Tuesday, July 31, 2007

London Still Wants The Tour

Photos/Steve Klein

London wants the Tour de France back, whether it be for the Grand Depart (Big Start) after the 2012 Summer Olympic Games, or perhaps by 2010 for a stage.

"It is a unique event, there are people who break the rules in every profession," London Mayor Ken Livingstone said. "I do not think that a small handful of riders that are breaking the rules diminishes those riders who finish the course."

London streets were packed from Friday July 7 for the Opening Ceremonies in Trafalgar Square through the prologue into and around Hyde Park Saturday and for the start of Stage 1 across London Bridge Sunday. It was a great scene and went off without a hitch.

Fully Loaded

If you're a fanboy [girl] of cycling, you have to be feeling a little bit manic these days. The present state of cycling is a series of ebbs and tides; with the ebbs leaving you wondering if you're in a desert and the tides beckoning you like the song of a siren.

On the other end of the doping controversies, the vanishing sponsorships, and the proclamations of the death of cycling, is the news of Slipstream/Chipotle loading up the Argyle Armada for an assault on the Pro Tour.

Argyle On A Roll?

Although Slipstream's Director, Jonathan Vaughters, has been advised to wait until 2009 to buy into the Pro Tour, he has positioned his team well with the recent signings of David Millar (one of the worst kept secrets), Christian Vande Velde, David Zabriskie (why do I feel like Van de Velde's and Zabriskie's signings were somehow done Elwood and Jake style, "Boys, we're putting the band back together!") and a yet unnamed former Paris -- Roubaix winner (Could it be Magnus Backstedt, Stuart O'Grady, Fabian Cancellara, PVP, or heaven forbid, Tommeke???)

Some other stuff happening today:
-- Jemele Hill of ESPN's Page 2: Americans can be hypocrites in the perfomance-enhancers debate
-- San Diego Union Tribune: Landis spins wheels in court test
-- IHT: German rider refuses 2nd drug test

Monday, July 30, 2007

Will This Cover Hold Up?

And Mayo Makes Three

You can add Iban Mayo of Saunier Duval to the list of Tour de France riders testing positive.
Mayo, who is just 29, tested positive for EPO on July 24, the rest day in the Pyrenees.
And we won't be out of the woods for another five days, according to French Anti-Doping Agency (AFLD) president Pierre Bordry.
"This is regrettable," he said. "We knew there was another positive test. I hope there won't be any other. We'll know in the next five days whether there is."

I will forever remember Mayo as the rider who got tangled up with Our Boy Lance during his infamous fall during the 2003 Tour.

ALSO:
-- Samuel Abt of the IHT: From distasterous Tour, hope for renewal
-- Ian Austen of the NYTimes: A third rider in the Tour has a positive test; Vinokourov is fired
-- The Independent: Astana dismiss Vinokourov

2,200 Miles, Anyone?

Here's what Our Boy Lance's coach, Chris Carmichael, had to say on Pez Cycling about what a 2,200-mile "training ride" can take out of you:

Race Analysis Final -- A cyclist’s body responds to stress by adapting and growing stronger, and riding the Tour de France is just about the most stress any rider can apply to his body in a three-week period. It’s such an immense stimulus that not only affects a rider’s fitness for the rest of the season, but it also plays a role in his performance next year as well.

The Word on Cadel

Evans's mum, Helen Cocks, rides her own victory lap. (News Herald photo/Mark Smith)

I've been interested to read what Cadel Evans had to say about his second-place finish in the Tour de France.

Evans is the first Australian to ever stand on the final podium. He didn't look particularly happy on the podium in the limited shots I could see on Versus, and he expressed his unhappiness about other cyclists' failure to work with him during Stage 15 in the Pyrenees. Evans is only 30-years old, by the way. He'll be back.

-- Herald Sun: Cadel Evans' pedals show mettle
-- The Age: Slow and steady is how Evans made it
-- The Age: Cadel's le Tour spurs Aussie team dream

Why is Lance Lance?

Just read this piece on CNN on Dr. Sanjay Gupta's blog. It's the simplest and best explanation of how Our Boy Lance does what he does (or did). I've had this explained to me before (and by Jonathan Vaughters along with a cardiologist), but never so clearly.
It speaks to my "all great athletes are physical freaks" theory of sports. Armstrong couldn't do what he did on the bike if his physiology wasn't different -- and superior -- to the average guy.
But judge for yourself.
Armstrong's heart can pump nine gallons of blood per minute working at its hardest compared with only five gallons per minute for the average person. The champion's lungs can get almost double the amount of oxygen out of every breath that a healthy 20-year-old would. This cyclist has more red blood cells to deliver oxygen to his body, which is key, when racing through the high altitudes of the Pyrenees Mountains.
Finally, Armstrong's body can recover at an incredible pace. "An average person when going to exhaustion would have to stay stopped or wouldn't be able to move for 10-15 minutes and Armstrong is able to go right back to maximum in 1 to 2 minutes," says Coyle.
All of this begs the question -- is Lance superhuman? Obviously not, but the way his body works is extraordinary.

Tour De France: The Postmortem

Alberto Contador celebrates his surprise victory in a volatile Tour de France.
(Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)


The postmortems are coming in on this 94th Tour de France. Obviously, they are not terribly flattering given the cloud of doping that hangs over the professional sport of cycling.

The GC winner, Alberto Contador, is a good story and, hopefully, a deserving winner. Three years ago, he was recovering in a hospital from a brain aneurysm, reading Our Boy Lance's book for inspiration.

So, judge for yourself:
-- Brendan Gallagher of the London Telegraph asks, "Who is the last Tour de France winner we can believe in?" It's a good question.
-- Julian Savulescu of the Telegraph: It is time to allow doping at the Tour de France
-- Richard Williams of the Guardian of London: Contador reigns as the new king of the road but crown is battered and tarnished
-- William Fotheringham of the Guardian: British team could ride 2008 Tour as beleaguered race seeks a revamp
-- Bonnie DeSimone for ESPN: Cycling needs to face its history and future honestly
-- There's interesting news on Jonathan Vaughters' Slipstream team in the Herald; both David Millar and David Zabriske on the Wall Street-backed and Spanish-sponsored team.
-- Jeffrey White and Andrew Curry of the Christian Science Monitor: Tainted Tour de France finishes under cloud
-- AP: Tour de France doping scandals provide 'entertainment' for fans
-- Edward Wyatt of the NYTimes: Contador wins a scarred Tour de France
-- Samuel Abt of the IHT: Tarnished, the Tour de France confronts its future
-- Jere Longman in the IHT: With a shrug, fans are likely to forgive corruption
-- AP: Sponsor says it will investigate Rasmussen's ouster from Tour de France
-- Reuters: Tour de France needs break from tarnished past -- media

Sunday, July 29, 2007

How Many Starbucks Are There in Manhattan?

Suffering Tour de France withdrawal yet?
Yeah, yeah, there's three hours more of "enhanced" coverage on Versus tonight at 8 ET.

But whatcha gonna do when Versus returns to all the other hideous coverage it does besides changing the station or -- here's an idea -- going for a ride yourself?

Well, you could go to Starbucks. Thanks to Ted Leonsis's blog, "Ted's Take," for this one:

The Final Podium (are you ready for a little football?)

2007 Tour de France's winner Alberto Contador of Spain waves from the podium with second-placed Cadel Evans of Australia and third-placed Levi Leipheimer of the U.S. after the 20th and final stage between Marcoussis and the Champs Elysees in Paris Sunday.
(AP photo/Bas Czerwinski)


-- Phil Liggett on Stage 20 and the conclusion of the Tour
-- AP: Contador of Spain captures doping-tainted Tour de France
-- AP: Disgraced Rasmussen says he never doped, could race the 2008 Tour
-- AP: Cyclists deceive themselves as much as fans by doping in secret

Why Are Cyclists So Loyal?

I am a big fan of New York Times columnist George Vecsey, who writes with such grace on the social aspects of sports. He has a wonderful column this morning I hope all the cynics will read.

In it, Vecsey writes:

"This loyalty to cycling is touching. Anybody who goes out for a spin identifies with these lean athletes who punish themselves on the highways and mountains of La Belle France. Watching the kaleidoscopic beauty of the Tour in recent weeks, listening to the knowledgeable Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen on the Versus network, made me love the sport even more.
"But as a reporter who covers this sport, I have to say this: Even serious amateur riders who put in hundreds of miles are essentially living in another universe from desperate Tour cyclists, who have been allowed — or forced — to cheat, and have paid for it with their lives.
"As we saw again yesterday, the Tour is still a compelling spectacle. After this last week of ghastly publicity, American cycling buffs insist the sport has moved far ahead of other pro sports. That may be true, but it is hardly a compliment."

Is Contador Worthy?

From the left, that's 43rd Tooth (Aaron Mimran), Tour of '03 (me, Steve Klein), my good buddy Mike Armellino and Chris Grengs on the Champs Elysees on the final day of the 2003 Tour.

Here's the question that must be going through the minds of quite a few cycling fans today on the final stage of this most controversial Tour de France.

I know it's been going through mine.

Should the eventual winner, almost certainly Alberto Contador of the Discovery Channel team, be judged a fair and legitimate winner in light of Michael Rasmussen's dismissal by his Rabobank team four stages shy of the top of the podium?

Is Contador worthy?

Contador did not wear the yellow jersey the first day after Rasmussen was booted for lying (for an absolutely superb story on the web of Chicken's lies, be sure to read William Fotheringham's account in the Observer). He didn't smile much until the first day he did wear the Maillot Jaune.

If you're a cyclist, the color yellow holds special meaning. I'm a decent cyclist, but I am highly reluctant to wear anything yellow (and a friend did give me a replica yellow jersey a couple years ago) while riding my bike or even to spinning class at the gym!

I did wear a throwback yellow jersey on the final day of the 2003 Tour (the 100th year anniversary of the event) when our Trek Travel group was part of the 10,000 riders who were permitted to ride the final loop of the Paris stage before the race.

All cyclists hold the Maillot Jaune in the highest regard.
Especially the cheaters, obviously.

So, is Alberto Contador a fair and legitimate winner?
He is legitimate if he won fairly. Hopefully, we will not learn anything to lead us to think otherwise.

Our experience with Bad Boy Floyd this past year was painful enough. This was the year cycling was supposed to redeem itself. Redemption remains in professional cycling's future, however.

But for now, I will put my cynicism aside and enjoy this final day of the Tour.
I will enjoy watching Alberto Contador wear the Maillot Jaune.
I hope you can, too.

Lots of good reading today:
-- Will time bonuses make a difference in today's stage with only 31 seconds separating the top three cyclists? Neal Rogers of VeloNews has a terrific story and comments from the leaders.
-- Rogers also writes about Our Boy Lance's day at the Tour:
Riding shotgun: Armstrong has front-row view of Contador's ride
-- Edward Wyatt of the NYTimes: Leipheimer wins Trial; Contador nears title
Contador, Wyatt writes, made this pledge to his fans after missing last year's Tour:

“I will continue working, possibly with even more devotion — if that’s possible — to make you experience this beautiful sport and to hear you say once again that you believe in it and in me. And because I believe in a clean sport, as I have practiced it, we will collect the result of our efforts in a few years.”

