Archive | March, 2006

Wired to Wuss Out – Rant

31 Mar

Remember the 2003 Tour? When an IMAX film crew (search “Hamilton”) followed Tyler Hamilton around? Well, Cyclingnews finally got a review of the finished product out. Though I wouldn’t put too much stock in their evaluation of the piece (they’re running ads for the feature on their homepage – though they did have the good sense not to run the ad side-by-side with the review, as Daily Peloton did here), they did get some interesting comments from the filmmakers on their decision to change the movie’s focus onto Jimmy Caspar and Baden Cooke:

“With the movie barely into the editing phase in late 2004, the decision was made that a doping scandal could not co-opt the focus of the film. Director Silleck did everything he could to diffuse pressures from the film’s sponsors, hoping that Hamilton would be exonerated, but ultimately had to inform the rider that the film would be taking a new direction.

‘It was a corporate decision, pure and simple,’ Silleck told Cyclingnews when asked about the change of plan. ‘We simply could not have this film become a story about drugs.'”

Overlooking the obvious question about what you were doing during the year-and-a-quarter between the end of the 2003 Tdf and Tyler’s positive test in the ’04 Vuelta, how is it that your documentary on the ’03 Tour could be affected by events that happened over a year later? If you’re so worried about drugs, why not simply just not mention them? It shouldn’t be too hard becasue #1)blood doping doesn’t involve drugs and #2)positive dope tests played no meaningful part in the race you filmed. But, assuming that you lack the skills to examine the events of past outside the lens of the present, if the focus of your film was on the body’s response to pain, shouldn’t blood doping still be irrelevant?

For the sake of argument, let’s say that Tyler was doping in ’03, despite not being under the tutelage of one Dr. Luigi Cecchini, nor riding for a Phonak squad that’s been riddled with drug problems; how would elevated cell counts affect how he felt pain? It’s not like extra red blood cells (or, more accurately, the highest legal amounts of red blood cells) make the human body hurt less. Nor do they dull the pain the body endures, nor raise the body’s tolerance to that pain. Though he might be going a lot faster when the lactate comes, it’s still going to burn, and he’s still going to have grit his teeth and suck it up with every agonizing turn of the crank.

But no, I guess your mission to educate wasn’t so powerful that you could be bothered to explain this to the masses. “Yes, he did cheat later, and he might even have been cheating then, but still, completing the race with a broken collarbone is an amazing feat” would have been too complicated a message. I mean, there’s a whole movement that basically says once an athlete tests positive, they are worthless; best not to challenge the poorly-though out opinions of large numbers of people. After all, why would anyone going to see an IMAX movie, in a science museum, come in with any expectation of learning something new, or maybe even of changing their minds?

Yes, I was being too idealistic earlier; the filmmakers are right to say that the unwashed clots of Americans who watch their movie could never see things in anything but stark, impenetrable black, and dazzling, spotless white. It’s just a shame I’m citizen of such a stupid country, because now I’m gonna drop 15 bucks for museum entry and another 9 for the Omni just to watch a 50-minute flick about a perennial lanterne rouge and a flash-in-the-pan maillot vert, that looks like it was edited by a drunken samurai and a roll of Scotch Tape, all because 90% of the initial footage was about a guy who got caught doping a year after the events of the film took place.

Maybe someday, after Bush is out of the White House, you’ll have the balls to release some sort of “select audiences” version of Wired to Win, that you’ll play in IMAX theaters way at the tippie-top of ivory towers. Then you’ll be able to include all that great footage you took of Tyler, confident in the fact that all the viewers will be smart enough to see things in a wonderful spectrum of tints and shades, so you can rest assured that no one will have a negative opinion of you, or your film, or your film’s sponsors. Then afterwards we can all sit in a circle, hold hands, sing “Kumbaya”, get baked off the hash pipe, and live happily ever after.

