Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Wow Italia!

On the Attack: so with Giorgia Bronzini smoking the trackies, Pozzato finally reeling in the wins, and even LPR taking a team time trial this week, the real surprise is how good Damiano Cunego, whose record of choking in three-week stage races since his inaugural win as a baby is matched only by his fanatic tifosi's spectacular denial of same, is looking. With Garzelli and Simoni aging, DiLuca being hosed out of Classics--and thus valuable training--left and right despite LPR's apparent compliance with the useless biological passport, Basso improving but not enough yet to confirm he's gonna be who he was two years ago, is it possible this all-talk-limited-action Giro aspirant could really take the whole show in May? Holy moly, we might really have an actual competition here!

Thank You Sir, May I Have Another?: meantime, the ever-doormat that is Andreas Kloden is feeling confident about Astana's killer squad for the Tour, and also saying he has no plans whatsoever to retire any time soon, as the poor doomed sod has a contract with Astana through--gnurk!--2010. Oh Klodi, you've tasted multiple Grand Tour podiums, you could no doubt do more, you're far too good to be some wanky little brat's and past-his-prime giganto-ego's pacesetting !@#$%--how many times must I plead with you people, GEEEETTTTTT OUUUUUUUUTTTTTT!

The First Annual Let's Celebrate Diversity Day: yep, lest anyone think it's only the Spaniards who have an all-star doping doc in the person of Dr. Eufemiano "Gyno to the Male Stars" Fuentes, former T-Mobile mastermind Rudy Pevenage is here to enlighten: France, Belgium, Italy and Switzerland have their unsung medical heroes, too, except no-one's had the stones to rat them out. The French, doping--no! Oh, wait...no wonder the Spaniards feel picked on!

Jailhouse Blues: and, I see Bernhard Kohl's manager, arrested earlier in the day for pimping doping producs to athletes including the above, has already confessed to blood-transfusing him, which is presumably the subject of Kohl's press conference set for this evening. Luckily, he seems to have been the supplier for athletes other than cyclists as well, which gives some hope that someone, somewhere, in the Austrian peloton remains clean. Anyone willing to hazard any names--or are we all too used to being disappointed by now?

The Law of Unintended Consequences: finally, as the world eagerly scans every gross photo of Armstrong's gory surgical dressings, if I didn't already love gazzetta dello sport enough for its relentless coddling of all riders Italian, here's another reason to love it even more: perfectly juxtaposed with the video-feed headline "Contador on Armstrong's Injury" is a still shot of our princeling weighing in--and he's smiling broadly. Perfetto, Gazzetta--you may now resume complaining about Alejandro Valverde!

Oh, and we love Jens!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Sowing the Seeds of Love

You're My Best Friend: as the love-fest continues between the recuperating Lance "I Like You, I Just Think You're Stupid" Armstrong and Alberto "Get Well Soon So You Can Ride the...Giro" Contador, I must say I find it equally heartening that the same good feeling flows from Contador to we love Levi Leipheimer, for whom Alberto is generously delighted to domestique, so long as the old bat doesn't get all uppity over a paltry handful of Grand Tour podiums and a wunk of stage wins and unquestioningly takes his place beneath Contador's nut-kicking bike cleats in July. Aw, someone learned their lesson on "sharing" in nursery school!

The whole problem, of course, could be easily solved by Lance's following through on his reported interest in buying up the Tour de France, which'd not only have the so-sweet satisfaction of humiliating the French even more'n their losing the last 20 Tours to a pack of low-life McDonald's-sucking foreigners, but would also, one imagines, give a certain amount of influence over who snags an invite to the Grand Boucle in the coming years. You want it Alberto?--wag your !@@ and bark like a dog for it! I said BARK, Fido!

