Monday, August 31, 2009

The What the Hell is He Thinking?! Award of 2009; and, You Suck, Universal Sports!

I'm Going Off the Rails on a Crazy Train: okay, I'm sure there are perfectly good reasons for this, like maybe blackmail, or a coke-filled club crawl with some of Tom Boonen's ol' pals, or a truly sick amount of dough, that elude me here, but while it's a bit too early for the 2009 Racejunkie Awards,reigning World Champion Alessandro Ballan's got an early lock on the prize as he's left his career-long home at Lampre for a gig with...BMC? No offense, Alessandro, but have you gone utterly Vinokourov-raving-wingnut? Sure, you've had a crap virus-decimated first half-of-the-season, and I get wanting to spread your wings after 6 years of being forced to dress up like Barbie's colorblind glitter-obsessed little sister every day, but you really want to take the risk that your new squad--fine as it is, and it's had an admirable season--isn't gonna get an invite to half the Classics you want to race? And let's talk your stated reasons, shall we? You want to "learn English," and stellar talents Hincapie, Karsten Kroon, and Marcus Burghardt are supposed to be joining you at BMC. First, Kroon--who may, to be fair, be playing it coy--isn't even mentioning BMC in his realm of possibilities, so if you're bankin' on him being your new roomie, I hope you've called him first. Second, if you want to "learn English," go to Team RadioShack which'll get an invite to everything and just piss Lance Armstrong off by not kowtowing to his absolute authority--I guarantee you, honey, you will learn more English in a single wanky Twitter feed or two-second snarl to the press than you'll ever need to know in your lifetime. On the other hand, maybe BMC isn't looking so bad after all...

Look What You Did to Rosemary, You Clods!: and, no thanks to Universal Sports, who--while I'm still willing to grovel at their feet for showing the Vuelta at all in this country--apparently jacked one of our faithful readers out of viewing one of the few sprint stages ever to take place in a Vuelta and who, if not completely put out by an act of God, truly owe her and the rest of us desperate US-bound bike freaks a drooling, abject apology. Get it together, clowns--do you even realize how rare it's been for Tom Boonen to be within visual range of a camera at the line at all this season?!

My Samu Sanchez Plug o' the Day: meantime, since we all know Samuel Sanchez is gonna win the Vuelta, you can head over here to place your vote at Gazzetta Dello Sport's latest poll. For Samuel Sanchez. 'Cause he's gonna win the Vuelta. His name is the fourth one down, so you can click on it. Right there. Did I mention Samu's gonna win the Vuelta?

Okay, Ivan Basso's Riding It, Too: as I pondered saying something today about how just, well, unusually impressive it was that Alejandro Valverde and Ivan Basso beat Cadel Evans in a time trial, my urge to surmise was almost squelched as I recalled with shame and relief how very fortunate we simply are that our Liquigas studmuffin even made it in one piece to the Vuelta at all (no serious injuries to anyone else, either, don't worry):

And, We're Going to Vegas, Baby!: yep, if all goes as planned, I'll be heading to smashing industry trade show Interbike in late September, and if there's anyplace better-suited to encapsulating the gear, the grime, the glory, and the gaudiest outfits outside the Liberace Museum than the City of Sin, I've yet to hear of it. So besides daily product reviews for you gearheads, the usual unsubstantiated slanderous peloton gossip, and an exceedingly wily plan to track Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen like a besotted punch-drunk panther, keep your eye out for Interactive Racejunkie Reader Features to be announced, and baby, let's hit the Strip!

Friday, August 28, 2009

It's the Vuelta, Baby!--Sprint Edition

Go, Speed Racer, Go!: okay, Robbie "Head-Butt" McEwen is out, which, frankly, blows, not only cuz he's so much fun to watch in the last 200 meters, but also because you never know what poor bastard he's gonna randomly turn on like a rabid cornered starving wolverine in the traditional post-race interview. So is Alessandro Petacchi, whose last visit to the Vuelta, if I recall correctly, ended by breaking his hand while smashing into the team bus in a snit, and Cav, among other luminaries. But it's still a field chock-full o' thrill-a-minute, bad-!@# talent, so as the few remaining moments of pre-race rest tick by, let's look at these boys while they last:

1. Tom Boonen. Oh yeah, baby, after his latest moronothon coke bust, then barely scraping into, then gacking out of, the Tour, everyone's favorite scalawag is back, fresh from a win at the Eneco Tour and out to whomp his naysayers into quivering blobs of Gu. Go Tom--you need to replenish that diminishing Lamborghini budget or dontcha?

