Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Danish Mafia Strikes Again

Swimming with the Fishes: I see Jorg Jaksche, lately quite the squawker about peloton doping (which one would assume to be a *good* thing)--most recently claiming that each and everyone of his squads but Tinkoff systematically made him and everyone else on the roster gack down untoward quantities of unidentified chemicals, despite endless team apologist Pat "Dick" McQuaid's assurances that such a thing could never occur--has now accused Bjarne "Cement Shoes" Riis of threatening to make it so he "could never come back to cycling" if he didn't shut the hell up about anyone else but himself. Bjarne, meantime, has accused Jorg of "twisting the truth", claiming that they merely had a pleasant chat about how sadly difficult it is for the noble truthtellers to be embraced again by irrationally skittish colleages, and what's more, the boy might not want to name names if he knows what's good for him, not that it's not really admirable and all. Um, anyone else not see much of a difference in accounts here, when push comes to shove? In other antidoping news, Dr. Werner Franke has flat-out blasted recent renegade T-Mobile poz Patrik Sinkewitz for denying there was organized doping at the team this season too, when everyone just knows there was. Damn, Franke, I certainly loathe T-Mobile for its astonishing hypocrisy, but you already took out Jan Ullrich--can't you find any bigger fish to fry nowadays than little Sinkewitz?

Indurain Drops Keep Falling on My Head: and, cycling deity (yes, he's better than Lance, 'cause he freakin' trained for other races besides the Tour for heck's sake) has finally weighed in on the good fight, not only specifically denying he ever doped personally, but writing off the current wave of positives as overeager hypefest scandalhound press-whored yellow journalists crushing the souls of innocent cyclists to the exclusion of even dirtier athletes elsewhere. So does his doping denial--"It's something normal, you win, you pass controls, and there's no problem"--leave something to the imagination, or at least raise the familiar "only the dumb ones get caught" refrain, perhaps? If it does, I sure as hell ain't sayin' it!

Le Tour, Still More: here's hoping ex-Liberty Seguros wonderboy Alberto Contador isn't quite so glass-fragile as "Next Lance Armstrong" we love Iban Mayo (still waiting for even the indomitable nits at Chateneau-Malabry to dredge up a half-assedly credible B-sample, UCI, are we?), as both Caisse d'Epargne and Oscar "Man, Was It A Cheap Shot To Hand Over the Maillot Jaune Before Landis' Appeal is Done" Pereiro opine he's the clear favorite for next year's Tour, particularly given the truncated time trials and at least 4 reasonable mountaintop finishes. And Michael Rasmussen, embraced at the start line by UCI despite their later faux horror at his missed pre-race doping controls, is expressly unwelcome at the Tour next year, and if *I'd* ripped the maillot jaune out of its rightful hands midway through the race for no valid reason, I'd freakin' want a little airspace between me and the object of my grotesque thievery, too. Allez Chicken--even if you did mistake Italy for Mexico for the pre-Tour runup, those wanks at UCI obviously wanted you in the Tour anyway even after they knew after you didn't meet up with their vampires--why the hell should *you* pay for ASO catching them with their hands in the cookie jar?

An Unexpected Discovery: so Johan Bruyneel's presumed-crap "inability" to find a new sponsor for Team Discovery's now apparently acknowledged-crap, as Bruyneel admits he just needed a fresh start, apparently obtained by unemploying a giant number of innocent staffers only to take a golden welcoming handshake with Astana's backers and rebuild his own little slice of Tour de France-prep heaven without any embarrassing reminders of his ignominious ability to shepherd his squad through the immediate post-Lance tank of 2006. More entertaining: his concession that maybe it "was probably a mistake" to sign Ivan Basso. Leaving aside that you relentlessly screwed Levi Leipheimer by doing so, yes Johan, it must have been so shocking to find in September after Basso had been kicked out of the Tour, disowned his own dog, and been barred from hire by all the other slobbering Pro Tour teams that the boy was implicated in some petty scandal!

Grossly Hypocritical Roberto Heras Contract Watch: Fuenteventura-Canarias' finances are in the tank, so that's clearly out the window. Dammit!

Walking the Plank: and, over at Gazzetta dello Sport, there's an interesting review of the latest paranoid conspiracy theory French journalist's book on the late Marco "Il Pirata" Pantani, with his poor mom begging for the inquest to be reopened despite Pantani's clearly tragic overdose from cocaine, not only because the time of his death remains incorrectly reported for some odd reason, but also on the grounds raised in the book that, according to his hotel room records, someone had repeatedly used the telephone to call the registration desk to request help for Marco to no avail and that Chinese food, which Pantani never ate in his life, was in the room, so someone else, perhaps his drug dealer, was clearly there with him and later eluded--or was given a free pass on, by someone--investigation. Folks, I'm the last one in a position to make a credible plea for mercy on any rider, but can we all just agree to be discreet enough about this to be kind to his heartbroken Mom--though not so discreet that we have to end up watching yet another rider senselessly fall prey to this sport's demons?