BalaBiteMe: meantime, Alejandro "The Green Bullet" Valverde, who joined the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon in a last-second snit he was starting to get overshadowed by Lance and Alberto, I mean, in a thoughtfully-calculated modification to his originally-planned training program, had two great rides at the Vuelta, reminding the foaming-nationalist Italian tifosi how incredibly pissed they still are that the Green Bastard's been winning races the last two years while fellow Op Puerto culprit (and not even really a culprit! just an *attempted* culprit!) St. Ivan of Varese has been cruelly and unjustly banned from the bike. Don't worry, Alejandro, I'm sure they'll get over it in time for your grandchildren to race in Italy without the fans hunting 'em down like wild boars...'til then, enjoy the sunny weather in Spain, or take yer chances!

Back in Black: finally, it's a tentative welcome back to disgraced-yet-beloved (oh, give me a !@#damn break, like you don't miss him!)perpetual-trainwreck Jan Ullrich, whose ol' mentor in blood-value adjustment, Rudy Pevenage, reports may join the management team at Rock Racing, which, incidentally, is looking for an even more unbearably egomaniacal showman of a sponsor than Michael Ball, so long as he's got the dough to ease the pain. Come back, Jan--wouldn't it at least give you great publicity ahead of your promised tell-all?

Monday, March 23, 2009

I'm Sorry, Was That My Bike Pump I Accidentally Shoved Into Your Spokes?

Yes, as every clueless noncycling news outlet immediately started shrieking like they were reporting a catastrophic spontaneous explosion of the entire Earth, Lance has indeed fractured his collarbone, and while it was allegedly the crappy Spanish roads that took Armstrong out, not any nefarious underhanded bushwhacking by his baby savant teammate Contador, for my money--aside from the Italians getting to breathe a ginormous sigh of relief that they needn't collectively juice themselves beyond all human recognition just to guarantee one of their own takes the 100th edition of their national race this May--the big story is that with his like-he-ever-gave-it-a-rat's-!@#-about-it-anyway Giro jacked, it seems a virtual statistical certainty that Armstrong is now gonna take, and Contador is completely and officially screwed out of, the team leadership at the Tour. Scope out the Plateau de Beille? Practice your (freakishly improved) time-trialling? The hell with that, Alberto--just practice stuffing multiple water bottles down your jersey and zippin' 'em on up to your master from the team car instead--and give me your bike, you peasant, I've just gotten an ill-timed flat!

Of course, there's always the possibility that Lance will bail on his Tour--and thus his entire comeback--in the next day or so, which, however utterly lame an ending to his perpetually whored return, he'll certainly do if he feels remotely like he won't be the blinding star shining on top of the final podium in Paris for win number 8. In this event, (1) Vs., if you even *think* of displacing Phil Liggett, Paul Sherwen, Bob Roll or even, by god, the vomitoriously atrocious Al Trautwig as commentator in favor of this arrogant unbearable wank at the Tour for one single second, I swear I'm gonna start a massive global publicity-blitz campaign demanding an immediate return to full-time bass-fishing programming, and (2) despite his likely new-found optimism, Contador might as well quit the Tour now and hit the beach anyhow, as every no-neck ESPN talking-head troglodyte is gonna yap 5,000,000 times in July even when Contador freakin' wins the Tour that he'd obviously never have done it if Armstrong were there.

And I won't even point out, because I'm not a wholly callous smirking troll, how perfectly ironic it is that Armstrong was the only rider really taken out in this multi-cyclist accident just days after he blasted Contador for being an inexperienced error-prone twit. Now, sincere wishes to Lance for a speedy recovery, let's leave the poor guy to get some much-needed rest, and--Alberto! Put down that champagne! Turn off that damn techo music and quit dancing around! You've got a race to ride tomorrow!

