Friday, August 31, 2007

May (Well, July)-September Romance

The Waaiii-aaaiiiting is the Hardest Part: well, Floyd Landis' loooooong wait for official news that he's been completely !@#$ed may actually be nearing an end, as reports surface that, well over a year after his initial poz testosterone test at the end of the Tour, his foreordained craptastic arbitration results may finally see the light of day 'long about the end of September. Hey, at least his near-certain two-year ban'll be almost up by the time the judgment's in! Meantime, the clock continues to tick on Iban Mayo's presumed guilty B-sample, like our beloved if tragically flawed fragile flower needs another excuse to wilt, while the lucky Andrei Kashechkin gets treated to a much faster confirmation of his homologous doping positive, leaving him at least with the certain knowledge he's fired as he takes on the morally righteous fight against surprise-party out-of-competition doping controls. Guilty as charged or not, am I the only one wishing poor Iban and Floyd *some* kind of release from this ridiculous limbo?

They're Heeeee-eeeeere!: just when you thought Astana'd gone away, at least in the face of persistent Gazzetta Dello Sport reports that Marc Biver has already made the decision to bail and most of their riders are either busted (you know who) or injured (poor Andreas Kloden, in a training crash), comes Knight in Tarnished Armor/ recent retiree Johan Bruyneel, confirming rumors he's been in contact with the team while begging off such pesky issues as his future and our voracious appetite for gossip til after he enjoys his weekend. Could it be that Levi and Contador have found a new home (at least if Levi has a burning desire for Johan to jack him over again)? Well, they sure as heck haven't at Slipstream, unless one of them is the mystery date that Jonathan Vaughters has been coyly hinting at--oh, spit it *out* already people!

Dopers Wanted: Finally, I see the Aussies are looking for healthy young men in prime cycling years to test-drive EPO, apparently to give a perfect road map to evading doping controls as they try to find the max you can take during hard riding without getting busted for it in a urine sample. Can we see a show of hands from the peloton? Hey, you over there in the...oh hell, who wants to enrage a pack of lawsuit-happy managers by suggesting some names?

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Vuelta a Espana 101, Baby!

Yeeeeeeeee-haaaaaaaaaaah!: Welcome, Vuelta newbies, to the most underrated--and perhaps most fabulous--Grand Tour on earth! You've seen the Italians cavort in the Giro. You've watched the French, well, largely choke as usual in their hometown Grand Boucle. Now, it's time for the smashing Spaniards to come out to play, and play they shall in the most brutal mountains, vicious heat, and unforgiving terrain in the game. So pull up your chairs, spread out some tapas, cough up whatever ridiculous amount it takes to watch the show off the Internet--here's what you need to know!

Bad News Bears: for those of you who missed the Vuelta last year, it was a reluctant resented playground for guys like Alexander Vinokorouv, preemptively kicked out of the '06 Tour de France because of the Op Puerto doping scandal but not actually busted enough to be forced out of the Vuelta. Anyhoo, Vino took out his rage against the French on the Spaniards, mowing down competitors like an angry drunk on a tractor and, with the help of domestique-of-the-gods/post-Tour blood doping poz Andrei Kashechkin, taking the podium over everyone's fave the luckless, yet still egregiously paid, Alejandro Valverde. Now? Thanks to Vino, Kash, and fellow doper Kessler, team Astana's been booted entirely, and it's back to the Spaniards tho' not to Valverde, who, still whacked from his fair-enough Tour, is sweetly saving himself for the Worlds the tools at UCI have barred him from. Which brings us to...

The Course: it's an amazing world o'hurt from Day 1, as the Vuelta sorts out the GC contenders in short order with three brutal mountaintop finishes in the first 10 days alone, and whoever's left limping after that is gonna have to play defense through the remaining mountains and rolling stages til the time trial on the penultimate day smacks down any gap that's left among the big boys. Surprisingly this year, the sprinters have some time in the spotlight, if they can get past the Pyrenees without their huge carcasses being left whimpering like lonely puppies at the base of 'em. The last day, we all get to relax, and watch whoever hasn't already bailed out to rest up for the Worlds on Sept. 30 crawl into Madrid for the presentation of the beautiful Maillot d'Oro. And won't they all be happy to see it after 3 weeks of that! But who gets to wear it at the end depends on...

The GC Contenders: CSC's perennial we love Carlos Sastre. Oscar "my 2006 Tour Wasn't Either a Fluke" Pereiro from Caisse d'Epargne. Euskaltel's brilliant Sammy Sanchez, who sees Saunier Duval's Jose Angel Gomez Marchante (oh Iban!) as his biggest threat. Weaknesses: none of these guys are gonna kick your !@# in a time trial, so somebody's gotta crush someone in the mountains, and most of these guys are dead even. Strengths: Sanchez, hailing from a team of featherweight climbers notoriously disastrous in the time trial, has been improving in the discipline, and he's got Lord of the Climbs Haimar Zubeldia to help him crush the field as it heads uphill. Thereby raising the question of...

The Stage Threats: as the GC boys eye each other nervously, some heavy-duty Italians are actually in the hunt for stages, testing themselves and each other for team primacy at the Worlds, so boys like Lampre's Damiano Cunego, Quick Step king Paolo Bettini, and Davide Rebellin will each be looking to make their mark. Meantime, almost any Spaniard is eager to take a stage on his own turf, and with the Continental squads lacking the budgets and resulting firepower to take on the ProTour teams for the podium, look for guys from Karpin Galicia to move in for the kill on the breakaways. Bringing us to...

The Sprinters: for a Grand Tour traditionally in deep avoidance of the flats, this year's got a surprising amount of action, and, with the notable exceptions of Robbie "Bite Me Predictor" McEwen and we love Thor Hushovd, most of the sprinters worth watching at the moment are in the game, with a Tour-deprived Petacchi eager to dope-slap the people who kept him out of it, Erik Zabel to back him up or take him on depending, Lampre's upstart Daniele Bennati, big babe-magnet Tom Boonen, perpetually neck-kinked tenacious champion we love Oscar Freire, and less often-seen Spaniards like Francisco Ventoso and Euskaltel's Inaki Isasi dearly wanting to take one for the home team. All of which ultimately is going to be overshadowed by...

The Teams: putting aside the Spanish squads, Discovery's actually got a hell of a lineup, with last year's stage winner Tommy Danielson and Stijn Devolder each rumored to be team leader and we love Chechu Rubiera and Allan Davis on backup. So does Predictor-Lotto, despite McEwen's wrathful absence, with Cadel Evans on board but presumably too whacked to glom onto the likes of Euskaltel's wheels in the high passes, and endless lovable attack dog Chris Horner to blast apart the pack if the mood should strike. Other'n that, venga Euskaltel-Euskadi!

In sum--leg-crushing mountains. Heated regional rivalries. Screaming Basque fanatics dressed in orange and utterly off their heads with excitement. A truly star-studded playground for the best racers on earth. What's *not* to love? And remember to yell, Venga! Venga!

Now, click your ruby heels three times and repeat after me, "Denis Menchov is not the winner of the 2005 Vuelta. Denis Menchov is not the winner of the 2005 Vuelta. Denis Menchov is..." ah, back in Kansas!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

What a Piti!

You Blow, UCI!: yep, the illiterate goon squad over at UCI, which couldn't be bothered to read the Op Puerto file before its beloved Tour de France but is apparently not quite so sentimental about keeping dopers in the upcoming World Championships, has now decided that, after a diligent perusal of the 6000-page file, Alejandro "Piti" Valverde "may" be implicated in "several" of the documents, and is therefore utterly unfit to ride the Worlds. What the @#$%, UCI? Let's leave aside for the moment the astounding fact that, out of 6000 pages and approximately 107 riders implicated in the scandal, most of whom presumably remain in the peloton, you've only managed to connect the dots to one guy--quite impressive! And let's even leave aside your utter bull!@#$ statement that, while you're asking the Spanish cycling fed to investigate, this "would not imply any guilt on the part of Alejandro Valverde"--if so, why are you barring him from the Worlds then? But Valverde was linked to Op Puerto a *year* ago on the exact same allegations you're raising now--do you self-aggrandizing weasels have *any* excuse for not reading the file during the two long months you had it ahead of the Tour, besides not wanting to blow the ratings in the highly likely event it turned out only a handful of no-name also-rans were gonna be clean enough to be allowed to ride it?

