Friday, November 30, 2007

Pretty In Pink

...No More: well, the reactions to T-Mobile's hot pink implosion continue to pour in, as rider Andreas Klier cheerfully confides his intention to keep on training anyhow, as he wasn't so sharp a pencil in school and isn't actually qualified to do anything else; Walter "How Many Teams Can I Wreck In One Season" Godefroot predictably has no regrets for his actions; Soigneur of Doom Jef D'Hont doesn't feel any responsibility at all, as it's all the individual riders' fault (that the team oversaw and organized systemic doping and if you don't like you insignificant cyclist twerp we can easily shove you out the team bus at 60 mph), and Bjarne, too, feels no pain, for though he did indeed win the Tour cheating, he only did what a pro cyclist in those long-ago faraway dark days was expected to do, and as the Vinokorouv, Kashechkin, Moreni, Kessler and Sinkewitz cases have clearly proven, it's an entirely different situation in 2007. What a happy, innocent, carefree little world these boys live in! Don't you wish you could score whatever the hell they're on, too?

Camp Whythehelldidn'tIsignwithLiquigasinstead: yes, it's that time of year again, as most of the boys meet up with old and new teammates to test new equipment and take those nice team photos (might want to take a few advance mug shots of select individuals to save the trouble later next season, but who am I to suggest it?), Barloworld basks in Tuscany, Liquigas sensibly takes the mineral baths after an unexpected early rendezvous with the UCI vampires (Pippo Pozzato, who was running a day late, excepted), and poor ol' CSC, as usual, gets dropped in the middle of snowpack for two days of hardcore survival training with nothing but a sleeping bag and Bjarne Riis' great good wishes as he, of course, nestles in front of a ski-resort fireplace with a hot toddy. Y'know, I'm all for hoo-rah teambuilding; hell, no one ever got (seriously) hurt falling back blindfolded into the arms of a "trust circle" or schlepping between tree trunks tethered to harnesses. But tell me again how a bunch of tiny body-fat-free defenseless climbers shivering in the snow like Chihuahuas is gonna improve their performance, particularly if the wee little things lose a couple of toes to frostbite in the process? Way to do it Liquigas!

Spanish Doping: yep, it's their fault again, as the German court refereeing the Germans Jan Ullrich/Werner Franke 'secret payment' slander smackdown decides to call in the fine Dr. Eufemiano "It's All for their Health" Fuentes to testify, and Tinkoff reject (and German) Danilo Hondo, lately signed with Simoni's new squad, is warmly lauded by vacuous hypocrite Pat "Dick" McQuaid, who is "confident" the clearly reformed repentant will fully support the fight against doping. Now, not to question Pat "Dick"'s perfect objectivity and fairness here, but if this is indeed the same Danilo Hondo who as I recall was dragged off to his ban kicking and screaming like an overstimulated tantruming toddler, why exactly is Floyd Landis--who after all has at least expressed support for severe doping penalties, if they can be clearly proven--being held up by McQuaid as a monstrous example of the sort of shameless soulsucking scumdwellers draining the life from this beautiful sport?

Charity Begins at Home: finally, in the latest gushing article by our friends at Gazzetta dello Sport, if you cough up just 10--that's right, 10--euros & drop by the home stomping grounds of dearly-missed attempted-doper heartthrob Ivan Basso this weekend, you can actually join Ivan (if you can reach him through thousands of fellow swooning fans) on a charity bike ride to support Casa di Miro, an organization dedicated to helping disabled youths. Following the story of his good works, of course, is yet another lushly adoring update on our solitary soldier's intense training, noting with reverence that he pedals as if he were going to return to triumph in the peloton this very season, and including his faithful split between his time trial and road bikes and centered, nay wholly spiritual, sense of purpose. Y'know, I love Basso, and think that as with Ullrich, the sport is much the lamer without him. But I remain mystified why this pouty pinup boy is getting his halo gilded by the Italian press for copping to the ol' "but I didn't inhale" at most, while the German press ceaselessly pounds on Ullrich to this day for only a slightly less plausible claim, when he's at least retired and has done his own tot-loving charity gigs to boot. Anyhoo, the tifosi, according to the comments page, appeared approximately evenly split between the he's-suffered-enough-free-him-from-his-exile Basso acolytes , and the contemptuous hooting drop-him-down-a-deep-well-without-a-lifejacket pro-Simoni crowd, while by the end of the article, I must confess I too was ready to take up swords to get the tragically oppressed Basso's ban reduced on the basis of his superior virtue. How swiftly the cult of personality swings, like Teen Beat fans between vapid boy bands!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Feeeeeed the Riiiiiiiii-ders/

Let Them Know It's Christmastime Again: Yep, as everyone now knows, T-Mobile has finally called it quits, and the timing, I gotta say, seems completely !@$ed up. Bjarne Riis' admission that he doped his way to Tour de France victory? Not so bothersome. Jan Ullrich's spectacular flameout amidst vicious abuse by the German press? A shrug of the shoulders. Admitted dopers Rolf Aldag and Erik Zabel? Mere gnats. Patrik Sinkewitz' 2007 doping poz? Well, we're perhaps a bit irked boys, but we'll get through it together. New manager Bob Stapleton's commitment to clean sport and total decimation of the dirty winning team? Now *that's* the last straw you !@#$%^s, we're *out* of this farce!

Meantime the riders, caught in various states of surprise, appear to remain optimistic, no doubt in part because Bob Stapleton's got more money than God, and not only does big George Hincapie thankfully remain gainfully employed (at least this year) while his team's out searching for new sponsors--and more importantly, trying to find something rather more high-end for the boys to ride than a Wal-Mart Huffy midnight-madness sale special shakily put together by sullen underpaid bike-ignorant teenagers--the team's already reincarnated itself as Team High Road (that'll look great in the headlines when the first rider tests poz for testosterone!) and is already designing new jerseys. Fine, T-Mobile's a filthy tainted cheating pack of lying doping skankmasters, and the paranoiac Stapleton's a sport-loving winged saint reincarnating the squad into jailbait unassailable purity. But let's be honest--between our fallen Golden Boy's careening beauty on the bike, Erik Zabel's endless reign of terror in the sprints, and Vinokorouv and Kloden's nasty backstabbing mid-Tour power plays, am I really the only one who'll miss the glorious wreck that was T-Mobile?