Oh, and here's the replay:

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The 2009 Tour de Lance

Nobody Does It Better: just when you thought the defenseless Alberto Contador couldn't get any more dope-slapped by Astana for the egregious sins of winning two Grand Tours Lance never bothered to even race and snagging a couple of stage wins at Paris-Nice to boot, 2009 Tour de France team leader Lance Armstrong, unsurprisingly, smacks him again, this time by disdaining Contador as too "nervous," and with such a strong team and a great manager, "why get nervous?" I don't know, Lance, because the strongest rider in the world right now (however you think he got that way) is being treated like a 20-euro-a-week chamois-washer by his own freakin' squad? What's more, his wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am love affair with the Giro is distinctly over it seems, as Armstrong plans to be only at "90%" for it and save his real legs for another race--guess which one!--instead. Y'know, particularly given that Contador's stupid double-chest-thump-and-gunshot routine is starting to make me want to thump someone myself, and I mean hard, stop making me feel sorry for this kid!

Keep Up the Good Work, Ricco'!: and, congrats to obnoxious Simoni inferior/Tour de France CERA-sucking scum-cheat Riccardo Ricco', whose two-year ban was just reduced to a sweet 20 months, and will therefore be relieved of his spin-class duties and back in the peloton just in time to defile the 2010 Giro d'Italia. Woo-hoo! Of course, his Saunier Duval teammates, who barely managed to morph themselves out of total unemployment by saving sponsors Fuji-Servetto, have happily received the news that thanks to their beloved ex-squadmate they're completely jacked out of this year's Tour de France. Anyone else thinking Ricco' oughta be careful not to get *too* close to the edge of a mountainside next time he has the pleasure of riding with his old teammates again?

Sweet Dreams Are Made of This: in other Tour de France news, I see Floyd Landis is dreaming of a return at the 2010 Tour, and while I can't imagine the race organizers would let him even get off the plane before they accidentally broke both his knees with a well-aimed crowbar to prevent it, no matter what you think about the validity of the conviction resulting from his ludicrous monkey trial, you gotta admit, it wouldn't be any worse than half the other riders and teams ASO lets into the race year after year. Come back, trustbutverify, come back--who else has tracked him so tenderly!

E.R.: finally, as the dismally unfortunate peloton gets off to about the highest early-season body count I've seen yet, best wishes for a speedy recovery to Quick Step newbie Kurt Hovelijnck, in the hospital with a fractured skull and hopefully, soon, on the mend. Holy moly, is *anyone* going to be left at the end of this summer?

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Johan Bruyneel is a Tool

Got Class?: okay, Contador bonked badly. Very badly. But he's still very young, and he still took two, and quite near three, stages in a rather well-regarded race. But even putting aside Lance Armstrong's cool comments as unsurprising from a guy who's too nearsighted to see beyond the immediate glare of his own enormous ego, Johan Bruyneel snarking that "What else is there to say than he didn't race intelligently? He only had to look after Sanchez," was a punk-!@#, low-rent move. Y'know, I don't even care if it's correct--he's *your* freakin' rider, and if you thought he was such an irredeemable moron, why the hell didn't you cut him loose for one of the other 8000 teams that'd've pimped their own grandmas to get him when your golden god returned? And can we get, as Anonymous points out, into the fantastically craptastic performance of Astana, leaving Contador utterly isolated when he needed them most--I mean, !@#$in' *Quick Step* outpacing them in the mountains? That's just lame. And sorry, but Gallopin's blaming the loss on the lack of Levi and Chris Horner (while a nice compliment to them) doesn't change the fact that Armstrong's little acolytes Brajkovic and Popo oughtn't to have, well, mostly sucked. Maybe you're right Anonymous, beyond even my wildest paranoid conspiracy theorist dreams--after all, it sure couldn't be looking much better for Lance at the moment, could it?

