Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year!

Resolve This: well, looking back at my last year's New Year's Resolutions, I see unfortunately that they lasted about as long as St. David Millar in front of a camera before the waterworks start, so despite their dubious utility, and my even more dubious willpower, for the sake of peace and love and redemption and all that other commie socialist hippie crap, I hereby sincerely try again:

1. I will not excoriate the know-nothing non-cycling press for whatever idiot comments they make after Landis inevitably loses his CAS appeal. However, on actual cycling freaks, it remains open season. I will, though, send the brilliant and faithful pro-Floyd analysts over at trustbutverify some nice flowers in consolation for their loss.

2. I will not slag St. David Millar quite so relentlessly, on the entirely fair and reasonable point raised by his Shameless Defender that at least he didn't gack up some completely ludicrous eye-roller of a denial like Ivan Basso. But if he cries one more time like some couch-welded Cheeto-snorting rugrat suddenly deprived of his XBox for the first time in a decade, all bets are off, honey.

3. I will sell, or at least rent, my immortal soul to the first person who gets me a legitimate working press pass to the Giro d'Italia, though in the interest of good sportsmanship, I caution any and all comers that should you try to resell it on E-bay, it likely ain't gonna be worth the postage.

4. I will continue to loathe Bjarne Riis for jacking over Bobby Julich for the Tour this year, no matter how kind, humane, rational, understanding, and forgiving this fine and diplomatic cyclist personally is about it.

5. I will pay more attention to cyclo-cross, track, and the grossly undercovered women's peloton. Sure, these things are never actually broadcast so one can see them, but it can't be that expensive to catch a plane to Europe every weekend, right?

6. I resolve to forgive Denis Menchov for winning in fine form the 2007 Vuelta, despite my lingering and deeply unjust resentment against him for the disastrous results-stripping outcome of the Heras affair in 2005 for which he bore no responsibility whatsoever. However, I *am* still rooting for Samuel Sanchez to kick his @#$ in 2008.

7. I resolve not to project onto faultless innocent prodigy Alberto Contador my annoyance when Johan Bruyneel viciously screws over we love Levi Leipheimer and, next year, we also love Andreas Kloden, at the Tour de France *again*. As an added bonus, I'll stop mentioning the wholly irrelevant fact that he's a product of both Manolo Saiz and Liberty Seguros every time he takes a stage win.

8. I promise not to be snarky about Petacchi, DiLuca, and Basso's pouty studmuffin status, because there's certainly nothing wrong with being both a genius cyclist and also very, very pretty. However, if any one of them drapes himself in satin for a calendar, struts his stuff on a Milan runway, or rips his shirt off for gazzetta dello sport again, it's all over, baby!

9. I will give one free pass on massive verbal abuse for the wily and entertaining provider of the 2008 Best Doping Excuse of the Year. Cuz you know, no matter how many guys got drawn and quartered over failing to mask it properly this year, *some* little eejit's gonna try it again (and blow it again) next season.

10. I, I just can't promise anything with regard to that scorched-earth witch-hunting Iban-hating weasel hypocrite Pat "Dick" McQuaid. I just plain can't. Oh well, perhaps I'll be a better person next year!

All right, that's about all the personal improvement I can stomach for one year. Happy New Year to all, and to all a good night!

Saturday, December 29, 2007


There is No Joy in Racejunkieville/Mighty Heras Has Bailed Out: fine, he's a dirty doping tainted product of a filthy cheating generation of selfish liars and the spinelessly abandoned son of a Machiavellian organizer of systemic Spanish treachery, yap, he got what he deserved just like Vinokorouv and Ullrich, yap, he should burn in hell with the rest of Manolo Saiz' EPO-snarfing blood-doping perverted poseur proteges, yap yap yap. But even accepting as, well, implausible, his astonishing explosion in time-trial mastery in 2005 (and believe me, I do), let's talk about what else we still love Roberto Heras nonetheless is and was: one of the most beautiful climbers in the history of the sport, bar none, and no matter what the hell you're on, you can't turn the lumpen grinding of an Evans into that. A brief review of his palmares: a blazing start to his career with a Giro stage (against a pretty formidable field of Italians with national pride as stake, no less) while at Kelme; years of mountain servitude to Armstrong at Postal in a domestique role far below his actual capacity for personal victory; and, with teams that let's be honest here were seldom gifted with the power of the squads reserved for the season's earlier Tour, 3 smashing Vueltas plus Menchov's, who, whatever Heras may have been stoked on, clearly wasn't ready to earn it in his own right til this year in any case. But Heras is of course correct in throwing in the towel--no matter what he was allegedly offered by any of the Continental teams, none of them could do him or his existing legacy any justice at this point, especially after two years out of competition and no hope of returning to the support level ProTour 'til he's hit 35, already downgraded back to domestique when he gets there. Self-aggrandizing human frailties and all, Roberto, your retirement's a great loss!

Now, before both of you go off all affronted on my continued adoration of Heras and resolute respect for his unparalled climbing genius in the face of his grotesque disrespect for pure sport, let's consider his sainted contemporaries, shall we? 107 riders implicated in Op Puerto in 2006, less than a year into Heras' exile, including basically all of Liberty Seguros and the entire Grand-Tour-contender elite. Yet, as evidence mounts that several teams have been intimately involved in organizing and directing broad-brush doping programs among their cyclists, and damned recently at that, many of these boys not only continued to ride in the comparative poverty and obscurity of Continental squads, but remained cuddled in ProTour luxury til later misadventures cast, or sometimes failed to cast, them out. And in light of such shenanigans, is it really so likely that only the stars of the teams were doped up by their masters, and the press-pimped baby Next Lance Armstrongs were not? I object not to harsh antidoping punishments--which, even aside from the benefit of fostering integrity, hopefully encourage safe-supplement practices that protect the riders' health even better than say our hero Eufemiano Fuentes--but to their shockingly arbitrary application by the ringmasters over at UCI, WADA, the race organizations, and the sports federations. Even the Darwinian explanation of natural-selection-by-culling-of-the-reckless-and-stupid fails to comfort, as it seems ironic that one should be rewarded by being an even wilier bastard (worse, in the cases of those who could afford outside assistance, a richer wilier bastard) than one's more broke or merely luckless contemporary. Explain to me again how doping is discouraged at all if there's a smashingly high chance that, assuming you manage not to irk somebody important, you'll actually manage get away with it?