-- More Wyatt: Contador, a young Spaniard, riding with the wisdom of age
-- Juliet Macur of the NYTimes on Puzzle of the Teflon Peleton:
Risk, Reward and Ridicle
-- Nick Townsend of the Independent: Danish pastry is the ultimate dope in Tour de farce
-- AP: Vinokourov's 'B' sample confirms positive result for banned blood transfusion
-- Michael Hiltzik of the LATimes: Vinokourov to fight blood doping charge
-- Bob Hohler of the Boston Globe: Doping scandal turning race into 'Tour de Farce'
-- Filip Bondy of the NY Daily News: The Tour is no more; scandals have killed this race

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Missed It By That Much

I can't recall the last time two individuals from the same team were on the final podium of the Tour de France [the making of great trivia question, oui?], but as this year's Tour wraps up we'll be privy to something historic as Alberto Contador and Levi Leipheimer (Discovery Channel) will be standing shoulder to shoulder on the Champs Ellysees.

It would have been even more historic if Levi was on Contador's right than on his left on the final podium. After a more than valiant effort in today's final ITT, Leipheimer ended up 8 seconds shy from displacing Cadel Evans (Predictor-Lotto) for second place.

Or is he really 2 seconds ahead of Evans?

I think one of the most disappointing things in sports is when the outcome of an event is decided not by the players on the field, but by the officials. Because of the inability of some riders', to so speak "keep it in their pants," [or not cheat], and the Tour officials sending them packing, that's exactly how the outcome of this Tour was decided, by the officials.

In Levi's case, both his aspirations for the overall victory and for making the final podium were due to judgement calls by the officials. With Michael Rasmussen dismissed, Levi secured a spot on the podium. But on the other hand, if it weren't for a 10 second penalty he incurred on that crash filled Stage 8, Levi (Photo: Graham Watson) would now be second [being 2 seconds ahead of Evans], and therefore still would have made the podium even with Rasmussen present.

The Tour officials giveth and the Tour officials taketh away!

My Apologies to James Raia

The Crankset received this note from the superb cycling writer, James Raia, on Friday, in response to an item ("Rah Rah for Raia") we had posted earlier in the Tour to point our readers to his fine work:

I appreciate your kind words. But, geez, if you're just going to use my blog as your blog, the least you could do is provide a link to my site.
Cheers,
James Raia
In the item, I reprinted a short piece that Raia had written to showcase his work. Unfortunately, I failed to also provide a link to his blog, something I'm usually quite consistent in doing.

My apologies to James (the photo is from his site). While not all bloggers are journalists, all blogs are a form of journalism. And as a long-time journalist, I would never want to pass off someone else's work as my own. As the Crankset has grown its audience in the past year or so, we have a greater responsibility in crediting sources. My intent, if not my successful result, was only to point readers to James' work. I hope we can continue to do so.

TIme Trial to Levi, the Tour to Contador

Levi Leipheimer strains on his way to win the 19th stage of the Tour de France, a 55.5-kilometer (34.52-mile) individual time trial between Cognac and Angouleme in central France on Saturday. Overall leader Alberto Contador of Spain retained the yellow jersey by 23 seconds over Cadel Evans of Australia and by 31 seconds over Leipheimer.
(AP photo/Peter Dejong)

A brief look at the 19th stage of the Tour de France on Saturday:

Stage: Saturday's time trial took riders over 34.52 miles of flat roads from Cognac to Angouleme to the finish in Paris.

Winner: American rider Levi Leipheimer of the Discovery Channel team won in 1 hour, 2 minutes, 44 seconds. It was his first stage win in the Tour.

Yellow Jersey: Alberto Contador of the Discovery Channel team kept the overall lead. The 24-year-old Spaniard will likely win the Tour on Sunday barring a crash. He leads Cadel Evans of Australia by 23 seconds.

Quote of the Day: "I don't think it's fair, but if I have to then I'll take it." -- Contador when asked if he would take a blood test to prove that his DNA is not linked to the Operation Puerto blood-doping case.

Next stage: Sunday's 20th and final stage is a 90.7-mile ride starting from France's rugby center in Marcoussis and ending on the Champs-Elysees in Paris. Often mostly a processional spin for the rider wearing the yellow jersey, the final stage this year could offer more drama given Contador's slim margin over Evans. Leipheimer said after the time Trial that he would not challenge Evans [or in Robbie Ventura's words, "Pull a Vinokourov," which Levi echoed] for second place and was happy just to be on the final podium.

-- AP: Vinokourov backup sample tests positive
-- Reuters: Tour de France triumph in Contador's grasp

We Just Don't Know. We Just Can't Believe.

Think this Tour doesn't hurt? You can see the injury 17th stage winner Sandy Casar of France suffered through his torn shorts following his crash (he hit a dog early in the stage).
(AP photo/Bas Czerwinski)

Today should be one of the most exciting days of the Tour de France.
It is the 19th and penultimate (don't you just love that word?) stage, the final time trial before the triumphant ride into Paris Sunday.

It is 33 miles, all out: The race of truth.

But therein lies the problem:
There will be nothing triumphant about the ride into Paris.

We do not know the truth.

This Tour, which Brit Bradley Wiggins says has "lost all credibility" and is "null and void as far as I am concerned" has been like a punch in the gut.

Who thought (OK, 53rd Tooth thought) things could get worse after Floyd Landis' grand deception last year?

"No one has faith in who is wearing the yellow jersey," said Wiggins, an Olympic gold medallist (of course, so is Tyler Hamilton -- and how fair is that to Wiggins?). "I'm quite pleased I'm here and out of it. I've no regrets that I am not there. It's not a nice place to be."

There are clean riders in professional cycling. Wiggins may be one of them. Alberto Contador, the Discovery Channel rider who now wears the yellow jersey, may be one of them.

We just don't know. We just can't believe.

If you listened to the Versus coverage of the past two predominantly flat stages since race leader Michael Rasmussen was booted from the Tour by his Rabobank team, the announcing team's tone has been just that: intentionally flat.

The air has gone out of this tour after multiple doping issues and news of positive tests.

It would be nice to revel in the possibility of Johan Bruyneel having coached eight of the last nine Tour victors. But Contador is this year's Oscar Pereiro. We all know Rasmussen was the strongest rider, like Landis last year. But were they really?

We just don't know. And now, how many fans just don't care?

If you do:
-- Edward Wyatt of the NYTimes: Three will be chasing title in Time Trial
-- The IHT Geoffrey Wheatcroft: The Tour de France in mourning
-- Richard Moore of the Scotsman:
Has the Tour de France become tour de farce?
-- Reuters: Tour director says breaking with UCI
-- AFP: Former champ LeMond says doping still dogs Tour
-- AP: Cyclist Vinokourov hires Floyd Landis' lawyer in Tour doping case
-- Andrew Hood of the VeloNews: Anger simmers in peloton over Tour scandals
-- VeloNews editorial: Rasmussen's lies
-- AP: Disgraced Rasmussen vows to continue his cycling career after being expelled from Tour
-- Reuters: Sponsors reconsidering after doping scandals
-- Samuel Abt of the IHT:Belgian works hard to finish last Tour
-- AP on researcher: Tour de France total calories 72,000 cheeseburgers

A thought about Rasmussen: He has always been a loner -- and a selfish loner at that, unpopular in the peloton and even on his team. Obviously, he did not feel he owed anyone anything, including his whereabouts for drug testing. It is hard to feel sorry for him. He made his own bed.

A note about Axel Merckx: There was a touching moment at the end of Stage 17 when Robbie Ventura interviewed the popular Merckx, who plans to retire at the end of Tour (unless he resurfaces as part of that Jonathan Vaughters American team we keep hearing about from Granny and on Versus).

The T-Mobile rider was part of the four-man breakaway that was ultimately won by France's Sandy Caser (who won despite hitting a dog early in the stage). During the interview, Merckx broke down momentarily, the emotion of losing a stage he obviously wanted to win badly as a celebration of his career overwhelming him.

It was, perhaps, the truest moment of this Tour.

Friday, July 27, 2007

On Tap...

Still the Tour, Baby?!
For those of you who are still interested in the outcome of this year's Tour de France, Alberto Contador (Discovery Channel) may be the reluctant Maillot Jaune on the road, but he may not make it to Paris with it on his shoulders. When Michael Rasmussen was still participating, the talk centered around how much time the climber needed to put on his closest competitors before the final ITT. Well that ITT is here, and the climber may be different, but Contador hasn't had much, if any, of an opportunity to put time into Cadel Evans (Predictor-Lotto) or his teammate Levi Leipheimer (Discovery Channel), who sit at 1.53 and 2.49 in arrears, respectively.

Saturday's 55.5km ITT from Cognac to Angoulême, is relatively flat and fast. This course will certainly favor Evans [who finished second to an allegedly doped up Vinokourov] and Leipheimer [who has won 3 ITT this year], but with the way Kid Contador has been battling, he's sure to go down swinging.

However, the greatest battle all the riders now face may not be with each other or with the parcours of the final "race of truth," but with their willingness and ability to focus after the drama and series of expulsions over the past few days. If Contador feels as undeserving of the Maillot Jaune as he did yesterday after Stage 17, then he's already been knocked out.

The doping controversy, we all hope, is gone from this year's Tour, and the drama shifted back to the road where Discovery Channel Director Sportif, Johan Bruyneel, is certainly a candidate for its focal point. With Rasmussen gone, and with all of Bruyneel's focus on Contador's chances to win the overall, how will he deal with the very real possibility [though slim in probability] of Levi Leipheimer winning the Tour? And we haven't even mentioned the drama of securing a sponsor for next year, even with two of his riders on the podium and his team winning the team competition.

On The Road
For those who lost all hope in professional cycling some time ago, or who may have just undergone the pain of seeing this beautiful sport's most chaotic race to date, then its time to go and mash on the pedals yourself. As usual, below is a list of races in specific areas of the country.

Our featured race this weekend is the Dave Babcock Memorial Weekend in Omaha, NE. Its a stage race that has something for everyone. It kicks off with the Douglas County Road Race on Saturday morning, followed by an afternoon time trial in Elkhorn, and a crit in downtown Omaha on Sunday.

As the Omaha area was my former stomping ground during my formative collegiate years, I am all too familiar with the routes. If you're in the area make sure to go out and support the racers, and if you're racing make sure to razz the chief referee, our friend of the blog, Sean Weide (Director of Communications for Toyota-United) if you have a [legitimate] disagreement with being pulled or with one of his calls.