2. Tyler Farrar. Break out the Bud Light, paint my big hairy beer gut with the American flag and slap an idiotic horned hat on my head as I run in the middle of the course in my boxer shorts, honey, 'cause the USA's Next Great Sprint Hope's bringing out the most disgusting braggart jerkface behavior that makes us justly loathed the world over by the same classy Eurosnobs who routinely pound each other senseless over soccer matches. Get ready to ruuuummmmbbbbblllleeeee!

3. Daniele Bennati. After seasons of deriding Petacchi as a decayed crawling shadow of better days past, Benna-Jet's been whacked with an illness-ridden, utterly unimpressive season of his own, and he'd like--and damn well needs to--reclaim *some* dignity. Good luck Daniele, but you're still gonna be beaten by:

4. Woo-hoo Oscar We Love Freire! Neither nut-needling saddlesore, bone-snapping crash, nor freak invisible back or neck injury shall keep this hard man from his appointed rounds dope-smacking everyone else around in even the slightest uphill sprint. Allez allez Oscar--and for heck's sake hold your body together the next three weeks!

Well, I never did get to the stage winners, but it's all about the wee Spanish squads anyway, as it should be, and in any event, let's face it, the only thing about this race that truly matters is the high mountains, and Samu is gonna knock you out. Aupa Sanchez--and eat his dust, Valverde!

P.S. Keep trying, Contador, but you better move fast: Vino still looooooooooooooooves you, and you don't want to piss off the likes of him by failing to bail and *then* be stuck on his squad within kicking distance. Best wishes, child--maybe Cadel can lend you a few of his bodyguards?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

It's the Vuelta, Baby! And, Your Paranoid Conspiracy Theories o' the Week

Venga Euskalteeeeeeeeeeeeeel!: All right, screw helping those who won't help themselves, it's time for the race which is even better than the Tour de France, not only because Lance Armstrong doesn't ride it, but also because the climbs are nastier, the pitches steeper, the fanatics more crazed, and the competition amongst the hometown boys way fiercer, than anything that the sideshow-freak publicity-snowjob that is the Grand Boucle has to offer. And, if you haven't already been wholly seduced by this sex machine of a stage race, honey, now's the time to *really* know what love is. So today, let's get right to the GC contenders:

1. Samuel Sanchez: they've got the lamest budget in the whole ProTour short of maybe Silence-Lotto, and still, year after year, Euskaltel-Euskadi continues to shock and delight. And Samu "Holy Crap He's the Olympic Gold Medalist!" Sanchez is king of them all. Kept out of the Tour by a squad that much prefers the arid heights of the Vuelta, he's got a major motive to succeed, and as as far as I'm concerned or you can all just bite me, he's gonna stomp the field like drunken bull-necked skin-head soccer hooligan on spindly chinless innocent passers-by. And with a literally rabid, foaming, bellowing pack of orange-shirted wingnuts to cheer him along, who's to say he won't? Aupa Samu'!

2. Ivan Basso: okay, his triumphant return to the Giro could've been a little more auspicious, but let's just chalk that up to his long Operacion Puerto hiatus. The question: can the (one hopes) post-doping dreamboat of 2009 match the spectacular climbing ability of the "attempted-doping" man-candy of 2006? My money's actually still on "no," but the poor s.o.b.'s had such a crap season I'd rather love for him to prove me wrong (not that I need help on that one), and I *will* hope he proves himself with a killer stage win. But also that Sanchez kicks your pretty !@# off the podium, Ivan!

3. Alejandro Valverde: so much promise, so many blood bags, and still, so *little* delivery. But, barred from the Tour by Italian authorities still pissed their darling Basso went down and Alejandro didn't, "Piti"'s got a score to settle, and before he implodes with clockwork accuracy in the third week of the race, he's at least gonna be fun to watch. Prediction: a roller or two of a low-mountain stage win. There's always next year, anyway, unless Caisse d'Epargne snatches up Alberto Contador when Astana loses their deathgrip!

4. Cadel Evans: Cadel, Cadel, Cadel. Just about the glummest July I ever did see, but when his head's in the game, a quite fearsome time trialist and an immovable wheel-glommer in all but the sharpest high passes. I do hope he snags a stage, and at least pulls himself into the top 5, but with Lotto's snoozer backing, and the Spaniards all bringing their A-games, it ain't gonna happen. Damn--after all that work to rehab you, Cadel, I think we all deserve a podium spot from you!

5. Baby Schleck: Smashing, but he and his Saxo Bank domestiques've already busted themselves all season, and it remains to be seen if, at least without a few more years' experience under his belt, Junior's a weeeeeee bit too far past his bedtime. Am I the only one who's skeptical he's gonna win the whole show?

6. Last But Not Least: Alexander Vinokourov: Brilliant. Aging. Unstable. Supremely self-absorbed. And, now that he's back, out to make every other forcibly-reformed drug-suckin' cheat-fiend in the peloton pay. Perfidy, thy name is Vino. Watch yer back, Sanchez!