Dumoulin Defeats Protesters, Flanders Picks & Previews

31 Mar

So for those of you who’ve been under a rock for the past week, there’ve been some protests in France over a new job law, designed to decrease youth unemployment by making young workers easier to fire. Young folks are upset about this, I guess (not to further any stereotypes about the French being lazy, but apparently they just don’t like working…), so upset that they’ve gone out and delayed the start (scroll to bottom) of some bike races. Fortunately, Sammy Dumoulin, one of they very few young Frenchmen both employed and able to be fired, took the win at that event, as if to say “you go and you sign that law, Monsieur Chirac!” It seems that Spain and England (or is it Germany?) must have similar laws protecting less-effective workers, as otherwise all of Euskatel (the squad is winless thus far this season), and ProCycling (the site just put out this Dauphiné preview when it’s still three monuments and a Grand Tour away), would be out of work.

But enough French labor squabbles – T-minus two days until Flanders. Odds are up and you-know-who is the 3:1 favorite at Unibet. History is against a repeat win, though, and no-one’s pulled it off since before Tommy B was born. If BiciRace’s odds-man Paolo has a good grasp of his art, Unibet’s 13:1, 20:1 and 28:1 odds for Ballan, Hoste and Flecha, respectively, are absolute bargains. One man not on the betting rolls? Nico Mattan, out because he couldn’t find a neutral-support car to tow him to the line. Cyclingnews tips the World Champ, both for Flanders (additional previews) and much of the rest of April. Despite all the fuss, perennial top-ten George Hincapie thinks Boonen is beatable (so long as you don’t finish with him), but some questions remain as to whether he or anyone else will be able to clear the Koppenburg this year. Velonews has blurbs on the top teams and contenders here, but I think this will continue to be the year of the domestique – my money’s on Stijn Devolder at 28:1.

Hoste Takes DaPanne, Boonen Cheats Aging Process?

30 Mar

Discovery Channel seems like a normal team, most of the time. Even back in the Lance days, they’d go about their business in a nice, ordinary fashion, getting into breaks, taking pulls, occasionally winning, mostly not, and just, you know, fitting in with the other guys. But every so often, like at the Tour, or the last stage of the ’05 Dauphine they do something utterly ridiculous, just to remind you that they can. Today’s final Day of Pain was like that. In the horrifically windy morning session, they cranked their leader Hoste back to within sight of stage winner Stephen De Jongh and his bus-sized teammates, before going 1-2-3 in the afternoon TT, making such heinously good time in the process that 10 riders dropped off the final GC due to the time cut.

But why am I talking about anything but FLANDERS? Pez has a preview with maps and pretty pictures of the important climbs. BiciRace has a look at the contenders, which, of course, begins with Tom Boonen, who has denied in Monty Python-esq fashion, the claims of his team director that he was ever sick (search “strongly denies”). The World Champ also found some time to talk to VeloNews, though I’m confused how anyone born in 1980 could currently be 24. Maybe that’s what Boonen means when he says “I’m still the same guy I was four or five years ago”. Well, he may not have aged, but he certainly has gotten more expensive, with a 20,000 Euro bike (scroll down) to compliment his 9k diamond helmet. Tom’s sprint rival Alessandro Petacchi also has a new rig, but apparently, it will be riding a supporting role (scroll to “Petacchi For Sure”) come the weekend.

Eisel Makes Good at DaPanne, Injury Report

30 Mar

So I guess maybe yesterday’s sprint just wasn’t hard enough for Bernhard Eisel, as he managed to beat 30 other guys in today’s finish (and by good margin, too). But since yesterday, today, and the remaining Day of Pain, are just an appetizer for the Ronde this weekend, the real impact of today’s stage was who got hurt. Other notables looking at a trip to the DL: Magnus Backsteadt, down with a tendon injury, Jan Ullrich, out of Sarthe with an irritated knee, and *gasp* Tom Boonen (scroll down) slightly inconvenienced with a cold?! Tom better not be sick for Tour of Flanders, otherwise no one will know what to do. The race will unfold like a dinky Cat 4 race, with everyone sucking wheels and “waiting for the sprint” because they had planned for months to simply “mark Boonen”. And if that happens, it’s gonna take a lot more than an ANSI/SNELL certified helmet to keep riders safe from the hail of empty Stella Artois bottles this Sunday. Now Rolf Sorensen’s 1997 win, that’s how you do it. Bridge up to the break, drop it, get caught, get into another move, and then finish it off with a sprinter-foiling attack at 1km to go.