Of course, the new generation of riders is clean nowadays, and are committed to truth beauty justice and fairness in a way that the cheating sad-sacks of prior days were not; such follies will, after all, die utterly as the dirty tacticians of the old school, victims of their decaying bodies and even more decayed souls, age out of the peloton. Right, Kessler and Sinkewitz?

Oh Roberto. You should have melted down for the cameras, pimped your equally-dirty-but-more-discreet compatriots to the narcs, and raised a few euros for the bambini in your exile. Perhaps you might still find a home as a born-again DS somewhere if you fess up now?

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

St. Ivan of the Dolomites (Part Deux), and Mother Theresa Eufemiano Fuentes

Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor, Your Stoked to the Gills: as a molto tranquillo Ivan Basso both continues his wholly admirable engagement in orphaned children's charity work and his rigorous solo training regimen, with most humble caveats that he understands the road back is a long one and he does not soon expect to compete as he he last did when he returns this coming October, a shamefully cynical part of my previously-idealistic-but-since-thwapped-into-morbid-acceptance-of-gruesome-reality brain cannot help but wonder, are we in for some horrid endless St. David Millar-style tearful wah-wah about his constant regret (that he was busted), complete with an ostentatious bawling on-camera breakdown every time some other unrepentant peloton ignoramus falls into the vicious clutches of the doping Dark Side? Not to condemn true changes of heart and sincere pleas for honorable sportsmanship here--I can't imagine any of these guys would voluntarily blow their Ferrari budgets trying to edge out their fellow dope hounds with even more potent concoctions if they needn't do it to win, after all--but is anyone else hoping that since Basso, unlike Millar, is still only copping to "attempting" to dope that he can at least restrain himself enough to kiss a few babies, sign a few autographs, do his job at the start line when he gets back in 2008 and just shut the hell up after that?

I Think, Therefore I Shouldn't Speak: so I see Operacion Puerto hero, Protector of Athletes' Health, and voracious publicity ho Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes is hitting the radio rounds in support of his fine therapeutic regimens, this time modestly opining that "they should put up a monument to me" and "they should give me the Nobel Prize" for his selfless work on behalf of cruelly oppressed drug-snarfing Grand Tour riders and classics podium aspirants everywhere. (The tifosi over at Gazzetta dello Sport politely suggested, between snorts of e-mockery, that if he really cared he might give us the names of all the cyclists implicated in Op Puerto for Christmas, but apparently his schedule of saintly do-gooding is already too jam-packed to fit in a stint as Santa Claus as well.) Deluded Napoleon-complex wingnut though Fuentes is, I must say I'm rather inclined to agree with him. After all, why pollute the most revered peaks of the cycling world with stupid tributes to the irrelevant likes of Fausto Coppi when you could adorn, say, l'Alpe d'Huez with a far more apropos six-foot marble statue of a syringe, a fridge, and perhaps a couple of riders' dogs to memorialize the power and integrity of this beautiful sport for generations, nay millennia to come?

The Morning After: meantime, over at Predictor-now-Silence-Lotto, the team has posthaste fired Studmuffin-o'-the-Peloton Bjorn Leukemans, as his B-sample for testosterone (lately being blamed, since the 'love defense' didn't appear to cut it, on a team doctor purposely giving a rider subject to 8 bazillion clearly delineated banned substances and total career destruction if he takes any of 'em a random mystery rub with ingredients our quack didn't even recognize as off-limits on the label) came back positive. Bjorn, however, gamely argues that he has another perfectly reasonable explanation for the unfortunate incident, but, of course, his meany of a lawyer won't let him talk til the Jan 10 hearing on the matter which totally coincidentally would appear to give him a good two weeks to figure one out. Good luck on that Bjorn!

Il Grande Gibo, Part Deux: finally, to the swooning adoration of tifosi everywhere, we love perpetual crankmaster Gilberto Simoni of all riders has suddenly gone all soft'n'sweet on us, expressing his greatest wish as making it to the Olympics in the blue jersey of his national team, warmly complimenting his fellows at Saunier Duval as key to his recent triumph on the slopes of the Zoncolan, looking back on this season as important not for his victories but for the courage and capacity to suffer that he found he still had, reflecting on the importance of riders becoming more involved in the calendar and character-building of the sport, and admiring the likes of Cunego, baby protege Riccardo Ricco and attack genius Leonardo Piepoli for the Giro long haul. Any takers on how long his apparent New Year's resolution not to slag anybody else is going to last? Vai Gibo!

Friday, December 21, 2007

How Many Dopers Can You Fit on the Head of a Pin?

A !@#$*&' Lot of 'Em, if You're Rock Racing: so as we dearly love 3-time Tour de France podium finisher/34-year-old climbing god Joseba Beloki is forced to retire because he wasn't actually busted for anything except being on ONCE and Liberty Seguros (burn in hell, you soulless rider-pimping bastard Saiz!), 80-year-old Tyler "I Ate My Twin" Hamilton, lately booted off Tinkoff with fellow dopehound Danilo Hondo in a fit of moral righteousness as soon as its oligarch got done profiting off their names, has actually managed to score a new gig with Rock Racing, new home of dope-linked ex-Phonak-cohort Santi Botero incidentally and most recently noted for its obnoxious jean-seller owner's bizarrely slagging Chris Horner's ethics to a chorus of boos from the Velonews faithful. Tyler, with your slammin' new bank account--and assuming, and I still certainly hope I'm wrong here, that your protestations of innocence at Phonak of all squads lacked, well, accuracy--any chance you could reimburse me the 15 bucks I blew defacing my Tyler Hamilton Foundation hat defending your innocence before the disgusting perpetual intrigue of this beautiful sport finally debauched mine?

