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!:

Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Wages of Sin

Or Not: as reformed attempted doper Ivan Basso signs with Liquigas, which is sure to get a spot at the Giro at least this year, and Danilo Di Luca, who was suspended for three months last year, at least gets to defend his title with LPR, and Petacchi's Milram squad remains on the start list despite the boy's snorting enough salbutamol in a key sprint stage to fuel the space shuttle (though the glum champ's own 2008 Giro is now in doubt due to a training-killing particularly nasty respiratory infection), it's official: 2x 2007 Giro stage winner (and 2x overall champ) Stefano Garzelli and Acqua e Sapone, who have been accused of--much less busted for--absolutely nothing, are, despite what should be their wholly unnecessary appeals for mercy from the authorities, completely !@#$%^ out of the 2008 Giro despite Garzelli's brave if fruitless !@#$%-slap of winning two vicious stages in the Giro del Trentino this week. Okay, RCS, you've got some bee up your butt with A & S management. But Garzelli's not only earned the maglia rosa at the end of the road in Milan twice, but as last year's smashing rallied showed, he's proven himself even in his golden years as a valiant, viable, thrilling competitor. Considering who *else* you're letting into your glorious, filthy race, and in light of the noble fact that such arbitrary assiness has til now been the almost exclusive province of the bitter petty game-players over at the Tour de France, can't you just let this highly deserving boy ride for the glory and betterment of the race? Free Garzelli dammit!

Here She Comes, Miss Ame-ricaaaaaaa: speaking of Liquigas, I was flabbergasted as West Coast racer god bluesquirrel that Basso was allowed to sign with the team for '09, as I'd believed in my obvious ignorance that a 2-year ban meant an additional 2-year limit to the half-!@#$#d backup strength of a Continental squad, and even more befoozled that there wasn't an instant screaming rampage against them both from UCI stickler Pat "Dick" McQuaid, but then, this is the same hypocritical tool that went to the mat to get Op Puerto-linked Alberto Contador back into the Tour despite testimony from the Liberty Seguros youngsters that Manolo Saiz was pumping them full of mystery supplements whose contents the mastermind surely ran openly by the narcs. Ah, to be young, pretty, and in the prime of one's Grand Tour-winning years! Holy crap, I've just described a beauty-pageant-winner-on-wheels. Let's just cut to the chase and concede that, say, the wisely if sadly retired Jorg Jaksche or the striving Hamilton can't hold a candle to Basso & Contador in the swimsuit competition, shall we?

Out of the Mouths of Babes: and, as Liquigas, like Discovery before it, discreetly pulls out of the ProTour teams' association over its comely controversial signing, and the remaining squads slobber jealously over Liquigas' enviable coup and doubtless scour the disgraced-and-retired for a possible ex-attempted-doper score halfway as impressive (and in his prime) as theirs, the team remains proudly unrepentant, pointing out their brunette cherub's selfless road back to respectability, and moreover (and not unreasonably), since everyone knows half the stars in the current peloton are disgusting drugged-up cheats, one can hardly complain if Basso hits the tarmac as let's face it he oughtn't've been the only one off it in the first place. St. Ivan, meantime, continues to fluff the feathers in his angel wings in a lengthy interview with Gazzetta dello Sport, humbly acknowledging the justly mixed reactions of his compatriots to his return, his continued remorse for his never-quite-happened treachery, his gratitude and dedication to his wife and bambini, his openness to sharing team captaincy with his friend Di Luca, and last and surely least, his dear hope to win again. Am I the only one surmising that somewhere, Jan Ullrich Roberto Heras and damn near everyone else lately excluded from the German and Spanish federations are gacking on their orange juice this morning?

Faster, Pussycat!: okay, the continued implosion of cycling under the weight of its own fecklessness may continue, but so, miraculously, does actual racing, with High Road smacking the Vuelta for excluding it with a handsome stage win at the Tour de Georgia, a host of triumphs by the usually-Euro-mocked American domestic squads, Liege finishing up at this very moment and even, in ancient-history news, Floyd Landis coming out to play of late in his home stomping grounds. Anyone else thinking one more !@#$%^% scandal in this gorgeous repugnant disappointment of a sport and we all oughta just pack it in and head on down to our local road races to hand out bottles to the hometown guys who don't have the bucks or inclination to snort their way to the finish line?

