Yes, so I’m stuck in Williamstown, digging out from a modest snowfall and not going to ‘cross nationals. So sad. Mercifully, fortune has provided me with some interesting news to report: the Grand Tours (and their auxiliary events, such as Paris-Nice Liege-Bastogne-Liege, Paris-Roubaix, Milan-San Remo, Paris Tours and others) are officially out of the ’06 ProTour. What’s this mean? Well, as far as I can see, the death of the ProTour. With the departure of the Grand Tours, ProTour is now a watered down World Cup with short stage races. Before, it was (in my opinion) a poor criterion for selecting the year’s best rider (though DiLuca was hardly undeserving), and in ’06, lacking 6 of the most prestegious races on the calendar, it will be completely irrelevant. The departure also means that teams will once again be at the mercy of ASO, RCS and Unipublic for selection to the Grand Tours, meaning that we can expect more spiteful and nationalistic exclusions like the one ASO foisted upon Cipo’ from ’00-’03).
Perhaps the most dumbfounding thing about this is how utterly out of touch the UCI leadership appears to be. In this article, former UCI chair Hein Verbruggen sounds oblivious to the point of intoxication or a degenerative brain disease. His arguements cling to unfounded statements like “Weâ€™re still in control and Iâ€™m sorry to be blunt but this is just a lot of crap.” Oh really? What exactly is the UCI in control of? The Benelux Tour? Championships of Zurich? Dude, I don’t fÂµÂ¢Â¶ing care about those races, and it’s my job to run a cycling website. If I don’t give a s&!â€ , imagine how little everyone else cares. God, the man stammers about, blathering about “power” and how the “American” system of “offer[ing] to pay the teams” to participate in their races shows they don’t have any. Hein, you have my personal guarantee that there will be more teams wanting to do Grand Tour-organized races than they have slots to fill. And, at any rate, what’s so bad about paying riders? 600,000 Euros for the best overall Grand Tour team sure as hell beats the hearty pat on the back you gave CSC for winning this year’s ProTour team classification. It’s a professional sport these days, killer; aren’t you the one who’s trying to convince everyone of that?
The other news today is a nice little interview Lance Armstrong did with VeloNews’ John Wilcockson. And by little, I mean enormous and far-reaching. Since you probably don’t have time to read it all, I’ll just give you the good sound bytes:
“Epogen, Aranesp and all of the things that they produce are great drugs. They are fantastic…”
(on the Tour of California sponsorship, but funny none the less)
“…[T]he bike is constantly accelerating and decelerating. Some days, you [feel so good that you] don’t feel those changes. [For example] Alpe d’Huez in 2002…”
(the 2002 Tour did not go to Alpe d’Huez)
“I’ve spent my whole life and I’m still looking for the money tree, and I haven’t found it…”
(on why he is apparently still poor)
“You can fight evil in sport in a quiet, effective way, or you can be a loud obnoxious, inefficient blowhard.”
(on dealing with the doping problem – I’m thinking ‘Dopers Suck’ would fall into the latter category)
“I mean, we didn’t allow them to cross the line, and I think that was viewed at the offices of VeloNews, or with the editors, as just a bunch of assholes. “Hey c’mon, Bill.” It’s the whole “hey, bro'” attitude. And so I think at that point, it created a lot of bad blood.”
(on why he hates VeloNews. Yeah, and you thought I was the only one)
Also, his account of the Simeoni Incedent is a very interesting read, if you can make it through all the ellipses (Armstrong is a man of many talents, but forming syntactically sound sentences is not one of them). A brief read-over of the Live Report seems to jive pretty well with his version of events, though he still does not disclose what he and Simeoni were talking about (see the links in the second “7/23/04” update) on the way back to the field.