Archive | August, 2007

CRAP: The New Cycling Authority

8 Aug

After the omnipresent specter of doping, cycling’s biggest problem is an obvious shortage of Oligarchical Oversight Organizations Whose Names Readily Form Acronyms. While existing OOOWNRFAs such as the UCI, ASO and WADA, control a few important aspects of professional cycling, the sport still lacks a unified body with ultimate authority over who can race and who cannot. Thus, I am unilaterally declaring myself the Peloton Access Restriction Committee, referred to with more brevity by its French acronym, the CRAP.

The findings of the innaugural congress of the CRAP are as follows:

Andreas Klöden may not race in an Astana kit without the rest of his team. It is the decision of this committee that he instead must choose whether the correct Anglicization of his name is with an “o” (no umlaut) or an “oe”, and use the resulting moniker as his team name.

Michael Rasmussen may continue to race, but only on pancake flat courses guaranteed to end in a group sprint, or multi-sport events involving some form of competitive eating. At international events and all non-EU border crossings (Mexico, for example) Rasmussen’s shoes must also be smuggled through customs in boxes of artificial hemoglobin.

Danilo DiLuca is henceforth required to race continuously until Alessandro Petacchi suffers a mid-race asthma attack that actually requires the use of a rescue inhaler, or until the Italian Justice System begins to make sense.

Team Relax-Gam may only race the 2007 Vuelta if all their Operation Puerto suspects participate in the event, and agree to donate a pint of blood before every mountain and time trial stage.

Floyd Landis may not compete in the Leadville 100 unless he uses his “Praying Landis” time trial position. Landis may only leave the aerobars if Lance Armstrong uses the Kids on Bikes keynote address he’s attending instead of Leadville to confess to doping.

The top two finishers in this year’s Tour de France are hereby suspended from racing until they admit that it is not only possible, but indeed likely, that someone ahead of them at the Tour was cheating. Similarly, until Dario Cioni admits that at least two days of the ’07 Tour totally sucked, he shall be considered mentally unfit to start.

Patrick Sinkewitz, Mattias Kessler, Jan Ullrich, Tyler Hamilton, Alexandre Vinokourov, Cristian Moreni, Raimondas Rumsas, Dario Frigo, Roberto Heras and Danilo Hondo may all return to ProTour racing at any time, but only as stokers on tandems piloted by Frank Vandenbroucke.

Sebastian, Denmark, Millar

6 Aug

So while I took another weekend off, another exciting Clasica San Sebastian came to a close. This year’s winner? Leonardo Bertagnolli, who, as his Wikipedia page so starkly suggests, isn’t exactly the biggest name in the sport. True, his win completed a nice comeback story, but it’s still another second-tier winner at what should be highly-sought-after race. Maybe it’s the unique nature of the parcours or its proximity to the Tour de France, but for some reason, this race hasn’t had a big name winner since Bettini in 2003.

Maybe part of San Sebastian’s problem is that a lot of non-Spanish teams don’t take it so seriously. As of last week, CSC has spent four consecutive years dominating the relatively unimportant and essentially concurrent Tour of Denmark. Don’t they realize that San Sebastian is a ProTour event and thus supremely important over all other races? That’s why the ProTour never schedules overlapping races…oh, wait

And, I guess since it would feel really weird to write a post without talking about doping, some dude I’ve never heard of tested positive for EPO at the PanAm games. I’m always more bummed by the little guys who come up positive, because it makes me feel like everyone’s using. Though I guess in the PanAm’s small pond, this guy was a contender. Ah well. For the clean riders out there, David Millar’s shown that even without drugs, you can still have your national colors mauled by a cycling kit.

San Sebastian Approaches

3 Aug

The good news is, come the weekend, you can stop pretending to care who wins the Tour of Denmark stage each day. Why? Because San Sebastian is coming up. You know, the one-day race with a lot of climbing and the funny hat? If you still don’t know what I’m talking about, it might be because last year’s winner was something of a fluke. Hopefully, that’ll prompt this year’s favorites to ride a bit more aggressively, in hopes of avoiding another 50-man sprint.

One team definitely not joining the finish group, no matter how large it is this year, is Astana, still on self-imposed suspension for all those dope offenses. Too bad, too, as Kashechkin was the first loser at last year’s San Seb. Despite – or perhaps because of – this self-imposed suspension, the race organizers’ Cybill has apparently spoken in the team’s favor, and Unipublic confirmed they would still extend the squad a Vuelta invite. However, who the team will be riding for, or even what kind of bike they’ll be on still remain very much up in the air.