Thursday, April 24, 2008

How Do You Talk To An Angel?

You Offer Him a Million Euros, If You're Liquigas: yes indeed, months before his suspension for attempted-but-surely-never-completed doping is even up, St. Ivan of Varese has signed a two-year deal with a fawning Liquigas that's almost--almost--as handsome as Basso himself. Anyone else thinking Danilo Di Luca, mired in a Continental squad after mere accusations of a little liquid OD at the '07 Giro, is in a screaming bull!@#$ rage-fest with his poor hapless agent at the moment over such hopelessly hypocritical--and for Il Killer, I'm sure, costly--perfidy? (Not to mention Jan Ullrich, who if he dropped his little party-drug adventures from a few years back sure might wanna consider taking 'em again now for a little escape.) Gilberto Simoni, however, who memorably accused Basso of trying to buy a stage win off him at the 2006 Giro and then cooly impugned both his purity and his manhood, but has been almost terrifyingly nice to everyone this season, has yet to weigh in the subject apparently, though if this don't make his head actually explode into nanobits all over the mountains of northern Italy, I really don't know what will. Anything you'd like to share with us, Gibo?

Y'know, I was gonna say, it's nice Valverde will have some company out in the peloton next year, but then, I'd probably just get sued for a totally innocent comment on his and Ivan's natural compatibility. Forget I mentioned it!

911 Is a Joke: and, in a book and interview sure to warm the cockles of Dick "Dick" Pound's sold-to-Satan immortal soul, Bernard Sainz, purveyor of some of the finest doping products known to the peloton in the scandalous '90s, has proclaimed the current fight against doping as a "put-on," tho' in light of last season's vigorous attention to fair play by the likes of Astana, Rabobank, T-Mobile and Cofidis and a host of individual cleanmeister riders, it's clear that any problems in that area are genuinely a thing of the past. Why, why can't we all justly recognize the current peloton as the paragon of purity it's so clearly become? Damn cynics, spoiling everything for the rest of us...

Mur Than a Feelin': finally, what a smashing 2nd place for ever-underrated world champion Marta Bastianelli as she surges to near-victory in Fleche-Wallone over an amazingly high-caliber field, outkicked only by the unbeatable jailbait Marianne Vos and boding more than well for the rest of the season. Yap, yap, Neben, Armstrong, whoever--forza Marta! And, what an agonizing last-second sweep-up for a valiant Fabian Wegmann in the men's race, and what a pleasing shock to see Cadel Evans actually break free of the butt-end of someone else's bike for once and make such a worthy attack for the line. Basso's still gonna kick your !@# in the 2009 Tour though, Cadel!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Fleche for Fantasy

Ardennes of Thieves: yep, it's time for Fleche-Wallone, and with world champ Marta Bastianelli ready to steal victory in the women's race and Paris-Nice king Rebellin, Damiano Cunego, and gunning-for-first Frank Schleck on hand for the men's, it's going to be a completely wasted day at work bouncing around in my chair waiting to come home and glom onto the coverage. Allez big Schleck! Meantime, with the time trial behind 'em, the climbers come out to play at the Giro del Trentino, with Bettini swearing to make it to Liege this weekend at any cost and Simoni, one presumes, ready to swat all comers in the Dolomites. Vai Gibo!

(Some) More Mr. Nice Guy: okay, Vs., I've justly excoriated you for grossly wasting the gift that is Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen (and the amiable Bob Roll, while we're at it) by not bothering to air any actual race coverage til long after the course itself is but a cobweb-dusted memory. And I understand how very compelling watching some guy sitting in a boat catching bass and swatting (and tying I gather) flies or torturing some ticked-off giant hunk of sirloin with some terrifying rodeo clown can be. But now, right as the jammin' Tour de Georgia presents a smashing local opportunity to get folks interested in cycling beyond whatever Lance Armstrong was doing two years ago, I get cycling.tv--to whom I've paid a giant wad of cash, not that that's your fault for airing one lousy hour of Vuelta coverage last year--telling me they can't broadcast the TdG because *someone's* waiting to broadcast the race sometime, one hopes, before the !@#$%$# thing is run again in 2009. Look, if I clip some spurs onto Bobby Julich's bike shoes, buy him a ten-gallon hat and painfully tighten a rope around his bike's derailleur, will you freakin' show some cycling already?

