yet again and gets to look forward to two butt-pounding weeks in the saddle, while Vinokorouv rips most of the skin off the right side of his body and is stitched up like Frankenstein. Meantime, collarbones and elbows are snapping, the sprinters are a swollen bloody mess--let's face it, when Oscar Freire is the healthiest of the bunch, you know they're hosed--and even we love Iban Mayo went down, sending the entire Saunier Duval army scrambling to the rescue (a courtesy definitely *not* extended by Astana to Kloden, thanks Vino!). Now, even Popo's careening off into the madding crowds, taking poor Cancellara with him, and bodies are hitting the tarmac at the feed zones. At this rate, is there even going to be anyone left to schlep up the mountains?

Alternative Doping Practitioner: and, in doping news (and when isn't there any? Oh, right, when UCI needs bodies at the start line and ignores the Op Puerto file for the Tour), Matthias Kessler's been fired by Mr. Clean's Astana squad after his absurdly high testosterone levels were confirmed by B sample. The cause? His alternative medicine guy must've totally accidentally slipped him totally accidentally contaminated capsules of otherwise innocent Chinese herbs, at least in the sense that he trustingly avoided reading the ingredient list. Um, you're a top domestique at a top squad making a sick amount of euros every year with full knowledge of exactly what crap you're not allowed to take, and you randomly ingest a pack of mystery pills without smacking your alternative medicine guy into ingredient-obedience? Nice try Matthias, and no thanks for leaving Kloden defenseless in the mountains you twerp! And, in more crap news for Astana, Eddy Mazzoleni is unwisely telling the Italian prosecutors to blow during the Oil-for-Drugs inquest, while at least Danilo Di Luca has the sense to show up and politely comply fully by telling them he had nothing to do with it and all those phone calls and video tapes with his voice and face on 'em are a mere misunderstanding. Kessler. Mazzoleni. Godefroot. Half the team roster from Liberty Seguros and T-Mobile. Hey, I'm convinced of Alexander Vinokorouv's commitment to purity!

Pointless Jersey: and, I note that the useless clowns at ASO are stripping we love Erik Zabel of his 1996 green jersey because of his confessed week o' EPO sin back in the day. I'm sure it won't be much of a problem to find the proper awardee, you oily idiots, because I'm sure every other goddamn sprinter in contention was perfectly clean. What exactly is the point of this when you hypocrites can't even be bothered to flush out this year's peloton ahead of this year's Tour?

Utterly Wrong Prediction: finally, I think Vino and Kloden are just damn stupid if they choose today to squabble over who's the man for the mountains, Levi Cadel and Sastre just need to finish comfortably up there to warn off the wolves, it would be great to see Moreau take it but he's got time, and therefore, Valverde, who unaccountably needed resentful second-banana Pereiro to bring him back up the pack the other day, is really the only one with something to prove to his naysayers at this point. But as always, I've got my own preference, even if I'm actually predicting Valverde. Allez Iban!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Two Down, One to Go, Baby!

Wrong Again!: right after I give my cycling-ignorant siblings a long professorial lecture on the scientific probabilities and sociological considerations of rolling stages and breakaways, I'm proven mortifyingly off-base as usual as the boys reel it back for a bunch sprint and who but we-love-and-everyone-else-has-utterly-given-up-hope on Thor Hushovd should charge ahead and take the line. Woo-hoo! All we need is for Iban Mayo to take his mountain stage, and I for one will be about ready to pack it in and blow off the rest of the race. Then again, with Andreas Kloden still going strong, Astana's own domestiques suddenly claiming to be working for both Vino and Kloden, and Alexander "I Will Crush You All Like Bugs" Vinokorouv taking the highly unusual step of confessing to mysterious and heretofore unknown ankle problems, I can't help but wonder if the team's now actually expecting Kloden to bushwhack Vinokorouv in the mountains or, as a commenter has suggested, Vino to simply crack (now having, with his ankle, a plausible excuse for doing so). Of course, from a tactical sleaze perspective, and also 'cause I really admire Vino and wish him all good health, I'd prefer the former, but either way, allez allez Iban!

