Archive | August, 2006

Why I Haven't Been Posting

29 Aug

I realize I haven’t posted in a week, despite the fact that there’s been many things to complain about. I almost got up to tell Hincapie to stop whining about the ENECO Tour finish (or for that matter, to chew out Cyclingnews for calling the race’s pancake parcours “exciting”) but there’s so much other crap that deflates the urge.

For example, Bjarne Riis saying Ivan Basso ruined his image. Sit on it and spin, you bald-faced (and headed) hypocrite. How many sources have your Gewiss blood levels appeared in? And what about this guy? I seem to remember him shaking your hand as he came to the line on Stage 16 of the ’03 Tour. As far as I can tell, the only reason you still have any image worth protecting is because the banner ads of your ubiquitous North American sponsors keep the throats of English-language cycling pages so crammed full of advertizing dollars they can’t find a spare breath to speak against it.

Then, of course, I read something like that over, and realize that ranting conspiracy theorists haven’t brought down the Bilderbergers or even the Bush administration, and I chill a bit, try to rewrite it so it’s less seething, but I just lose interest and end up going for a bike ride instead. And so it goes pretty much every day; I get wound up about something so blindingly obvious, webpages rite about it, sound like a lunatic, attempt to tone it down, then lose interest.

But if Erik Zabel can still win a Grand Tour stage, I suppose I can still post. I mean, the guy had some help from an oddly-distracted Robbie McEwen, and a just coming on Thor Hushovd, but come on, Zabel has never been big on short races; a win after only 142k at his age is impressive. Yesterday was also a happy return, both of an on-point Danilo DiLuca and of a top non-sprinter gunning hard for the arc en ciel; the failure of big names to pursue the World Title recently is one of the major reasons why it seems to be cursed. The only exception to this seems to be Paolo Bettini, for whom the Rainbow Jersey remains the great unfulfilled career objective.

So I guess it’s been a decent Vuelta so far. But I wouldn’t put to much stock in Wednesday’s alleged GC shake out. Menchov and Pereiro may be finished for GC, but the scant minute between the Top 12 names is entirely negligable. And if you found the sudden appearance of Janez Brajkovic remarkable, you apparently didn’t watch the Tour de Georgia. He had a good day on Wed, but I’m anticipating he’ll fall back once the real GC men start playing their cards.

Still Waiting on Puerto Evidence, ENECO Drags On

21 Aug

Lost: One large, black, three-ring binder, labeled ‘Operacion Puerto dossier’. Was to be passed to teams, UCI, WADA, etc. this week, but ran into Juan Antonio Samaranch on the Metro & got caught up in
Franco regime nostalgia. Must have accidentally left on seat. If found, please return to Guardia Civil HQ; have been promising evidence since May, fans, media, cyclists, cyclists’ lawyers, etc. beginning to suspect vaporware.” So that, or something like it, is the only explanation I can find for this Puerto delay. All over Europe, the high hopes of crushing this dope ring are falling – Swiss officials have even reopened the Camenzind case, possibly because Jan Ullrich may prove too big a fish to fry on such currently paltry evidence. Renewed allegations are being made against Camenzind’s former Phonak mate Tyler Hamilton (who just won Mt. Washington again). Phonak officials are slapping each other secret high-fives at the news.

While Magnus Backsteadt eventually gets around to blaming the media for it all, I’ve long held Dick Pound, or more precisely, his attitude, to blame. And it seems I have the support of relentless Lance-slobberer and declarative sentence enthusiast Sally Jenkins; I imagine this is how a political movement feels when it receives the open support of the KKK. I suppose I should be thankful she cares – many writers muddy any commentary in their wandering-yet-informative pieces into oblivion. But the racing? That’s what’s important, right? Ha. With events as dull as the ENECO tour (Petacchi, you can’t get back soon enough; Boonen can’t even lose when he’s trying to), it’s just hard to do. A week of flat stages makes a nice appetizer to Grand Tour, but it’s a piss-poor entree; and no, a 16k TT does not make it any more palatable. At least throw in a sweet crash every now and then, to keep it exciting.

Some Results, Complete and Utter Failure of Process

17 Aug

Ah, the ENECO Tour. Often cited, in comparison to Paris-Nice, as why the UCI cannot possibly survive without the ASO. And certainly, last year’s race had a few issues. But it’s so far so good, with two stages down. The prologue was Michael Schumacher, one of that mob of Teutonic TT technicians (Lang, Pollack, Rich, etc) that seem bounce endlessly between Gerolsteiner and T-Mobile. But, as so often is the case (outside the TdF), what Tommy wants, Tommy gets. Elsewhere in Europe, Matthias Russ took a classy first win over Andreas Kloden at the Rothous Regio-Tour International (?), while at Tre Valli, Stephano Garzelli redeemed himself somewhat for getting pwned at San Sebastian. And apparently, this race is also important (second billed at Cyclingnews), but damn if I’ve read a word of text on it.

