Wednesday, February 25, 2009

To Have and Have Not

Bonjour, Scum: so some master thieves have stricken, of all people, poor we love Dave Zabriskie, and what did they take? Damn near everything, it seems, as our boy Twitters a plea for their return, including a couple cars, his Olympic ring and time trial bike, all his fine team steeds, and, perhaps worst of all, his collection of giant Marvel comic book character statuettes. You want to steal from some arrogant wank like Lance or some bitter nasty crankypants like Robbie McEwen? Fine, still deeply uncool, but arguably less objectionable in the broader karmic scheme of things. But Dave Zabriskie? What's next, you pervs, stealing Milkbones from puppy dogs and carrot sticks from bunny rabbits? Okay, you purloined a bunch of priceless Olympic and other carbon-fiber memories off an incredibly dedicated, hardworking athlete--pity party for you, dirtbag, aside from the total abomination of ripping off a bike freak's perfectly-calibrated rides, you're just a pathetic wannabe who'll still never come close to touching the glory that actually earned 'em. But taking the boy's action figures? That's just cold. Show some dignity, you soulless carrion-sucking hyenas, and give Dave Z his stuff back!

Aw, Mom, Do I *Have* To?: Having heroically managed to avoid for a good 3 years holding any Spanish cyclist of consequence responsible for any dangerous liaisons with Dr. Eufemiano "Gyno to the Male Stars" Fuentes, the Spanish cycling authorities have apparently been dragged kicking and screaming into the whole sordid mess at last, sullenly conceding they oughta ask for some of that pesky Operacion Puerto stuff on the extremely unlikely chance, of course, any of their kids have done anything remotely wrong. Y'know, not to question the wisdom of wanting to look all Dirty Harry for coming down on a few unemployed no-names from the long-dead Comunidad Valenciana or nuthin', instead of continuing to allow the Italians to paint you as a pack of sell-out cowardly doper-apologists, but are you guys *sure* you're not going to accidentally take out anyone from, say, Manolo Saiz' old stable you might prefer stay in the peloton? Just checkin'!

Road to the Giro, and Tour: meantime, while Basso's knee luckily recovers nicely from his little handlebar thwap in California, and as Alberto Contador pounds the competition in the Volta ao Algarve and sweetly continues to delude himself he'll be granted unquestioned team leadership in July, Lance has announced he's looking forward to hitting "the podium" at the Giro, making one wonder, is he just psyching out Basso, Di Luca, Cunego and co. by appearing uncertain of his impending form, or did he just confirm that the Giro can screw and he's dead-set on owning the maillot jaune on the last day of the Tour? Don't stop believing, though, Alberto--he still might let you wear it a day or two in the mountains, or even give you one with his autograph!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Leip of Faith

Thor of California: so even with the great Dave Zabriskie on his tail, Leipheimer's just unbeatable, but for my money the most bitchin' aspect of the race this year has actually been the sprints, and while it's nice Cav's snagged his stages and all, it's big lug we love Thor Hushovd's win with his spankin' new, untested, and unexpectedly smashing lead-out train that's the revelation of the ToC. Be honest--did any of you expect an entire squad o' new mates over at Cervelo to gel this quickly? Woo-hoo Thor! On a sadder note, I *know* he's gotten all Ward Cleaver responsible and serious of late, and that's a good thing for any wayward reckless Tour-banned babe-snackin' party-boy-o'-the-past to be. But WTF is going on with Tom Boonen this week--am I the only one thinking he just had that extra little motivating joie de vivre heading up to the finish line when he was indulging in the midnight happy dust? Oh sure, like it's worse than what 90% of the peloton is doing--anyone know of a good party tonight to get our boy back on form? Oh, and Rosemary--I'm jealous!

Ivana Go Home: meantime, it's been a miserable race for half the guys using sunny California as a training ground, with Freire and Kirchen already jacked for the season, buckets of Americans out hosed with injuries, don't even get me started on poor Landis, and, worst of all, Ivan Basso gone after he smashed his kneecap on his handlebars when his chain blew apart scouting the time trial course. Still, to the delight of his endless tifosi, he's confident it won't affect his Giro, so it still oughta be between him and Armstrong in May, that is if Lance isn't really hell-bent on crushing Alberto Contador like a malaria-plagued mosquito in July instead. Keep dreamin' Alberto, it can't hurt you're training so hard anyway since Johan's gonna make you domestique for you-know-who!