Did Not Either!: wow, Jan Ullrich's scorn for his yip-yappin' ex-teammates Zabel and Aldag sure seems short-lived, or else grossly hypocritical, as Jan rushes to correct any misperceptions about his own omerta and assures us that soon, but only at the right moment and after the Tour de France, he will in fact tell all about the notorious events of 2006. While we're at it, he did not either say he's got enough money to live for the rest of his life, just that he didn't owe anything to the media, his sponsors, or the cycling federations, which sure as hell sounds like a cash-call to me, Mr. Strong-N-Silent. Anyhow, that oughta be one lively bankroll of an interview!

UCI Shows Its Colors: and, the German press has come up with a vicious snipe to the pro-, I mean anti-,doping bellowing blusterers over at UCI, who are apparently allowing key riders to meander around unattended for curious amounts of time for their post-stage doping controls, allowing plenty of time for say, a disgusting bait-and-switch or the discreet tactical application of masking agents before they've got to come up with the goods for the lab rats, instead of glomming an escort on 'em before they even get off their bikes as they're supposed to do. Glad to see you're taking your crusade seriously, UCI!

And, a Prediction: Finally, I've been asked to make predictions on stage winners, which I caution are infallibly reliable only in the sense that they are, every single damn time, humiliatingly wrong, dancing me perilously close to the Al Trautwig precipice of relentless stupidity and lifelong embarrassment. Anyway, since Popovych has just lamented that his contract negotations with Discovery have been hindered (presumably eurowise) by his crap performance in the Giro, even though he really oughta be saving his energy for the mountains next week if he truly wants to earn his keep getting Levi on the podium, I'll pick him. There, that gives you all about 186 other boys in the peloton who've got a better chance than Popo today--good luck to you!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Ullrich Speaks! and Oh, Right, that Big Race

Jantastic: yep, it's Gazzetta dello Sport first out of the gate again, with Jan Ullrich lamming into we love Erik Zabel a bit, and Rolf Aldag entirely, for their recent boo-hoo Telekom/T-Mobile doping confessionals. Granted, my Italian is crap, so it's of course possible he was just reciting a schnitzel recipe, but I'm pretty darn sure he said that not only did the remorseless boys just yap to keep their jobs (reasonable enough), but that Aldag in particular is somehow rich thanks to all Jan did for him (what? share his stash?), and while we're at it, they're bastards for talking smack about Jan's own case this whole time as if they themselves were saints. Interestingly, however, Jan's neither denying he did dope, nor copping to it in similar hopes of reviving his career. Come on Jan, I understand if you're pissed if they sold you down the river--but you're really gonna be above coughing up the goods yourself once the gasoline fund for your Ferrari starts running a little low? I give you two years max to fall off your moral high horse!

UCI I Hate Their Guts: so, deeply lame UCI has finally decided to ask the directeur sportifs to pay the price for assisting doping--welcome to the party, putzes, I suggested that ages ago--but, in a move I must say I deeply disagree with, actually wants the poor SOB mechanics, masseuses, and soigneurs to also give up a year's salary for helping the riders (who write their paychecks and can get them fired, for heck's sake) along the path to glory. OK, the dirty DSes should in fact fry--though why UCI continues to ignore the actual Op Puerto riders currently likely racing the Tour de France eludes me. And simply fire the front-line suppliers, sure. But you actually want some sap who has to use the pathetic money he earns arm-deep in rider-sweat or covered with bike lube in two in the morning sweet-talking a bent derailleur to pay normal human bills to be whacked with the same financial penalty as some coddled baby who (1) is the actual damn doper, or the actual manager directing its use and (2) makes enough dough to use the bulk of his disgusting bloat of a salary to buy diamond-encrusted yachts? Kill the messenger, why dontcha?!