Nice Guys: otherwise, though, it was a rippin' Paris-Nice, and I gotta say, besides giving cycling.tv massive points for having big Maggy Backstedt call the race, everyone who's been treating former fellow ONCE/Liberty Seguros nestling Luis Leon Sanchez like Contador's less coordinated slightly embarrassing baby brother better take a look at his growing palmares and the fact that Caisse d'Epargne seems to be quite conscientiously grooming him for the long haul (and I won't even suggest why it's a good idea for them to have a backup for Alejandro Valverde). And while I'm still mystified why the refs didn't penalize Sylvain Chavanel for his egregious team-car drafting on his way back from the Worst Timed Mechanical of the Seasom--tho' it was nice they didn't--what I cheered for most (besides we-still-love-so-bite-me Frank Schleck's smashing performance) was undoubtedly Christian Van de Velde's accidental whomping win on a breakaway. I love late bloomers!

From Sea to Shining Sea: meantime, over at Tirreno, I see Andreas Kloden got the last win Johan'll ever let him take in his entire career, nailing the time trial and setting up a nasty battle for GC, only slightly overshadowed by his too-telling assessment of his role in July where he didn't even mention poor Contador. Okay, I'd been somewhat ignoring the race as it focused on the flats--but is anyone else impressed by how Tyler Farrar smoked Cav, Boonen, Petacchi, and McEwen at the line? Not to be a coarse raging nationalist, particularly since I'm usually rooting for the Italians, but one more American win like this and I'm gonna have to stick antlers on my helmet like one of our tasteless fans at the Tour o' California and start running alongside the racers screaming in a thong. Woo-hoo Tyler!

Gilberto Guevara Rides Again: finally, as Basso continues to insist on his Twitter feed that he's on perfect form, Gilberto Simoni celebrates his recent win in Mexico beautifully by not only doing some charity work for the local bambini and quoting the great, drug-addled Italian pop star Vasco Rossi on his site, but also managing to compare himself to Che Guevara, which considering the way some other folks are erroneously judging their chances for the Giro perhaps isn't so ludicrous after all. Viva la revolucion, Gibo!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Lookin' Good, Liquigas!

Starting the Season in Style: as wussbag doper-enabler Pat "Dick" McQuaid at UCI, after righteously announcing the imminent bust of a big passel of sport-destroying scum-cheats, decides to put off actually nailing anyone anytime soon for it *again* (and, being kind, objective, and pretty lawsuit-shy, I won't suggest this has anything to do with concerns some of his more, well, preferred riders might be in trouble), Liquigas, lately blessed with heavy anti-doping artillery/studmuffinly pinup king Ivan Basso to pound the path to virtue, has already produced the first major drug bust of the season: wee little neo-pro/Duran Duran throwback Gianni Da Ros. Curiously, neither Team Liquigas' nor winged crusader Ivan's website mentions the incident in their news sections, but they do profess excitement for the team's chances at Tirreno-Adriatico. Oops, I see that Liquigas and the Italian cycling fed have both already leapt into action and suspended the boy. My, the "new generation"'s getting cleaner by the day, ain't it?

Johan's Choice: so with Contador having stomped the field in a shocker of a flat opening time trial at Paris-Nice (despite a miserable day and colossal time-suck yesterday), the obvious dilemma arises: if Lance can't pick up his game, and Contador keeps riding like he has been this season, Johan's going to look like a major Lance-pandering unjust-jerkface !@#-of-the-century if he doesn't give Alberto the unquestioned team leadership he's so clearly earned come July. Johan, I know Lance is your beloved and your mentee, the one you've nurtured, who in return has given you seven Tours and more dough, power, and prestige than even the most brilliant team director could ever hope to achieve. Heck, I even admire it, despite its wholly self-serving aspects. But if you don't give this babe-in-arms the full-court press he deserves, in favor of Lance who is not yet what he was and likely never will be again (particularly when he's made it spectacularly clear he's only fallen in love with the Giro out of concern he mightn't win an 8th Tour), you are doing a serious disservice not only to Contador, but to cycling itself. And I say this, of course, as one who firmly believes the child was doping along with everyone else in his infancy at Liberty Seguros, whose current purity I cannot help but cringingly doubt, and who is still deeply pissed at how repeat podium finishers Leipheimer and Kloden have been jacked out of not only the Tour but now the Giro as well, reduced to 3rd rate domestiques, and have given you (publicly at least) nothing but humility, acceptance, and hard work in return. *You* bought the goods, Johan, use 'em--tough for you if Lance came back, especially when you threatened to kneecap poor Contador for breach of contract when he completely justifiably objected to your perfidy after your empty promises of total backing. Let merit, and not your little cult-o'-Armstrong, really decide the outcome!