Cuz You're Filthy/Ooooo And I'm Gorgeous: and, as the breathless day-by-day countdown to the 100th Giro continues, the Italian GC contenders have pleasingly let loose on each other already, with Di Luca dismissing Cunego as a has-been-never-was Grand Tour wannabe, Cunego implying Basso's a lying obfuscating drug-sucking weasel, Basso protesting his blood values are clean as a whistle, and peerless snipemeister Simoni, wonder of wonders, content so far to merely watch the lot of his countrymen eat their young. Now, I appreciate a pack of sissified oral slapfights as much as any other low-class muckracker, but really, why not cut to the chase--we'll stick you all in a coliseum full of half-starved lions armed with maybe some bike pumps and a couple of brake cables, and see which of you *really* has the endurance and tactical savvy to survive a sustained attack. Hey, easier than that loooong Giro time trial'll be for some of you, right?

Dia de los Muertos: okay, one muerto anyway, as the triumphant Italian narcs announce that they've definitively linked Alejandro "I Can't Believe I Got Away With It For This Long" Valverde's DNA to blood bag no. 18, "Valv. Piti" in Dr. Fuentes' ample stash (huge points to for discreetly, and hilariously, noting that Valverde continues to deny any link to the blood "notwithstanding the clear similarities to his surname plus the fact that he has a dog named Piti."), and the Roman authorities, not to be outdone, begin a criminal investigation. Anyone else remember Ivan "Birillo Is Not My Dog" Basso's attorney defending his client on the grounds that he'd personally observed Ivan's toddler daughter calling the family pup by a different name entirely? Anywho, as to the indignant howls of the ruthless Spanish protectionists, I mean crack wholly objective prosecutors, that the Italians have no right to go after their innocent icon? Well, as the Italians pointed out, if they don't like it, there are a good 80 other local sporting heroes to go after, and so far as I can tell, with the Italians naturally invested in not having the also-implicated Giro winner/all-around-angel Alberto Contador besmirch their own Grand Tour, the Spaniards oughta count themselves damn lucky they ain't going after their beloved baby Indurain as well. Cut your losses while you're ahead, boys--don't worry, even with being so busy kissing Armstrong's rump, Johan's not gonna let his newest cash cow go down without a fight!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

California Dreamin'

Love 'Em and Levi'm: okay, Cancellara's an utterly inhuman Bionicle on wheels capable of blasting pavement into high-velocity shrapnel with even one sleepy flex of his C-4 leg muscles, particularly when he was apparently already sick before the start of the prologue, but watching Levi's "Die, poseurs, die!" game face at the start gate, Dave Zabriskie's silky-mooth performance after a couple of really unfortunate seasons, and of course we love Thor "Eat My Green Jersey, Freire!" Hushovd's sturdy ride in his new Cervelo kit (right on, ben, I agree!)--best of all, Phil and Paul's dulcet return after months of sadistic off-season deprivation--I was happy. My question: even giving former Olympic time trial champion Tyler the benefit of the doubt due to distractions and caretaking on the home front, and Basso's declaration his legs felt good at the prologue and his Giro training's going perfectly to plan, is anyone a bit, well, perplexed at their times therein, particularly given the latter's sudden freakish Schumacheresque velocity in the discipline before his little never-doped episode a couple years back? Naw, me neither!

Ouch is Right: and, I hope it was some comfort to Floyd Landis after two straight crap days in a row that new Astana DS Ekimov (I miss Eki!) had pegged him as Levi's biggest threat, tho' I'm still hoping for a stage win. Ivan had a good day, though, didn't he? And, I must say, much as I loathe Rock Racing's philosophy, flashiness, and overall desperate slutty pursuit of constant press coverage (not to mention completely destroying the season and job prospects of buckets of less-recognizable riders and staff) I was almost jumping off my chair with excitement when dope-linked degenerate Francisco Mancebo beat back Nibali after a quite brave ride and almost certain last-minute defeat. After all, he's the least of the peloton's problems at this point, and the squad barely squeaked by with enough dough for a race license--who among them could afford any hijinks even if they were so nastily inclined? Anyway, points to Armstrong for doing his job today, and allez allez Levi!