A Lament for Floyd: well, I'm increasingly bummed that, along with the inevitable outcome of Landis' kangaroo court hearing, Floyd, who clearly belongs on a bike probably along with the other two guys in the peloton who aren't currently doping and certainly with the astonishing percentage at the Tour who are (thanks, UCI!), is instead stuck on a shuttlebus pimping his book city to city during the day and slumping with a can of beer at night watching the action at the Tour on Versus the same as anybody else. Look, I love Levi Leipheimer, and I hope he can take out even a rider as brilliant as Vinokorouv, if for no other reason that I find it grossly implausible that, particularly since he's maintained ongoing relationships with every dope-pushing bottom-feeding hanger-on in the industry, Vino's the only guy from Liberty Seguros and T-Mobile never to have partaken of the ambrosia of performance enhancement. But Levi and Dave Z are the only other Americans worth watching at the moment, and I personally would appreciate someone besides them and we love Carlos Sastre (and Iban Mayo of course) to root for the next three weeks. Come back Floyd!

Carnage!: finally, it's been an egregious bruiser of a Tour all round, as half the sprinters and damn near everyone else with a shot at a stage win in any terrain goes down in a bruised and bloody tangle thanks to Erik Zabel's uncharacteristic snafu nearish the line after an opening couple days that had already seen one too many romances with road furniture. Can we just make it in one piece to the mountains, please, so we've got something else to watch besides the flat-stage boys in the autobus limping up the cols? That goes double for you Valverde!

You Suck, Yahoo.com!

Clueless Spoiler Wankers: having but a moment this morning before I head off to earn my keep, I wanted to warn both my faithful readers not to check the headlines at yahoo.com, heretofore a safe source of harmless lunchtime news perusal during cycling season in my ardent avoidance of anything that could yap the results before I watch 'em, due to their being an outlet that, despite *years* of viewing on my end, has never *ever* covered cycling at all, and wouldn't know even know Lance Armstrong if he muscled his giant ego right in the idiot CEO's face, much less cover an actual race, and what does it have the sudden freakish desire to do? Right, prominently blare the name of a winner they've never heard of in a stage they've no idea about of a race they couldn't care less about! Y'know, I'm all for the moronic non-cycling press taking interest in this beautiful sport. Hell, I can even tolerate their raging ignorance and stupidity about it, so long as they don't, say, hire Al Trautwig. But given that most of us who actually care about the Tour can only view the 3 hours of coverage we're taping after working hours, you assclowns, you couldn't bury it somewhere so at least you have to search for the results if you want to know 'em? Arrrggggghhhhh!

Oh, and despite Tom Boonen's completely kind words for Gert Steegmans and his profession of total intent for him to take the stage win, I remain convinced that he just couldn't power around his lead-out boy and that he's really in some actual trouble. Sigh. This sort of screw-up would never have happened with Fassa Bortolo's beautiful blue train!

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Watch Your Back, Vino!

Bubble, Bubble, Toil and Trouble: now, not to suggest that Alexander Vinokorouv ought to start sleeping with the light on or anything, but after Andreas Kloden's smashing and unexpected second place ("Il Doping!" cheerfully proclaimed my compatriot) in the Prologue, Kloden sure as hell wasn't sounding like the happy ambitionless helpmate Vino absolutely needs him to be in the mountains: "...it was important to get as much time as I could to my direct adversaries in the race." Um, if you have no GC ambitions Andreas, how do you have any direct adversaries? I'm sure he just meant that it was important to put the petrifying-fear-of-the-selfless-superdomestique into the hearts of all Vino's non-Astana GC rivals, is all. Y'know, Jan Ullrich was I believe the best man at Kloden's wedding, Vino...you *sure* he's forgiven and forgotten how you tried to bushwhack Ullrich a few years back, much less forgotten the hard truth that he's spent a *lot* more time on the Tour de France podium than you have?

