Wednesday, September 12, 2007

French Whine

Wah, Wah, Wah: so the team directors of French squads AG2R and F. de Jeux, predictably, are blaming everyone but themselves for the French losing the Tour *again*, as they lam into Discovery and its clearly skankball tainted riders' superior performance, with AG2R's Vincent Lavenu in particular declaring Alberto Contador's win "suspicious". A protege of Manolo Saiz', doping? No way! Anyhoo, Johan Bruyneel promptly called for peace, sort of, in an olive-branch letter to the ProTour teams' organization, asking everyone to be scientific and simply calculate what is physiologically possible, and, more to the point, comparing Alberto's climbs in the Tour favorably to Christophe Moreau's implausibly blistering pace up the Col du Telegraphe in the Dauphine, especially since Moreau, unlike Contador, is a monstrous old bat of 36 and not even a climbing specialist to boot, so if you want to take it outside, you smack-talking twerp, bring it on! Not that the boys are necessarily wrong to raise suspicions, but really, is anything served by it this late in the game but making the French look like a pack of sore-loser crybabies for the umpteenth straight year in a row?

Big Blue Marble: and, in Worlds news, UCI's Pat "Dick" McQuaid blusters on Gazzetta dello Sport (if my craptastic translation skills aren't totally off-base) that it's "baffling" the way the Spaniards are protecting the clearly dirty Alejandro Valverde. Really? For my money, it makes perfect sense, as first, the boy's a coddled national hero simply awaiting his inevitable crowning as champion of the Tour de France in their view and no-one wants to see him fry, second, unless Valverde was physically harmed by the doping he didn't commit any actual wrong under Spanish law at the time if I understand correctly so there's nothing the Spaniards can do about it, and third, why the hell did UCI let him ride the Tour in the first place if he's such a dirty pig given that they are going on the exact same evidence to exclude him from the Worlds now that was already out a year ago? But what *is* "baffling" is the way the righteous master sleuths over at UCI are utterly unable to pull any other out of a hundred names in the 6000-page Op Puerto file besides Valverde's, and instead selectively seem to target certain disfavored riders at completely random points in time (cough! Rasmussen! cough!) with all the rationality and care of some wingnut celebrity stalker. But you keep talkin' there, Pat!

Baby, It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over: whew! after a largely crappy beginning- and mid-season, then his ignominious whack out of the Tour, then his endless early-Vuelta hammering at the hands of Oscar Friere Paolo Bettini and Daniele Bennati, Alessandro Petacchi finally earns the break his Therapeutic Use Exemption is supposed to give him by storming back to form and taking the sprint yesterday in the Vuelta. Am I the only one thinking how odd it is to root for this guy as an underdog? Anyway, nice lead-out Erik, so long as you got your stage I'm happy!

Lifestyles of the Rich and the Famous: and, with Belgian pinup studmuffin Tom Boonen's sprint-earned goods, including his yellow Lamborghini, sexily laid out in the current issue of Velonews, I note that Lamborghini has just unveiled a spankin' new $1.4 million version that some of the boys in the most recent sweet-16 list of top peloton cash cows might want to consider buying to increase, if it's even possible, their rock-star appeal, though, as Phil Liggett gently pointed out during the Giro I believe, at least a few of those boys in the wake of Op Puerto and now later scandals are rather more in a position to need to sell theirs unfortunately. See what signing off on that stupid UCI returning-a-year's-salary pledge is going to cost you, gentlemen?

So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehn, Goodbye: finally, a fond farewell to the very fine Axel Merckx, who if he weren't his father's son would've gotten more credit in his own right for his fine palmares I believe, and especially smashing Classics warrior Peter Van Petegem. Aw, rats! On the plus side, though he's not retiring, big George Hincapie is in fact sending off his career with Discovery in handsome form, taking the stage and an all-but-insurmountable lead at the Toura Missoura over 'most everyone but 10 or so other boys in the peloton, with David Canada thankfully salvaging some dignity for Saunier Duval and the domestic squads, despite some unpleasant setbacks, nicely showing the Europeans that, contrary to endless cross-Atlantic contempt, US teams besides Discovery don't suck. Allez allez!

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