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Thursday, June 30, 2005

TdF Preview: Germans, Pseudo-Germans, Danes and Yanks

The nordic influence on the Tour is growing more noticeable every year. Historically the Swiss have been around -- check out the Ferdi Kubler stencil on the side of the Phonak bus, right? But the Germans and Danes have only sporadically influenced the race, and Ullrich's win in 1997 gave Germany its first ever taste of yellow, a year after Bjarne Riis gave Denmark theirs. But now they're all over the race... names like Totschnig, Scholz, Kessler, Sorensen... proving once and for all... that I have no point.

Anyway, Team CSC, a.k.a. the Cult of Riis, is a funny outfit. Over the last season Riis has found several riders' hidden motivation, guys like Julich, Sastre, Basso, even Hamilton. He's been buying low, working his charges into shape, and making hay in the peloton. The question is, what are they getting to show for it? Ivan Basso's national pride (or jealousy of Cunego) made him burn his matches on the Giro, taking his Tour chances down a few pegs. He's still considered a threat for the overall win (if something happens to you know who), but of all the legit contenders, he's the only one to leave his sweat on the Stelvio. But he's got able lieutenants in Bobby Julich and Carlos Sastre, and a time trial fiend in David Zabriskie to keep them close on the TTT. But all these big names will likely be hunting for stage wins (along with breakaway madman Jens Voigt) when Basso achieves the dubious double: cracking in the two biggest grand tours.

Oy, the pressure. OK, T-Mobile, one thing we know about these guys is that they are single-mindedly focusing on the GC. Jettisoned is the distraction of Erik Zabel and his record 32 consecutive Green Jersey titles spanning the years 1971 to 2003. Nice knowin' ya; save it for Paris-Tours. No, it's all about the three-headed hydra of Ullrich, Vinokourov, and Kloden (does anyone know the HTML code for an umlaut?). Oh, and that puckish Oscar Sevilla, who's sure to enliven every third climb or so. Anyway, the singlemindedness has done little to lessen the sense of drama among the Boys in Pink... will Kloden arrive with any form? Has Ullrich really laid off the chocolate this winter? Does Alexander Vinokourov work for anyone besides himself? Kloden's second place last year was more or less by default, after challengers melted away left and right, and Vino's third was a bit fluky itself, given his sporadic climbing skills. So if the past is a guide, Ullrich is still the safe bet to lead the squad, and one of these days he just might get the best of Lance Armstrong. He has to someday, right? I mean, mathematically speaking?

Down the road, the boys at Gerolsteiner have once again adopted an even more garish kit in the hopes that German fans will notice that they have a second team in the Pro Cycling Tour. Of course, the Gerolsteiner label gets a little press every now and then, when Rene Haselbacher dives into the barriers at 50mph. However, he's not on the latest start list, to the relief of virtually everyone except maybe journalists, who'll have to catch McEwen when he's pissed at someone else. Anyway, we all know they have a Lance Lieutenant as their GC guy along with Georg Totschnig, who followed the leaders nicely last year, in search of stage wins or at least one more vowel. Levi Leipheimer has been all promise and no results since his suspect-looking third place in the 2001 Vuelta, but then three years at Rabobank will do that to the best of riders. Fact is, brutha can climb and TT with the rest, steadily if not with any real burst. Sort of a Montanan Savoldelli. I fully expect him to be in the top ten, and if it's true about his new form, a podium is not out of the question. N.b., Michael Rich will win the first time trial, and Gerolsteiner will challenge for the team TT as well.

Speaking of TTTs and Lance Lieutenants, the Phonak boys have shown almost no originality whatever in assembling a team built around the GC hopes of one American (Hamilton, then Floyd Landis) protected by a Spanish Armada. Tyler's story is tragic even if he did what they say he did, but Phonak may get their money's worth on the second try. Landis is unproven but truly dangerous, a top time trialer who can melt some thighs in the peloton when the road turns up. My favorite anecdote about him is this rift with Lance, which isn't really one. But apparently it started when Landis took 21st on the Huez TT last year, when he was supposed to be saving his matches for the next day's monster stage. Landis insisted that's exactly what he did, and didn't feel like taking shit for making good time up the Alpe switchbacks riding in power zone 3. Everyone got a little irritable at everyone else, but Landis underscored his point by blowing up the peloton the next day, nearly winning the stage. Question is, if his version of events is true, do we think Floyd Landis can keep up while making the maximum effort every day? Nobody knows that one, yet. Anyway Santi Botero (speaking of repeating efforts) will be there to help him out, powering the TTT as well as a few climbs, as soon as he loses his customary 25 minutes in the first mountain stage. Oscar Pereiro and Robert Hunter are stage threats.

