Archive | January, 2007

Slew of Seconds at 'Cross Worlds, Quick-Step Leads at Qatar

29 Jan

Well wouldja look at that? Three American silver medals at the Cyclocross World Championsips – only the U23 Men (of course, the squad I actually know people on) failed to podium, or, for that matter, to even play a major role.

While I’m as pumped as the next Yank about these finishes, let’s just keep in mind that both Elite American medallists received a serious support ride from domestique Lady Luck. Sven Nys and Bert Wellens – running 1 and 2 on the UCI points list – neutralized each other two laps in. And on the women’s side, World Cup leader Hanka Kupfernagel dominated early but suffered from a mechanical, letting the race fall to pieces.

While Compton’s back-row start would seem to negate any benefit she gained from the misfortune of her competitors, her remarkable run through the field makes me wonder all the more what one of the best ‘cross racers in the world is doing not racing UCI ‘cross races 90%, before showing up at big events to decimate the field. I have more faith in the integrity of pro athletes than most, but it isn’t hard to construct a much darker explanation than the one she provides.

Meanwhile, the UCI displayed uncharacteristic deftness in segueing into the road season, starting the Tour of Qatar on the same day as ‘cross worlds. Quick.Step got a much-needed morale boost, winning the relatively meaningless 6k Team Time Trial in Stage 1. Plan was to place Davide Vigano in the leader’s jersey, but he was perhaps a bit behind in his preparation, dropping off the pace in the final kilo, leaving early-season superstar Steven DeJongh to take yellow.

The Lyin' of Flanders

24 Jan

Today, Johan Museeuw did more damage to sport of cycling than any rider since the incorrigible Richard Virenque. At a press conference, the so-called “Lion of Flanders” gave tacit credence to the doping charges that haunted much of his career by saying, with resounding ambiguity, “I was not 100% honest”.

The phrase “not 100% honest” implies that, though a statement may be largely misleading, there is some non-zero percentage of truth to it. When Le Monde says Oscar Pereiro failed two drug tests, that’s not 100% honest. When Bill Clinton says “I did not have sexual relations with that woman”, that’s not 100% honest.

But when a rider, at an event designed to generate income from his image, says “I have nothing to hide, because I have done nothing wrong. Absolutely nothing”, that’s not “less than honest” – it’s simply NOT honest. It’s a statement devoid of both truth and fact; something those of us without steroid-shrunken testicles might have the sack to call a “lie”.

Now, I’m no anti-dope crusader, and I’ll readily admit that many other riders, even in the face of overwhelming evidence (Tyler Hamilton), have refused to come clean. But for me, that’s not as much of an issue; as Marco Pantani so tragically proved, denial of that magnitude would be better served by a psychiatrist than a suspension.

But riders like Museeuw and his erstwhile teammate, who get caught, deny everything, and then, even with the cold blade of legal action tight against their throat, issue mealy-mouthed half-admissions, do far more damage than the crackpot “vanishing twin” crowd ever will. Just like the banning of riders on rumor, a pseudo-confession erodes public confidence in the sport’s ability to deal with doping fairly.

Museeuw only futhers his worminess in trying to protect his legacy. He readily insists that his clean record at drug controls proves that any doping he may have done – remember, he hasn’t directly admitted any yet – was just an attempt to “end [an otherwise clean] career in style”. And it’s true; the balding flamand‘s record at the piss tent is as clean as David Millar’s.

Museeuw might find his legacy better served if, instead of reminding us how fallable drug tests are, he offered some insight into how riders continue to beat them. After all, the alleged hardman says he’s eager to “keep fighting for a clean sport”; I think right about now would be the perfect time to start.

As Velochimp points out, it should come as no surprise to anyone that Johan Museeuw, or any cyclist whose career struck a purple patch in the 1990s, was on drugs. But to see Museeuw, who has continued to live off the sport for the past three years (depsite being banned):

  1. refuse to detail his doping practices
  2. fail to admit they even took place
  3. then ask the media to respect his privacy
  4. before finally blaming them for smearing cycling

is a shock to stop the heart.

I figured notching eleven wins in the classics might require some modicum of toughness and gut. But, if the courage he showed at today’s press conference is any indication, turns out all the Lyin’ Lion needed was a little Aransep.

Pound, McQuaid Flaunt Job Security; Valverde Rumors.

10 Jan

Things are booming in the idiot business, and these days, there’s no shortage of work. Dick Pound, a sort of Google among the intellectually lacking, has been on a media blitz recently. Why the Canadian wants to parade his reckless impartiality and complete lack of technical knowledge to the general populace so close to the conclusion of the Floyd Landis case is beyond me; that having been said, I don’t really know much about being an idiot, either.

Not to be outdone, UCI president Pat McQuaid wandered over to the Netherlands and pinched off these delightful loaves:

“There is a clash going on at the moment between two cultures, the Anglo-Saxon and what I might call the mafia Western European culture…The Western European Culture is a culture that has to some extent – I won’t say condones doping and cheating practices – but because of their culture in life, because of the way they deal with everything else in life they accept certain practices…”

“The Anglo-Saxon [approach], which would be here [the Netherlands], it would be Germany, the United Kingdom, Denmark – is the complete opposite…it is very important that at the end of the day the Anglo-Saxon approach wins out – because if it doesn’t, then the sport is doomed.”

McQuaid went on to add that at least cycling wasn’t forced suffer many athletes from the “inferior races”, who, being so like animals, would force the more perfectly-evolved “Anglo” nation riders to dope.*

While reaction from this side of the pond has been sharp, direct and unanimous, the fact that McQuaid hasn’t been unceremoniously sacked essentially proves the UCI condones racism. Which, I suppose, shouldn’t come as a surprise, since Dick Pound’s continued employment has demonstrated time and time again that the cabal of tottering crackers in charge of international sport hates justice as well.

As if you needed more evidence of this, allegations implicating Alejandro Valverde in Operacion Puerto are just now surfacing after six months of investigations. I’m told the Puerto portfolio has over 500 documents, but c’mon – I’ve seen three year olds read faster than that. The timing of the announcement also raises eyebrows, as it follows rumors that Valverde may be switching from a “mafia” team, Spain’s Caisse D’Epargne, to T-Mobile, of “Anglo” Germany. At this point, the only level-headed man left in Europe seems to be Erik Zabel. Of course, with this hair-cut, how could he not be?

 

*(update 9 Feb 2012) This paragraph is a sarcastic, fictional continuation McQuaid’s reasoning, intended to highlight its prejudice and absurdity, and contains no actual quotes from the UCI President. The blockquote text above, however, is preserved verbatim from the now-defunct source article at Eurosport.

Quote of the Month – Mayo's a Stranger to Yellow

3 Jan

Some might say it’s a tad early yet to be declaring a given soundbite the Quote of the Month. But the way I’ve been posting recently, this may be the only quote I take a moment to rip on in January. So savor it. Trust me, it’s tasty.

“Mayo admitted he would find it strange to be ‘wearing from yellow now on after so many years in orange’…”

Harried syntax aside (“from yellow now on”?), I find it most appropriate that Iban Mayo dubs that glorious tint so unfamiliar. After all, his closest brush with the most famous of all yellow shirts came in 2003, on a day when its major contenders were all either suffering from stomach flu, riding with the rear brake on, preparing to crash out, or recovering from a broken collarbone. Though Mayo no doubt got a fistful of the maillot jaune during his tumble on Stage 15, never once did he don the fabled fleece.

There was the Basque’s record-setting run up the Ventoux at the ’04 Dauphine, but though that competition awards its race leader a yellow shirt as well, Mayo wasn’t wearing it during his GC-clinching TT. But based on his performances in that June event, while allegedly targeting the month-off Tour, Saunier Duval may do well to deceive the Basque that he’s aiming for Dauphine Libere in June of ’07, to have him at peak form for the Giro in May. Perhaps they have already taken this into account; if so, keep an eye peeled for a slender man in yellow on the cobbles of Paris-Roubaix.

(also, comments have been turned on again. they had been down for months due to a technical error.)