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Shock and Awe

Sink, Sink a Song: yes, Patrik Sinkewitz has become the latest rider to squawk in hopes of receiving a minimalist 1-year doping ban for his freakishly elevated testosterone, trilling to the German cycling fed that there was in fact organized blood doping at T-Mobile even after Ullrich was kicked off the team and indeed during the '06 Tour de France itself, complete with skilled medical intervention throughout the course, though, wisely--at least if he's looking for a new contract when his year in the doghouse is up--denying outright that any such thing happened in the new, improved 2007 squad, and what's more, declining politely to name names on the dubious grounds that he has no idea who else on the team was systematically six inches ahead of him in line at the doctors' hotel room. T-Mobile's spirited defense? Why, such accusations are an "impertinence!" Um, it's nice to convict Sinkewitz of being ungentlemanly and all--'cause if we aren't going to bother to bust most of the riders for actual doping, we might as well go all Etiquette Police on their !@#$#$ and nail 'em for crimes against politesse--but aren't you boys going to, well, address the minor matter of the systematic doping allegations against your team? Oh my yes, after recovering from their fainting spell with help from some smelling salts and a bit of brandy, T-Mobile *did* finally manage to recall the actual point, noting it is *certain* that sort of hijinks wasn't going on at all with the riders this year. Hell, I can buy that--after all, didn't you guys promote your doping riders off the bike to management roles instead?

Tour-qued: and, the reactions to the 2008 Tour unveiling are in, with Carlos Sastre understandably happy to see the time trials eviscerated, baby revelation Maurizio Soler already planning to take the Alpe d'Huez, and even the mellow Cadel Evans, apparently annoyed at Contador smoking him in the mountain stages, openly thrilled to see the time bonuses tossed. Oh, come on, I can see that for a sprint or a rolling stage (though surely the little dances for intermediate sprint points give half-interested newbies something to look at when they start getting antsy halfway into their first full day's race coverage)--but ought not there be *some* reward for someone who's got the guts, stamina, and--no, I won't say it!--to actively attack in the mountains? Speaking of which, disgraced superclimber Andrei Kashechkin, apparently lacking an actual defense, continues his crusade against the egregious "human rights violations" that are unannounced doping controls, hopefully putting him up for next year's Nobel peace prize along with similarly selfless warriors for dignity and justice. Fight the power, Andrei! Damn, Vino, is there *anyone* in the peloton you haven't managed to bring down with you?

Ale Is the Centerfold: finally, for those of you who just aren't satisfied watching Alessandro Petacchi surging across the line in snug-fitting team kit all season, I see Gazzetta dello Sport's got an ad for his new come-hither sponsor calendar, set to debut in mid-November and replete, it would seem, with the sort of torrid romance-novel-cover photographs that would put poor lumpen Fabio to shame. For those of you who've asked me to remember to put in links to stuff, go to www.gazzetta.it/ciclismo, scroll down on the left, and stop and click when you come to our silk-berobed hero welded to the starlet in the lingerie (I forgot to mention, if there's a photo from the Giro up instead, click on "fotogallery"), and if the language of man-candy and cleavage really isn't universal enough, just let me know. Never let it be said that I don't care about both my faithful readers-and-commenters!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Highway to Hell

And the Pave' to Purgatory: oh Levi, what have you done? Sure, Discovery, I mean Astana, is home. It's also where Bruyneel relentlessly !@#$ed you *twice* last season, and though I've no doubt you know what's best, I can't, as a poor humble tifosa, see how the hell "best" means completely jacking you over for the Tour next year. By the same token, while it's true as you say that it's good for a *team* to have two strong boys for the Tour, let's face it, Johan's never operated his squad that way, with the unintentional exception of 2006, and between you and Contador, barring catastrophic injury or illness (and one certainly hopes it's barred) by Contador, that one boy ain't gonna be you. Dammit! And while we're at it, since you're saying Johan's got "two" strong men for next year, does that mean that Andreas Kloden is officially out? For his sake--not that it's necessarily a hell of an improvement to be vastly undersupported in the mountains over at sprint squad Milram--I sure hope so! Oh well, Levi, there's always the very fine Deutschland Tour to aim for again next year, if Bruyneel doesn't think it'll blow your domestique legs for baby Contador...

Passport to Purity: meanwhile, the sudden bizarre mutual admiration society that is UCI and WADA, at least for its two-day dope summit (and I choose my words carefully here), has formally, at last, announced its new antidoping passport, providing a handy reminder to the boys that, given UCI's recent abandonment of approximately 80% of its planned out-of-competition controls and the imminent introduction of the new regs, it's time to start optimizing your base blood values right now. The bonus for UCI? According to their spokes-wank, the riders needn't actually even test positive to be busted anymore, saving UCI from the irksome inconvenience of alleged (and surely impossible) lab screw-ups claimed by the crybaby due process crowd. Between the open invite to early-season rider panic-cheating, and UCI's get-out-of-unjustified-witchhunt-free-card, I'm confident it's gonna be a clean, shiny, scandal-free 2008!

Finally, Buon Anniversario!: To pouty pinup studmuffin Ivan Basso, one year in to his tragic two-year "attempted doping" ban, sleek in his plain black kit and subject of a lushly swooning story in today's Gazzetta dello Sport. Is Basso at home glumly watching his compatriots contest the Giro di Lombardia? No! On this chilly, unforgiving Saturday, he is riding many kilometers, alone. Shall he take 20 thousand euros to do an interview, as his soulless manager urges? Never! His life is his bicycle and his family, nothing more. Does he whine and moan about his predicament? Not this man! He bears his great burden with humility, and a serene dedication to return to the peloton to vanquish yet again the roads and the races he loves. Three days a week he takes to his old Discovery time trial machine to practice and practice his crono; yet his is truly a bike without a name, a maglia without a sponsor. Can one imagine the trumpets that would be played by the golden angels on high if Basso'd copped to *actually* doping? I love you Gazzetta!