"The Ego" Earns His 'Tude: what a mindbogglingly beautiful comeback from incessantly annoying yet astonishing Robbie McEwen, clawing back from a bad fall on a rather useful hand to blast out of nowhere to take the sprint off we love Thor Hushovd, a "lumbering" Tom Boonen (nice Versus, that one had to hurt!), and most definitely a get-over-yourself-you're-no-Petacchi-yet butt-end-of-nowhere Daniele Bennati. Of course I still want Hushovd to crush him, and in the next few days sincerely hope to see it happen, but even I have to be fair at least once in a...well, ever, and admire his brilliant victory. Okay, that was about all I can take of that. Allez Thor!

YAAAAAAWWWWNNNNN...: fine, the Prologue was lively, even if Zabriskie unaccountably tanked and Sastre appears unable to overcome his fatal weakness, and the sprints look like despite the loss of Ale-Jet we can still expect a few surprises towards the line this year. And figuring out whether Alejandro Valverde can hold it together for three weeks without imploding is, if nothing else, a more entertaining roadside past-time than "count the license plates." But, in the midst of all this half-assed insincere doping blathering from the repulsively hypocritical race organizers, can we all admit that frankly, even with probably half the blood-stoked Operacion Puerto riders still in the peloton, without the likes of Ullrich Basso and Mancebo allowed out to play, we might as well all just go take a nap for the next three weeks for all the GC fireworks we're likely to miss?

Saturday, July 07, 2007

The Axis Powers: yes, on the very morning of the Tour, and with the French having totally coincidentally no GC hope whatsoever (much as I hope Christophe Moreau smokes the field), the early season's nationalist warfare has started again, with the ProTour teams meeting and the pure and noble anti-doping French and Germans taking one side, and the filthy cheating Italians and Spaniards the other. The hoo-ha? The notoriously clean and honest Germans (like T-Mobile) and French (cough! Richard Virenque! cough!) 'walked out' in outrage when the Spaniards (at least honestly) opined 'we use medicine like all the other teams, this is not doping'. The horror! I'm sure I'm just hallucinating when I recall that CSC's doctors were not in fact Spanish nor Italian, but still just went down in a burning ball o'doping flames two weeks ago. And didn't Jan Ullrich and Jorg Jaksche ride for Euskaltel their whole careers?

The Civil War: meantime, the riders themselves aren't getting along much better, with paranoid conspiracy theorist and accidental associate with every doping scandal anytime anywhere ever Alexander Vinokorouv attacking Jaksche for lying for cash (and we know no other rider ever has, say, by denying doping to the press) and even ever-happy Jens Voigt taking out Jorg for using fake charges to pursue personal grudges. Glad to see we're all getting along, boys!

The Wounded: speaking of actual riders riding, fragile flower we love Oscar Freire has been felled at the start of the Tour while in top physical form yet *again*, this time with a reoccurrence of the nasty saddlesore that crushed him out of most of a season and required surgery better left undescribed. Petacchi. Freire. Boonen and Hushovd in the tank all year. At this rate, anyone else thinking McEwen could just walk his bike across the line from 300 meters out and still take every freakin' sprint this Tour?

The Mandatory Prediction: not to curse him, but his name rhymes with 'smabriskie.' Allez allez!

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Freaky Friday

Case Hosed: well, Floyd Landis' predetermined ego-driven guilty, I mean thoughtful, objective, and evidence-based, verdict is finally due tomorrow, conveniently timed to ensure that, even on the freakishly unlikely chance that Landis is exonerated due to the astonishing bungling of the reckless moronothon lab chimps, he still won't have time to find a team, train, or line up for the Tour de France--this year, or, by the time any appeals are completed, likely ever. Even if these idiots do manage to find the truth despite themselves, given their monstrous mishandling of the tests and samples in this case, can anyone feel confident we'll ever truly know what happened here? Meantime, ASO/Tour de France head Christian "Dick" Prudhomme, who's spent much of the last year openly vilifying Landis before the trial even hit the pavement, suddenly claims a keen concern for due process, opining it's just a darn shame that the fair trial he so desperately wanted has taken so long, so that justice, either way, can finally be done. Am I on total crack, you disingenuous executioner jerk? And given that Operacion Puerto broke well before this scandal, why not the same push for UCI to move on that--afraid of losing most of the peloton before our big starting day in London, are we?

