Giro d’Italia to start in the USA

From Cycling Weekly (read the full article here):

The Giro d’Italia will announce tomorrow its plans to start the 2012 edition in the USA, becoming the first Grand Tour to start outside of Europe, according to Italy’s Il Sole 24 Ore.

I’m not sure how I feel about this. On the one hand, anything that increases American interest in cycling is a good thing. On the other hand, it’s just stupid. Seriously, the logistics are nightmarish: An 8 hour flight from DC to Milan, a 6 hour time difference… and don’t even get me started on the insane amount of jet fuel and other resources wasted by transporting the equivalent of small city across the Atlantic Ocean, twice, for no good reason.

Granted, the sport of cycling can use the exposure (particularly here in the US), but there has to be a more sensible means to that end.

I was remiss…

…in mentioning the Tour of California and not saying:
“John Jacob Levi Leipheimer Schmidt”.
I never get tired of that.
Go Levi! Go!

Postscript: Apparently Levi’s website (linked above) hasn’t been updated since November 2008. Hell the first link on the “Links” page is to “Levi’s new team, Discovery Channel”. Also, e-mails to the webmaster bounce, so don’t bother. You would think Levi could afford to keep that shit up to date, but I guess the economy’s bad for everyone.

Lance’s TT Bike

Hard to unload a famous, one-of-a-kind, stolen bike that looks like this, apparently:




According to his Twitter, Lance will be riding the bike that was stolen Sunday and then recovered yesterday in tomorrow’s Tour of California TT. I’m sure the mechanics (and possibly Lance himself) went over it with a fine toothed comb, but still… somehow it just makes me uneasy.

Bombshell at Landis’ Trial

Over the years I’ve had mixed feelings about Greg Lemond. When he won his Tours de France; the way he won (overcoming a 50 second deficit on the final stage, a time trial, to defeat Laurent Fignon by 8 seconds) and under those circumstances (after being accidentally shot by his brother-in-law with a shotgun, nearly bleeding to death, and still carrying 37 shotgun pellets in his body, some in the lining of his heart) elevated him to near-mythic, super-human status. Over the ensuing years, some of his comments about doping in the sport, particularly those directed at Lance Armstrong came across (to me at least) as sour grapes or as a former athlete trying desperately to reclaim a piece of the spotlight.

Now there’s this news story. Very briefly; apparently, according to Lemond, Landis phoned him, they conversed and Landis admitted to having doped. But wait, there’s more. From the article:

LeMond went on to reveal that he told Landis that keeping dark secrets can ruin one’s life, then relayed his own story of being sexually abused as a child, a story LeMond said he had shared with only a few people and never talked about publicly until Thursday.

Then, Lemond gets a threatening phone call, the caller purporting to be the uncle who’d abused him. The call is traced back to Floyd Landis’s business manager, Will Geoghegan, who was promptly sacked and who admits to (and naturally apologises for) having made the call, saying he was upset and had had ‘a beer or two’. Really, Will? You did something that despicable and utterly stupid as the result of having ‘a beer or two’? That is some scary-ass brew!

Holy-fucking-guacamole! Could this whole mess get any more sordid and bizarre?

If you believe Landis (which is becoming harder and harder to do), it’s all either:

  • A) Ineptitude on the part of the French testing facility or,
  • B) A massive French conspiracy not just to take him down, but to get him to turn snitch and incriminate Lance Armstrong.

Given the events of the last few years (Virenque, Pantani, Ullrich, Hamilton, Basso, et al.), Lemond’s assertion that virtually the entire pro peloton is doping is seeming more and more plausible. It’s utterly heart-breaking.

Is Cycling Really Trying to Clean Up Its Image?

I know this isn’t exactly news, but I never got around to writing about it last year. Anyway, here’s what makes me ask:

1) The Amgen Tour of California. Who the Hell decided it was a good idea to have a stage race sponsored by, and named for, a pharmaceutical company? And this is not just any pharmaceutical company, this is the company that makes Aranesp (Darbepoetin alfa) and EPOGEN (Epoetin alfa). Anemia-fighting wonderdrugs, Godsend to those suffering the effects of kidney disease or chemotherapy; but also two of the tools of choice for win-at-all-costs blood-boosting cheaters?

2) Having Arnold Schwarzenegger, who admits to using steroids during his career as a body-builder, present the leaders jersey during the aforementioned “Tour of California.” Sure he’s the Governor, but PR-wise, distancing itself from admitted dopers couldn’t possibly be a bad thing for the race or for the sport as a whole.

