Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

Tour de Contador: so I see Tour director Christian Prudhomme has finally put some substance to the rumors floating that perpetual suspects Alberto Contador and Alejandro "Piti" Valverde won't be allowed to play at the Tour de France this year, clarifying though that it's their entire teams he's considering barring, not just the individual renegades in question. The rationale? Yep, it's the Italians' decision to reopen the Op Puerto investigation, prompted of course by the fact that out of the 100 or so Spaniards named in the file and linked to Fearless Defender of Riders' Health Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes, it was only two Italians plus some no-name German guy who ever took a hit for it. Can anyone explain to me again why (1) these boys, whose purported hijinks were thoroughly publicized right off the bat in 2006, are being barred *now* after one of 'em's already got a maillot jaune in his closet; (2) say, UCI isn't pressing to bar *everyone* implicated in the OP file it refuses to read from the race, if indeed mere implication is the disqualification standard; and (3)Levi, Kloden, & poor Oscar Pereiro have to get !@#$ed over at the Tour *again* for some wank teammate's possible (not even proven) doping violation? Yeah, keep up the good fight, you indiscriminate slash-and-burn disingenuous enabler weasels!

Good Morning, Starshine!: meantime, the Italian riders' association's got its chamois in an extreme twist over last night's visit by the vampires to the Lampre boys, completely supporting the necessity and fairness of doping controls in general but enraged in particular that, after calling the teams at 11:30pm to tell 'em they were coming, the narcs didn't even bother to show up at the sleepy cyclists' hotel rooms to take blood and urine samples til 3:30am, and how the hell any rider is supposed to prepare for an actual race under such circumstances is completely beyond them. Leaving aside the fact that that sort of notice densely gives quite a window for a rider with something to hide to try to mitigate the problem, right on ACCPI!

Here Comes the Bride: and, as High Road celebrates its surprising victory in the Tour Down Under (McEwen sez incidentally, since someone asked, that he's not aiming for peak form til later this season, and woo-hoo returning recuperated crash victim O'Grady for snagging 10th overall!), they're apparently ditching their spankin' new evil-villain black team kits for more appropriate white-knight outfits. My, how subtle--shall we just pin a scarlet "D" on all the other teams' uniforms while we're at it? Over at Slipstream, meanwhile, the squad's already proven its worth for a Tour wild card even without we love Dave Zabriskie to propel 'em in the team time trial, taking a respectable 2nd to Quick Step and sending a clear warning that Millar, classics monster big Maggy Backstedt, and ex-Hushovd-leadout Julian Dean are, despite their absence from the more prestigious (more flush, anyway) ProTour scene, not to be trifled with this season. Thinking of riders coming back from injury, Olympic gold medalist track goddess Anna Meares, splintered quite badly in Los Angeles last week just as cycling held a huge conference on jacking up women's presence in the sport, is now up or at least about, so best wishes to her for a speedy and hopefully pre-Beijing recovery. Allez allez!

Fry Him, I Say!: finally, those of you deeply irked by pesky due process concerns are sure to go completely postal over Tuttobici's fawning little interview with repugnant lone-ranger amoral scumbag Jan Ullrich, in which our fallen hero is lauded as a wonderful father to his charming tykes (the gall!), compliments Ivan Basso for sucking it up and confessing his sins (yep, I was *dyin'*), diplomatically declines to comment on the specific outrage of Op Puerto's nailing Scarponi and Basso alone over the clearly filthier and more numerous Spaniards but does suggest that selective prosecution is not justice (that bastard!), and opines that, having been "demonized" by the German press and authorities with no way of proving his innocence (I know, I know), he's just as glad to get out of the peloton for good anyway (off with his head!), which happily works out fine because, as a busy full-time dad, he's hardly got the time or energy to stay on form in any case (no joking around, you cheating pig!). Putting aside the prevailing view on Jan's likely purity, can we at least give the boy some points for amiability (never!)? Anyhoo, if anyone wants the link or a translation (no guarantees as to quality, accuracy, or coherence), let me know!

IF'n Can't Believe How Cool They Are!

Team You Go, Boys!: Tired of hearing about the latest UCI/Grand Tour organizer ego smackdown, the Lamborghini travails of the peloton's rich and famous, the latest dope-snorting embarrassment, or the nascent ProTour standings of the cash-cow squads? Or perhaps just lonely for your long-lost rose-colored glasses, cruelly stomped into shards by the years of disgusting revelations in this beautiful sport? Then here's a pleasant break for once: Sunday night I had the privilege of attending Independent Fabrications' team presentation, and a more enthusiastic, friendly, and bitchin' group of young riders (including at least one former member of the USA cycling team) and general IF bike gods (Jon Bruno among them) you just won't meet. More, one could admire close-up (and get a first-hand design-and-construction play-by-play of) their smashing new SSR 953, a sexy corrosion-resistant stainless steel racing machine. (No, they're not paying me, you cynics, but I will consider swag bribes if anyone's offering...) And, by their dandy slide show, IF's team-building camp--on Thompson Island, a forbidding trek across the frigid, filthy, cod-infested waters of Boston Harbor--looked only slightly less dangerous than Bjarne Riis' famed CSC deathmarches, with the twin bonuses of looking actually fun, and without the CSC camp's notorious if accidental soigneur body count. Even better, the team's a nonprofit, so your contribution may be tax-deductible (consult your tax adviser, don't sue my @#$), so look for these lords o' the future at a road race near you--and pony up already, cycling fans!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

