Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Millar on HBO, Garmin Roster, Papa Georgio x2!

I just watched the David Millar piece on HBO's Real Sports. I always cringe a little going into these things, knowing how the MSM covers our "niche" sports. But this one wasn't bad as those things go. I don't understand people who have a hate on for Millar, and I never quite get if it's him they don't like or just the media reaction to him. I like him plenty, and have no problem with people paying attention to him. The more I read about how oppressive the atmosphere was back in the day, it makes perfect sense to me why he and Jonathan Vaughters make such a big deal about Garmin-Chipotle. No one's looking for a pity party, but it was a very difficult thing they went through for many years. So to now get a chance to do things differently, to talk openly, to save a crop of young riders from ever having to feel that pressure or experience that disillusionment, I'd be shouting it from the rooftops too! There are those who saw the drugs as just another piece of the puzzle, but for those who didn't, there was a lot of pain there, and that fuels their outspokenness today.

Not to mention how completely entrenched doping is (dare I say was?) in the sport. You're not going to change that with a one-time press release about your testing program. If you're going to slay this beast, you've got to be loud and repetitive and beat it into submission. If some people are tired of hearing about Garmin-Chipotle and David Millar, good, beats being tired of hearing about Puerto and Piti.

Interesting close to the piece, Bryant Gumbel's klatch with reporter Jon Frankel. Well, first Frankel blows a question about who was writing checks before Garmin came along, leaving Doug Ellis out of the picture and making it seem like the current team all sprang from Vaughters' 50K. But then, Gumbel goes there and says okay, so how is it Lance Armstrong can still be considered the big hero? Frankel, visions of lawsuits dancing in his head, smiles/grimaces and suggests that Lance would answer with the "never tested positive" line. Reflecting the times in which we live, Gumbel sniffs and puts him in the sinking ship with Bonds, Clemens, and the like. Frankel, more grin this time, allows "we agree on this," and they leave it there. I'd call that progress.

Just as I don't understand the Millar haters, I don't understand the Lance haters either, I mean the ones who have venom in their veins for him and anyone who likes him. There's plenty I don't like, but it doesn't make my blood boil. I'm just looking for a more open and realistic discussion. Because how can we know if they're making progress if people can't talk about where they've been? That's why Millar is one of the few people you can have a reasonable discussion about this with.

Garmin-Chipotle announced their Tour de France squad, and a lovely squad it is. The experience of guys like Millar and Christian Vande Velde, and also the fresh new faces making it to their first Tour, I'm excited for all of them! Tom Danielson is not among them, sad to say. Tom is a puzzle, but I take comfort in the fact that I think he's in the right place, on the right team. If there's a way for him to make it, they'll find it, and take good care of him along the way. I didn't appreciate Lance's snide reference the other day - well, like I said, I'm glad Tom is where he is now and not where he used to be.

Another happy announcement - the latest addition to the Hincapie family - baby Enzo! Congrats to George and Mel, can't wait to see iPhone photos of Julia playing with Enzo!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Who's Taking Who?

So, Versus, let me get this straight - we're taking the Tour de France back from all the guys since '96…except one. If you just saw the shortened version of the "backwards" ad on today's Tour de Suisse coverage (viewable at CFA), let me direct you to the full version on the Versus website. That version includes Ivan Basso (with Lance conveniently obscured), then jumps back to Bjarne Riis and Marco Pantani. I have to wonder if someone realized that gaping gap was a little silly, and went with the shorter version.

I get why they don't include Lance, but if you want to Take Back The Tour, two of the people from whom it is to be taken are Johan Bruyneel and Lance Armstrong. Instead, Lance is still the demi-god and we get to have Johan for a week selling his new book that presumably tells only half the story. I will give this to Versus, they are allowing comments against Johan (and his anticipated commentary) on its Take Back The Tour site.

Yes, I have praised Johan on this site before, and previously gave Lance the benefit of the doubt on this score. Let's just say I'm seeing some baseball players of my own these days, funny what happens when you stop and really look at the he said-he said versions side by side. And to include them in the bunch does not negate all the legitimate hard work and preparation that they did, it is to acknowledge that they are part and parcel of the era from which we are struggling to escape.