Oops, I just realized I forgot Damiano Cunego. Really, except for he's all "drugs are bad" 'n' stuff, is he that different from fellow Classics man Valverde? Next up: the Sprinters. Boonen, baby, redeem thyself!

Welcome to Fantasy Island: finally, it's a two-fer for your Paranoid Conspiracy Theory o' the Week, as a suspicious local asks whether Pat "Dick" McQuaid's triumphant announcement of no doping pozes at the Tour now or ever again is (1) merely the result of the usual incompetent testing or (2) a dirt-wily nefarious coverup by UCI to protect the incredible money monsoon that is the Tour de France from present or future scandal. Somehow, "no-one doped" doesn't seem to fit in there. Over in Italy, meanwhile, Danilo Di Luca has decided that (1) the tests were !@#$ed up or (2) if they weren't, the CERA he completely unconsciously took into his body was placed there without his consent in some sort of hideous jealous conspiracy by unknown (because, well, nonexistent) dark forces. Way to cover your bases there Danilo--oughta be just about as successful as Bjorn Leukemanns' old "I was busy doing the nasty" defense!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Survival Tips for Cyclists, Or, How Not to Find Your !@# On the Street Next Season

And they're from a real live lawyer, too!*: Okay, kids, it's damn near September, and you don't have a ProTour contract, or even a contract with the desperate Continental publicity whores over at Team We Heart Doping Rejects, so let's face it: you need help, and it's time to get moving before you end up spending 2010 on the couch hypersnorting nachos and pork rinds and replacing your team kit with an ever-larger series of stained sweaty undershirts to contain your ever-growing beer gut as your podium babe runs off with your ex-soigneur. Ergo, Your Handy Survival Tips:

1. See Your Doctor: yes, you're perfectly healthy, but yes, unless you win or at least place respectably in the last few races of the season before you even get formally rejected for your national Worlds squad, you can kiss your next year, and that bangin' fat bank account it brings you, goodbye. What better way to guarantee the results that honest hard work and training can so often fail to bring, than to visit your dru--I mean, physician--for some last-minute IV dri--I mean, advice? Caveat: if you've already got a good thing going, nimrod, now is *not* the time to mess this up. Remember, discretion is the better part of outsmarting the narcs!

2. Semantics Count: repeat after me, o unemployed roadie: you are not "a dessicated bag of bones," or "one of the oldest riders in the peloton," you are "a mentor for the younger riders" or "an experienced Grand Tour stalwart." Conversely, you are not a "neo-pro," a "newbie," or an "unknown quantity," you are an "up-and-comer," a "raw new talent," or "the next Lance Armstrong/Mark Cavendish/Alberto Contador." Nor are you "pack-filler"--you are "an invaluable part of your sprinter's lead-out," or "crucial support in the mountains." Now stand there and shout it 'til you mean it, you worm!

3. Show Them the Money: everyone likes to get riders on the dirt-cheap, and while that's not exactly a challenge for the women's peloton, you pricey boys can dangle the lure of existing or imminent bike-gear and supplement sponsorships to coax the reluctant team into a low-end, but still perfectly valid (and better'n anything else you're likely to get this late in the season) offer. And hey, will your team ever get *buckets* of free gels from that company and save money on the back end, too! Believe you me, kid, never underestimate the power of making an accountant's heart go pitter-patter. Which brings us to:

4. Think Outside the Box: okay, they don't want to shell out any more dough, but that don't mean you can't still arm-twist 'em into giving you some pretty sweet schwag instead. A limo ride to the stage start away from the team-bus riff-raff? Your own masseuse? A private suite at the Ritz while the other saps on your cheap-!@# squad go bonkers listening to each other snore like a rhino all night sharing a room at the sexy local Motel 6? Can't go wrong with that, and yes, they *do* think you're too stupid to count how much less that costs them than actually shelling out a few thousand extra euros for your contract--use it to your advantage!

5. Think Looooooooong and Hard About That Morals Clause, Honey: because no-one knows you like you do, darlin', and you don't want your personal peccadiloes interfering with your obscenely lucrative gig as a glorified Big Wheel enthusiast. Timing, here, is key. Come on, your pen's literally in your hand hovering above the signature line. And everybody else worth hiring is already snatched up, or banned. So the sponsor's really gonna waste another $600 an hour for 8 hours making their attorney wank over an inconsequential little word like "knowingly" or "blow"?

All right, you nervous Nellies, you're doing great--and you're almost, almost there. Just keep (apparently) clean, don't break anything important in your last few crashes of the season, and for heck's sake, whatever butt-end-of-nowhere squad you're forced to sign with, by golly are you excited to be working for 'em (at least while the cameras are rolling)!

