Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Smells Like Team Spirit

Fight Club: as the teams grow increasingly twitchy over the upcoming team-roster release for Paris-Nice--likely a grim crystal ball view of the teams for the upcoming Tour--and UCI, WADA, the Grand Tours, the rider's association, and the national cycling feds continue to rip out at each other's throats like rabid foaming wolverines, a slew of disgruntled ProTour teams like Astana, High Road, CSC, Milram, Quick Step, Lampre, Liquigas, and Rabobank have wisely ratcheted up the hostility index by insisting upon meeting with the Grand Tour/"monument" race bosses right this very minute in order to make a righteous "it's all of us, or none of us" demand. Um, not to question the wisdom of such a fine alliance, or the sincerity of a proclamation like "we respect that they don't want teams that could hurt their image," but leaving aside the merely mild tint of scandal associated with teams like Milram (Petacchi & Zabel), Liquigas (lately of DiLuca), and Quick Step ("LEFEVERE: THIRTY YEARS OF DOPING"), if Astana and High Road are so eager to prove their commitment to purity and their complete break with the disgusting doping practices of their forebears as a reason to let 'em into the races, is joining forces with a team like Rabo "Of Course We Knew Rasmussen Was a Lying Sack of !@#$! When We Let Him Destroy Your Tour de France This Year!" bank *really* the way into ASO's heart? (And no, I'm not counting coalition member Saunier Duval on the original sin list. Rehire Iban goddammit!) Meantime, UCI has also announced the wildcard teams, including such notables as we love Gilberto Simoni (and reformed or at least returned dope fiend Danilo Hondo)'s Diquigiovanni and natch climbing god Maurizio Soler's Barloworld, but not, interestingly, Paolo Savoldelli and Danilo DiLuca's new gig LPR. Oh well, what do they care, the Giro and the Classics are still theirs--I'm sure the loss of whatever Tour de Who Gives a Rat's !@# that's still left in the ProTour stable ain't keeping them up at night!

Revenge of the Nerds: so as the Giro dope-slaps Bouyges Telecom and Credit Agricole out of the race for lack of devotion to the sport (since they really can't pin much of last year's doping hoo-ha on those boys, unlike...well, actually, none of the other ProTour teams they're keeping out can fairly be excluded on that basis, either), one can't help but notice they've been confirming their obvious ennui by winning half the races so far this season, including a stage at Etoile des Besseges and a bucket o'stuff, including sustained race leadership, at Langkawi. Now, I *love* the Giro, and am loathe to criticize anything they do, but I gotta say, targeting these two teams for ejection just seems stupid. Sure, they largely bit last year in 'most everything. But isn't half the beauty and power of this sport the delight of redemption from humiliating season tanks past? Free Thor Hushovd, I say--*someone's* gotta be around to take a sprint if Petacchi gets kicked out of the 2008 Giro over his, well, overenthusiastic Salbutamol intake last year!

Reading Is Fundamental: finally, I see an Italian journalist has a lengthy new book out on Marco Pantani, "He Was My Son," or, more accurately, "Blame the B!@#$$!", as, amidst an exhaustive review with family and friends of every detail of Pantani's life, Marco's bereaved papa' reveals that Marco's Danish fiance, Christine, became pregnant in 2002, Marco was happy, a child of his own would have changed his life--but she wanted to finish her studies, and for some utterly unclear reason the baby was never born. Lest we miss the point: had this not happened, Marco would still be here. The still-devastated tifosi over at gazzetta, of course, posted tribute after tribute to their hero in response, and I must say I'm inclined to agree--whatever he did or didn't do, and whatever did or didn't undo him, wouldn't it be kindest if the poor boy--and his fiance, while we're freakin' at it--were finally left in peace?

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