I Want to Take You Higher

That's the Sound of the (Wo)Men/Working on the Chain Gaaa-aaaaang: due to the irksome necessity of a day job, I've been unable to do much more of late than sneak an illicit glance or two at cycling.tv when I'm supposed to be working, but it's been a lively week and I'm both grateful for your kind words and rarin' to get back to whining about anything in this smashing sport that catches my jaded yet still romantic eye. Which brings us to:

Tour of...Um, Germany?: Yep, team High Road is starting off its martyrly season of morally superior drug-free play with a truckload of wins by hard-charging youngster Andre Greipel, taking the overall lead as well as the slightly dispirited Aussies lose one of their own to a distinctly nasty head-butt by a disgruntled Italian over at Milram that took our fallen Rabobank hero firmly to the tarmac and then the hospital with a broken collarbone and made even Robbie "Road Rage" McEwen, himself inclined to whack innocent riders out of his way like a crazed croquet mallet, suddenly look sweet'n'cuddly as a Mon-chi-chi. C'mon Robbie, are you really gonna let that spoilsport embarrass both you and your country and show you up like you're some kind of wimp--where's your national pride already?

How Many Riders Can Johan Bruyneel !@#$* in a Season?: so far, it's looking at least 3, as he's already declared his intention to viciously hose both Leipheimer and Kloden, and golden-boy ex-Liberty Seguros Tour-snatcher Alberto Contador remains under investigation by the vengeful Italian prosecutors over the extremely unlikely possibility that the "AC" in a thoroughly-outlined doping program in the Op Puerto files might refer to him, right as both the Amgen EPO Tour of California and the Tour de France vow not to let any rider or perhaps even team participate if there's an open investigation with their name on it. Great, that leaves us with a pack of sixth-graders on crumbling crappy Huffys to hit the ProTour this season! Y'know, I've got nothing against zealous anti-doping enforcement; hell, I'd even appreciate it if the poor soigneurs didn't have to pump themselves full of amphetamines just to keep up with their turbo-charged masters. But jeez louise Manolo, you couldn't even have given your protege a puppy for a plausible pseudonym to hide behind like Basso and V--oh, no one!

He Drugs Me, He Drugs Me Not: so, I see the Belgian authorities, having sensibly chosen to ignore the claims of a current Quick Step rider that the team's rife with systemic management-driven dope-snarfing, got right on the case again by--yes, going over to Tom Boonen's poor mom's house just as he's packing up for the Tour of Qatar and demanding to know whether her son was dealing coke at a party to a top Belgian cyclo-cross god, who says reports he gave up Boonen to the cops were entirely crap, as, though he did foolishly imbibe one evening, he and the swoon-worthy babe-magnet have only had a few pints--of beer, that's all--together. That's the sort of crack investigation that'll clean up the sport, gentlemen! Perhaps we ought to bust into Iban Mayo's grandmother's house with a battering ram and a pack of gun-toting body-armored thugs next time...that'll send the right message to those renegade cheating enabler rider relatives....

Barloworld, Here I Come: and, in actual riding (though not race) news, Ivan Basso continues both his charity work and his ban-end training by doing yet another fundraising ride for the bambini as his race buddies vie for form in Qatar, raising the question of, if Barloworld really is courting Basso as passionately and so far as successfully as they suggest, is baby King of the Mountains Maurizio Soler really going to be inclined to domestique Ivan up the Alps next year when, if he can improve his time-trialling a bit, this revelation of a climber could have a shot at the Tour podium himself a year or two hence. Add to that the rumors that they're interested in DiLuca as well when his LPR gig runs out, and we could have quite the T-Mobile Vino-Klodi-Ullrich bushwhacking rivalry here--but much as I do admire the two Italians, on this one, venga wee upstart Soler!

Suit o' the Week: finally, as both Alessandro Petacchi (March 12) and Floyd Landis (when hell freezes over) await their dates with destiny over at the Court of Arbitration for Sport, and Leukemans vows to fight his cruelly unjust two-year testosterone ban on the theory he shouldn't have to pay for either his team doc's relentless stupidity or his own manly wiles (whichever excuse you prefer), UCI finally finds an even greater rival in the governing-body sleaze-tactics race to the bottom as an anonymous US pro rider has to borrow Landis' legal team to sue USADA for trying to test the B of an already-negative A urine sample. USADA, however, remains defiant, noting that any number of things could raise the suspicions of the all-knowing narcs, including trafficking or administering drugs to others, and intentional test evasion, none of which of course are remotely related to the cleanliness or even existence of one's own negative A-sample. !@#$, you clowns, why not just openly shoot a tranquilizer dart into the !@# of whatever rider you're displeased with at the start line if you can't even be bothered to make up a reason to target somebody? Free Anonymous (and please, please, please, don't let it be Levi...)!

