Twisted Spoke

My twisted take on the world of pro bike racing.

Archive for July 2009

Where ya headed, Mr. Contador? The man in yellow searches for home.

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Where am I going? I have no idea.

Where am I going? I have no idea.

The Tour de France was easy. Where are you going, Alberto? Straight up. The Pyrenees, the Alps. Now, post tour, the question of where Alberto is headed is a lot more complicated.

Instead of going team by team, TS proposes starting with the rider himself. A man who’s won the last 4 grand tours he’s ridden. What does the man from Pinto require?

Habla Espagnol?

Contador is a young Spanish rider of 26 who– surprise– prefers to speak Spanish. Winning a grand tour is hard enough without a language barrier. Clearly unhappy with the English slant of team Astana, El Pistelero wants a team where he doesn’t need a translator. Contador is not buying a Spanish-Belgian dictionary to stick in his jersey pocket. With two tours in the bag, people learn your language, not the other way around. Done with that.

Please, no Texans.

Contador does not want a replay of the Armstrong situation. He doesn’t want to see any Texas flags anymore, or drunk lunatics running along side him with longhorns mounted on football helmets. He doesn’t want to see American flags. He doesn’t want to take questions from anyone who wasn’t born in Spain. The Garmin rumors? Amusing but misguided. A team with two riders in the top 10 and a hard core anti-drug stance is not taking on a rider who refused a DNA test when questioned in the Operacion Puerto investigation. Not in a 100 years.

My team, not our team.

The year of sharing is over and it was an experience Alberto never wants to relive. Two kids in the sand box fighting over the firetruck. It was ugly and that’s history. Before he signs a contract, there will be a guarantee that everyone has one loyalty: to him. He’s not sharing with Wiggins, Valverde, Vinokourov, Evans, Menchov or anybody else. Why should he? Sure, he doesn’t tweet as well as Armstrong but he’s 10 years younger.

Astana is not the Answer.

Why would he ride for a team that was just gutted? The best riders are following Bruyneel and Armstrong to Radio Shack. And this is a team that couldn’t even pay riders during the tour of Italy. Sure, they’re offering a huge wad of cash but is that money real? Sounds like Kazak monopoly money. Two bottles of cheap vodka say this will never happen. Again, Alberto wants stability. Besides, if he hated Armstrong, he’ll double-triple hate Vinokourov even worse when he comes back and wants top billing. An unqualified disaster.

No start-ups, please.

This is not a start-up situation. The man has nothing to prove. So a year or two building a squad is a waste of time. Dominance doesn’t take a step backward. So no team Sky. Besides the fact a new team could never at this late date bring in the riders he needs to win a three week tour. Clownish scenarios involving a rich Spanish formula one driver with bathtubs of cash to front a new team are just that — clownish.

So where is Alberto Contador headed? The one place he was always headed, folks: the Spanish powerhouse Caisse d’Epargne. A team stocked with strong riders, a good sized budget, a solid infrastructure and loads of Spanish riders who don’t need translation help for the phrase “you’re riding for Alberto.”

Yeah they’ll find need to find an additional sponsor plus another year of financial support. Not that hard to scrounge up for a talent as big as Contadors’. Star rider Alejandro Valverde has already said he’ll ride of Contador — and that’s if Valverde avoids the serious possibility of a 2 year drug ban. If he’s gone, all the better. It’s a done deal, amigos.

Quickstep, Rabobank, Garmin, Team Sky? Jesus, you must be joking. May Cadel Evans’ dog Molly soil your carpet if you think otherwise.


Written by walshworld

July 30, 2009 at 6:40 am

The Armstrong Contador divorce. Calling all lawyers.

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I hate you and you hate me.

I hate you and you hate me.

Like a nasty couple long overdue for divorce, the reactions from Alberto Contador and Lance Armstrong require a referee or better yet a team of lawyers.

Accusations flew fast and furious Monday with the Tour de France gag order over. Addressing the Spanish media, Contador said he had zero respect for the Texan and stated that on a personal level he had no admiration for Armstrong.

Not long after, Armstrong responded with a barrage of tweets, everything from “If I were him I’d drop this drivel and start thanking his team” to his afternoon counter-punch, “What did I say in March? Lots to learn. Restated.”

The relationship is beyond repair and the aftermath isn’t pretty. The following engagements, play dates and invitations have now been definitively cancelled.

Contador has been crossed off Lance’s September 18th birthday party in Austin. Alberto has already returned the wheel chair gag gift he bought on ebay.

Contador rescinded his invitation to the Fiesta de San Anton in January in Alberto’s hometown of Pinto, Spain. “Why would I want to eat pinto beans with him?” said Armstrong.

Lance has threatened legal action if Contador does not return the Kings of Leon CD and a special edition Texas Longhorns sweatshirt he let him borrow. The Spanish rider denied having the items but asked Amrstrong to give back the socks he lent him.

Lance has erased Contador from his linkedin connections and Alberto has wiped out Lance’s access to his Facebook page.