Pimp Iban's Ride(-ing Career): What the @!#$, Spanish Sports Ministry? You've spent the better part of two years letting Alejandro Valverde hide behind your skirts like a cowering naughty toddler, no matter how many times he's linked by cowardly Basso-esque dog-slander to half the blood bag's in Fuentes' humungous stash. Concurrently, I've spent the better part of two years defending your smirking nationalistic protectionism on procedural grounds, as I do firmly believe it's up to UCI to prove a boy's a heretic before actually lighting up the bonfire, else a rider has no protection at all before the irrational selective aim of Pat "Dick" McQuaid's random vendetta-driven Uzi--which lack of objectivity rather tends to shake public confidence in the fairness of the process. And the thanks I get for my faith, despite the high likelihood that Valverde--who still hasn't won you your Grand Tour you continue to hype, incidentally--is in fact the doping troll he's accused of being? Right, out of nowhere you decide to completely pimp poor we love Iban Mayo--whose negative multiple B samples by the UCI's own rules ought to have *exonerated* him--to UCI's endless desperate poz-hunting and the same inordinately incompetent lab monkeys whose work couldn't be duplicated by objective labs in the first place. What the !@#$ has UCI got on you, you spineless Iban-jacking wussbags?!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Belgian 'Step Dancing

Ready, Aim...Sing!: so Patrik Sinkewitz, lately poz for doping, recipient of a grueling 1-year suspension, and cruelly forced to donate to charity waaaaaaaay less than the egregious year's salary he piously swore to forfeit by signing UCI's idiot Purity Pledge, has apparently decided to take everyone but other riders down in a howlin' ball o' flames with him, as he first charges that the 2000 Worlds German Jailbait Squad officials damn well knew he doped, and only sent him home when it began to show up in his blood values, and second claims that systemic doping was de rigeur at Patrick Lefevere's Quick Step team from at least 2001-2005, the years of our boy's employment thereon. Um, not to regurgitate earlier unpleasantness, but didn't anyone notice that similar revelations were already made last year by a purportedly then-current QS rider in an article in the Belgian press delicately titled "LEFEVERE: 30 YEARS OF DOPING"? And while Sinkewitz is on the topic, Gerolsteiner's a pack of lying skankbags too, and there's no way short of willful stupidity that Hans-Michael "I'm Pretty Sure We Don't Dope Systematically" Holczer didn't know about it, particularly after someone had the breathtaking lack of discretion to video Davide Rebellin doing it. The impassioned denials? Well, the German cycling fed swears that "the past will be explained," though it concedes some small "mistakes" made by then-Worlds trainer Peter Weibel (what? like "Oops, was that EPO I just jammed into your arm? I meant to pump you full of stored red blood cells instead"?); Lefevere isn't even going to bother with more'n a lukewarm "nuh-uh" til his lawyers have the chance to finesse a statement; and Holczer, a mysterious "this was all explained--just not publicly." Holy crap, is there no end to the utter lack of fat-cat puppeteer accountability in this sport? Well, I gotta admit Pat "Dick" McQuaid, you're clearly spot on with your paranoid "Mafia nation" conspiracy theories--fry those Spanish bastards, I say! Oh, wait...

Mr. Green, in the Drawing Room, With the Candlestick: and, in other Spanish doping news, T-Mobile's Bob Stapleton has allegedly been sending out a pack of subtle sleuths to see if his squad truly knew about the doping it promoted, I mean, that rogue riders acted utterly alone in heinous opposition to the team's righteous principles of total virtue, with Stefan Wesemann claiming both he and Jan Ullrich were approached but sadly knew nothing of management's role, and an irked staffer claiming he'd been chased all the way home like hounds on fox. Goodness, was that actually a pang of sympathy I just felt for Sinkewitz, at least on "what are you Bob, an idiot?" grounds?

Love, Love, Love: meantime, the mutual admiration society over at LPR goes on, as Paolo Savoldelli, evidently unwilling to hit the ol' has-been scrap heap just yet, returns Danilo DiLuca's praise of his amiability and "reasonableness," saying that when he heard the Killer was coming he was "very happy," as a man like that can only improve the squad, extolling their fine rapport, and--here comes trouble in Paradise--noting that it will be the road that decides which of them will be the captain this year. Right on Paolo--if you're gonna get taken out, at least go down in pedal-to-pedal combat!

Gripe o' the Day: so Danilo carphedon-snorting Hondo gets a new gig this season riding with Gilberto Simoni, while Joseba Beloki is freakin' forced into ignominious premature retirement because of his Machiavellian owner's missteps? What kind of lame-@#$ justice is that? Aaaaiiiigggghhhhh!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Poor Landis Roasting on an Open Fire...

...Pat "Dick" Nipping at His Nose: yes, Landis' formal appeal is in, replete with a well-said--if fruitless--plea for fair play (both on wheels, and judicial) in this grotesque farce of a sport, and the arbitrators are chosen: by Landis, one of the team which, in a shocking display of procedural respect, tossed charges against Inigo Landaluze when even the panel itself thought he was a guilty cheating pig; by USADA, predictably, a rabid anti-athlete slobbering pit bull; and, by CAS, an internationally known commercial arbitrator whose palmares, if I googled right, includes allowing the 2000 US Olympic men's relay team keep its medal despite a member of the wider team having tested poz for doping. Well, you've got at least one guy willing to concede the relationship between committing procedural atrocities and totally !@#$ing people over, Floyd--perhaps, particularly if they pay attention to the lab results' apparent substantive flaws as well, you've got something akin to a snowflake's chance in hell on this one!

Then again, even if the moral victory is ultimately Landis'--as I hope it is--what the hell good is it going to do anyway? At best, CAS is saying, he can't hope for a verdict before May--way too late for him to find a team with both the pocket change left to hire him, and enough spine to be willingly ripped to shreds for their perfidy by the press, teams, riders, humiliated sports authorities and, most of all, the outraged cynical joyless fans whose favor the sponsors are, after all, in the game to court in the first place--forget freakin' losing the entire spring Classics season and Giro to use for actual training, even if the righteous hypocrites at ASO'd let him or anyone remotely affiliated with his dirty carcass into the Tour. As for also-!@#$%$ Oscar Pereiro--what, those clowns are going to throw the boy (who after all at least had the sportsmanship not to call for Landis' immolation until the last possible moment) another huge party where this time they force him to hand Landis back the '06 maillot jaune at gunpoint? Yes, yes justice takes time--but where time is distinctly of the essence, must it take so long that Floyd is gonna have to be dug up as some millennia-old mummified archeological artifact before a verdict is reached? Speaking of roasting, I see UCI has graciously held off their bull!@#! analysis on Iban Mayo's Z sample til the boy or his representative can personally be on hand to watch the lab's disgusting self-congratulatory predetermined results flush the tattered remnants of his rebounding career down the toilet. You suck UCI!