Thursday, March 05, 2009

One Is the Loneliest Number

If You're Ivan Basso, Anyway: my, I know St. Ivan of Varese has well and humbly reformed and all, but from his little chat with cyclingnews waxing rhapsodic about how honored and delighted he is to be officially "co-captaining", as was previously rumored, with Franco Pellizotti at the Giro for Liquigas, and how wonderful and deserving Pellizotti is, and how sure he's had experience sharing with others as shown with Carlos Sastre at CSC (tho' as I recall Basso was actually the *leader* at the '06 Giro, but what's historical accuracy worth anyhow?), you'd think the boy had barely ever competed as a waterboy in the Giro, much less personally won the thing. Okay, one might detect the slightest hint of resistance to his apparent fate when he alludes to figuring out the real team leader on the road, but I am the only one wondering if team management's hedging their bets for fear their gilded angel ain't gonna be quite the rider he was before he didn't dope in 2006, and is having perhaps the wee-est bit of (incredibly expensive) buyer's remorse? You say you're back to training?--you've still got the Giro di Trentino to win a race and prove my suspicions dead wrong, Ivan!

Eat It, Damiano!: as Cunego takes off for a couple of weeks of high-altitude training in prep for a fruitless run at a second Giro win, new BFF we love Gilberto Simoni is already taking a stage over such formidable mountainmeisters as Floyd Landis and Tyler Hamilton and sitting on the overall at the Vuelta a Mexico, and though there's no denying that Classics Boy's got prettier pictures of himself on his website, the Simoni tifosi are going absolutely wingnut for their "old man"'s form ahead of May. Forza Gibo, and put that punk-!@# Cunego in his place (suckin' down the dust from your wheel) in the Dolomites!

You Can't Make This Stuff Up: and, I see the latest person to proclaim "justice served" in LPR being denied a spot in Milano-Sanremo and dirty pigs Di Luca and Petacchi being thus excluded is resurgent sprint king Tom "Sniffy" Boonen, on the grounds that if they won't commit to antidoping efforts so strongly as he has, they deserve whatever they get. Now, having defended our strapping boy's, say, more powdery escapades in the recent past, I won't be so unkind as to point out the obvious (and to be quite fair, at least "the obvious" wasn't intended for performance enhancement), but I *will* note that Patrick "30 YEARS OF DOPING" Lefevere's Quick Step, which as you might recall dear Tommeke is on, was one of the very last teams (along with CSC) to sign that stupid antidoping virginity pledge ahead of the Tour. What's next, Bjarne "Guess How I Won My Tour de France?" Riis going off on how committed to the cause he is? Oh, wait...

Happy Birthday, Barbie!: finally, a toast to girlhood icon Barbie's 50th birthday, and if you're wondering what the hell this has to do with cycling, it's because I hereby call upon Mattel to forthwith issue a commemorative Marianne Vos I'll Crush You Like the Worthless Weaklings You Are Barbie, a Marta Bastianelli Body Image Issues Barbie, and, of course, a Tom Boonen Jailbait Girlfriend Barbie complete with fake ID and Hello Kitty backpack. Toss in a Faux-Repentant Busted GC Contender Ken with special IV attachment, and a Hypocrite Enabler Directeur Sportif with cash-stuffed briefcase, and we've got ourselves a ProTour squad!