Out of Riis: and, much to CSC's detriment, Bjarne Riis has decided he hasn't the "strength" to attend and help his boys at the Tour, which, while perhaps fair--thbough why Bjarne should absent himself while every other systemic-dope-supporting management scuzzbag of his generation gets to ride in the team car this year beyond me--still really sucks for CSC because, skank or no, Bjarne's tactical brilliance and value is simply unassailable. Perhaps you still might be able to hitch a ride, and carry your cellphone, in the helicopter Bjarne?

I Want My Mummy: meantime, Caisse d'Epargne is sparing no effort in keeping Alejandro "Piti Who?" Valverde tightly under wraps, shrouded from the hounding press and uncomfortable questions about some inconsequential doping thing or other that unaccountably keeps coming up. Hey, we wouldn't want to worry the next Tour de France champ--or give UCI any reason to boot his @#$ out of the Tour over some ill-considered remark by Valverde, especially since they're so studiously ignoring the Op Puerto file, would we?

Fuentes the Pure: and, I see Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes is pimping himself for university audiences, claiming he "never advised any rider to dope." Well, I'll buy that--hell, why "advise" when you just cut to the chase and just jam a needle into someone's butt directly instead?

Run Away, Run Away!: Finally, with Petacchi out, Tom Boonen unusually quiet this season, Thor Hushovd struggling with ongoing stomach viruses (viri?), we love Oscar Freire strong but as always subject to being besieged by physical ailments at any moment, Daniele Bennati still learning the ropes and Robbie McEwen the only sprinter on consistent form this season, there's bound to be some surprises at the line this year, don't you think? (I realize I utterly forgot to even include poor Tom in my earlier Tour de France preview, but I hope you'll excuse me on the grounds that I was perhaps blinded by the shining breastplate of his manly gladiator ads for his sponsor.) Well, we've got one obvious lock on the green jersey--anyone else got other picks besides "The Ego" McEwen?

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

The Final Countdown, and, Holy Crap!

Will He? Won't He?: yep, it's mere days to the start of the Tour de France in London, and the race is on to see who the UCI will actually have the cojones to boot out of the Tour and who they'll let in with the astonishing spinelessness that has become, in addition to their impotent hypocritical blustering, their disgusting and cowardly trademark. So far, it looks like Alejandro "Blood? What Blood?" Valverde is in, Alessandro "I Only Get Asthma in the Sprint Stages" Petacchi is likely in (if only because the Italians won't want to give Milram's sprint leadership to actual confessed doper and German Erik Zabel), Alexander "It's A Total Coincidence That Every Rider Trainer DS and Doctor I've Ever Worked With Is Implicated in a Doping Scandal" Vinokorouv is in, and @#$%ing Jan Ullrich and Ivan Basso and Floyd Landis, who let's face it are likely no dirtier than any of these guys, are @#$%ing out. And, in a further sign that the handy oxygen-carrying drug OD his handy Therapeutic Use Exemption permits has nothing on the useless illicit crap that guys like Dr. Fuentes are pushing, Petacchi's happily agreed to sign the UCI Virginity Pledge just in time for the prosecutors to let him off the hook and send him straight to this weekend's start line with inhaler in hand. Aiiggghhh!

Mata Hari Strikes Again: So, thinking of UCI, I've been pondering the fact that they promised that "6 or 7 high-profile riders" have not only been shadowed in their pre-Tour training for the nefarious crime of training without their team kit, but have been so clearly busted for blood-value irregulaties as to guarantee that half the podium contenders are going to be viciously knocked out of the Tour de France. Now, I know that Saturday is very, very far away, and as we all know, UCI's desire to truly keep the dopers out of the Grand Tours is famous--witness, for example, their extreme dedication to, say, studiously ignoring the Op Puerto file they've had for a month that actually identifies 107 guilty riders until after the entire '07 season is over. But am I really supposed to believe that, oh, domestique Matthias Kessler--fine an asset as he would've been to Andreas Kloden's hopes of bushwhacking Vinokorouv for supremacy--is the GC contender that UCI was talking about? Riiiiiiiight!