Day of Reckoning: finally, according to our beloved all-knowing Euskaltel addict over at ibanmayoblog, it's official: May 21 is the day CAS announces Iban's fate, and it's my miserable nausea-inducing guess that the cycling bodies are getting damn tired of looking like incompetent witchhunting !@#$%^%$ and someone's just gonna have to fry. Any bets on who that's gonna be? Either way, the boy himself is already psychologically crushed, and if, say, a few weeks' worth of press coverage extolling his fabulousness is enough to throw him into a years-long freefall after his triumph on Alpe d'Huez in the Tour, I can only imagine the Vandenbrouckian disaster that awaits when our fragile flower actually gets hosed by the authorities. Oh right, and Petacchi's gettin' all worried and Bjorn "Love Defense" Leukemans is formally out for 2 years, like that matters. Free Iban, you repulsive Z-sample-whoring desperate crybaby vendetta-driven rule-reviling wanks!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Russian Roulette

To Russia, With Love: so I see that in his increasingly desperate bid to make up for his crushing loss of control over damn near every race that matters, I mean, expand the fan-love of the power and glory that is cycling to every remaining region on earth that has yet to convert to its gospel, Pat "Dick" McQuaid over at UCI has expanded the reach of the ProTour deep into Eastern Europe. I'm actually all for it in principle, but Pat, do you really think this one is gonna compensate for the humiliating loss of the Tour?

Damiano, the Omen: yep, as he apparently predicted 'long about last October, two-time-Giro-king/fruitless-Tour-aspirant Damiano Cunego has taken Amstel Gold over a formidable and only slightly wheel-sucked senior Schleck, to the besotted shrieks of the tifosi, who nonetheless are surprised that their Grand Tour boy is turning into a Classics king and more than irked that their hero is ditching his hometown corsa rosa to focus on some crappy little race like the Tour de France this year. Next in the boy's sights? None other than the venerable Liege-Bastogne-Liege, but at least for the next day or so, the boy's clearly content to take some well-earned R&R (and has apparently made up quite nicely with former Lampre teammate/relentless contemptuous press-slagger we love Gilberto Simoni as well):

Baby You Can Ride My Bull: while we're talking about the Classics, a big "you suck!" *again* to the bambi-hunting-and-bull-wrangling-obsessed executives over at Vs., who managed to not only desecrate Paris-Roubaix by airing its coverage a week after everyone on earth knew its result, but also to grossly squander the dual perfection that is Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen by doing so. Damn, why not just bring back that idiot Al Trautwig if you're gonna spit on the sport as you broadcast it? Aaarrrrggggghhhhh!

Swiss Cheese: meantime, the Swiss seem uncharacteristically befuddled as to the state of their own vendetta against the hapless Jan Ullrich, which may be moot anyway, as the boy's going to be distracted enough as whining turncoat hypocrite soigneur-o'-Satan Jef D'Hont swears to hunt down and sue Jan for defaming his character by denying that D'Hont ever personally jammed his !@# full of EPO. Right, 'cause participating in someone's doping activity then pimping yourself for cash about it is just the sort of character-affirming obsequiousness that builds up a man's reputation in the world, you nit! Still and all, Jan's sure to be comforted by his late (if not cheap) escape from fraud charges, if for no other reason than the Germans were forced to concede that no fraud really took place with the sponsor masterminding the whole pharmaceutical plan and all, which must really be a comfort to everyone from T-Mobile who's gotten excoriated as a rogue cheating lone-ranger lowlife before they, unlike, say, Rolf Aldag, could manage to age out of relevance in the peloton. Anyhoo, anyone else excited that the teams are gonna finally be held responsible for their systemic profit-driven skankery? Nope, I don't think they ever will be, either!

