Monday, July 28, 2008

The 2008 Racejunkie Tour de France Awards

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!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

King Carlos I of Spain

Unbe!@#$inggoddamnlievable!: Carlos, I apologize like the abject undeserving defeatist roadkill that I am. I could barely even bring myself to watch you today knowing that Cadel the Tick was gonna eat you alive in the time trial, and frankly, though I find him boring to watch in every other discipline except this one, I could not remotely find it even in my poisoned biased heart not to wish him exceedingly well for his sheer tenacity. But despite your brave first time trial, I *still* underestimated you, figuring he'd spit you out like a dugout lougie at this heinous distance. And yet you triumphed. Your website proved your well-earned supremacy right, little Sastre--yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee-haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!

By the way, to the local wisenheimer tifoso-o'-cynical-gloom who suggested today that Sastre's recent improvement in the time trial reminded him suspiciously of I-still-love-so-go-to-hell-Roberto-Heras' similar trajectory of drug-fueled self-destruction in the last disreputable skankfilled year of his career: bite me! Carlos' has been a long, slow, incremental improvement--damn, now that sounds like an IV drip at work--bite me!

Talk is Cheap (and Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes' Services Ain't): speaking of Bjarne "I Was Happy to Win the Tour Doping, But For Everyone Else I'm Against It" Riis, a German (I think) newspaper is now reporting that Bjarne and Frank Schleck have been more than casual acquaintances of our fine Op Puerto mastermind Dr. Fuentes, which allegation is sure to be met by a blizzard of nasty lawsuits, for which one hopes at least as to we love big Schleck they go down in multimillion-euro flames. Alright, Bjarne, like it matters if you've been an enabling systemic-team-doping rider-corrupting weasel--say you haven't gone and tainted the flawless Schleck brothers!

Don't Try This At Home: sports fans, it's bad enough that something like my lame-!@# career has to interfere with contemporaneous six-hour personal viewing of the Tour (and of course far worse that it jacks my beautiful Giro and Vuelta), but if you value watching the achievements of others over getting your couch-spud rump off the couch you're glued to and doing something personally as highly as I do, for God's sake people do not attempt to move to a new home during the decisive individual time trial of the Tour de France. Still, I did manage to see dear little Sastre smoke the Alpe d'Huez, and after that, well, it's all just gravy anyway. And as to next year--well, I see Astana just sacked Vladimir Gusev for "irregular blood values"--good luck getting that invite again next year Alberto, and please Klodi and Levi just get the hell out of there before everyone exhausts their grand-tour headliner budgets!

Last Loser Prediction o'The Day: okay, folk(s), everyone on every stage I've ever rooted for (except my hardly-dared-to-dream-of-it big pick) has blown. So for the Champs-Elysees, I'm going for Robbie "Head-Butt" McEwen, because, of course, I've never had to feel sorry for the smug little !@#$%^& before. But I still really hope Thor Hushovd thwaps you aside like a gnat Robbie!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Tick, and We Love...

Dear Little Sastre!: okay, first, a big shout out to my faithful Aussie reader(s?), because it was indeed nice that Simon Gerrans took a stage win the other day, but mainly because Stuey O'Grady absolutely kicks !@# over every other rider in the peloton, and without the freedom to watch out for his own chances for a stage win to boot. And, though I would've choked on my pick o'the day as usual (I was rooting for baby Schleck, despite the fact he'd clearly have to kill himself today kneecapping Cadel, who is still generally too much of a steady grinding lump to attack but can stick to anyone like a tick on a beagle), can anyone doubt that whatever his excruciating inability to time trial, when it comes to the epic climbs of any given Grand Tour, wee little Sastre wholly deserves his place in history? Woo-hoo! Oh Carlos, I'm still not sure it's enough time on Cadel for the overall, but at least you made him work for it! And big points to Valverde as well, especially since one never knows with the boy when or if the ax might fall, not that (please-don't-sue-me-disclaimer) there's any reason for it to do so whatsoever, nor that it would, and, even I must concede in the bitter depths of my Heras-preferring heart, to Menchov for his truly valiant struggle back from the precipice of an ugly crack. Okay, I've been fair to Denis, can I go back to resenting him for taking Roberto's Vuelta now?

Now That I've Strip-Searched You, Can I Have Your Autograph?: so Riccardo Ricco's been interviewed (along with a protective posse) by Gazzetta dello Sport, and among the details emerging, besides that he's innocent and his team doctor is a slimy incompetent tool, is that the French gendarmes were, despite the manhandling, very nice to him and, after the requisite invasive body cavity search and disinfectant dousing, politely asked for his autograph for themselves and their friends, to which our gracious (for once) hero kindly obliged. In other news, the EPO manufacturer's apparently marked the new form with a molecule designed to be snagged by the doping tests--d'oh!--which means, presumably, that the riders'll start re-using the old form that gets missed by half the tests or looking to the Spanish university docs for ever-more sophisticated evaders, I mean, that the chastened peloton is gonna cut out the hijinks right this very second. Update: okay, now WADA's new chief John "Dick" Fahey apparently misspoke, in which case, I take back what I said: the peloton'll split nicely between "old reliable" EPO and WADA's-got-a-new-test-but-these-chumps-are-wrong-half-the-time-anyway new formula. Either way, lookin' forward to cleaning up this dirty generation of riders post haste!