*Disclaimer: this doesn't constitute legal advice, so don't be a jerkface about it. In fact, if you *do* take this crap seriously, you're clearly far too dim to legally sign a contract anyway. No, that's not legal advice either--lighten up, you freaks!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Silence of the Lamb

Hush, Hush: so it's been several days since the Kazakhs' cheery "Your !@# Is *Mine*!" press release over at Astana, and so far there's no response whatsoever coming from the Contador camp, at least not from Alberto's website, his fan page, his Facebook page, or the English- or Italian-speaking press that I can find. Note to Alberto: even if you're off at some secret Swiss clinic getting extensive plastic surgery to mask your identity, your climbing style is *still* gonna give you away to those thugs. Oh, well, kid--you can always use some of that fat Tour de France prize money to bribe, I mean buy, 'em out of your contract! Though I've heard the misty mountains of Kazakhstan are quite gloriously beautiful during training camp season...

Well He's Movin' on Up/Movin' on Up: yep, just look at how lovable Belgian coke-snarfin' car-crashin' club-hoppin' stranger-slurpin' moppet Tom Boonen is coming along since his miserably colon-blown Tour de France--two great finishes (if not quite wins--maybe he oughta rethink swearing *totally* off the blow...) at Eneco in two days! Holy moly, we might actually have some serious sprint action in the Vuelta from our prodigal son--allez Tom, and don't you !@#$ that beautiful race *up* you big doofus! Speaking of Eneco, despite Tyler Farrar's smashing performance, is anyone else thinking things just aren't the same without the verbal and combat stylings of endlessly pissy smack-talker Robbie "Head-butt" McEwen? Get well soon Robbie--with we love Gilberto Simoni now keeping his head down, and Armstrong and Contador just whining like two of those heinous invisible bastard mosquitoes that swoop around you at an unbearable pitch but you can't ever whack then you wake up in the morning covered with giant itchy miserable welts til you want to shriek with agony and claw your skin off, there's no one of your caliber left worth watching at the ol' post-race press crush right now!

Greg LeMond's War: 3-time Tour de France winner. Survivor of a freak hunting accident. Unfortunate part of a particularly ugly episode in the Floyd Landis trial. And most recently, best known for his endless litigation with his ol' bike company and for shrieking-wingnut (if likely correct) stalker outbursts against BFF Lance Armstrong at press conferences. But on a serious note, gazzetta dello sport, oddly enough, has a piece on Greg LeMond's latest work as spokesman for 1 in 6, an organization dedicated to working with men who, as he was, were sexually abused as children. You can fault LeMond for a hell of a lot, and folks sure do, but, as even the tifosi admiringly point out, this ain't it. Keep it up Greg--you're spot on, and much needed, on this one!

Rock'n'Roll: speaking of blasts from the past, or at least the sort of past that involves blood bags, centrifuges, and enough dope to fuel the Italians for a good ten years, I see our old buds Oscar Sevilla and Francisco Mancebo are whomping the field for Rock Racing, which means that drug-skank apologist-to-the-stars Michael Ball must've somehow started convincing folks to fork over $250 for faux-distressed poseur hipster jeans again. Glad to hear the economy's picking up--anyone else want to place bets on which is the next Rock rider to go down in a scandal again? Oh right, that's all in the *past*...these guys can't afford the good !@#$ anymore!

Oh, the Shark, Babe/Has Such Teeth, Dear/And It Shows Them/Pearly White (Gratuitous Mark Cavendish Compliment o' the Post): sure, he rides pretty fast. And the rumor mill sez he's even been known to win a sprint once in a while. But what's really struck me about Cav this week (at least til he hits the road again at the Tour of Ireland) is how very, very big'n'Hollywood his grin-o'-triumph is as he crosses the line, particularly against his high-contrast yellow-and-black Columbia team kit. Whew. Can I go back to dope-slapping him for what comes out of that mouth yet?

Friday, August 14, 2009

Oh, Sweet!; and, an Update

Talk About Lab Chimps: so now Bernhard "Scumlord" Kohl, apparently somewhat more than mildly annoyed that he's gone down in flames while every other weasel within and without the peloton continues to rake in the dough, the accolades, and the podium babes, has seriously gone for the jugular: yep, he's claiming that he, via his manager, successfully bribed the anti-doping labs, for really quite astonishing chump change, to analyze his samples for the sole purposes of helping him microdose--that is, to cheat. Now, I can't speak to ethics--particularly for dirtwads who have none--but if you can't nail these clowns for helping cyclists ('cause it seems awfully unlikely that Kohl's the only one) cheat, for my money they sure as hell oughta be at least nailed for selling themselves out so cheaply when, given the stakes at hand for and the bank balances of the buyers of their services, they could've been raking in truly extortionate amounts of money instead. Not that I approve of it in the first place--they're all very, very naughty, of course. I'm just sayin'. I mean, can't you prosecute someone for sheer stupidity *anywhere* in this world?

