Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Your Tour de France Preview, Part Trois; and, Bonjour, Scum!

Welcome back to your 2009 Preview yip-yap, dear newbies and oldies! Today’s installment: the climbers, always the best part of the Tour de France. You’ll note that they are also most of the GC contenders, plus some specialists—you can’t climb, you lose the Tour. So, onwards and upwards:

1. Alberto Contador (Astana): best acceleration of all the climbers right now, he just pops out like a champagne cork on the most excruciating gradients. He will take one or more mountain stages or I will say something really, really nice about Armstrong.

2. Lance (Astana): Historically not so much interested in winning the actual stage as gaining time on important rivals. Since he's still whining that he should've beaten Pantani a decade ago on the legendary Mont Ventoux, which he's never won, I imagine he'd like to take that. Ventoux is the penultimate stage this year so it oughta be a GC nailbiter right up to the Champs-Elysees. I still hope Carlos kicks your !@# on it though, Lance!

3. Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank): best young rider at last year's Tour, he's a long gangly goofball with incredible endurance. Always a domestique til now due to his age/inexperience, he’s earned the right to go for it and will.

4. Carlos Sastre (Cervelo): defending champ, pure climber, not flashy but can attack so gently you don’t realize it til he’s too far up the road to catch. See, it pays to be small!

5. Levi Leipheimer (Astana): always in the front or at worst second group in the high mountains plus works like a dog for everyone else. We love Levi because he’s podiumed repeatedly at grand tours but still is not a pretentious jerk like he has the right to be.

6. Cadel "the Tick" Evans (Silence-Lotto) & Denis "" Menchov (Rabobank): Cadel's so darned earnest I can't help but like him, but he makes me insane on the climbs because he generally sucks off someone else’s wheel and can stay there but not much else. Menchov, by contrast, prefers to beat down his rivals psychologically by simply matching their every attack--he's really quite a sadistic little s.o.b. when you think about it.

7. Euskaltel-Euskadi: the Basque national team, all of them climb great (and with the exception of their sole sprinter, can't do anything else). You will always see their black-and-orange team kit in the highest, sharpest mountains and their crazed fans (the roadside mobs in orange t-shirts) are like Red Sox fanatics on steroids--lovable, but then it never hurts to have, say, an electric cattle prod around 'em in case you need it.

8. The missing: Mauricio Soler (Barloworld), former Tour de France King of the Mountains—dinky team wasn’t invited but this is a major outrage because he is the best climber in the world besides Contador. Also a rather bummed yet always smashing Samu' Sanchez (Euskaltel), whose team is making him skip the Tour to take his national Vuelta. Last but not least--Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d’Epargne), a perpetual GC contender who never ever lives up to his hype and who can’t race because he’s been banned in Italy due to the big Spanish doping scandal from 2006 (the Italian cycling authorities were mad their national hero Ivan Basso got nailed and banned for it while Valverde got off the hook, so they went after him in revenge this year) and the Tour crosses over into Italy for a stage. Don't worry Alejandro--like every reject who dopes his !@# out of the Tour, I'm sure you'll swing by to defile the beautiful Vuelta this year!

And We're Off!: finally, the Tour hasn't even begun, kids, and already we're hit with our first doping scandal--yep, child prodigy/Mozart-on-wheels (come to think of it, Mozart *did* take a lot of snuff) Thomas Dekker has come up poz for EPO via a 2007 sample and the UCI "I Told You We'd Get Someone You've Heard Of" biological passport and has been summarily tossed off the Tour team by Silence-Lotto, stripping Cadel of his only possible mountains man and prompting Silence to point out that, at the tender age of 22, Dekker was then actually a scum-cheat for Rabobank. Anyone else remember that Brady Bunch episode where the kids broke Carol's favorite vase playing basketball in the house and they glued it back together to fake her and Mike out, then at dinner the thing started springing leaks from 20,000 different holes? Yeah, that'll be Menchov when the narcs get done sticking holes in 'im. Ah well Denis--nothing a little duct tape (or reparative homologous blood doping) can't cure, I'm certain!

Which brings us to Anonymous' question, what's *with* this thing of freezing and retesting old samples til the end of time? Before anyone gets pissed off at me for being concerned about this, again, let me restate, doping bad and I hope they all get caught and they should all have to wear a scarlet "D" on their jerseys and be banned from the sport for all time and spit upon by the local children and roughly ejected from respectable nightclubs. But given that the last few years have been marred by EPO scandals, in a purely practical sense, do even the most morally righteous narcs (and I don't include those hypocrite enablers at UCI) want to go there? For my money, if we're gonna do this, we oughta go after the teams instead. Not to rabble-rouse, but Dekker just came up positive *now*--where did an untried 22-year-old get the dough, much less the connections for, the good stuff? And is anyone really buying this crap that when extremely valuable cash-cows were, say, disappearing for 5-hour roadtrips to a team-doctor university clinic on the eves between quite draining Tour stages their teams just assumed they must be delayed in the powder room primping (I mean, if it were the Italians, sure, but Patrik Sinkewitz)? Even if one does assume the teams, DSes, and everyone but the individual rogue cyclists themselves have been wholly in the dark, the on-the-ground implications are clear: at a minimum, we're gonna have to dig up freakin' Fausto Coppi before we come up with a rider we can be sure, truly sure, has been always, historically clean and who absolutely, unequivocally deserves a winner's jersey above all his compatriots. So why don't we hold the teams and their either doofus or nefarious management responsible, and concentrate on a tighter time frame? Both my faithful readers--what's your take?


Sascha said...

I can't believe there isn't a statute of limitations on doping samples for god's sake. Whipping this crap out 2 years later is lame.

And I am so sad about Mauricio Soler. Was perusing the start lists the other day and was shocked and dismayed to discover that Barloworld was no where to be found!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for addressing my request regarding a rant on the retro-testing. I'm sure there will be more caught through this method, on the eve of, or and during the TDF. Cycling seems to enjoy torturing itself by parading out the dopers on the platform of its biggest event. shrug.

Missing Basso, wish he was at the TDF. Rooting for Contador and any scraps Klodi can get for himself. Go Astana, don't implode from all of those egos!

PJ said...

Love this Blog and I am rooting for Contador. May he never ever have a positive drug test.