Did I Mention Burn In Hell, You Soulless Rider-Pimping Bastard Saiz?: and, as Joseba concedes defeat and mournfully schleps off into the sunset without even a DS sympathy gig at old home stomping grounds Euskaltel to show for it, I'd like to take a moment to pay tribute his spectacular palmares, including a fine podium finish at the Vuelta a Espana. Yap, yap, anyone Manolo Saiz touched was a colossal drug-snorting one-man corroded cesspool--even if so, can we honestly believe he was the only team manager force-feeding any or all of his brilliant proteges something more powerful than Tang? Beloki was gorgeous to watch on a climb at his height, he was just coming back beautifully even as a superdomestique years after his post-Tour leg-snap when Liberty Seguros went down, and the peloton's far the crappier for his loss. Tell me again why his tangential association with Op Puerto should've excluded him from the pack any more than, say, gentlemen with gigantic buckets of blood bags in Eufemiano Fuentes' fridge with ambiguous code names like "Valv" tatooed on 'em, or, say, half the riders on the recently-deceased alleged-Spanish-doper-refugee-camp Relax-Gam, who continue to ride to this day?

Unparanoid Conspiracy Theorist: finally, as an enraged Iban Mayo refuses to recognize Chatenay-Malabry's inevitable Z-sample poz on the not unreasonable grounds that they had no right to run the damn thing in the first place as a B-sample test in his favor had already been conducted, and that it's just the slightest bit possible that UCI had perhaps a vested interest in obtaining a positive result after spending the last six months crowing over his downfall, the Spanish cycling fed, which seemed noncommittal on the possibility of defending Iban yesterday given how tough it is to argue about a two-fer test positive, has now at least decided not to sanction the boy and to instead face the music with UCI and their certain whining, if their incessant swooning over Alejandro Valverde doesn't distract them beforehand. We'll see if that resolve sticks, but meantime, free Iban!

Finding My Happy Place: finally, in about the only bit of nonsucktastic news this week, gazzetta dello sport's got a bitchin' audio and video clip of Matteo Tosatto and Pippo Pozzato singing away, which for my money in the annals of jocks crooning is far and away better than the Red Sox croaking their way through "Dirty Water" so mortifyingly a few years back. If cycling doesn't work out for you boys (though it has pretty damn well to this point), at least you've always got a spot on the pop charts....

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Oh, There's No Place Like Hosed for the Holidays!

Pat "Dick" We Have Heard on High/Swearing, "Iban, You Will Fry": y'know, in this season of giving, it's so important to remember those in need, which is why it's so very touching to watch Pat "Dick" McQuaid and the desperate-for-credibility protocol-mangling incompetent lab chimps over at Chatenay-Malabry giving Iban Mayo's lonely underprivileged urine samples a heart-warming 800 opportunities to replicate their initial freak poz for EPO, which, after an irksome little negative by some crap Gent lab with no actual vested interest in the results, finally arrived in a true Christmas miracle, since apparently no known legitimate laboratory could come up with one using, well, science. Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus! Sadly, Iban's attorney at least is distinctly unappreciative, opining, in one of those feats of intuition that only the most intimate of lawyer-client relationships can foster, that though he doesn't know where Iban is, he's pretty sure his boy ain't happy, and will likely appeal. As for our ferocious bulldogs at the Spanish cycling fed, so eager to rush to defend the honor of Alejandro Valverde at the slightest hint of slander? Naturally, they immediately took to the airwaves in outrage and there? Hello? Anybody? Hellooooo-oooo....?

I Saw Mommy Kissing Leukemans: meantime, as Bjorn Leukemans' actual B sample comes back poz for exogenous testosterone, the virile young man continues to claim both his inherently-studlier-than-thou and vaunted act-of-love-interruptus defenses, fiercely asserting 'these values are natural!' Oh, Bjorn. I sympathize indeed if you didn't do this at all, but surely there's no shame (if still yet a suspension), in this open-minded, 'fess-up era of Bjarne and Zabel and Aldag, of admitting to needing a little help with such things now and then?

Landis Got Run Over By a French Guy: finally, as if Floyd Landis hasn't been dope-slapped enough lately by UCI, USADA, WADA, the press, disgruntled fans, and frankly everyone on earth except the thoughtful detectives at trustbutverify and (correct me if I'm hallucinating here) Lance-freakin-Armstrong of all people, the French cycling fed has undertaken the pointless exercise of smacking him around yet again, this time by making sure to ban him from non-UCI races in the rather unlikely event that Christian Prudhomme drops to his knee like a proposing swain and begs Landis to ride a non-UCI Tour de France next year. Now, if I recall correctly, the Landis-lovin' organizers over at ASO not only have spent the last year and a half calling Floyd a cheating testosterone whore, but also kindly introduced the route of the 2007 Tour de France with a video of Landis' head shattering, so I'm fairly sure--and this may be too speculative, I know--they're not exactly planning to rip the maillot jaune off Oscar Pereiro's back and joyously bear Floyd on their shoulders down the Champs-Elysees next year. But you go right ahead defending the unimpeachable Tour's virtue from the filthy likes of Floyd Landis, folks!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Year in Preview

Yep, You Read Right: well folks, the sun's nearly set on a lively 2007, so I thought that, for the two pro cycling fans still left after our latest year of disgusting revelations, we'd all take a nice, relaxing look ahead to what's sure to be a sparkling-clean 2008:

January: the boys stretch their legs and get working on their base tans at the Tour Down Under, except for the hardcore crowd over at CSC, which gets dropped in the Antarctic in their summer team kits with only an ice ax, a two-foot nylon fishing line, and a matchstick-length bit of medium-gauge wire to survive on. Bjarne smirks at shivering ice-rimmed helmet-cam coverage from palatial beachside cabana in Monaco.

February: woo-hoo, it's the Amgen EPO Tour of California! Levi set to take the win til Johan Bruyneel makes him personally pedal Alberto Contador up the mountains on the back of his bike in a child seat. Foiled again!