As for Discovery Channel, it's hard to imagine what there is to write that isn't painfully obvious. The names are largely the same as last year, and there is no reason to believe the strategy or results will change one whit. I guess it will be interesting to see what Savoldelli brings, after sweating out a great Giro title, or whether we can detect future greatness in Popovych. The only down note is Eki's absence... he's one away from matching Joop Zoetemelk in overall Tours completed (16), and at his age his chance to beat the record in 2007 seems like a stretch. But then, if the team is grooming its Russian champion, maybe Eki will experience a surge of national pride that gets him across the Champs Elysees with the same youthful vigor he brought last year, at age 38. Bears watching.

Yet to come.. the home teams!

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

TdF Preview: the Belgies and Dutch

OK, a bit of a cultural check-in. There are two Belgian teams in the Tour: Quick Step and Davitamon-Lotto, but a more accurate description would be to say there are two teams from Flanders: not a single French-sounding name appears on either Tour roster. So in essence, this is a story of the Dutch speaking cyclists for the 2005 Tour. But before we get too carried away with a story linking the Flemish to the Dutch, click here for why you shouldn't lump them together, at least to their faces. Yeah, it may be more Rhode Island vs. Connecticut than Israel vs. Palestine, but boundaries are boundaries.

And in cycling terms, the differences are quite real. Sure, Walloon cycling may be something of a misnomer, what with them being lazy, effete artist types compared to the hardworking Flandrians, but Dutch cycling is nothing to get excited about either, and hasn't been since Gert-Jan Theunisse glowered off into the sunset. These days Rabobank is the nation's only top-rung team, and despite its steady sponsorship and consistent roster, the Rabos are generally only famous for Michael Boogert's toothy grins as he wraps up another second place in a Classic. Erik Dekker was once a top stage-winning sprinter before injuries started cutting into his results. Along with fellow travelers Marc Wauters and Michael Rasmussen, Boogert is a Classics rider hunting for stage wins -- and to hear Robbie McEwen tell it, he's as likely to be tracked down by his own aimless team as anyone else when he gets away. Their dalliance with a Lance lieutenant went poorly as Levi Leipheimer only occasionally flashed his potential between injuries and, well, blowups on long climbs. In his place now as the GC threat is Denis Menchov, another of those pesky Russian youngsters with a white jersey in his closet. The Rabos insist Menchov is a podium threat. I'll believe it when I see it.

So back to Flanders -- one of Cycling's grandest capitals, having produced more than its share of legends around the Cycling landscape, including the biggest of them all. But it's been since the days of the Cannibal and Lucien Van Impe that Flanders has put anyone even on the podium in Paris. Hell, no Belgium has bagged a prize of any kind since Eddie Planckaert's capture of the Green Jersey in 1988. Ah, if only Eddy Merckx adopted Wilt Chamberlain's lifestyle... we'd be awash in Flandrian glory.

Still, things are not so bad over at Quick Step, where a wondrous Spring has given the team license to race the Tour however it wants. Tom Boonen, who will never have to pay for another beer in Flanders as long as he lives, rested on his laurels for a few weeks and got himself ready to make a play for the maillot vert, if he can somehow outfox McEwen. Michael Rogers looked great in Switzerland, enough to think in terms of top 10 on the GC. And the rest is pure gravy.

Without knowing, I can guess that Quick Step's spring success is at the expense of Davitamon-Lotto, their cross-county rivals. Peter Van Petegem's troubles following Boonen made for a dreary spring, but with Quick Step fat and happy, and with the Petacchi dragon slumbering, perhaps the latter half of the season will belong to Davitamon. As the green jersey holder, Robbie McEwen is the odds-on favorite to keep Boonen's play for green at bay. McEwen was terrific in the Giro mostly, beating Petacchi on his home turf, and is primed for another run, with the full support of his team. He's got Leon Van Bon, the new Dutch champion, and Fast Freddy to lead him out... not too shabby. And if there's time, maybe Axel Merckx can hunt for a stage win and even drag GC man Cadel Evans up a few peaks. Evans is still an enigma, but he shoudn't be underestimated and with luck and form a top 10 is well within reach.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

TdF Preview: The Spaniards and Basques

No, I am not stumping for ETA, I'm just recognizing the two distinct cycling cultures, although both feature almost nothing but flyweight climbers. Anyway, Spain is one of the most productive nations when it comes to cyclists... but to what end? The landscape is littered with Spanish lieutenants -- every GC contender has to have at least one, and it's rumored that Lance won't even fetch the morning papers without a couple Spaniards clearing the way. But check the rosters of Euskaltel-Euskadi, Illes Balears, Liberty Seguros, and Saunier Duval, and tell me... how many Spanish GC contenders are there? A handful, and a lot of lieutenants. Truly the Spanish are the most selfless Cycling race on Earth.

Anyway, since each of the four Spanish teams has its own issues, let's look at them separately. At Euskaltel, the collective mascot of the Basque people, Iban Mayo remains the Great White Hope. Never mind that Aitor Gonzales, a Vuelta winner in a past lifetime, just took the Giro-Rundfahrt-Tour de Suisse; all that earned him was a month off. It's all about Mayo, as far as the media is concerned. Forget the fact that Mayo has been spotted in public this Spring about as often as J.D. Salinger, and when he's shown up his form has been thoroughly mediocre (29th in Switzerland). Or that Inigo Landaluze was pressing the favorites at the Dauphine, or that Haimar Zubeldia waits in the wings. Anyway, Mayo has a lot to prove after last year's humiliation, and everyone at Euskaltel is crossing their fingers; plan B is the usual mad scramble for stage wins.