The Night the Lights Went On In Georgia: finally, in the happy race news that is the reason we still love this endless simmering cesspool of a sport, it's the smashing Tour of Georgia this week, with just about everyone you could dream of from American cycling and a bucket o' talent from Europe weighing in on the first-ever team time trial and the decisive burst of Brasstown Bald. Allez allez Levi of course, but Hincapie really deserves to crush the competition after his lousy luck this spring! Still, whatever else is going on there or at the thrilling Ardennes classics, for my money the real test is at the Giro d'Trentino this week, as Simoni, Garzelli, Di Luca, a rib-sore Bettini and damn near everyone else worth watching for the Giro d'Italia descends upon (and schleps painfully up) the Dolomites in the first real test of form ahead of the Giro. Free Garzelli for the start line of the Giro you disgusting cowardly clowns--wasn't Acqua e Sapone gonna sue those wanks for cheating him out of another go?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Drinks on Danilo!

Lots and Lots and Lots of Drinks: yep, as you've all heard by now, it's off to the races for beloved--and now undoubted--Giro king Danilo DiLuca, as Italian appeals panel GUI finds "insufficient evidence" of doping in his childlike hormone levels after intense rehydration after the stage to Zoncolan. Needless to say, the tifosi are delirious with joy and rage, being about equally split between (1)being sure Di Luca's innocent, now go and take another Giro and show them! (2)not given a rat's !@# whether Di Luca is innocent, but wanting prosecutor Ettore Torri's blood anyway and (3) still being pissed that no Spaniards have gone down for Operacion Puerto. Danilo himself, meantime, is happy that justice has been done, and while he's distinctly not pleased that he's "lost a year of his life," he is now thinking only of winning the Giro. Forza Danilo! As for Liquigas, which tossed Di Luca aside like an empty Budweiser can at a teen-jock beerfest at the first sign of trouble? Natch, blaming everyone but themselves for the loss of someone so clearly unfairly persecuted. Um, such sincerity still won't buy out his contract from LPR, boys! Still, depending on how embarrassed the narcs are, they can always appeal to CAS, which, given the lightning speed at which the we love Iban Mayo and Floyd "Either Way, I'm Hosed" Landis proceedings are going, ought to settle the issue just in time for Di Luca to ride off into semicomfortable retirement in his dapper late middle age. Now that's justice in action! So explain to me again why "Thirsty" DiLuca and "Wheezy" Petacchi can ride this year's Giro, and the never-even-remotely-implicated-in-anything Stefano "What the Hell Did I Ever Do To You People" Garzelli cannot?

Paolo's Rib: in actual current race news, meantime, Paolo Bettini's crappily still out of the Ardennes classics nursing his busted rib, but *is* apparently back in what he'd earlier scratched from his season, the perfect Giro d'Italia. Woo-hoo! Meantime, Gibo Simoni is looking forward to the weeklong Giro di Trentino for his d'Italia prep, and is such a good mood about it he got through an entire interview without even dope-slapping anyone. Anyone got cheap tix to Italy?

D'Oh!: in a rare miscalc, Roubaix champ Tom Boonen prematurely celebrates a win at Scheldenpriijs as talented jailbait Brit Mark Cavendish, splashed all over the press of late as the Next Big Thing, tosses forward his bike and takes the victory. Oh well, Tom, at least Roubaix is some small consolation prize! Tom, of course, was both gracious and complimentary in defeat (as Cavendish was in accidental victory), comparing his acceleration to McEwen's. Photo-friendly, a good sport, karaokes Metallica--what more could one want in a cyclist (except that he be Iban Mayo)?