On the plus side, so far as I can tell, this leaves Valverde free to change his plan and join Caisse d'Epargne's fine line-up as team leader at the Vuelta start line, as I assume the race organizers wouldn't object to the participation of one of their own, particularly since he was one dope-fiend Vino away from victory last year, and the team's been in strong defense of their boy since the same claims came up in '06. If he does show up, poor Oscar Pereiro, again!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Flaying Floyd Landis

Denver Bronco: many thanks to the holders-of-all-knowledge over at trustbutverify, who cite yet another interview I'd never've otherwise heard of with Greg Lemond in a Denver newspaper, this time smacking around poor Floyd Landis for being a pitiable lying cheating skankbag in deep denial over his filthy disgusting dope-fiend habits, with Greg claiming yet again that he valiantly tried to save Floyd from gross self-destruction, saying not only that he lovingly advised the deluded boy that your "lie" is "always there, and it works on you and it works on you," but that he can't see how Landis could've made a "morally conscious" decision to ask other people to give him money to defend himself. Jeez, Greg, can't you just wait for USADA to fry him? Amusingly, Pat "Dick" McQuaid took the opportunity to dope-slap LeMond in response to his earlier having pointed out UCI's egregious and obvious impotence, noting that "LeMond himself is not above suspicion." Ah, the sweet smell of impending slander litigation! Speaking of the Already Deemed Guilty Whether They Actually Are Or Not, I see UCI still hasn't gacked up the promised B sample results on we still love Iban Mayo, which, if they are in fact as expected positive, shows just what a pack of repugnant sadistic wanks they are, if only in that they seem determined to postpone the results long enough to bar him from the, say, 2009 Vuelta, let alone crushing *my* innocent soul. If you've got anything on him, pony up already you wusses!

Justice, Shalt Thou Pursue: And, the Kazakh crusade against the monstrous human rights violations that are unannounced doping controls rages on, as Vinokorouv right-hand man/Vuelta helpmate Andrey Kashechkin's gone all Mother Theresa on UCI, decrying its atrocious intrusion into his "private life" as, clearly, no non-governmental authority has the right to ask anything of anyone, particularly something as outrageous and onerous as a homologous-blood-doping negative test. Aiming for a problem-free shot at the nongovernmental Olympics, are we? I can almost hear the angels singing over this selfless crusade for justice...

Vuelta Note: finally, the clock is ticking down on to the fabulous Vuelta, reminding me yet again that every time I read that Denis "One Hit Wonder" Menchov is the "winner of the 2005 Vuelta," and no-one within miles of the podium in 2006 is remotely in danger of competing this year either, I start to severely itch. Venga Euskaltel, and come back soon (yes, I'm a hypocrite, bite me) Heras!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Le Monde According to LeMond

No Love Lost: yes, Greg LeMond has made his antidoping prescription public, saying he told Christian "Dick" Prudhomme at the Tour (1) to get rid of UCI (right on Greg!), though Pat "Dick" McQuaid's at least tried to nip the problem (and a fine job he's done this season, at that); (2) lower the ridiculous hematocrit level to something actual non-bionic human beings can approach; (3) increase the antidoping penalties but give Stasi credits to informants to encourage every whining doping-but-still-losing sour-grapes Manzano to tank their more-successful friends; and (4) sequester all the riders 2 hours before the race to keep 'em clean. So let's see, this would leave, so far as I can tell---unless we're really talking individual little plastic isolation pods like Spinal Tap got caught in--the DSes, soigneurs, and best of all, fellow riders, all in handy contact during the Wait of Purity. Well, certainly none of those guys would ever be complicit in another rider's doping! Still and all, big points to LeMond for trying, and particularly for smack-talking Lance without enough specificity to set his lawyers slobbering unduly by opining that certain teams could too find sponsors if they chose, but the ones that don't just aren't because they know the investigators are right on their @#$es and they're all gonna go down if they stay in the game. He's just talking about Unibet I'm sure!

Dates With Destiny: and, I'm feeling pretty twitchy about Iban Mayo's B sample, due to be released by the honest unbiased do-gooders over at UCI this past Friday but now due the day after tomorrow instead. No news is never good news--either he's definitively nailed, and the torch-wielding bastards just wanted Iban to really enjoy his weekend, or else they've gone all Floyd Landis on the poor boy, completely screwed up somewhere again, and are just working out the kinks to fry him anyway. Oh Iban! Thinking of Spaniards who can't win for losing, I see that the Spanish cycling fed is on the warpath defending their choice of Alejandro Valverde for the Worlds, particularly, I imagine, since the Germans are hardly in a position at the moment to go all high-horse on other people's dopers, but interestingly, I've yet to hear an explanation whether it was Alberto Contador's or the cycling fed's decision to leave their new maillot jaune hero off the team. Anyone?

A Diplomat He Ain't: hooray! it's merely days to the second most fabulous stage race on earth, and Robbie McEwen, unwillingly taking a sprint at the Eneco Tour, thanked his managers at Predictor for the opportunity by blasting them yet again at the finish for completely screwing him out of the Vuelta and generally ruining his life. Shopping for a new team, are we? Hell, if Petacchi gets his one-year suspension, there might be an opening over at Quick Step... In other contract speculation, Levi's looking more and more like a Predictor prospect as Team Slipstream takes on Tommy Danielson, though Jonathan Vaughters wasted no time saying that while he's convinced Danielson can indeed take a stage win or two at the Tour someday, and can otherwise pull off a one-day victory under the right conditions (thanks for the vote of confidence Jonathan!), he's definitely not one for Grand Tour overall contention, which means they, unlike Predictor, still need a Grand Tour GC contender after all. Comet ascendant Contador, meantime, appears in some trouble, as Rabobank sez that while they didn't contact Contador, Contador definitely contacted them, but with the team already all freaked about Michael Rasmussen and presumably further displeased that he sort of implicated team management in his whole training-location weaselry, I'd be surprised if, especially on the heels of running like rabbits from the Tour, they really want to take a chance on someone everyone seems convinced is, if for no other reason than his mentorship by Manolo Saiz, somehow linked to Operacion Puerto. Oh come on--no one's punishing fellow Liberty Seguros ingenue Luis Leon Sanchez over it!

Roberto Heras Doping Ban Countdown: nope, he's still not off the hook til after the Vuelta, though if the 2006 contract season is any lesson he ought not to have too big a problem scamming at least a DS deal with a continental squad so long as he promises to wah-wah up someday, but I see Denis Menchov is riding the Vuelta. Dammit!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Tabloid Wars

Bjarn Again: on the heels of Jorg Jaksche's rather old-news accusation that he talked doping with Bjarne Riis on the ski lift while at CSC, Bjarne's responding at last, saying that while he remembers going skiing, he did not either talk doping, and what's more, in a classic switch to Completely Beside the Point Dodgery, sez anyway, Jorg was a colossal pain in the @#$ to work with, kept asking other riders questions about stuff which clearly indicated he was a filthy cheating skeezbag, made everyone in the peloton hate him, was pissed about not getting an offer from Astana, was happy to get an offer to bail for Liberty Seguros of all scumly disreputable outfits, and, most outrageous of all, actually ticked off Jens Voigt. Off with his head! And on the Basso matter, it's entirely the fault of those clowns at UCI, as is in fact all the doping anytime anywhere ever by anyone remotely for a split second associated with Bjarne or CSC like Tyler Hamilton, because their blood profiles were sparkly and pure enough to make a vampire swoon and it's UCI's goddamn fault for tricking poor innocent dopus Bjarne into thinking that meant something in the first place. Now, I'm all for anyone sandbagging the apes over at UCI by any rationale--but if the current crop of team managers are so naive and useless, why not just let a bunch of ex-dopers go right on ahead and run the show? Oh, wait....

CONI Island: thwarted in their efforts to nail Danilo "Oil for Drugs" Di Luca, displeased at the continued tifosi hero-worship of pretty-boy criminal Ivan Basso, and frankly unimpressed themselves with the minor prize of Cristian Moreni, CONI's gone to the the Court of Arbitration for Sport over Alessandro Petacchi, hell-bent on at least salvaging some dignity (and enforcing the beauty and integrity of true sport, yap yap) by overriding the Italian cycling fed's scandalous ruling that anything taken under a Therapeutic Use Exemption must be okay, even if one guy's just taken enough to Therapeut the EU's entire population of wheezing asthmatics into a truly Cheech and Chong level of stoked. Much as I like Petacchi, it's actually sort of sweet and encouraging that CONI's so sincere about cracking down--but one can hardly blame Petacchi for UCI's handing out these exemptions to anyone who offers up a polite cough for the officials, can one?