Don't Do It, Levi!: oops, too late, as we love Levi Leipheimer has reportedly sealed his eternal doom, I mean signed with, Team RadioSkank, and much as it pains me to see such a brilliant cyclist stiffed out of team leadership *again*, I'm miserably assuming it's only a matter of time before Andreas "Man, I'm *Whipped*" Kloden does the same. The great unknown: competing rumors that Hincapie is, or is not, going to bail on Columbia for BMC (which would apparently have included Levi) or Lance's new squad. Aw, George--sure I prefer the Italians anyway, but give me *something* in US cycling (besides Tyler Farrar's inevitable 2010 Tour de France stage wins and Christian Van de Velde's ongoing total bitchin'-ness) to be happy about next season for heck's sake!

It's a Madhouse! A Madhouse!: speaking (sort of) of Astana, I see the irrepressibly crazed Alexander Vinokourov is looking to start the Vuelta with his ol' team, which I must say fills me with ambivalence because, despite the fact that Vino's an unrepentant amoral drug-sucking demon's-spawn, he's nothing if not entertaining to watch on the attack (though I imagine that, if actually ever forced to ride clean, he'd now be stuck with rather cruder tactics like, I don't know, jamming a water bottle into someone's derailleur at 60kph), he's duly served his time in the big house, and, unlike some team leaders I can think of, he was never one to begrudge his domestiques a stage win when they'd damned well killed themselves for Vino earning it. Plus, Chris Horner sez he wouldn't mind it--so how bad for the sport could his return be? Oops, looks like Vinokourov just got the results from his latest doping control:

Dammit Cadel, I *Told* You To Make Your Move!: meantime, Alberto Contador (and what the hell is with Paulinho bailing on him? Armstrong must've (1) offered him more money than he's ever seen in his life or (2) scared the crap out of him by the career-crushing black hole of his egomaniacal enmity) is basking in the glow of 8 gazillion teams that want to leech off his glorious (if still perhaps somewhat suspect) talent, and, while he's discreetly denying any final decision yet, Caisse d' Epargne has sworn to pimp its collective management's grandmothers to find a loaded new sponsor to afford him if it has to, and, despite the allure of a new Spanish squad and even the reputed interest of Quick Step, Alberto has coyly conceded he's interested. My only concern: Columbian climbing god Mauricio Soler, inexcusably excluded from the Tour this year by the tool organizers, has apparently inked a deal with Caisse already, and much as I like anyone who pisses off Lance Armstrong, Alberto, if you're gonna make Soler domestique for you in the Tour de France next year to get you the overall you better let that boy off the leash for the King of the Mountains he so richly deserves, twerp. Allez allez Mauricio--hell, I've already had to give up on poor Cadel I suppose...

Whoops, Here's Your Chance After All Cadel!: yep, the fine folks at velo- and cyclingnews are reporting that, despite that player-slut Contador's dalliances with other squads, the Kazakhs are delighted to announce they'll be enforcing Alberto Contador's contract through the end of 2010, which I'm sure equally delights Alberto as, with Vinokourov at his back, nothing could possibly go wrong next season. Not to worry Alberto--not only will all the remaining Kazakh riders be coming off their bans by then, but Vino makes one hell of a loyal domestique--just ask Jan Ullrich! Oh, honey, you should've *known* when Vinokourov plastered his own face on his latest jersey that if your lawyer hadn't the sense to draft you a good out clause in the first place that it was all gonna be over anyway...

And, Heading Off to My Happy Place: finally, as contract negotiations for next season alternately enthrall and nauseate me, and the beautiful perfect Vuelta where Samuel Sanchez will swat down Alejandro Valverde like a fly on a picnic lunch remains weeks away, we love the indomitable Jens Voigt is already set to get back on the bike, making me believe, yet again, that there's something sweet and innocent still to love about this gorgeous wreck of a sport. Forza Jens--and watch out for dips in the road from now on!