Mortifyingly Necessary Update: as the far-smarter-than-I Anonymous has kindly pointed out, the culprit's apparently not Levi thank goodness but Rock Racing alterna-badass Kayle Leogrande, whom Michael Ball, owner of perhaps the most impressive stable of doping thoroughbreds since Astana, immediately leapt to defend on the utterly dense grounds that those pansies at USADA are just afraid of Leogrande's tats. To be fair, it's a better excuse for going after a rider on unsubstantiated doping charges than most of those coming out of, say, UCI these days...

Monday, January 21, 2008

Climb Like a Butterfly, Sting Like a Bee

Well, More Like a Raging Nest o' Scorpions: either Floyd Landis' lawyer finally let the boy off the leash (to blunt the impact of CAS' inevitable springtime @!@#-over, perhaps?), or more likely Floyd's gone rabid and chewed his way through it, which I find delightful as a cycling fan, but if he were my client, you'd have to jolt me back from the dead after my massive heart attack with enough juice to power Los Angeles. The cause of such joy and horror? Yep, it's Landis' post-Steve-Johnson-email-smackdown interview with Velonews, which I believe the wiser-than-I folks over trustbutverify may have mentioned ages ago, but which only came to my doofus attention today. Among his tender spots? Well, he sure didn't appreciate USA Cycling and Steve Johnson collecting his dues for years only to completely hose him later by declining to back him in any way--unlike their sister federation over in Spain, he notes, which actually had the stones to decline to prosecute Iban Mayo after his tests were botched--and while we're at it, in addition to Johnson looking like a complete ass (not least a moron) for saying he didn't even pay attention to some trivial '06 post-Tour Landis fiasco he's just now heard of, he outright "lied" by claiming that USA Cycling had no power to help him whatsoever. And while he "respects" Steve (as much as one can respect a spineless cowardly agent o' nefarious backstabbing treachery, I suppose), and his natural interest in preserving his position in the "crock of shit" Olympics, he's paid to look out for freakin' cyclists, at which he has not, Landis opines, lately proven successful. Lest anyone think it's just USA Cycling he's irked at, Floyd's not much impressed with the antidoping trumpeting of "Team High Horse" or Slipstream, either, because to say you don't care about winning and are happy just to finish a race without doping is just a loser's way of "crying like a bitch" by implying that everyone who beats your @#$ only did so by cheating. Would anyone else besides me love to get him and David Millar in a room together? As to Landis' gig with Rock Racing, he would've liked one, but while we're on-topic, lay off Ball because, though perhaps brash, he's only hiring folks who've at least actually paid their dues. Finally, it would be nice if everyone--the narcs, the cycling feds, the broader governing bodies, *and* the cyclists--followed the rules, sucked it up when they failed to prove someone guilty, and at least made some pretense of fairness and integrity. Holy crap Floyd, with this kind of righteous rampage, you could've taken the '06 Tour even with Basso Ullrich and Vino on hand--but please, please, for the love of my profession and the pre-appeal sanity of your innocent advocates, promise you'll call your poor lawyer first next time!

Pagare Le Tasse, You Cheapskate!: speaking of Rock Racing, Lion King Mario Cipollini has, after weeks of dithering and correspondingly breathless minute-by-minute rumormongering in the Italian press, finally signed on as both a manager and rider, with his first goal the Tour of California and, after that, using the pleasing fact that the team's given him "carte blanche" to do what he will with it, ramping up awareness of cycling (and Rock in particular) in the U.S. by endlessly promoting the suave "Mario brand." And the tifosi? According to the clamor over on the comments pages at Gazzetta, delighted to see their beloved icon back for entertainment value, impressed by the Americans' wily score, convinced he can't actually race worth half a neo-pro any longer, and in universal agreement that he's just pimping himself to feed his ego and to collect the money, which, by the way, he ought to pay up to the tax authorities already, since they themselves can't get out of it. Can anyone doubt that, even assuming that Americans continue to focus bizarrely on the Golf Channel and an excess of shows featuring guys sitting in a boat drinking beer and nominally fishing, he'll at least electrify a troubled sport? Vai Mario!