Godefrootloop: And, as everyone shows the moral righteousness to clean house in timing totally unrelated to the Tour de France's start date, Astana's consultant Walter Godefroot--implicated by every rider he's ever worked with in handing out drugs to riders like grown-ups passing candy to kiddies at Halloween--has suddenly developed "agonizing back pain" and will, regretfully, be unable to assist the team at the Tour de France, or anywhere else for that matter til his monstrously lucrative contract runs out at the end of July and a relieved twitchy Vinokorouv has his yellow jersey, and the attendant giant champagne bottle and armful of podium babes, firmly in hand after his triumphal lap on the Champs-Elysees. Am I the only one thinking that this guy ain't the only manager in the peloton who could use a little pre-Tour mystery malady to help his team's rep?

Holy Crap!: and, I edit to note I've apparently just been proven wrong yet again, as Gazzetta dello Sport is just now reporting that the Italian prosecutor has formally requested that Alessandro Petacchi be suspended from racing for a year for his mindboggling salbutamol levels at this year's Giro d'Italia. Oh, why the hell not, he's already got his 800 stages at the Giro, the Italians don't really care about the Tour anyway...anyway, if it's true, sorry to miss you Petacchi, but go Zabel!

Tour de France 101

Welcome, Tour de France newbies!: You know all about cancer survivor/celebrity babe magnet/notorious egomaniac Lance Armstrong winning the grueling 3-week Tour de France an astonishing 7 times, and you even know that last year's winner US' Floyd Landis got busted for some sort of weird testosterone thing, though it's not clear to you whether he really did it like the baseball players who suddenly double in size in one season or whether it's all just typically whiny French sour grapes. Still, the Tour's caught your attention for good, and you're ready to see what all the fuss is about. Maybe you've even--despite committing the egregious sin of ignoring the beautiful Giro d'Italia in May--read my handy pre-season cycling dictionary here. But to understand why six whole hours--not just the last five minutes, trust me--of any Tour de France race-day coverage specifically is so exciting--you, as did I and many fans before you, could really use a primer on the greatest (or at least most prestigious) show on earth. So, my humble intro:

The Commentators: follow the Gospel of Phil (Liggett) and Paul (Sherwen) and you can't go wrong, and if you don't have the sense to obey, I have no use for you. They will not only educate you on the history of the Tour and who to watch when why in this one, but you will gain an invaluable knowledge of local attractions, regional agricultural outputs, and every bottle of wine they've enjoyed at each prior stage in this area since about 1969. Follow Bob Roll, and you'll not only be entertained, but, tho' he pimps just a little too hard for Discovery for my taste, you'll learn a lot despite yourself. Listen to Al Trautwig, and you'll burn in hell for all eternity; I'm sure he means well, but he's--how does one say this delicately?--an idiot.

The Teams: identified by the hideous, flourescent, and distinctly un-macho tight spandex outfits that crack you up because they look like a pack of wussies compared to say football players. Don't be fooled by the prom-dress colors--while you're sitting there drinking beer and scratching yourself, any one of these pretty boys can whup your !@# six ways to Sunday. Colors of the main ("General Classification" or GC) contenders to watch: Discovery's uncommonly studly blue and black for American Levi Leipheimer; pregnancy-test-sponsor Predictor's pink and black Aussie Cadel Evans; Astana's baby-blue Alexander Vinokorouv and Andreas Kloden; and Caisse d'Epargne's and CSC's red-and-black Alejandro Valverde and we love Carlos Sastre, respectively. Blue-and-orange Rabobank's Denis Menchov wants it, but I'm still pissed that he took Roberto Heras' last Vuelta a Espana over some inconsequential EPO bust then largely sucked every since, so we're not counting him. Hmmm, despite the overwhelmingly easter-egg colors of the rest of the peloton, I'm just noticing that the GC contenders are mostly on very manly-colored teams....