To find results and photos of most of the races, check out Truesports.com


07/27/2007
13th Delaware Classic
Delaware, OH
Madison of the Americas
Trexlertown, PA

07/28/2007
Prudential Integity One, REALTORS Grand Prix
Granville, OH
Diamond Valley Road Race
Woodfords, CA
Porcupine Chalk Creek Road Race
Coalville, UT
Chris Meerman Memorial Downtown Allentown Criterium
Allentown, PA
Dave Babcook Memorial Weekend
Omaha, NE
Great Grandview Heights Criterium
Lancaster, PA

07/29/2007
The International Tour de 'Toona - Points Race
Altoona, PA
Peter Teeuwen Memorial Time Trials
Chesapeake, VA
Rum Village Criterium
South Bend, IN
The Buckeye Criterium
Columbus, OH
JBN Bicycle Race
Easton, PA
Velo Allegro Deluge Criterium
Long Beach, CA
Southbay Wheelmen Baxter Time Trial
Palos Verdes, CA

For those who have been utterly enraptured by the good and bad of the Tour, you most likely didn't realize that there's another tour race still going on in the US, the Tour de 'Toona.

After Stage 3 the Women's GC has Kori Seehafer (TEAm Lipton) holding on to a slim lead over Felicia Gomez (Aaron's).

Standings:
1 Kori Seehafer (TEAm Lipton)
2 Felicia Gomez (Aaron's)
3 Alison Powers (Colavita/Sutter Home)
4 Christine Thorburn (Webcor Builders)
5 Katheryn Curi (Webcor Builders)

The Men's standings haven't really changed much since the TTT, with Health Net presented by Maxxis and Toyota - United dominating the top.

Standings:
1 Karl Menzies (Health Net - Maxxis)
2 Rory Sutherland (Health Net - Maxxis)
3 Chris Baldwin (Toyota-United)
4 Caleb Manion (Toyota-United)
5 Chris Wherry (Toyota-United)

Cycling.tv Update

Cycling.TV, which offers premium as well as free-to-view broadcasts, has struck carriage deals with both Joost and Blinkx. The site, which is managed by U.K. design firm Beetlebrow, wants to reach new audiences outside of the bicycle community. The site has been showing Tour de France highlights and news reports.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Dope on Contador

Almost ready to be kissed ... (AP photo/Peter Dejong)

Here's the story on Alberto Contador and his connection -- or lack of one -- to Operacion Puerto.

ALSO:
-- VeloNews: Contador dons yellow as Bennati Wins Stage 17
-- Q&A with the NYTimes' Edward Wyatt

Yawn ...

Rollin', rollin', rollin' ...
(AP Photo/Christophe Ena)


So, did anything happen today in the -- what was it? -- oh yeah, the 17th stage of the Tour de Farce?
Some guy in a breakaway only Granny has probably ever heard of won a sprint finish.
Discovery Channel's Alberto Contador got to wear yellow:

(AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

Looks thrilled, doesn't he?
Everybody knows that Michael Rasmussen had the race won.
Nobody knows if he was clean, though.
Nobody knows if anybody is clean.
And that pretty much sums up the day.
And the Tour.
And professional cycling.
Thanks, guys.

The Versus boys did a pretty good job beating themselves up as well as the Tour at the top of their morning telecast. Thanks for the candid commentary, boys (here's what Bob Roll, Robbie Ventura and Paul Sherwen had to say).

There's plenty more if you're interested:
-- AP: Italy's Daniele Bennati wins 17th stage of doping-tainted Tour, a day after leader's expulsion
-- AP: Cycling and Tour de France mired in scandal, having failed to learn from past
-- Rupert Guinness of the Sydney Morning Herald: How the mighty are falling
-- George Vecsey of the NYTimes: Whole world is watching as the wheels come off the Tour
-- Edward Wyatt of the NYTimes: Tour in tatters, team ousts the race leader
-- Sally Jenkins of the Washington Post: When the fix is in, you can't believe it
-- Peter Allen of the Telegraph: Tour de France becomes drug-fuelled disgrace
-- Samuel Abt of the IHT: Organizers hail Tour de France leader's ouster

And do you believe this (is this a guy an idiot or what)?
-- Reuters: Our sport is not in crisis, says UCI President McQuaid

The Morning Papers




AFP/Getty Images/AP

Presidential Cyclist?

AP photo
So, who's the cyclist/presidential candidate with Our Boy Lance?
Read the story.

How to Replace the Tour de Farce

Given the nature of programming on Versus, including the newly renamed Tour de Farce, I suggest that the Tour be replaced by the following new event for 2008:

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Do You Know the Way to ... San Jose?

(Photo: FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images)

The Once (and Future?) Champion

OK, one last thought on this day of infamy in the Tour de Farce and I'm going to bed:

What do you think this guy is thinking?

AND:
-- Carol Herwig of USA Today:
Landis, Walsh peddle thoughts on ups, downs of cycling

Survival of the ... Fittest?

Is this the face of the leader of the Tour de Farce?

So, just who does lead this Tour de Farce?
Here's what's left of the top 30:

Overall After Stage 16
2. Alberto Contador (Sp), Discovery Channel, at 03:10
3. Cadel Evans (Aus), Predictor - Lotto, at 05:03
4. Levi Leipheimer (
USA), Discovery Channel , at 05:59
5. Carlos Sastre (Sp), CSC, at 09:12
6. Haimar Zubeldia (Esp), Euskaltel - Euskadi, at 09:39
7. Alejandro Valverde (Sp), Caisse d'Epargne, at 13:28
8. Kim Kirchen (Lux), T-Mobile, at 14:46
9. Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr), Discovery Channel, at 16:00
10. Mauricio Soler Hernandez Juan (Col), Barloworld, at 16:41
11. Mikel Astarloza (Sp), Euskaltel - Euskadi, at 16:52
12. Oscar Pereiro Sio (Sp), Caisse d'Epargne, at 17:17
13. David Arroyo (Sp), Caisse d'Epargne, at 21:08
14. Iban Mayo (Sp), Saunier Duval - Prodir, at 25:24
15. Christopher Horner (
USA), Predictor - Lotto , at 26:22
16. Vladimir Karpets (Rus), Caisse d'Epargne, at 27:37
17. Michael Boogerd (Nl), Rabobank, at 31:00
18. Frank Schleck (Lux), CSC, at 31:48
19. Manuel Beltran (Sp), Liquigas, at 32:58
20. Tadej Valjavec (Slo), Lampre-Fondital, at 36:31
21. Jose Cobo Acebo Juan (Sp), Saunier Duval - Prodir, at 37:42
22. Manuel Garate Juan (Sp), Quick Step - Innergetic, at 39:23
23. Denis Menchov (Russia), Rabobank, at 45:15
24. Ivan Gutierrez José (Sp), Caisse d'Epargne, at 48:33
25. Amets Txurruka (Sp), Euskaltel - Euskadi, at 49:04
26. Sylvain Chavanel (F), Cofidis, at 50:08
27. Christian Vandevelde (
USA), CSC , at 56:33
28. Dmitriy Fofonov (Kz), Credit Agricole, at 57:15
29. George Hincapie (USA), Discovery Channel , at 57:45
30. Stephane Goubert (F), Ag2r Prevoyance, at 1:04:57

The Tour de Farce

The lasting image of this Tour de France: Lock him up! Italian rider Cristian Moreni of Cofidis is taken away by French police after learning he tested positive for testosterone following a random test from Stage 11 (Bas Czerwinski/AP).

Well, this Tour de France sure stinks, doesn't it?
Oh, sure, Stage 16, finishing on the Col d' Aubisque, was exciting and yet another apparent victory -- apparent because who do you trust in cycling anymore? -- for Michael Rasmussen.
But what did it matter?

Rabobank has removed the yellow jersey leader from the race!
Have you EVER heard of such a thing?

At least Bad Boy Floyd lasted a few days beyond the end of last year's Tour.
Heck, Bjarne Riis, the 1996 "winner," lasted 11 years before he fessed up and was stripped of his "victory."

But Rabobank removed the Tour leader after nine stages in the yellow jersey and four stages from what appeared to be a certain victory.
Have you EVER heard of such a thing?

What IS this Tour de France, as Phil Liggett would say?
And speaking of the ridiculously canned coverage from Versus, how can they expect anyone to watch their "enhanced" evening coverage when, other than a news crawl across the bottom of the screen, they fail to keep up with the off-the-road developments that have dominated this Tour?

C'mon, Versus, get out of bed already and scrap the canned stuff when news breaks.
It's embarrassing already.

So, Patrick Sinkewitz
is dropped by T-Mobile for doping before the Tour.
Now, T-Mobile may drop its sponsorship altogether.

Alexander Vinokourov tests positive after winning the Stage 13 time trial, then has a Floyd Landis-like Stage 14 and Stage 15 (from the depths to triumph in the later), and is dumped -- as his entire Astana team.
Call them Team Borat.

Then on Wednesday, Cofidis rider Cristian Moreni is escorted from the Tour by the French police -- where's Inspector Clouseau? -- after that leaky French lab with the open phone line to L'Equipe reveals his random positive "A" test for testosterone following Stage 11.

Cristian "freakin'" Moreni!
He's 34 and was 102nd in the Tour!
He was one of the riders who participated in a silent protest this morning against riders who cheat/dope.
Why on earth would HE cheat?
So Cofidis drops out out the Tour!

Is this a circus or what?
A Swiss newspaper drops its coverage of the race (imagine an American newspaper dropping coverage of the NBA or NFL playoffs!).

And back to Rasmussen: Catch this VeloNews lead earlier in the day before Rasmussen was dumped: "Despite tepid support from fans [Rasmussen was booed at the start of today's stage], race organizers [they had asked for his removal], fellow riders and even his own team, Michael Rasmussen is just one steady time trial away from winning the 2007 Tour de France."
Well, you can forget that!

Nobody but nobody likes this guy.

What IS this Tour de France?
What is it?
It's over.
End it.
Put it out of its misery already.
Put it on ice until EVERYONE in the race is too old to ever race again.
It's the Tour de Farce from now on.
Only Peter Sellers could love it.

MORE (than I can stand):
-- AP:
Tour de France doping scandals
-- AP: Kazakh cycling officials react with disbelief to Vinokourov doping disgrace at Tour de France
-- AP: Vinokourov denies doping, claims Astana team is persecuted

The Leader, Winner and Champion

You are looking at the next winner of the Tour de France. Denmark's Michael Rasmussen of Rabobank took everything that Alberto Contador and Levi Leipheimer of the Discovery Channel could throw at him during the 16th stage of the Tour de France on the imposing Col de Aubisque Wednesday. Rasmussen won the stage, his second of this Tour (photo/BERNARD PAPON/AFP/Getty Images).

BREAKING NEWS: Bomb Blast?!

MADRID (Reuters) - At least one small explosion hit the Spanish section of Wednesday's Tour de France cycle race after a report of a bomb threat from a caller claiming to represent Basque separatist rebels ETA, the government said.

No one was hurt and the Tour, the most important race on the cycling calendar, continued after the explosion.