Do You Come From a Tour Down Under?: finally, in welcome relief from the endless run of sleazy doping scandals, booze-fueled off-season car wrecks, and relentless judicial farces, it's back in the saddle, baby, as the Tour Down Under starts with a stellar cast of Aussies including Robbie McEwen, Allan Davis (brought down by Op Puerto at Liberty Seguros, and lately defended by UCI of all people, who hardly came to Beloki's defense, those !@$%^^%$), Graeme Brown, and, best of all, a finally mended Stuart O'Grady, and Team Slipstream--reviled above but having nonetheless a hell of a team including we love stage winner Dave Zabriskie--has successfully scored its first grand-tour invite to the beautiful Giro. Enjoy the ride boys--but I still hope the Italians kick your !@#!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Blood Is Thicker Than Water (Especially When It's Pumped Full o' Dope)

Lance to the Music: as cycling confronts its greatest battles between good (Landis, Iban, due process) and evil (doping, lab chimps, hypocrite enabler oversight agencies) in a decade, and previews the exciting race-season plans of some of the most seasoned (Bettini, Leipheimer, Sastre) and fresh (Contador, Soler, baby Schleck) talents seen in years, the mainstream US sports press has taken a huge leap forward in awareness and recognition of this beautiful sport by reporting today the crucial cycling news that--right, Lance Armstrong is going to run the 2008 Boston Marathon. Can someone *please* tell me what it'd take to expand these guys' dimwit horizons beyond the latest grunting inarticulate no-neck stomping someone's head into the turf in the end zone?

Rollercoaster (Of Drugs): and, in the wake of allegations that Rabobank riders Michael Boogerd, Michael Rasmussen, and Denis Menchov blood-doped at a new lab in Austria, the wagons are tightly a' circling, with the team predictably denying both knowledge and responsibility, Boogerd distinctly pissed to be hounded in his nascent retirement, Rasmussen's lawyer noting they're too busy suing those bastards at Rabobank and getting the Chicken back in the peloton to even be bothered with such nitpicking at the moment, and Menchov carefully keeping his distance from the fray beyond a standard "did not either" to the press corps. Luckily, the TV station responsible for breaking the story has now issued an apologetic press release disclaiming these revelations, though the German authorities, lately burned by such innocents as Jan Ullrich and Patrik Sinkewitz, have affirmed their interest in pursuing the case nonetheless. Not to reopen old wounds here, nor even to suggest that Menchov's attacking ability in the mountains has increased of late by similarly odd and exponential proportions as Roberto Heras's time-trialling once did, but if there's even an ounce of truth to these surely scurrilous accusations, Menchov, hand over the 2005 Vuelta back to Heras you undeserving skank!

It's DeLicious, It's DeLovely, It's DiLuca: meantime, I see that Tuttobici raises a lively debate over Danilo DiLuca's freakishly low testosterone values after last year's Giro stage to Zoncolan, with one expert claiming that DiLuca had the "pipi" of a cherub and the only way to've gotten that was an illicit post-stage IV drip to evade the testers, DiLuca's team doc insisting he never gave the boy one, DiLuca also claiming he didn't but who cares they're perfectly licit under the rules anyway, and another expert smacking the 1st one by pointing out that on a tough stage like Zoncolan a properly hydrated cyclist can easily snarf a liter of fluid every 20 minutes, which can basically dilute a boy's testosterone levels enough give him a sex change on the spot entirely. Still, our friends over at CONI--just days ago deciding to go after the Spaniards in annoyance of the sport's persecution of the Italians--remain unhappy with merely nailing DiLuca on his relationship with an Oil-for-Drugs doc, so they've now obtained his Zoncolan file in the hopes of getting him with something more substantive. Y'know, I wish the talented and amiable DiLuca all luck on this, but hey, if it gives we love Paolo Savoldelli a crack at LPR team leadership at the Giro this year, I can live with that. Forza Il Falco!

Earth Angel (Will You Be Miii-iine?): and, clean-sport crusader St. David Millar has finally been trumped in the soulful repentant wah-wah department in truly stellar fashion by none other than the dreamy Ivan Basso, who humbly confesses in an interview on Gazzetta that he is actually grateful for his two-year (attempted) doping ban, because he has become, in this time of introspection, a better man. Indeed, it is the best thing that has ever happened to him, for he has reflected upon his actions, been laid bare for all to see (the tifosi *wish*!), and is not only determined to reform, but to follow his true passion: helping innocent bambini in need through his beloved charity Intervista. And indeed, it's lovely, noble work by Basso, and a pleasure to see a rider commit himself to such purity of both sport and spirit. Apropos of nothing, anyone else notice that the contract wars over the boy have been heating up among the more ambitious and loaded Continental squads lately?

As Tom Goes By: finally, in actual race news, resurgent sprint god Tom Boonen's laid out his goals for the season, notably remaining hunkered down in Monte Carlo to avoid the shrieking swooning fanatics who barely let him leave his house in Belgium, then, after stretching his legs in Qatar California and Paris-Nice, taking on San Remo, Flanders, and Paris-Roubaix for the win. Okay, I still want Thor Hushovd to kick his !@# (shut the hell up, I know it's unlikely)--but it's nice to hear Boonen's back on form! Interestingly, Boonen concedes that, though Quick Step teammate Paolo Bettini lives nearby, he barely sees the World Champ, training about instead with Steegmans and Pozzato. Trouble in Paradise? Sleazemongering minds want to know!

Monday, January 14, 2008

It's a Sunshine Day!

