Twisted Spoke

My twisted take on the world of pro bike racing.

Archive for the ‘Astana’ Category

Specialized Shiv stabbed by UCI. Astana scrambles for bikes, yikes.

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Time's up for the Shiv.

Shiv, stabbed. Ouch.

Some famous racer once described a bike race as a knife fight. Well, Astana and Specialized just watched in horror as the UCI stabbed the Shiv to death. Now Alberto Contador, the race leader in the Volta ao Algarve, must scramble to find another bike for Sunday’s time trial. There’s an irony: time running out for new time trial bike.

In any case, you can’t help but wonder about the organization of Astana in 2010. In their first race at the Tour Down Under, they forget to bring race radios. Hello? No response. Hello? Now, in Alberto Contador’s first competition this season, they don’t have an approved time trial bike. What’s next — forgetting to bring a bicycle pump and spare wheels?

Now, Twisted Spoke is always ready to lend a hand in a dire emergency. This certainly qualifies. Word is that Specialized is flying in eight of the safer Transitions frames today, Saturday. But they still have to assemble them, size them and dial them in and mostly, pray for them.

According to most folks, the UCI might not approve those time trial frames either. Because in part, they have the same almost exact nose-cone problems as the Shiv. Mechanics will have to cut pieces to get closer to regulation but may still not impress the judges. It’s like the figure skating judges in the Olympics– the Romanian judge likes the nose-cone but the Korean judge is thumbs down. Poor Alberto, even when your brother is your personal mechanic, things go wrong.

The non-Shiv.

In any case, Astana needs a Plan B just in case the Transitions frame is also stabbed by UCI inspectors. Here it is in a nutshell: don’t buy, rent. promises to rent a fast racing bike and “deliver it anywhere in Spain or Portugal, with bicycle rental from as little as €5 a day.” They throw in a combination lock if you want but skip that for the weight. That sounds like a great deal and even the penny-pinching Kazak management should jump on that bike.

Now, this is a genuine carbon race bike, it’s as aerodynamic as possible and, listen closely — this is the big selling point — it’s approved by the UCI. Plus, this is a rental company so they just pull a dozen out of the garage and away you go, baby.

Sure, Astana could maybe find a good bike store in Laguna, Portugal, where the time trial starts. But what are the chances, really, of the entire team dropping in Sunday morning and getting nine bikes? It’s like showing up at a small restaurant and all ordering the steak — there are only three sirloins left, my sad friend.

Imagine the chaos — “okay, we got a Merckx for Alberto and uhh, a Pinarello for De La Fuente but I gotta check what we have in back… ” Bad news and time ticking. This is the race of truth and the truth is, Astana is out of time.

Make the call right now. Because the Shiv is dead and the Transitions is still in deep doo-doo. Sure the rental bikes are a little slower but who’s riding it, right? Alberto Contador, that’s who. Just tell him to pedal faster.


Written by walshworld

February 20, 2010 at 4:50 pm

Vinokourov taking non-apology lessons in TDF preparation.

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Sorry? No, not really.

Alexander Vinokourov said he might, capitalize the MIGHT, apologize to the Tour de France officials for his blood doping in 2007 if it helps ensure that he gains entry to the race this year.

This reminds Twisted Spoke of parenting small children. When the bratty son whacks his sister, you tell the son to apologize. He does because he has to; he doesn’t mean it, he’s not sorry, doesn’t feel the slightest remorse. In fact, when dad leaves, the son is gonna whack his sister again.

Vino is that bully kid from Kazakhstan. He’s done nothing wrong, there’s nothing to repent, but if you insist, he’ll apologize. No sincerity there, nothing genuine. But if he has to say those words in a toneless, couldn’t-care-less way, he will.

It will be interesting to see Vinokourov deliver his fake apology later in the year. And even more revealing to see what Tour de France daddy Christian Prudhomme has to say in response. Personally, we wouldn’t mind having Vino is the race for the simple reason that we like hotheads, bad guys and junk yard dogs. Keeps the story-lines sizzling and every journalist needs a punching bag.