Goldfinger: and, as if Ricco's teammates didn't already find him loathesome enough just for being, well, Ricco', they've now got yet another reason to hate him: Saunier Duval--previously just "on hiatus"--has just announced it's shutting down for good effective immediately. Damn, Ricco', I can certainly see why you've been hiding behind everybody's skirts the last week like some kind of terrified naughty busted toddler--but man up already, it's not like your spindly pack of enraged teammates doesn't already know where you live!

Phew! An Update: lucky for Ricco and most of his teeny vulnerable body, I see alterna-sponsor Scott has just stepped in to save the day, at least til the end of this season. Well, that gives either (1) the team til October to score a new sponsor or (2) you til then to find a really, really wily diguise. Good luck Ricco!

Hope Springs Eternal: and, in a last note on our whiny cherub, I see the cycling narcs are set to interrogate Ricco' on the 30th and his pal Piepoli on the 29th, and since Piepoli has already reportedly tossed his master somewhat to the wolves, I'm thinking they're better off that way, unless Ricco' sends his mother down to Leonardo's proceedings to kick his !@#. Oh Simoni--not only did your twerp protege lack your legs, he also lacked your smooth way with head-on verbal abuse (and your own little coke bust some years back, but I digress)--*why* did you waste your time with this rugrat?

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Smells Like Team Spirit

Well, It Smells, Anyway: having unilaterally totally coincidentally pulled out of the Tour for no reason related to systemic team doping whatsoever while Liquigas and Barloworld--their honor likewise besmirched by individual rogue doping skanks--totally coincidentally stayed in, the boys at Saunier Duval have now taken it on themselves to protest their innocence and fealty to clean sport to the sponsors by an earnest letter decrying the treachery of Ricco and Peipoli and swearing that they had no idea the knaves were doping, primarily because they too were doing so alone in their hotel rooms per discreet team management directive. Wait, did I translate that last part right? Ten bucks says I did whether they spit it out or not!

Man, That Flintstones !@#$ is Stronger Than I Thought: so our disgraced twerp hero, having already bravely sent his sister, fiancee, and mama on the attack, has now come up with an argument of his own: all he was taking was vitamins, and everything he took was prescribed by the Saunier Duval Spanish team doctor (take that team management!) or his personal doctor in Italy. And hey, when you know your entire career hinges on a positive test at the Tour, why *would* you question what they're giving you? Especially when you're so naive a sweet innocent jailbait who relied on Leonardo "Wheezy" Piepoli for additional guidance...

Six Degrees of Cheateration: All right, so we all know the riders are doping, and after Festina T-Mobile and Liberty Seguros, and some other teams I won't name that can currently afford expensive and intimidating legal counsel, you'd have to be a raging idiot to think the teams aren't helping the riders doping. Now, though, from our journalist friends at the BBC and particularly our dearly departed (from the peloton) bitter friend Jorg Jaksche, comes the latest in intrigue: the team doctors are working with the labs to get the latest info on how to beat the tests. Okay, I'm a soulless bastard condemned to hell, but so help me, if it turns out Dick "Dick" Pound or Pat "Dick" McQuaid were ever aware of such hijinks and failed to act, I'll drop down on my knees and absolutely build a giant gilded temple to the karma gods. Bestill my beating heart!

Question o' the Day: meantime, an inquisitive local has recently asked, "Racejunkie, if the riders thought UCI was really serious about the biological passport, wouldn't they have all jacked up their baselines *before* their values were established at the start of the season?" Why yes, yes they would. But as you know, grasshopper, such conniving is purely the province of the banned and retired ones, and the "new peloton" is entirely clean. Next!

Congrats o' the Week: to early-season sad-sack we love Paolo Bettini, snagging another win and back on form for the Olympics, as Tyler "I Ate My Twin" Hamilton--somehow left off the US roster--crushes the field at the Tour of Qinghai. Welcome back Tyler--you gonna start sobbing for the cameras and snag yourself one last ProTour contract next season before you call it quits?

Rollin', Rollin', Rollin' (Loser Prediction of the Day): finally, as we love big brother Schleck barely gets to enjoy the maillot jaune before the press starts hocking him about how he'll feel when he inevitably loses it in the time trial, then turns to Carlos Sastre to squash salacious rumors about internecine CSC warfare, and even Cadel manages to get in a dig at the team amidst all the humble pie that for all their attacks they really didn't get that much time on him, Alejandro Valverde has declared himself back in GC contention, which leads to me to think two things: he's going for the win tomorrow, and if he knows what's good for him when the narcs inevitably come a-knockin', he better not perform *too* well, catch my drift "Piti"?

Saturday, July 19, 2008

My Fantasy Team Director Press Conference

Good morning. I'm here today because there's been a little glitch in our systemic doping program/I'm afraid I'm gonna end up the $5 directeur sportif of a middle-school squad if I don't do some halfway plausible damage control/my sponsor has two hired goons with baseball bats in the hallway ready to break my goddamn legs if I !@#$ this up.