Boonen the Beautiful: finally, apologies to my Aussie posse (of one) for not having a link to our hero's formidably manly Specialized ad, but I couldn't even find one on their website, much less anywhere else. If you really want it, though, and can't get Velonews Down Under, just shoot me an email w/ an address and I'll gladly snail-mail it along (framing it'll cost you.) As to the naturally delicate and reserved local reader I've been alerted was traumatized by the Simoni link, sorry I scarred your retinas. Ya reads this garbage, ya takes your chances!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Leavin' On the Midnight Train (From) Georgia

Georgia on My Mind: on the very day Michael Ball takes his perpetual tantrum, this time over Rock Racing's exclusion from the Tour of Georgia, to court by way of a breach-of-oral-contract claim (pretty funny coming from a guy whose sworn solemn oath to completely change the world of cycling has manifested itself most notably to date in having his team wear some really, really rad-looking jerseys), Saunier Duval unfortunately has saved the day as it pulls out of the ToG in order to have enough upright bodies to staff its European campaign and the race organizers bow beneath the mighty weight that is Michael Ball's ego and bank account and let him in after all. Y'know, it's very nice to see Tyler Hamilton back in the saddle again for old times' sake, but *must* we deal with that arrogant wingnut Ball while we're waiting?

Like Sands Through the Hourglass...: as the clock ticks rapidly down to 2007 Giro king Danilo DiLuca's day of reckoning (and Petacchi's too incidentally), and the press bats about the possibility that modest baby Schleck could inherit Il Killer's maglia rosa, one key thing seems to go cruelly unnoticed: if DiLuca's out, and/or the recently two-year-banned Eddy Mazzoleni is stripped of his spot, this moves we dearly love 4th place finisher/smashing stage-taker/smack-talkin' road and mountain god Gilberto Simoni onto the podium where he so clearly belongs. Forza Gibo! Of course, it's only my own personal bias towards Simoni for doing anything short of, say, committing a serious violent felony that causes me enjoy this situation at all, and I certainly don't relish seeing the younger Schleck take the title that way, just as, for example, (and this is compounded by the case against Landis being incompetent crap) it made me absolutely yack to see cyclingnews so casually and cheerfully refer to the not-to-blame Oscar Pereiro as "the winner of the 2006 Tour de France" during its Paris-Roubaix live coverage. Damn, twist the knife why dont'cha? Anyhow, speaking of Simoni, as I was looking for a nice photo of him to accompany my fawning, I suddenly realized I owe (and hereby offer) poor Tom Boonen a colossal apology for ragging him over his recent beefcake Specialized ad, as, frankly, Gibo's website's got him beat (okay, no matter what I do, I can't !@#$%^ upload this !@#$%^ image, so hit the link, click "enter," main menu on the left, click on "gallery"). Holy moly, don't *any* of you people have mothers?

Question o' the Day: so it seems that, after years of relentless failure, there's been a rather astonishing uptick of late in the number of breakaways, particularly solos, successfully taking races. Is this due to:
a) a sudden decrease in the use of performance enhancing substances by the peloton due to greater paranoia and improved testing protocols, leading to the increased equalization of capabilities except by the truly natural standouts?
b) a sudden increase in the use of currently undetectable substances by only a few reckless well-connected cash-flush upstarts?
c)crap tactical dithering by DS-whipped big names too scared of being jumped by each other to keep an eye on anyone else?
d) nuthin', just a random yet highly pleasing to watch coincidence?
Just wonderin'!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Ulle Aboard!

Let's Make a Deal: so, Jan Ullrich has officially missed out on the fine all-wood dining set and custom shag carpeting behind Curtain Number One, and is going home instead with the wacky billy goat behind Curtain Number 2, as the German prosecutors announce that Jan's fraud investigation will be closed in exchange for a monster-euro fine and, for a consolation prize, no admission by the boy of any chemical hijinks in connection with Op Puerto or anytime else whatsoever. To top it off, the poor sod's lost yet another sponsorship deal on the petty grounds that he's not a good example for sportsmanship, which can hopefully yet be remedied (and his bank account replenished) by a name-naming tell-all book, a tearful on-air confession, and some repentant charity work for the tykes. Hope you managed your obscene paychecks well enough to avoid that horrid scenario Jan!

And the Pulitzer Goes To: yep, the Boston Globe Magazine, for its astonishingly ditzbaggian mini-interview with Lance Armstrong which, in its references to his too-cool-for-school friendships with babelicious Matthew McConaughey and rather higher-rent Sidney Poitier, displayed all the dazzling journalistic virtuousity of a a Teen People profile. Oh, he got a quote in about holding everyone else accountable for doping, and ruminated on his fascinating training for the upcoming Boston Marathon, and on the whole I oughta be grateful that the Globe even figured out for that reason alone that the boy exists, but man, why bother you clowns?