Team Implosion Contract Watch: disgraced maillot jaune Michael Rasmussen's been apparently chatting with Acqua e Sapone, and isn't hesitating to make Rabobank pay for his need to do so either, claiming that Rabo knew exactly where and when he was training at least in the Pyrenees, because they ponied up for his plane ticket. As for the slight disconnect between his claim to be training Mexico while accidentally seeming to do so in the Dolomites? He can't explain that right now, surely for some completely valid reason, but while we're at it, he didn't really miss any doping controls anyhow, because he was around for all of UCI and WADA's and, as he rides under a Monaco license, the Danes had no right to ask him for one. Holy moly, that very nearly makes sense! Andreas Kloden, meantime, stuck twiddling his thumbs til Astana gets to ride the comparatively meaningless GP Plouay, continues to deny talking to any other teams, but does cop to their talking to him, and while we're at it, the Code of Ethics is crap his ex-teammates are thoughtless dirtbags who completely jacked him out of his rightful place at the end of Tour de France (from my view, it's just a total accident on Vino's part that he didn't get to do it to Kloden personally on the course) and Astana can blow for throwing 26 clean riders under the bus just to damage control the three who cheated. Finally, ever-kind Levi Leipheimer has made it clear he's quite distraught over the loss of Discovery, even after the way that troll Bruyneel jerked him around romancing pouty dreamboat Ivan Basso, but expects to have a new gig with a comparably happy and quality tied up in a week or so, leaving open the question, where? I'm sorta hoping Slipstream actually, not only 'cause they've got a killer broad-range lineup with Millar and Zabriskie for the time trials (and I must admit, Millar was a hell of a domestique in the Tour as well), Julian Dean for the sprints and big Maggy Backstedt to cause some pain in the Classics, meaning the only thing they're currently missing is a Grand (and short) Tour GC contender, but also because, for such a young squad, they've proven they've got, and are willing to use, their budget on at least guys just entering and just leaving their prime. But if you're gonna come up with their ProTour license a year early, McQuaid, try not to Unibet over your new addition to the group this time!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

What a Piece of Work is Man!

Though This Be Madness, Yet There is Method In't: somewhere anyway I'm sure, as the Kazakh cycling fed claims that not only has an independent French lab tested each of Andrey Kashechkin's blood samples and determined he never doped at all in any way, but what's more, Astana's psyched for the upcoming Vuelta and Andreas Kloden will be out there as team leader, all of which certainly comes as news to Astana, which sez that the B sample hasn't even been taken for testing yet, Unipublic steadfastly assures them they won't be allowed within 10 miles of the start line, and even clean queen Kloden can't ride a race his entire team's been bagged from. Y'know, I'm all in favor of fruitless whistling-in-the-dark cheerleader propaganda, if only for its sheer chutzpah, but might these guys all get their story straight before they start making themselves look like total wingnuts to the press?

Et tu, Iban?: I certainly hope not, anyhow, though I remain glum, as delicate reclusive flower Mayo nests discreetly at home with his family as the results of *his* B sample, tested at his request with a neutral Belgian observer glommed onto it like a leech, are due in 3 days. Gee, why *wouldn't* he trust the fine lab that busted him to do its job well--right Floyd? So the question is, did he really not, or, given the odd recent explosion of old-school EPO pozes in the peloton, is he and everyone else (fine, except St. David Millar, Jesus!) just microdosing even more extremely carefully than in the past and he's just flat-out flabbergasted he's been busted? Oh Iban--say it ain't so!

And Thus I Cloth'd My Naked Villany: yep, Pat "Dick" McQuaid, beset by pissed-off teams, riders, race organizers, rabid tifosi, and WADA alike, has come out swinging, amiably promising he's really committed to changing UCI and the ProTour from the impotent self-destructive backbiting jokes that they are and the next moment swearing he'll crush like a bug any impudent power-grabbing weasel that tries to take them down. And why wouldn't he be proud of what he's accomplished?--of course UCI and the ProTour must stay in total control--after all, you did such a great job keeping the boys to their written no-doping Purity Pledges this season and taking such fine care of your new team Unibet (who dope-slapped you yet again just today taking a stage at the Tour of Ireland)!

Friends, Romans, Countrymen, Lend Me Your Ears: well, Ale-Jet's announced quite nicely he's back on form, snagging the first (and pretty well only) sprint at the Regio Tour just after Milram's formally confirmed him for the Vuelta. There, backed by Zabel (depending on the legs) he'll be able to take on smack-talking upstart Daniele Bennati, Tom Boonen, Oscar Friere and (depending on the terrain) Paolo Bettini, with we love Thor Hushovd unfortunately nowhere in sight. Sorry as I am for how horribly Petacchi's been oppressed by not being allowed to scarf infinite amounts of salbutamol ahead of every sprint, my heart's with King of Weird Ailments Oscar Friere for this one. Venga Oscar!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Hell Hath No Fury/Like a Dane Scorned

The Bjarne is Burning: so endless doper Bjarne Riis, of all people, is hilariously taking out Team Rabobank for allowing Rasmussen to compete in the Tour amid reports he was weaselling about his whereabouts during the pre-race runup: "when they pick a rider for the Tour de France it must be because they trust him...They should have left Michael at home if [the warnings] were serious enough." Um, am I the only one who just snorted a double espresso out my nose--leaving aside the fact that you copped to snarfing EPO from '93-'98 and taking your own Tour under the influence, Ivan Basso was implicated in Op Puerto like 10 minutes into the scandal, where the hell were you 'til the Tour organizers forced him out of the race? Anyhoo, CSC of course has backed Bjarne, noting with pride that he's responsible for launching the team's rigorous anti-doping program, which, I must admit, has paid off rather well for about the only team in the peloton not to accidentally gack up a positive test this season. Still a little jealous over losing your Prince Charming right before the Tour de France last year, are we? Meantime, on the other side of the coin, 1988 Tour winner Pedro Delgado is blasting the Grand Tours for focusing on the fight against doping above all else, conceding (because he has to, I suppose) that while it's important and all, all this pesky testing and yapping is making the sponsors twitchy, and anyway, "I do not believe it is the high-priority thing in this sport." Sure, his position's morally reprehensible, but surely we can all give him points at least for his rare and refreshing honesty?

Duck, Duck--Goosed!: And, in the race to the Vuelta, we love Sastre takes a blow as Nicki Sorensen's out with a mysteriously unexplained "unfortunate accident" resulting in 3 broken bones in his foot (what? he pulled a Petacchi and attacked an innocent team bus? what's the big deal, spit it out!), leaving them still with a pretty strong roster for a group which knocked itself out at the Tour, including Christian VandeVelde, Inigo Cuesta, Chris Anker Sorensen and Karsten Kroon. Still, much as I love CSC despite Bjarne's total hosing of Bobby Julich, I can't say they've got an edge over or really even quite approach Euskaltel, which is pulling out all the stops in their home stomping grounds with Zubeldia Landaluze Hernandez and Anton to back up Sammy Sanchez, and, in Haimar Zubeldia's case at least, likely to make a podium run in his own right. And the sprinters? Well, Alessandro Petacchi, back on form and still ticked at being jacked out of the Tour over some inconsequential asthma-med overdose, is absolutely raring to go, which must be annoying as hell to Robbie "the Ego" McEwen, who undiplomatically declared that he is not either "voluntarily" focusing on a Belgian campaign over the Vuelta, and while we're at it, Predictor's ridiculous to not only screw him but to head to Spain without a sprinter, as for once, they've got more than one stage in this course to play in. Man, tell us how you really feel Robbie!

Assorted Flotsam Contract Watch: finally, with Unibet, Discovery and presumably Astana down for the count, the market's been flooded with high-value rejects along with the usual switcheroos, and there's still no word on Levi Leipheimer yet, beyond rumors that he's being courted as second banana to Cadel over at Predictor (not again--you don't deserve this Levi!), Tommy Danielson's fate remains unknown with his gross-but-healing intestinal ailment jacking his chances for results right when he's needed them (though I hope someone'll give due credit for his last year's handsome Vuelta stage), Tyler Farrar's been booted from Cofidis (and Cofidis, that boy is the *least* of your problems), and Andreas Kloden's busy politely denying the obvious assumption that he's bailing on Astana for almost anybody, noting he's still under contract for another year. Hey, why wouldn't a multiple Tour de France podium holder mind being kicked out of every Grand Tour on earth for the foreseeable future?