Come On, Get Happy: well, the list of disgraced dope-snorters snagging sweet new Continental gigs continues to grow, as Jorg Jaksche, ex-denizen of a truly stellar collection of reputed opium dens (Telekom, ONCE, Liberty-Seguros, Tinkoff) and lately bemoaning the end of his career, has landed happily at ex-Unibet team Collstrop (along with Jose Rujano (correction, he's at Caisse d'Epargne now), himself busted briefly for doping back in the day and since best known for scaring the crap out of the Italians at the Giro). Hell, you couldn't get into a freakin' ProTour race when you actually had a license as Unibet; given a few of the current teams tooling along without sanction, adding guys like these has to significantly up your chances for wildcard invites to the big shows! Tell me again why !@#$%%$ we love Joseba Beloki and even notably guilty Roberto Heras had to retire when every !@#$^*% whiner with a comparatively suckmaster palmares is landing a !@#$&! new job with every !@#%!$#@ amoral squad in the peloton?

When It's Time to Change: meantime, CONI prosecutor Ettore Torri affirms that he's interested in talking to Contador and Valverde, apparently because he's now irked that the same Ivan Basso he went nuts trying to bust now can't ride while other gentlemen associated with the exact same seedy underworld characters are allowed to keep riding. Interestingly, Torri shows some sympathy for the cyclists, at least until he bars them from Italian soil and thereby kicks their @$$es out of the Tour de France this year, viewing them as "victims of the system" whom it is sad to disqualify, when it is really the doctors and other scumbags who so wrongly convince them that they must take banned substances to even hope to compete. Oh my word Ettore--you're not actually thinking of holding anyone on the teams responsible for the syringes they push?!--the horror, to go after such obvious innocents!

I Think I Love You: and, it's a lovebeat over at Astana and Caisse d'Epargne, as Kloden arrives in New Mexico with the rest of his Kazakh squad so he can hear how completely Johan Bruyneel's gonna jack him over this year in a whole new language, and Pereiro and Valverde wax poetic on the virtues of shared team leadership at the Tour, in which Valverde, who has barely managed to finish the thing once, will naturally be king, but in which Pereiro has not only repeatedly worn the maillot jaune but also actually, unlike Valverde, almost won (that would be my comparison, not Pereiro's, because he has class). Um, not to beat a dead horse here, but does !@#$%ing *anybody* left on this planet care about the Vuelta?

Keep On: finally, on a distinctly more somber note, Marco Pantani's fatal coke provider was sentenced to 4 years in jail and a 300,000 euro fine, which mamma Pantani, still desperately seeking further investigation into the true circumstances of her son's death, has graciously decided to use to found a youth cycling academy in his honor. Tell me again why every !@#$%^! weasel who copped to taking entire Grand Tours doping during that same era was able to get off with a shrugging halfhearted wah-wah to the press and a lucrative management lordship when guys like poor Marco Pantani were made to pay an ultimately horrific price for the exact same !@$$%^$?

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Angels in Chains

Smooth Criminals: so, the legal problems continue to roll on for the peloton, with ex-Liberty Seguros prodigy Alberto Contador and dog-slandering innocent Valverde being called to testify over at the CONI Op Puerto inquiry, embittered rat fink Patrik Sinkewitz continuing to appeal his relatively meager one year ban for testosterone (already up in July, just in time to set him into a rage as he watches the Tour de France on TV from home like the rest of the couch-bound civilian saps), Matthias Kessler taking issue with his two-year sentence despite his attorney copping to his having "the highest value ever measured" (hell, he can't be any dirtier than Vinokorouv, right?), Leukemans continuing to blame his team doctor's stupidity in the absence of a plausible love defense, noble crusader for justice Andrei Kashechkin begging for work as he campaigns against testing not for problems with veracity but for atrocities against human rights, Rock Racing-presumptive Mario "the Chest" Cipollini getting nailed for Italian back taxes despite scamming residency in Monaco and facing a surprisingly hostile populist uprising from the oppressed tifosi over at Gazzetta dello Sport who think that even a very pretty whining coddled cyclist ought to have to pay up just like the rest of the peons to the tax authorities despite the latter thieves clearly deserving death, Marco Pantani's poor mom, convinced of foul play, still begging the Italian authorities to reopen the inquest into his passing, and Landis counting down to his March 19 frying, I mean appeal, at CAS on the heels of his strange and clearly pissed-off email chat with a resolutely ignorant and defensive USA Cycling's Steve Johnson (do you actively *want* to set CAS into a rage before they even have the chance to dope-smack your legal team in person, Floyd?). On the plus side, I see the tragically careening Vandenbroucke has emerged from his earlier breakdown to ride again and fellow dope hog Danilo Hondo's now joining Gilberto Simoni over at Diquigiovanni, so I really think that our beloved sport's finally on the upswing here, don't you agree?