Boonen Bounces Back: first, a massive admiring shout-out to my Aussie readers, bacause Stewie O'Grady absolutely kicks @#$ over virtually everyone else in the peloton. Watch and learn, Cadel you crawler! Anyway, while I was sorry to see Ballan inevitably take third after Boonen and Cancellara at Paris-Roubaix, if for no other reason that he was absolutely guaranteed no chance of winning with those boys' desperation in the mix, I have to say it's been at least a year since the comely press-smacked Boonen has blasted out such a magnificent sprint. Still, it would've been interesting to see what would've happened if Pozzato and Flecha hadn't crashed, but then, that's the gore and glory of Roubaix. Allez allez Stewie, and don't give up hope for next year!

With Friends Like That, Who Needs Frenemies?: didja ever have the kind of beloved if inadvertently horned acid-spitting demon of a pal or loved one who always has the Exact Worst Timing In All Human History, like the champ who decides that 11pm the night before her wedding is a great time to bang back a foursome of that potent, trendy new cocktail she's been hearing about, or the roomie who suddenly harangues you with some trivial bull!@#$ war-of-the-worlds over doing the dishes 200 meters from the line of a race you've been glommed on like a leech for six straight hours, or the decrepit if dear relative who always calls you right when you're, well, exceedingly otherwise occupied? If so, you're a damn near clone of the luckless George Hincapie, who continues his losing battle with the Satan's army of mechanical !@#$ups with a craptacularly timed flat at 56 k to go. Perhaps you might get a vaguely compensatory chance in the Ardennes--after all, Bettini's knocked out with a busted rib, though that didn't stop him in last year's Giro--dammit, you're hosed again!

Vuelta a Pais !@#$ You, ASO!: finally, congrats to baby savant Alberto Contador on his continued dope-slap to the Tour de France organizers by his smashing wins at the Tour of the Basque Country, with even the Tour-focused recently-dethroned Little Prince Damiano Cunego taking a stage and even better, a day's race yesterday. Don't feel so bad Alberto--with Sanchez Cunego and that twerp Menchov all focused on France, at least the Vuelta's yours if Zubeldia doesn't have strength enough left totake you out!

Monday, April 07, 2008

Velvet Devolder, a Temporary Adieu, and a Coupla Brainteasers

Young Einstijn: well, that was easily one of the most exciting breakaways this season as a rampaging Stijn Devolder takes Flanders after a loooong solo escape, leaving endless pave'-battered carcasses and a mortified pack of pre-race strongman favorites in his wake. Anyone else thinking if the big boys hadn't sat up scratching their heads so long waiting for someone else to expend the energy to start the chase they might've actually reeled him in? After all, he'd already proven he was strong enough to blow the field apart for Tom Boonen and still have the legs to continue. Anyway, woo-hoo Stijn, what a crap ill-timed puncture for Hoste, and what the !@#$ Hushovd?!

Everybody's Working for the Weekend: as defendant Danilo Di Luca dope-slaps the Giro organizers by taking the overall in Lombarda, Jan Ullrich's rumored to reach a deal with his prosecutors for a sweet 1 million-euro fine for doping he still gets to swear he never, ever did, and Alberto Contador lams a giant "you suck!" into Tour de France organizer ASO on stage 1 of the Vuelta a Pais Vasco, I am imminently stuck in humid computerless hell for the next 4 days and not only will miss a good half-week's hot gossip, but also the priceless run-up to Paris-Roubaix. !@#$%$#! lack of a trust fund! So to entertain you both til my return, I humbly leave you with these questions to debate, or at least, to ponder:

1) Did he, or didn't he?
a) Valverde
b) Landis
c) Di Luca
d) Petacchi
e) Contador
f) Armstrong

No, I'm not tossing Iban Mayo into the mix. I can't stand it. Go to hell!