March: Gearing up for the Classics, baby! Breakaways Boonen Zabel and Petacchi stuck behind passing train at crossing; enraged Petacchi punches hole through freight car, egress gained. Back in the pack, George Hincapie's bike spontaneously combusts.

April: Iban Mayo's 367th straight B sample analyzed at Chatenay-Malabry finally comes back poz. Spanish authorities, still too busy man-crushing on certain Op Puerto-implicated favorites to complain to UCI, personally tar and feather him.

May: Il Grande Giro! Bettini pulverizes rivals; DiLuca climbs Pyrenees in 6.8 seconds, only to be demolished by rebellious domestique Savoldelli on descent; Simoni bids discreet goodbye to peloton by viciously impugning the manhood of whoever beats him to Pampeago; Edita Pucinskaite, Nicole Brandli 1st and 2nd at Giro d'Italia Femminile for 3d year in a row, exchange warm compliments.

June: Entire population of Belgium and Germany tests poz for exogenous testosterone; Pat "Dick" McQuaid immediately blames Spanish-Italian "mafia nations." Valverde, you cheating bastard! Results of Landis' unsuccessful appeal announced in predictable total farce; on the plus side, 80 years into this ridiculous travesty, Landis now eligible for Social Security due to advancing age.

July: Le Tour, what else? UCI allows 186 known dopers to start; after stripping rightful winner of maillot jaune on penultimate day, UCI awards to we love Phil Liggett, the only guy they're sure is clean. In non-Tour news, obscure Portuguese neo-pro tests poz for EPO; St. David Millar hospitalized for chronic sobbing, miraculously cured when cameras banned from ER.

August: the most beautiful Vuelta in years begins; no-one knows who wins it, though, as US coverage preempted by 21 consecutive days of round-the-clock bass-fishing. You blow, Vs.! Bettini takes gold in Beijing; WADA chief accidentally trampled flat by exuberant squadra azzura.

September: he's baaaaaa-aaacccck! Italians cut one month off comely studmuffin Ivan Basso's suspension for good behavior just in time for Worlds, erect giant golden winged statue of him in Verona; Basso snorts white powder openly at start line, takes race; in response to McQuaid's typical whining objections, tifosi riot, destroy UCI headquarters on grounds that any idiot knows that cane sugar's not a banned pre-race performance-enhancer. In other Worlds news, Robbie "Road Rage" McEwen suspended 3 months for chewing Daniele Bennati's earlobe off in sprint altercation.

October: UCI ProTour rankings released. Cadel Evans snakes UCI title off Danilo DiLuca on crap technicality for second straight year, offered 1 million euro to stay at Predictor for next year; Marianne Vos takes second consecutive UCI title in own right, offered 25,000 euro for 1-year DSB team gig and supplemental survival job as greeter at local Wal-Mart.

November: Erik Zabel, age 96, sweeps World Cup in all categories; Johan Bruyneel re-hires repentant Basso, creating perfect-storm screw-over trifecta of Leipheimer, Kloden and Contador; Landis finally caves, ostentatiously wah-wah's fake confession to press despite actual innocence; T-Mobile immediately reconstitutes itself, gives Landis sickeningly lucrative gig as Directeur Sportif.

December: Team camps again! Liquigas takes to the mineral baths; Astana to Elizabeth Arden for mani-pedis; remaining CSC riders tragically eaten by bears in wilderness.

Well, folks, only time will tell--but if *I* were CSC, I'd watch out carefully for renegade wildlife. Allez allez!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Don't Tread On Me

I'm Not Bitter, I'm Just Going to Destroy You All: well, I see Alexander Vinokorouv is finally talking, and my, has he gone all Miss Manners, in a death-penalty-for-rudeness sort of way. Specifically, it was so ungentlemanly of his fellow riders not to call to offer him moral support after he completely !@#$ed Andreas Kloden at the Tour (and oh right, got pegged for blood doping) that any of these boys who are laughing at him now are going to be absolutely wetting themselves in terror in short order, because as soon as he pens his memoirs--and he's ready--any one of you riders who thinks naive little Vino wasn't paying attention to what the rest of you smug snow-white little !@#$s who never actually tested poz were doing for the last 10 years is gonna find out, when he personally names you, that you were wrong, wrong, wrong. That'll teach you proper etiquette, you bastards!

Hell Freezes Over: yes, folks, the unimaginable has happened, and just as a glum Jorg Jaksche concedes there's no way he can get a decent contract with T-Mobile in the tank, his career is over, and all his self-immolating confessions were for naught after all, the German prosecutors strike a massive blow for common sense and drop fraud charges against him on the astonishingly honest grounds that, since it's obvious the teams and sponsors knew and likely directed what all the riders were doing in the first place, no deception could, by definition, have occurred. Anyone else want to take bets on the likelihood of the cash-groveling apologists over at UCI and WADA doing the same? Didn't think so!

Amateur Hour: so I've just listened to the release of the baseball doping report, and all I can say is, man, are these guys a pack of Shirley Temples! You mean, when half the sport's tiny striplings suddenly developed necks and biceps the circumference of Humvees, it wasn't just from years and years of vitamins and Wheaties? And they really took banned substances when they knew darned well there wasn't a test that could bust them for it yet? And some very, very bad men truly helped them find this stuff as the very, very innocent managers turned a blind eye to these practices? Still and all, it's really sweet that they've decided steroids and HGH are bad, though for some unaccountable reason amphetamines don't seem to come under the same scrutiny, which let's face it a pack of guys who sit on their !@#$es hocking giant tobacco-juice loogies for three-quarters of every game could use just to move things along a little, and which so far as I can tell is great news for cyclists, who certainly might find the prospect of freely snarfing a little speed at the base of the Zoncolan both useful and appealing. Pat "Dick" McQuaid, Major League Baseball needs your help--can you call it a day on your fruitless quest to nail Valverde already, and go after some guys who are actually dense enough for you to catch?