As you know, the maillot jaune/our most expensive star/some low-rent dumbass domestique we barely even care about tested positive for EPO/homologous blood doping/why he didn't just have the sense to snort his wad of coke in the off-season like everyone else is beyond me. The team would like to emphasize that we have to say we have nothing to do with it even though of course it's the product of an organized internal program/the rider is the sap who's gonna pay for everyone else's wrongdoing/we're suing the moron team doctors who are getting paid waaaaaaay to much to !@#$ this up.

Frankly, we were shocked that since you let Rabobank and Cofidis ride after last year/Liquigas and Barloworld stay in the race this year/half the assclowns with Op Puerto blood bags still nestled in a Spanish fridge hit the start line at every race on earth every year, you are even pretending to hold us accountable for our own actions/interrupted a good night's sleep for this farce/can say you give a rat's !@# about doping with a straight face. That being the case, however, we are taking immediate action. First, we are instituting a rigorous blood values monitoring program to ensure that we've got the riders' hematocrit obscenely high before the season starts so we can claim it's natural/the team doctors are getting the microdosing right/none of this !@#$ can get traced back to us. Second, any rider found to have doping products or materials on his person or in his hotel room will be immediately ordered to return it to the team bus/!@#$%-slapped by his team leader/diagnosed with a crap stomach ailment and forced to go home so we don't get implicated. Finally, we'd like to assure the press and fans that we're working real hard to find new substances that'll help us evade the doping controls/who's been helping Johan Bruyneel's boys all these years/enough dough in the budget to pay the rider enough to keep his mouth shut while he's in prison. Thank you.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Tour de F!@#$, Will This *Ever* End?; and, a Newsflash!

"Old Guard" My !@#!: okay, can we all just suck it up now and confront the fact that doping is not just the long-ago province of dessicated old dead guys like Ullrich Basso and Beltran but is *still*--gasp!--part of the mentality of the morally superior snow-clean "new generation" as well? Let's face it--cheating skankballs exist at every level, in every age, of this sport--the babies, usually, just don't have superstar Ricco's impressive disposable income. (Which begs the question, where *are* the rest of 'em getting the cash resources and medical assistance for this stuff, because surely, as Festina T-Mobile and Liberty Seguros [ancestral home of you know who!] have all shown us, the teams *themselves* are never involved.) What's more, the odds that there are a good number of lucky bastards in the Tour retiring to their hotel rooms this evening and thanking god *they* aren't performing well enough to concern the narcs seem, to me, beyond ginormous. And if Ricco was using a "third-generation" EPO specifically being used to evade the current doping controls--and I can't imagine that's the only thing in development--doesn't anyone else think it's rather a bad sign for the peloton that it seems there's a significant market to be found for such heinous substances now that the "young guys" have all taken the antidoping crusaders' message to heart--why would they care if they could snort up a new performance-enhancer and beat a doping control, if they believe it's wrong to even try? But then of course, as Pat "Dick" McQuaid didn't hesitate to crow after the Beltran and Duenas busts and we all know, it's really just the disgusting "culture of scum" Spaniards that're still doping, and everyone else, particularly the Italians now that "attempted doper" Ivan Basso has become the pretty pretty new UCI spokesman for clean sport, is off the juice. Oh, wait...

So, Riccardo "Naturally High Hematocrit" Ricco's reaction? Well, first, he's sent his sister Melissa and fiancee Vania on the attack, which is I will say is likely to get him deeply mocked on the playground since I won't say it makes him look like a total wuss, but second, even Il Cobra finally found enough spine to proclaim "But I am innocent!" As he should be presumed, of course, and that's one useful lesson the repulsive Floyd Landis farce has taught us--but am I the only one with a sinking feeling that he's not gonna be able to pull off a clean B sample here? Meantime, the fanatic Ricco tifosi, pissed off at his stupidity and arrogance as much as for his actual (alleged!) doping, are even more enraged that the too-clever French, (most) Spaniards and most of all that damn Armstrong are riding around happily while their fallen he-*wishes*-he-were-Pantani sits dejected in the clink. Nothing like a conspiracy theory to deflect the pain of yet another Great GC Hope hitting the skids! Don't worry tifosi, you can still root in good conscience for

While we're at it, if St. David "I Loved Doping Til I Got Busted" Millar doesn't shut the !@#$ up I'm really, really gonna get irked. Can't *anybody* muzzle this egomaniacal holier-than-thou wah-wah-ing hypocrite publicity slut?

Anyway, I'm glad to see we've finally got a scandal free Tour in 2008. Can we give Michael Rasmussen back his freakin' maillot jaune now?

Newsflash!: so why did Saunier Duval alone pull out of the "zero tolerance/teams will pay for their individual riders' actions" Tour, when Triki's Liquigas and Duenas' Barloworld are still on the course? That's right kids, the Italian press is reporting that the team is under suspicion of systemic organized doping, with none other than '07 Giro suspect/proud holder of an official UCI asthma med Therapeutic Use Exemption Leonardo "Gaaaaasssssppp!" Piepoli the latest emblem of the in-house scourge. Now, don't get yer chamois in a twist, you poor oppressed directeur sportifs, we all know the teams have ever done no wrong...