-- UPDATE from AP: Small blasts in Spain along Tour de France route, no injuries reported

Real and Spectacular

If you've ever raced, whether it be organized or just out on the street with some buddies, you quickly realize how important and how valuable it can be to have some teammates around you. In a pack they can provide some shelter by blocking wind, they can shepard you to the line with a great lead-out, or they can simply instill some confidence by cheering you on or calming you down.

So when you see someone on the [start] line with a non-descript jersey or that lone team jersey in a large group partitioned by similar colors and markings, its not hard to find some measure of respect for that person. Now when you see that lone individual actually spring forth from that pack and win, well, then you know you've got something special.

Such is the current plight of our friend, Liz Hatch (Vanderkitten). She's a season away from leading Team Vanderkitten on the road, but that hasn't stopped her from showing the women's domestic circuit what a lone Vanderkitten can do [taking to heart the grassroots clothing company's motto; for women "who kick ass!"], and what they might need to worry about in the future.

In the past two weeks, Liz has lined up for the Lafayette and Albany Criteriums. In the women's Cat 1/2/3 races, she finished 7th and 1st, respectively. And according to Liz, she seems to be "finally getting the hang of this crit thing."

At the Lafayette Criterium, Liz stated that she "left my sprint for too late and there was no way I could pass the girls who were ahead of me."

Liz [second wheel] Tracking A Move

But at Albany, she was able to rectify that mistake and "attacked with 2 corners left and won by about 4 bike lengths!"

Another Victory Salute

The folks from Vanderkitten have recently set her up with her own blog, so now you can follow along with Liz's musings during her racing season and beyond. But, we'll be sure to have updates and reports for our readers of our favorite Vanderkitten.

Oh, and Liz's reaction to the Vinokourov news yesterday...an excerpt from her blog:
"I'm gutted.

I'm insulted, hurt and fucking irate.

Cycling is life to me and I treat it with respect. Hours of training, living healthy and sacrifice and nothing more. No pills, no shots, no transfusions. Nothing that would soil my accomplishments or steal from a competitor.

Apparently some have lost sight of the reason cycling is such a beautiful sport.

Apparently nothing matters besides the almighty dollar..."
Yup, she's real and she's spectacular.

Off-Topic But a Good Point

If you've never read Canadian sports sociologist Richard Crepeau, you're really missing a treat. Here, he makes a good point about our values as they relate to the Michael Vick dog-fighting atrocities:
"Why is it that when dogs are abused by athletes there are protests everywhere, calls for the immediate suspension of the player, and a loud condemnation of the actions, but when an athlete abuses a spouse or a female friend the public outcry is considerably less? Is that a statement about social values, or is it something else?"

The French Protest

French riders gather around France's national champion Christophe Moreau (AG2R/Fra) during a demonstration at the start of the 16th stage of the Tour de France between Orthez and Gourette Aubisque Wednesday. The riders reacted after it was revealed that Kazakhstan’s Alexandre Vinokourov tested positive for blood doping after the individual time-trial in Albi last Saturday (FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images).

We've Been Here Before

Marco Pantani of Italy took part in a sit-in as riders staged a protest, saying they were fed up with the lack of respect showed to them and with the press coverage concentrating on the use of performance enhancing drugs instead of the sport, at the start of the 12th stage of the Tour de France cycling race between Tarascon-en-Ariege and Le Cap d'Agde, southern France, in this July 24, 1998 file photo. On Wednesday, dozens of Tour de France riders demonstrated their anger over repeated doping scandals by staging a silent protest at the start of the 16th stage. The protest came a day after star rider Alexandre Vinokourov and his Astana team were sent home after he tested positive for a banned blood transfusion (AP photo/Peter Dejong).

Versus Checks In -- For 5 Minutes

Alexander Vinokourov waits in the doping trailer for his test following Stage 15 (photo/Getty images)

After it's pre-taped and unforgiveable silence during its Tuesday night Rest Day program, Versus checked in for five minutes Wednesday morning on the Alexander Vinokourov doping scandal.

Then, it was pretty much business as usual -- as usual in a Tour de France that was minus yet another of its major stars because of cheating and his entire Astana team, which withdrew at the request of the race organizers.

Bob Roll called Vinokourov's thinking process "stupid."

Al Trautwig began with a disingeneous introduction that pointed out that professional baseball, football, basketball, golf and even the Ironman competitions had their own problems -- and, oh yeah, cycling, too.

Phil Liggett, ever the optimist, said the whole matter was yet another positive sign that cycling was effectively policing itself. Paul Sherwen, as he often does, agreed with Liggett.

And then we were in the Pyrenees and Stage 16.
All six French teams and the two German teams -- not all the teams, obviously, because some are probably still cheating -- staged what was termed a silent protest at the starting line. "We're fed up," French rider Ludovic Turpin told Eurosport television.

The Associated Press reported that fans booed the Tour leader, Michael Rasmussen, at the start. The Dane remains under suspicion because he either skipped or avoided (more disingeneousness) doping tests before the Tour began. The protest delayed the start of the stage 13 minutes.

This is the final state in the Pyrenees. The Tour, despite its inherent pleasures, mercifully ends Sunday. As I wrote earlier, I believe the organizers should suspend the Tour for at least a year until the teams, cyclists and organizers can organize that the event can be run on the level.
Meanwhile, the wheels keep turning. The Amgen Tour of California announced its route for the eight-day event next Feburary.

ALSO:
-- Los Angeles Times:
Vinokourov is latest Tour de France drug suspect
-- National Post: Tour de France leader booed by fans
-- Devon O'Neil: Just once, I'd like to know why they cheat
-- Deutsche Welle: German cycling faces 'existence-threatening' crisis
-- William Fotheringham of the Guardian: Wiggins reveals suspicions over Vinokourov

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

More From Millar

" We've given benefit of the doubt ... that benefit is over."
From the man who has been on the other side and succumbed to the pressure to dope, an infuriated David Millar (Saunier Duval-Prodir) reacts further to the latest doping news (CLICK on the image):

NOTE: For those easily offended by strong language, Millar's reaction is extremely genuine and guttural.

Some Good News...

Just received the email confirmation, the Triple Crankset is going to Interbike 2007, as credentialed media. So to our friend of the blog, Liz Hatch (Vanderkitten), get ready for that hand shake...er, hug!

And in the realm of "Too Funny [or in this case Ironic] Not to Post," how about this story (how did I miss this on Saturday, oh yeah my head was being twisted around by that pseudo-phenomenal Vinokourov ITT)...

Instead of Tour coverage a Swiss newspaper, Le Nouvelliste, published the obituary of the sport of cycling. Roughly translated from French:
"The writer imagines a tomb engraved of the dates of birth and of death (1790-2007) and [a] wheel of [a] bicycle. The flagstone is surmounted by a funeral [bike] pump…, of course. The text indicates: “Become little by little a discipline brewing of the million francs and monopolizing the media of the whole world, in particular through the mythical Tour de France, cycling died out little by little, gangrené by the cheating and doping”.
The newspaper chose to publish the obit in anger over all the news of doping [we can all empathize with that sentiment]. Although the newspaper maintains its "passion for a clean, true, educational and popular sport,” the article ends with “Today, professional cycling is clinically dead."

Versus: Canned Coverage Gone Stale

Turned on Versus just a few minutes ago only to discover that their Rest Day show was so canned that it had gone sour. Instead of some insightful commentary on the latest doping controversy from Al Trautwig, Bob Roll, Paul Sherwen and Phil Liggett, all we got was stale leftovers of stages 9-15. I just couldn't watch -- and I doubt anyone else is, either.

C'mon, people.
Sometimes, you just have to throw out the script and start all over.

Fade to Gray

This may the last image we see of Alexander Vinokourov on a bicycle: riding in a fog during the 15th stage of the 2007 Tour de France (photo/Getty images).

Vino Tests Positive: Cycling Suffers Negatively

Will this be the lasting image of the 2007 Tour de France?
Of French Gendarmes and police officers climbing the staircase
of the Astana cycling team hotel in Pau?

(AP Photo/Bas Czerwinski)

OK, so 53rd Tooth told us so.
Still ... still, how STUPID can these professional cyclists be?

Patrick Sinkewitz tested positive BEFORE the Tour de France. Before he nearly killed a spectator after an early stage cycling to the team hotel. But that was Patrick Sinkewitz. Not Alexander Vinokourov. Not even Jan Ullrich -- we are still waiting for THAT shoe to drop.

But now, Vinokourov, too.

How stupid could he be?
How unattentive could his team, Astana, have been?

With the eyes of all cycling on the Tour de France, with the eyes of the sports world on the sport's multiple doping scandals, how could someone as high-profile as Alexander Vinokourov be SO stupid and dope?

Obviously, Vinokourov is not stupid. He is a member of the most elite peloton in the world, however, and he knows what goes on in that peloton. If Vinokourov is cheating, he's cheating because he knows what it takes to succeed in the peloton.

And what does that mean? There are no shortcuts in cycling. There are no supermen. This is a sport that, even with the eyes of the sports world on it, can't help itself. The Tour leader, Michael Rasmussen, can't even maintain the approval of his own Danish cycling and Olympic federations and submit himself properly for testing.

How disgusting has this sport become on the professional level? Even on its biggest stage, it can't stay clean.

Sad. So sad.

If this is not the end of the Tour de France,
at least for a year if not more, then what will it take?

Consider these comments from David Millar: "Jesus Christ -- there you go, that's my quote. What timing, huh? This is just fucking great. I wanted to believe it was a really good day [for Vinokourov -- like Bad Boy Floyd's "really good day" last year]. It makes me very sad. Vino is one of my favorite riders. He's one of the most beautiful riders in the peloton. If a guy of his stature and class has done that, we all might as well pack our bags and go home right now."

Yes, it is the end of the Tour as we have know it.

It should not return until a new generation of riders is ready to compete clean.

Obviously, THIS was not that time. THIS is not that Tour.
THIS Tour is dirty, no matter what the outcome now.

Sad. So sad.

ALSO:
--
Samuel Abt of the IHT: Scandal piling up on the Tour de France
-- Edward Wyatt of the NYTimes: After positive test, team quits Tour de France
-- VeloNews: Tour will continue despite doping cloud
-- VeloNews: Vinokourov tests positive; Astana withdraws from the Tour
-- VeloNews: Police search Astana vehicles and hotel
-- AP: Astana pulls out of Tour de France
-- Agence France Presse: Astana manager trusts test more than Vino
-- SuperCycling: Millar gutted as Vinokourov tests positive
-- AP: Tour de France doping scandals (roundup)
-- Bloomberg: T-Mobile May Terminate Cycling Sponsorship Early
-- VeloNews: Rabobank officials stand by their man
-- AP: Danish Olympic Committee backs exclusion of Tour de France leader Rasmussen from national team
-- AP: Armstrong urges rigid whereabouts system
-- AP: Petachi cleared of doping charge

AND (oh yeah, if you still care):
-- VeloNews: Leipheimer ready to sacrifice podium spot to help Contador
-- AP: Armstrong may appear at Tour de France

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

London Still Wants The Tour

Photos/Steve Klein

London wants the Tour de France back, whether it be for the Grand Depart (Big Start) after the 2012 Summer Olympic Games, or perhaps by 2010 for a stage.