The Great Escape: and, as the cops begin to conclude that the punk-ass theft of Lance's priceless time trial ride was likely the work of garden-variety morons, not sticky-fingered cycling fanatics desperate to hoard an iconic ride in their stable for the ogling delectation of a few discreet fellow roadies, one can't help but imagine: how exactly *is* the rocket scientist who probably bought the thing for $50 out the trunk of an ancient Chevy Nova so its proud new owners could go get stoked to the gills supposed to return it, exactly, without ending up in prison for their good deed instead of snagging the reward Armstrong has promised? Roll it up the start line in a borrowed pair of bike shorts and some Reeboks and hope to blend in with the peloton long enough to surreptitiously lean it up against a barrier? Apologize, and say they merely mistook it for their own Huffy in the dark as the crowd dispersed? Flee the country and seek asylum in Armstrong-hatin' France? Good luck with that (though the last one might work), o Prince of Thieves!

Pirates of the Mediterranean: finally, it's been a full five year's since the Marco Pantani's tragic death from a cocaine overdose, and, as a theatrical production of his life is given in Italy, his Mamma, still unconvinced, gives an agonizing interview in which she pleads with Marco's girlfriend--an "angel" one day, a "devil" the next--to tell her the truth about what really happened to her son. The tifosi, of course, mourning him just as sharply as they did the day after, and as admiring of his triumphs as they were forgiving of his flaws, blitzed the pages of Gazzetta dello Sport with tributes and "grazies." Riposi in pace, indeed!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Let the Games Begin!

Piti Party: as the Italian Olympic Committee, CONI, finally loses it pondering Alejandro Valverde's filthy e'er-doping carcass defiling snow-pure Italian roads while a good half its own boys'n'girls are either out on, or trickling back in from, cheating bans, the ever-accommodating tho' "indignant" dog-defaming "Piti" himself reiterates once again he's delighted to appear before, and cooperate, any authority that asks him--so long as, natch, that authority is "legitimate." Anyone want to bet money CONI counts? Me neither! As for the gazzetta dello sport tifosi? Hell, not only are they still completely enraged they were deprived of their beloved St. Ivan of Varese for two seasons when he didn't even get to dope in the first place (hack! ack!), they're so pissed they're even feeling sentimental about long-ignored little-fish Michele Scarponi--so to finally see a, no *the*, Spaniard fall, especially at the Italians' own tribunal, is a drop-to-your-knees-and-sing-hosannas smug delight. Don't worry, Alejandro, I'm sure you'll get a fair hearing--heck, you've scammed your way out of it this long, right?

Go Ask Armstrong/I Think He'll Know: so while Lance swears his only goal in California is to get Levi Leipheimer the win (!@#damn right, buddy) before viciously screwing Contador (and Klodi! oh, Klodi...) in July, comes the sad but surely inconsequential word that, due to "administration" and "cost" concerns, he's bagging the wholly transparent Don Catlin anti-doping program he vowed like a vestal virgin he'd pursue and publish in favor of Astana's own, and reportedly more, well, laid-back, Dr. Damsgaard. Sure, there's been a bit of skepticism raised here'n about,but nothin' to see here, you cold, nasty cynics--after all, none of Johan's boys ever test poz til after they fly his cozy nest!

Joker's Wild: meantime, the 2009 UCI wild cards are out, and here's who's still reeling from being colossally jacked out of the ProTour events: Petacchi and DiLuca from LPR, and Giro champ Stefano Garzelli over at Acqua e Sapone. Why? Well, UCI sez it's a combination of
sporting history, admin transparency, and willingness to comply with the UCI's so-far-useless biological passport
, so what's the prob with these squads? Given their collective palmares even with their teams' crap budgets, I'm guessing it ain't the "sporting history," so be honest, UCI, what are you afraid of: another little OD on the asthma meds you've given a pass for to 3/4 of the wheezing peloton? DiLuca's Malibu Barbie-level testosterone results? Garzelli's, um, nothin', he just wants to freakin' race? Spit it out and tell me why Leukemanns over at Vacansoleil deserves any better, you hypocrites! Oh, boys, you shoulda just stuck with the blow and amphetamines, you'd be free and easy right now...

