Archive for September 2009
An apology from a cyclist suspended for doping? How unexpected. Like a sausage manufacturer actually, finally admitting there are pig eyes ground into the hot-dogs. You know, unexpected, bizarre, not the cycling norm. What a breathe of fresh air.
Dutch cyclist Thomas Dekker admitted to using the blood booster Erythropoietin (EPO). And then, wait for it … he apologized. Yup, he fessed up, dumped the needles in the trashcan and sold his centrifuge on ebay.
He “acknowledges that he has made a mistake, he takes full responsibility,” his lawyer Hans Van Oijen said in a press statement. “Thomas Dekker regrets his mistake; he will apologize and be held accountable, where possible.”
Good things Dekker instantly accomplished by coming clean and not denying the test results: He saved himself a hundred grand in legal fees that wouldn’t have over-turned the suspension. Just ask Floyd Landis how much of his life savings he dumped down the hole.
He doesn’t have to spend each week working with a sleazy lawyer who makes a living defending riders with positive drug tests. He also won’t be shuttling back and forth to various court dates. This is handy because sometimes there are no bike racks out front.
He avoids the stress, personal embarrassment, and crushing hypocrisy of lying for the next few years. Nor does he have to invent wild conspiracy theories to explain the positive A and B sample results. Pro riders are amazing athletes but conspiracy stories are best left to Hollywood.
He doesn’t find himself lumped in with the other violators like Di Luca, Astarloza, Schumacher, Rebellin and Vinokourov who continue to deny everything. Nobody, especially the UCI and WADA, likes those guys and they hate wasting their operating budgets convicting them. Dekker earned himself some leniency points.
As a corollary, Dekker keeps himself out of the doping news. Journalists love an on-going investigation, the drama, the twists and turns, the claims and counter claims. Nothing irritates a writer more than a liar — doesn’t matter whether it’s a politician or an athlete. Dekker gave himself a vacation from the press hounds. He’ll serve his suspension in relative quiet and come back with some money still in the bank account and his ethics on the mend.
Thomas Dekker, you’re a slease-ball, and yes, we salute you.
Maybe you missed this classic race. The Vuelta Ciclista Chihuahua Internacional. Yes, chihuahua, like the yappy little dog that, surprise, comes from the town in Mexico where they run the esteemed bike race.
Yes, this is hilariously true. A race named after a toy dog. Sort of like if there was a Tour de Poodle or a Giro del Gerbil. This Mexican Vuelta is the real deal, a 2.1 UCI cat race. Oscar Sevilla has done this race, Francisco Mancebo of Rock Racing has won the Chihauhua twice already. Dos chihuahuas, amigo! (Don’t make fun of chihuahuas in this part of Mexico or they take a switchblade to your brake cables and neck.)
But wait, the story (and the race) just gets weirder. Former Rabobank star Michael Rasmussen, the man booted from the Tour de France with the yellow jersey on his emaciated, Buchenwald back, plans to ride the Chihauhua. The Danish climber is nicknamed the Chicken — a Chicken in the Chihauhua. Apparently his wife is Mexican (true) and she loves small, rodent-like dogs nominally involved in bike racing (speculation). The town moto is “bravery, loyalty and hospitality,” which might be what you need to invite the blood-doping, centrifuge-buying Danish rider.
If you love the unique humor inherent in mangled translation, check out this nugget from a bizarre write-up on the Pan American Cycling Federation website. It reads like they went from Spanish to Chinese to English: “Rasmussen is registered again with the Tecos Trek, since then we have loved, we must not forget that in 2007 when he was leading the Tour of France, was removed from the fair, accused of doping, in a movement in the which was a plot.” Is that comic and yet touching and beautiful in a strange way?
By now, you’re thinking “I have to see this race.” Yeah, Paris-Tours or the Giro de Lombardia is exciting but wow, this race where pro cyclists chase a chihauhua across Mexico, now that’s the pinnacle of cycling action. Well no, they don’t chase a chihauhua — it’s not greyhound racing. There may be a cock fighting match in one of the team buses — can’t really say.
I would not expect the roads to be crowded with chihuahuas on leashes held by sassy senoritas in tight red leather mini-skirts all yipping and yappy as Seville or Mancebo go tearing by. The dogs, not the senoritas. That sounds like an old Taco Bell commercial for those step-above-dog food chalupas. Having spent my entire Useful Working Life writing TV spots, that campaign is a classic. Which reminds us, what about a new Powerbar or Clif Bar flavor that’s called fish taco? That sounds … horrific.
There, case concluded. Deluge Versus with e-mails — “I demand full stage-by-stage coverage of the Vuelta Ciclista Chihuahua!” Insist that Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen be dispatched immediately to lend their vocal gravity to this singular event. Force cyclingtv and Universal Sports to take affirmative action. The Tour de Runty Mexican Dog begins in less than a week. We must have stories, photos, insightful coverage and a few pics of chihuahuas biting Rasmussen’s tiny buttocks.
Bad Luck banished.
The untimely crashes, misfortunate mechanicals, eternal second places, this year’s Tour de France debacle, the disappointments and frustrations with his Silence-Lotto squad, the incessant whispers that he’d never win anything of consequence. All gone Sunday in the Men’s World Championship Road Race in Mendrisio, Switzerland. Gone forever and always.
On the final climb up the Novazzano, Evan dropped Alexandr Kolobnev (Russia) and Joaquin Rodriguez (Spain) and took a solo victory by a sweet 27 seconds. He must have had the whole R section of the dictionary in his head: revenge, redemption, relief, reward and — being flat out exhausted — rest and relaxation.
As the media scrum engulfed him, Evan kissed again and again the wedding ring that hung from his neck. It was an absolution, an almost fervent release of all he had endured and suffered. Was that a little heavy on the religious imagery? The man was damn happy the hoard of monkeys were off his back. Fortune finally smiled on the self-described unluckiest man in the peloton.