Yes, still, for some reason, everyone wants to talk about doping. Floyd Landis’ father-in-law kept the ball rolling by killing himself (no, really; he did), and Bob Mionski offers tips on what to do in case the Nazi Frogmen get to you, too. More unsubstantiated “evidence” from Operation Puerto leaked out today, this time from the German media sewage lines. Exhibit A: A mystery fax, claiming to have the names of Basso, “Ulrich” [sic] and others, apparently sent from Dr. Fuentes to some Columbian guy who hasn’t been mentioned yet in connection with this case. Like the other Puerto evidence, it is apparently impossible to photograph, copy, or reproduce in any way. Exhibit B: German police raid a doping doctor; well, actually, just a suspect doctor. And the raiders made off with lots of “evidence”; that’s nice. It would be a shame if people were informed what it was, first.

The good news is, the AIGCP, much like the European press, doesn’t really give a two sh!ts about evidence. The ProTour owners group banded together today to unanimously scapegoat Teams Phonak and Astana, the latter despite the fact that it’s riders have a nasty habit of not being guilty. Active Bay, the Manolo Saiz-run company that still owns Astana’s license, pointed out their continued innocence, and threatened lawsuits in response. Meanwhile, the UCI (which has been at this for over a month, mind you) continues to “work on expanding” the Puerto dossier. Does its brave leader Pat McQuaid have anything to explain the delay, or calm the seething masses? Naw, he just says we “have to come to grips” with it. News flash, fat man: I, like most cycling fans, came to grips with the drugs a long time ago. So fire up the damn bus, or I’m getting off and taking the subway.

Florencio Takes San Sebastian, You'll Never Guess What Dick Pound Thinks

15 Aug

Lots of cycling news out there to report, but I’ve been too busy slacking. I’ll start with the Classica San Sebastian, which was won by complete unknown Xavier Florencio. The Bouygues Telecom rider got the drop on the field by starting the group sprint from way out. I realize the underdog winner is a good story, but precious little attempt has been made to explain how this parcours ended in a 50+ man group gallop. Slow pace? Lackadaisical racing? C’mon – with all the journos out there getting paid to watch this event, can’t anyone just fabricate a reason for me? As far as I can tell, it’s never come down to a group of more than 5 or so. I’m hoping this year’s result won’t panic the organizers into adding another hill at the end, as happened at Amstel after Erik Zabel’s win; a flat finish to hilly classics is almost always exciting.

Anyway, now I gotta talk more about doping. Would this even be a cycling blog if I didn’t mention the Landis case? The lastest fallout is Phonak’s demise, but we all saw that coming. Bob Roll contributes his thoughts, while Lance Armstrong, who has thus far supported latest positive lieutenant, points out a few of Landis’ tactical errors. The Texan, harried throughout his career by largely unsubstantiated rumors of drug use, has proven a master at handling the media; Dick Pound, Ahab to the Texan’s White Whale, remains as fat-fingered with it as a teenage boy with a bra clasp. The WADA-chief’s latest claptrap eschews due process, demands wildly unreasonable powers for WADA officials, and displays such extremism and bull-in-china-shop ethics that no sane-minded person could ever take it seriously; rebutting directly would only lend it a legitimacy it most certainly does not deserve.

There's No News but Dope News

11 Aug

Yes, yes…it’s been a long week of me not posting. Partially because I’ve been busy, and partially because there really hasn’t been that much to report on. Jens Voigt won the Tour of Germany, capping off a monster August for Bjarne Riis and his boys at CSC. Meanwhile, some have cited Iban Mayo’s recent win at the Tour of Burgos as a sign of resurgence, but as the start list shows, Burgos wasn’t exactly an A-List event. On my side of the pond, Saul Raisin returned to the roads for the first time since his crash, and provided proof that the balance is back. Lance Armstrong got in touch with his inner fratboy, and Erik Dekker, somewhat disappointly, DNF’d his way into retirement. But other than that, nothing of note happend.