I Want Your Sex (To Get Me Out of My Doping Poz): and, (aptly enough, pregnancy-test sponsor) Predictor's suspended Bjorn Leukemans, busted for high testosterone in a surprise pre-Worlds control but defending it on the not-unreasonable grounds that the exact same lab granted him a medical certificate for the exact same "naturally high" testosterone/epitestosterone ratio six years ago, has now taken a new weapon out of his arsenal: he was engaged in the act of love with a companion exactly when the antidoping sniffer dogs banged on his door for a urine test, so natch a few things were ratcheted up hormonally. Despite this compelling, if over-informative, argument, the lab doc has objected that while the boy may indeed be a raging studbucket o' manliness, even those feats of athleticism can't explain the *synthetic* testosterone his geared-up bod apparently produced. Totally aside from the merits of this interesting debate, anyone else prefer that the riders stick with the trusty discreet ol' 'vanishing inhaled twin' defense from now on?

Aw, Rats!: finally, in truly bummin' news, miraculously-recovered young phenom Saul Raisin has announced that his nascent career in cycling is over, as the team doctors at Credit Agricole--which is still honoring his ongoing contract--forbid him from riding in the peloton ever again despite impressive neuro-psych-test results, as the danger to the boy's life is still too great if he should, as riders are so likely to do, take another hit on his head in a crash. Don't give up on this sport entirely Saul--if not ride, surely you could at least inspire either stars of tomorrow, or fellow pro cyclists of today via a ProTour starter-management gig, to do so?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Crankin' Up the Turkey Fryer

Free Iban!: yes, just in time for Thanksgiving, the pathetic repugnant desperate-for-dignity results-shopping tools over at UCI, having fruitlessly scrounged all the way up the alphabet for a reputable laboratory that would confirm we love Iban Mayo's initial EPO-poz A sample, are sure to be particularly thankful this year for the disgusting incompetent self-laudatory desperate-for-dignity lab chimps over at Chatenay-Malabry, who woofed the tests in the first place (sound familiar to anyone?) and now are due to release their inevitably self-confirmatory results celebrating their initial round of career-destroying crap methodology on Wednesday. Why don't we just consult a defective early-model liquid-leaking !F@#$%^& 8-Ball, for all the accuracy we're likely to get from these nits? Fortunately, the ever-dirty Spaniards--already in the doghouse with the frustrated babies at UCI for protecting that one-man opium den, Alejandro Valverde (shrugging, as to his own case's latest developments, that UCI was already dope-slapped by CAS once, so it's certainly no trouble to do it again)--have rightly taken issue with the idea that the dimmest bulbs in the lamp ought to be able to measure their own brightness, and are threatening to sue UCI and the talentless lab monkeys til they sob like lollipop-deprived toddlers if Mayo is in any way defamed or damaged by tomorrow's revelations. Sure, they've perhaps had a tendency of late to be a mite protectionist of their tainted own--but in this case, right on Spain!

Wait'll Ullrich Sees Us! He Loves Us!: in totally innocent German peloton news, too-smug-to-shut-up Ullrich mentor Rudy Pevenage was apparently secretly audio-recorded by righteous ex-soigneur/book-pimping-ho Jeff D'Hont saying that not only was Jan Ullrich happy to dope in his Tour-snagging time at Telekom, but so was everyone else on the team, whose timid and wholly temporary objections Pevenage was proud to say he'd swiftly overcome to the fine effect on the palmares of all concerned. Meantime, I see Patrik Sinkewitz, who seemingly expected to be utterly feted for his post-bust 'fess-up despite his righteous if unhelpful refusal to name names, is now crying over his monstrous one-year doping sentence, made even more obscene, apparently, by the fact that he's been forced to donate a significant percentage of his monthly Starbucks espresso budget to, of all abominations, charity. Oh, the humanity! Between this season's embarrassing admissions and the long, fine national history of doping now coming to light, can someone explain to me again why Ullrich's the only boy the Germans are pissed at?

Free Paolo!: and, one-time Giro king Danilo DiLuca has officially found a home at LPR with two-time Giro god/inexplicable Johan Bruyneel reject Paolo Savoldelli, leading to a charming interview on Gazzetta dello Sport in which, responding to Savoldelli's earlier gracious welcome, DiLuca warmly complimented Savoldelli as a stellar champion and a fine, intelligent, wholly reasonable rider with whom he is certain to come to an accord on various matters, presumably meaning that, though Savoldelli's taken the Giro twice, DiLuca snagged it in '07 unlike his old-news compatriot, so he sure hopes Paolo's gonna be satisfied with the one thank-you stage win Danilo's likely to give him for shepherding him up and down the Dolomites next year. Get out of there Paolo--bad enough you're stuck in a Continental squad in the twilight of your beautiful career, but you deserve better than this! While we're talking about people Alexander Vinokorouv completely !@$@ed, can someone worthy please give Andreas Kloden a job before my head explodes?

Desperado: incidentally, Gazzetta's also got a bitchin' chat with peerless smack-talkin' lord of the climbs Gilberto Simoni, who not only beautifully expresses true passion for both the mountain and road bikes and his deep and abiding love for the Giro, and notes that whatever his physical age, such things are all just how one feels after all, and there are thus plenty of young riders essentially older than he, but also manages to weigh in on the current state of Italian cycling, admiring the power and potential of ingenue-no-more Damiano Cunego, singing the praises of Next Great Cyclist/protege Riccardo Ricco', humbly claiming his growing yet still woefully uninformed admiration of some other young talents, and, of course, pronouncing yet again that Ivan Basso has disappointed him both as a man and as a rider. Still a little irked over the 'extraterrestri's' weaselling out of a gentleman's agreement (and you out of a stage win) in '06, are we? I love Simoni!

Dream Job: finally, I see the Tour of California is looking for volunteers, specifically Athlete Escorts willing to shepherd the riders off the bike to their immediate rendezvous with the fine officials at the medical tent--a gig for true believers in clean sport, if not, perhaps, for squeamish ones. D'Hont, given your history of hawklike observation and raging sense of vigilante justice, you might actually be able to get a new job in cycling at last!