My Mama Told Me/You Better Shop Around

Until We Find A Lab That'll Gack Up a Crap B Sample on Iban Mayo: yes, the sore-loser witch-hunting skanks over at UCI have confirmed that Iban Mayo's negative B-sample--pimped desperately to neutral labs from Belgium to Australia in a months-long yet fruitless search for confirmation of the A--wasn't really "negative," just "inconclusive," and as a result, they're gonna return the sample for yet more last-gasp-hope testing to its trustworthy source: the same shockingly incompetent lab chimps that botched Floyd Landis' sample, let alone Iban's, beyond all human recognition. More, if they can't find actual scientific backup for their slobbering pursuit of Iban, they're going to go to the Court of Arbitration for Sport on the theory that they could at least end up with a nice baseless unappealable conviction from the highest source there is. Anyhoo, UCI's reasoning for seeking out at least the Belgian lab in the first place for the B-sample analysis? The poor tired things over at the skilled reliable French lab were on "holiday,"--hopefully, let's face it, for some sorely-needed remedial training, and not for mere R&R--and UCI didn't want to trouble them for additional work on the minor matter of wrecking yet another rider's career on dubious evidence. Now, I know our fine compatriots in Europe enjoy far more generous and sensible vacation policies than us drone saps here in the US--but these clowns honestly hit the beach for *3 fu#@ing months*? During the August races and late-season Italian classics? During the freakin' Vuelta a Espana, after all the problems it's had? During the *Worlds*?! I call bull!@#!, UCI! Admit it. You woofed. You're sure he's guilty too, and you're embarrassed at your colossal hypocritical series of recent problems like doctors blowing off important doping controls, so you're gonna make at least this boy pay whether he deserves it or not. I'm so glad we have these noble crusaders on our side of clean sport and justice, fans, aren't you? Our gentle hero, meantime, has finally come out of his funk, joyously proclaiming his innocence on his website and, more importantly, announcing his immediate intent to sue the !@# off UCI should they keep pushing his B-sample to labs like heroin to addicts. Take 'em down Iban!

Don't Do It Levi and Andreas! (Last Chance Lament): and, I see baby Contador has officially told his manager to blow and inked his gig with Astana, proclaiming the Tour as his and the team's total focus and his pleasure that Bruyneel's promised him anything and anyone he needs to make it happen. That means you Kloden and Leipheimer--get out, get out while you still can, you don't deserve to domestique the Tour and hose the rest of your own season in Johan's fanatically one-note prep process!

Monday, October 22, 2007


Sue The Bastards!: Yes, the results are finally in, and we love reviled cheating bucket o' Tour de France dope Iban Mayo's B sample has come back negative for EPO. The uncommon delay by the cycling honchos releasing the results? Shopping desperately the world over for a not-to-be-found B-sample poz apparently, as the same lab monkeys who destroyed Floyd Landis' career on even crappier testing turned out to have completely blown the remainder of the season for, let's face it, a guy who's delicate enough when he's *not* being accused of doping. Y'know, as a lawyer, I loathe the thought that my already-despised profession could be used in a baseless lawsuit to crush anybody brave and reckless enough to blow the whistle on the cycling world's plentiful dirtbags. But in this instance, I say take 'em down Iban--we've got 'base'! Let's review, shall we? Three years after cracking under the pressure of the endless Next Lance Armstrong hype, our hero finally rebounds with some smashing results in the late 2006 season and finds a happy new home with golden Saunier Duval, leading to uncharacteristically cheerful press comments by our boy for nigh on an entire year and steadily improving form to boot. And his reward for faithfully blasting apart the peloton in the 2007 Tour for his fellows? An A-sample poz, immediate suspension, massive public humiliation dealt out by his repulsed team management, an ignominious endless dragged-on miserable retreat to home, hearth and barely halfheartedly his good ol' bike (damn near about the only things that haven't abandoned him), and two big tickets the hell out of the Vuelta and Worlds. Make 'em pay, I say! Apropos of absolutely nothing, Iban, I speak pretty decent broken Italian, admittedly abysmal but truly well-intentioned Spanish, and, more to the point, can count really high in euros. And while we're at it--free Floyd! Can anyone now doubt that these eejits at the offending lab aren't capable of correctly analyzing the chemical makeup of a bag of Pixy Stix, much less the potentially career-tanking contents of an athlete's blood bag? At least, let's find a lab that can come up with a halfway plausible guilty when it's really warranted!

And In Related News: I see Pat "Dick" McQuaid, blowing the horn for UCI at the giant antidoping summit which totally sensibly lacks any representation from the actual cyclists, thundered today that cycling risks becoming a "travesty" and a "fraud." Um, not to notice the way UCI let about a good fourscore riders linked to Op Puerto ride the Tour this year because they couldn't be bothered to read the file, notifies riders of problematic test results via world press conference, won't trouble the teams about piddling errors like riders blowing off doping tests til they're 9/10ths of the way to taking a major stage race, and hands out Therapeutic Use Exemptions to any rider savvy enough to bother to ask for one (and let's not even get into the myriad foibles of team management, doctors, and the riders themselves), Pat, but "risks"?

Thursday, October 18, 2007


Be Careful What You Wish For: having successfully wrestled their beloved Tour de France from the evil clutches of UCI, the French have now been hit with the distinctly disconcerting realization that, should they fail to personally pursue the dastardly podium thief Floyd Landis on crap doping charges themselves, the boy could, technically, claim a place at the 2008 start line. First, you've really no need to worry, ASO--disgraced accused dopers can't find a home anywhere in the peloton thanks to the staunch morality of the teams--right Basso? Second--lay the hell off Landis, you wanks! *Must* you pointlessly knee a man in the works when he's already writhing on the ground? Even CAS isn't going to get its act together on his appeal before February--no offense to Floyd, who is a brilliant and tenacious athlete, but what could possibly make you think that after two years out of road competition he's even gonna be a threat to some half-!@#ed neo-pro bottle carrier (especially considering what astonishing athletes they are), much less any of your 2008 podium darlings? Just...go home. Whether you get to crow "we got him!" or not, his career's destroyed, his legacy is irreversibly tarnished, two years in the peloton at what would've been the height of his powers are gone; even if he actually did nothing wrong, the boy's completely screwed. What conceivable good could this utterly redundant witch hunt do any of us, with the possible exception of reminding everyone that you hypocrites never had it in for, say, admitted dope skank Richard Virenque a tenth as much?