Well, ok; you got me. There’s still that whole Landis thing. And, man, Floyd, this aggressive defence is not making you look innocent. Every time I turn around, you’re belching out a new excuse. Is it any wonder everyone, from Maxim to whoever it was that made this, is taking a shot at you? At least your case has gotten all sorts of important people to talk about possible soltuons, and highlighted the idiocy of trying to convict riders without a positive test. Patrick Lefevre thinks the new solution is to sue dopers who defend themselves legally, turning their own apparently vile use of “the American system” against them. Good thinking, Pat, because going by your team’s utterly unremarkable performance at this year’s TdF, I’d have to say trial by combat has already dismissed your claim.

Voigt Rides Strong in Germany, Cancellara Takes Denmark

7 Aug

Look at this headline: “leaves Levi for dead”? Granted, Jens Voigt’s performance in the last few k of today’s Tour of Germany, in which he hung tough with the leaders up an HC climb, fell off a bit toward the summit, and then battled back to win the stage with a long, agonizing sprint, was a cycling moment to make you forget about stuff like this this, but “left for dead”? C’mon, the CSC Rider only won stage by 2 seconds, and for all the tactical significance that gap has, with just a flat TT remaining, “left for dead” seems a tad bit effusive.

I suppose I can’t claim to be any better, though. My last post cites Zabel and O’Grady as being on retirment’s door; Stuey has since finished second overall to teammate Fabian Cancellara at the Tour of Denmark (after a brief stint in the lead), while Erik Zabel, despite dropping stages to a 19-year-old and a hapless veteran, is simply dominating the Deutchland Tour’s points classification (he’s got 95 to Voigt’s 63; Ciolek, the next real sprinter, has a mere 39). But at least I don’t need to make the (largely unserious) claim that our Commander in Cheif might be doping to draw readers to my page.

Floyd Lawyers Up, Zabel and O'Grady Blame it on the Rain

3 Aug

Floyd, man, why you gotta let your lawyer make you look bad? Your boy is talking about how he’s troubled the UCI has “spoken out” about your case? They kept your identity secret until your team broke the news. And then he sounds off about how the B sample “has not been tested? Landis, please; it was your lame ass that held out on having it tested in the first place. How much are you paying this hack, anyway? Look at his previous client list: Tyler Hamilton? Tim Mongomery?? Is that really the future you want? The only doper I can think of who’s still winning races was one of the few to guys to sack up and admit it right away. I feel like that’s probably the best way to go about it; like the lastest ex-pro tell-all, I think the path to less doping starts with the changing the riders, not changing the races.

Despite the furor, the racing goes on, and yesterday, two aging sprinters got spanked. During another rainy day at the Tour of Germany, previously unknown Astana rider Assan Bazayev took a group sprint over Lampre’s Danilo Napolitano and creaky old Erik Zabel of Team Milram. During an even rainer day at the Tour of Denmark (otherwise known by the god-awful moniker “Post Danmark Rundt”), Stuart O’Grady worked his way into a three-man move with two guys (Rene Crashelbacher of Gerolsteiner and the stage winner, Panaria’s Aitor Galdos Alanso) that turned out to be faster than he. Though O’Grady and Zabel put on a roaring battle for Green back at the ’01 TdF, a few more days like yesterday might make it time to go – if they hang around too long past their primes, they’ll risk ending up like Greg Lemond.

Skies Darken over Landis, Tour of Germany.

1 Aug

Ok, Eurosport, you just made my sh!t list. First, you say the Landis results will be in by Monday; then you give me the “oh, it hasn’t be tested yet, but it will be soon, and now we’ll know by Saturday? Weak sauce, man. Though I suppose I should pass on a little blame to Landis as well; I know you don’t have much faith in a B sample exoneration, but jeez, if you’re innocent, why not have it tested right away? You weren’t hoping to hold results off until after the lab’s vacation, were you? At any rate, the NY Times has now confirmed the reports of phoney-baloney testosterone in your pee; FreeFloydLandis may not have given up hope, but I am definitely leaning that way.

Fortunately for me, there is once again the distraction of racing. Or at least, there would have been if Cycling.TV had a less arcane password retrieval system. As it stands, I managed to log in immediately after the race had ended. Vlad Gussev won it for Disco, with locals Linus Gerdemann (TMO) and Sebastian Lang (GER) finishing up the podium. Judging by the recap footage, weather swung between dreary to miserable, with wind and rain enough to keep a lot of the GC guys (Leipheimer, Sinkewitz) from throwing down. Beyond the always compelling crash footage, the only other item of interest was that Deutchland Tour organizers use the 20th Fox Theme song at jersey presentations; I wonder if they had to pay royalties on that?