A promise by Contador to babysit Lance’s four kids if he won the tour was rescinded. Not to be outdone, Lance immediately cancelled Alberto’s invite to SXSW, the annual music and technology festival in Austin in mid March.

In addition, plans for Alberto to hang with Lance and Matthew McConaughey and meet some really hot Hollywood chicks were cancelled. The tentative date for Alberto and Lance to run the bulls together in Pamplona was put on hold forever. Yeah, it’s ugly. They’re too busy goring each other to bother with angry bulls in the streets.

Things really got ugly when Contador said he would henceforth refer to Armstrong as “that decrepit old man from Texas.” Lance responded by calling Contador a “wussy.” Johan Bruyneel said he’d ordered Contador to stop making so many “unscripted” remarks but the Spanish rider apparently told Bruyneel to shove a bunch of Belgian frites up his mouth.

The depth of the animosity surprised the most jaded sports journalists: Alberto returned the box of Livestrong bracelets he promised to sell. Armstrong for his part, reportedly trashed the Rosetta Stone Spanish Lessons he’d bought.

He also warned Contador he’d get no special Radio Shack discounts on electronics, cell phones or computer accessories. Contador fired back that he’d make sure no tapas restaurant in Spain would serve the Texan.

When asked for comment on the vicious Armstrong Contador feud, famed cycling commentator Phil Liggett said “oh my.” This story is far from over and makes the Lemond Hinault dispute look like two kids arguing over popsicles.

Written by walshworld

July 28, 2009 at 6:06 am

NEWS FLASH: Alberto Contador really doesn’t like Armstrong.

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Armstrong-hater, Alberto Contador

Armstrong-hater, Alberto Contador

To the shock of absolutely no one, Alberto Contador officially dislikes Lance Armstrong.

Speaking with the Spanish media in Madrid, Contador announced that Armstrong is a great rider but on a personal level “I have never had great admiration for him and I never will.” That is the sound of gloves coming off.

Now that the Tour de France is over, the post-tour recriminations are in full swing. Contador went on to say that “the situation was tense and delicate because the relationship between myself and Lance extended to the rest of the staff. On this Tour, the days in the hotel were harder than the those on the road.” He’s not talking about lumpy beds, poor room service and no mints under the pillow, either.

Look for Mr. Armstrong to tweet some counter-punches and then unleash his PR machine on the Spanish rider. While Spain may provide a sympathetic audience for Contador, it’s difficult to win a popularity contest against a man who’s raised $250 million for caner research.

The tension between the two giants of cycling was both understandable and predictable. Johan Bruyneel did a masterful job, for the most part, of keeping the squabbles in house. Astana rode a strong tour, placing Contador in yellow and Armstrong in third. But with both men going to different teams, there’s no reason to make nice.

The winner of the 2009 Tour summed it up this way: “My relationship with Lance Armstrong is zero.” It’s over 11 months to the next Tour de France but the war has already begun.

Written by walshworld

July 27, 2009 at 7:23 pm

Cavendish crushes sprint rivals on Champs Elysees. Contador wins 2nd Tour de France.

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Six tour stage wins, no competition.

Six tour stage wins, no competition.

Mark Cavendish won his sixth stage on the Champs Elysees in a photo-finish. The photo was required to determine if there were any other sprinters in the race. After a close examination by judges, the answer was a definitive no.

The Manx Missile provided a slight variation in style today in Paris. The crushing win instead of the easy win. Thor Hushovd must feel like the slowest green jersey winner in tour history. Tyler Farrar will need several months with a sports psychologist to recover from his inferiority complex. The rest of the sprinters were hiding in a Parisian cafe somewhere, watching the action on TV.

In a switch of tactics, Garmin-Slipstream tried to derail the Columbia train, sending Vande Velde, Miller and Dean up front. For a few hundred meters things looked promising. Then big George Hincapie muscled in with Mark Renshaw and the outcome was assured. Cavendish finished first, lead-out man Renshaw second, the rest of the sprinters out of the picture entirely. A rider can buy illegal blood boosters but where can you pick up black-market fast-twitch fiber?

Lance Armstrong completed his astounding comeback at age 37 to join two youngsters, Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck, on the podium. Though he finished 5:24 behind the winner, the Texan plans to fight for the maillot jaune next year with his new Radio Shack team. Armstrong skipped the team celebration for Contador to have dinner with his new sponsors. But for now, it’s not about the bike — “I’m ready to go home. It’s been a long three weeks as usual,” said Armstrong. “I am ready to go on vacation, for sure.”

Mark Cavendish will also book himself a nice vacation. But not the rest of his competitors — they will be taking some remedial courses in sprinting.

Written by walshworld

July 26, 2009 at 5:37 pm

Armstrong rides up Mont Ventoux to Tour podium. Garate wins stage 20.

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Lance Armstrong rides onto the Tour podium.

Lance Armstrong rides onto the Tour podium.

The old fart triumphed.