Goin' to the Dogs: finally, as Red Sox fans the world over celebrate evil bastid/Madonna-slurper A-Rod's admission of drug use during his MVP season, even worse news has emerged: the Sussex Spaniel who won Best in Show at the Westminster Kennel Club this week has been stripped of his title and banned from competition for two years after a positive steroid test revealed the chunky dog is actually a pumped-up teacup Yorkie named Twinkie. Twinkie, through his attorney Maurice Suh, has denied the allegations, contending (1) he's just been hitting the gym a lot lately and (2) if he did test poz, it's clearly due to his kibble being spiked with drugs by some bitch from the Sporting Group trying to bring him down. Damn, first it's Olympic ponies, now it's man's (and woman's) best friend--can't *anyone* lay off the juice these days?

Sunday, February 08, 2009

The Amgen EPO Tour of !@#$%^& Lance Armstrong

Aiiiiiggggghhhhh!: so I'm thrilled and astonished to discover that Vs. is not only covering the Tour of California next week, but running an actual preview show like it's the Superbowl this week, and my initial untainted joy is hideously slaughtered, and it only takes me about six seconds to want to whack someone over the head with a bike pump, as what do I hear? Yep, "leading the charge" for the Americans is the godlike Lance Armstrong! Um, I know it's rude to use all caps (like that's my worst offense, but I digress), but NO, NO HE'S NOT, YOU REPULSIVE CHEAP-THRILL PANDERING ASSHATS. Levi Leipheimer is "leading the charge" goddammit, and for those of you who've may not have heard of him, he's got a rather bitchin' palmares, is clearly capable of winning the Tour de France for example, and has more than earned the right to be mentioned as the biggest threat of a race he's freakin' taken repeatedly. Look, Vs. I know the only way you can gain enough advertiser dough to justify showcasing the thing over the ever-compelling ratings-blockbuster station ol'-reliables of candlepin bowling fat guys sitting in boats tying flies for six hours and oiled-up extreme wrestlers giving me far too much information is to ruthlessly pimp the lowest-common-denominator easy-to-digest blank-stare-and-nacho-friendly All-American-Hero survival story remember-he-used-to-date-Sheryl-Crow-and-Kate-Hudson !@#$%^&, but let's be clear: this is a complete monstrous disaster for actual coverage of this incredible sport. If the blinding glare of Lance's bottomless ego trip and your own relentless glowing subservience so overilluminates the heavens that no-one you're trying to interest for the long haul can even see enough of anything else to learn about and be drawn into cycling for its own magnificent sake, and they're all just gonna run screaming out the room next morning like you're last night's hung-over beer-pong please-don't-turn-the-lights-up desperation hookup, what the hell exactly is the point?! What's more, in practical terms, if I've really gotta listen to this stupid worshipful unquestioning Princess-Diana-in-spandex stop-the-presses-Lance-just-went-to-the-bathroom crap for the next six months, I'm gonna have to watch every !@#$%^ race with a mute button, or, better, take a sledgehammer to my TV whenever you-know-who comes on. Phil and Paul, please, for the love of Mike (and Levi, and Klodi, and Alberto, and Cavendish, and Boonen, and Gibo, and....), reign in these halfwit publicity-whore bosses of yours and take back this sport! Due credit for redeeming feature: I did hear Levi's name a few times during the hour, and he was, rightly, the last image on screen as the credits rolled. Of course, he could have been mistaken for just the team towel boy and stuck in there as last-second filler....

To Forgive Is Human, To Freire, Divine: meantime, endless world champ/recent green jersey Oscar Freire's wasting no time setting the record straight, disdaining Lance for pathetically returning to the sport when he himself has the dignity to retire for good when he's done, and blaming Valverde's doltish dithering for blowing the squad's chances in Varese and handing the Worlds right over to the Italians. On the other hand, he did warmly compliment Ballan, so if he stays nestled among the boys of the squadra azzura this season, he ought at least to be safe on the roads from his new nemeses. Sing it, Oscar, you're spot on!

Aw, Shucks: heading on over to Teen Beat, I mean, Gazzetta dello Sport, the lovely Ivan Basso is shocked touched and humbled by the tifosi's surprising willingness to welcome him back to their hearts, which phenomenon, of course, happened utterly without any effort whatsoever on his or his astonishingly ginormous PR machine's part, and, fear not, he's in great form on his road to inevitable (re)coronation at the Giro to boot. Anyone else want to take bets on whether he's really gonna be the same "extraterrestri" he was when he left the field crying like colicky babies at the feet of the Dolomites in 2006?