I've made clear my affection for Erik Zabel and Floyd Landis, and it's sad to see them in the ad, but not uncalled for. Zabel's drug use was very limited, if you believe his account, and he had plenty of clean years at the Tour, but his confession was one of those painful moments for the sport last year, so I guess it belongs. As for Floyd, it's as I've said before, even if he was innocent of that charge, the whole ordeal is something the sport wants to get away from. And whatever he did or didn't do to win that Tour, the contradictory evidence out there (including his own statements) about his personal knowledge of doping remains troubling.

I was puzzled by David Millar in the Saunier Duval kit, rather than Cofidis. Someone at Podium Café suggested that it might make sense because it was on the words "brand new start." In that case, he ought to have been the one going forward, no?

So, how will I take back the Tour? I'll listen for Frankie Andreu in the commentary box, and root for Garmin-Chipotle and Columbia and my faves on CSC, and enjoy all the thrills and fun traditions that the controversies can't touch.

Speaking of thrills, there was actual racing between the ads at the Tour de Suisse. Fabian Cancellara had two rippers this week, one long, one short, both immensely fun to watch. Especially with the added bonus of his adorable baby girl waiting for him after each one. Looking forward to him at the Tour, and to Frank Schleck, whom we all thought we might have lost in that unbelievable crash mid-week. A big thank you to the kind tree that caught him with its limbs, so that he did not break his. And big kudos to Bobby Julich for running interference for Fab on that first win, sad to hear him say he won't be making the Tour this year.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Post-Giro 2008: The World I Know

As a board-certified Cougar for Cook, that song (as sung by David) has been in heavy rotation on my iPod, and about fits my mood as I recover from the Giro.

Damn there's nothing like Stanley Cup hockey. The speed, the suspense, the crowd noise - I don't follow hockey now like I used to, but I'm instantly sucked in and now up past my bedtime in triple OT.

Oh yeah, the Giro. I couldn't seem to find the time to post as the race went on. Fortunately, CFA was speaking my mind on a regular basis. Most pointedly in the last paragraph here, on being a cycling fan in this day and age. Amen, brother.

My ambivalence over the GC contenders continues. I was encouraged that they were each having good and bad days, and no one was running away with it, but I hate being reduced to thinking that way. Continuing to let CFA do the heavy lifting, the second paragraph here is as good a last word as any on them.

I resorted to focusing on the Slipstream-Chipotle boys, and delighting in their internal victories. Great finish for Christian Vande Velde and Danny Pate. And I loved seeing Jens Voigt take a stage, I had a hunch he would after seeing his pedals in anger on the insane mountain TT.

Mark Cavendish is still a punk, but I have to give him credit for finishing his first Grand Tour, especially such a grueling one as this. And helping Andre Greipel win a stage, even though it got messy afterwards.

As for Sella and his miracle CSF team, ugh. I was moved by Sella's emotion on his first win; I was moved by him stopping in the middle of the race to hug his Papa. He seems like a very nice guy, and very well may be. But in one of the most grueling grand tours in recent memory, he won three mountain stages and very nearly won two more. He had a consistency that the best riders in the world couldn't match. I really don't know how Phil and Paul call it straight. "Gee, Paul, his winning margin in the green jersey competition is the largest I've ever seen, isn't that lovely." I realize they can't just accuse a guy, but can't you at least acknowledge a few raised eyebrows? Bad for business I suppose, but still, the way they call it, it's like they aren't even suspicious. They're either very good actors or that's just how you have to see things to be a professional commentator.

I can't even escape doping in my guilty pleasure, the steamy love story that is Ollian on German soap Verbotene Liebe. Big conflict as talented boxer Christian is tempted by steroids and boyfriend Olli frets. Is nothing sacred?

Not to harp on P&P, but I dare say I think they're really losing it. Phil fumbles more and more, they both get overly hysterical and try and outdo each other with predictions and action calls, it's getting a bit unseemly. Even the greats have to go sometime, I say bring on Frankie Andreu! Who to pair him with - maybe Paul would work, it would be a new marriage so perhaps the old bad habits wouldn't apply. Bobke might be awkward, what with him being "I have a career because of Lance," and Frankie being "I've lost a number of career opportunities because of Lance." In any case, Frankie's really grown as a commentator, and it would be nice to have someone not invested in the Lance lore for a change.

An undisputed highlight of the weekend is the arrival of baby Waylon Zabriskie - congrats to Dave and Randi, he's beautiful!