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!


randie said...

all the naysayers can hate him as much as they want but i'm quite thrilled to see vino at the vuelta. maybe he can teach cadel how to attack. mwah hahaa

Tusher said...

My fingers are crossed for Samu Sanchez-so focused on the Vuelta that he didn't ride the Tour. And he's cute, which is my main criteria for choosing my favourites.Though obviously not as cute as Cav.

Cadel- if only, but, y'know, he's not going to cut it this year. Or next year, or the one after. Real shame, but tough.

Sorry Randie, but I'm hoping that Vino is abducted by space aliens.

But then again, I'm just bad.

simon lamb said...

I love the vuelta bring on the vuelta although not as much as the GIRO