Welcome to Flanders Club, Hoste Can Take DaPanne

29 Mar

I apologize for another late post. Fortunately, there’s not too much on the News-o-Meter to cover today. THE FIRST RULE OF TOUR OF FLANDERS CLUB IS: You not talk about Tour of Flanders Club. THE SECOND RULE OF TOUR OF FLANDERS CLUB IS: You do not talk about Tour of Flanders Club. THIRD RULE: No shirt, no shoes. FOURTH RULE: Actually, the real rules are here (scroll to “Five rules”), along with a hidden fifth rule about waving flags in front of riders, which is actually the first rule (they made it last year), probably in response to a flag getting caught in Leif Hoste’s wheel about 230k into the ’04 Roubaix. Speaking of the Discovery rider, he snared his first win of the season at Three Days of Pain, today, smoking Pez’s early Flanders pick (scroll to bottom) Gert Steegmans, and Bernhard Eisel, who’s no slouch himself, in a three-up sprint. Most of the rest of the field rolling in a minute down, and in a race this short, that gap is significant.

But despite the windy, crash-happy fun at DaPanne, Flanders does seem to be the topic du jour this week (despite the fact that jour means “day”); Danilo Hondo is eligible to race, but first he needs a new team (scroll to “Hondo”). M-SR winner Pippo Pozzatto will be on hand to assist his teammate, Tom Boonen, who is apparently the Belgian Superstar of the decade. Despite the fact that the author’s own website has been humbling me with cycling trivia, I’ve got to object to the assertion that Freddy Maertens was the best Belgian rider, or even a dominant rider, in the 1980’s. Yes, his ’81 campaign, with a World Road Title and five Tour stages is nothing to sneeze at, but of his 142 pro wins, only 9 came after 1979. Of course, Mr. Jones does also have the advantage of having been alive back then, and probably knows better than I do who was dominant when; at any rate, he puts his first-hand knowledge to good use here in this Flanders/Wevelgem/Roubaix preview, which features an excellent photo of Greg Le(gour)Mond hiking his bike over one of the Muurs.

Brabantse Pijl Recap, Freire, Landis Out; Petacchi, Boonen In.

28 Mar

Well, if you watched Brabantse Pijl on Sunday morning, you were treated to a pretty good show. Oscar Freire bridged up to one late selection, then instigated a four-man move with a teammate, helped to draw back a 2-man attack with 5k to go, and then won the sprint. But this wasn’t enough for Nick Nuyens, who still thinks Freire shouldn’t have won (search “strongest”). Of course, Nuyens also wondered why CSC’s Karsten Kroon tried to break away with him late in the race; apparently the young Belgian isn’t familiar with the idea that two riders can be faster than one. I can’t blame the guy for being a little bitter, but should count his blessings that he wasn’t one of the poor saps chasing for Davitamon Lotto after it missed pretty much every move of the day. Cycling TV’s coverage of the race was pretty good, but it neglected to mention the burgeoning drug scandal that struck this week.

At Criterium International, Ivan Basso fired the first shots of his 2006 campaign for the Giro/Tour double, and already, the Giro hype is on. Meanwhile, Floyd Landis has now decided he’s not doing the Italian Grand Tour. Details from his official page are sparse, and the reader is referred to”www.velonews.com” for more details, which is just another nail in the coffin for that page’s claim to be the “World’s Best Pro Blog”. Please. The goateed Pennsylvanian’s Cyclingnews diary was more blog than FloydLandis.com. Look at that third-person narration, those unspeakably banal posts, and the complete lack of personal insight. This is a pro blog. Or I guess kinda was a pro blog. But it might be again, sometime in the near future. Anyway, Oscar Freire has also caught the race skipping bug (scroll to “No Flanders”), though Alessandro Petacchi remains intent on mixing it up at the Ronde. Tom Boonen’s also hanging tough and sticking with his decision to race at the upcoming Three Days of Pain (and yes, I know the name doesn’t mean that).