Monday, March 02, 2009

The Thorminator

It's the Classics, Baby!: yes cycling fans, it's finally time for two-odd months of bone-rattling, bike-destroying, mostly freezing sodden cobblestoned misery, and I for one can't be happier about it, not least because I don't have to personally microfracture every part of my own body jerking over the things and mostly because we love the indomitable ever-dissed Thor Hushovd continues his own and badass new squad Cervelo's assault on the season by taking Omloop Het They-Should've-Kept-It-Volk-I-Can't-Spell-Niewsblad and Tom Boonen, after a rather depressing start to the year being relentlessly smacked around by Mark Cavendish (but points out the boy has actual human weaknesses and can be beaten at the Tour, namely by tiring the big lumbering beast out too much over a long stage to take the sprint), took Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne with time to spare. And I know these races aren't typically an American's game--but just *one* for George Hincapie, please, before he says goodbye!

Two, Four, Six, Eight, Who Should We Eliminate?: and, I see the perpetual cheat-skank enablers (Rasmussen, anyone?) over at UCI are feeling upstaged by the Italians actually bothering to take action against some of the (alleged!) weasels UCI's happily allowed to ride the Tour the last few years, as they assuage their wholly justified feelings of impotence and irrelevance by announcing that, sometime soon, they're sure to name a few boys in biiiiiiiig trouble over nebulous readings on their biological passports. Um, not to rain on the parade here, but given that you were so slow to implement the thing that the boys had plenty of time to manipulate their blood values before you even established their baselines, who's to say you'll catch anyone but the merely slow'n'stupid? Not that that's a bad thing--I'm just sayin'. Well, I'll take bets on who's going down first--but since we're dealing with UCI here it damn well ain't gonna be someone they've been coddling to date!

Schum' and Gloom: speaking of (alleged!) drug-snorters, as Valverde gets set to beg the Italians later this week not to assume some silly DNA match is any more accurate than a random guess by a roomful o' drunken monkeys, Stefan "I Heart Amphetamines" Schumacher continues to vociferously protest his doping ban, claiming not only the usual round of technical screwups by the shameless unteachable lab chimps, but, even more offensive to the powers that be, his genuine innocence. Heck, if it's true, that oughta win the day--worked for Landis, right?

Giro d'I Really Hope Armstrong Doesn't Win This: meantime, the Italians are throwing down the gauntlet already, with up-and-coming Bennati and slowly-cheering-up Petacchi trading sprints at Sardegna, Rebellin so far looking stronger than Cunego ahead of both their Classics campaigns and the Giro (and given that the Little Prince is supposed to be the GC contender and Rebellin merely Gibo's domestique at the big show, not to mention that his Grand Tour performances since his toddlerhood Giro win have taken on a certain, well, Valverdian quality, Damiano better be planning this right), Basso finding time between Twitters about fun with the kids to rest his knee and inevitably reclaim his rightful place as Giro champ over such discredited foils as Danilo DiLuca, and Spaniard Carlos Sastre stepping in and making it clear that while his first aim is defending his Tour, he's not showing up in Italy just to gorge himself on great food and wine (a tough choice, but who I am to criticize?). Forza Sastre, but I'm still hoping Simoni takes everyone out in the mountains!

Leviathan: finally, a heartfelt get-well-soon to Armstrong Tour domestique (keep dreamin' Alberto!)/Tour o' California champ Levi Leipheimer, whose mild surprise he still felt a bit sore after his little wheel clip with Armstrong turned out to be a broken sacrum, which, despite not preventing him from slaughtering a formidable field in the time trial and overall, is, unfortunately, forcing him off the bike for a whole six seconds or so before he, like all you Tyler Hamiltonesque cult-of-pain bike freaks, returns to whomp on his competitors from traction in a specially pimped hospital bed complete with aero bars and ultralight bottle cage. Come back pronto, Levi!

!@#dammit, *no-one* thinks poor Frank Schleck is innocent?