Thursday, March 20, 2008

Escape From Astanatraz

My Cousin Vino: yep, as predicted, Johan Bruyneel's back in the hole again, as Astanadiscovery is officially kept out of the Tour on the grounds that it, unlike, say, Cofidis, had a little problem with doping in the Tour last year, and, as of this writing, baby hope-o'-the-future Contador won't be able to defend Michael Rasmussen's yellow jersey (yeah, you heard me) in 2008. Still, while it apparently makes perfect sense on Planet Prudhomme to ruthlessly !@#$ over Levi Leipheimer, Chris Horner and single-most-luckless-bastard-on-earth Andreas Kloden for something Alexander Vinokorouv did, Contador can rest assured that not only does UCI have his back no matter who Manolo Saiz is rumored to have stuffed with drugs like grain to foie gras-bound ducks, but that, as Prudhomme helpfully informed the press, it's nothing personal against Contador, and indeed the boy would be welcome at the start line, and podium, anytime. Sure you won't re-think that holy vow of fidelity to Astana you made a few months back, Alberto?

Chicken Run: and, the self-pitying wah-fest that is UCI continues, as the same organization that unquestioningly coddles preferred riders, treats the most egregious systemic management doping scandals as the aberrant acts of individual filthy renegade rider freaks, targets anyone who remotely displeases it with all the careful aim of a steroid-snarfing alpha ape in a blood-soaked action flick and happily let Michael Rasmussen ride the Tour for two weeks knowing he'd missed the out-of-competition doping controls they require, now have taken former WADA chief Dick "Dick" Pound to court in Switzerland on the ridiculous grounds that he really didn't seem to treat their stellar anti-doping efforts with all that much respect. Um, not to defend the Landis-smacking righteous troll Pound here, but is UCI sure he's the only one who feels that way?

Bad Boys: and, in one of the lamest investigative exposes in years, the German inquisitors, already darned sure there was some systemic doping down T-Mobile way from 1993-2005, have now made the previously-unheard-of allegation that Jan Ullrich "probably" doped while on the team, but they can't "prove it." Next Star Magazine shocker: some people say Bjarne Riis might've doped back in the day, too! Oh, wait....

To Kill a...Well, Il Killer: and, the travails continue for poor Danilo DiLuca, who just heard from CAS that he can expect a decision on his Oil-for-Drugs appeal long about 10 days from now. Natch, he's deeply pissed at the injustices of the last nine months, which have already cost him a Tour, a Worlds, an Olympics, and a ProTour title, wants his image clean, but he bravely remains tranquillo, trusting CAS to treat him fair and square. You want to take bets on how confident Iban Mayo and Floyd Landis are on that at the moment?

(San)Remo 911: finally, in Milano-Sanremo news, Rebellin's counting on the tactical collaboration of wily riders like Sylvain Chavanel to confound and devastate the peloton; Tom Boonen professes he's "not afraid" and fingers Pippo Pozzato as his main rival; Giro marvel/Gibo Simoni fave Riccardo Ricco' is out, still badly dented from his date with the pavement at Tirreno-Adriatico; we love Paolo Bettini concedes he's not at maximum form but he'll try, even though he favors Tirreno sprint-stud we love Oscar Freire for the win; and the tifosi over at gazzetta dello sport are likewise pegging first Freire, then Bettini of course, then Petacchi of course, with Paris-Nice champ Rebellin dangerously low on the list and it's-not-Thor Hushovd's-fault-he's-not-Italian-so-his-naysayers-can-go-to-hell on the absolute ass-end of nowhere. Me? Much as I would ordinarily want Hushovd to take it, there are those with even more historically crappy luck than he, so my money's on...well, I wouldn't want to jinx 'im, so I won't give that up for the worlds, world, worlds!

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