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Tour de GC Favorites' Web Sites

Nap Time!: okay, the ProTour is but a queasy memory, Pat "Dick" McQuaid is going nuts threatening the teams with...well, there's really nothing he *can* threaten 'em with that matters, Cunego tanked, and even Great Spanish Hope Alejandro Valverde hit the skids (and not to speculate on why he's blown the Tour yet *again,* but...), but seeing as it's an utterly boring rest day, and as I inevitably put my money on the wrong horse so to speak based on actual performance, I thought it might be lively to assess the fave's chances in accordance with the bitchin'ness of their personal websites:

Cadel Evans
The Message: the kind of boy you can take home to Mom.
Fun Fact: ummm...
Iconic Photo: check out his bikes!
Best Schwag: nothin'.
GC Forecast: no sparks, but a nice, slow, steady glow.

Denis Menchov
The Message: Updating websites is for weaklings. Check out a fan club site instead.
Fun Fact: starting from this moment he felt a sport heat.
Iconic Photo: pick yer pixels
Best Schwag: zip.
GC Forecast: get out of my way or I will kill you.

Carlos Sastre
The Message: He works hard for the money.
Fun Fact: Dad founded a cycling school to keep local kids out of trouble.
Iconic Photo: wee Sastre, already on form!
Best Schwag: on the fan club site, you can get a cute t-shirt with the Official Carlos Pacifier logo for 15 euros!
GC Forecast: this humble hardworking boy *deserves* the maillot jaune, dammit!

Frank Schleck
The Message: It's a two-fer!
Fun Fact: can't read a damn thing in the guestbook. Anyone?
Iconic Photo: the brothers together.
Best Schwag: a cool fan club banner with the boys' photo right on it to hold up by the roadside! Allez allez!
GC Forecast: too darn lovable *not* to podium.

Alejandro Valverde
The Message: I blew all my cash defending myself against the Op Puerto allegations. What the hell did you people expect here?
Fun Fact: Married. Sorry folks!
Iconic Photo: none really, tho' the main one's nice. Better off with a Google search.
Best Schwag: zip.
GC Forecast: so, how about those Mets?

Damiano Cunego
The Message: Rico, Suave.
Fun Fact: Distinguishing Feature: a Winner!
Iconic Photo: stop right at the home page. Oh, those eyes!
Best Schwag: didn't feel like schlepping to the Team Lampre site.
GC Forecast: who cares? He's so sleek!

Riccardo Ricco
Message: Bad to the bone.
Fun Fact: He's a Virgo!
Iconic Photo: How can you pick among so many of him crossing the line in victory?
Best Schwag: astonishingly, nothing with his image on it.
GC Forecast: !@#$ you! !@## off you !@#$!

Christian Van de Velde (nothin')
The Message: who the hell do you think I am, Lance Armstrong?
Fun Fact: how would I know?
Iconic Photo: there's some nice ones on the team web site...
Best Schwag: sadly, no Christian Van de Velde bobblehead dolls.
GC Forecast: surprised you, didn't I?

Okay Sastre, you're no Italian showman--but if we can all just forget about that little time trial problem, the Tour is yours!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Can You Take Me Higher?

I'll Take You There (Sunday Spoiler!): woo-hoo, fellow mountain freaks, we're in the high passes at last, and, as the fearsome Hautacam rears its ugly head tomorrow--and Cadel better get off his stolid journeyman !@# and start pounding his rivals pronto if he wants to take the maillot jaune in Paris, because not only is Valverde always game to attack, but unlike the relentless Caisse d'Epargne Logan's Run superdomestique death squad, Silence-Lotto's guys clearly can't do the job for him--Riccardo Ricco' proves yet again that, given any criticism by anyone anytime anywhere ever, particularly when it's the Italian press implying he's a GC-impotent disappointment, he can really take it out on the pedals. And, as the newspapers backtrack and instantly hail him as the new Pantani, the tifosi, of course, are going wild, enraptured at having an Italian wail on the French at the Tour, still largely acknowledging they find the boy annoying, wondering what the hell has happened to Il Piccolo Principe Cunego (Damiano says he felt good in his head and body today and that the real battle for GC starts tomorrow, incidentally), and only reluctantly comparing Ricco' in climbing style only to their idolized Il Pirata. Ricco's response to such a happy day? Yep, this is the sort of thing that happens when he's pissed, and it's the very core of his soul, so apparently he's gonna be a relentless nudnik 'til the end of his successful career. Thanks for the warning Cobra--where the hell is the "mute" button on my remote control?