Unibet They're !@#$%! Anyway: and, in actual racing news, I see Unibet, which fared so well at the kind hands of UCI last year, has now been reborn as Pro Continental squad Collstrop, thereby guaranteeing that their blameless riders will continue to be senselessly victimized by the irrelevant grasping power plays of UCI and a truly endless parade of crybaby race organizers, only now for a lot less money. Now we're getting somewhere! Euskaltel, meanwhile, somehow managed to come up with the cash or some alternate seduction to re-sign the brilliant Samuel Sanchez all the way up through 2010, with Sanchez modestly only aspiring to a stage or two in this year's Tour to the relief of Tour GC aspirant/humble Vuelta superdomestique Haimar Zubeldia, making me hope against hope that, despite Sastre Contador and Valverde gunning primarily for the Tour, the boy will still have some legs left in September and there'll actually be more'n a halfway-coordinated neo-pro Spaniard left to ride, and more importantly do justice to, our perpetual beautiful mountain-monster also-ran the Vuelta. Venga Sanchez--and get your priorities straight already!

Yellow Journalism: no, not mine, but it's beyond my comprehension how our golden squad Saunier Duval could have its much-emasculated team presentation (confident baby Giro aspirant Ricco', Leonardo "How I Got Off for Last Year's Test Results is Beyond Me" Piepoli, and a couple 'nother stalwarts excepted) without anyone in the audience standing up and screaming "Where the !@#$ is we love Iban Mayo, you spineless coward punk-@$$ weaklings?!" Man alive people, even the Spanish cycling fed risked coming up for air from their endless make-out session with Alejandro Valverde to back him, what more validation do you want? Free Iban--and resume his freakin' paychecks you wussbag cringing sell-outs!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Celebrity (Cyclist) Deathmatch

Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely--And Boy, Do They Want It: as the teams smile for the cameras at their official 2008 roll-outs, one thing seems to be clear: it ain't gonna stay pretty for long. Over at Liquigas, we've got co-captains Pozzato and Bennati utterly delighted to be at each other's humble service at all times despite their unfortunate, and seemingly irreconcilable, desire to win all of the exact same races; for team LPR, the cover of the latest TuttoBici's got Paolo Savoldelli lounging trustingly on the saddle of a bike while Danilo DiLuca maintains a smiling deathgrip on the handlebars; and, over at Astanadiscovery, Johan Bruyneel's already announced his intention to force the completely !@##ed Andreas Kloden to drudge for boy-wonder Contador all season, and while we're at it, Kloden better shut up and like it, because if for example there's even the slightest suggestion that that unwanted Vino-tainted leftover was involved in the late T-Mobile's little 2006 blood-doping roadtrip or presumably anything else not to his liking, Johan looks forward to personally shoving him off the team bus into a crevasse. Anyone want to bet on how long these happy little Bert-and-Ernie pairings are gonna last?

Black Is the New Black: in addition to the rosters, the '08 team kits are also coming out, with High Road mercifully sparing us the sight of George Hincapie dressed like a humongous Barbie with discreet wee red and yellow logos against a black background with white stripes up the sides; CSC cuing us in on their rigorous purity by going mostly white with a big red logo and a bit of black swooping sideways from the bottom; and our frank friends over at Rock Racing perhaps considering either an IV graphic against a dirt-colored jersey or an orange prison jumpsuit ensemble. Hell, it beats the retina-searing Barney outfits over at Lampre!

CONI Island: and, the Italian prosecutors, apparently more than irked that Ivan Basso remains a Teen Beat national icon and DiLuca and Petacchi get to play again at this coming Giro despite some, well, physiological oddities at the last one, have now decided to reopen Op Puerto on their end, announcing their intent to call in DSes, team doctors and even riders to testify in the hope they'll be able to keep *somebody* guilty from riding on Italian soil anytime soon. Sadly, point man Dr. Eufemanio Fuentes may already be otherwise engaged, as the Germans plan to call him on the carpet in the latest round of litigation between Jan "I'm Gone! What the Hell More Do You Want?" Ullrich and Dr. Werner "Fine, You Didn't Pay Fuentes 35,000 Euros, You Paid Him More" Franke, and as the man's already laid claim to next year's Nobel Prize for services to cyclists, if nothing else his testimony oughta be lively in that venue. Fortunately for CONI, wherever Fuentes may ultimately talk, "wingnut" translates just fine into Italian...

This Landis Your Land: finally, it's with awe, admiration, and a total lack of ability to comprehend the charts they're using to illustrate the science they're trying to explain to the dimmer bulbs among us that I bid a happy 1000th post to the impassioned pursuers of Truth, Justice, Beauty, and Floyd Landis' Ultimate Acquittal over at trustbutverify. Are they right that Floyd didn't do it? Who the hell knows, but then again, thanks to the grossly careless and flat-out incompetent self-interested lab chimps who mishandled his samples, and the disgusting preening leakfest by the triumphant goons over at UCI & co. that spawned the press' colossal feeding frenzy before Landis even had time to hit the snooze button the morning it all broke, that's precisely the point. And while I certainly think any rider who dopes his way to the podium ought to go down, and that such tactics are deeply unfair to the clean rider (um, riders) left in the peloton, I do think that before we light a boy up like a flaming ball of pitch and fling him off a trebuchet to his doom we should at least be more than half-assedly able to prove that the cheating skank actually did it. So while I hope the dedicated scribes over at TBV needn't actually write another 1000 posts before the whole repulsive farce is resolved, lest the poor exhausted things have to hit up a good team doc themselves for some sustenance-of-ill-repute just to stay awake, I'm grateful they've stuck it out this far nonetheless. Allez allez trustbut!