...And a Happy New Year: for Samuel Sanchez, that is, but sadly not Euskaltel most likely, as the Basque climbing gods admit that they haven't anywhere near the cash needed to hold on to him past 2008, the boy has a passel of lucrative offers from other teams, and all they can do is sit around waiting for the ax to fall on decision day January 10. Y'know, I love Sanchez, and I don't begrudge him one bit riding off into the sunset with a squad that can amass him a truly spectacular bank account as well as inevitably add a Grand Tour to his already-stellar palmares. But am I the only one sorry to see a team that consistently develops and nurtures some of the most brilliant mountain goats in the business endlessly lose them to schmoes with bigger payrolls and far less deserving and fanatical tifosi? Oh well, here's your chance I guess Zubeldia!

Monday, December 10, 2007

All Right Already, The Year In Review

Yes, it's almost time for the Year in Review, and while I'd hoped to blow it off til after the holidays, I see all the anal-retentive overachievers have already beat me to it, and as I don't want to be accused of cribbing off anybody, in addition to a brief news recap, I humbly present my picks of the best, worst, and distinctly most irksome of 2007:

Meeeeeem-ories, All Alone in the Mooon-liiight:
--January: Quick Step accused by current rider of years of systemic doping up to and including present day and current "major riders;" Belgian police immediately commence investigation, Johan Museeuw? --February: Ullrich forced to officially retire as Basso rides on in comely glory; Levi takes Tour of California, but Basso flutters eyelashes, gets all Discovery publicity. You suck Bruyneel! --March: Bjarne Riis cops to doping in surprise of the year (that he'd cop to it, that is); Op Puerto closed; Classics marred by grisly crashes; Marianne Vos wails at Fleche. --April: Oops, Birillo *is* his dog--Basso "resigns" from Discovery; Simoni talks smack; O'Grady brilliantly takes Roubaix. --May: Simoni gives me his final Giro stage; DiLuca wins with some awfully funny hormone levels; Unibet screwed out of Tour; Landis monkey trial begins, manager exploits LeMond's childhood abuse and naturally hits rehab; Petacchi finally stops sucking. --June: Jaksche sings, to no reward; UCI won't act on Op Puerto file til after Tour, so it has some riders in it, but demands idiot virginity pledge, which works just great; Riis keeps we love Bobby Julich out of Tour; Vino promises not to screw over Kloden. Yeah, that one stuck, you !@#$%&*! --July: what else? Levi takes time trial; Rasmussen's Tour stolen; baby Soler smokes the mountains as baby Contador's handed the whole show; Iban Mayo hosed to unseemly delight of witchhunting skank McQuaid; Vino, of course screws over Kloden. --August: LeMond speaks, a *lot*; Disco dead for good--or is it?
--September: Sammy Sanchez rocks the end of the Vuelta; whatsisface takes it; Bettini and Valverde stick it to Pat "Dick" McQuaid, but DiLuca stays at home; Marta Bastianelli takes the cake; Floyd Landis completely !@#$%^*--surprise! --October: Landis appeals, Pereiro gets maillot jaune anyway, Tour officially a farce for 2 straight years in a row. Allez Floyd! --November: Discovery becomes Astana, Levi marches to his doom; Iban's B samples attempt travel world record; Rabobank knew all about Rasmussen's whereabouts; DiLuca out of Liquigas; T-Mobile's finally had enough; "Dick" Pound sez goodbye--aw, heck!--December: Giro, Vuelta announced, Tour still apparently only race on the entire freakin' planet worth mentioning; Rasmussen confesses pain; Vino sez goodbye. Well, that's about that folks, though we've still got two weeks left for some matchless disaster to top the year to date. Hell, I'm optimistic, aren't you?

And Now, Some Awards:

Domestique o' the Year: Shameless St. Millar Defender, this one's for you. Previously thought to be unable to see through his constant pathetic poor-me wah-wah-I'm-so-sorry-for-(getting caught)-doping veil o'tears, self-aggrandizing media-savvy crybaby David Millar nonetheless managed to dry his eyes enough to smash himself to pieces blazing a path day after day for his team leader at the Tour in terrain he had no business even riding in, if only til Vino tested poz over at Astana and David mind-bogglingly started ostentatiously bawling for the cameras *again*. See you next year at Slipstream, Millar--so long as I can keep the volume down low enough not to *hear* you next season!

Underrated Rider of 2007: Levi Leipheimer. Tour de California. Time trial at the Tour de France. 3d on the podium. National champ. Is there anything this smashing, humble boy can't do, except whore himself to the press and keep Johan Bruyneel from jacking him over?

La-la-la-la-la-I-Can't-Hear-You Award: ooof! we love Iban Mayo so go to hell's resurgent Tour de France and consequent doping poz. But then it wasn't. But then tough noogies pal it's going to come up positive anyway, dammit, if those talentless monkeys at Chatenay-Malabry have to be locked in a rat-infested dungeon to test his goddamn Z sample 'til the cows come home! La-la-la-la-la....

Paranoid Conspiracy Theorist of the Year: natch, slur-slinging total wingnut Pat "Dick" McQuaid, who unerringly saw in every German, Belgian, and Kazahk doping poz and systemic-team-doping scandal the nefarious cheating hands of the Italians and Spaniards. I *thought* "Kaschechkin" sounded suspiciously Roman...

Skankball Hypocrite Hosing of 2007: hands down, poor Andreas Kloden, who blew his own chances at the Tour at the services of yet another train-wreck of a master only to see his sacrifice completely gone to waste at the hands (and syringe) of a lying selfish egomaniacal blood-doping Narcissus. You suck, Vinokorouv!

Punk-Ass Move of the Year: no doubt, Machiavelli's right-hand man Johan Bruyneel, for luring Levi Leipheimer home to Discovery with the seductive promise of Tour de France team leadership, only to ditch him like yesterday's beer-goggled last-call hookup for the pretty wiles of the comely, brilliant, and clearly lying Ivan Basso, and, after a brief return to Levi's forgiving arms, dumping his ass yet *again* for Lance Armstrong's backup chosen successor, equally charming baby savant--and Liberty Seguros refugee for Chrissake--Alberto Contador. Damn, Levi, you're way too good to put up with this crap--will you *never* learn? Oh wait, you just signed with Astana...aiiigggghhhhh!