He's Doomed!: as poor handcuffed alleged-EPO-snorting Triki Beltran continues to proclaim confusion at what happened (apparently "my team doc/soigneur/wife screwed up" is not on the table at this point), and everyone blasts him as "an idiot" (Phil Liggett), "scandalous" (Bjarne "So What If I Won My Own Tour Doping?" Riis), and "totally not under our guidance or approval! we swear it! it's an absolute coincidence we bailed from the ProTour so we could hire Ivan Basso!" (Liquigas), brave (and possibly deeply stupid) Cedric Vasseur defends not only Triki, but also Iban Mayo (right on Cedric!), the presumption of innocence, the desirability of positive B (that's "B", you bastards!) samples and, of all abominations, due process. Um, not to suggest that any rider who dares reserve judgment is viciously made to pay by the nasty righteous hypocrites who run the antidoping agencies, but anyone else thinking that now every time Vasseur takes a nature break at some charming Alpine roadside, or, say, twenty years from now when he's merely puttering about operating a nice little bike shop in his hometown, he's gonna be stalked by narcs?

The French Connection: what do homologous blood-doping megolomaniac freak Alexander Vinokorouv, last year's sap Cristian Moreni, and we love Iban Mayo whose goddamn B through Y samples tested negative so why is this even an issue you repulsive witchhunting wankers, have in common? Yep, they're all potential guests of the notorious French prison system for last year's alleged hijinks, and if any of their fellow convicts turn out to be serious fans of their hometown French cyclists who've been losing against such foreigners for the last decade, I cringe to think how long these fragile little lightweights are gonna be able to fend off a distinctly unpleasant prison-yard beatdown. Run, Iban, run!

Miss Manners Award o' the Week: surprisingly, to Team Columbia sprint king/brash youngster Mark Cavendish, taking a remarkable break from the assholian braggadocio so typical of sprinters and generously crediting his team's efforts over his own after his second win of the Tour, when honestly, this is a kid who's already earned some ego and for my money is gonna be the McEwen of his generation (without the unfortunate tendency to physically assault his rivals, of course). Keep it up Cavendish, and Ricco', you arrogant whining twerp, listen and learn!

Loser Prediction of the Day: of course, dear Sastre for tomorrow, so place yer bets elsewhere folks--but allez allez Sastre, you can do it!

Five Is a Magic Number: finally, in non-Tour news, yeee-haaaaah! to bad!@# Fabiana Luperini, comfortably snagging her fifth Giro d'Italia as Ina Teutenberg takes yet another stage over hard-charging Amber Neben. Forza Marta Bastianelli--this is only a temporary setback, I'm sure! And congrats and welcome back to duly chastened babealicious party-boy Tom Boonen as he handsomely takes the final sprint at the Tour of Austria--time to celebrate Tommeke!--but with *alcohol* this time, capisce?

Friday, July 11, 2008

It's Triki...It's Triki (Triki!), Triki (Triki!)

Clean as a Whistle, My !@#!: as the entire cycling world wallows in its orgy of self-adoration for its newfound perfect cleanliness, and CAS announces it won't pester the Spaniards over some inconsequential blood bag with Alejandro Valverde's dog's name on it til well after the shiny bright Tour is over, then UCI announces it's got a list of about 30 boys with funny blood values, none of which will totally coincidentally be announced or further analyzed during the bloated sponsor cash-cow spectacle that is the Tour, then the French announce they've got about 20 weasel bastards at the start line whose blood also looks awfully funny but who totally coincidentally they see no need to make a fuss over til the Tour's over either though they will kindly warn them about the "threats to their health", comes the hideous news that we love Triki Beltran no less is the first sap of the year to test positive for EPO in this year's "new-school" Tour de France. Aiiigggghhh! Which makes all the more obnoxious, of course, those desperate righteous commercials on Vs. this week with Vino rolling backwards into the time trial start, St. Ivan of Varese stepping off the podium with his bambino, and, most irritatingly, Floyd Landis smilingly doffing his maillot jaune. Well, with all this totally coincidental avoidance of ongoing unpleasant realities going on, I'm so !@#$%ing impressed with how the cycling feds and other governing bodies' lying bull!@#$ dedication to clean sport has paid off! Tell me again why Tom Boonen can't just snort a giant line of blow through a six-foot straw right from his doorstep to Pat "Dick" McQuaid if these clowns are clearly gonna continue to essentially sanction the use of actually performance-enhancing drugs in cycling's premier races? Oh, but now they're taking Triki out as the latest Completely Solo Rogue Scapegoat, so that makes their tolerance, nay encouragement, of the 200 other dirty pigs in the peloton all A-OK...

I give up. Pay Jan Ullrich back all the money he blew on doping in '06 and offer him a public apology. Give Vinokorouv a key to Paris, the rock-star limo he deserves, and all the medical assistance he requires. Hook freakin' Bjarne Riis up with an armload of IVs and get his !@# out of the team car and back on the bike. Hell, stoke up Bernard Hinault til he's a quivering crackhead for all I care and see how he stacks up against the current generation of dope fiends. And while we're at it, the *least* you hypocrite skank goons can do is free Iban and Landis from the arbitrary selective hell you've consigned 'em to. You *suck* UCI!

Apropos of nothing, isn't awfully odd and sad that damn near *all* the Lance underlings from Postal and its progeny--Heras, Hamilton, Triki, to get the ball rolling on the hall of shame (and no, I won't count Floyd "Monkey Trial" Landis)--went bad as soon as they left the nurturing pure embrace of the Bruyneel team bus? Shame on you all, boys, tainting such an irreproachable legacy!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Higher, Baby/Get Higher, Baby!