Dekker Leads CI, Boonen Wins E3, Everyone Loves IGF-1

25 Mar

Would you look at the article on Eurosport about today’s first stage of Criterium International? Talk about poor. Igor Astarloa is a “sprinter”? When his two biggest wins, the ’03 Fleche Wallonne and ’03 World Road Title, came at the top of, or immediately after, extremely steep hills? And his “ill-fated stints” with Cofidis and Lampre, that each happened in the same season? A better assesment of this situation might be to say that his teammates were on drugs, and he got caught up in the fallout. And calling Floyd Landis and Bobby Julich “Texans”? Un-fµ¢&ing-believable. Yeah, I’ve been known to botch a nationality from time to time (Cancellara, Parra, etc.), but I’ve never called a Sicilian a Tuscan or a Norman a Breton. And you know what else? I don’t get paid to write about cycling; the author of this article does. Some truly weak sauce indeed from Eurosport’s French correspondent. Anyway, as far as the racing went, some aggressive riding left Erik Dekker to spank Ivan Basso in a two-up sprint, and a select group of 9 in contention for the win.

In Italy, Coppi & Bartali wrapped up with some 22-year old beating Paolo Bettini in a sprint, while Damiano Cunego took the overall. In Belgium, Tom Boonen and Alessandro Ballan jumped away from the field with 40k to go, before the World Champ opened a 100m gap in the last 150m to take the win. But the real news today was the story broken (scroll down) by Belgian paper HNB on IGF-1, the alleged new dope rage of the peloton. Though Jon Vaughters holds the drug’s effectiveness in decidedly low esteem (search “Balls”), apparently it’s readily available, undetectable, and makes you awesome at biking. Effects include increased muscle mass, reduced body fat, faster recovery and pleasant, spring-fresh aroma. Some less desirable effects are the noticable enlarging of hands, feet and forehead, all sorts of f-ed up hormonal imbalances, and, oh yeah, heart attacks. Use at your own risk.

Raids, Slow News, Flanders is Waiting

25 Mar

Yeah, so doping raids today in Belgium, yadda, yadda. Cops found some dope, some riders have been suspended, etc. I’m gonna wait until the smoke clears. These Belgian doping things always go on forever and involve quarter-million Euro fines and symbolic post-career suspensions. Anyway, ProCycling is now back on line but is kinda low on up-to-date news at the moment. In fact, it’s just kind of a slow day, outside those raids; Vino won predictably at Castilla y Leon; Danilo Napolitano took another notable win, but the GC at Coppi & Bartali remained largely unchanged. I guess the sweetest “news” I saw today was this feature on the legendary Battaglin Pirana, quite possibly the ugliest bike in the history of the sport. Just be sure to stop reading before the story before it turns into an ad. Oh, and I guess the sue-and-deny method of responding to doping charges, pioneered by Lance Armstrong, is catching on.

So, E3 this weekend, the Ronde the next. Are you ready? BiciRace is, with their extremely-ahead-of-schedule preview. I especially like the course profile; looks like the maniacal Excitebike courses I used to churn out as an eight-year-old. I’m excited to watch E3 tomorrow at Cycling.TV, especially ’cause it’s free. They’ll also be covering Gent-Wevelgem and Amstel, but I can’t really tell if it’s free or not; Velogal seems similarly confused. In the event that it isn’t free, I may drop the cash for Cycling.TV Premium since it costs less than upgrading to a cable package with OLN. Anyway, World Champ Tommy Boonen is all set for the rest of the classics; see this $6,000 bike? Well, apparently it’s not stiff enough (scroll to “Stronger bike”), so not stiff enough, in fact, that Boonen’s chain was skipping (search “11”), when he really wailed on it. Want a sprint that nasty? This article might be able to help you out. Want more big-guy themed advice? Magnus Backstedt is all to happy to provide. And before you head out to Flanders this April, be sure stock up on your antibiotics (thanks to Bob for the link).

Vlaanderen Plot Thickens; Cunego, Vino' Take Leads.