"It is a unique event, there are people who break the rules in every profession," London Mayor Ken Livingstone said. "I do not think that a small handful of riders that are breaking the rules diminishes those riders who finish the course."

London streets were packed from Friday July 7 for the Opening Ceremonies in Trafalgar Square through the prologue into and around Hyde Park Saturday and for the start of Stage 1 across London Bridge Sunday. It was a great scene and went off without a hitch.

Fully Loaded

If you're a fanboy [girl] of cycling, you have to be feeling a little bit manic these days. The present state of cycling is a series of ebbs and tides; with the ebbs leaving you wondering if you're in a desert and the tides beckoning you like the song of a siren.

On the other end of the doping controversies, the vanishing sponsorships, and the proclamations of the death of cycling, is the news of Slipstream/Chipotle loading up the Argyle Armada for an assault on the Pro Tour.

Argyle On A Roll?

Although Slipstream's Director, Jonathan Vaughters, has been advised to wait until 2009 to buy into the Pro Tour, he has positioned his team well with the recent signings of David Millar (one of the worst kept secrets), Christian Vande Velde, David Zabriskie (why do I feel like Van de Velde's and Zabriskie's signings were somehow done Elwood and Jake style, "Boys, we're putting the band back together!") and a yet unnamed former Paris -- Roubaix winner (Could it be Magnus Backstedt, Stuart O'Grady, Fabian Cancellara, PVP, or heaven forbid, Tommeke???)

Some other stuff happening today:
-- Jemele Hill of ESPN's Page 2: Americans can be hypocrites in the perfomance-enhancers debate
-- San Diego Union Tribune: Landis spins wheels in court test
-- IHT: German rider refuses 2nd drug test

Monday, July 30, 2007

Will This Cover Hold Up?

And Mayo Makes Three

You can add Iban Mayo of Saunier Duval to the list of Tour de France riders testing positive.
Mayo, who is just 29, tested positive for EPO on July 24, the rest day in the Pyrenees.
And we won't be out of the woods for another five days, according to French Anti-Doping Agency (AFLD) president Pierre Bordry.
"This is regrettable," he said. "We knew there was another positive test. I hope there won't be any other. We'll know in the next five days whether there is."

I will forever remember Mayo as the rider who got tangled up with Our Boy Lance during his infamous fall during the 2003 Tour.

ALSO:
-- Samuel Abt of the IHT: From distasterous Tour, hope for renewal
-- Ian Austen of the NYTimes: A third rider in the Tour has a positive test; Vinokourov is fired
-- The Independent: Astana dismiss Vinokourov

2,200 Miles, Anyone?

Here's what Our Boy Lance's coach, Chris Carmichael, had to say on Pez Cycling about what a 2,200-mile "training ride" can take out of you:

Race Analysis Final -- A cyclist’s body responds to stress by adapting and growing stronger, and riding the Tour de France is just about the most stress any rider can apply to his body in a three-week period. It’s such an immense stimulus that not only affects a rider’s fitness for the rest of the season, but it also plays a role in his performance next year as well.

The Word on Cadel

Evans's mum, Helen Cocks, rides her own victory lap. (News Herald photo/Mark Smith)

I've been interested to read what Cadel Evans had to say about his second-place finish in the Tour de France.

Evans is the first Australian to ever stand on the final podium. He didn't look particularly happy on the podium in the limited shots I could see on Versus, and he expressed his unhappiness about other cyclists' failure to work with him during Stage 15 in the Pyrenees. Evans is only 30-years old, by the way. He'll be back.

-- Herald Sun: Cadel Evans' pedals show mettle
-- The Age: Slow and steady is how Evans made it
-- The Age: Cadel's le Tour spurs Aussie team dream

Why is Lance Lance?

Just read this piece on CNN on Dr. Sanjay Gupta's blog. It's the simplest and best explanation of how Our Boy Lance does what he does (or did). I've had this explained to me before (and by Jonathan Vaughters along with a cardiologist), but never so clearly.
It speaks to my "all great athletes are physical freaks" theory of sports. Armstrong couldn't do what he did on the bike if his physiology wasn't different -- and superior -- to the average guy.
But judge for yourself.
Armstrong's heart can pump nine gallons of blood per minute working at its hardest compared with only five gallons per minute for the average person. The champion's lungs can get almost double the amount of oxygen out of every breath that a healthy 20-year-old would. This cyclist has more red blood cells to deliver oxygen to his body, which is key, when racing through the high altitudes of the Pyrenees Mountains.
Finally, Armstrong's body can recover at an incredible pace. "An average person when going to exhaustion would have to stay stopped or wouldn't be able to move for 10-15 minutes and Armstrong is able to go right back to maximum in 1 to 2 minutes," says Coyle.
All of this begs the question -- is Lance superhuman? Obviously not, but the way his body works is extraordinary.

Tour De France: The Postmortem

Alberto Contador celebrates his surprise victory in a volatile Tour de France.
(Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)


The postmortems are coming in on this 94th Tour de France. Obviously, they are not terribly flattering given the cloud of doping that hangs over the professional sport of cycling.

The GC winner, Alberto Contador, is a good story and, hopefully, a deserving winner. Three years ago, he was recovering in a hospital from a brain aneurysm, reading Our Boy Lance's book for inspiration.

So, judge for yourself:
-- Brendan Gallagher of the London Telegraph asks, "Who is the last Tour de France winner we can believe in?" It's a good question.
-- Julian Savulescu of the Telegraph: It is time to allow doping at the Tour de France
-- Richard Williams of the Guardian of London: Contador reigns as the new king of the road but crown is battered and tarnished
-- William Fotheringham of the Guardian: British team could ride 2008 Tour as beleaguered race seeks a revamp
-- Bonnie DeSimone for ESPN: Cycling needs to face its history and future honestly
-- There's interesting news on Jonathan Vaughters' Slipstream team in the Herald; both David Millar and David Zabriske on the Wall Street-backed and Spanish-sponsored team.
-- Jeffrey White and Andrew Curry of the Christian Science Monitor: Tainted Tour de France finishes under cloud
-- AP: Tour de France doping scandals provide 'entertainment' for fans
-- Edward Wyatt of the NYTimes: Contador wins a scarred Tour de France
-- Samuel Abt of the IHT: Tarnished, the Tour de France confronts its future
-- Jere Longman in the IHT: With a shrug, fans are likely to forgive corruption
-- AP: Sponsor says it will investigate Rasmussen's ouster from Tour de France
-- Reuters: Tour de France needs break from tarnished past -- media

Sunday, July 29, 2007

How Many Starbucks Are There in Manhattan?

Suffering Tour de France withdrawal yet?
Yeah, yeah, there's three hours more of "enhanced" coverage on Versus tonight at 8 ET.

But whatcha gonna do when Versus returns to all the other hideous coverage it does besides changing the station or -- here's an idea -- going for a ride yourself?

Well, you could go to Starbucks. Thanks to Ted Leonsis's blog, "Ted's Take," for this one:

The Final Podium (are you ready for a little football?)

2007 Tour de France's winner Alberto Contador of Spain waves from the podium with second-placed Cadel Evans of Australia and third-placed Levi Leipheimer of the U.S. after the 20th and final stage between Marcoussis and the Champs Elysees in Paris Sunday.
(AP photo/Bas Czerwinski)


-- Phil Liggett on Stage 20 and the conclusion of the Tour
-- AP: Contador of Spain captures doping-tainted Tour de France
-- AP: Disgraced Rasmussen says he never doped, could race the 2008 Tour
-- AP: Cyclists deceive themselves as much as fans by doping in secret

Why Are Cyclists So Loyal?

I am a big fan of New York Times columnist George Vecsey, who writes with such grace on the social aspects of sports. He has a wonderful column this morning I hope all the cynics will read.

In it, Vecsey writes:

"This loyalty to cycling is touching. Anybody who goes out for a spin identifies with these lean athletes who punish themselves on the highways and mountains of La Belle France. Watching the kaleidoscopic beauty of the Tour in recent weeks, listening to the knowledgeable Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen on the Versus network, made me love the sport even more.
"But as a reporter who covers this sport, I have to say this: Even serious amateur riders who put in hundreds of miles are essentially living in another universe from desperate Tour cyclists, who have been allowed — or forced — to cheat, and have paid for it with their lives.
"As we saw again yesterday, the Tour is still a compelling spectacle. After this last week of ghastly publicity, American cycling buffs insist the sport has moved far ahead of other pro sports. That may be true, but it is hardly a compliment."

Is Contador Worthy?

From the left, that's 43rd Tooth (Aaron Mimran), Tour of '03 (me, Steve Klein), my good buddy Mike Armellino and Chris Grengs on the Champs Elysees on the final day of the 2003 Tour.

Here's the question that must be going through the minds of quite a few cycling fans today on the final stage of this most controversial Tour de France.

I know it's been going through mine.

Should the eventual winner, almost certainly Alberto Contador of the Discovery Channel team, be judged a fair and legitimate winner in light of Michael Rasmussen's dismissal by his Rabobank team four stages shy of the top of the podium?

Is Contador worthy?

Contador did not wear the yellow jersey the first day after Rasmussen was booted for lying (for an absolutely superb story on the web of Chicken's lies, be sure to read William Fotheringham's account in the Observer). He didn't smile much until the first day he did wear the Maillot Jaune.

If you're a cyclist, the color yellow holds special meaning. I'm a decent cyclist, but I am highly reluctant to wear anything yellow (and a friend did give me a replica yellow jersey a couple years ago) while riding my bike or even to spinning class at the gym!

I did wear a throwback yellow jersey on the final day of the 2003 Tour (the 100th year anniversary of the event) when our Trek Travel group was part of the 10,000 riders who were permitted to ride the final loop of the Paris stage before the race.

All cyclists hold the Maillot Jaune in the highest regard.
Especially the cheaters, obviously.

So, is Alberto Contador a fair and legitimate winner?
He is legitimate if he won fairly. Hopefully, we will not learn anything to lead us to think otherwise.

Our experience with Bad Boy Floyd this past year was painful enough. This was the year cycling was supposed to redeem itself. Redemption remains in professional cycling's future, however.

But for now, I will put my cynicism aside and enjoy this final day of the Tour.
I will enjoy watching Alberto Contador wear the Maillot Jaune.
I hope you can, too.

Lots of good reading today:
-- Will time bonuses make a difference in today's stage with only 31 seconds separating the top three cyclists? Neal Rogers of VeloNews has a terrific story and comments from the leaders.
-- Rogers also writes about Our Boy Lance's day at the Tour:
Riding shotgun: Armstrong has front-row view of Contador's ride
-- Edward Wyatt of the NYTimes: Leipheimer wins Trial; Contador nears title
Contador, Wyatt writes, made this pledge to his fans after missing last year's Tour:

“I will continue working, possibly with even more devotion — if that’s possible — to make you experience this beautiful sport and to hear you say once again that you believe in it and in me. And because I believe in a clean sport, as I have practiced it, we will collect the result of our efforts in a few years.”