It's Super-Besse, Baby!: yep, the GC faves have faced off in the time trial, and with Cadel having kneecapped a significant chunk of the competition, Menchov having recovered some of his dignity after both his directeur sportifs publicly said he sucked, Valverde in the tank, and dear little Sastre far less in the tank than he ought to've been, it's time for the real days of reckoning! By my count, with the best man in this discipline out too as poor Mauricio Soler bails from his busted hand, this is now the third consecutive arena in which this Tour blows, but still, with wretched twerp Ricco' having sworn to the press after his unusually-even-for-him craptastic time trial that he'd never given a thought to the GC at all, and unexpected Giro heights master Pippo Pozzato having (1) formally refused to be Basso's !@#$% at Liquigas next season and (2) thus desperately needing to jack up his asking price, and with Lotto presumably not stupid enough to let any of the faves get away, I'm imagining (LOSING PICK OF THE DAY ALERT) it'll be one of the two for the finale, unless Cunego's still trying to live down the Next Great Grand Tour Rider hype. Or perhaps Jens is bored and, having proven in the Giro's mountain time trial that he can whack just about any terrain into submission, will slap the field silly for the fun of it. Go Pippo--but I'd rather be rooting for Soler today!

The Longo and Winding Road: as most guy cyclists get put out to pasture like used-up draft horses by age 35, and as French riders in particular stage a remarkable renaissance this season, 49 year old road warrior Jeannie Longo has not only snagged her hometown road and time trial championships, but an Olympic gig as well. Right on sister! Meantime, over at the Giro Donne, the climbers finally managed to relieve 3x stage winner Ina Teutenberg of her death grip on the maglia rosa, and frankly, even out of her terrain she manages to make most of her rivals look like first-time driveway Big Wheelers. Speaking of time trials, does anyone else think it blows that new Spanish national time trial champ Luis Leon Sanchez has been denied an Olympic spot in *any* freakin' discipline? Okay, you've got a wealth of choices, and he's been far eclipsed in the gilded-national-angel department by fellow ex-Liberty Seguros kindergartner Alberto Contador, but damn, Spain, what the hell do you have to do to actually get a spot?

Moron Crash of the Tour Award: ignominiously, already won by poor Aurelien Passeron of Saunier Duval, who cracked a vertebra taking out a fan who brilliantly meandered into the course like last year's stupid Golden Retriever, taking Passeron out as of this morning and leaving the lady with a fractured arm. Look, I understand from personal experience elbowing humungous Germans out of the way to shove one of a thousand cameras into Basso's face the reckless enthusiasm that a Grand Tour can engender among its overwrought fans, but might we all agree not stake out a position on the actual road in front of guys going 40 miles an hour so as not to personally kill the objects of our affection?

Monday, July 07, 2008

He's Like the Wind

The Sweetest Thing: as we love Paolo Bettini finally breaks the curse and takes his first win o' the season at the Tour of Austria, and even better, unlike that tactless eejit Robbie McEwen, has the grace and good sense to compliment instead of dope-slap his host country for it, dreamy Belgian babe-magnet Tom "Sniffle" Boonen gets back down to business for Quick Step just as his loyal lieutenant (and damn good rider in his own right) Gert Steegmans defects to continental squad Tinkoff. Meantime, am I the only one who thinks it's just !@#$ing stupid that Boonen's not at the Tour pounding his rivals into the pavement? Yes, coke bad, he's gotta be a proper role model to aspiring training-wheeled Toms-o'-the-future on and off the saddle, I get it. But if his, well, immoderate driving habits of late--which after all could actually *kill* someone else--have only managed to endear our pretty party boy to management and the sponsors, why should this little powdery out-of-competition indiscretion be the dealbreaker? After all, while we're on the Puritan kick, oughtn't we be ameliorating the evils of unfettered alcohol-fueled celebrations by banning champagne and having stage winners spray the podium babes with sparkling cider instead? Zero tolerance, I say--and I don't care how many collarbones you've snapped, put that Advil down, you dope fiend!

Shock the Monkey: and, as most American newspapers continue to cover the Tour de France with all the respect and fanfare due an elementary-school four-square throwdown, the NY Times gets big points this week for a remarkably decent story on the cyclists' view of the relative prestige of the Tour de France vs. the Olympics. If you're looking for even more accolades, first journalist to be able to name a single sprinter besides "[the] Norwegian" without peeking at the start list takes 'em!

Running With the Devil: as an irked Jan Ullrich calls out former teammate/ex-one-time-only-doper/current Tour contender Erik Zabel as "two-faced," a "hypocrite," and "an actor," and implies he's gonna explain exactly what he means by that in his upcoming book, even more lurid news appears to be coming down the pike: Machiavellian Ullrich puppeteer Rudy Pevenage says he's gonna speak out as soon as the history books close on this year's Grand Boucle. Whatever you're gonna do, Jan--and one can hardly begrudge taking the gloves off at this point--leave poor Klodi out of it--he's more than paid your (you heard me) dues!

