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!