-- More Wyatt: Contador, a young Spaniard, riding with the wisdom of age
-- Juliet Macur of the NYTimes on Puzzle of the Teflon Peleton:
Risk, Reward and Ridicle
-- Nick Townsend of the Independent: Danish pastry is the ultimate dope in Tour de farce
-- AP: Vinokourov's 'B' sample confirms positive result for banned blood transfusion
-- Michael Hiltzik of the LATimes: Vinokourov to fight blood doping charge
-- Bob Hohler of the Boston Globe: Doping scandal turning race into 'Tour de Farce'
-- Filip Bondy of the NY Daily News: The Tour is no more; scandals have killed this race

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Missed It By That Much

I can't recall the last time two individuals from the same team were on the final podium of the Tour de France [the making of great trivia question, oui?], but as this year's Tour wraps up we'll be privy to something historic as Alberto Contador and Levi Leipheimer (Discovery Channel) will be standing shoulder to shoulder on the Champs Ellysees.

It would have been even more historic if Levi was on Contador's right than on his left on the final podium. After a more than valiant effort in today's final ITT, Leipheimer ended up 8 seconds shy from displacing Cadel Evans (Predictor-Lotto) for second place.

Or is he really 2 seconds ahead of Evans?

I think one of the most disappointing things in sports is when the outcome of an event is decided not by the players on the field, but by the officials. Because of the inability of some riders', to so speak "keep it in their pants," [or not cheat], and the Tour officials sending them packing, that's exactly how the outcome of this Tour was decided, by the officials.

In Levi's case, both his aspirations for the overall victory and for making the final podium were due to judgement calls by the officials. With Michael Rasmussen dismissed, Levi secured a spot on the podium. But on the other hand, if it weren't for a 10 second penalty he incurred on that crash filled Stage 8, Levi (Photo: Graham Watson) would now be second [being 2 seconds ahead of Evans], and therefore still would have made the podium even with Rasmussen present.

The Tour officials giveth and the Tour officials taketh away!

My Apologies to James Raia

The Crankset received this note from the superb cycling writer, James Raia, on Friday, in response to an item ("Rah Rah for Raia") we had posted earlier in the Tour to point our readers to his fine work:

I appreciate your kind words. But, geez, if you're just going to use my blog as your blog, the least you could do is provide a link to my site.
Cheers,
James Raia
In the item, I reprinted a short piece that Raia had written to showcase his work. Unfortunately, I failed to also provide a link to his blog, something I'm usually quite consistent in doing.

My apologies to James (the photo is from his site). While not all bloggers are journalists, all blogs are a form of journalism. And as a long-time journalist, I would never want to pass off someone else's work as my own. As the Crankset has grown its audience in the past year or so, we have a greater responsibility in crediting sources. My intent, if not my successful result, was only to point readers to James' work. I hope we can continue to do so.

TIme Trial to Levi, the Tour to Contador

Levi Leipheimer strains on his way to win the 19th stage of the Tour de France, a 55.5-kilometer (34.52-mile) individual time trial between Cognac and Angouleme in central France on Saturday. Overall leader Alberto Contador of Spain retained the yellow jersey by 23 seconds over Cadel Evans of Australia and by 31 seconds over Leipheimer.
(AP photo/Peter Dejong)

A brief look at the 19th stage of the Tour de France on Saturday:

Stage: Saturday's time trial took riders over 34.52 miles of flat roads from Cognac to Angouleme to the finish in Paris.

Winner: American rider Levi Leipheimer of the Discovery Channel team won in 1 hour, 2 minutes, 44 seconds. It was his first stage win in the Tour.

Yellow Jersey: Alberto Contador of the Discovery Channel team kept the overall lead. The 24-year-old Spaniard will likely win the Tour on Sunday barring a crash. He leads Cadel Evans of Australia by 23 seconds.

Quote of the Day: "I don't think it's fair, but if I have to then I'll take it." -- Contador when asked if he would take a blood test to prove that his DNA is not linked to the Operation Puerto blood-doping case.

Next stage: Sunday's 20th and final stage is a 90.7-mile ride starting from France's rugby center in Marcoussis and ending on the Champs-Elysees in Paris. Often mostly a processional spin for the rider wearing the yellow jersey, the final stage this year could offer more drama given Contador's slim margin over Evans. Leipheimer said after the time Trial that he would not challenge Evans [or in Robbie Ventura's words, "Pull a Vinokourov," which Levi echoed] for second place and was happy just to be on the final podium.

-- AP: Vinokourov backup sample tests positive
-- Reuters: Tour de France triumph in Contador's grasp

We Just Don't Know. We Just Can't Believe.

Think this Tour doesn't hurt? You can see the injury 17th stage winner Sandy Casar of France suffered through his torn shorts following his crash (he hit a dog early in the stage).
(AP photo/Bas Czerwinski)

Today should be one of the most exciting days of the Tour de France.
It is the 19th and penultimate (don't you just love that word?) stage, the final time trial before the triumphant ride into Paris Sunday.

It is 33 miles, all out: The race of truth.

But therein lies the problem:
There will be nothing triumphant about the ride into Paris.

We do not know the truth.

This Tour, which Brit Bradley Wiggins says has "lost all credibility" and is "null and void as far as I am concerned" has been like a punch in the gut.

Who thought (OK, 53rd Tooth thought) things could get worse after Floyd Landis' grand deception last year?

"No one has faith in who is wearing the yellow jersey," said Wiggins, an Olympic gold medallist (of course, so is Tyler Hamilton -- and how fair is that to Wiggins?). "I'm quite pleased I'm here and out of it. I've no regrets that I am not there. It's not a nice place to be."

There are clean riders in professional cycling. Wiggins may be one of them. Alberto Contador, the Discovery Channel rider who now wears the yellow jersey, may be one of them.

We just don't know. We just can't believe.

If you listened to the Versus coverage of the past two predominantly flat stages since race leader Michael Rasmussen was booted from the Tour by his Rabobank team, the announcing team's tone has been just that: intentionally flat.

The air has gone out of this tour after multiple doping issues and news of positive tests.

It would be nice to revel in the possibility of Johan Bruyneel having coached eight of the last nine Tour victors. But Contador is this year's Oscar Pereiro. We all know Rasmussen was the strongest rider, like Landis last year. But were they really?

We just don't know. And now, how many fans just don't care?

If you do:
-- Edward Wyatt of the NYTimes: Three will be chasing title in Time Trial
-- The IHT Geoffrey Wheatcroft: The Tour de France in mourning
-- Richard Moore of the Scotsman:
Has the Tour de France become tour de farce?
-- Reuters: Tour director says breaking with UCI
-- AFP: Former champ LeMond says doping still dogs Tour
-- AP: Cyclist Vinokourov hires Floyd Landis' lawyer in Tour doping case
-- Andrew Hood of the VeloNews: Anger simmers in peloton over Tour scandals
-- VeloNews editorial: Rasmussen's lies
-- AP: Disgraced Rasmussen vows to continue his cycling career after being expelled from Tour
-- Reuters: Sponsors reconsidering after doping scandals
-- Samuel Abt of the IHT:Belgian works hard to finish last Tour
-- AP on researcher: Tour de France total calories 72,000 cheeseburgers

A thought about Rasmussen: He has always been a loner -- and a selfish loner at that, unpopular in the peloton and even on his team. Obviously, he did not feel he owed anyone anything, including his whereabouts for drug testing. It is hard to feel sorry for him. He made his own bed.

A note about Axel Merckx: There was a touching moment at the end of Stage 17 when Robbie Ventura interviewed the popular Merckx, who plans to retire at the end of Tour (unless he resurfaces as part of that Jonathan Vaughters American team we keep hearing about from Granny and on Versus).

The T-Mobile rider was part of the four-man breakaway that was ultimately won by France's Sandy Caser (who won despite hitting a dog early in the stage). During the interview, Merckx broke down momentarily, the emotion of losing a stage he obviously wanted to win badly as a celebration of his career overwhelming him.

It was, perhaps, the truest moment of this Tour.

Friday, July 27, 2007

On Tap...

Still the Tour, Baby?!
For those of you who are still interested in the outcome of this year's Tour de France, Alberto Contador (Discovery Channel) may be the reluctant Maillot Jaune on the road, but he may not make it to Paris with it on his shoulders. When Michael Rasmussen was still participating, the talk centered around how much time the climber needed to put on his closest competitors before the final ITT. Well that ITT is here, and the climber may be different, but Contador hasn't had much, if any, of an opportunity to put time into Cadel Evans (Predictor-Lotto) or his teammate Levi Leipheimer (Discovery Channel), who sit at 1.53 and 2.49 in arrears, respectively.

Saturday's 55.5km ITT from Cognac to Angoulême, is relatively flat and fast. This course will certainly favor Evans [who finished second to an allegedly doped up Vinokourov] and Leipheimer [who has won 3 ITT this year], but with the way Kid Contador has been battling, he's sure to go down swinging.

However, the greatest battle all the riders now face may not be with each other or with the parcours of the final "race of truth," but with their willingness and ability to focus after the drama and series of expulsions over the past few days. If Contador feels as undeserving of the Maillot Jaune as he did yesterday after Stage 17, then he's already been knocked out.

The doping controversy, we all hope, is gone from this year's Tour, and the drama shifted back to the road where Discovery Channel Director Sportif, Johan Bruyneel, is certainly a candidate for its focal point. With Rasmussen gone, and with all of Bruyneel's focus on Contador's chances to win the overall, how will he deal with the very real possibility [though slim in probability] of Levi Leipheimer winning the Tour? And we haven't even mentioned the drama of securing a sponsor for next year, even with two of his riders on the podium and his team winning the team competition.

On The Road
For those who lost all hope in professional cycling some time ago, or who may have just undergone the pain of seeing this beautiful sport's most chaotic race to date, then its time to go and mash on the pedals yourself. As usual, below is a list of races in specific areas of the country.

Our featured race this weekend is the Dave Babcock Memorial Weekend in Omaha, NE. Its a stage race that has something for everyone. It kicks off with the Douglas County Road Race on Saturday morning, followed by an afternoon time trial in Elkhorn, and a crit in downtown Omaha on Sunday.

As the Omaha area was my former stomping ground during my formative collegiate years, I am all too familiar with the routes. If you're in the area make sure to go out and support the racers, and if you're racing make sure to razz the chief referee, our friend of the blog, Sean Weide (Director of Communications for Toyota-United) if you have a [legitimate] disagreement with being pulled or with one of his calls.