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Rags to Snitches

Gimme Some Money: so the question's been asked how much do pro cyclists make, and I must confess to only the same random samplings I hear like anyone else, like that twerp Riccardo Ricco taking one freakin' stage win only to jack his salary up near 2x Giro god/peerless peloton smack-talker we love Gilberto Simoni, and I'd learned that a pinup rider like dreamy Tom Boonen can, for example, reap truly ridiculous sums if he's willing to glam up in a studly leather-armored gladiator outfit and flex his gams for the endorsement cameras. But I'd really no idea on the salaries of the average schlump 'til I happened on the UCI website and found that, under the current UCI "Joint Agreement", Continental riders need only get a minimum of 21,500 euros/year for a newbie and 25,000 euros for oldies but goodies, while ProTour boys are only entitled to 24,000 euros for the newbies and 30,000 euros for the more experienced folks. Meantime, the average sap with some decent results can apparently expect to make somewhere in the 50k euro range, and if you're a true superdomestique, you can look forward to a nice 100k euro a year. (Hincapie? Really? You've got to be kidding me. Lance, you better've coughed up some *serious* dough for that boy since he could've been taking half the classics if he weren't shepherding your !@# around the Grand Boucle!) Still and all, considering they do get individual prizes for stage wins, free room and board, team-win bonuses, those pretty team kits, and all the free schwag they can handle--not to mention the sort of bikes passionate amateurs have to rob banks to afford--I ain't really crying for most of 'em. (Except Iban Mayo. Still. Dammit!) As for the top riders? Well, Cycle Sport mag helpfully listed the top 16 of 2006 back this March, ranging from $3.8 mil (sorry, don't know the exchange rate) for Valverde *not* to win the Tour, to $3.2 for Bettini (right on!), to $2 million for Basso (no wonder Bjarne was pissed!), $1.3 mil for we love Thor Hushovd (which must've irked Robbie "$1.6 mil" McEwen, for all the times he beat him), down to a paltry $975k for Michael Boogerd. Meantime, Vino was taking in a sweet $1.7 mil, though I must warn him, in his new career as a human rights crusader, that those of us in the public sector tend to make somewhat less. You stay right on the case though Vinokorouv!

And the price of selling out your brothers, I mean, confessing your own transgressions and coincidentally taking other, bigger riders down with you? Now, I don't know what that tiresome gnat Jesus Manzano's been charging, but it was rumored that Jorg Jaksche got paid in the neighborhood of 15k euros to pipe up to the press, and Jan--reviled as you are by the press that figured on exactly what you were doing and lionized you anyway for a decade til it became totally clear you'd never take Armstrong out at the Tour--I'm surmising you can demand enough to keep your growing family quite handsomely for the near future, assuming you one day get tired of not whoring your soul just to join the faux-crying post-bust repentant wah-wah chorus.

Now what I want to know is, what does that eejit Al Trautwig command, and it better goddamn not be within 100k of what Phil & Paul (heck, even Bob) pull in on a slow news day!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Land(is) of Confusion

Gallows Humor: so the New York Times Sports mag's run a long piece on Floyd Landis which, if indeed an interesting character study--and whatever the hell Landis has or hasn't done (and I remain inclined towards "hasn't," at least on due process grounds), you have to give the man massive credit for having the strength not to pull a Vandenbroucke or, even worse, a Pantani, and completely blow to pieces given the astonishingly crappy year he's had--still manages, nonetheless, to provide virtually no enlightenment for the Times' jock section's largely cycling-ignorant readership on *anything* related to the sport, much less how, contrary to popular yip-yap, it was in fact possible for a rider like Landis to take his stage to Morzine so spectacularly that day *without* having to single-handedly imbibe enough drugs to sate, say, T-Mobile. Most depressing: the account of Landis having to constantly chase down rich amateurs for cash-for-cycling-companionship, a little too "Fred Garvin, Male Prostitute" for comfort. Most engaging: Landis' relentless love for the Tour, even after all it's done to him, and bonus points for conceding he woofed his initial booze-infused explanations for his positive test, and even huger points for keeping his mouth shut about Lance Armstrong, who was such a colossal public !@## to him when he betrayed his lordship and left for Phonak, beyond a gentle he's "not particularly a nice guy." Too bad his early mentor/later vengeful one-man-nest-o'wasps never learned such restraint when it came to lambasting Landis, til his testosterone poz gave Lance an excuse to go all media-whore in the US slagging the French again. Either way, arbitrators, I appreciate your clearly thorough review of the evidence (and I'm hoping for that scenario over a clearly thorough review of how to cover your !@#es over that disgusting debacle), get your goddamn act together and at least let the boy (and Pereiro, and the entire 06 Tour) out of limbo already!

Oh, the Humanity!: Meantime, the disgraced Alexander Vinokorouv has suddenly gone all Gandhi on everybody, blasting the "clear violation of human rights" that is unannounced drug testing--a righteous, and reassuring, call to arms to all his similarly-oppressed brethren (and sistren) in isolation in rat-infested torturefest prisons everywhere and thereby enduring similar atrocities to his own--which, if this egregious abuse of justice is corrected, will free overpaid pro cyclists the world over from the cruel inconvenience of telling exactly where they've gone between vacations in Monaco to procure some other guy's red blood cells. Power to the people, Vino--right on! And, in vaguely related news, Koldo Gil got a nice kick in the @#$$ from the sport's governing bodies, who clarified he's actually not off the hook from Op Puerto, and doesn't get to ride the Vuelta. I was about to say too bad 'cause we still love Iban Mayo could've used him, then realized, dammit! Speaking of notorious Spaniards, and the constantly self-congratulatory ultra-clean German contingent, rumors are also about that Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes worked with a German doctor for certain clients, which reminds me that hey, didn't a couple of T-Mobile doctors just get fired from their team and their universities, heck, now I'm just being mean wondering such preposterous things. Please guys, leave me *one* warm body worth watching at the Vuelta!

Romper Room: finally, in actual race news, we love Jens smokes Levi Leipheimer of all people in the individual tt over at the Tour of Germany and thus the entire show for an unprecedented two-fer, baby Ciolek--is this kid even old enough to drive yet?--takes his third stage off the more established sprint gods (the testing boys must be punching him full of enough holes to turn him into a colander by this point), fellow jailbait Tour wonder Maurizio Soler yet again proves Barloworld's wiliness for signing him on the cheap by taking the overall at Burgos, and the French finally get someone on the Tour de France podium--in the women's race of course--by way of Maryline Salvetat's very fine third to total Amazon Amber Neben's #1. Allez allez!

Friday, August 17, 2007

World O' Hurt

The (Cycling) Gloves Are Off: with the Worlds right around the corner, and the organizers saying straight out that neither rumored Fuentes client Alejandro "Valv" Valverde nor admitted 90s doper Erik Zabel are welcome, the mellow Valverde finally sounds irked, saying he's tired of proclaiming his innocence and he intends to be there competing the Worlds whether the proofless organizers give him the go-ahead or not. Hey, without any apparent interest from UCI whatsoever in actually reading the Fuentes file before everyone possibly implicated by it retires to irrelevance and DS cash-cow paychecks, why not take the high road? Meantime, Zabel I think is getting by on his mere aging icon status (coupled by the fact that I don't think anyone doubts he wasn't the only T-Mobile boy indulging back then, or possibly even now), which means that, even though I'm actually rooting for we love Paolo Bettini and Oscar Freire, it ought to be a lively run-down to the finish line. Vai Paolo!

Tour de Who Cares, It's Almost Time for the Vuelta!: Well, we do love the Tour of Germany, and the Germans predictably continue to smoke it, with precocious jailbait Ciolek from T-Mobile (which could use some good news) taking two sprints in a row and we love Jens continuing his grip on the leaders jersey with the worst of the mountains behind him. Hmmmm....the Italians snag most of their Giro, the Germans hammer at Deutschland, the Spaniards crush everyone else at the Vuelta...anyone else wondering what the hell's wrong with the French at *their* hometown race, a mortifyingly occasional stage win or two excepted?

Baseball is for Dopers: so as cycling implodes under the weight of every sobbing confession and shocking, shocking positive test, I see baseball head honcho Bud Selig just let admitted steroid-snarfer Jason Giambi off the hook for copping to a career's worth of doping, on the grounds that he admitted it, and he does very nice charity work too. No offense, but what a pack of wussies! Ivan Basso just got *2 years* for copping to trying and *failing* to dope (whether or not you think it should've been for not actually having the guts to say he succeeded at it), for heck's sake! And look at Jan Ullrich--he's been riding around doing charity work for the tots, and he wasn't even *busted*! Where's his ticker tape parade? Damn, Shameless St. Millar Defender--too bad your boy's not a baseball player--he probably would've gotten his humungous visage carved in stone for all eternity on Mount Rushmore right next to Abraham Lincoln!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


Gentlemen, Start Your Lawsuits: Dissed by the Giro, scorned by the Tour, and, in a final insult, barred by even our beloved Vuelta which I will forgive for almost anything, "ProTour" squad Unibet has finally called it quits on being the Official Punching Bag of a Totally Unrelated Schoolyard Grudge Match between the smug Grand Tour organizers and the self-destructive infighting prima donnas over at the ProTour. Can anyone tell me what in actual cycling was served by screwing a bunch of innocent riders signing on with a ProTour squad in total good faith with the reasonable presumption that they'd be participating in some of the most prestigious and thrilling races on earth? Given the eye-searing fashion sense of the rest of the peloton, let's leave aside the necessity of making the poor bastards ride around in question-mark jerseys that made 'em look like wardrobe rejects from a Riddler episode of Batman. What's more, even considering how badly they've been hosed all season, they've *still* managed to rack up a handsome team palmares this year, making certain, say, French squads seem like a pack of wobbling uncoordinated training-wheeled amateurs. Though I'm normally not shedding any tears for the teams, I must admit I am at an utter loss to understand why exactly fine cyclists like Baden Cooke deserve to be stomped into the dirt just because guys like Christian "Dick" Prudhomme have a bee up their !@##$ about the admittedly loathesome ProTour. You howling babies all ought to be ashamed of yourselves!