Alexander Vinokorouv's Olympic Training and Medical Intervention Center

Vino's Playhouse: so I see Alexander Vinokorouv, lately jobless over some trifling blood doping hoo-ha in which he completely screwed the stellar casualty Andreas Kloden at the Tour so go to hell you soulless selfish bastard, is turning his remaining euros and his attention to the building of a gigantic state-of-the-art Olympic training center in his home stomping grounds in Kazakhstan, with surely a similarly spectacular, if hopefully more discreet, in-house medical clinic stocked with all the absolutely non-performance-enhancing equipment a woefully uncompetitive athlete in the prime of his or her career might need. Hell, why bother schlepping to someplace like Spain, if your reckless stupid ex-manager is only gonna make you look bad to the press when you're clearly pure as snow?

Hope You Read the Fine Print: and, in a lively article in Velonews, new Astana hire Chris Horner starts off his relationship with Johan Bruyneel in smashing form, not only suggesting that Lance Armstrong is too much of a control-freak wussbag to have handled the only American unwilling and unable to constantly shriek "thank you sir, may I have another?" while his !@# gets whacked into submission so that's likely why he never signed the boy, but also opining that despite having implied that Postal/Discovery was clearly a doping cheating hellhole when it had still 5 guys pounding away at the front at the top of every single final climb, it didn't *this* year, so he's very impressed with Johan's obvious commitment to clean sport. Um, I really appreciated the entertainment value of Velonews' insult-baiting, but since it truly is a pleasure to watch you ride, you sure you didn't sign anything along the lines of "slag us and you'll be on a plane home faster'n you can say 'retired'?" Allez Chris!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Sex, Lies, and (Thankfully No) Videotape

There's Bike Nuts, and Then There's Bike Nuts: BBC reports (I swear) that 51-year-old Robert Stewart, who was caught trying to, well, do the nasty with his bicycle, has, despite his initial claims that the incident was a mere "misunderstanding," plead guilty to sexually aggravated breach of the peace and been sentenced to three years probation and formal registration as a sex offender. According to the distinctly squicked-out sheriff, our perp was caught in flagrante delicto from the waist down engaging in an explicit act with his ride by two cleaning staff who had, after receiving no response to their knocks, entered his hotel love nest with their master key to clean it (no, I'm not even touching that one, you pervs). In response, Celeste Bianchi, Executive Director of Bicycles Incensed by Kinky Exploitation (BIKE) and herself the mother of two young cruisers, immediately announced the group's support of legislation preventing convicted bike sex offenders, regardless of the model year of the victim, from going within 1000 feet of bike shops, big-box stores, cul-de-sacs, and other locations where tricycles are likely to congregate.

The Blitz Begins: and, self-satisfied German crusader Markus Fothen has lammed into not only Paolo Bettini--blasting him as a disastrous role model for refusing to sign UCI's idiot virginity pledge then taking the World Championship on top of it--but also Patrik Sinkewitz and the luckless Jorg Jaksche (firmly dissed, to date, by both Gerolsteiner and Milram) for their disgusting contributions to the sport's destruction, to which Sinkewitz politely pointed out that such an attitude hardly encourages riders to be honest and help the fight against doping at least once they get caught, and Jaksche's camp less politely called bull!@#$ on the entirely sensible grounds that Fothen himself once tested positive for cortisone, not coincidentally in the days in which "fake medical certificates" for such things were easily obtained. Y'know, I'm grateful for any respite from the constant use of Jan Ullrich for target practice, but is there anyone in the German peloton outside maybe a couple of neo-pros and hopefully Jens Voigt who's really qualified to crack the whip on his (or her) fellows?

Tiii-iiime Is On My Side: with the Giro d'Italia lining up four bruising time trials for 2008, the Tours de France and California piling 'em on, and even Paris-Nice uncharacteristically starting off with a 9.3 kilometer race against the clock, it seems the big races may be favoring the likes of Cancellara, Zabriskie, Leipheimer (and fine, Millar, ugh) in the season ahead, good news for them but craptastic for wee little climbers like we love Carlos Sastre and Tour wonderboy Maurizio Soler. The exception? Naturally, the smashing Vuelta, which though quite defensive on the subject of this past year's undermountained corsa, has announced not only the return of the fearsome Angliru, but also a return to the endless leg-pulverizing climbs that traditionally separate the men from the Menchovs. Woo-hoo! In related news, to the relief of hype-stoking cycling journalists everywhere, evergreen Grand Tour also-ran Alejandro Valvderde sez he's backing off the beautiful spring Classics like Fleche-Wallone and Liege he's bagged of late in favor of a tighter focus on both the Tour and, happily, said Vuelta, in part to prep for the Olympics and Worlds. Venga Alejandro! If you can, that is, because...

World Dope Conference: yes, bitter outgoing WADA prez Dick "Dick" Pound and UCI's Pat "Dick" McQuaid have both taken the predictable opportunity of the current WADA conference to whine about Valverde yet *again* to both the general public and the Spanish sports minister, swearing they've got him this time and it's "far from over", except it is until those clannish protectionists quit crying about such piffles as fairness and cheap innuendo and let them yodel the evidence against him from the rooftops, though unfortunately they're "still gathering" it. Fine, he's Dr. Fuentes' dirty little secret protege, you still lost, get over it! And no, Iban Mayo doesn't count as a consolation prize, so layoff shoppin' for some hack who'll scam you a year-late backup positive on him while we're at it, you weasels!

Suit o' the Week: as a relieved Danilo DiLuca considers ambiguous feelers from Saunier Duval and more concrete proposals from the shameless Lampre and a couple of publicity-starved Continental squads, and two-time Giro god we love Paolo Savoldelli gets grossly wasted as he surprisingly signs with LPR (though he would've been hosed with Astana too--free Kloden!), Michael Rasmussen, whose talks with UCI today apparently didn't go so well, proclaimed Rabobank's protestations that they didn't know where he was in June 2006 "absurd" and, lacking anything better to do after all, announced his immediate intention to sue the bike shorts off just about everybody for everything, including both our aforementioned outfits. Even you *are* a sneaky little dirtbag, Chicken, you were *still* robbed of your Tour by baby Contador by the stupidity and avarice of Rabo and UCI--allez allez!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Turnin' the Screws