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

'Cuz Tonight I'm Gonna Party Like It's 1999

Party on Wayne! Party on Garth!: so I see Worlds podium finisher/Amstel Gold champ/Gerolsteiner golden boy Stefan Schumacher, who blamed his pre-worlds "irregular" blood values on a tummyache and later crashed his car after a night at the disco while under the influence of alcohol, has now had to explain another pretty "irregularity" issue, this time, why he also tested poz that night for amphetamines. Now, I'm not inclined to give poor Schumi much of a hard time on that one, as I certainly didn't begrudge we-still-miss-and-yes-I'm-a-lowlife-hypocrite Jan Ullrich's little alleged rendezvous with Ecstasy, but in return, can we all please cut the stupid, nay downright insulting, "how could I have tested poz I didn't even know I was taking anything" defense he's pushing? In competition--fine, what innocent rider knows what "vitamins" your beloved and trusted team doc is giving you? But even in my wildest paranoid theorist fantasies I don't imagine that, say, a desperate UCI or immediate rival is following a given cyclist around dissolving speed into his drinks in the off-season in an effort to trip him up. You're wasted, you're tired, there's no decent espresso around, no hard feelings, man up already! Luckily, the German cycling fed has declined to pursue any case against him, because unlike the last time Ullrich got busted for amphetamines and got his @#$ suspended for it, the fine antidrug hounds at WADA have lately decreed that out of competition amphetamines are actually just fine. Poor Jan--can you never be on the winning side of any embarrassing scandal?

Fighting the Good Fight: meantime, having failed to get the dreaded (and worse, actually potentially useful) blood-values "passport" up 'n' running til the riders have had plenty of time to work their way up to their desired baselines before the 2008 Tour de France, UCI has once again put its foot down in the fight against doping by sensibly testing...um, Michael Boogerd, who already freakin' retired two months before his Christmas Eve surprise visit from the vampires. Good God, UCI...is that Bernard Hinault I see over there? Go get 'im, boys!

Rock Steady: so with Oscar Sevilla officially on board over at Rock Racing, Michael "Napoleon Complex" Ball has gone even more off his head, this time responding to his wheel sponsor's post-Tyler-Hamilton-signing bailout (and the tenuous continued sponsorship of other equipment makers) by angrily proclaiming he'll make better wheels, he'll make cooler wheels, he'll buy all your companies and make his own damn components, he'll personally weave the carbon fibers for the rims, no, he'll personally roll himself up into a ball, jam himself into Hamilton's bike and *be* the wheel...um, I'll concede to the pro-Rock Racing crowd that he's certainly livening things up around the dull ol' peloton, but is anyone else concerned that poor we love Freddy Rodriguez has signed on with a guy that even a tankload of sedatives can't soothe?

Okay, That's One New Year's Resolution Broken: finally, having briefly forgiven Denis Menchov for winning the 2007 Vuelta fair and square, I'm now forced to irrationally loathe him yet again, this time for saying he's bailing out of the '08 Vuelta in favor of going for gold again at the Tour and will prep for it via the Giro. Now, I won't even mention that it's darned lucky for Menchov that the rightful winner of the '07 Tour won't be in Rabobank team kit to defend it this time, but more to the point, how dare you usurp Heras' Vuelta and bother with winning another one when you don't even value this beautiful race, you unappreciative twerp? *Must* the Vuelta always be the sad-sack Jan Brady to the fawned-over Marcia that is the Tour? Aaaiiiigggghhhh!

Give Him Back his Mayo Jaune, Dammit!

No, Not the Tour's; Saunier Duval's: as the Spanish cycling fed miraculously shows the same guts it has in protecting its amore Alejandro Valverde by declining to pursue we love Iban Mayo on the grounds that further review would be improper as he's already been absolved, and be, more frankly, "against the principles of justice," the heavy-handed goons at UCI, already stung by the Landis teams' allegations--well, concrete showing--that they and the same hack lab that analyzed Iban's Z sample are a pack of self-aggrandizing bias-driven snipe-hunting monkeys who routinely flout their own rules whenever it suits them, remain determined to take Iban's crap case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, thereby smugly ensuring that even if Iban didn't do it, or they're simply too stupid to prove that he did, he's gonna remain teamless, jobless, and broke in 2008, lose valuable Giro and classics prep time as the other paycheck-graced boys cavort in their team kits at training camp, and likely be unable to find a team at all for 2009 except those coarse pigs over at Rock Racing, when all this time he ought to be riding about in Saunier Duval team kit, on Saunier Duval's bank account, getting ready for his continued post-meltdown resurgence for the coming year. You blow, Pat "Dick" McQuaid! Why don't we just drag this out until he's actually personally clinically dead, and you can dance a mazurka on his ignominious grave? Look, UCI. Even if you're right, you blew it. Procedural-dithering an opponent to death--waiting it out til someone's broke, incapacitated, or has gone to Trip the Light Fantastic--is a wussbag litigation tactic of the bitter, pathetic, meritless, and weak. You lost; suck it up, take it like a grownup, and get back to nipping at Valverde's ankles like some relentless crazed Chihuahua, why dontcha? Meanwhile, free Iban--woo-hoo!