To find results and photos of most of the races, check out Truesports.com


07/27/2007
13th Delaware Classic
Delaware, OH
Madison of the Americas
Trexlertown, PA

07/28/2007
Prudential Integity One, REALTORS Grand Prix
Granville, OH
Diamond Valley Road Race
Woodfords, CA
Porcupine Chalk Creek Road Race
Coalville, UT
Chris Meerman Memorial Downtown Allentown Criterium
Allentown, PA
Dave Babcook Memorial Weekend
Omaha, NE
Great Grandview Heights Criterium
Lancaster, PA

07/29/2007
The International Tour de 'Toona - Points Race
Altoona, PA
Peter Teeuwen Memorial Time Trials
Chesapeake, VA
Rum Village Criterium
South Bend, IN
The Buckeye Criterium
Columbus, OH
JBN Bicycle Race
Easton, PA
Velo Allegro Deluge Criterium
Long Beach, CA
Southbay Wheelmen Baxter Time Trial
Palos Verdes, CA

For those who have been utterly enraptured by the good and bad of the Tour, you most likely didn't realize that there's another tour race still going on in the US, the Tour de 'Toona.

After Stage 3 the Women's GC has Kori Seehafer (TEAm Lipton) holding on to a slim lead over Felicia Gomez (Aaron's).

Standings:
1 Kori Seehafer (TEAm Lipton)
2 Felicia Gomez (Aaron's)
3 Alison Powers (Colavita/Sutter Home)
4 Christine Thorburn (Webcor Builders)
5 Katheryn Curi (Webcor Builders)

The Men's standings haven't really changed much since the TTT, with Health Net presented by Maxxis and Toyota - United dominating the top.

Standings:
1 Karl Menzies (Health Net - Maxxis)
2 Rory Sutherland (Health Net - Maxxis)
3 Chris Baldwin (Toyota-United)
4 Caleb Manion (Toyota-United)
5 Chris Wherry (Toyota-United)

Cycling.tv Update

Cycling.TV, which offers premium as well as free-to-view broadcasts, has struck carriage deals with both Joost and Blinkx. The site, which is managed by U.K. design firm Beetlebrow, wants to reach new audiences outside of the bicycle community. The site has been showing Tour de France highlights and news reports.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Dope on Contador

Almost ready to be kissed ... (AP photo/Peter Dejong)

Here's the story on Alberto Contador and his connection -- or lack of one -- to Operacion Puerto.

ALSO:
-- VeloNews: Contador dons yellow as Bennati Wins Stage 17
-- Q&A with the NYTimes' Edward Wyatt

Yawn ...

Rollin', rollin', rollin' ...
(AP Photo/Christophe Ena)


So, did anything happen today in the -- what was it? -- oh yeah, the 17th stage of the Tour de Farce?
Some guy in a breakaway only Granny has probably ever heard of won a sprint finish.
Discovery Channel's Alberto Contador got to wear yellow:

(AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

Looks thrilled, doesn't he?
Everybody knows that Michael Rasmussen had the race won.
Nobody knows if he was clean, though.
Nobody knows if anybody is clean.
And that pretty much sums up the day.
And the Tour.
And professional cycling.
Thanks, guys.

The Versus boys did a pretty good job beating themselves up as well as the Tour at the top of their morning telecast. Thanks for the candid commentary, boys (here's what Bob Roll, Robbie Ventura and Paul Sherwen had to say).

There's plenty more if you're interested:
-- AP: Italy's Daniele Bennati wins 17th stage of doping-tainted Tour, a day after leader's expulsion
-- AP: Cycling and Tour de France mired in scandal, having failed to learn from past
-- Rupert Guinness of the Sydney Morning Herald: How the mighty are falling
-- George Vecsey of the NYTimes: Whole world is watching as the wheels come off the Tour
-- Edward Wyatt of the NYTimes: Tour in tatters, team ousts the race leader
-- Sally Jenkins of the Washington Post: When the fix is in, you can't believe it
-- Peter Allen of the Telegraph: Tour de France becomes drug-fuelled disgrace
-- Samuel Abt of the IHT: Organizers hail Tour de France leader's ouster

And do you believe this (is this a guy an idiot or what)?
-- Reuters: Our sport is not in crisis, says UCI President McQuaid

The Morning Papers




AFP/Getty Images/AP

Presidential Cyclist?

AP photo
So, who's the cyclist/presidential candidate with Our Boy Lance?
Read the story.

How to Replace the Tour de Farce

Given the nature of programming on Versus, including the newly renamed Tour de Farce, I suggest that the Tour be replaced by the following new event for 2008:

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Do You Know the Way to ... San Jose?

(Photo: FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images)

The Once (and Future?) Champion

OK, one last thought on this day of infamy in the Tour de Farce and I'm going to bed:

What do you think this guy is thinking?

AND:
-- Carol Herwig of USA Today:
Landis, Walsh peddle thoughts on ups, downs of cycling

Survival of the ... Fittest?

Is this the face of the leader of the Tour de Farce?

So, just who does lead this Tour de Farce?
Here's what's left of the top 30:

Overall After Stage 16
2. Alberto Contador (Sp), Discovery Channel, at 03:10
3. Cadel Evans (Aus), Predictor - Lotto, at 05:03
4. Levi Leipheimer (
USA), Discovery Channel , at 05:59
5. Carlos Sastre (Sp), CSC, at 09:12
6. Haimar Zubeldia (Esp), Euskaltel - Euskadi, at 09:39
7. Alejandro Valverde (Sp), Caisse d'Epargne, at 13:28
8. Kim Kirchen (Lux), T-Mobile, at 14:46
9. Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr), Discovery Channel, at 16:00
10. Mauricio Soler Hernandez Juan (Col), Barloworld, at 16:41
11. Mikel Astarloza (Sp), Euskaltel - Euskadi, at 16:52
12. Oscar Pereiro Sio (Sp), Caisse d'Epargne, at 17:17
13. David Arroyo (Sp), Caisse d'Epargne, at 21:08
14. Iban Mayo (Sp), Saunier Duval - Prodir, at 25:24
15. Christopher Horner (
USA), Predictor - Lotto , at 26:22
16. Vladimir Karpets (Rus), Caisse d'Epargne, at 27:37
17. Michael Boogerd (Nl), Rabobank, at 31:00
18. Frank Schleck (Lux), CSC, at 31:48
19. Manuel Beltran (Sp), Liquigas, at 32:58
20. Tadej Valjavec (Slo), Lampre-Fondital, at 36:31
21. Jose Cobo Acebo Juan (Sp), Saunier Duval - Prodir, at 37:42
22. Manuel Garate Juan (Sp), Quick Step - Innergetic, at 39:23
23. Denis Menchov (Russia), Rabobank, at 45:15
24. Ivan Gutierrez José (Sp), Caisse d'Epargne, at 48:33
25. Amets Txurruka (Sp), Euskaltel - Euskadi, at 49:04
26. Sylvain Chavanel (F), Cofidis, at 50:08
27. Christian Vandevelde (
USA), CSC , at 56:33
28. Dmitriy Fofonov (Kz), Credit Agricole, at 57:15
29. George Hincapie (USA), Discovery Channel , at 57:45
30. Stephane Goubert (F), Ag2r Prevoyance, at 1:04:57

The Tour de Farce

The lasting image of this Tour de France: Lock him up! Italian rider Cristian Moreni of Cofidis is taken away by French police after learning he tested positive for testosterone following a random test from Stage 11 (Bas Czerwinski/AP).

Well, this Tour de France sure stinks, doesn't it?
Oh, sure, Stage 16, finishing on the Col d' Aubisque, was exciting and yet another apparent victory -- apparent because who do you trust in cycling anymore? -- for Michael Rasmussen.
But what did it matter?

Rabobank has removed the yellow jersey leader from the race!
Have you EVER heard of such a thing?

At least Bad Boy Floyd lasted a few days beyond the end of last year's Tour.
Heck, Bjarne Riis, the 1996 "winner," lasted 11 years before he fessed up and was stripped of his "victory."

But Rabobank removed the Tour leader after nine stages in the yellow jersey and four stages from what appeared to be a certain victory.
Have you EVER heard of such a thing?

What IS this Tour de France, as Phil Liggett would say?
And speaking of the ridiculously canned coverage from Versus, how can they expect anyone to watch their "enhanced" evening coverage when, other than a news crawl across the bottom of the screen, they fail to keep up with the off-the-road developments that have dominated this Tour?

C'mon, Versus, get out of bed already and scrap the canned stuff when news breaks.
It's embarrassing already.

So, Patrick Sinkewitz
is dropped by T-Mobile for doping before the Tour.
Now, T-Mobile may drop its sponsorship altogether.

Alexander Vinokourov tests positive after winning the Stage 13 time trial, then has a Floyd Landis-like Stage 14 and Stage 15 (from the depths to triumph in the later), and is dumped -- as his entire Astana team.
Call them Team Borat.

Then on Wednesday, Cofidis rider Cristian Moreni is escorted from the Tour by the French police -- where's Inspector Clouseau? -- after that leaky French lab with the open phone line to L'Equipe reveals his random positive "A" test for testosterone following Stage 11.

Cristian "freakin'" Moreni!
He's 34 and was 102nd in the Tour!
He was one of the riders who participated in a silent protest this morning against riders who cheat/dope.
Why on earth would HE cheat?
So Cofidis drops out out the Tour!

Is this a circus or what?
A Swiss newspaper drops its coverage of the race (imagine an American newspaper dropping coverage of the NBA or NFL playoffs!).

And back to Rasmussen: Catch this VeloNews lead earlier in the day before Rasmussen was dumped: "Despite tepid support from fans [Rasmussen was booed at the start of today's stage], race organizers [they had asked for his removal], fellow riders and even his own team, Michael Rasmussen is just one steady time trial away from winning the 2007 Tour de France."
Well, you can forget that!

Nobody but nobody likes this guy.

What IS this Tour de France?
What is it?
It's over.
End it.
Put it out of its misery already.
Put it on ice until EVERYONE in the race is too old to ever race again.
It's the Tour de Farce from now on.
Only Peter Sellers could love it.

MORE (than I can stand):
-- AP:
Tour de France doping scandals
-- AP: Kazakh cycling officials react with disbelief to Vinokourov doping disgrace at Tour de France
-- AP: Vinokourov denies doping, claims Astana team is persecuted

The Leader, Winner and Champion

You are looking at the next winner of the Tour de France. Denmark's Michael Rasmussen of Rabobank took everything that Alberto Contador and Levi Leipheimer of the Discovery Channel could throw at him during the 16th stage of the Tour de France on the imposing Col de Aubisque Wednesday. Rasmussen won the stage, his second of this Tour (photo/BERNARD PAPON/AFP/Getty Images).

BREAKING NEWS: Bomb Blast?!

MADRID (Reuters) - At least one small explosion hit the Spanish section of Wednesday's Tour de France cycle race after a report of a bomb threat from a caller claiming to represent Basque separatist rebels ETA, the government said.

No one was hurt and the Tour, the most important race on the cycling calendar, continued after the explosion.