2) The first-time penalty for a doping poz should be:
a) a two-year ban.
b) a four-year ban.
c) a lifetime ban.
d) a spectacular beat-down by Pat "Dick" McQuaid.
e) nuthin'. We heart cheats!

3) Who will win:
a) Paris-Roubaix
b) the Giro d'Italia
c) the Tour de France
i. if you picked Cadel, will you think he's a shameless undeserving wheel-sucker if he doesn't once attack or take a stage?
d) the Vuelta (like anyone else cares. Dammit!)

All righty, enjoy folks, I'll be back yappin' again next weekend!

Friday, April 04, 2008

Ice Ice Baby

Ronde and Ronde: yep, it's time for the beautiful Ronde van Vlaanderen again, and it's my guess that the Italians and Spaniards are utterly hosed as the hardcore Belgians get to revel in the miserably crappy freezing cold, rain, sleet and possibly snow now forecast for Sunday that's guaranteed to make the already-treacherous cobblestones even more of a crash-prone deathtrap than they are on a typically foul race day. Enjoy the ride Boonen & co.--but natch I'm rooting for always-a-bridesmaid underdog Hoste! Speaking of Boonen, major points to our barely-clad hero for his man-candy cobblestoned Specialized ad on page 11 in the latest Velonews, tho' I note that a few pages later Kristin Armstrong manages to look impressively kick-ass with her team kit actually covering her body. What, Thor Hushovd suavely gliding past a shop window with a panther at his side all winter wasn't enough? Y'know boys, between Petacchi's last-season's satin-draped pinup calendar, Thor's race for slinkiness, and now this latest foray into bike-porn-lite, there really ain't that much farther to go in the manly-man competition without, say, taking a ruler out--and please, we don't want to see that!

Judge Dredd: and, just as you thought prospects couldn't get much worse for Floyd Landis, comes not only the pleasing news that former WADA chief Dick "Dick" Pound has been denied the CAS chairmanship, but also the even better confirmation that really it's utterly moot as he's in fact been a member of CAS anyway for some time(thanks trustbut--I missed that in the cyclingnews article!)--apparently at least since he gave his fair nonjudgmental protocol-ignoring sportsmanlike interview with the New York Times excoriating Floyd as the epitome of all that's dirty wrong shameful and disgusting about the sport (and man, when you think about the competition, that's a pretty harsh thing to say.) Boy, I bet Landis is happy to have Captain Objectivity close 'n' cozy with the members of CAS who'll be deciding his fate!

Just Play It Cool, Boy/Real Cool: in other legal news, I see that Tammy Thomas has been found guilty of perjury for denying drug use in the Balco scandal, showing she wasn't affected by her products of choice at all as she goes all 'roid rage in the courtroom, hurling invectives at the prosecutor and the distinctly shaken jury and sensibly blaming them for all her problems. Hell, I'll agree with her if she won't kill me! The Italian press, meantime, reports breathlessly that American sport is shaken to its core, which would really concern me from a moral perspective if I actually gave a rat's !@# what a pack of too-dumb-for-subtlety baseball insta-no-necks were doing. Oh well Tammy--perhaps there's a future in pro wrestling for you--check out that game face in the tuttobici photo!

He's on the Road to Nowhere: and, it's a smashing and perhaps last-ever win for Danilo Di Luca at Lombarda, and the tifosi are goin' wild, with the exception of a couple of grumblers over petty little IV allegations, who for my money ought to stay out of the way of the disconcertingly-named "Il Killer Fans Club." Di Luca, meantime, remains tranquillo, extravagantly complimenting his teammates for his victory and making it clear he's on form to take the races--like his '07 Liege--that he's barred from. Forza Danilo--I'm sure it was just all Gatorade straight from the water bottle!

Days of Wine and Mozzarella: geez, as if it weren't enough that dioxin threats to the Italian buffalo mozzarella supply induced a national "psicosi" (since resolved--buy buffalo!), now Italy's having to reassure the EU that, after a sugar beet adulteration scare, its freakin' *wine* is ok to ingest. Look, I'm happy--delighted--to blow endless sums hauling my !@# to Italy and doing my bit to support the tourist economy as I gorge my way through the smashing Giro. But can you please, please not physically harm me in the process, beyond the blindness naturally induced by Ivan Basso's dazzling beauty? You have the best food and most of the best races (save the Vuelta, of course) on Earth, Italy--don't !@#$ this up and stick me with going to the Tour de France instead!