You've Come a Long Way, Baby (Not That the New York Times Would Know It): in response to IOC honcho Patrice Brunet's call to arms in purging the cycling world and its verminous riders of evil, Floyd Landis, once upon a time a virtual deer in the headlights in the immediate post-'poz' '06 Tour de France media flipout, has, with over a year of playing defense under his belt, written a graceful and impassioned call for due process, specifically for holding the shamefully low-rent biasfest doping prosecutions over at USADA and WADA to the same stringent (and still not foolproof, but certainly a step above "if the witch sinks and drowns, she's innocent") standards as, say, the feds are held to in the real world. Particularly, he opines, it might be nice for an athlete to see the evidence against him without having to spend 10 months and hundreds of thousands of euros (and woe to those lacking either time or team-leader cash reserves) to get what any stumbling incoherent meth-snarfing stoner on "Cops" gets without blinking a bloodshot stuporous eyeball. While we're at it, it might have been nice not to bushwhack Landis with a crap suspension start date in reward for being force-fed his "agreement" not to race on spotless French soil in return for the French vultures generously postponing his hearing there until he was free enough of USADA's clutches to actually make his way back to the country for it. Ah, after all he's been through, still such innocence! And his reward, for trying to save others if not himself? A smug article in the New York Times lauding the heartwarming post-red-handed-bust (literal) jailhouse conversion of St. David Millar, who cried soulfully amidst the rats in his Biarritz cell as the guards apologized for the unfortunate inconvenience to such a fine human being, "My God, what have I become?!" Anyone else getting unpleasant flashbacks to a key scene from "Jesus Christ Superstar" here? I know I'm ready to drop to my knees and start wailing. Anyhoo, in between misty-eyed tributes and a brief discussion of Slipstream's stringent anti-doping plans (and we all know how well those work, right T-Mobile?)--everyone's based in Girona, no training alone to avoid temptation, everyone gets an easily-tracked Blackberry, e-registering all whereabouts at all times with WADA--and an an even briefer mention of such monster Slipstream talents as big Maggie Backstedt and Dave Zabriskie, the Times of course slags recent peloton scumdoers, including a couple of anonymous "top riders" at the Tour this year (and I object to Iban Mayo not being included in that tally, at least for quality purposes!), some whiner from Astana who's complaining about his human rights violations, and--the only one mentioned by name of course--the "disgraced" Floyd Landis, "banned for testing positive for testosterone" on the way to sleazily taking the race. Floyd, you might send your little editorial over to the contextless tools at the Times sports pages. Free Landis (and Iban)!

Monday, November 12, 2007

An Inconvenient Truth, or Two

Rabobank Lied, and It's Still All Rasmussen's Fault: yes, the 'independent panel' of private eyes convened by Rabobank has confirmed that, as Michael Rasmussen said, it did in fact know where he was when he was, that he was utterly bs'ing UCI about his whereabouts, and that he was consequently missing doping controls; that under those circumstances Team Skeezbag ought never have allowed the Chicken to start the Tour de France in the first place; UCI should never have let him in either knowing full well such tactics might totally coincidentally allow a rider time to vacation with the dope provider of his choice, though there's still no evidence the boy did so; and, somehow, the fact that Rabobank and UCI deliberately let a preestablished liar and test-evader enter, race, grab the maillot jaune in, and damn near take the top podium spot at the Tour de France til this all inconveniently went public and Rabo and UCI were unexpectedly obliged to run screaming from their handiwork in the opposite direction, is still all Rasmussen's fault. I'm not saying it's not at all--hell, he's hardly some starstruck jailbait Liberty Seguros pickup-- but is this cowardly sport ever going to hold their corrupt hypocritical overseers, slimedwellling team management, or, heaven forbid, their willfully ignorant (or outright collusive) cash-cow sponsors to account? Right, lookin' forward to that! Happily, though, Rasmussen intends to respond after a thorough review and lawyering-up process on Wednesday, allowing him plenty of time to "straighten things out" with UCI as he's always intended to. Note to Michael: admission of wrongdoing on their part, I can say with some small confidence, is mighty unlikely. And they're not gonna give you a reduced penalty (for embarrassing the crap out of 'em--forget the comparatively minor sin of breaking your Boy Scout honesty oath) just because they're exactly as guilty in this whole pathetic affair as you are, either. Have fun sitting there while they're stoking up the bonfire, though!

Dammit!: and, as Rasmussen and DiLuca languish in the netherworld of the Seventh Circle of Hell (reserved, it seems, for those presumed of but unable to be nailed for actual doping, unless you're Alejandro Valverde--damn, guys, hire that boy's manager at any cost!), quiet 2005 Vuelta king Roberto Heras has, despite "several" reasonably acceptable Continental offers on the table, glumly pronounced his depression at the "state of cycling in the world today," and is, despite his imminently permissible return to the peloton, within mere seconds of announcing his retirement and packing it in. Dammit! Fine, he's a guilty dirtbag, yap yap yap. But if he hasn't gone around crying like a Miss America contestant for the cameras every ten seconds like St. David Millar (and self-preserving reticence will always earn points over self-promoting wah-wahs, in my book, even assuming he's an EPO-snorting bucket o' forbidden pleasures as I do), at least he's sucked it up despite his initially-ambiguous B-sample which should have tanked his suspension entirely while we're at it and served his time. Must it end like this?! Aiiiigggghhhh!

The Second Inconvenient Truth: which brings us to a hard-to-take reality in this gorgeous sport: let's face it, the current, near-empty peloton almost completely blows thanks to the latest round of revelations from '06 through today, and the sport's clearly still as clean as the floor of a factory pig farm on a bad day and rife with filthy cheating superstars and lesser domestiques alike nonetheless--and they're not just all in their 30s, so let's cut the !@#$ about how pure the new generation of riders is, shall we? Let's review the lost boys. The cool, elegant Ivan Basso. The glorious trainwreck that is Jan Ullrich. Danilo DiLuca. Rasmussen. Erik Zabel, who by some miracle and the sheer nostalgia of the hypocrite powers-that-be is still riding. Heras, if you'll be so kind as to block out his ridiculous improvement in the time trial in '05 and just watch him climb in re-runs. Joseba Beloki (don't even get me started on that travesty--nice work, Saiz!). Vinokorouv, a total bastard for selfishly destroying Andreas Kloden's career but, let's be fair, a smashingly entertaining and unpredictable presence in the saddle. And let's count Kloden while we're at it, who's been accused of nothing but wrecked nonetheless, no stranger to bushwhacking either but an inevitable winner of the Tour de France if let off the leash. Human rights crusader Kashechkin, who would've broken free eventually of Vino and his mere occasionally permitted stage win. Matthias Kessler. Patrik Sinkewitz, a fine, attack-happy up-and-comer. Heck, even the goofily inarticulate Floyd Landis, who while not as flashy as some, was (and, one hopes, will be again) nonetheless a quiet, relentless thrill to watch at work. While I'm sure it was right to purge them (Landis, Kloden and Beloki excepted), and I feel incredibly sorry for the (by Jorg Jaksche's count) 5 or so percent of the peloton who's constantly jacked out of winning honestly, when you look at the people who are still riding, and the astonishing amount of deliberate skankball tactics still poisoning the peloton, so far as I can tell, this sport's been completely decimated both quality-and-personality-wise to no productive effect. Add to that, the Simonis, Bettinis and Julichs who'll be calling it quits after next year. Man, if that smack-talking upstart Daniele Bennati ever goes down for any reason, we might as well pack it up and stick a pack of Stepford Wives in the remaining boys' places at the press conferences from here on out. No, I'm not excusing anybody--but is really such heresy to be honest about being bummed about it?

