Wednesday, August 12, 2009
There’s a pretty severe shortage of interesting things going down in professional cycling at the moment, aside from idle transfer talk that will all shake out in a few weeks time, anyway. And, with a long season behind us and a few weeks to go until the Vuelta kicks in, nobody's particularly interested in thinking up new things to do to make the news. In fact, new material is in such short supply that the sport and its associated media are being forced to air reruns. Sure, the advertisements are new, but the plotlines seem eerily familiar. For instance, many of this week's big stories are, in fact, from 2007. To wit:
1. Alexander Vinokourov
2007: Alexander Vinokourov, heading his nation’s Astana team, tanks in the Tour de France, losing buckets of time before rallying to a mountain stage win and a victory in the final time trial. Everyone begins to contemplate his inevitable run at the Vuelta a Espana, which he won the year before. On July 24, 2007, however, his positive tests for a blood transfusion hit the airwaves, putting plans for a Vuelta run on more ice than a blood bag. Vino’s exit has everyone wondering what will happen with the Astana squad next year. While it looks like the team will continue to exist, they don’t seem likely to be invited to any races.
2009: After another disappointing July, Alexander Vinokourov is coming into form just in time for the Vuelta a Espana, which he hopes to start as part of his nation’s Astana squad. Vino’s return has everyone wondering what is going to happen to the Astana squad next year. While it looks like the team will continue to exist, they don’t seem likely to be invited to any races.
2. George Hincapie
2007: With the U.S. Postal Service/Discovery Channel structure closing its doors, George Hincapie is looking to move to a new team. By electing to go with Bob Stapleton’s High Road-then-Columbia outfit, he stays with an ostensibly U.S. team that has plenty of European flair through its European schedule and international roster. With Columbia, Hincapie is assured support in the spring classics he adores and a mentor role with the team’s up-and-coming talent.
2009: With his Columbia contract at its end, Hincapie is looking to move to a new team, and is rumored to be joining the expanding BMC squad. By electing to go to BMC, he’d be joining an ostensibly U.S. team that has plenty of European flair through its increasingly European schedule, Swiss connections to BMC bikes and Assos clothing, and international roster. With BMC, Hincapie would be assured support in the spring classics he adores and a mentor role with the team’s up-and-coming talent.
3. Danilo Di Luca
2007: After a season of breakout performances, including his surprising Giro d’ Italia win, Danilo Di Luca finds himself afoul of Italy’s serpentine doping rules for his involvement with the Carlos Santuccione “Oil for Drugs” scandal. He’s sacked by his team and suspended for three months at the tail end of the season, forfeiting his UCI ProTour leadership and shot at the World Championship. [Incidentally, Giro dope tests reveal that Di Luca (then a 30 year old man) has the hormone levels of a little girl, leading everyone to suspect use of…ehhh…something.]
2009: After another surprising Giro d’Italia performance, this time finishing a strong second to Denis Menchov (Rabobank), Diluca finds himself afoul of pretty much everyone’s doping rules by testing positive for CERA. He’s sacked by his team and will certainly miss the last three months of this season, and likely all the months of the next two seasons as well.
3.5. Tom Danielson
Now, Tom Danielson (Garmin) getting back on track after a series of setbacks and getting in form for a Vuelta run? That’s the undisputed Gilligan’s Island of cycling reruns -- no matter what year it is or what time of day, if you surf enough channels it’s always on and it’s always entertaining. But I’m not touching it. And just to show you I’m not simply throwing stones here, I bring you one final 2007 rerun. So, in the interest of fairness:
2007: Having welcomed a new baby to the world early in the year, the SC enters cyclocross season with a notable lack of any sort of riding mileage, fitness, or sleep. Relatively undeterred, the SC mounts an utterly undistinguished yet not-quite-embarrassing ‘cross campaign. On the upside, it turns out that beat-up, 2003 Fujis equipped with 105 don’t break nearly as often as a lot of fancier things, so at least I had that going for me.
2009: Having welcomed a new baby to the world early in the year, the SC enters cyclocross season with a notable lack of any sort of riding mileage, fitness, or sleep. Relatively undeterred, the SC intends to mount an utterly undistinguished but hopefully not-quite-embarrassing ‘cross campaign. On the upside, the Fuji rolls on, and once you have at least one child capable of yelling “Go Dada!” they automatically qualify you for the Masters class, so at least I have that going for me.