Trouble in Paradise: and, as the lesser Discovery riders grab for any job they can get, only Stijn Devolder seems to be courted from all sides, and even we love Levi Leipheimer seemingly remains up in the air, Prophet of Doom Dirk Demol helpfully points out that even jailbait maillot jaune/default Tour king Alberto Contador is jacked finding a new gig, what with the Spanish squads already saddled with Grand Tour leaders, his July triumph making him too damn expensive anyway, and the rest of the ProTour still twitchy over his possible link to Op Puerto despite receiving the full support, like Alejandro Valverde, of the Spanish cycling fed. Thanks for making it all seem worthwhile for the kid, jackass! And Andreas Kloden? Well, clean freaks/old pals T-Mobile of all people are apparently considering him, with, hilariously enough, Rolf "Wah, Wah, I Doped Here, Sure I'll Sign Another DS Contract Extension" Aldag complaining that, as a friend of both Matthias Kessler and--horrors!-- Jan Ullrich, he really ought to have better and more discreet taste in chums. From the ranks of *T-Mobile*--are you *kidding* me?! Who the hell was the boy supposed to hang out with? Surely I can't be the only one assuming these hypocritical goons doped up even their team dog the last ten years just to give Sparky a little extra joie de vivre on the team bus!

Countdown to the Vuelta: and, the sprinter's jersey is open yet again as Robbie McEwen bails out, but Cadel Evans, sport that he is, is going in. Oh, go home already everyone. It's still gonna be Sanchez Sastre and Zubeldia for the podium!

Monday, August 13, 2007

(Un)Natural Male Enhancement

The Italian Stallion: So it seems to me that Cristian Moreni's humble if perhaps rather preposterous apologia for his doping positive, blamed on a wholesome cream from random purveyors on the internet that he had no idea would be unfairly considered to boost testosterone production as it was all about the amino acids that every rider takes, and that no rider with a livelihood to protect would naturally question when accepting a supplement from some anonymous goon with a post office box and a total lack of quality control or scruples, and that anyway he obviously didn't dope systematically as he hasn't won 50 races in his career like some people, was entirely rendered ineffective by the far sexier news that the prosecutors also seized, among other items in his possession, an obscure plant revered not only for its performance-enhancing qualities, but also its "performance-enhancing" qualities, if you catch my drift. Oh Cristian. You were a hell of a domestique, a good hard worker, and I wish you only the best, so I just can't bring myself to say a word. But I am just *dyin'* here. Do I get any points towards a jersey for self-restraint?

Riders Up!: On the chopping block, as usual, as T-Mobile's repulsive management announces a plan to purge doping by the team by collectively raiding the riders' salaries. I call bull@#$% T-Mobile! As usual, this plan puts all the blame and responsibility on the cyclists *again*, without any similar penalties against the disgusting sponsor and DSes who literally profit from such practices, which is (1) completely ironic coming from a team with more positives than even, say, the late Phonak squad, and (2) screws the few riders who actually *aren't* doping or even just slathering their packages with "amino acid" creams off anonymous sleazeball vendors. I'll say it again: for every positive test on a team, the managers should have to forfeit their own leech salaries, either as a penalty for encouraging it, turning a blind eye to it, or failing to motivate the troops to truly avoid it. Why should, say, Linus Gerdemann, if he's clean, have to fund testing or anything else for Sinkewitz's weak tainted @#$? These guys are egomaniacs and some of the world's greatest athletes--jack these guys out of the palmares and record-book immortality they so badly want, and you're hurting 'em enough. And in two years, a DS can always come back--not so a rider. So take some responsibility for the teams and the boys you purport to control, and cough up your own damn dough!

We'll Always Have Paris: actually, I guess we won't, as Astana was kicked out of the Tour de France too, but now they've also been ejected from the Vuelta, not that, without Vinokorouv Kashechkin or Kloden (despite, to be fair, a very dandy supporting cast), there was much point to their showing up anyway. Who gets to attend? Why, Cofidis, Rabobank, T-Mobile, Saunier Duval...all the problem-free squads, of course. (Meantime, I am just so thankful we love little Sastre at CSC and lords of the climb Euskaltel's still in that they could actively jab a needle into every single rider rump at the start line and I'd still be at peace with it frankly.) Helpfully, though, UCI's noting that with Discovery gone there's a ProTour license up for grabs, even if Slipstream's not ready to take it up yet, in which case, I've got a radical suggestion: why not truly give it to poor betrayed boys over at Unibet, stop using them as a punching bag for problems they didn't cause, and let the team and the riders who accepted its promises get what they paid for?

In From the Kold(o): finally, in a genuinely nice bit of doping news for once, Koldo Gil's been officially cleared of any link to Operacion Puerto, leaving only 100 or so tainted riders meandering about the peloton--it's lovely for Gil though! In related news, ex-Phonak alleged drugmeister Santi Botero just won the Tour of Columbia after getting dissed last year by the ProTour peloton, reminding us all yet again, no matter how many positive tests Phonak racked up the last few years of its existence, the sponsors, managers, and crestfallen teammates were all completely justified in blaming the entire team's implosion solely on the renegade nefarious criminal Floyd Landis. And, in even more pleasant news, Damiano Cunego--I still forget how very young he is--snagged a fine stage over at the Tour of Germany after a valiant effort by we love (and somebody hire!) Levi Leipheimer, while we also love Jens Voigt takes a blow as an allergic, yacking baby Schleck unfortunately abandons. How you say "allez, Jens" in German?

Sunday, August 12, 2007

On The Road

Oh Right, This is Pro *Cycling*: not a pro doping tourney, and I'm astonished to learn that, despite the nonexistent US TV cycling coverage (or, what the hell am I paying you people for goddammit?), there's some smashing actual cycling going on over at a star-studded Tour of Germany as the Germans finally get their chance to come out and play, where despite Jan Ullrich's ostentatious and admittedly dispiriting absence (fine, I have no soul, he's a drug-scarfing tool, yap yap yap), we love Jens Voigt has taken a fine hold on the leader's jersey thanks to some careful planning and CSC's gorgeous time trial win over lame duck Discovery, and we still love ageless workhorse Erik Zabel nips the sprint over the very fine Brad McGee. Allez Erik, and of course Jens, particularly since the latter is apparently the reason that we love Bobby Julich agreed to stay on for one more year despite that vicious troll Bjarne Riis' heartless (and ultimately pointless) Tour de France diss!

Portuguese (On A) Roll: while we're on the topic of actual racers actually racing, major points and massive gratitude to cable TV Portuguese network ATP, for, unlike OLN/Vs. or, covering the Tour of Anything, and giving me something to watch this morning besides golf, which is entertaining only in the same sense that it's diverting to drive knitting needles into one's own eyeballs sans anaesthetic. Even more spectacular is that, despite the fact that I don't know a word of Portugese, their commentators are still clearly more articulate than allegedly-English-speaking nimrod Al Trautwig, as I managed to gather that the boy from Fuenteventura-Canarias was descending both rapidly and skillfully, Lampre had blown its tactical advantage, and the peloton was likely to reel the leader in, while all I can ever get out of The Trautwig is that Thor Hushovd is going to take it, even if it's actually a mountain stage we're watching that day. Woo-hoo ATP!

Freebird!: oh, our little flock from Lake Discovery is already flying away, with Stijn Devolder seemingly to Rabobank and Matt White to DS at Slipstream. Meantime, no word yet on baby podium king (*cough* Rasmussen was screwed! *cough*) Alberto Contador, though glum jobless almost-promoted-apparently Discovery DS Dirk Demol notes that the poor child sap is competing fruitlessly in an already glutted market, same as he. Thanks, Captain Optimism! Over at Astana--or rather, not--Andreas Kloden continues his downward spiral, bailing on the pointless cheerleading team training camp, discussing "alternative options" with team management, and huddling in private with his personal trainer getting ready for the Worlds. Hey, T-Mobile just decided to keep up its sponsorship despite a season's worth of disgusting revelations--surely they wouldn't mind taking you back now, would they?