Sunday, August 09, 2009

The Cadel Evans Find Me a Team That Won't Jack Me Over Project

Yes folks, in our continued philanthropical efforts to help those too dense, too doped, or just too plain helpless to help themselves, Part II of our series of completely free (and likely wholly unwelcome) Rider Reinvention Projects is on: multiple Tour de France maid-of-honor Cadel Evans! Today, we get our boy on track to find a new squad and gain the Tour de France maillot jaune he's always dreamed of:

1. Interacting With the Press 101: Cadel, I know you've got a reputation as an internal, naturally reticent kind of guy, which has led to some, well, rather awkward moments with the press corps of late, but if you're gonna be a real Grand Tour contender--and get those guys on board to pimp you as one, because you could use their support and publicity--you've got to find a happy medium between "Going Completely Mute" and "Going Completely Freakin' Wingnut." And in fact, you're quite charming on your Twitter feed, so clearly you can translate this to more personal interactions. Our introductory drill: multiple choice questions. 1. The proper response to "What happened out there today?" is...(a) "!@#$ you, you !@#$ing !@#$!" (b) "Nothing, except my TEAM SUCKS!" (c) "No, I didn't attack, you got a problem with that?" (d) "Andy Schleck is a phenomenal young talent and it will be exciting to see how he develops in the future. But I'm looking forward to showing what I can do tomorrow in the next stage in the Pyrenees." No, it's not (a), you twit!

2. The Entourage: Am I on crack, or have you now got Mr. T guarding your !@#? Cadel, unless you've had some serious threats to your personal physical safety by some psychotic cycling stalker, or have had some gigantic shrieking Jonas Brothers teenybopper flash-mob trying to tear your team kit off (and I'm not saying you haven't, so don't get your ego-bruised chamois in a twist), ditch the musclebound Neanderthals, tell the rest of your fawning hangers-on to blow, and face the world yourself. Who the hell do you think you are, Lance "Kneel, Dammit!" Armstrong or some unbearable arrogant sprinter? Look, a fan's shoving a jersey at you to sign--now stop that mouth-breather goon from breaking his arm, and pony up your autograph!

3. The Season: okay, I *do* hope Samuel Sanchez crushes you like an ant at a picnic in the Vuelta, but there is a Grand Tour champion in there somewhere Cadel, and this is the last real race this season you've got to prove it in. And unlike most of the Spaniards, you can whale on the time trials as well, and make up time there if you must. Which begs the question of...

4. The Strategy: I know this is gonna piss you off, Cadel, so it's a good thing you won't ever read this, but if you want a new gig with an outfit that can afford to give you the domestique firepower you so clearly deserve (and need), you're gonna have to learn to brownnose better. What does this have to do with strategy? Because if you don't ATTACK, Cadel, the sponsors can't see their giant garish logo filling up the screen as the camera zeroes in on your heroic move, particularly if you actually take the freakin' stage and with time enough to zip up your jersey sit up straight and conspicuously point to their name emblazoned across your chest as you cross the line. Sponsors seeing their giant garish logo filling up the screen = money. Money = support riders who won't pass out from exhaustion the second they hit a speed bump, much less leave you alone in the mountains with 8000 Saxo Bank riders kicking you in the works with every pedal stroke. No, I don't care if the team is gonna offer to extend your contract anyway--you want a better paying gig with another squad that's paying attention, or not? Yes, I *know* it's snuggly in the middle of the front group--get the hell *out* of there, I cannot see your team kit!

5. The Sign: Much as it kills me to quote Ace of Base--and someone's gonna pay for that--I saw the sign, Cadel, and it opened up my mind: that sign was Jurgen Van den Broecke saying he's just thrilled to bits at the prospect of sharing GC contention with you on Silence-Lotto at the Tour de France next year. Look, we all know Contador's a bit slow to fire the ol' synapses, Cadel, but you're a lot wiser than he (not that you're exactly aiming at a gold standard there, but I digress), and you are not going to make the same naive, trusting, nimrod mistake that he did: you are going to take that upstart child Jurgen at his word, use your newly-developed publicity and butt-kissing skills, and GEEEEEEEETTTTT OOOOOUUUUUUTTTTT! Which brings us to the question of....

6. The Squad: Let's review our options, shall we? I like Christian Van de Velde even if no-one in Europe thinks he can go higher'n fifth, so Garmin's out. Columbia's gone because they're too sucked up nurturing Mark Cavendish, the very finest sprinter on earth (did I mention that the winner of our Two-Week Rider Insult Moratorium in the Racejunkie Win Free Stuff Part Trois Contest was the entirely worthy Cav?). And really, you need a climber's squad in any case--none of this wishy-washy you're-screwed "we like a well-rounded group who can contest the Classics and the Grand Tours," none of this "we're gonna split the team equally between our sprinter and our GC contender" crap. Now if Zubeldia Klodi and Leipheimer weren't already doomed to dull gray purgatory at the service of The One, I'd have suggested Astana, but without them--and with Euskaltel not having any dough anyway and already having reached its 1-Non-Basque Rider Limit plus you would go straight to eternal flaming hell for getting in Samuel Sanchez' face, this leaves you (assuming the Schlecks'll stay at Saxo Bank), so far as I can tell, with (1) Caisse d'Epargne or (2) Rabobank. Sure, they've got their own Grand Tour gods in Valverde and Menchov, but really, what's the likelihood both those guys won't get busted for years worth of (alleged!) doping by the end of this season? *One* of those suckers is gonna go down--and if not, Valverde's at a minimum gonna choke again next July anyway, so what've you really got to fear, particularly if Contador hooks up with a new Spanish squad and takes Luis Leon Sanchez with him? Sure, you've wasted all that time becoming fluent in Italian--but your new Rosetta Stone CDs are on the way!