23 Mar

Remember yesterday’s post, when I was critical of the race management at Dwars door Vlaanderen? Well, get this: the dude driving the Shimano neutral support car and blocking the chase this Saturday was the same freakin’ guy who pulled a similar stunt at last year’s Gent-Wevelgem! What the fµ¢& is he still doing driving neutral support vehicles? I’m no fan of the UCI, and it sure looks bad for them to have this guy still driving in their races (riders who cheat to win races get a two-year ban; drivers who cheat get a 200 Swiss Francs fine), but the people who really come out of this looking like total bunch of dickheads are the folks at Shimano. They fired this clown last year (search “Shimano”), to erase any “doubts about the neutrality of [their] vehicles” and now he’s right back behind the wheel. I’ve emailed the Big S asking for an explanation; who wants to bet I never hear back?

Moving on to somewhat less fishy results, Damiano Cunego scored a nice win at Coppi & Bartali today, snaring the overall lead by two seconds in the process. Cunego, seemingly the only Italian rider not in Belgium this month (add Luca Paolini to the Northbound list), won the sprint with ease and looks good for the Grand Tours. Another Tour contender, Alexandre Vinokourov has apparently wrapped up the win at Castilla y Leon, without really doing all that much. Though the Kazakh remains focused on July, it seems he can’t resist the allure of defending his LBL title. In the Tour of Normandy, TIAA-CREF finally relinquished the lead, after a tough two-stage defense yesterday, that included a late crash. And finally, for those of you who don’t already know it by heart, here is The Tyler Hamilton Story (from 1990-something to now) in two revealing installments; hopefully, the UCI will not suspended the interviewer for participating in an unsanctioned event with a currently banned rider.

Strange Happenings in Vlaanderen, Other Racing, Injuries.

22 Mar

Remember last year’s Gent-Wevelgem, when a neutral service vehicle inexplicably led Belgian Nico Mattan up to foreigner Juan Antonio Flecha in the final K? Well, at today’s Dwars door Vlaanderen relative unknown Frederik Veuchelen, another Belgian from a Belgian team and sole survivor of an earlier four-man break, held on to take the win ahead of a hard charging field. But he may have had some help, as, entering the final k with roughly 15 seconds’ lead, the race commissar neglected to pull a fleet of support vehicles out of the gap. Thus the peloton behind was sprinting into a wall of bumpers and exhaust pipes, and Ag2r’s Lloyd Mondory almost came to grief shooting the gap between a follow car and a support moto after crossing the line. It probably didn’t affect the overall win, but with the peloton snapping so closely at the breakaway’s heels, it just seems a bit suspicious, no?

At very least, it shook up the battle for the podium. Tom Boonen certainly seemed to slow up a bit as he came into the line, but the World Champ may have just been a little cooked; he rode aggressively all day, finding himself driving a group of 15 (with 4 temmates), then a two-man escape with teammate Kevin Van Impe, and finally a powerful move over the race’s last climb inside of five k to go. But for all of Quick.Step, Disco and Davitamon-Lotto’s tactical posturing behind, the final charge to the line came too late, and Continental Squad Chocolade Jacques’s man in the break had just enough to hold out, and took the day. I watched it live on Cycling.TV, and highlights are most likely up there now.

Moving on to races I didn’t see, Coppi y Bartali got its third leader in as many stages; though this guy won Stage 1a, somehow this other guy got the lead, though by the afternoon it was all moot, as CSC won the TTT, though the resulting advantage for Dave Zabriskie was in turn erased by a solo move from Vincenzo Nibali in today’s stage. At Castilla y Leon, another solo move succeeded, this time from within the final few km. At Tour of Normandy, TIAA-CREF succeeded in protecting its first European stage race lead, at least for the first half of today’s racing.

Looking forward to this weekend’s racing, Fabian Cancellara has added his name (scroll down) to the list of Italians (well, actually, he’s Swiss – but he seems Italian) targeting the classics this year. You can catch Fab live in the E3 Prijs this Saturday at 9am EST on Cycling.TV. One rider certain not to be on hand? T-Mobile’s Andreas Kloden, who needs his collarbone surgically repaired following a crash. Also likely on the wounded list is ’04 Roubaix winner Magnus Backstedt, whose knee forced an early exit from last weekend’s Milan-San Remo.