The Italian Job: and, I see that the Italian prosecutors, seemingly frustrated at having successfully nailed enormously popular man-candy Ivan Basso for not doping but failing to nail Leonardo Piepoli and Alessandro Petacchi for doing it, have sworn to take the latter boy at least to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which ten years from now may or may not come down with a totally irrelevant decision ages after Petacchi has decamped to DS for an Italian squad, or, like Mario "the Chest" Cipollini" before him, merely unbuttoned his shirt for any available camera and offered a few charming comments between fan swarms. They did manage to get Cristian Moreni at least, though come to think of it, as he's already 34, it's largely pointless anyway, and it's not like when one confesses and refuses an entirely pointless B-sample that you deserve a hell of a lot of credit. Good luck trying to put the hammer down on Petacchi, guys! Speaking of Italians we love far more, Gilberto Simoni is apparently leaving Saunier Duval to his anointed successor Ricardo Ricco, and hitting the pavement for one more year over at Selle Italia, leaving open at least the possibility that our beloved loose cannon will not only take one last Giro stage win, but anyone who's ever irked him down with him in a bursting dam of pent-up gall. Vai Gibo!

Comin' Down the Mountain: and finally, congrats to Floyd Landis for coming in second in Leadville despite a craptastically ill-timed flat tire and the distinct disadvantage of being likely grossly preoccupied by such trivialities as, say, the loss of his '06 Tour de France and de facto end of his career. Welcome back Floyd, and couldn't you simps over at Vs. have managed half an hour of coverage without enraging the rawhide-whip-wielding rodeo crowd?

Friday, August 10, 2007

Look At Me, I'm Sandra Dee! And, Top Ten Things I'll Miss About Discovery (And Not)

What, Me Worry?: All right, so Contador bravely got up before all the world at his heralded press conference this morning and proclaimed...yep, "I've never doped." Gasp! Now, fine, I personally of course have no idea, and I even sincerely hope he didn't, for once in my sordid mind, but realistically, I call bull!@#$ Alberto! Here you are, a brilliant young rising star, handpicked out of hordes of desperate hopefuls to be trained and nurtured by Spain's premier king-maker, grantor of multiple Vueltas and endless race stages, the revered (if also reviled) Manolo Saiz. By all accounts--including those of your own jailbait Liberty Seguros teammates, under oath to Spanish prosecutors--Saiz walked around, at a minimum, slapping mystery skin patches on everyone like badges on Boy Scouts. Even assuming you didn't fall in to being a client of Fuentes'--and I'm guessing that since you offered up a DNA sample, you either genuinely weren't, or genuinely weren't reckless and stupid enough to leave a bag of blood in his fridge--it must have occurred even to innocent, trusting you, deep in the dark recesses of your ambitious nascent professional brain, that Saiz *probably* would've coughed up some explanation of what you were wearing if it was, indeed, merely an extra dose of a UCI-approved Spongebob Squarepants kiddie vitamin supplement. Whether you knew it--or wanted to--or not, it's highly likely that, at least during your tenure at Liberty Seguros and ONCE, you weren't just snarfing Red Bull. Again, I call bull@#$! Alberto!

Disco is Dead, Again: no sponsor, Johan? You couldn't even come up with some half-assed amoral company in Europe? Hell, even Festina's got more cycling ads plastering the peloton than T-Mobile's got positive test results! This is easily the lamest single thing I've heard this year, compounded by, as Shameless St. Millar Defender helpfully points out, the necessity of my rooting for that assclown Millar if I want to cheer for an American team at all, which really isn't so much the issue as the fact that I can't not root for we love Dave Zabriskie which I blame entirely on that wanker Bjarne Riis, but is irksome nonetheless. Luckily, I dislike smug holier-than-thou sobbing antidoping wah-ing nearly as much as I dislike reflexive rah-rah nationalism, so at least until Iban Mayo's B-sample comes up positive at the end of August, I'm rooting for Saunier Duval, and then perhaps, while still sending good vibes to we love Sastre Julich and Jens over at CSC, decamping entirely for matchless climbing gods Euskaltel Euskadi. Anyway, I quite boringly digress. What's more surprising about this whole hoo-ha is that, despite his icon status, enormous name recognition among the US public, astonishingly inspiring Lifetime-movie life story, and even more formidable ego, Lance Armstrong's been unable to pull even a half-assed deal off with the guys who make tinfoil bikes for Wal-Mart. This, this is our reward for watching you jack over every cyclist who betrayed you by ever dreaming of having his own career? Ugh! Anyway, as Slipstream steps up to clutch at Discovery's ProTour license (or Astana's, or...hell, with the way things are going, half of 'em'll be up for grabs next year), I humbly present:

Top Ten Things I'll Miss About Discovery:

1. US cycling getting some airplay, in the actual United States. Any. Ever. I presume we're back to square one, which means more bass-fishing marathons and bull-nut-twisting rodeo shows on OLN than the French have excuses for losing. Dammit!
2. Their team time trial. Fluid. Effortless. Perfect.
3. Johan Bruyneel's indisputable, if lately rather Machiavellian, genius. Say what you want about Lance's dull single-mindedness, but no DS has ever come close to achieving so precisely what he aimed for, and how, as Bruyneel.
4. Repeatedly pounding the crybabies over at L'Equipe, no matter how valid their accusations over individual, and systemic, doping at the team. Great lawyers you got there, Lance--an inspiration to us all!
5. The dearly departed: Hamilton, Heras, Landis. Flawed yet brilliant, they went above and beyond the humble drone Lance demanded, to their ultimate peril and self-destruction.
6. Big George Hincapie, more loyal than Lassie, the self-sacrificing Tammy Wynette of the peloton, and an incredible power in his own right. The thought of him looking like a giant bottle of shampoo next season in T-Mobile Barbie pink is simply excruciating.
7. Eki. Triki. Does any team have better nicknames? And no, I don't count "the Chicken."
8. The total certainty of a stage win or ten in the Tour de France. Sure, the Giro and the Vuelta are still far more entertaining, but hey, at least it gives the networks some reason to put up 10 minutes of cycling coverage!
9. Their really, really spiffy team kit. Cut me some slack here, I'm getting desperate for things to list...
10. I can't say Lance. I just can't. Even if he's the greatest Tour de France rider of all time, and finally gave Hincapie his stage win. And you can't make me, so go to hell!

Phew! Top Ten Things I Won't:
1. This place was a freakin' cult of personality during the Armstrong years--I half-expected the team to start yapping about aliens taking 'em up onto spaceships and dressing alike in bedsheets accosting strangers at airports. Squicks me out slightly to this day.
2. Monstrous yowling Americans painting their hairy thatched beer guts with the American flag and gallumphing half-naked in cowboy hats along the mountain passes cheering the team on. Christ, and we wonder why half the world hates us?
3. Johan, you were a complete and total @#$hole to wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am endless good sport Levi Leipheimer by seducing him into supposed team leadership then tossing him like a goo-filled hanky the second pretty little Basso fluttered his eyelashes then halfassedly welcoming him back when your comely little bankroll got busted. Like a teacher in summertime: No Class.
4. The whining selfish dope-slapping of any rider soulless enough to want his own recognition. *Must* you have been such snippy little high-schoolers when we love Roberto tanked at the Tour?
5. Last year. Damn, didn't they see Lance's retirement coming--where was your planning, people?
6. The total and unprecedented focus on the Tour to the exclusion of everything else, particularly with a stablefull of riders who would have been team leaders and repeat classics gods at any other team on the planet. Anyone else getting rather lonely for the days when riders actually had to try to peak throughout the season, and everyone wasn't squandered for the benefit of one giant ego?
7. The Next Lance Armstrong, heralded every time a Discovery jailbait took a stage win, who inevitably cracked under the pressure and tanked for seasons on end. Can we all get back to predicting the Next Indurain now?
8. Al Trautwig. Since he wouldn't've been enlisted at all if a petrified clueless OLN hadn't wanted to draw in the usual Monday Night Football crowd with an easy-to-cheer American icon (like Lance) and a voice they knew (like Al's) to tell the tale to the exclusion of actual talents, I blame this abomination entirely on Discovery.
9. The 7-year lack of competition. Sure, Discovery earned every Tour they got in smashing form, and I can't begrudge it a bit. But surely I couldn't be the only one actually entertained by having some guesses to make on the road to Paris again?
10. Crappy American sports-page cycling coverage. With no Great American Story to cheer, they'll be back commenting on something they do understand that I won't have to read, like deathly yawn-inducing golf tourneys or giant lumbering no-necks stomping each other into the Astroturf at the Super Bowl. It's back to quality race coverage, at last!

