Thursday, September 06, 2007

Ekan't Believe It!

Team Implosion Contract Watch: just as the coy Johan Bruyneel finally confirms talks with the Kazakh cycling federation about taking over Astana, and the team ditches apparent trouble by firing Spanish youngster Jose Antonio Redondo for mystery rule-breaking that "has nothing to do with doping," according to a team spokeswoman (what? the sneaky little bastard wore a black jersey during a training ride and you're afraid of UCI going nuts over it? gack it up already!), Gazzetta Dello Sport is reporting that loyal Discovery workhorse Viatcheslav Ekimov has signed on as its spankin' new Directeur Sportif. Meantime, Predictor-Lotto just made a smashing deal with Yaroslav Popovych, making slow'n'steady climber Cadel look like even more of a Tour king next year given Popo's success at blasting apart the peloton for Levi and Alberto (in addition to the preexisting ass-kicking power of Chris Horner). So with Eki cleaning house at Astana, and with Contador and Leipheimer near about the only high-profile Discovery boys (except for the still-jobless Chechu Rubiera) still without a contract, could it be possible we'll be seeing both of them in baby-blue and yellow next spring? Don't do it Levi--Slipstream can't screw you over in favor of another GC contender they don't have!

UCI Smell Desperation: firmly told to blow by the Spanish cycling fed over their ridiculous efforts to exclude Alejandro Valverde from the Worlds after okaying him for the Tour on the same unsubstantiated (if quite possibly accurate) Op Puerto allegations from a year ago, UCI has now hit on another way to get Valverde and, not coincidentally I imagine, fruitlessly try to salvage their dignity, this time by accusing him of skipping an out-of-competition pre-Tour doping control (something they would've known at the time, and should've excluded him for then if they're not being total whining babies, but who am I to point out the obvious?). Now, even that appears to have utterly tanked, as the cycling fed sez UCI has acknowledged they knew where Valverde was that day because he told them. Nice work there Inspectors Clouseau! The Spaniards do, naturally, still reserve their right to sue the !@# off UCI if they continue to try to block Valverde from his rightful place at the start line in Stuttgart, though it's clear they're all friends now. Am I the only one thinking that if UCI can't nail Valverde, Iban Mayo's pointlessly-delayed and inevitably-positive B sample results will be triumphantly released in extremely short order? Speaking of which, Floyd Landis somehow manages to keep himself gainfully occupied, racing along and being a good sport to all apparently as his arbitration panel still holds off crucifying him til they're sure, it seems, that the nails'll really hold. If it weren't for the fact that the poor boy's legacy and career are on the line, and that so many organizations (you know who you are) have behaved so disgustingly in this whole tawdry affair, one couldn't really fault them for desperately trying to wring some credibility out of the whole filth-laden, sopping mess, could one?

Openly Hypocritical Roberto Heras Contract Watch: aw, *rats*! Fuerteventuras/Canarias now denies talking to we still love Roberto Heras (oh, forget his freakish '05 improvement in the time trial--admit it, don't you miss seeing him climb?), both on grounds of cash-poverty and their own uncertainty as to continued sponsorship next year. Well, there's always Tinkoff I suppose--no wait, they were horrified by Tyler Hamilton and Danilo Hondo's past doping once they'd whored themselves for the publicity stunt of signing 'em--or T-Mobile--no, they're far too aggressive against their past-guilty riders-now-directeurs-sportif--or....

Freire'n to Go: yes, our beloved boy Oscar Freire, of late years spending at least half his season wrangling with some unappealing saddlesore or undiagnosably odd spinal problems, fabulously snagged sprint #2 at the Vuelta over Liquigas-bound pipsqueak Daniele Bennati and we also love Paolo Bettini. Now, forget even Freire's thrilling win #3 today--what I want to know is, what the hell's going on with Alessandro Petacchi? He was 121st yesterday for heck's sake--116 places behind even his creaky ol' backup Erik Zabel! So let's see: Petacchi (even assuming it was just post-Covadonga leaden-leg blues)'s looking, well, less strong than usual; Tom Boonen ain't on top form either, plus he hates the Worlds course; both Bettini and Freire are stronger on rolling courses than either of 'em; and Bennati's simply surging this season, just as Petacchi did over Mario Cipollini just a few short years ago. Who to root for, who to root for...Oscar in rainbow stripes again, anyone?

Karma, Baby!: Finally, I see poor Robbie "Predictor Stole My Vuelta" McEwen's been felled by a nasty virus right at the start of his alternative late-season race program, and while I wish him a speedy recovery, I can't help but wonder if he's thinking somewhere deep down, this is what you get for jacking me out of wins in all three Grand Tours this season, you !@#$%%$#!

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