Danihosed: so, I see Cadel's got his ProTour win after all, and what a lousy secondhand way to take it, as UCI triumphantly gets to disqualify DiLuca entirely from the competition under its regs, which miraculously allow them to jack someone for anything anytime anywhere ever, so long as the suspension for it disqualifies him for the last event in the year at hand. What?! Y'know, I'm happy enough for Cadel, but this is !@#$ing ridiculous. Is 80% of the peloton (at a minimum) really gonna have to start watching their backs over rules everyone knew they broke years ago, if some prosecutor with a grudge decides they oughta go down for it now?

Il Grande Giro (di Lombardia, That Is): finally, with the exception of Di Luca, and, more sadly, an injured Michael Boogerd cheated out of his grand farewell, it's a gorgeous lineup for Lombardia on Saturday, with Davide Rebellin, winner-this-week and prior Lombardia king Damiano Cunego, Pippo Pozzato, Stefano Garzelli, Giovanni Visconti and even a passel of Schlecks coming out to play. Unmentioned by anybody, and written off by all: we love Gilberto Simoni, in his last ProTour squad race before he heads off into the sunset for a low-key ramp with a continental gig next year, and, presumably, some very lovely time on his mountain bike. I know this isn't your course Simoni, but you've got that little whippersnapper Riccardo Ricco at your disposal, and Bettini can't possibly take a more beautiful win than last year so I'll back off backing him for once--make that boy earn his keep one last time before Saunier Duval tosses all its weight behind him next season, and vai Gibo!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

How Danilo Can You Go?

Completely Missing the Point, Part I: am I on crack here, or did the Italians really just hand Danilo DiLuca down a 3-month racing ban, not for his freakish Giro d'Italia hormone levels that showed him to have something near the manliness quotient of a 2-year-old, thus raising the disconcerting possibility that he may've used masking agents for, oh, some reason, which apparently raised nary an eyebrow in the joyous celebrations over his maglia rosa, but for his association with a doping doctor UCI itself has allowed back in the peloton for the last few years and that everyone knew Di Luca was in contact with ages ago? Meantime, DiLuca himself remains tranquillo, noting unhappily that while, having already been held out of the Worlds, he's also out of the Giro d'Lombardia as he's no time to clear his name ahead of the race despite his intent to file a later appeal with CAS, but that he's not in a "rage" over the misunderstanding, even though the doctor in question has been his family practitioner since he was 8 years old. My, they're starting 'em young nowadays! And, in yet more bad news for Di Luca, his non-start this weekend combined with Cadel's possible recalibration of ProTour points when Vino gets stripped of his Tour de France time trial victory means that the Hardest Working Man in the Peloton may not have to do much more than finish the Giro d'Lombardia to take the ProTour title after all. No ill will towards DiLuca of course--who after all gets his gorgeous Giro d'Italia to celebrate anyway--but it'd be nice to see Cadel take *one* win this season!

Completely Missing the Point, Part II: and, gazzetta dello sport's reporting that UCI--just yesterday defending their failure to do 480 of 500 planned out-of-competition doping controls this season with the slightly implausible excuse that the best time to do it is between October and Christmas, not during the actual race season--is launching a "biological passport" for the riders for 2008, obtaining 5 different base blood values in order to be able to detect, later on, evidence of surprisingly increased oxygen-carrying capacity and other tell-tale signs of rulebreaking, which is surely a better basis for tossing accusations about than tarring the Spaniards and Italians with a "Mafia nations" slur only to have half the German peloton test poz or cop to doping this season, but which begs the questions, (1) doesn't this just give every dirty cheating skank the incentive to dope *ahead* of the passport to establish their desired blood values; and (2) if oxygen-carrying capacity is the issue, isn't that precisely what the 8000 Therapeutic Use Exemptions for asthma meds you clowns hand out like free samples for incipient heroin-heads are designed to address?

Say My Name, Say My Name: not content with resting discreetly out of the headlines since he scored a mere year-long doping ban for having previously--and nobly of course--submitted to the narcs, Jorg Jaksche is continuing to keep himself on the radar of the more-cash-happy Continental squads by helpfully pointing out that, given current testing's inability to detect the more subtle forms of doping, only the "dumb ones," or worse, "the poor ones, who can't afford the expensive doping," are getting nailed. Anyone else shamelessly tempted to go over the list of names in their heads from the last 18 months and trying to guess who he meant? Speaking of whom, I see Manolo Saiz is considering a return to the peloton's management ranks, opining glumly that while he must remain silent about the details of his obvious innocence now on the advice of his pesky attorneys, he dearly looks forward to the day that he can speak so that "everyone will know the truth." If we all promise not to roll our eyes at that, will you finally apologize to Joseba Beloki and every other rider you screwed, you !@$%^$# !@#$%$#?