Honestly! Who else do they have lined up for post-race festivities? Squeaky clean San Francisco Giants left fielder, Barry Bonds?

The good news is this: The racer receiving the jersey from the Governator was Levi Leipheimer, thus giving me an excuse to amuse myself by saying “John Jacob Levi Leipheimer Schmidt” as often as possible.

Vive le Tour!

I haven’t posted about this years Tour de France, partially because I’ve been trying to get a handle on my feelings about the whole Operation Puerto debacle. I will say this; at least the sport of cycling is stepping up and actually doing something about the drug cheats, unlike some sports (baseball, football, etc.)
Anyway, the events of the last few days won’t allow me to keep my silence. I’ve never been a big fan of Floyd Landis, I don’t know why. Perhaps his quiet Mennonite ways were lost on me. That has changed in a big way.

First there was the restraint he showed after stage 13, dealing with all of the second guessing and nay-saying when his team allowed a breakaway to gain nearly 30 minutes, relinquishing the yellow jersey in the process. He regained the jersey with an impressive ride on stage 15‘s climb of L’Alpe d’Huez.

Then there was the remarkable grace and class he showed when answering the media’s questions after stage 16 when he imploded, lost 10 minutes, the yellow jersey, and, most thought, any chance of winning le Tour.

Then came stage 17: No one would have blamed him if he had abandoned after the way he suffered on the last climb of stage 16, but Floyd had other ideas. In one of the most spectacular displays in recent Tour history, Floyd attacked 128k from the finish, gradually picked up and dropped the 11 breakaway riders ahead and soloed on for the stage win, erasing all but 30 seconds of his deficit and any doubts as to the depth of his character. This was truly the stuff of legends.

Allez Floyd! Allez!

More Bicycling Newsgroup Comedy

“RicoudJour” posted the following to rec.bicycles.racing in a thread about whether rider radios should be allowed in bike racing or not (links and tilde added):

I think that all riders should be given Ipods each morning, preferably playing the immortal John Tesh’s “Tour de France” on endless loop. There would be two disguised Ipods given out at random. One would play a 70’s porn soundtrack dubbed by Ivan Basso‘s sister breathily exhorting the rider to greater efforts with a smattering of cycling terminology thrown in. The other would be an actual race radio with all communications being relayed by the guy who does those totally unintelligible station announcements on subways.

Oh, and there should be a piñata hanging from the 1 km arch.

R

The piñata is a nice touch.

TdF stage 8 result/comedy (it’s July… of course there’s bike racing content, deal with it!)

So, the other day a rider’s name I hadn’t seen before caught my eye (because it’s kinda funny). I made a mental note to try to find out for sure what his name was, but forgot. Then this happened today (from Cycling News):

24 year-old Tour rookie Pieter Weening has given Rabobank its first stage win in this year’s race, in a very close two man sprint against T-Mobile’s Andreas Klöden. Weening was the sole survivor of an early breakaway, and was caught by Klöden at the top of the day’s final climb, the Col de la Schlucht.

Pieter Weening! Not to be juvenile about it, but that’s funny!

Also funny: Whenever they mention Team Phonak, I say, “What?”
More insight on why I find this sort of idiotic joke funny can be found here.

Heartbreak at Le Tour (yep, cycling content!)

This is the sort of drama that makes cycling in general, and the grand tours in particular, so riveting. Every day there are dozens of tales of triumph, of heartbreak, of grit and determination… you know, the whole “thrill of victory and the agony of defeat” thing. Earlier this week we had Zabriskie, riding in his first Tour de France winning the maillot jaune, (only the third American ever to claim that honor… even the most casual fan can name the other two) and defending it, only to lose it; crashing in the final K of the team time trial. Today Yesterday it was Christophe Mengin, racing for the stage win in his hometown crashing, in the rain, while leading, within sight of the finish. From Cycling News:

Despite the big mouse over his left eye from his last kilometre crash, local guy Chris Mengin (Francaise des Jeux) was happy. Selected as the days most combative rider, Mengin told Cyclingnews post-stage, “I had planned to attack today because the stage was to Nancy, where I live. I didn’t feel that great this morning, but I got in the good break, so that worked out well. We worked well together all day and I knew the finale today as I train on these roads all the time. It was hard in the end, but my morale gave me good legs.”

The next couple of weeks promise to be filled with even more drama, suspense, spectacular triumph and crushing defeat. Can I stand the excitement? Is there a more glorious sport than cycling?