The Jerseys: besides their team kits, different types of riders are aiming for the honor of wearing different colored jerseys that signify different things, and massively increase your chances for a truly extortionate cash-cow of a deal come contract-renewal season:
--Yellow: the coveted Maillot Jaune or leader's jersey. Yes, Lance's. Even wearing this for one day is the proud highlight of any rider's career, though of course what really counts is who's wearing it on the final day in Paris. Contenders: see above.
--White: Young Rider's. You're 25 and under, which means generally too young to have any tactical brains or to be at your physical peak for a three-week trek through hell. Contenders: I can never pick this one right, ever, but T-Mobile (hot pink)'s lacking a strong GC contender after losing or kicking out every rider that matters, and has lots of high-caliber jailbait, so maybe one of their boys'll take it.
--Green: Points, or, more accurately, Sprint. You rack up points by breaking off the front of the pack and racing across selected mini-finish-lines at various places along the course--and sometimes, if someone is threatening your team's big sprinter's chances for it, you'll have no hope for the jersey but be ordered to go take the points just to keep them away from someone else--but what really grabs the cameras is for you to wear it as you thunder across the line in a tight bunch finish on a sprint stage. To watch: light-blue Milram's Alessandro Petacchi; green Credit Agricole's we love but he's been in crap form all season Thor Hushovd; teal-and-fuschia Lampre's upstart Daniele Bennati; pink Predictor's Robbie "Head-Butt" McEwen.
--Polka-Dot: it's the King of the Mountains, baby! The most exciting race within the race for my money, these are generally tiny little mountains monkeys who can crush the entire Alps, and their gasping sap fellow riders, at an astonishing pace. To watch: Rabobank's Michael "the Chicken" Rasmussen, and...well, everyone else, despite some brilliant climbers over at orange Euskaltel, Caisse D'Epargne and Astana, is pretty much toast.
--and, Another Anomaly: the national champions have all just been crowned, and they get to wear their national champion jersey all race while the rest of the team is stuck with their general-loser team kit. If you're a national time trial champion, you only get to wear it in a time trial.

The Stages: generally divided into Prologue (the stage-before-the-first-stage), which puts someone into the yellow jersey for the real start of the race; Sprint, mostly flat; Rolling; Time Trial, an individual race against the clock with no teammates around to protect you; and Mountain. In the prologue (which is a time trial) and other tts, look for: CSC's Fabian Cancellara; US national tt champ we love Dave Zabriskie; yellow Saunier Duval's irritating reformed dope-fiend St. David Millar, keen to win in his hometown start in London; Discovery's George Hincapie or Levi Leipheimer for, if not the win, a nice high placement. For the Mountains: we love yellow Saunier Duval's Iban Mayo, who once beat Lance and has since been psychologically-crushed-now-recovering in the wake of the resulting Next King of Cycling hype; CdE's Alejandro Valverde, who's never made it through a Tour; Alexander Vinokorouv, who may hand the stage win off to whatever superdomestique hauled him up the mountains if it won't threaten his chances for the yellow jersey in Paris; CSC's surging Frank Schleck. Rolling'll be whatever breakaway won't threaten any team leader on any particular day, and Sprint is the green jersey suspects above, except it's Robbie who'll snake around from the out-of-contention butt-end of the group and surprise you every time.

Finally, an Oddity: the Tour riders are usually numbered with No. 1 being last year's winner, then his teammates, and sequentially down the line, which not only helps you identify individuals in a sea of indistinguishable spandex @#$es, but provides a handy guide to who to hope for. But this year, with Floyd Landis about to be hosed out of his Tour title despite the bungling of incompetent French lab nits, but of course not in time to confirm the numbering, and 2nd place Oscar Pereiro not having had a chance in hell of being there frankly if all of last year's serious contenders hadn't been kicked out just before the start on doping charges, the befuddled Tour organizers are starting poor Pereiro at 11 and everyone else muddles in after that. Y'know, craptastic field last year or not, he did almost take the thing, and has been a good sport about the whole Landis hoo-ha despite the lingering suspicion he should've been the boy swarmed by podium babes and champagne spray in Paris--could they have found it in their hearts not to emasculate the boy quite so much?