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Talk Dirty To Me

Meet the Press: so, the cycling world's all ahoo about Alberto Contador and Johan Bruyneel's no-questions press conference tomorrow, and speculation's running wild that the boy and his latest handler are smugly hyping a mere cash-happy endorsement deal or contract extension, joining forces to announce Disco's new sponsor, or, most enticingly and least likely, holding hands tightly as Alberto 'fesses up in disgusting detail to his dastardly dirty doping deeds under the malevolent guidance of Spanish mastermind Manolo Saiz while a powerless vulnerable newcomer over at ONCE and Liberty Seguros in a beautifully scripted weeping wah-wah to the world. Of course, having no morals, I'm rooting for the latter, but banking on the former. Oh, come on Alberto, cycling desperately needs a new cycling hero of your generation--of course we'll all pull a collective UCI ostrich head-in-the-sand and forgive and adore you anyway, what's the harm?

Even Dopier Than I Thought: of course, right as Astana gets word from the Kazakh prez that their future is secure and the boys--Paolo Savoldelli and Andreas Kloden included--get ready to be whisked off to a rah-rah training camp in Switzerland to keep 'em occupied and away from the possibility they'll start shopping for other teams, comes Vino's little helpmate Andrei Kashechkin with a homologous blood doping poz of his own in a surprise control at the start of August, made even more outrageous because he apparently had the gross lack of perspective to dope after the damn Tour and when he was at least a month away from active competition. Well there goes your own Vuelta, Kloden--without his help and everyone else still zonked and crushed from the Tour debacle, even if you were riding it, I think you're hosed. And just when Alejandro Valverde confirmed his bailout, too! Speaking of Vino, DS Marc Biver, who has had some questionable contacts in the netherworld of sporting supplements himself, has glumly expressed his shock and surprise at the latest news, noting that Vino was clearly heading down the path to hell anyway as he started wearing sunglasses, surrounding himself with a no-good leechlike entourage including the boy's ne'er-do-well Dad, and generally behaving like, well, a rock star. Um, don't cyclists actually do more drugs than rock stars?

Out, Damned Spot!: meantime, Jorg Jaksche apparently hit the jackpot when he accused Bjarne Riis of being well aware of doping on CSC during Jorg's tenure, as the team decides not to go forward with their blustering immediate lawsuit on the completely lame grounds that "the lawyers" obviously wrote the article he made the allegation in "just within the limits." Of what, accuracy? Nice work, Jorg (and your counsel lackeys)!

There Was No Joy in Leadville/Mighty Armstrong Has Bailed Out: but far better, Floyd Landis *will* be riding, and I must confess to mad jealousy of anyone who has the good luck and close proximity to see him back in action on a bike where he belongs. While we're at it, can the arbitrators please cough up a decision soon, so long as it excoriates the horrid incompetent lab monkeys and repugnant pitchfork-wielding leak-freaks at UCI and WADA and, if nothing better, at least lets him off the hook on technical grounds? On the other hand, if they're just going to fry you anyway out of sheer embarrassment at having to admit the depth of this farce, they can wait. Either way, Allez Floyd!

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

At the Dopa/Dopacabana

White Lines/Blow Awaaaay: So with UCI having anointed new golden boy Alberto Contador as the Next Cycling Legend--and even more conveniently, exonerated him of any involvement in Op Puerto by neither tagging him as the mysterious Liberty Seguros "A.C." in the Fuentes files nor asking him to pony up a DNA sample to match to the blood bags they might as well throw out at this point for all the interest they've shown in using 'em--WADA, perhaps made particularly suspicious by Contador's confession that he felt like crap while he was taking everyone else out in the mountains and final time trial, has taken on the noble responsibility of ferreting out dopers instead, enlisting confessed Liberty Seguros drug fiend Jorg Jaksche, who has already helpfully volunteered that they all went to see Fuentes separately so he doesn't actually know if Contador was his client too. Well, that's a smoking gun for you, Dick! Is it me, or would they have been better off pointing to his sheer youthful inability to protest the will of the likes of Manolo Saiz, who for no reason whatsoever sat down for a coffee with Dr. Fuentes with buckets o' blood and a briefcase full o' euros coincidentally in tow, and--even more important, from the perspective of a starstruck ambitious Spanish jailbait--nurturer of more stage winners, repeat Vuelta champs and general cycling gods per capita than almost any other team out there (then again that, combined with the plate in his head and all, might reasonably engender a certain amount of sympathy)? Still, with perpetual Jan Ullrich lawsuit target Dr. Werner Franke turning his sights and his purloined Op Puerto docs on the poor boy, WADA's at least got some help on their slash-and-burn campaign, though as Discovery was quick to point out, Franke is just a paid whore for guys like Danilo Hondo anyway. And hey, if you can't trust the same judgment and integrity of the team that brought you Ivan "Birillo Is Not My Dog" Basso hot off the ProTour's otherwise universal diss, who can you trust?

Team Holy Crap Where Did These Guys Get the Cash to Pay These Boys?: yep, Slipstream scores again, with the mystery Paris-Roubaix sign of we love big Maggy Backstedt, drawn in by their integrity and commitment to clean sport (or at least commitment to sobbing camera-ho dramatics for the eager press corps), the leadership of ex-teammate Jonathan Vaughters, and their shot at some handy wildcards in 2008 and a ProTour license for 2009. Hey, who am I to point out that Liquigas has one already? I gotta give Vaughters credit--with Zabriskie and Millar for the TTs, VandeVelde as a reliable classics man and all-round superdomestique for the mountains, overall if slightly long in the tooth powerhouse Maggy for everything, and Dean for the sprints, he's building one hell of a well-rounded team. Oh CSC. How could you ever put me in a position to have to root for a team with that tiresome baby St. David Millar on it?!

Can You Hear Me Now?: Finally, I note that T-Mobile's sponsorship fate is to be decided tomorrow, because while the entire team snorted lines like 1980s Wall Street big shots for decades on end, half their management's confessed to chomping this crap like candy, and everyone else on their roster past and present is either admittedly or suspected of being dirty, it's really Patrik Sinkewitz's one-shot adventures in testosterone gel that bothers them. Seems reasonable to me boys!

Monday, August 06, 2007

Chicken Fingers

Are a' Pointing: With UCI and ASO desperate for a reason to justify taking Michael Rasmussen's Tour away, particularly with likely more than a few Op Puerto riders riding thanks to UCI's peculiar ennui and actual positive tests breeding like rabbits, and everyone else piling on Rasmussen to draw attention off their own tainted cyclist corps, CSC accidentally comes to the rescue, with the then-DSes proclaiming that Rasmussen's freakish and suspicious blood profiles, and not merely the usual battle of egos and budgets, were the reason the dirty renegade scuzzbucket left the team in 2002, presumably because guys like Bjarne Riis really, really oppose doping, at least when it can make them look both noble and prescient with regard to other riders long after their own drug-stoked careers have come to an end. So there--he may not have tested pumped at the Tour, but we can sure punish him for the rumors! Um, by that lame standard, wouldn't pretty much *every* recent contender for (and, say, golden-boy 7-year lock on) the podium be stripped of the maillot jaune before the sprinters crossed the line in Paris? Thankfully, the raging-mob hysteria against the Chicken appears to have subsided somewhat, as he managed to race in Denmark this weekend without a wooden stake being hammered through his heart and even, apparently, a few gestures of goodwill from a crowd that days ago was building his gasoline-stoked funeral pyre. Feeling a little sheepish now that the final boy in yellow in Paris is, as a Manolo Saiz protege, entirely possibly no cleaner than the Dane who isn't?

Thor-n Away: Crap! Yes, poor Thor Hushovd, a rider we love but who really relies on his boys to guide his way to the line, needs a new lead-out man, as sprint machine Julian Dean becomes the latest high-profile rider to unaccountably defect to US Pro Continental squad Team Slipstream in anticipation of a Tour wildcard and possible ProTour status down the road. Crap! Speaking of which, is anyone else as devastated as I that Dave Zabriskie and Christian Vandevelde have hit the pavement from CSC to join new Brit road champ/sobbing sensitive antidoping crusader St. David Millar? (Extra congrats, and perhaps even less verbal abuse, to Millar if he lets Jonathan Vaughters bawl for the cameras over the next random rider's EPO positive test from now on.) Fine, Cancellara's wiped the floor with everyone all season--but whatever else is going on with Zabriskie lately, he's still the most fluid tt rider out there for my money, and he bails from CSC for a not-yet-there US squad we'll be lucky to see in half the 2008 races for God's sake? That's a full year in the tank in the prime of his career! Aiiiigggghhh--you *suck* Bjarne, who are you going to screw over next?!