Well, honey, you've got a long uphill climb ahead of you, but since we already know you can conquer those, it's merely a question of picking up the pace. Good luck Cadel! Oh, Klodi, if your chances weren't already so far beyond repair, I'd pick you for the next quick-fix in the series...

Monday, August 03, 2009

Introducing the Tom Boonen Image Rehabilitation Project!

Let's face it: our brilliant, babelicious sprint king has hit the skids. In just the last half-season, Tommeke has gone from a lovable, rakish party-boy scalawag with an amazing power in the Classics and in the sprints to a sickly, dipsomaniacal washout bawling to the Belgian press about his girlfriend who is one ugly YouTube clip away from becoming a complete drooling incoherent David-Hasselhoffian sad-sack trainwreck. But his mastery of the bike is still there, my friends, and his decaying image can, I am absolutely certain, be fixed. And who better to do it for him than his loyal tifosi and sleazeball-restoration experts here at racejunkie? Ergo, the Plan:

1. The Talk: Look, Tom, it doesn't matter that you were legitimately projectile-spewing every ten minutes from a genuine energy-draining stomach virus at the Tour or any other race this season. If you don't start to win again, and pronto, Patrick Lefevere is not only not gonna go to the mat for you ever again, he's gonna slash your Lamborghini contract to a Hyundai or, worse, cut you loose entirely faster'n you can say "How the !@#$ did I end up on a Continental squad?" You are going to schedule a meeting with Lefevere, your lawyer, your manager, and your new coach you are hiring, for bright and early in the morning. You are going to forswear intoxicating substances the evening prior, you are going to get a good night's sleep, you are going to swear in no uncertain terms on your actual, then-present grandmother that you are done with doltish frat-boy antics, and you are going to prove it. Starting then and there, and continuing at least through your next, fully signed and executed contract extension, no more late-night carousing, no more dimwit Star Magazine escapades, and for heck's sake no more nose candy--that's right, no more fun. No, it's not fair--welcome to earth, you overcoddled spandex party princess. Get over it. You get paid a sick amount of dough to ride a bike, however beautifully. You really gonna cry about it to your fans stuck working some unbearable monotonous desk-monkey cubicle gig? No, you're not. Now hit the showers!

2. The Press Conference: You've now behaved well for a full week straight. Congratulations, you've earned yourself a press conference! You are tanned and handsome. You are sitting up straight. You are pleased to announce that, having undergone a painful reckoning with your weak and foolish self, you have put aside your childish ways once and for all, you have sought and received the help you so clearly needed, and you are back on peak physical and mental form. You are so grateful for the strength, faith, and invaluable support of your sponsors, your team, your family, your friends, your fans, your soigneur, your shoe-shine boy, and the entire world community. You may now choke up veeerrrry briefly, but you may not break down entirely--you don't want to look like some David Millaresque crybaby wuss-weenie. Now you will announce your races for the rest of the season, and you will not !@#$ them up. Thank you all so much for coming. You cannot take questions because it is time for a training ride. Now wave cheerfully as you leave, and take it. Make sure there are cameras there too. Gee, are you working hard!

3. The Charity Work: you are starting the Tom Boonen Bikes Not Booze Foundation for Starry-Eyed Easily-Manipulated Waifs. Off-season, you will go to every elementary school in Belgium in your new TBBNBFSEEMW jersey, you will hand out wholesome juice and snacks to the kiddies and let them sit on your bike, and you will pose with every single teacher who asks you for a cell-phone snapshot of you warmly kissing his or her cheek. Move it!

4. The Vuelta: you will ride it and take out Oscar Freire in at least one uphill sprint and Robbie McEwen in at least one flat sprint, complimenting each heartily thereafter. Great to see you back on top, Tom!

5. The Fail-Safe: for every screwup you make--and you better not make any, boy--you must pose with all your clothes actually on for one full photo shoot. But you do look so dashing in your Quick Step team kit! Furthermore, all clubs in Europe will, any time you cross over their nation's border, be forced to play 24/7 country-western ballads as perky elderly couples in matching gingham outfits and cowboy boots prance by until you have left the country. Tough love, honey, tough but necessary!