Lance Armstrong secured third place in the Tour de France in todays brutal, windy 12.5 mile climb up the feared Mont Ventoux.

After nearly 4 years retirement, he’s back in a familiar place: the podium. In his post-race interview, a fresh-looking Armstrong told Versus, “an old fart coming in here, getting on the podium with all these young guys, that’s not bad.”

The winner of seven tours was never in difficulty, closing down any gaps to his chief rivals. Despite nearly a dozen attacks from his brother Andy, Frank Schleck failed to pry himself away from Armstrong’s’ wheel. A tenacious Bradley Wiggins, who began the day just 16 seconds behind Armstrong, faded near the summit. Astana teammate Andreas Kloden, also in contention for the third spot,  yo-yoed off the lead group and was not a factor.

In the end the “bald giant of Provence” showed who the strong men were in this year’s tour. Alberto Contador, Andy Schleck and Lance Armstrong climbed the moonscape of Ventoux together through a screaming crowd estimated at over 700,000. “I’ve never seem to many people on Ventoux,” said Armstrong. Seemed like half of America and all of France.”

The glory went to Jaun Manuel Garate of Rabobank, who broke away with a dozen riders after just three riders. The relentless gradient whittled the group down to two, Garate and Team Columbia’s Tony Martin, with the Spaniard sprinting to victory inside the 1k banner.

Perhaps Armstrong was already picturing himself at next year’s Tour de France with his new Radio Shack team. “I felt good. I can’t complain. I had the legs.” Lookout, Alberto Contador.

Written by walshworld

July 25, 2009 at 4:43 pm

Di Luca denies use of performance enhancing cake. “I did not take SARAH.”.”

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DI Luca: "I am not a cake cheat."

Di Luca: "I am not a cake cheat."

The UCI has provisionally suspended Italian Danilo Di Luca for two positive tests for SARAH Lee, the popular cake and baked good. The LPR-Brakes rider’s doping control samples showed evidence of the “cake” on two occasions during the 2009 Giro d’Italia.

Di Luca finished second overall in the Giro to Russian Denis Menchov of Rabobank.

“These adverse findings were a result of a targeted test programme using information from Di Luca’s biological passport, ” the UCI press release stated. “The system works, we are eradicating cake in the peloton,” said UCI president Pat McQuaid.

Could this mean a possible lifetime ban for the rider they call “the Killer?”

Often confused with CERA, the EPO derivative, SARAH –especially the Double Chocolate Layer Cake — is often used as a intense sugar boost right before a mountain stage. While not illegal for the average person with a sweet tooth, SARAH is on the UCI list of banned substances.

It’s an open secret that cake usage is rife in the peloton, with the coconut, coffee and classic Sarah Lee pound cake the most popular choices.

On Friday, the Carabinieri anti-drug unit raided Di Luca’s house near Pescara and the nearby residence of Dr Paulo Baruccione, the grocer accused of supplying the cake. They turned up nothing except a fork crusted with icing. The fork was taken away for further analysis.

While awaiting his B-sample, Di Luca maintained his innocence: “why would I eat cake? It’s fattening.”

Written by walshworld

July 24, 2009 at 8:48 pm

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Cavendish takes 5th Tour win. Columbia train rolls over the hills.

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Stage win number five, hill version.

Stage win number five, hill version.

Mark Cavendish was having Milan-San Remo flashbacks.

Before the brash sprinter from the Isle of Man won the hilly classic this year, the experts said he’d never get over the Cipressa and  Poggio climbs. He proved them wrong and at just 24 years of age won the storied race they call La Primavera.

The profile for today’s 178km stage from Bourgoin-Jallieu to Aubenas looked distinctly San Remo — with the summit of a hard category 2 climb just 16 kilometers from the finish line. No doubt strong sprinters like Oscar Friere and Thor Hushovd and Tyler Farrar had their hopes high. Maybe, just maybe, the Manx Missile would never get to the launch pad.

Well, Hushovd may have locked up the green jersey but Cavendish now has his 5th win of this tour. “That will go down as the most memorable win of my career,” said Boy Racer. “It wasn’t a stage for me but I said to the guys just wait for me on the climb… I just hung in there, hung in there, hung in there. With 300 or 250 [metres] to go it was too far for me to go but I had to.”

Cavendish went early and Thushovd closed as Friere and Ciolek watched helplessly from behind. Most journalists already had their headlines written when the Manxman hit the line. Back slaps for everyone in the Columbia train and a another chapter for the sequel to the Boy Racer biography. The odds of Cavendish not winning the final stage on the Champs Elysees: a million to one.

It was an uneventful day for the yellow jersey contenders as they conserved precious energy for tomorrow’s dreaded climb up Mont Ventoux. The only news flash was four seconds long — the four that Lance Armstrong gained over podium rival Bradley Wiggins when the lead group split slightly. Note for tour riders: the Master never sleeps.

And when it comes to sprint stages, the Manxman never loses.

Written by walshworld

July 24, 2009 at 4:47 pm