Discovery Team Implosion Watch: and, as Jason McCartney rather surprisingly signs with CSC instead of Slipstream, there's apparently still quite a bit of hoo-ha over baby genius Alberto Contador and maillot-jaune-deserving Andreas Kloden, with Contador's manager--coincidentally a good friend of ejected and disgraced Astana head Marc Biver--saying the boy's actually looking elsewhere as joining Johan Bruyneel's new team might "damage his image," and Sean Yates joining his old boss at his new team as DS under the evergreen rationale "Johan Bruyneel has never had a positive test with a team he's been involved with," while also claiming that in fact Astana's got Contador, and Leipheimer, and Kloden for its '08 squad after all. Don't do it Levi and Andreas!

To Eternity and Beyond: where the hell is Iban Mayo's !@#$#@ B sample already, UCI? Either gack up the poz and let the humiliation officially begin, or suck it up and release the negative so he can sign a new contract while the teams have more'n 50 bucks left in their pockets--aiiiigggghhhhh! Oh well, he can always be a directeur sportif if he sobs enough for the cameras...

Monday, October 15, 2007

It's [His] Party and I'll Cry If I Want To/Cry If I Want To

...You Would Cry Too If It Happened to You: so Oscar Pereiro finally got his 2006 maillot jaune today, and the more I think about it, the less my emotions are mixed on this and the more straight-out pissed-off I am. Nothing against Pereiro, who does get some points for diplomacy during this disaster til he finally assumed the crown without apologies today (apropos of nothing, was anyone else besides me just dying as the Spanish sports minister, who'd throw Pat "Dick" McQuaid in front of a speeding train before letting him within 100 miles of a Valverde DNA sample, righteously declared "we need to separate those who play clean from those who play dirty"? Unless they're ours. But I digress.). And absolutely, if Landis did it as most people seem to assume he did (and as I dearly if perhaps gullibly still hope he didn't), he is not only guilty of being a thief and a cheat, but also a total ass to Pereiro. But I've finally concluded, it is just !@#$ing *wrong* to hand over the 2006 Tour before Floyd Landis finishes his appeal--let's just immolate him now and if we have to we can toss a little water on him with a really sincere "I'm sorry" later, why don't we? Much as I hate to contemplate the victory of due process over factual justice, Landis has the right to appeal, and more, he didn't cause all the bull!@#$ problems and delays in this miserable case; so far as I can tell, UCI and WADA's repugnant self-serving media leakmongering, in combination with the complex endless flaws in the shockingly atrocious monkey lab work by LNDD that required 8000 experts on both sides to decipher instead of a simple, clean, fair, reliable by-the-book testing procedure, did. And not only is it just relentlessly nasty to Floyd to do this now--it's goddamn patronizing to (and potentially humiliating for) Pereiro as well. Not only does it not change what actually happened--Landis won, and Pereiro (a teammate from land-of-a-thousand-dopers Phonak for God's sake) will never really know how--but if Landis does win his appeal, does anyone really want to make poor Oscar hand his maillot jaune back as he's called an also-ran yet *again*? Moreover, a gentle note for Christian Prudhomme and the rest of the preening crusaders over at the Tour: (1) particularly in light of your actions today, you appear to be total hypocrites for not formally handing over admitted-doper Bjarne Riis' 1996 Tour to runner-up Jan Ullrich; (2) while I know you're genuinely irked at Landis and all, true-target Lance Armstrong has still escaped with his 7 Tour wins intact, and (3) sorry, but Oscar Pereiro's still not French. Either way, my sympathies to Pereiro, and let's get this damn CAS appeal on the road already!

Rider Roundup: I imagine there's more than one sigh of relief in the peloton today, though I certainly won't speculate by whom, as Paris-Tours fails to get around to doing any antidoping controls apparently due to the docs being delayed by a late golf game, and it's good to see the ProTour taking the fight against doping so seriously; the luckless Robbie McEwen not only gets clocked by a spectator and is forced to unclip, but more outrageously, inadvertently jacks we love Oscar Freire out of his sprint; get well in like two days or else to Michael Boogerd who deserves to finish out his smashing career in the Giro di Lombardia; Danielson still holds out for a Tour win; Chris Horner still needs a new gig so cough up the dough already Predictor; and many thanks to Anonymous for pointing out that Kloden is going to Milram (where he's still hosed unless they back off on the sprint focus and give him decent GC backup, but still, sure beats languishing at Astana)--anyone got a link for that?

A Final Note: and, I see tomorrow's Danilo Di Luca's date with destiny, or at any rate his possible 4-month ban, which will presumably decide if he gets to keep his ProTour lead and near-certain win, or whether Cadel'll get it by default just for showing up unopposed at the Giro di Lombardia. Now, I don't condone any dopers in any way whatsoever, with the possible and wholly shameful exceptions of Iban Mayo and Roberto Heras. And I'm not even particularly a Di Luca fan, though he did take me quite by surprise in this year's Giro d'Italia. But, in bocca al lupo, Danilo!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Andreas Kloden is Scr!#$d!

Supa Dupa Domestique: yes, just as Armstrong bailed on Discovery hosing dozens of faithful serfs the second the cameras left his face the team embarrassed him in the '06 Tour and his pretty-boy protege Basso hit the skids, Johan Bruyneel's come out of his bull!@# 10-second retirement to take over the reins at Astana, not only guaranteeing that Levi Leipheimer gets completely treated like crap *again* for a second straight year (though at least that's Levi's choice presumably), but also taking the utterly helpless Andreas Kloden, bound to the team for another year, down with him. Can the boy's luck get any worse? First, he barely escapes T-Mobile's Jan Ullrich no-drugs purge (and we all know how well that worked out, good work T-Mobile!); next, his own likely Tour win is completely blown in the useless service of colossal selfish hypocrite wank Alexander "Everyone At Liberty Seguros is a Doping Skank Except Me" Vinokorouv; now, Kloden gets to look forward to his dwindling hopes for a well-earned and let's face it highly likely winning Tour getting completely stomped into the losing history books under the cleats of twinkling little star Alberto Contador as Bruyneel continues Discovery's winning strategy of jacking potentially stratospheric talents in favor of one anointed chosen king. Oh well Andreas--I assume Bruyneel'll let you and Leipheimer slug it out for a second-rate roster at one of the other Grand Tours! Can no-one get away unscathed from the career-crushing orbit of that ill-fated black hole of a squad?

The Beat Goes On (and On, and On, and...): and, as we still love Roberto Heras so shut the hell up (in no small part because of how that dirtbag Manolo Saiz sold him down the river) considers his return to the peloton, while not hesitating to decry the "barbarism" that is the four-year Pro Tour ban (hell, given the Spanish teams' comment last year that "we do not dope; we simply give our riders medicine like every other team," he at least ought to get points for relative openness), and Iban Mayo still wastes away waiting for his inevitable B-sample poz, I see that St. David "I Only Confessed Because You Found It In My Hotel Room" Millar gets rewarded yet again for his hasty yet surely sincere change of heart by getting tix to the upcoming WADA antidoping summit. Well, he sure sets a good example for the rest of the peloton for how to conduct yourself when you get busted for optimum sympathy, if that counts as the fight against doping!

Crappy Birthday(s): finally, speaking of Discovery refugees who've been totally unjustifiably guillotined, I see thanks to the fine folks over at trustbutverify that it's Floyd Landis' birthday today, and let's just hope that, given the lurid circus that passed itself off as a trial just past, last year's Annus Horribilus is replaced by a smashing win at the Court of Arbitration for Sport and the corresponding monstrous and entirely deserved humiliation of the soulless goons who took his Tour away on the lamest and most flawed evidence this side of the Salem witch trials. Don't celebrate your birthday too hard Floyd--you can still get back in shape in time for next year!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Back Away From the Maillot Jaune, Buddy!

Landis Appeals: as you've all no doubt heard by now, Oscar Pereiro's party next week has been crashed already, as Floyd Landis, despite his presumably egregious lack of cash-on-hand thanks to his to-date-unsuccessful attempts to fend off the slobbering selective antidoping hounds, has taken a stand on principle and is hauling the disgusting incompetent lab chimps over at LNDD, and the entire filthy $#@!ed-up fiasco while we're at it, to the head honchos over at the Court of Arbitration for Sport, who, unlike some organizations we can think of, seem to have an almost suspicious fixation on such outrageous trivialities as due process, certainty, fair play, and justice. The horror! Since these are the same guys who last year as I recall cleared another rider they basically deemed actually guilty over comparatively minor testing irregularities, it seems Landis may actually have a chance with this one, and I gotta say, if the boy is as innocent as he says, and even if he isn't frankly, after the repugnant way everyone and his mother (names, anyone?) pimped this guy's miseries for their own egomaniacal advancement I'll be delighted to see his naysayers go down in flames. Allez Floyd!

Breathe In, Breathe Out: and, mere days before compatriot Danilo Di Luca faces the music for his own troubles, Alessandro Petacchi gets the welcome news that he's being hauled up before CAS himself, as WADA and the really aggravated Italian prosecutors have apparently had it with the national cycling fed's letting Petacchi off the hook for snarfing enough Salbutamol during the Giro to propel a raging herd of buffalo up the Dolomites. Um, not to take any responsibility off Petacchi for snorting it, but do you really expect the boy to keep track of how many hits he's taken 2 kilometers before the line when it's the rabid antidoping narcs over at UCI who handed him the inhaler in the first place? After all, by my count, approximately 80% of the rest of the peloton has also managed to prove to UCI's satisfaction that, despite their near-universal ability to ride 150K a day for weeks at a time fast enough to leave a Formula 1 racer whimpering in their wakes, these delicate creatures too labor under horrendous medical conditions that totally coincidentally require treatment with drugs that are completely accidentally performance-enhancing. Where's the compassion, people?

Team Implosion Contract Watch: no, not Levi yet, thank goodness, but I see Baden Cooke's escaped from the Unibet debacle with at least a new gig with Barloworld, which tho' still a continental squad is nonetheless able to support, among others, baby revelation-of-the-Tour Maurizio Soler, and probably the best next bet outside the ProTour aside from Slipstream. Um, any of you guys at Barloworld notice that the very nice Joseba Beloki's still available?

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

You've Got to Fight/For Your Right...

To Paaaaaaar-taaaaay!: as besieged German Stefan Schumacher apologetically cops to driving drunk (after initially using a cab) in search of his out-of-cell-phone-range girlfriend during a night on the town, but gamely denies German tabloid reports that recreational drugs were also found in his system, while his clearly irked Gerolsteiner manager Hans Michael Holczer snarls that, though he hopes the report is crap, anyone who knows him knows what he thinks about that possibility. Wow, with the German parliament now demanding a neutral investigation of Schumacher's two irregular pre-Worlds out-of-competition doping controls--blamed by Team Schumi on the wholly innocent effects of a disgusting intestinal problem--on the ludicrous grounds that it is "not okay for such cases to be explained solely by experts working for the athlete," can the boy's day *get* any better? Meantime, the Italian press, for the first time in weeks given something else to do besides defend Paolo Bettini's virtue, has leapt joyfully on the story, salaciously comparing Schumacher's no-drugs-no-doping claims with fellow German Jan Ullrich's after he was busted for driving drunk and using Ecstasy at a nightclub, and we all know how clean *he* was on the bike, by the way. Anyone care to take bets on how long it'll take Pat "Dick" McQuaid and Dick "Dick" Pound to explain how this too is all the filthy cheating Spaniards' and Italians' fault?

Manic Monday: yes, Oscar Pereiro finally gets his 2006 yellow jersey next Monday with a huge celebration in front of screaming local fans in Madrid, the Spaniards are understandably wild with excitement at their Tour de France two-fer, and I must admit, I'm of decidedly mixed feelings about this. I love Pereiro; I think that, on form, he's a very fine racer, and I do appreciate that for at least a year until the verdict was finally in, Pereiro showed admirable discretion under the perpetual "how does it feel to have Landis steal your Tour?" press onslaught. And obviously, if Floyd did do it, Pereiro was selfishly jacked out of receiving the greatest accolades a rider will ever obtain in this sport (I don't say "honor," because I still like the Vuelta and Giro better), and deserves now, at the very least, a colossal belated party on his home turf. Let's even leave aside the fact that, but for Basso Ullrich Vino and half the other lords of the peloton being excluded by the Op Puerto fiasco, neither one of these boys (sorry Floyd, but Phonak was comparatively weak) would've been within 1000 feet of the podium. But I remain quite sympathetic to Landis on the yellow jersey issue, not because I think he didn't dope--I sure hope not, and even naively cling to the possibility in the gullible recesses of my cynical brain that he hasn't, but what the hell do I know?--but because this whole repulsive process so mercilessly screwed him, and the entire sport while we're at it, that no-one but he will ever truly know if it ought to've been taken from him in the first place. Y'know, even if Pereiro won the thing, he himself did it with a handy UCI Therapeutic Use Exemption and attendant approved asthma inhaler tucked in his jersey--can we just call it a draw on those grounds, and let 'em share the maillot jaune at this point?

Pedal to the Medal: while we're at it, in non-cycling news, I see Marion Jones has handed back her Olympic track medals, leading to the obvious question for our fair friends at UCI: Bjarne Riis already offered to let you dig his yellow jersey out of his closet, so tell me again why Landis is the first boy to be stripped of his Tour for doping? And please don't give me that crap about "everybody in '96 was stoked, so there's really no-one to give it to"--am I the only one to have noticed any similar problems in '07, much less in '06, and rumors of a replacement lab already in place the second Fuentes went down?

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Sic 'Em, Paolo!

The Bicycle Thief: yes, in the breathlessly-covered Heist of the Century, perhaps the most wily fanatical tifosi in known cycling history snuck past the guardian cameras and slobbering hounds of the Quick Step storage Alcatraz and made off with 150k euro worth of exceedingly sweet bikes, including, most outrageously, Paolo Bettini's latest World Champion ride, leading to a massive and hasty operation not only to recover the stolen goods (unsuccessful so far) but also to replace and retune half-decent rides for the boys ahead of the weekend's races, leading an understandably protective Bettini to nuzzle in for the night with his brand-new Specialized in the far safer fortress of his hotel room. First, give your mechanics a raise--after yesterday's crush, they surely earned it! Second, aside from the atrocity of separating a guy like Bettini from the embodiment of the most spectacular screw-you to UCI ever, and the sad fact that whatever these thieving schmoes are charging on the black market for their prizes poor saps like me will without question be utterly unable to afford them (for the sole purpose of immediately returning them to their rightful owners, of course), is the certainty that some monstrously lumpen wannabe moolah-saturated poseur is right this very horrid second preening about their mansion grounds actually riding the thing, indelibly polluting every single part from the saddle to the derailleur with his (or her) weaselly selfish bloated undeserving bottomdwelling carcass. Repent, repent and return Paolo's ride, I say!

Disgraced Doper Appearance Watch: and, I see Jan Ullrich's back on the bike, continuing his rides for disabled children along with a stellar cast of other German talents, and nicely fending off questions about when he's finally gonna name some names in favor of focusing on the cause. Okay, we all figure Jan was stoked on, say, a Phonak scale along with everyone else on his team throughout his phenomenal career, and no-one expects an ex-racer (ouch! still hurts just to say it) to stay exactly on fighting form. Still and all, was it necessary for the press to publish the Least Flattering Photo Of An Athlete of All Time making him look like a forlorn schnitzel-stuffed double-chinned couch potato on a day when the poor scapegoated boy was at least trying to do some good--why kick a man when he's down for heck's sake, particularly when there's pretty clearly still a few boys left in the paying peloton who are just as clean as he is?

Everybody Limbo: meantime, Michael "Pat "Dick" McQuaid Stole My Tour, Particularly When You Look at Who Was Allowed to Finish It" Rasmussen remains exceedingly polite given his uncertain status, noting that he is currently in entirely amiable discussions with the fine and noble folks at UCI over his future--if I were him, I'd "discuss" a giant lawsuit on their !@#$$, but that's just me I suppose--and kindly holding back on signing a new contract so that he needn't cause a fuss for his prospective new squad in case he shouldn't be allowed to ride next year. Hell, why should a guy be allowed to make a living, especially when UCI can definitively show that they were completely unable to nail a possibly horribly guilty rider yet *again*--fine work UCI! Speaking of whom, I see the entire ProTour remains in chaos, as UCI finally grants the Grand Tour organizers freedom from its nefarious clutches, which has paradoxically raised the concern that, should the teams feel overstretched or lack contenders for any given race including a huge number of prestigious classics, they needn't show up for those, either, leaving the organizers with the sudden unpleasant realization that the ratings of their beloved cash-cows might be somewhat negatively affected if all they're left with is a field of half-!@#$#d moonlighters who lack the swooning fan base of, say, a dreamy Tom Boonen. Can none of these nimrods get their egos in check enough to create a workable system after 100-odd years of racing?

Finally, a Plea: Two straight years of DQd or should've-been-DQd scandal-plagued podiums. Then, a course this year that, while lively enough on paper, in practical terms clearly decided the winner by the start of the second week and left the smashing Spaniards and Basques with scarcely a decisive speedbump to climb after that. Now, not only did the resulting TV ratings prove to be the crappiest ever, and a recent Eurosport poll shows that folks'd rather watch the 1K Tour Of My Local Parking Lot than the Vuelta, but a grueling 800-stage Tour of America is unveiled that is not only an open invitation to colossal doping (like these boys need any help) but also cuts right into the race's long-held time slot, thereby likely taking half the non-Spanish squads out of the Vuelta. What did this gorgeous race ever do to any of you people besides giving everyone a freakin' break from tiresome 24/7 Lance Armstrong coverage--back off and lay off the Vuelta already goddammit!

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Don't Do It, Levi!

Discovery Implosion Contract Watch: Yes, as speculated, baby Tour-winner-by-default Alberto Contador has signed with Alexander Vinokorouv's clean team Astana, and inevitably Johan Bruyneel, for a cool 1.5 million a season, giving him a ticket to the Tour podium next year and, I assume if Johan has his way, Levi Leipheimer to grind out the pace up the mountains as superdomestique next year in the bargain. Don't do it Levi! Okay, I understand he's been a bit of a late bloomer, what with Gerolsteiner first lacking the firepower to get the job done, then the bait-and-switch courtship over to Discovery only to be ditched on prom night in favor of first the comely (and wily, as we all know Discovery had no reason to think he'd done anything wrong when they signed him) Ivan Basso and then the admittedly brilliant Contador--but he's bloomed, gosh darn it! Did he take off and conquer the mountains with the same razzle-dazzle as his jailbait teammate?--no, but he did help get him there, toiling away respectably like the low-key Cadel to fine results, and taking the time trial in blazing fashion to boot. You've still got another year or two left Levi--are you really going to be happy going back to say the Deutschland Tour or maybe California as your season's main goals when you've come so very close in the Grand Boucle? Or, given the Italians' and Spaniards' focus on their home-turf races, is an inevitable off-podium finish in the Giro and Vuelta--if Johan even lets you out to play there--really going to be enough? Aaaarrrggghhhh--say it ain't so Levi!

I'm King (and Queen) of the Worlds!: hard on the heels of Paolo Bettini's smashing win at the men's Worlds' (sad as I am Oscar Freire couldn't take it, but as Bettini said on gazzetta, "see what happens when you make me angry?"), and his very young compatriot Marta Bastianelli almost accidentally grabbing the women's road race over a charging Marianne Vos after setting up the line for a teammate, comes the hideously crappy though unsurprising news that Bettini's going to call it quits after next year's Giro di Lombardia, leaving Daniele Bennati to take over Italian sprint-god duties for Alessandro Petacchi (tho' not if Petacchi has anything to say about it the next couple of seasons), Riccardo Ricco set to inherit the Gilberto Simoni lord of the climbs mantle, Di Luca with a firm grip on the Grand Tour overalls push so long as Basso's out of the picture and Cunego doesn't come back, and absolutely no-one I can see coming up with both the versatility and sheer tactical genius to be a worthy successor to Bettini. Aw, rats! Still, I'm happy enough to see UCI humiliated by Bettini's win on Sunday (and even UCI sucked it up with some decent sportsmanship, which was a long way to come given how they were lamming into Bettini all through Saturday), and anyway, he ought to have a lively year or two ahead of him even off the bike suing the pants off everybody for the Patrik Sinkewitz debacle that nearly cost him his Worlds spot, particularly after Sinkewitz wisely denied implicating Bettini in anything to anybody anytime anywhere ever. As for Danilo Di Luca, who bailed out of the Worlds rather'n be forced out in light of a three-year-old scandal that should just as well have kept him out of this year's Giro if it was so awful? Waiting, I imagine, til his October 16 date with destiny (or the fine folks over at the Italian Olympic Committee, anyway), to see if he needs to gear up his legal team to do the same. While we're rounding up the Worlds, looks like we've got one unhappy Sammy Sanchez blasting Michael Boogerd for screwing him out of the podium by meandering his way down the mountain and blocking Sanchez' way like a wallowing hippo dozing off for its afternoon nap. Anyone else want to cast the blame on someone else for their loss, while we're at it?

Round and Round She Goes, and Where She Stops, Nobody Knows: McGee to CSC. Tomas Vaitkus on the Discovery, I mean Astana, train. We still love Roberto Heras deciding whether to accept a new gig with a continental squad lacking the power to bring him back or, perhaps better, take a nice quiet DS job somewhere, though he'd likely have to 'fess up for that. But the most entertaining news by far for my money: indomitable warhorse and confessed long-ago-and-far-away doper Erik Zabel, back home to Bob "Dopers Must Die (Unless I've Just Handed Them a Management Gig)" Stapleton's T-Mobile to retire and then presumably a cushy seat in the team car rallying his troops, right after T-Mobile announces a one-million euro (anti)doping program. Hell, after this season, am I the only one imagining they're gonna need it?

Where In the World Is: Iban Mayo's presumptively dirty B-sample, that's been sitting around for weeks--can we just cut to the chase and get the agony over with already goddammit?!