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Why, You Lying Little !@#$%^!

Except, You're Actually Not: yep, in the wake of Michael Rasmussen's little claim that Rabobank knew exactly where he was the whole time they were "shocked" he wasn't in Mexico, Rabo's spokes-tool has been sheepishly forced to admit that indeed, they *did* in fact know where the Chicken was as he justly alleged--but boy, if that little climbing twerp didn't even set foot in Mexico as they thought he might have for a split second between jaunts to Italy, was the team ever right to fire his scrawny lying !@#! Still, they remained determined to bushwhack the boy with *something* apparently, as they snarkily don't intend to give Rasmussen their Top Secret Report until 9am the morning of the press conference. Um, and that changes that you knew where he was the whole time exactly how? Meantime, Pat "Dick" McQuaid--oblivious as always to his complete rewrite of recent, easily verifiable recorded history--has as usual been unable to resist weighing in, hollering that Rasmussen has "no place in cycling" and, what's more, UCI damn well ought to ban him for two years (to save face), as "a lie is no different from a positive doping test." Oh, please, you repugnant blowhard chest-thumping disingenuous dirtbags! Rabo--you needed him, you wanted him, you gave him a pass for the Grand Boucle even knowing what he was up to--wah, wah, you were busted, you've now copped to it, face the music already! Pat "Dick", you and UCI sure thought Rasmussen "belonged in cycling" when you let him ride & seize the maillot jaune in the Tour de France (and damn near let him schlep it to Paris) knowing full well he was bs'ing you about his whereabouts when you couldn't freakin' find him for his pre-Tour doping controls--wah, wah, we trusted to luck this wouldn't go public and wreck our otherwise nearly starless Tour just as fans and press started getting excited again--you bet wrong, now suck it up! Y'know, I'm not excusing what Rasmussen did--nor at all assuming that he was just attending to "marital issues" at the time, though I sincerely hope those clear up-- but it seems to me that while a lying-possibly-doping cheat is a pathetic dime-a-dozen in this beautiful disgraced cesspool of a sport, UCI and Rabobank's rank hypocrisy in the face of their obvious collusion in this travesty is even worse. Lucky for them though, CSC's fine expert has carefully studied the stage-by-stage Tour blood values Rasmussen released, and pronounced them "suspicious," so as one might predict, no matter how much Rabo and UCI did to enable this ridiculous farce, they're almost sure to escape anyone's notice, much less any actual culpability. Ugh. Anyone else tempted to offer a gigantic reward to anyone who forces these two-faced freaks to endure a tenth of the career-tanking penalties and public abuse they so happily heap on the riders?

Lanced: and, I see the massive gravity-suck of Lance Armstrong's ego has blotted out yet another of his selfless lieutenants, as Chechu Rubiera, who was smashingly capable of winning (and did indeed win) races in his own right before his Postal service ground him into the dust, incredibly finds himself without a contract for next year, and, what's worse, dragged down by his other jobless teammates (not to mention the many tainted goods still left over from Op Puerto in '06) as a surfeit of talent both gluts and cheapens the peloton. Yes, he's no toddling baby Contador--but he's proven this season that despite his creeping age he still has enough skill and power to be worth at least another year in the saddle. And this is his reward for being your total slave through the grinding agony of endless mountain stages for 5 consecutive Tour de Frances? Ditch that damn Olsen twin off your lap Lance, pay back the debts you owe your lowly ex-teammates, and get that faithful boy a job!

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Rasmussen Speaks! (Not About What You're Really Interested In, Though)

Family Leave: yes, gazzetta's got today's press conference--staged as a preemptive strike to Rabobank's announcement of the results of its "internal report" of the Rasmussen scandal scheduled for next Monday--and the Chicken indeed lied to UCI and the trusting tifosi when he said he was in Mexico in June, when he was in fact, as hallway-monitor Davide Cassini rightly claimed, in Italy (as well as France). The reason for the deception that totally coincidentally allowed him to bail on a couple of key pre-Tour doping tests? None of your damn beeswax--enigmatically, he'll cop to lying for "marital reasons," but that's all you're gonna get you disgusting rumormongering salacious press scum, because he must protect his family at all costs. What's more, it's an "absurdity" that those hypocrite pigs at Rabobank kicked him out of the Tour when UCI freakishly waited til the third week in to bust him for stuff they knew perfectly well he'd done a month earlier, because whatever bull!@#$ Rabo's selling you now, they knew *exactly* where he was at every moment. And the obvious question? He ain't answerin' that either! Anyone else getting wee little Ivan Basso "I only attempted to dope" vibes here?

Money (That's What I Want): and, I see jobless-disgruntled-broke'n'desperate-ex-soigneur-to-the-stars Jeff d'Hont's written yet another book dope-smacking poor (literally, if you consider what he apparently paid to the fine Dr. Fuentes) Jan Ullrich, charging that our boy took EPO throughout 1996. Wait a minute...didn't retired Dutch racing legend Bo Hamburger just cop to using EPO in the 90s, and claim that "everyone else" did too, so in fact "there was a level playing field" anyway? He must mean "everyone" but Lance Armstrong. Anyhoo, in light of this revelation, and even assuming that D'Hont's telling the truth (not that it seems farfetched), did our innocent little Jan really do so wrong--or at least so wrong that he's the only star in his early 30s who ought to have his @#$ hissed out of the peloton?

Equivocating Wanker Quote o' The Day: Gerolsteiner manager Hans Michael Holczer on T-Mobile's organized doping being a like problem at his squad--"I can practicallly deny the possibility, but of course I can't guarantee it." What?! Please, please tell me this is merely a problem of halfwit translation (not mine--mine's Italian), and it hasn't really escaped this clown's notice that Gerolsteiner is *his own* !@#$ing team, so if there's a line of baby-blue riders outside a Gerolsteiner-reserved hotel room with a doc on hand and a passel of syringes replacing the mini liquor bottles in the little fridge, he and his lackeys're the ones most likely to have organized it? Damn, is there no limit to the free pass the DSes and managers get from this sport?!

