So, fellow tifosi, it's been another year since the War on Doping has officially stopped nefarious trickery in the sport dead in its tracks, and another Grand Boucle has hit the history books (some idiots therein harder than others.) Therefore, without further ado, and while anyone else still gives a rat's rump that Carlos Sastre is the Greatest Cyclist on the Planet, I hereby present the 2008 Racejunkie Tour de France Awards:
Girls, Girls, Girls! Award: First, he sent out his sister to defend his virtue. Next, he unleashed his fiancee to protest his innocence. Finally, in the ultimate act of manly courage, he hid behind the skirts of his mamma as she shooed the press away to protect his fragile emotional state. But today, little Riccardo Ricco was finally shoved out from the womb to brave the authorities on his very own, only to issue a sniveling apology and beg for mercy for his "mistake." It ain't much, you crying little doping wussmeister, but it's a start!
So Close, But Yet So Far: to Credit Agricole's Dmitry Fofonov, who made to it to within one meandering cakewalk to the finish line of the entire Tour before being busted for his likely-Tour-long use of banned amphetamines, which supplement he apparently thought it was a genius idea to order from some dope-peddling no-name profiteer off the internet. Ya couldn't just gack down an extra double espresso the last few days, could ya?
Domestique o' the Race: yeah, yeah, it's awesome to see the ever-underrated, ever-subservient Christian Van de Velde riding into his own. But he was supported for GC, and here's who wasn't: former Paris-Roubaix champ and damn fine sprinter in his own right Stuey O'Grady, who nearabout killed himself in the flats putting the hurt on the useless Predictor-Lotto. Give that man an honorary stage win, ASO, or face the consequences!
Karma, Baby: yes, it's a two-fer for arrogant whining wankmaster/ungrateful unworthy beneficiary of the great Gilberto Simoni's tutelage Riccardo "Twerp" Ricco, whose open bitching that he would've won the Giro but for the lame-!@# weakling efforts of his craptastic squad was paid back beautifully by his teammates' immediate collective declaration to the sponsor that Ricco was a solo-cheating renegade scumbucket totally at odds with the universally-adhered-to Saunier-Duval cleanfest philosophy within 10 seconds of the time the scandal broke. Hell hath no fury like a pack of underpaid worker bees scorned, little Ricco--right on SD!
Pathetic Giveaway of the Tour Prize: yep, no disrespect to the diligent Bernhard Kohl, but Mauricio Soler's early crash-out made the King of the Mountains crown a total also-ran this year. Anyone else but me think that except for Sastre's smashing and necessary triumph on Alpe d'Huez and Riccardo's little uphill richocet (and subsequent implosion), the mountains this year just weren't so breath-catching to watch?
I Call Bull!@#$ Award (Individual): Alessandro "Wheezy" Petacchi, busted for asthma meds he had a get-out-of-jail-free Therapeutic Use Exemption card for, didn't get to ride, but Leonardo "Gaaaaasssspppp!" Piepoli, similarly implicated at last year's Giro, did (and we all know how well *that* turned out). Alberto Contador, opaquely linked to Operacion Puerto by his initials, didn't get to ride, but Alejandro Valverde, opaquely linked to Operacion Puerto by his dog's name, did. Big lovable lunk Tom Boonen, busted for out-of-competition coke, didn't get to ride, but Stefan "I Heart Amphetamines" Schumacher did. What the !@#$ is wrong with you, ASO?
I Call Bull!@#$ Award (Team): Astana, which til this week's little incident had no known current doping problems, didn't get to ride, but Rabobank, which let Rasmussen ride knowing he'd skipped doping controls, Liquigas, which just hired admitted attempted-doper Ivan Basso, and Cofidis, home of last year's minor P.R. disaster Cristian Moreni, did. What the !@#$ is wrong with you, ASO?
1st Annual Thor Hushovd Memorial Promotional-Tchotchke Reckless Fan Assault Award: to the wise lady who thought a tight corner in an all-out run to the line would be a great place to take a stroll, to the distinct displeasure of Aurelien Passeron and the damn lucky minor inconvenience of a broken arm. Anyone else thinking the cyclists are gonna have to start attaching those spiked-extensions-o'-mangling-death to their wheels like the chariots in "Ben-Hur"? Now *that* would make great television!
And the Heisman Trophy Goes To...: bad, bad, Bernard Hinault, for his spectacular airborne take-out of the obstreperous protester who dared defile the sacred podium. Jeez, even 20 years on, these wiry little riders are tougher'n they look!
La-La-La-La-I-Can't-Hear-You!-Award: sweet loyal self-effacing little Triki "Lance's Perpetual !@#$!" Beltran? La-la-la-la-la-la-la-la...
Speed Racer Award: no, not sprint wonderbaby Mark Cavendish, tho' it's close and he gets big bonus points for putting the typical speed-king egomania under wraps for once, but Stefan Schumacher, for nailing both time trials over a domestique-duty-whacked Fabian Cancellara. Sure, it was perhaps a little disconcerting--but nothing could possibly go wrong this late in the game, right?
Spin City Prize: to the truly masterful dissemblers over at ASO, for racking up four doping positives this Tour only to successfully convince every media outlet on earth that (1) leaving aside the obvious implication that therefore 2007 must've been the cleanest on record, the numerous pozes found so far prove that doping is actually on the decline; (2)despite the fact that Riccardo Ricco is 24 and Moises Duenas is 27, doping remains solely the aging-out province of actual linen-wrapped mummified old-skool dead guys like the thirtysomething Beltran; (3) the emergence of a new form of EPO in the IV drips of the peloton this month absolutely confirms that riders are no longer looking for ways to cheat the system; and (4) the denials of Barloworld Liquigas and Saunier Duval nail down once and for all that teams are never, never, never involved. What a happy, shiny, Rainbow-Brite planet you live on ASO!
Spectacular Crash o' the Tour: yes, poor Oscar Pereiro's terrifying date with a switchback and all-body mashing takes the prize for House o' Pain, but this one goes to excitable (if perhaps a touch inexperienced) breakaway jailbait John-Lee Augustyn, for his barrier-leaping careen down a mountainside. And for managing to scramble up the crumbling slope in his freakin' racing shoes as his bike continued to somersault down the valley--give that tenacious dented boy another Percoset!
The Green Monster: Oh Oscar. You've been beleaguered by weird neck ailments, stymied by untreatable back problems, and deep-sixed by season-tanking saddle sores. And not only have you survived, and even snagged a stage, you've become the first Spaniard to take the maillot vert in Paris. Allez allez indefatigable Freire!
Raise the Red Lanterne Prize: to cheerful Wim Vansevenant, of course, for taking the sought-after "lanterne rouge" for last rider in GC in the entire 3 week race, which, naturally, *still* means he can wipe the floor with 99% of the other elite athletes on earth. Here's wishing you the same good fortune again next year--and congrats for staying within all the time cuts!
And Finally, The Meek Shall Inherit the Earth Award: he doesn't crow like a sprinter, yap like an upstart, whine like a climber, or preen like a man-candy GC contender. But what he *does* do is give credit extravagantly where it's due, work like a mother, refuse to acknowledge his own worthiness, and generally make like Mother Theresa of the Derailleur. Woo-hoo we love Carlos Sastre--does *anyone* deserve this more'n you?
Well folks, I'm sure there's stuff I (1) missed and (2) blew. So spit it out if you like or don't--but either way, join me for an exciting coronation of St. Ivan of Varese in July 2009!