Anyway, there's lots I'm forgetting, or flat blowing off, for now, but I'll get around to it as we go. In the meantime, stake your place at the side of the road with the other screaming nationalist wingnuts, try not to take out any riders with your camera, and don't forget to yell, Allez Allez!

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Che Bella!

Jorg Washington He Ain't: so Jorg "Bella" Jaksche decided to sing early, and as promised, admitted he was a Fuentes client in '05 and '06 while at Liberty Seguros, scarfed EPO and growth hormone handily stashed in a sponsor's household appliances in the team car at Polti, chomped through substance upon substance at CSC and ONCE, and, perhaps least surprising, routinely held out his arms for needle sticks from the team docs at Telekom with the full knowledge and approval of management without even bothering to ask what the hell he was ingesting. Still, he had a good word to say about Bjarne Riis, noting that no-one likes to do it, but as everyone else is, it's the only way to level the playing field, and by the way, there's an agreement between UCI and some of the teams to studiously avoid surprises at the doping controls. UCI? Complicit in doping? No way Jorg! Meantime, Jorg was immediately condemned as a shameless money-grubbing media ho-bag (true) who's not only a lone wolf but a damned liar as well (highly likely untrue), ironically by, among others, Alexander Vinokorouv, who's just been obliged to concede his longstanding connection to doping icon Michele Ferrari, who naturally is and has always been his humble training coach (and, in good news for the other Tour contenders, he sez he's been pretty psyched out by all the controversy, as if the rumor mill needed a reason to accelerate as everyone watches who's going to get booted from the lineup before next Saturday). Is anyone else thinking it's just plain better if everyone else who rode on Telekom and/or T-Mobile suddenly started keeping their mouths shut?

UCI See He's Even More Annoying Than I Thought: and, in a similar vein, Pat "Dick" McQuaid has finally seemed to realize it doesn't look too cool to have half of the most astonishing athletes on earth diagnosed with ailments that totally coincidentally allow them to down elephant-killing quantities of performance-enhancing drugs at the start of every stage they're interested in winning, and has professed complete outrage at the proliferation of Therapeutic Use Exemptions with the amazingly timely amnesia that he's the clown actually responsible for handing these things out like party favors. So are we gonna suddenly see a million miracle cures for chronic lifelong afflictions, or is anyone actually gonna admit that such-and-so a rider isn't exactly the worn-out invalid we thought he was, Pat? Somehow I can guess how this one's going to turn out...

Vindicated: so I'm sure it's enormously comforting for the jacked riders over at Unibet that Christian Prudhomme, finally forced to confront the massive hypocrisy of letting every other gambling outfit to advertise on the peloton's @#$#@ at the Tour de France except them on legal grounds, has now mindbogglingly admitted that Unibet was not barred on legal techicalities against gambling sponsors, but on the basis of their crap results all season. Was I missing something, or wasn't that Unibet taking half the spring races despite never being allowed to ride with the big boys for the vast majority of the season? Unibet, too, remains skeptical, noting that despite their lack of ride of time, they've still racked up more wins than Milram, who've hit the courses twice as much. Keep trying Prudhomme, you're bound to come up with something halfway plausible sometime!

Finally: big points to we love Paolo Bettini for his pre-nationals interview with Gazzetta dello Sport (www.gazzetta.it, click on "Ciclismo" then "Home ciclismo", if you don't speak Italian unfortunately I believe you're stuck with my abysmal translations), dope-slapping the hypocrite goons at UCI for their meaningless Virginity Pledge that doesn't even begin to ditch responsibility at the feet of anyone who counts, and as usual exploits the riders for problems they bear but don't (at least primarily) cause. Right on Paolo!