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Rock 'n' Repugnant

Rock (Un)Steady: so as Frankie Andreu bails out of the obnoxious Michael Ball's new team, purportedly because he didn't like the way 'business' was being conducted between the team and sponsors, he also managed to note that he'd totally coincidentally been left out of several 'recent decisions' involving the courtship and signing of certain riders, presumably boys like busted-or-presumed dopers like Hamilton, Santi Botero and Oscar Sevilla, much less the rumored seduction of legendary Mario "the Chest" Cipollini (tho' no wonder there's confusion there, since even his manager can't keep his story straight for two consecutive days in the Italian press on whether his client's been in talks with Rock Racing or not.) What's more, he is "not entirely comfortable" with the way Ball is hoping to meet his team's goals, which, to those of us with sordid minds, raises the not implausible inference that a team whose riders have been publicly told "win your race or I'm firing your worthless !@#" are perhaps just a little less likely than the rest of even the existing scumpacked filthy cheating peloton to be inclined to stay clean--especially, and I'm sure these guys are all perfectly honest when they say they've never taken anything stronger than a cappuccino so this is a total non sequitur, if they've already got some personal expertise in that area. All right, Ball, you've proven you're an @#$hole; now, can you DS?

Beware the Ides of March: interestingly, though, Ball might not actually have to run his own show, as none other than Floyd Landis--who recently learned his date with doom at CAS is set for March 19, absolutely guaranteeing by its exceedingly late arrival to the party that even if he wins (and he should) he's completely screwed out of any real chance at the Tour for all time, much less ever redeeming his rep as to the old one--has been rumored to be talking to Rock Racing about serving as an "unofficial advisor," as he'd need an actual license from the same clowns who've spent the last two years stomping the poor boy into the dust to do so officially. Does this seem utterly idiotic, not to say unfair, to anyone else, given how guys like Bjarne "I Won the Tour with a Needle in My Rump" Riis and Rolf "Hell, I Doped Last Week!" Aldag are faring in the management ranks at the moment?. Landis, sensibly, has met this rumor with a polite "no comment," kindly mentioning, however, that he does believe the, well, less reputable boys on the team do deserve a second chance. Floyd, not to criticize your truly admirable support for other riders who have been punished for things they claim, same as you, not to even have done--but given that you've got a rather crucial hearing coming up in which every relevant blowhard witchhunting cycling organization on the planet is already claiming you're clearly a lying dope-suffused Tour-thieving testosterone-snarfing dirtbag, is it really going to help your already tenuous chances of victory by claiming sympathy for and solidarity with boys they all believe are even grimier? Save yourself first, Floyd--if you can!

Like a Rhinestone Cowboy: and, tiresome antidoping zealot Dr. Werner Franke (now backed up by "anonymous sources") is at it again, claiming that a "Rhine convoy" of at least two cars from T-Mobile took off for an evening of relaxation 'n' blood doping at the Freiburg clinic during the '06 Tour de France, where the goods were apparently labeled--since the whole dog-naming thing hadn't worked so well for Dr. Fuentes--after a merry band of Disney cartoons. Anyone want to guess which rider was hopped up enough to be "Dopey"? Still, Patrik Sinkewitz, who ought to know, continues to dispute this theory, firmly maintaining that he at least rode alone to the team docs' lair, and while we're at it, thanks all you bastards for rewarding him with a big "screw you" for the brave act of coming out and confessing his sins like you all said a cheater should, 'cuz if any of you holier-than-thou hypocrites think any other rider's gonna talk after how he and Jaksche have been jacked for breaking omerta, you're !@#damn nuts. If it's any comfort, Patrik, I'm sure Rock Racing's still got an opening and some cash...

Mambo Italiano: finally, I see the Italians are already gearing up for the Giro and talking the requisite smack, with the surprising (relative) exception of we love Gilberto Simoni, who in his prep for his '08 stage to Pampeago and hopefully more, not only openly admired recent Saunier Duval protege Riccardo Ricco' and baby Schleck as the men of the future, but, in a shocking bout of self-restraint, merely called DiLuca a weakling and Cunego a nonentity before declining to even insult Ivan Basso at all. Gibo, what's gotten into you in your old age? As for Paolo Bettini, his money's on Ricco as well (on Pozzato if he doesn't get 'caught up in watches and clothes,' pretty amusing for a guy who just sold off his extra Ferrari to buy an airplane, but then, he's got a few good results already), but I'm personally too busy swooning over the news he's considering sticking around for the '09 Giro to care. Vai Paolo, and Gilberto, don't take any crap from that pouty-lipped punk Basso just because he's already been anointed Saint of All the Universe by the Italian cycling press and tifosi!