Losing Prediction o' the Day: Clearly, it'll be Fabian Cancellara for the time trial tomorrow, though I'd easily pick Levi Leipheimer if he hadn't been nastily hosed out of the race by a punk-!@# petulant crybaby move by ASO. And Shameless St. Millar Defender, I do wish genuine good luck to your boy, in part because he can't be such a completely tiresome bastard to inspire such admirable loyalty on your part I suppose, but mainly because he hasn't wah-wahed anything that'd make me want to slug him this week. And Valverde better *not* win, 'cuz we all know what happened to fair angel Basso and dirty sneak Heras when *they* freakishly improved in the discipline out of nowhere. So my losing choice: bring it big George Hincapie--you know Cadel's gotta save it for the mountains!

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Crash of the Titans

Down, Down, Down, Down, Gravity: I don't know if anyone else almost gacked when Frank Schleck and Popovych went down just a few hours into the race, but as they mercifully emerged with only bruises, the most craptastic luck of the day (after perhaps the poor boy taken out at the feed zone) clearly belongs to defending mountain god Maurizio Soler, with a likely broken bone in his hand that makes his sprain of the same wrist he snapped in the Giro look like a minor hangnail. Damn! *Must* I root for that obnoxious twerp Ricco' for the mountains classification? Incidentally, is cyclingnews bull!@#$ing when it claims that the Cobra has a tat of an elf giving the finger on his abdomen? You can't make such perfection up, I tell you!

Gone But Not Forgotten: and, as Rabobank starts to disintegrate with the imminent losses of Thomas Dekker and perhaps even versatile sprint king we love Oscar Friere, lest anyone forget who's the *real* winner of the 2007 Tour--and yes, anonymous is right, he might well have tanked spectacularly in the time trial and handed Contador the maillot jaune anyway, had he been given the chance, but even this ruthless suckmeister of a time trialist had enough gap going in for my money--Michael Rasmussen has now decided to compete in the women's Danish national championships, though it still doesn't change the fact that his racing license was actually from Monaco, nor that the poor thing's apparently been further hampered by a hunger strike:

Damn, Chicken, you're not even gonna lose your appeal to CAS and get back on the bike for at least another year if you're lucky--couldn't you take some of that 655,000 euros you won from Rabobank and at least break from training enough to buy yourself a nice sandwich?

Il Grande Giro: and you thought you had to wait til next May! Nope, the Giro Donne is on the road, with the usual killer suspects--Arndt, Teutenberg, Brandli, Bronzini, and not least reigning world road goddess Marta Bastianelli--on hand and serious time already being taken out of the favorites. Forza Marta--don't falter, you're not a Cunegoesque one-hit wonder!

Question o' the Day: what the hell was Valverde thinking yesterday? An early dope-slap to earnest rival Cadel? A fail-safe footnote for the history books in case he crashes out or can't hold his form as usual? Looks like the microdosing is really paying off (allegedly! totally hypothetically! I don't even consider it an actual possibility!)? The maillot jaune looks really cool with his red-and-yellow Spanish national champions bike? Eat his dust Menchov but don't lose heart Sastre--you're only 6 seconds back!

SPOILER UPDATE: woo-hoo Thor! And what the hell was Caisse d'Epargne thinking today?

Thursday, July 03, 2008

It's the Tour de France, Baby!

Yes, another year of two-wheeled thrills, disgusting scandals and sighs-o-relief-by-the-unbusted-guilty has gone by, to the certain relief of a good half the peloton, and another 3 weeks of guts, glory, and homologous blood doping is about to begin--it's time for the Grand Boucle! However, in lieu of the traditional "Tour de France 101" I already subjected both of you to last July (and is being done with far more coherence in other forums anyway, for my money), I've decided in the spirit of sportsmanship this fine event demands to provide you with a public service this preview instead. How, you don't ask? Yep, to help you increase your odds of taking giant cash wads from cycling-unsavvy saps through your undoubtedly grossly illegal gambling activities (and I do take kickbacks), I'm gonna lay out my picks for the various categories, because since I inevitably root for losing causes, you're all but guaranteed to rake in the big bucks if you pick someone else. That said, my Tour de France picks for 2008 are:

General Classification: The Missing: well, duh--free Klodi Levi and that wee little whatsisface! The Present: Cadel's got tendonitis but is working nicely through it, new-minted Spanish champ Alejandro Valverde's on a rampage, Denis Menchov I'll never root for because through no fault of his Roberto Heras lost his Vuelta to him over some dinky overrated EPO infraction, Zubeldia and Cunego just aren't quite there yet (though I dearly hope anyone from Euskaltel Euskadi crushes everyone else in the field), any and all Schlecks. The Pick: We love dear little Carlos Sastre. Allez allez, and who gives a rat's !@# you can't time trial--isn't that what's weak in this parcours this year anyhow?