Okay, Tom, we've got you back on the road to redemption, and because we all love you anyway, it surely won't take long. Next up: The Cadel Evans Find Me a Team That Won't Jack Me Over Project. We love you too, Cadel!

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Good Boy, Alberto!

Do You Want Your Treat Now?: yes, our pistol-wielding 2009 Tour de France champ--of late not perhaps the brightest bulb in the lamp--has finally made a huge leap towards common sense by declining, even with the promise of team leadership over returning Alexander "Like Norman Bates in "Psycho," But More Psycho" Vinokorouv, a 4 year, 16-million-euro contract with Astana. Someone's been watching his "Baby Einstein" videos this week! Meantime, no particular word on who else is courting him, but it's at least clear that for Alberto Contador to definitively stomp Lance in next year's Tour he's gotta find a team who can afford (1) him and (2) the all-star superdomestiques he'll need to crush Lance's thoroughbred stable of gazillion-dollar !@#$#es. Caisse d'Epargne? *Could* it be Garmin, bestill my beating heart (but then you better not jack over Van de Velde)? Hey, Rabobank's probably looking for a new GC guy at this point...

Oh, No, Not Again!: so long's we're recapping the shootout at the O.K. Corral, Ivan "Zoolander" Basso might want to look out for the new kid in town: yep, with a Giro podium and a Tour King of the Mountains under his belt, Franco "Hansel" Pellizotti is demanding that he be Liquigas' sole captain in his own right in 2010--of the Giro, that is, and of *course* he'll be delighted to play chorus boy to Ivan in the Tour. Um, not to cast aspersions on anyone who is not only a smashing rider but also has such pretty, pretty hair, but is he that confident that Ivan'll be asked back to the Tour next year after his little dalliance with Operacion Puerto--or is he really that confident he won't be? Forza Franco--you are one smooth operator, honey!

The Call of the Wild: y'know those nature documentaries on public television, the ones where some studly new young lion comes in to challenge the geezer with a huge harem, they engage in an epic battle for Darwinian supremacy, then the old guy gets clawed to shreds and skulks off into the bush to a lonely, friendless, ignominious death in the pounding sun of the veldt? Yeah, so Jurgen Van Den Broeck has now nattered on to the press how *great* it is that Silence-Lotto now has *two* major GC threats for next year! Roar, Cadel, roar for your life I tell you--don't you see those reeking carrion-suckin' blackhearted vultures circling slowly overhead? Update: aw, heck, I *just* realized I inadvertently violated the Racejunkie Win Free Stuff Contest Week 2 Rider Insult Moratorium. Kindly replace "geezer" with "Lion King," "old guy" with "elder statesman," "skulks" with "voluntarily steps down," "lonely, friendless, ignominious" with "dignified, solitary," and the entire last sentence with "Roar, Cadel, and the young lion will cower with the fear and deference which you are wholly due." That about covers it, right? Sincerest apologies to our Week Two winner--my bad!

Dag Nabit, *Again*! okay, try as I might to convince myself that it was, y'know, maybe "George" Astarloza, or "Bob" Astarloza, or some other Astarloza, nope, it was in fact Euskaltel-Euskadi-are-still-the-best-climbers-on-earth-so-you-all-can-completely-bite-me Tour de France stage winner Mikel Astarloza who tested poz in a pre-Tour out-of-competition doping test for EPO. Aw, Mikel, I'm still recovering from we-still-love-so-go-to-hell Iban Mayo, now *you* have to besmirch this beautiful team? And how dare you hose Samuel Sanchez right before the Vuelta, you (allegedly) selfish (allegedly) dope-snarfing (alleged) disgrace of a mud-dwelling pig? Euskaltel, however--unlike other teams I can think of whose riders shoot up every ten minutes practically in the middle of hotel lobbies then are immediately tossed under the team bus by their shocked and outraged directeur sportifs--is standing by their man, certain he'll be imminently be cleared. You better be, pal, or you can damn well schlep Samu' up each and every mountain stage, and anywhere else he takes it into his head he wants to go, harnessed into a freakin' dog cart all next month!

Media Tick-Me-Off o' the Week: speaking of Samuel Sanchez--look, I *love* Velonews. But in their last two articles on the fabulous Vuelta a Espana, they have stuck Samu's name, much less his freakin' GC chances, somewhere disgustingly south of the butt-end of nowhere. What the hell is that about? Give that man the credit he deserves, I say, or eat orange-and-black-scorched tarmac in September, you faithless Schleck-suckups!

And This One *Wins* When She Comes Out of Retirement: finally, congrats to returning 2002 road champ Jessica Phillips, who just bagged the US national time trial championship after years off the pro circuit. Watch and learn--this is how you do it, L--um, no-one!