Goldmine: yep, the gag is off, and forensic toxicology god/key Landis witness Bruce Goldberger is finally talking about the "garbage" work done by the French lab chimps, though unfortunately for Floyd the arbitrators apparently accepted that analysis and were really only persuaded by the B sample (itself a trainwreck of excruciating proportions). Still and all, our hero's at least got a man of impeccable reputation like we love Phil Liggett on his side defending his honor--I'm sure that makes up for having your career wrecked and your place in history completely destroyed by the brainless self-interested desperate hijinks of a pack of nimrod witchhunting incompetents!

Babes in Arms: finally, in non-doping news (jinx!--now I've done it, we're doomed!), as big George Hincapie takes his young mentee Craig Lewis over to T-Mobile from Slipstream, baby Giro podium wunderkind (and patient Tour de France prospect) Andy Schleck's apparently set to stick with CSC the next two seasons, along with his exceedingly talented big brother Frank, setting up a truly smashing lineup for the team for the foreseeable future with its other new addition, the utterly underrated Brad McGee. Okay, Bjarne's really been ticking me off of late--and I still think he's an @#$ for losing we love Dave Zabriskie and jacking Bobby Julich last Tour--but even I can be nice about some damn sensible other pickups. Allez Schlecks!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

I Will Gladly Pay You Tuesday...

For a New Team Kit Today: yep, poor loser Giro god Danilo DiLuca--tainted not, oddly enough, by his disturbingly girlish testosterone levels at the Giro, but because he knew a doctor UCI itself let loose in the peloton even after it knew damn well he was associated with doping--has been reduced to pimping pieces of himself to various (and quite pragmatic)Italian companies, hoping to make himself such a cheap date that even a skittish ProTour sponsor'll be willing take on a lowly Grand Tour winner if it'll only have to shell out a few bucks on chamois cream to get him. Oh Danilo. If you can't snag a riding gig for next season--which'd be the most idiotic thing I've ever heard, considering the other one-man-pharmacies still cavorting in the peloton--at least you've got some runway experience, so maybe there's a gig for you over at next season's "America's Most Smartest Model" anyway!

Welcome Mat: and, in vaguely related news, Eki has demurred on the question of whether Savoldelli (who gazzetta reported re-signing already) or Andreas Kloden will be staying with Discovery-I-Mean-Astana, anticipating a tough first year as the team remains stuck with its inherited Vino-picked flotsam and leaving the question for Johan to answer, raising the serious concern that if Danilo DiLuca can't get a new team, a guy who hasn't personally taken the top spot on a Grand Tour podium to date but has managed to associate himself with two of the most disgraced yellow and gold jersey winners in recent history--forget some lame-@$$ support doc--is completely doomed. That, and by my count so far we've got at a minimum Saunier Duval, Rabobank, Barloworld and Slipstream already closing rosters for the season. Hmmm, I suppose T-Mobile's rather unlikely...

Running Man: so, as T-Mobile reconsiders its sponsorship in light of the Sinkewitz debacle despite Bob Stapleton's sweetly naive commitment to purity for the '07 squad, I see that while confessed dope fiend Rolf Aldag's continued association with the team is naturally therefore "in trouble," Aldag still managed to pull off a better recent marathon time than Lance Armstrong, reassuring all his old fans that though Lance "never tested positive for anything," Rolf's efforts at least paid off somewhere. See where that tinkering with celebrity youngsters gets you Lance even with all those pretty test results? Given Aldag's apparent relative lack of income-generating star power (and fine service on behalf of Jan Ullrich), I say allez Rolf!

So Let It Be Written, So Let it Be Done: in Tour news, by the by, I see (courtesy of the inexhaustible folks over at trustbutverify, who even more amazingly seem to understand what they're posting, something far beyond my pathetic capacity) that Floyd Landis has released a whole host of arbitration documents, readying himself and the cycling public for his day with CAS where any victory on his part is sure to come waaaaaaaay after it's too late for him to participate in, much less be in shape for, the 2008 Tour de France. Does it even matter that this whole thing's been a complete farce start to finish at this point? Free Floyd!

League of Justice: meantime, Andrei Kashechkin takes his crusade for human rights to a Belgian court today, outraged at the egregious evil of waterboarding, I mean, a private organization like WADA and UCI testing riders who voluntarily choose to get paid millions of euros voluntarily participating in their sanctioned races. Y'know, coming from a country where workers have about as much right to be free of their employers' requirements as they have not to let the door hit them on @$$ on the way out when they complain about it, this seems completely ridiculous to me, but apparently my colleagues over in the considerably more enlightened EU find this actually plausible, so if Kashechkin ultimately wins his case as well as his inevitable Nobel prize, I think we can all just forget any kind of doping controls entirely til the various state bureaucracies get their act together ten years from now, and simply line up the boys at the start line with their syringe-bearing pals in lab coats and openly juice 'em up from the get-go. Hell, if a few dope-carrying little soigneurs accidentally get stampeded as the race heads out, that's not such a great price to pay for an exciting day on the roads, right?

Quote o' the Week: without question, the peerless Paolo Bettini to the hapless Patrik Sinkewitz, the day after the press claimed Sinkewitz ratted out Bettini as his doping provider but before the boy had time to shriek out his fervent denial: "if it was you that said it then you will be crying." Who knew such a wee little Cricket could give such a big roar?

Sunday, November 04, 2007

One Is the Loneliest Number

Go West, Young Man!: hell, Kloden, go *anywhere* else, as gazzetta's reporting that two-time Giro king Savoldelli is signing with his old boss Bruyneel at Astana for one more year, which means Andreas, with Bruyneel virtually obligated to field a halfway respectable squad for that, then pulling all the stops out for baby Contador at the Tour of course, you and Levi are going be left fighting for scraps at the Vuelta, if you're even lucky enough to recuperate in time after Johan has you blast yourself apart in Alberto's utter service--get the hell out of Dodge to a team that'll do you some justice, I beg you! Of course, with the teams neatly sewing up their rosters as we speak, particularly with regards to their major GC contenders/cash outlays, the poor boy's probably already totally yanked. What a !@#$%^$! waste of talent!