Regardless of who else shows up, Tommy D will be back in action for the big Spanish races (The Vuelta and San Sebastian – have you forgotten about this weekend already?), following a protracted battle with Beaver Fever. Danielson’s twice been Top 10 in the Vuelta GC, and could be a favorite for the overall if Alejandro Valverde suffers a meltdown similar to last month’s. Of course, Discovery might also find themselves unceremoniously dumped from the ProTour if Alberto Contador doesn’t stop simply brushing aside allegations against him, while expressing effusive sympathy for the plight of certain non-persons. Just ask Danilo DiLuca – 2007 is not the year to mess with Big Brother.

Racing, Tabloids, Drugs, Tabloids, Beef

2 Aug

So I’m going to start the day in Denmark, where Matti Breschel became the first Dane to win a stage at the Tour of Denmark in nearly half a decade. No word yet on whether to chalk that winless streak up to bad luck, or an active anti-Danish campaign by embittered Rasmussen teammates.

Speaking of the Chicken who would be king, apparently a hacker broke into his email account, and attempted to sell its contents to a Danish tabloid. The unwritten code of hacking celebrities, however, dictates that all stolen data be openly released, so I in no way feel bad about the hacker’s eventual arrest. At any rate, hacking onto Rasmussen’s eBay account and selling hemapure and Rabobank jerseys would have been a much funnier prank.

Moving on to Spain, we find that a former Vuelta winner has tested positive. Wait – isn’t that old news? Maybe it was a previous winner – no, still no surprise. So who was it? Aitor Gonzalez? But isn’t he already suspended? Oh, wait, this was a real-life drug test – man, DUI and cocaine! Looks like someone’s a bigger LiLo fan than you might think. Still, I don’t think cyclists will be switching from their old standards anytime soon (although blow was once a six-day racer’s favorite). To be completely honest, if it weren’t for the fate of Marco Pantani, I’d almost prefer to see cyclists on more mainstream drugs; I doubt Promises has much experience with the psychological addiction that must form to tracing with your hematocrit up around 54.

Regardless of what riders ingest, though, Stuttgart will be watching – a total of 350 controls will be administered for the one-day World Championship event, which usually sees less than 50 finishers. For those scoring at home, the World Champs are one of only a handful of races run and owned completely by the UCI, which would seem to dent the ASO’s theory that the UCI “never wanted clean cycling”. Maybe that’s why the two bodies are reportedly squashing the beef.

Timing and Shifting

1 Aug

So I don’t know who to blame. Sackless editors? Lazy writers? Why is it only after the Tour de France, when no one else is paying attention, that the “mainstream sports are dirty too” and “at least cycling tries to be clean” stories come out? Maybe I’m just a cynic, but it seems like the timing was designed to cause as little stir as possible. Still, I suppose that’s preferable to the aggressively antagonistic timing of anti-doping expert Werner Franke, who seems to have waited until after the Tour had declared a winner to go through the documents he stole and “prove” that person was doping. At least the UCI’s new doping Czar is getting such results that soon, the services of Franke will only be useful to the accused.

Continuing on the “things couldn’t get any worse” theme, Barloworld’s Ryan Cox has died at the age of 28. The loss of Cox, a talented, developing rider who will never get to fulfill his ostensibly immense potential, will certainly be a blow to a Barloworld squad riding high after an excellent TdF performance. But, if there’s any silver lining to be taken away from the former Langkawi Tour winner’s death, it’s that he died of complications from an arterial surgery, rather than the mysterious nocturnal heart attacks thought to be a side-effect of EPO abuse.

But it’s not all bad news, as Team Slipsteam, Jon Vaughters’ “as-dope-free-as-possible” squad, has gathered enough money to sign David Millar, Dave Zabriskie and Christian VandeVelde, plus a former Paris-Roubaix winner to be named later. These big signings will encourage other top-tier riders to give the team a shot, which should in turn catch the eye of the oligarchs at ASO, and hopefully, it won’t take the the Superweek Solution to get the squad into the TdF in the next two years. If they do get the bid, Slipstream won’t be the only new arrival: Campy’s electronic shifting gruppo is allegedly almost ready for prime time (although this year was far from its first TdF experience).