The fake apology is sometimes called the non- apology apology — here’s the wonderful wiki definition: A form of apology that is nothing of the sort, a common gambit in politics and public relations. It most commonly entails the speaker saying that he or she is sorry not for a behavior, statement or misdeed, but rather is sorry only because a person who has been aggrieved is requesting the apology or threatening some form of retribution.” Like no start in Rotterdam, for example.

The non-apology is closely related to the equally clever non-denial denial popularized during the Watergate scandal. You can only imagine how apologetic Vino could get after he puts his own Kafka-meets-Kazakhstan spin on things.

But the French do not take kindly to someone besmirching their national sports monument. Zay do not like zee stinky brown crap on zee yellow jersey.

We’re thinking that Vino will be totalement invisible in France come July. Because even if he does offer some form of fake apology or denial (in his best fake French accent) everyone will still know it doesn’t mean a thing.

Written by walshworld

February 12, 2010 at 11:55 pm

Contador tries to explain disappearing teammates at Astana launch. Where’s Kloden.

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Where did Kloden go? He was just here!

Sure, it’s been a tough off-season for Astana, losing eight of the nine riders on your Tour de France squad to arch enemy Lance Armstrong and Radio Shack.

Here, Alberto Contador tries to explain the disappearces, holding up Andreas Kloden’s empty jersey.

Written by walshworld

January 31, 2010 at 8:35 am

Twisted Spoke fashion poll. The ugliest kit.

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Yes, we are naked.

Some people aren’t much on the understated new Team Sky jersey. Some think the new Radio Shack “thousand R logos” jersey is an abomination.

The latest version of Astana’s new kit met with a deafening silence. But for Twisted Spoke, the true horror, the fashion disaster, the incomprehensible lapse of all taste and judgement is the new Footon-Servetto design.

Since the jersey is basically flesh colored, the rider wearing this crime against cycling appears to be naked except for the massive black footprint of some giant crushed into his chest.

Urzay: "I own ugly."

Imagine fielding an entire team that looks like it’s already been squashed. You’re not exactly building a winner’s mentality there. “I’m naked, I’ve been crushed, I’m sponsored by a rickety fold out bed.” Yikes-arama.

A designer named Dario Urzay is responsible and we hope this was done for Footon Servetto as a freebie with no money changing hands.

Dario is obviously somebody’s cousin who “likes to sketch” or is doing this in trade for a set of aero rims. Whatever the case, he should be stopped immediately.

Ahh, but we dig deeper into the bold and scary fashion world of Dario. A wiki search turned up a second winner — world’s ugliest soccer jersey. Every artist needs a niche, a speciality, a sound-bite encapsulation the media can latch on to. F0r Dario, it’s freaky sportswear. we’re all for artistic expression but seriously, do not let this man near another athletic team of any kind. The consequences are simply to dire.

Footon-Servetto risks being the first team with a rider breaking his contract out of embarrassment. Don’t be surprised if Footon guys wear their rain capes when it’s 80 degrees and sunny.

But that’s our personal winner for ugliest kit in professional cyling. What’s yours?

Written by walshworld

January 11, 2010 at 9:52 pm

Lance Armstrong hits Alberto punching bag again. The King of Spain rides for Kazakhstan?

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Alberto hater

What did Lance Armstrong buy himself for Christmas? An Alberto Contador punching bag.

Maybe it was one of those end of year moves — start 2010 fresh, purge the last Pistelero disses.

In an interview with Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf and the Belgian Nieuwsblad, the Texan dumped all over the “humble and welcoming boy” — as Alberto’s new Astana Manager Giuseppe Martinelli once called him.

According to Lance, the Spaniard “is surrounded by yes-men’ and acts like “the king of Spain.” Things are getting vicious and cartoony at the same time. Hopefully Lance sent a tweet alert to Spain’s president Rodriguez Zapatero — the monarchy is back in Madrid and his name is Alberto.

The “Alberto complex”, a new psychiatric term we’re giving to Armstrong for usage, was discussed at great length. “If you have just won the Tour for the second time and you are the king of Spain, it is normal that all stories are all right. His career has barely begun.”

Armstrong then moved to his most pointed criticism, saying Alberto’s monster ego had caused the exodus of all his teammates. Sometimes also called the Reverse Pied Piper Effect. “Eight of the nine riders who rode the Tour, have gone away. To another team,’ said Lance. “Even his roommate.” Thank God he still has Brother Fran.