Green Jersey: The Missing: Tom "White Lines" Boonen is out over a little innocent fun (and if that won't send the poor sweet boy straight to his dealer, I can't imagine what will), Alessandro Petacchi is wheezing sadly at home, Bennati's too sore to ride. The Present: stalwart workhorse Zabel's pushing 100, surging rugrat Cavendish has no experience, Robbie "Road Rage" McEwen has the best record but'll inevitably wuss out before the mountains, plus if he insults France like he recently has Switzerland I wouldn't wonder if a local fan totally accidentally clocks him with a promotional tchotchke and he gets totally accidentally whacked into the barriers and out of the race. The Pick: we love Thor Hushovd!

King of the Mountains: The Missing: the guy who won the Tour last year, Michael Rasmussen. The Present: I can't go for Riccardo Ricco' cuz entertaining though he is, he lacks mentor Gibo Simoni's effortless gift for verbal abuse; Sanchez, who is ready to take the Vuelta but not quite the Tour; any and all Schlecks; last year's wonderboy Mauricio Soler is damn near a given. The Pick: Michael Rasmussen, to thwap arrogant twerp Ricco' off his bike on a climb from the sidelines, steal his Saunier Duval team kit, and take the classification. Short wiry Italian, pasty blond Dane--who'll notice?

The Stage Hunters: The Missing: Paolo Bettini, dreaming of Beijing. The Present: we love Jens; Sandy Casar, last taken out by a dog; Hincapie, to prove he can do it (as he clearly can) without being Armstrong's !@#$%$; any and all Schlecks; Dessel to salvage the French some much-needed dignity; we love Jens. The Pick: the literally indestructible Stuey O'Grady--wham him into the pavement, pile him under a half-dozen jagged cassettes, shove twenty cleats in his face, and run him over with a team car, no matter what major bodily organ he demolishes, the boy just keeps on ticking. Take it Stuey--you've more'n earned it!

And Finally, the Dope Fiends: The Missing: who isn't? The Present: who isn't? Fine, Millar, wah, wah, wah. The Pick: yeah, like I want Valverde suing my !@#!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

There Has To Be a Morning After

The Hangover: well, the streets of cyberspace are littered with the prone sobbing corpses of Landis fans everywhere, and as for us legal weens, I gotta say I'm even in more in mourning for the disgusting discredited spectacle that the antidoping conviction mill has become. Oh, Iban, it's clear little "procedural irregularities" like having to send your Z sample to freakin' Mars before they can find a backup test that'll finally bust you aren't going to bother the stalwart witchhunters at CAS--get the hell out of Dodge before these powermad playground bullies extort your lunch money with their fists!

How Far the Sprinty Have Fallen: as a hangdog Petacchi apparently loses all hope for a cash-cow ProTour gig, there is perhaps a small consolation prize in the offing: a job with LPR, home of similarly disgraced compatriot Danilo Di Luca and the flawless Paolo Savoldelli. Considering their "domestiques" largely wiped the floor with Il Killer this Giro, Ale-Jet, perhaps you'll end up with a halfway worthy lead-out squad (or internal competition) after all! Meantime, congrats to we love Gilberto "Basso Non E' Uomo" Simoni, who not only took a handsome top-ten placing in the recent mountain bike world championships and welcomed bambino #3 to his family, but has also fruitlessly raised my hopes for one last Giro stage win by signing with Diquigiovanni for one final year, though if he bags the Giro in favor of an entire off-road season, I may be personally forced to schlep to the Giro in '09 anyway just to heckle that twerp Ricco' into making even nastier remarks to the press come May. Forza Gilberto!

Fried Chicken: as Big Bad Antidoping Crusader/UCI Apologist Pat "Dick" McQuaid gets to preen himself over the crap Landis verdict, the boy he let race the 2007 Tour de France for 2 1/2 weeks knowing full well he'd missed a passel of antidoping controls--which apparently cemented, for some incomprehensible reason, our loathesome weasel's well-deserved rep as Mr. Zero Tolerance--has now been suspended for two years by the Monaco cycling fed. In memory of our wily little Rasmussen ('cause at his age, it ain't likely he's coming back to ride with the big boys), I hereby give you a secret video of him taken that nefarious pre-Tour spring when he was snowjobbing the clueless innocent UCI bloodhounds:

'Bye little Chicken--aside from the occasional horror-show time-trial debacle--and perhaps particularly then--it's been a pleasure!

The Tears of a Clown: speaking of Satan-in-a-suitjacket, as the ProTour spitefully decides to schedule new attractions like the Tours of Russia and China at totally coincidentally the exact same time as the Giro and Tour de France (and not to go out on a limb here, but I'm pretty sure the GC contenders ain't gonna ditch the latter for the former anytime soon), Pat "Dick" McQuaid has really taken the deathmatch between the UCI and the Tour organizers to the next level: that's right, he's gonna stay home and watch the Tour on TV. Holy crap, people--imagine the impact this vicious act of sabotage could have on the Tour! Before you know it, Valverde'll bail even before he even crashes out, Cadel'll order his new posse to pack his bags so he can head home, the sponsors'll all withdraw, the podium babes'll have to turn tricks to make a living, the hotels and restaurants won't be able suck millions of Euros out of the crude foreign fans they so despise--the whole entire race, and half the French economy, will collapse! And all because Pat decided to diss the race from his Barcalounger...oh, the humanity!