Abomination of the Season: You blow, UCI! Yep, Michael Rasmussen's stolen Tour. Sure, he totally accidentally bailed on a few measly out-of-competition doping controls--not that UCI, in retrospect, was actually performing any, as it wholly sensibly opined that riders are best tested for Tour de France doping in December--but given the 800 Op Puerto-linked riders that UCI not only allowed to start, but ride straight through til an actual poz, was it really fair to yank the poor Chicken out of the maillot jaune before he even lost it on his own merits in the time trial?

I'll Have Whatever They're Having Award: T-Mobile, of course, for having no idea whatsoever that any of their riders were doing anything wrong at all the last ten years, as the sponsors and managers swear to high heaven they made the team docs promise that they were only injecting half the team with decaf Clif Shots before and after every stage of every race anytime anywhere ever. Hey, I'll buy that...oooh, look, I can see all the individual molecules in the universe!

Riders o' the Year: Is there anyone Marianne Vos can't crush like a cockroach, or any mountain Maurizio Soler (sorry Sanchez, you were a close second) can't conquer? Venga venga, and see you at the races next year!

Team o' the Year: this was a toughie, especially as I'm a total Euskaltel apologist, but I'm going with CSC. Bjarne, your complete hosing of Dave Zabriskie and Bobby Julich made me yack. And yet, you backed dear little Sastre with guns blazing at the Tour, and we love Stewie O'Grady took Paris-Roubaix. Free Julich, and you may have a shot again next year!

Total Poindexter Website Prize: to the fabulous geniuses over at trustbutverify, who not only are perhaps the most impassioned defenders of Floyd Landis' virtue beyond only the boy himself, but actually seem to understand the detailed scientific arguments they put out that the rest of us (well, me) are too stupid to even coherently summarize. Floyd, you better be innocent, or you owe these folks a *major* freakin' apology!

Agonizing Peloton Loss of 2007: just as he finished up his little ban over some trifling misunderstanding at the '05 Vuelta, sorely-missed climber o' the gods Roberto Heras sez he can't get the deal he wants from the cash-strapped Continental squads and basically announces he's out of here. Yes, I'm exactly the sort of repugnant hypocrite I relentlessly excoriate on a daily basis--wah, wah, wah!

Doping Excuse of the Year: the ol' "in flagrante delicto" defense, courtesy of Predictor-Lotto testosterone poz Bjorn "Dirk Diggler" Leukemans. You can't make this stuff up folks, though it's entirely likely that he did.

Finally, Bull!@#$ Call of 2007: need it be said that if this were a real courtroom and not a grotesque farcical imitation of a crap episode of "Ally McBeal," Floyd Landis would be riding off into the sunset with a truly obscene cash-cow of a ProTour contract as we speak even if he'd slapped an exogenous testosterone patch right on the works in front of a camera-happy news crew? How the hell do you even sleep at night, McQuaid?!

All right, you Landis-lambasters and Heras-haters (that is to say, both my faithful readers), I'm sure there's more but I'm going to bed. What'd I get wrong?

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Little Pink Corvettes...

...Babies, You're Much Too Fast (Yes, You Are!): as Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes gleefully concedes himself to be the Master of All Peloton Doping at a conference, then bizarrely professes utter shock at the heretofore unheard-of news that Ivan Basso's already spent nearly a year on suspension for using Fuentes to "try" to do it, Jan Ullrich manages to dodge yet another bullet about his endless payments to said amnesiac bike-crack dealer when his latest newsmagazine dope-slap is upstaged by the even sexier allegations that five, yes five, T-Mobile riders drove up to the Freiburg University clinic for immediate blood boosts after the 2006 Tour de France prologue, when til now even whistleblowing busted dope skank Patrik Sinkewitz has only copped to going there solo. Now, correct me if I'm wrong here, but during the Tour de France, the teams would seem to have reason to be marginally curious about where half their riders are for an entire evening, given that they're paying 'em millions of euros a season not to !@#$ the team over, particularly when Ullrich's just been banned sacked and humiliated and the team's been sent skittering for cover from the press like rats from exterminators, and one would think that the team managers might've, well, noticed that all their boys' freakin' hotel rooms were empty when one's trainer might reasonably be expecting one to be resting up for the next day's fairly tiring race. UCI, any chance *now* you might question management's endlessly ridiculous assertion that the team doctors were acting entirely on their own with individual rogue cheating scumbag riders and the teams as always are utterly innocent when it comes to such outrageously slanderous claims of systemic doping?--Nope, didn't think so!

What the Hell, Bjarne?: meantime, over in actual race news, Lampre's manager has announced that baby Giro d'Italia champ Damiano Cunego might not even ride the beautiful Giro in favor of hopefully maybe a top-five spot at the Tour de France (and, if I were Lampre and the tifosi comments over at gazzetta dello sport are any fair indicator, I'd stay the hell away from a sizeable number of fans from Cunego's home stomping grounds who seem more than irked at the news that some stupid French race has hijacked him), and, worse, Bjarne Riis likewise sez that we love Carlos Sastre, graced this coming year with a Vuelta a Espana perfectly tailored to his climbing style and utterly stripped of its results-crushing time-trialling, likely isn't going to be allowed to race the thing at all, again so he can concentrate his efforts on a Tour de France whose craptastic endless races against the clock are hell-bent on keeping him off the podium even after prepping for this likely exercise in futility by bashing his legs to bits at the Giro. Can someone explain to me exactly why these two most beautiful races get completely hosed every single freakin' year to the benefit of a monstrously overrated Grand Tour whose results have either been clearly foreordained or mortifyingly disastrous for the last straight decade? Free Sastre, and the Vuelta, dammit!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Run Away, Run Away!

My DS Says Go to Rehab, I Say Vino, No, No: hot on the heels of the smashingly wussbag 1-year suspension gifted by the (pro-)doping zealots at the Kazakh cycling fed, naturally setting UCI into an immediate lathering rage complete with whining threats to cry to CAS, Alexander Vinokorouv unexpectedly tops his Landis-lawyer press-conference I'll-be-back non-farewell with a subsequent surprise retirement, announcing that, while he won't challenge the underlying suspension, he will continue to fight on "for his honour." Tilting at windmills, are we Vino? That's so sweet. Anyway, while I had earlier thought to ream Vino's cycling fed for their twerptastic wrist-slap, especially compared to how guys like poor Floyd Landis and Ivan "I Smoked But Didn't Inhale" Basso have suffered, and Vino himself for his gross hypocrisy in dope-slapping Liberty Seguros for two straight seasons when let's face it Manolo Saiz was clearly the least of the boy's problems, that's all moot now, so I'll pause instead to say a few words of admiration and farewell for his filthy cheating tainted palmares in all its scrimy weaselled discredited dirtbag glory. Will the peloton ever be the same without the sheer shock-and-awe entertainment value of his spectacular Jan Ullrich Tour de France team-leader bushwhacks? Or his randomly timed full-gas attacks on seemingly wholly irrelevant stages and painfully unsuitable terrain? And, to be fair, off his head as he's frequently been, he must indeed be given credit for first his continued lauding of very fine promising young teammate the late Andrei Kivilev, his careful grooming of the brilliant-if-lately-disgraced human rights crusader Andrei Kashechkin, and his resolute reward (unlike some Grand Tour winners I can think of) of the riders who bust their !@#es for him with a well-earned stage win, every time. Two minor peeves: Heras' Vuelta is still gone while this dope-fiend clown's is still his; and, thanks to Vino blowing the team apart, Andreas Kloden's just resigned with Johan Bruyneel's Astana and is now completely screwed out of the Tour win he so obviously deserves and still so optimistically and fruitlessly hopes to be allowed to take. Sure, I'll miss you Vinokorouv, you were a fabulously unpredictable thrill to watch, a lively havoc-wreaking trainwreck in a field of earnest plodding stable dullards. But see what happens when you jack over poor Klodi?--karma, baby!

Mafia Nations: and, as further evidence of the Great SpanishItalian Doping Conspiracy, I see that noble Quick Step guru Patrick Lefevere has bailed out of his presidency of the ProTour teams' association, of course to spend more time with his family and surely having nothing to do with the fact that he's having to spend a considerable amount of energy lately defending himself and his team against the latest round of systemic-doping allegations on his watch. Indeed, Quick Step was apparently so irked at the Belgian newspaper responsible for both the doping story and pegging Tom Boonen's new girlfriend as the 16-year-old daughter of the Amstel Gold race organizer in a high-ick-factor if admittedly accurate piece that they snottily boycotted the awards ceremony for the Belgian Cyclist of Year ('cross god Sven Nys, not Boonen). Wow, systemic doping (allegedly) *and* crap sportsmanship--what an example we're setting!

Victory Is Mine!: finally, congratulations to Danilo DiLuca, who caps off his disappointing exclusion from the Worlds with a decisive win in the cell-phone shotput at the squadra azzura's 'Bettiniadi,' and fine if wholly inadequate substitute for the UCI-official toss I would certainly prefer (, scroll down to "bettiniadi" for photos, particularly Paolo popping a wheelie on a rather lower-rent ride than his usual steed). So maybe those babies at CONI are upset you mysteriously tested for the hormone levels of a tot at some post-Giro testing--but can some lame maglia rosa really compare to this triumph? Complimenti, Danilo!

Ain't No Mountain High Enough

Except Maybe the Angliru, Babe: yes, as the Tour takes its mountains down a notch, and even the beautiful Giro limits its serious mountain stages to three, the smashing, forever-underrated Vuelta strikes back against the huge honkin' sprinter oxen with 5, count 'em, 5 leg-crushing mountaintop finishes for the wee little mountain goats to delight and suffer in (including a stop by the Pla de Beret and a vicious inching climb to Andorra), and leaving it to brilliant underfunded Euskaltel to shame its cash-cow rivals into the dust and take the thing for Samuel Sanchez unless they let Haimar Zubeldia blow his legs out in the Tour too much to get him there. Carlos Sastre, too, of course, is thrilled at the lack of time-trial ground cover (a mere 40 km total), and if Valverde can get his act together for once for the long haul and live up to his hype, I think we've got ourselves a podium, folks! Yap, yap, Menchov--first, I'm still pissed he was given Roberto Heras' Vuelta so I'm wholly tainted by bitter irrationality, second, as well as he held on and even attacked in the mountains this year, he's not on Sanchez' level in the heights, and he alone among the contenders needs the time trials as a buffer zone. Dark horse for the top ten? Iban Mayo, of course, if those desperate results-whoring pigs at UCI'll call a negative a negative and admit they're beat, and Saunier Duval hasn't already blown his salary on a bitchin' new stereo for the team bus. Free Iban goddammit, and viva la Vuelta, baby!

Part of the Problem: okay, I'll cop to it--doping bad, and I'm responsible. My heart thrills to each grueling mountain stage and each aching crank of the pedals to the finish (in no small part, I'm sure, because as a lazy armchair tifosa I needn't actually personally climb the things.) And while I'm not such a great fan of the big-bruiser sprints or their practitioners with the exception of we love Thor Hushovd of course, there's no denying that we want a last kilometer of full-on action over the dull tactical breakaway dithering that so frequently leads to victory-by-well-planned-crawl. So ought we all concede, as the teams and their sponsor-enablers would have us believe, that our desire for body-pulverizing three-week treks through hell is the sole problem forcing the innocent riders to dope up for our pleasure, and suck up the removal of all but one queen stage, one decent mountain day, to encourage and ensure the purity of the pack? Hell no! First, go slow as you like, boys--unlike the twitchy TV stations eager to move on to other things, I don't care how long it takes you to drag yourselves up the Pyrenees, I'm just happy--and patient enough--to watch you make it. And frankly, for the euros some of these riders earn, they oughta be happy to schlep up freakin' Everest in shorts and flip-flops. Don't let the organizers dumb down the races in a fruitless effort to stop the cheats, UCI, unless you're first gonna make the teams face their own demons--and right on Vuelta!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Survivor: Peloton

Survival of the Thickest-Skinned: so even the mainstream sports press, whose cycling coverage is generally limited to dope-slapping the hitherto-unheard-of nefarious (and sole) Tour de France cheat Floyd Landis in heinously know-nothing articles on his legal situation and ridership, or lauding the iconic hero Lance Armstrong for his unimpeachable perfection, has now perked up its salacious little ears on the Michael Rasmussen story, that being, of course, that poor Rasmussen, jacked out of the Tour nigh on the eve of a near-inevitable win, was in such shock and distress immediately thereafter that he considered yanking the wheel of the car he was riding in into traffic or hanging himself in his hotel room--particularly, as he pointed out, and as Rabobank has now admitted, when the team knew where he was the entire time and that the aforesaid mysterious personal problems were keeping him there. Disgraced Rabo manager Theo de Rooij's sympathetic response? Yep, in the face of Rabo's concession to the contrary, Rasmussen still lied to him, he didn't want the boy to start the Tour anyway but it was UCI of all rider-hating freaks who said he had to, and, though he maybe might've handled things differently, it's still all the lying dirtbag Rasmussen's fault anyway. Nice! Y'know, I'm not offering tons of sympathy here for doping skankballs, but is it not perhaps possible that the random vendetta-driven selective persecution (and prosecution) in this sport has helped the likes of Pantani, Vandenbroucke, and now Rasmussen into their tragic spirals as they watch even more heavily-stoked riders pedal away to glory in the races they've been barred from--and as teams and managers that utterly encourage and enable them get to so easily disclaim any responsibility for the monsters they create? Grow a spine and a conscience, UCI, and choose your targets fairly from here on out!

The Abominable Snowpack: well, according to CSC's trainers--and as further proof, dear little Carlos Sastre himself--the boys are safely back from their snowbound death-defiance bootcamp training, as "everyone's accounted for and there's no casualties," which, especially as it pertains to the poor soigneurs office administrators and mechanics who were also hauled off into the wild, will come in awfully handy during, say, the Grand Tours, when you see how great it is you didn't kill off any of your handy domestiques or their equipment-maintenance gods before the season even began. Luckily, Karsten Kroon and Jens Voigt escaped teambuilding-by-near-death-experience, which they had the great good luck to avoid thanks to lucky newborn arrival times. Anyone else thinking any boys in danger of having a contract with CSC next year might want to start planning those baby cyclists about 3 months from now, if they want to avoid say a week in the Sahara with no water and the occasional scorpion for lunch?

Andreas Kloden is Still !@#$%^*! finally, I see the poor saps from the '07 Astana debacle are finally going to get paid by the Kazakh cycling fed, and, as Johan Bruyneel, Marc Biver, and assorted management companies rush to trade insults, poor Andreas Kloden still appears indentured to none other than Johan itself til his contract runs out, and inevitably relegated to a third-rate exhausted shadow of a team for the Vuelta and the ignoble prospect of getting his Tour hopes dashed in the service of a baby savant who, having himself been a refugee from Liberty Seguros and taken last year's Tour by bull!@#$ fiat, is certainly no less tainted-by-association than Kloden himself. Are we really going to be forced to watch Klodi waste himself and his near-inevitable Tour win yet again playing nursemaid to someone else's agenda? Free Kloden, I say--dammit!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

What Else? The Giro d'Italia, Baby!

The Corsa Rosa: pretty bitchin', I must happily say, except what the hell is with the 4 time trials? Team on day 1 in Palermo, two interim (including one 13.8 km mountain to Plan de Corones), then welcome to Milan, boys! Let's face it, considering how most of the climbers do at the discipline--and let's leave aside the mountain tt entirely, assuming one of them'll take that--if two other individual time trials including right down to the line aren't a massive incentive for panic-induced last-minute doping (especially if it's still close heading into the finish line in Milan), what is? The mountains: nice 'n' brutal! Just three mountaintop finishes, but some damn hard work to get there: stage 14 to Alpe di Pampeago, a vicious stage 15 leg-crusher over Passo Fedaia with its top two k at 18% gradient plus the beautiful monster Pordoi; then a lively day crawling up the Gavia, Mortirolo, and Aprica. Vai Simoni!

The Riders: by general consensus, it's a "nervous" start with a pleasingly vicious second half, with Bettini eager to make up for last year by taking one in this year's world championship jersey on his home turf; we love Gilberto Simoni cagey on race favorites yet but personally wants it again on Pampeago; Garzelli's looking forward to the pain of the final week; and DiLuca's aiming for the win, but hold your horses honey, because your little domestique Savoldelli isn't conceding your leadership just yet. Right on Paolo!

The Tifosi: glancing down at the comments page at Gazzetta dello Sport, we've got some pretty strong feelings out there, starting off with general expressions of happiness and total Giro superiority, wandering over into fervent Pantani tributes, complaining about the relative lack of Dolomites, questioning why an Italian race is bothering with Switzerland in the first place, jousting over DiLuca vs. Cunego, spinning off into arguments over doping, and, finally, after some general verbal abuse of the arrogant self-centered egomaniac Milanese (who apparently don't deserve the finale every year, what the hell do you effete northerners have against Sicilia anyway?), degenerating into threatening all-caps rants by residents of other regions who feel distinctly disenfranchised by this year's corsa rosa. Note to the organizers: stay the hell out of Tuscany and Piemonte, these tifosi are *pissed*!

My Faves: of course Simoni, who's of course not going to take it, but unless Savoldelli starts knuckling under to DiLuca pronto I'm not sure how great it looks for the Killer, which leaves it, if his end-of-last-season run is any indication, as baby Cunego's for the taking, if even babier wunderkind Ricco' still lacks the experience to plan out his efforts wisely. Then again, my assessment's certain to change as the race draws near, and it's always wrong anyway--perhaps a few glasses of Chianti, and I'll set it all to rights!