Would this have happened to Armstrong? No way, no now, not never. “I would have long since looked in the mirror. I would never let that happen. Never. If I had to change myself to prevent it, then I would do that. If they needed more money, I would do it. I would do anything for them.” Wow, lot of juicy material there — mirror, money, transformation. Okay, next smack-down.

“But Contador is totally different from me. It is very difficult,” said Armstrong. “He knows no better. He is a Spanish guy who is always in the same pueblo (district) resident. He has his friends, family, the street where he grew up, his country, his people. A great athlete like him must employ individuals who support him and have patience with him. But he is surrounded by yes-men.”

Alright, let’s tally Alberto’s flaws: egotistical, delusions of grandeur (King of Spain), dumb, small-town bumpkin, deaf and surrounded by yes-men (si-hombres in Spanish) and engaged in the overthrow of a democratic government (King of Spain thing again.) And he can’t twitter worth crap — we threw that in because we know Lance forgot that one.

Is this the place for cycling theory? What the H-E-Double Toothpicks (that’s “hell” for you non-parents) is Lance Armstrong doing? Why are he and Johan Bruyneel still slamming Contador five months after the tour is over? At 38 years of age, is Lance working himself up in one last motivational angry froth to give himself the training fuel he needs?

Armstrong was shocked to discover in the ’09 Tour de France that his month of mind games had no effect on Contador. He “ain’t easy to destabilize” was the realization. Perhaps Armstrong hopes a mega dose, 12 months off needling, psychological warfare and inflammatory tweets will do the trick. Or perhaps the answer is he simply doesn’t give a crap what the media thinks of all this Alberto bashing.

He wasn’t finished either. Once Lance had verbally slapped the Spanish rider, he took on the Spanish media for their slanted coverage, lack of professionalism and heavy support of the King of Spain. “So many dirty things, unbelievable. Complete bullshit, pieces of slime, fat lies,” said Armstrong.

“I understand that the Spanish media stands up for their hero, but it was so untrue what was printed. Come on, at the end of the day as a journalist, you f**king do proclaim the truth.” These are the kind of quotes cycling writers dream of waking up to. Enough invective for five posts, a feature and the inevitable return fire from Spain. Who needs races?

But there is somebody feeling pretty hurt in all this name calling. Imagine how left out Andy Schleck must feel? He was second in last years’ tour, he’s a serious contender, he’s standing in Armstrong’s way and yet he doesn’t merit even one Lance Diss? Couldn’t Lance at least make fun of him for crashing into that toy car?

The Twisted Spoke take on the Alberto punching bag? Unwise move by Mr. Armstrong. Even Livestrong fans must be wondering why the character assassination keeps going. Worse, we fear Lance has made himself a target for the thousands of crazy, violent Pistelero fans that will line the mountain roads near the Spanish border in the 2010 Tour de France.

The final punch will come in the Pyrenees and it won’t be from Alberto Contador.

Written by walshworld

December 30, 2009 at 2:40 pm

Four Kazaks on Astana’s 2010 Tour de France team? Three too many?

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Kid Kazak

Who is running Team Astana?

Although the normal answer would be team directors Giuseppi Martinelli and Yvon Sanquer, the real power lays with the Kazak Cycling Federation and in particular president Nikolaï Proskurin.

That fact was underlined Saturday when Proskurin, not Martinelli or Sanquer, suggested to L’Equipe that four Kazak riders will be part of the nine man squad for the 2010 Tour de France.

It was this kind of meddling that infuriated former manager Johan Bruyneel. In his interview with the Belgian magazine Humo several months ago, the former manager of Astana claimed Proskurin was always trying to force more Kazak riders onto his roster.

“At the Tour I had selected the Kazak rider [Muravyev] they didn’t want,” said Bruyneel. “They wanted Bazayev and Iglinsky but I suspended the first during the Tour de Suisse because he was messing up his whereabouts and Iglinksy only rides for himself.”

