Monday, September 10, 2007

Denis the Menis

Menchov the Charts: oh, *ass*! after his smashing time trial, then second-place mountain smack at the GC contenders, and now today's definitive giant leap for the podium, I still don't believe Denis Menchov deserves Roberto Heras' '05 Vuelta (and in my defense, oh ye naysayers, I note that as a purported all-rounder he certainly justified that view by his ignominious season-long tank last year as well as his deserved domestiquehood in the Tour this year in the service of a team leader with an exponentially crappier time trial than his own), but even I have to concede, as I finally was obliged to do with St. David "Crybaby" Millar in other races, that the boy's really earning his keep, and his place in the Vuelta, this time out. I truly thought that, if Sammy Sanchez was gonna pile on the hurt, today was the day he needed Haimar Zubeldia to do it. Rats! Meantime, I'm not the only one getting my grudge on, as dear uber-gentle Carlos Sastre lets his claws out for the first time I've ever seen, complaining that Leonardo Piepoli was clearly conspiring to help Menchov--who, after all, is of another team entirely--and that he proved it today by faking trouble, in response to which Piepoli cheerfully decided to blow up the field to no-one's benefit from Saunier Duval but distinctly to Menchov's. While Menchov and Piepoli's teammates immediately denied such nefarious hijinks, we love Triki Beltran weighed in as well in Sastre's favor, being particularly unhappy, no doubt, because Piepoli's wanton treachery destroyed his own chances for a stage win. Man, Leonardo, between snorting enough asthma meds to power a herd of antelope and now ticking off some of the nicest (at least publicly) boys in the peloton, haven't you drawn enough hostility from the cycling world this season?

Ciao Italia: and, it was nice to see Damiano Cunego in the early break today, giving him hope in the tight race for the Italian Worlds team, currently suffering from a surfeit of indispensable talent and the possibility that some true stars mightn't make the cut in favor of boys who'd more willingly sacrifice their own chances for one of their customary rivals. As for the Spaniards, with Valverde spinning in and out of the roster rapidly enough to induce serious yacking motion sickness, and Pereiro conceding abysmal legs despite just-recently-fine pre-Vuelta form, and Contador opting out, I can't help but wonder, will we love Oscar Freire be able to take it anyway? Nothing against Valverde, who after all could use some redemption after his iffy Tour and idiotic distraction by the rabid foaming UCI dogs, but venga Oscar!

Completely Idle Gossip: So with Eki set to DS at Astana--and I imagine highly likely to bring at least one formidable Disco boy with him (especially if puppetmaster Johan Bruyneel signs on as manager)--the question arises, what of lately-hosed perpetual Tour podium Andreas Kloden? Will Disco, I mean Astana, take on someone associated with Lance's respected if deeply tainted rival Jan Ullrich? What about Kloden's ties to T "Name That Doper" Mobile, or worse, his filthy connection to his current team, that Eki and Johan must desperately want--or be under pressure--to clean up? And if Kloden does stay on, and baby Tour winner Contador is with him, does that whack Kloden out of his favorite Grand Tour a la Levi and relegate him to the Vuelta? And if so, who gets the Giro--Levi?--and what kind of support will either of them get with the inevitable focus on the Tour? Without Lance and his Discovery legacy, will Astana spread its resources more evenly, like a conventional ProTour team determined to let all its talent have its day, or will it stick with the fading all-or-nothing-me-or-no-one philosophy of the Armstrong years? I'm rather hoping for the former, just because there's races I like more than the Tour (and I particularly hate the Vuelta being treated like squat). Any guesses?

Disco Ducks: finally, I see it's a star-studded goodbye in front of those least likely to know or care about the legacy they're watching flush down the loo, as Discovery packs the bulk of its firepower into the Toura Missoura, with Levi, Hincapie, and Contador all set to take on the mostly-US field including Danny Pate and Ryder Hesjedal, with the exception of the top Mexican and Canadian squads and some lively competition from David Canada over at Saunier Duval. Oh, take it George, you deserve at least that much for all your years of sacrifice!

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