The Five Stages of Mourning: so it looks like wee rightful king of the universe Alberto Contador's slowly getting to the "acceptance" stage of his misery over Lance's return to leadership, admitting he was perhaps less than joyous at first over the news of Armstrong's homecoming to Bruyneel but now professing some muted non-loathing, which perhaps means that (1) he truly doesn't think Lance is gonna have the strength to take him out at the Tour or (2) he delusionally thinks that merit is gonna be the deciding factor. Maybe adding a sixth stage of mourning, like "utterly dope-slapped into emasculated submission" would be more accurate?

Bjorn Again: finally, congrats to both Bjorn "Love to Love You Baby" Leukemanns and the still-pissed Alessandro Petacchi for their inaugural wins of the seasons, and while I didn't check out what the Leukemanns fan club is doing besides competing for his studly affections, the tifosi are going absolutely shrieking wingnut with adulation over Ale-Jet's return after his ludicrous bust and race-result-negating for taking asthma meds the UCI okayed for him (and everyone else, while we're at it) after the end of the race. Welcome back Alessandro--but young Bennati's still gonna try to make you beg for mercy at the Giro!

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Ceeeeeelebrate Good Times/Come On!

I Fought the Law And/I Won: as beloved party-boy sprint king Tom Boonen smokes the field at Tour of Qatar (Cav who?) for his inaugural win of the season,a Belgian court, sympathetically opining the poor boy's been "punished enough," has decided not to criminally prosecute him for his little coke poz(es), and while I agree he's been a naughty, naughty boy (and you all know you like him that way), unless he's pausing 2km out from the line with a mirror, some white powder, and a razor blade, I can't see how one can begrudge the Brad Pitt 'o' Belgium a little after-hours entertainment, right? Best of all, Tour de France organizer Christian Prudhomme over at ASO is warmly welcoming him back to the fold, and, if Speedo's gonna stick with wholesome Olympic icon Michael Phelps despite his pot imbroglio, I'm guessing Tom gets to keep his little leather gladiator skirt and the rest of his cash-cow sponsorships as well. Now let's party--but remember, just stick to the booze, okay? No, Tom, you *cannot* have the keys to the Lamborghini back...

No More Mr. Nice Guy: so while the Italian national champion's squad gets left off the centenary Giro's start list for heck's sake, sad-sack Amore & Vita's been dissed for the start list at the somewhat smaller Gp Costa degli Etruschi, and team boss Ivano Fanini knows exactly who's to blame: yep, it's the scumly nefarious Paolo Bettini, hell-bent on vengeance for Fanini's perfectly harmless suggestion to the entire planet that Paolo knew, in advance, when and how surprise doping controls were being conducted at last year's Worlds. Hey, what adored icon-of-a-nation could possibly mind an assertion like that? Il Grillo, to his everlasting credit, kept his cool, merely replying that the decision to tell the team to blow was made by committee. Damn lucky for you, too, Fanini!

OMG!!!!OMG!!!: As Gazzetta Dello Sport's almost indecent love affair with comely comeback Ivan Basso continues (the snow can't stop him! He trains on his mountain bike!), despite the inexplicable announcement from Liquigas that our never-doped indomitable hero, tho' certainly back to his completely unenhanced and medically-unaided 2006 form, is nonetheless gonna have to "co-captain" with Franco "Don't Tread On Me" Pellizotti at the Giro, comes news you can use (and swoon over): Ivan's got a Twitter feed! And even better, it seems to be in English. Go here, take a long leisurely detour to the gallery to melt away in those dreamy, dreamy eyes, drop him a note (click on "scrivi ad ivan"), hit the twitter icon, sign on up, and get ready for breaking news on his latest massage *and* his latest doping controls. OMG!!!! Oh, Jan Ullrich. This smashing celebrity rehab could've been you. *How* could you have !##$ed things up so badly?

Cycling In The News: last but not least, as Lance's dazzling presence inspires actual commentary by the non-cycling sports press, comes a spectacular gem from National Public Radio, which not only mentioned the Tour of California, but listed four main protagonists--Lance, Ivan, Floyd and Tyler--and their doping histories (once tested positive; attempted to dope; tested poz for, um, "steroids"; and blood-doped). The crack analysis: "at least it should be fast." Lookin' forward to some ace play-by-play announcing at the ToC!