"Dope" Is Right: well it turns out that not only were those clowns at T-Mobile systematically doping riders during 2006, but they also damn near killed Patrik Sinkewitz doing it, when his pre-stage blood transfusion had to be tanked at the last minute when someone fortunately noticed that the blood had gone bad--apparently, started clotting--and could have slaughtered the boy had he used it. Damn T-Mobile, do we really need yet another rider in the peloton keeling over as a result of "a previously undiagnosed medical problem" before he's out of his twenties--cheat all you want for all I care, since Pat "Dick" McQuaid's still gonna blame the Spaniards for the entire sport's problems even if you jam a needle in their !@#$@$ right at the start line, but can you at least get your boys through their regimen in one piece?!

More Spanish Cheating: and, I see tireless (and tiresome) guardian of purity Dr. Werner Franke has gone to court to remove his injunction against yapping how Jan Ullrich paid 35 thousand euros to Fuentes, and for damn good reason sez he--it wasn't the payment, just the deposit, and in fact Ullrich coughed up 120 thousand instead. Haven't we heard this all before? Meantime, Franke's attorney promises a stellar cast of witnesses, including not only usual suspect/mentor-from-hell Rudy Pevenage, but also repentant sinner Jorg Jaksche, Dr. Fuentes himself--now there's a guy I'd trust to help you, Werner--and, most surprisingly, comely pinup stud Ivan Basso. Um, not to belabor the obvious, and leaving aside the likelihood that unless Ullrich and Basso shared a cab over to Fuentes' offices it's highly doubtful he actually observed anything--but if the best anyone could do is to make Basso gack up an admission of *attempted* doping when he was being offered a bazillion euros to sell his own story to the tabloids, what the hell makes you think he'd pimp himself or Ullrich to you for nothing?

Ridiculous Rumor of the Day: Mario "the Chest" Cipollini to reclaim his glory days by coming back to the peloton at Rock Racing, blown off as a casual Interbike joke by Cipo's rep but coyly supported by perpetual publicity ho Frankie Andreau. Oh, sure it's crap--but wouldn't it be more fun that listening to Robbie McEwen whine?

Friday, November 02, 2007

Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow

--Not!: So I see Dick "Dick" Pound, exiting stage left for presumably nobler pursuits than his disgusting reign of selective torment, has taken his fond farewell to leadership at WADA as an opportunity to excoriate the world's governing bodies, particularly cycling's, to show some stones on doping, snarling that "it's a 20th century problem being dealt with by 19th century organizations." Far be it from me to correct him on what century we're currently in, but meantime, our boy continues that, with regard to the Tour in particular, "this year was a disaster...[the incompetent enablers over at UCI] must have known they were looking into the abyss." Um, weren't they already actually bloodied and broken at the *bottom* of the thing? Pat "Dick" McQuaid, however, not to be outdone, lams into the Spaniards yet again for their inexplicable coddling of the Op Puerto scum, particularly Alejandro Valverde, who is clearly "Piti", as well as their embrace of the dirty doping culture in general, which nationalist rant was proven correct yet again as police search the Freiburg University clinic, home of T-Mobile's 2006 systematic team doper doctors-to-the-stars, only to find, however, that the place had already been cleaned out by "many men carrying out briefcases from offices" thanks to months of lucky lead time and leaving Jan Ullrich in the clear yet again. But you keep persecuting the Spaniards, Pat!

DiLucapalooza: and, poor Giro king Danilo DiLuca confirms he's been kicked out of Liquigas, though he gamely notes a lucrative offer from Bjarne Riis over at CSC, which claim was immediately denied by the paranoiac cleansters (like Bjarne) in question. Still and all, Di Luca remains hopeful, saddened by the "really unfair" decision to jack him out of his Pro Tour title and the Worlds but largely expressing pleasure with his earlier season and optimism for the next. Oh, come on people! I'm not saying let's just give the boy a pass for associating with a known notorious cheating weasel. But really, given the rest of this season, isn't he just about the least of the peloton's problems? And what the hell, Saunier Duval--now that Mayo's been cleared, you're really gonna wait til UCI scrounges up someone who'll claim a positive B (at this point, let's face, it's more like a "Z") sample to formally give him the team slot he clearly deserves?

Klodi, Klodi, Wherefore Art Thou, Klodi?: and, in contract news, Puerto-snagged Spanish riders continue to find humble yet happy homes with Portuguese continental squads, which begs yet again the question, what the hell happens to Andreas Kloden? Relegated to monkey domestique to Bruyneel's darling at the Tour when he ought to be let off the leash to take the whole thing, or at least his usual spot on the podium? Pacified with a crap team for the Giro or an exhausted one for the Vuelta? Or is he, as Anonymous has kindly pointed out, really headed to Milram, which certainly can't give him the GC backing he deserves but at least won't waste him babysitting someone else? Or, worst of all, will he retroactively get sucked into the T-Mobile/Astana vortex by virtue of his previous associations, and be relegated to some also-ran local squad and *totally* hosed? Free Klodi!

Il Grande Giro: so the route's set to be unveiled in December, but already, word's out that it's headed into Lugano for its international foray. Let's see, Basso's still out one more year; Garzelli and Simoni are yanked on Continental squads, at least for GC, DiLuca and perhaps even Piepoli's participation is in some small doubt; the sprinters are no overall threat; Bettini has all the motivation in the world (especially after this year's Giro) to blow apart the field for fun and stage wins in his last year, but isn't a GC man; Savoldelli's future is unclear; holy moly, if Saunier Duval'll field him a half-decent team and he can pull off more'n a middling time trial for once, that little rugrat Riccardo Ricco' might actually have a chance! Still, so long as you'll be cavorting about at your new home Gibo, one more stage win and I swear this time you're free to head out on your mountain bike!

Lance to the Music: finally, cycling hits the mainstream press again, not over anything of actual substance like Floyd Landis' and Iban Mayo's due process interests being grossly pimped by UCI in a vicious revenge orgy, or that, say, world champs were recently crowned, but because, in one of the squickiest celebrity slut news reports in recent memory, Lance Armstrong was allegedly observed in a New York nightclub making out with a just-barely-out-of-jailbait-range lunch-starved frogfaced Olsen twin. I'm so glad to see US cycling coverage improving! Y'know, Lance, bad enough you lamed out of supporting the riders who so selflessly crushed their own aspirations to serve you hand and foot for seven years by completely ignoring 'em at the '07 Tour in favor of a freakin' *golf* tournament (and of course, this is not to downplay all your tireless cancer work and all)--but this, *this* ditzbag crap is what you were too busy doing to be bothered to find a new sponsor for Discovery this season?! Aaaaiiigggghhh!