The People's Court: as Gilberto Simoni superdomestique Leonardo "Hey, How Come Petacchi Can Scarf Enough Salbutamol To Kill An Ox And I Can't?" Piepoli faces off with the Italian prosecutors this week, gazzetta's dello sport's reporting that Danilo Di Luca's doping decision is due as early as this morning. Good luck boys, whether you deserve it or not!

Right (Well, Old) Guard: Okay, it was a far more entertaining Tour than I'd ever imagined. But as Cadel Evans politely supports Contador for the cameras, riders we *know* can still kick both their @#$es languish in either the doldrums of their bans or retirement, guys compliment each other like ladies-who-lunch on their latest handbags and even we love reliable attack dog Gilberto Simoni is too busy playing on his mountain bike to talk smack about his latest targets, is anyone else thinking the peloton's become just a little too, well, genteel of late? Someone with some guts already, come back!

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Drivin' That Train/High on Cocaine

Casey Jones You Better Watch Your Speed: my, it's hard to break the fine supplement habits learned in the pampered confines of the team bus, isn't it? The latest casualty: lately suspended superstar Aitor Gonzalez, busted for driving drunk and on coke. I'm sure if he explains he meant to simply *ride* under the influence of a little Pot Belge, and does an endless sobbing wah-wah Oprah confessional for the cameras, the authorities would wholly understand and he'll get off fairly easily, or at least score a beyond-sweet deal for next season with his doping ban done and all...right Millar? Although, I suppose he won't be getting his new gig with Team Slipstream...

He Blinded Me With Science: so I see Rasmussen's wily e-mail hacker, hell bent on evidence (besides the dull eyewitness accounts of some ex-rider hack and a Gerolsteiner boy) of the wily Chicken's whereabouts during his fateful trip to "Mexico" (Mexico, Italy--what Dane could tell the difference after all?), has himself landed in the hoosegow, with the contents of his prizes left, thanks to an honorable cop-tipping newspaper, unrevealed. Fine, the Rasmussen story is an interesting one, if only because I'm *still* mystified why UCI cares so much more about pre-Tour training cheating than actual Tour-time dopefests. But in light of the open warfare between the self-interested blame-swapping babies over at UCI WADA and ASO, and recent allegations of nudge-nudge-wink-wink allowed evasions of doping controls for select favorites, anyone else thinking that *that's* an electronic dialogue it'd be fun to read? No, I am absolutely *not* advocating hacking, however the hell that's done by people who absolutely need to crawl out of their parents' basements and up into the sun, for God's sake I'm totally unequivocally against it--I'm just sayin'!

Well I Love That Dirty Water: So Tommy Danielson, lately reviled for failing to live up to everyone else's hype about The Next Lance Armstrong, turns out to have done so for no reason whatsoever of his own: he's been felled for the last three years because he contracted the gross animal-waste-borne bug giardia courtesy the fine drinking water supply at the Tour of Langkawi in 2004. Ew! Fortunately, it's easily enough cured once detected, and the boy promises he's already well on the mend. Anyway, to take a Vuelta stage on that unappealing ailment is particularly impressive in retrospect--so naysayers, back off, and get well soon Tommy!

Get Your Motor Runnin'/Head Out on the Highway: so Ivan Basso, who has to his credit been training quite religiously and even voluntarily submitting to unannounced doping checks while enormous cash-cow Continental team and product-endorsement offers roll in in happy anticipication of the end of his ban while still in his prime Tour-fighting years, is *not* riding a race in Italy but is formally "training" out on the parcours ahead of an actual race this weekend to the sure delight of screaming, swooning multitudes (and why not indeed, he's genuinely great to watch, and also just so, so pretty), while the universally loathed German press target Jan Ullrich takes, instead, to a humbler charity ride for the tots. Meantime, Alessandro "Gasp! Wheeze!" Petacchi is completely back in action and on the payroll pending the CONI appeal of his doping acquittal. Fair or no, am I the only one just flat-out glum at this state of affairs?

Video Killed the Radio Star: not that it had a chance to, with no American TV outlet or even reasonably accessible web one carrying today's Clasica a San Sebastian, with a massive turnout of stars and the opportunity for other people overseas to check out the main Vuelta contenders' incipient form. Sastre, Valverde, Zubeldia, Sanchez--even ruthlessly-screwed-out-of-the-Tour Bobby Julich tossed in for good measure--how the hell is this sport supposed to grow here if you consistently ignore everything but the Tour de France?! You suck, spineless Lanceless US TV!

I Ain't Missing You At All (Since You've Been Gone Away): finally, massive good sportsmanship points (and wisely, earned without any concurrent obligation) to Tour de France substitute yellow jersey Alberto Contador, who graciously, and perhaps feeling the pressure of the Werner Franke Op Puerto document turnover to the WADA gadflies, proclaimed he felt Rasmussen was treated extremely unfairly and he has no desire to have taken the maillot jaune and, one presumes, the podium babes, champagne bath, parties, rabid national adulation, and grossly higher instant market value, this way. Not that he's giving it back. Still, who would? If nothing else, it's sort of a second-hand retro justice for poor fellow Spaniard Oscar Pereiro, at least if you believe even poorer (probably literally, at this point) Floyd Landis wasn't the unfortunate sap victim of a UCI/LNDD lab monkey conspiracy or at least painfully clear disastrous screwup. I'm sure the Chicken appreciates the kind gesture though, Alberto!

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Dopin' In the Boys' Room

'Cuz Everybody Knows that Dopin' Ain't Allowed in School: yep, Astana's not only fired its disgraced patron Vinokorouv--disgraced in the sense that he's still a national hero and the Kazakh president and minister of sport are running about proclaiming his innocence like Nixon apologists til the second the helicopter took off--it's suspended ops entirely til the end of August, presumably meaning the boys won't be back to fight over who gets to try to take Vino's Vuelta and leaving poor Andreas Kloden and Kashechkin to twiddle their thumbs and watch soap operas all day long the rest of the season. Fine, Vino's an alleged dirtbag (defense: I'm not that stupid; I sure hope so!) and Kessler's little fall off the wagon didn't help, but am I the only one irked at such team spinelessness? Hell, even without half your powerhouses, you've still got better riders left than most of the French teams, and T-Mobile's got more confessed dope fiends than most small countries, and they're only really talking about bailing out this year! Two dinkmaster cheating scandals and these crybabies are on the floor arms flailing in a full-on toddler tantrum? Grow up you whiners!

Debate Club: while we're at it, whatever you think of Vino's situation, I must give points to Floyd Landis, taking on the universal disgust and guilt-assumption of the cycling world to defend the boy on due-process grounds, which are, to all appearances, by far the strongest and most legitimate grounds Vino has (that, and the same lab monkeys that couldn't keep the labels straight on Floyd's samples were the same idiots UCI is now trumpeting as experts in homologous blood doping.) Oh Floyd. Your lawyers or at least initial advisors may have screwed up from beginning to end--but look what a fine little litigator you've become--right on Landis!

Mayo I Please Be Excused?: So much as Vino's assuring his country that his tarmac skid and resulting healing process wholly accounts for the presence of another person's blood in his body, we-still-love-so-shut-up-I-don't-care-if-I'm-a-hypocrite-Iban Mayo's swearing to his team he "has no idea" why the positive EPO test occurred. Meantime, Pat "Dick" McQuaid helpfully weighed in, triumphantly proclaiming that Iban was considered one of the "suspicious riders" and was "deliberately targeted" by UCI during the Tour. Um, not to keep on beating a dead horse here, Pat "Dick", but didn't you also find the 107 riders in the Op Puerto file you had for a whole month before the Tour start line whose names you conveniently refused to read and deduce when you needed the bodies--particularly some of the high-caliber bodies rumored to be implicated--"suspicious" as well? Of course not, what am I thinking?--nice work there, Sherlock Holmes!

Caddyshack!: finally, in noncycling news, the Italian golf world is reeling from the positive test of Alessandro Pissilli for a banned diuretic/antibaldness drug also coincidentally useful as a doping masking agent. Perhaps it was the sudden American-Werewolf-in-London facial thatch that tipped them off... Anyhoo, okay, Moreni or Basso taking a little something to drag their @#$es over the Alps, one could understand. But to play GOLF?! Let's compare what golfers do (drink gin-and-tonics, hand their heavy golf clubs to their caddies, hit a ball, then meander, unencumbered, slowly over to wherever it fell to make their caddy do all the work all over again) to what cyclists do (climb gigantic mountains in miserable crappy sleetstorms, descend slippery roads at deadly speeds, then do it all over again 6 times that day.) Come on Pissilli--'fess up. Don't you feel like sort of a, well, complete wuss in comparison? Don't even get me started on what they're snarfing at Bingo these days down at the ol' Rotary Club....