-- UPDATE from AP: Small blasts in Spain along Tour de France route, no injuries reported

Real and Spectacular

If you've ever raced, whether it be organized or just out on the street with some buddies, you quickly realize how important and how valuable it can be to have some teammates around you. In a pack they can provide some shelter by blocking wind, they can shepard you to the line with a great lead-out, or they can simply instill some confidence by cheering you on or calming you down.

So when you see someone on the [start] line with a non-descript jersey or that lone team jersey in a large group partitioned by similar colors and markings, its not hard to find some measure of respect for that person. Now when you see that lone individual actually spring forth from that pack and win, well, then you know you've got something special.

Such is the current plight of our friend, Liz Hatch (Vanderkitten). She's a season away from leading Team Vanderkitten on the road, but that hasn't stopped her from showing the women's domestic circuit what a lone Vanderkitten can do [taking to heart the grassroots clothing company's motto; for women "who kick ass!"], and what they might need to worry about in the future.

In the past two weeks, Liz has lined up for the Lafayette and Albany Criteriums. In the women's Cat 1/2/3 races, she finished 7th and 1st, respectively. And according to Liz, she seems to be "finally getting the hang of this crit thing."

At the Lafayette Criterium, Liz stated that she "left my sprint for too late and there was no way I could pass the girls who were ahead of me."

Liz [second wheel] Tracking A Move

But at Albany, she was able to rectify that mistake and "attacked with 2 corners left and won by about 4 bike lengths!"

Another Victory Salute

The folks from Vanderkitten have recently set her up with her own blog, so now you can follow along with Liz's musings during her racing season and beyond. But, we'll be sure to have updates and reports for our readers of our favorite Vanderkitten.

Oh, and Liz's reaction to the Vinokourov news yesterday...an excerpt from her blog:
"I'm gutted.

I'm insulted, hurt and fucking irate.

Cycling is life to me and I treat it with respect. Hours of training, living healthy and sacrifice and nothing more. No pills, no shots, no transfusions. Nothing that would soil my accomplishments or steal from a competitor.

Apparently some have lost sight of the reason cycling is such a beautiful sport.

Apparently nothing matters besides the almighty dollar..."
Yup, she's real and she's spectacular.

Off-Topic But a Good Point

If you've never read Canadian sports sociologist Richard Crepeau, you're really missing a treat. Here, he makes a good point about our values as they relate to the Michael Vick dog-fighting atrocities:
"Why is it that when dogs are abused by athletes there are protests everywhere, calls for the immediate suspension of the player, and a loud condemnation of the actions, but when an athlete abuses a spouse or a female friend the public outcry is considerably less? Is that a statement about social values, or is it something else?"

The French Protest

French riders gather around France's national champion Christophe Moreau (AG2R/Fra) during a demonstration at the start of the 16th stage of the Tour de France between Orthez and Gourette Aubisque Wednesday. The riders reacted after it was revealed that Kazakhstan’s Alexandre Vinokourov tested positive for blood doping after the individual time-trial in Albi last Saturday (FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images).

We've Been Here Before

Marco Pantani of Italy took part in a sit-in as riders staged a protest, saying they were fed up with the lack of respect showed to them and with the press coverage concentrating on the use of performance enhancing drugs instead of the sport, at the start of the 12th stage of the Tour de France cycling race between Tarascon-en-Ariege and Le Cap d'Agde, southern France, in this July 24, 1998 file photo. On Wednesday, dozens of Tour de France riders demonstrated their anger over repeated doping scandals by staging a silent protest at the start of the 16th stage. The protest came a day after star rider Alexandre Vinokourov and his Astana team were sent home after he tested positive for a banned blood transfusion (AP photo/Peter Dejong).

Versus Checks In -- For 5 Minutes

Alexander Vinokourov waits in the doping trailer for his test following Stage 15 (photo/Getty images)

After it's pre-taped and unforgiveable silence during its Tuesday night Rest Day program, Versus checked in for five minutes Wednesday morning on the Alexander Vinokourov doping scandal.

Then, it was pretty much business as usual -- as usual in a Tour de France that was minus yet another of its major stars because of cheating and his entire Astana team, which withdrew at the request of the race organizers.

Bob Roll called Vinokourov's thinking process "stupid."

Al Trautwig began with a disingeneous introduction that pointed out that professional baseball, football, basketball, golf and even the Ironman competitions had their own problems -- and, oh yeah, cycling, too.

Phil Liggett, ever the optimist, said the whole matter was yet another positive sign that cycling was effectively policing itself. Paul Sherwen, as he often does, agreed with Liggett.

And then we were in the Pyrenees and Stage 16.
All six French teams and the two German teams -- not all the teams, obviously, because some are probably still cheating -- staged what was termed a silent protest at the starting line. "We're fed up," French rider Ludovic Turpin told Eurosport television.

The Associated Press reported that fans booed the Tour leader, Michael Rasmussen, at the start. The Dane remains under suspicion because he either skipped or avoided (more disingeneousness) doping tests before the Tour began. The protest delayed the start of the stage 13 minutes.

This is the final state in the Pyrenees. The Tour, despite its inherent pleasures, mercifully ends Sunday. As I wrote earlier, I believe the organizers should suspend the Tour for at least a year until the teams, cyclists and organizers can organize that the event can be run on the level.
Meanwhile, the wheels keep turning. The Amgen Tour of California announced its route for the eight-day event next Feburary.

ALSO:
-- Los Angeles Times:
Vinokourov is latest Tour de France drug suspect
-- National Post: Tour de France leader booed by fans
-- Devon O'Neil: Just once, I'd like to know why they cheat
-- Deutsche Welle: German cycling faces 'existence-threatening' crisis
-- William Fotheringham of the Guardian: Wiggins reveals suspicions over Vinokourov

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

More From Millar

" We've given benefit of the doubt ... that benefit is over."
From the man who has been on the other side and succumbed to the pressure to dope, an infuriated David Millar (Saunier Duval-Prodir) reacts further to the latest doping news (CLICK on the image):

NOTE: For those easily offended by strong language, Millar's reaction is extremely genuine and guttural.

Some Good News...

Just received the email confirmation, the Triple Crankset is going to Interbike 2007, as credentialed media. So to our friend of the blog, Liz Hatch (Vanderkitten), get ready for that hand shake...er, hug!

And in the realm of "Too Funny [or in this case Ironic] Not to Post," how about this story (how did I miss this on Saturday, oh yeah my head was being twisted around by that pseudo-phenomenal Vinokourov ITT)...

Instead of Tour coverage a Swiss newspaper, Le Nouvelliste, published the obituary of the sport of cycling. Roughly translated from French:
"The writer imagines a tomb engraved of the dates of birth and of death (1790-2007) and [a] wheel of [a] bicycle. The flagstone is surmounted by a funeral [bike] pump…, of course. The text indicates: “Become little by little a discipline brewing of the million francs and monopolizing the media of the whole world, in particular through the mythical Tour de France, cycling died out little by little, gangrené by the cheating and doping”.
The newspaper chose to publish the obit in anger over all the news of doping [we can all empathize with that sentiment]. Although the newspaper maintains its "passion for a clean, true, educational and popular sport,” the article ends with “Today, professional cycling is clinically dead."

Versus: Canned Coverage Gone Stale

Turned on Versus just a few minutes ago only to discover that their Rest Day show was so canned that it had gone sour. Instead of some insightful commentary on the latest doping controversy from Al Trautwig, Bob Roll, Paul Sherwen and Phil Liggett, all we got was stale leftovers of stages 9-15. I just couldn't watch -- and I doubt anyone else is, either.

C'mon, people.
Sometimes, you just have to throw out the script and start all over.

Fade to Gray

This may the last image we see of Alexander Vinokourov on a bicycle: riding in a fog during the 15th stage of the 2007 Tour de France (photo/Getty images).

Vino Tests Positive: Cycling Suffers Negatively

Will this be the lasting image of the 2007 Tour de France?
Of French Gendarmes and police officers climbing the staircase
of the Astana cycling team hotel in Pau?

(AP Photo/Bas Czerwinski)

OK, so 53rd Tooth told us so.
Still ... still, how STUPID can these professional cyclists be?

Patrick Sinkewitz tested positive BEFORE the Tour de France. Before he nearly killed a spectator after an early stage cycling to the team hotel. But that was Patrick Sinkewitz. Not Alexander Vinokourov. Not even Jan Ullrich -- we are still waiting for THAT shoe to drop.

But now, Vinokourov, too.

How stupid could he be?
How unattentive could his team, Astana, have been?

With the eyes of all cycling on the Tour de France, with the eyes of the sports world on the sport's multiple doping scandals, how could someone as high-profile as Alexander Vinokourov be SO stupid and dope?

Obviously, Vinokourov is not stupid. He is a member of the most elite peloton in the world, however, and he knows what goes on in that peloton. If Vinokourov is cheating, he's cheating because he knows what it takes to succeed in the peloton.

And what does that mean? There are no shortcuts in cycling. There are no supermen. This is a sport that, even with the eyes of the sports world on it, can't help itself. The Tour leader, Michael Rasmussen, can't even maintain the approval of his own Danish cycling and Olympic federations and submit himself properly for testing.

How disgusting has this sport become on the professional level? Even on its biggest stage, it can't stay clean.

Sad. So sad.

If this is not the end of the Tour de France,
at least for a year if not more, then what will it take?

Consider these comments from David Millar: "Jesus Christ -- there you go, that's my quote. What timing, huh? This is just fucking great. I wanted to believe it was a really good day [for Vinokourov -- like Bad Boy Floyd's "really good day" last year]. It makes me very sad. Vino is one of my favorite riders. He's one of the most beautiful riders in the peloton. If a guy of his stature and class has done that, we all might as well pack our bags and go home right now."

Yes, it is the end of the Tour as we have know it.

It should not return until a new generation of riders is ready to compete clean.

Obviously, THIS was not that time. THIS is not that Tour.
THIS Tour is dirty, no matter what the outcome now.

Sad. So sad.

ALSO:
--
Samuel Abt of the IHT: Scandal piling up on the Tour de France
-- Edward Wyatt of the NYTimes: After positive test, team quits Tour de France
-- VeloNews: Tour will continue despite doping cloud
-- VeloNews: Vinokourov tests positive; Astana withdraws from the Tour
-- VeloNews: Police search Astana vehicles and hotel
-- AP: Astana pulls out of Tour de France
-- Agence France Presse: Astana manager trusts test more than Vino
-- SuperCycling: Millar gutted as Vinokourov tests positive
-- AP: Tour de France doping scandals (roundup)
-- Bloomberg: T-Mobile May Terminate Cycling Sponsorship Early
-- VeloNews: Rabobank officials stand by their man
-- AP: Danish Olympic Committee backs exclusion of Tour de France leader Rasmussen from national team
-- AP: Armstrong urges rigid whereabouts system
-- AP: Petachi cleared of doping charge

AND (oh yeah, if you still care):
-- VeloNews: Leipheimer ready to sacrifice podium spot to help Contador
-- AP: Armstrong may appear at Tour de France