The five men watching. Rolling in roughly 30 seconds behind the top three finishers were most of the stars, favorites and popular picks. Fabian Cancellara (Switzerland) , Samuel Sanchez (Spain), Philippe Gilbert (Belgium), Damiano Cunego (Italy) and Alejandro Valverde (Spain) all had that “oh well” feeling. Too marked, too tactically boxed in and, unlike Evans, getting no help from the cycling gods.
Unable to close the gap, they spent the last kilometers shrugging shoulders and playing a sad game of what-if. Only Cancellara, at home in front of cheering Swiss fans, made a concerted attempt to win with an attack in the penultimate lap. It was a decisive move but not the winning move. Alejandro Valverde, perhaps exhausted from his long flight from his Costa Rican hotel, never had the legs to challenge Evans.
That checkmate move belonged to Evans and it was perhaps the biggest of his career. “I’ve been thinking about this race for two years,” said the Australian. Evans has the rainbow jersey now, yup, that’s him, The Luckiest Man in Mendrisio.
Twisted Spoke does not do bike tricks. We live with chronic neck and shoulder pain and visit Brian Hauswirth, physical therapist to the stars, once a week. The mere thought of even surviving one of these stunts makes us think of full traction, life in a wheel chair, sucking blended hamburger and fries through a straw. And looking at my two children, tears streaming down my face, trying to explain why daddy will never walk again and needs a strange and expensive device to breathe that is not covered by any medical plan. All TS can think is that we need to get back in the hot tub and turn up the jets. That said, holy crapola, this guy is amazing.
Alejandro, where are you?
Recent Vuelta winner Alejandro Valverde is not checking into a Swiss hotel after bolting from his Italian accommodations.
After a frosty welcome from the Italian ProTour president, who called Valverde’s participation in the World Championships, “shameful and disturbing,” the Spanish rider decided it was safer in Switzerland, a country famous for its neutrality. However, those initial reports proved erroneous.
Valverde has apparently taken extra precautions and left Europe all together and is staying at a modest eco-hotel in Costa Rica. The Finca Valverde is located in Monteverde next to the Cloud Forest Reserve, a popular nature preserve.
“I am well here,” said Valverde. “There are no Italians and I am free to wander the jungle and breathe the fresh air. I saw a tapir yesterday and a three-wattled bellbird. Plus, I like the hotel name. It gives me confidence.”
Valverde has been dogged for years by allegations of his involvement in the Operacion Puerto doping scandal. In May, the Italian Olympic Committee banned him for two years from racing in Italy. He is currently waiting for the Court for Arbitration in Sport to rule on his counter-suit against the UCI and WADA.
For Valverde, the break from Europe appears to beneficial. “My mind is at ease. I walked the butterfly garden this morning. Later I will see the bat jungle, then perhaps tour the coffee farm. The zip-lines look fun, too,” said Valverde.
It remains to be seen how the Spanish team will transport Valverde from Costa Rica back to Mendrisio, Switzerland before the Elite Men’s Road Race on Sunday.
Wow, a Swiss champion on Swiss soil, err, roads. Is there any important time trial that Fabian Cancellara hasn’t won in the last year? Like Mark Cavendish in the sprint, Cancellara is on another physiological level. It just may be time to grab the scalpel, cut him open and find out what’s inside. For the benefit of science and mankind and slow pedaling cyclists everywhere. Or we could just ask his Saxo Bank mastermind Bjarne Riis — Fabian might prefer that approach.
Competitors wake up knowing second place is the best they can hope for. The man they call Spartacus is so much stronger than the others that he could basically ride in a wool toga flapping in the wind and Roman sandals. Race directors might need to impose a weight penalty to give the others a chance — maybe make him carry two six packs of Eichhof beer on his back. Which by the way they call the Swiss Power Beer.
Fabulous Fabian blitzed the 49.8 kilometer course in 57:54. A full 1:27 faster than Gustav Larsson (Sweden). Germany’s Tony Martin took the third podium spot, 2:30 back. The man was so far ahead he had time to drop back into 2nd gear, soak in the vibe and get his post-race quotes together. And crack open one of those aforementioned Eichhof beers. Just kidding.
A crowd of 23,000 cheered Cancellara on — we’re assuming it was about 22,999 Swiss fans. He went out the gate fast, went faster, added more fast and zoomed to a dominating win. Second place Larsson tried to draft when Fabian blew by but to no avail.
Expectations were high for Bradley Wiggins until a chain problem ended his chances. Last years’ Worlds TT champion, Bert Grabsch could only manage 10th place. And uhh, they don’t have a podium spot for that. Maybe a gift assortment of Swiss chocolates. Best placed American Tom Zirbel surprised many with a terrific ride, just 17 seconds from claiming 3rd place.
It was Fabian Cancellara’s day in Mendrisio. He proved once again that he will win any race that has a clock that goes tick-tick-tick.
Alejandro, where’s your trench-coat?
The winner of the recent Veulta a Espana had been staying in Como, Italy in preparation for this weeks’ World Championship races in Mendrisio. But after a less than warm welcome from the Italians, Valverde now plans to bunk at a separate hotel on Swiss soil.
Things got ugly when Vittorio Adorni, the president of the Italian ProTour, called Valverde’s participation the the Worlds both “shameful and disturbing.” Back in May, the Italian Olympic Committee banned Valverde from racing in Italy for two years. The ban didn’t cover staying in Italian hotels or buying Italian leather jackets but Valverde isn’t feeling the love.
In the meantime, while his team searches for a nice Swiss hotel, Valverde has been spotted wearing a fake beard and sunglasses. Keeping a low profile. That’s what champions do.