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Oh, Dani Boy!

River Deep, IV High: as Danilo DiLuca rides discreetly in Lombarda, the war o' the experts has heated up as the narcs set April 16th as the date to decide whether Danilo's, well, rather Smurf-like hormone levels after last year's stage to Zoncolan are (a) merely due to the his being naturally a very, very thirsty boy after such a long, hard stage or (b) the inevitable result of having to mainline half the Amazon river basin post-stage to flush the remnants of banned substances out of his system. Mysteriously, however, the prosecutor now claims he's irrefutably shown Di Luca was pumping himself full of "plasma," quite a different substance than the earlier-claimed saline it would seem, which did not escape the notice of the rabid Il Killer Fans Club over on gazzetta dello sport but was nonetheless utterly unneeded to send them into a marauding anti-doping-authority frenzy. Free Di Luca--or take yer chances! Alessandro Petacchi, meantime, gets to continue his craptastic prep for the Giro by not only being too whacked-out with the flu to race at all but by remaining ignorant of his own fate with regard to his over-impassioned asthma-med romance for 3 to 4 more weeks, thereby jacking over any chance to train he'll have left. Anyone else thinking he (and Di Luca) might as well just stay in bed til it's all over at the end of May? Actually, me neither!

Have (Some) Coke and a Smile: yep, it's Frank Vandenbroucke in trouble again, as Belgian investigators link him and an off-season coke purchase to a customer list carefully kept by a drug-dealing gang with even more breathtaking stupidity than Dr. Fuentes' barely-code-named blood-doping archives. Team Mitsubishi's manager, so far, is not quite ready to sell the boy down the river, noting that he "won't act hastily," but also totally coincidentally reminding race organizers everywhere that "I have no idea what [my riders] are up to in their free time." Y'know, not to defend what's clearly problematic (though I don't recall anyone inordinately kicking Jan Ullrich's !@# out of the peloton over his little nightclub Ecstasy adventure), but I'm inclined to say give the guy a !@#$%*! break--or at least a trip to rehab. He breaks the rules; he serves his time; he overcomes drug use and depression; he keeps on training; he gets a team; and because apparently he hasn't drooled for the cameras enough like some utterly calculating cheesy B-list movie actor, he *still* can't race. What the hell else do we expect these newly-released returnees to do in response to this hypocritical bull!@#$, sit around and snort Pop Rocks all day?

He's Got Game (Theory): so there's an interesting article in Scientific American of all places on the evil scourge o' doping as explained by game theory, which is frankly a relief from all the T/E ratio charts and other medical stuff that gets posted that I'm too dense to comprehend, because as a lawyer, base disgusting greed I get. Anyhoo, there's some input from LeMond & Co., and the author's got some interesting solutions, including amnesty for everyone's scumly but endemic actions pre-2008 (what?! I thought we all agreed cycling's been clean since Bjarne Riis' last Tour!) and DQing the whole team if one sap turns up poz, which if not enough pressure to kill the actual risk-taking is sure, if nothing else, to lead to a little assault-and-battery on the ol' team bus. I say we check back in a year, and see how much it's all improved. Any bets?

Ivan the...Well, Pretty: and, big news over in Italy as the Six Days in Milan track event returns in 2008, with Paolo Bettini as the likely star attraction and the added bonus of being in November, just in time for humble pinup Ivan Basso to return to racing from his much-resented (by the fans anyway) ban. Needless to say, despite some grumbling that track racing is lame, the tifosi are freaking out with excitement to see their beloved studmuffin riding on any surface, and if I were Ivan, I might think it'd be a good idea to hire a surfeit of massive no-neck bodyguards just to protect my fragile rider's body from the inevitable crushing onslaught of adoring fans before I get inadvertently squashed flat flashing my pearly whites at the crowd. Ah, the pressures of teen-idoldom! To tide you over til he's really back, here's a very manly foto: