Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Walk This Way

Talk This Way: well, the obvious has been announced, and Team Astana, dope-slapped out of the Tour for all the wrong reasons and none of the possible right ones, has got its, and its baby prodigy Alberto Contador's, official invite to the Vuelta a Espana, and it'll be interesting to see how Levi and Horner, so smashing in the cooler early-season weather, hold up under the onslaught of the relentless Basque sun. Meanwhile, Johan Bruyneel, who never met a suspect rider he didn't like (at least til he got formally busted), has now hilariously squelched the rumored return amibitions of a surreptitiously-training Alexander Vinokorouv (which ain't gonna bring the two Tour stages he was just stripped of back, but I digress) by virtuously repudiating the boy on moral grounds. Oh come on, Johan, where's your sense of commerce, if not fair play--afraid the boy'll Contador you right out of the Tour for a second consecutive year? Speaking of whom, the clock'll soon be ticking for our hardworking jailbait to find another squad should he have any particular desire to win the Tour de France again, with my money on Saunier Duval, as co-captaincy with an uncharacteristically strong and unimpeachable Valverde seems increasingly unlikely over at Caisse d'Epargne. Any bets on how long it'll take the little chick to fly the nest for another chance at the history books despite Johan's truly impeccable mentoring?

To Everything, Turm, Turm, Turm: yep, it's recriminations galore as Liquigas, the inevitable subject of smoldering envy over the Ivan Basso signing, gets ignominiously booted from minor German semi-classic Henninger Turm over the team's refusal to sign the race's pesky irksome Code of Ethics, including such inconveniences as, say, not hiring convicted alleged dopers til they've been consigned to the local Team Tricycle for another two years after their initial ban is up. Liquigas' reaction? Unconcerned, apparently, as its only real interest is in getting their gilded cherub into the Grand Tours next year, and while a Tour de France spot seems perhaps dubious depending on the magnitude of race organizer Christian Prudhomme's (1) willingness to overlook a massive ratings fan-favorite cash-cow and (2) his general level of nationalistic French snit, for my money, if you think the Giro ain't gonna take him and Liquigas in 2009, you're !@#$%$# nuts. Oh right, wah wah, doping, wah wah, bad example for the impressionable kiddies, wah. But from the team's--and certainly from most of the rabid panty-tossing Basso tifosi's--not unreasonable perspective, why the hell should Basso have ever taken the fall for Op Puerto in the first place when certain extremely formidable and at least equally skanky Spanish GC contenders, who shall remain nameless because they can afford some pretty impressive legal teams, still cavort unscathed coddled and protected in the peloton by their completely unbiased national fed? The objects of such affections (and disaffections), meantime, remain tranquillo, with St. Ivan of Varese merely continuing to affirm his humble desire to ride his bike again and a still-glowing Alejandro Valverde, fresh off his handsome victory at Liege, pleasantly opining that it's clear to him that his so-called Op Puerto involvement is a simple invention of the press, and while naturally no Spanish judge wanted to talk to him over nothing, he'd be happy to chat with the Italian authorities if they like. Taking charm school lessons from Ivan, are we?--how sensible (and lucrative)!

A Little Romandie: and, despite the voracious effort of the sport to eat its young before any of them hit a given start line, racing is indeed still taking place this season, with a downright nasty course for the Tour of Romandie and some exceedingly fine contenders, among them a perpetually-ailing Andreas Kloden, last year's revelation Thomas Dekker, Vuelta-stealing twerp Denis Menchov, Oscar Pereiro, Kurt-Asle Arvesen, we love Carlos Sastre (just affirming he's out of the Giro to focus on the Tour) and, of course, the can't-hardly-lose Fabian Cancellara. Okay, he has no shot and he's not even here to give it one, but let's see some action already Sastre!

Il Grande Giro: finally, it's almost time for the fabulous Giro again, and aside from being a cheap excuse for me to snarf my way at crappy home through fine Italian regional specialties as the race winds its way through the country, it's also a reason for us to take a look at we love Gilberto Simoni's quite solid backup squad, announced today and including Alessandro Bertolini, Daniele Nardello, and reformed dope fiend Danilo Hondo. Barloworld, meantime, has completely jacked my early prediction for the boys to watch, which, with a pissed-off Garzelli out of the picture, was down to Simoni ex-protege Riccardo Ricco' if he can regain his illness-plagued early-season form, but which is now running hard up against '07 Tour marvel Maurizio Soler, presumably here merely to stretch his legs ahead of July but a formidable threat nonetheless (and aiming for GC, while we're at it). Oh, the hell with them really, vai Gilberto!

And, thinking of the Giro, which our hero will be watching miserably from his Barcalounger this year as he awaits his inevitable hosing by CAS, free Iban Mayo (and get him a working god!@@#$#@ bike), you soul-sucked rule-wrecking witchhunting UCI weasels!:

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