It’s December 1st, people. Only 23 more shopping days ’til Christmas. How will you keep track? T-Mobile Advent Calendar! It doubles as a trivia challenge, and answers the age-old question, “What sound do German reindeer make?” (turns out, the answer is “moo”). Yes, the Magenta Menace is apparently turning over a kinder, gentler leaf, going so far as to allow Rudy Pevenage, Jan Ullrich’s plump, bald Svengali, back into the team fold. Perhaps the Christmas spirit is contageous, as Ivan Basso, formerly one man with one goal (the ’06 Tour), is getting all dewey-eyed about trying for the maglia rosa again. This year’s Giro is, in most opinions, far more suited to Basso’s strenghts as a rider, but, with a number of big guns fixing their sites on that race this year (Simoni, DiLuca, Savoldelli), and some others (Ullrich and Landis) coming along for the ride, he might have a tough go of it.
One guy who seems to have his ’06 damn near dialed is Alejandro Valverde. The two-time Worlds RR silver medallist, TdF stage winner, and Vuelta podium finisher is planning a two-pronged attack next season – spring classics and Tour de France. While detractors continue to blab that Valverde is “unproven”, I refuse to be swayed by arguements like “rarely wins outside of Spain” and “has never finished a Tour de France”. At Courchevel this year, the Valviscerator absolutely put it to Basso and Rassmussen, and could have outsprinted Armstrong for the win on a tricycle. He got injured, took two months off, and beat everyone not named “Boonen” in the Worlds RR. He can not win outside of Spain all he wants; from the massif central to the mur de huy, the kid is sick. Another up-and-comer, Frank Schleck, who finished last season with a string of seconds to make most race winners jealous (and whose seven-letter last name contains but one vowel) spills his guts on his future plans in this Cyclingnews interview.
And then, there’s the UCI, covering it’s no split-stage racing backside by granting Pais Vasco an extra day by special extension, or some Eurocratic junk like that. So much for reducing the number of race days in the ProTour, eh guys? Finally, Fillipo Simeoni is about to find out just how much weight Lance Amrstrong has gained since retirement. About 10 pounds, you say? No, I’m talking about legal bulk. With several new accusations to fend off, and no pesky training to get in the way, I’d imagine Armstrong’s got enough lawyers under his command to simultaneously exonerate Charles Manson, Timothy McVeigh, and the 1919 Chicago White Sox. The trial begins two weeks from now. Read up on the details and Stage 18 of the ’04 Tour.