May 6 2009
Wait, wait…a loose federation of Central European businesses/state entities—named after the the capital city of Kazakhstan so none get any actual ad exposure—is having trouble putting together the constant supply of capital needed to run a cycling team? I’m not surprised that Astana’s collapse is happening so much as I’m surprised that it took this long.
Look at that picture in the upper-left: that domed building is blue. The fashionable high rises are yellow. The statelier, more reserved high-rises are yellow-trimmed. Another set of buildings by the river is fire engine red. The last time I saw a city that looked like this, it was made out of Legos.
Capitalism must really be broken if the most powerful team in the world, with a guy who’s won three different grand tours, and another who’s won seven TdFs, can’t seem to scrape together enough money pay its riders, while a loudmouth pinning the green end of the money/sense teeter-totter to the ground can only stock his teams with disgraced ex-dopers and dominate mid-level Euro events.
Fortunately, Astana—or at least the people who ride and work for it—has something of an ace-in-the-hole in Lance Armstrong. The most preliminary announcements indicate he’d want to be something of a rider/manager/owner, like MJ’s last gasp with the Washington Wizards. Along those lines, Armstrong seems to have toned down his expectations for the upcoming Giro—and some rivals are saying he won’t even start the Tour.
The thing is, the last time I saw Armstrong talking about how good he wasn’t, he came through with a vengeance in one of the most dominant TdFs in history. Out with a roar or out with a whimper, I’m excited to see what Armstrong does in the coming months—and I genuinely have no idea what’s going to happen.