Johan’s ideal number of Kazaks on a grand tour roster? He’d round the number down to zero. “What Vinokourov and Kascheskin messed with isn’t my mistake and except for those two there’s nobody in Kazakhstan. Yes, three domestiques, including two I’m not trusting and a bunch of young guys who aren’t ready for the Tour de France,” said Bruyneel.

(This brings up an challenging new cycling tongue twister: How many Kazaks can a Kazak count on if a Kid Contador could call Kazaks in Kazakhstan?)

At Radio Shack, Bruyneel has eight of the nine riders who were on Astana’s last Tour de France roster. There’s a high probability that defending champion Alberto Contador will be riding with a weaker team and perhaps one with divided loyalties. The Spaniards will ride for Alberto but will the three or four Kazaks?

Alberto Contador admitted last year was his most difficult and rewarding year. Speaking to Spanish daily AS, he said, “It seems that something happens to me every winter. Either I don’t have a contract, or we’re not going to the Tour, or Armstrong decides to come back, or I don’t have a team at all. I always seem to lack some degree of tranquility, but I always manage to avoid letting it affect my training.”

What’s clear is that Contador’s final year with Astana will be anything but tranquil. He won’t be battling with his own teammate as he did with Armstrong. He’ll be battling with the Kazak Cycling Federation. On the plus side, Proskurin doesn’t use twitter like Armstrong. On the downside, Proskurin brings to mind the crude shoe-banging of Khrushchev, the dead Russian cold war leader. It’s Borat without the comedy.

The Kazak Cycling Federation won’t be choosing a tour roster based on talent or a commitment to Contador. They’ll be filling positions based on which riders know the words to the Kazak national anthem. Sample lyric: “Emerging from malicious grip of fate, from hell of fire, We scored a victory of glory and success.”

Johan Bruyneel had the track record and power to over-rule the Kazak Cycling Federation’s roster selections. Will Astana team directors Martinelli and Sanquer have the same control?

Twisted Spoke has examined the situation in great detail. Our assessment: Not a chance in hell.

Astana’s Kazak revenge part II. Proskurin dooms Radio Shack with leaked intel on doping products.

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A bike race is a war.

This is the Kazaks versus the Texan and the Belgian. The latest and perhaps final round goes to the Kazaks. This may be checkmate.

First, it was Armstrong and Bruyneel stripping the Astana roster clean like ghetto boys taking a BMW apart in the projects. Round one, Radio Shack, big time.

But you don’t mess with the Kazaks. Especially not the volatile and vindictive Nicholai Proskurin, president of the Kazak Cycling Federation. It was he who fired back a strong message to the Texan, sending a paramilitary unit deep into Austin to break into Radio Shack headquarters and steal a $10,000 Livestrong time trial bike. That was bold and bad ass. It was like the decapitated horse head in the mafioso bed. The message was crystal: enough is enough. Round two, Kazaks.

Don't mess with Kazaks

Suddenly, it was round three and the gloves were off. Clearly ticked and fighting mad, Bruyneel played hard ball behind the scenes to sabotage Astana’s bid for a renewal on their UCI license. Proskurin was furious, working the press, frothing with rage, accusing the Belgian of manipulating the process. The Radio Shack saboteurs were trying to destabilize an already shaky team. Score another round for The Shack.

But then the Kazaks went full bore, scorched earth. French police already had some suspicious “transfusion kits” they’d fished out of the trash during the ’09 Tour De France. There were DNA fingerprints for seven Astana riders on the illegal merchandise. So Proskurin makes a few phone calls, reveals some damaging facts and suddenly seven riders are in deep doping doo-doo.

The casual cycling fan says, uh-oh, Astana’s in big trouble. Just the opposite — who do you think those riders work for now? Radio Shack. The evil Kazak Proskurin is taking Radio Shack down and it’s a chess master move. His thinking: They took our riders and now we destroy those riders. This is the kind of brutal logic and guerilla tactics that wiped out the U.S. in Vietnam and Iraq.

Suddenly, it’s Radio Shack with the weaker roster, the team barred from the 2010 Tour de France and Alberto Contador and Alexander Vinokourov taking first and second place.

Think Twisted Spoke is crazy? Think again.

Written by walshworld

December 23, 2009 at 5:47 pm