A better bet for a serious podium challenge is over at Illes Balears, where Alejandro Valverde is a hot pick to challenge the favorites, and he's got Francisco Mancebo and 2004 White Jersey winner Vladimir Karpets in reserve. This is a team built for a run at the podium, for real, and if enough T-Mobile guys melt away, they might bag their quarry.

A staler version of a serious Spanish podium run is over at Liberty Seguros. Old friend Manolo Saiz has rounded up the usual suspects: Roberto Heras, Joseba Beloki, Igor Gonzales de Galdeano, with Jorg Jaksche in the fold to hunt for early breakaway chances and Angel Vicioso around to unnerve people with his distinctly threatening name. Nobody thinks Beloki is back to his 2002 form, when he was fully capable of placing runner-up to Lance and maybe Ullrich on a regular basis. He left his psyche on that melted tar two years ago.... As for Heras, if it all fell into place for him, he could make a lot of people nervous for a few stages, but he has his own Mayo-esque disappearance to account for, and anyway this Tour doesn't have enough of his kind of stages. Heras is destined for also-ran status.

Finally, the poor cousins at Saunier Duval Prodir haven't got the bells and whistles... in fact, they haven't even got Spaniards teed up to lead the charge. Oh, newly-crowned national champ Juan Garate will want to show off his new duds, but after the Giro it's hard to see him staying strong for three more grueling weeks. After that it's Chris Horner hunting for stages and Leonard Piepoli trying to climb up the GC.

TdF Preview: The Italians

OK, so I think I'll do this by teams grouped by country. And the Italians should be a quick write-up. History is littered with Italian champions who show up in France, seemingly not all that far from home, acting as if they'd been transported to Mars. OK, in fairness, it's long been recognized that the Giro detracts from a rider's ability to do the Tour -- they've been calling it the Double since Coppi's day and before. Add to that the pressure that Italian teams face to ride a good Giro (re: sponsors), and you've got one of Cycling's great nations left in no position whatsoever to make a play for Cycling's greatest race.

Anyway, with Basso riding overseas, Cunego suffering from mysterious afflictions, and Simoni demonstrating his courageous nature by begging off on the eve of the Lampre team presentation, it's hard to identify a single player for the GC from the Italian contingent, made up of Lampre, Liquigas, Fassa Bortolo, and those world-beaters at Domina Vacanze. Dario Cioni? Dario Frigo? Washington Capitals defenseman Sergei Gonchar? Worse, with Ale-Jet Petacchi in storage for the flat Summer classics and the Vuelta, TdF fans are deprived of the nation's strongest force, the Blue-White train leadout for the world's best finisher. Not that Petacchi has proven he can hunt for the Green Jersey; even in this watered-down Tour there are still too many summits to cross before Paris.

No, the Italian teams with or without Petacchi will be consigned to hunting for stage wins. A good bet is Juan Antonio Flecha or Fabien Cancellara (day 1 only) from Fassa, or maybe Classics stud Magnus Backstedt at Liquigas. Longshots would be Kim Kirchen or one of the Darios. The rest of these guys are just fodder.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

National Chumps

Some thoughts while trying not to look directly at Bob Roll's "sideburns"...

* One feature to largely be missing from this year's Tour will be those colorful National Champion jerseys. I seem to recall McEwen holding the Aussie Yellow & Green, but scrolling through the winners of yesterday's championship elite men's road races, what's remarkable is how few of these guys are even selected to ride starting next week, let alone be players. Lars Bak... Serge Baguet (a Wallon!)... PIerrick Fedrigo... Gerrit Glomser... Gerald Ciolek... Enrico Gasparotto... Leon Van Bon... Morten Christiansen... Juan Manuel Garate... OY! Without seeing everyone's roster I'm not sure that as many of half of these guys will be there at the start line, and the ones who will, well... I don't have high hopes for Van Bon or Baguet, but you never know. At least Vinokourov will be wearing the national colors of Kazakhstan after his surprising solo victory yesterday. I wonder what the colors are, and how well they go with the bubble gum pink of T-Mobile?

* Rene Haselbacher is scheduled to make it to the start line next week for Gerolsteiner. Is this the year he actually combusts himself on impact with the barriers? There are a lot of jokes you can make at the expense of a guy noted only for putting himself on the floor in big sprints, though I wonder if Tyler Hamilton would find any of them funny?

* Bobke just said "tour di france." Eleven months of speech therapy, and for what? Nothing. Squat. Bobkis. We have a DVR now, with pretty decent programming capability, I'm pretty sure I can automatically mute it when the picture detects him. Just scroll through the filters for "sideburns".

Starting Monday, I'll run through each team, five a day. And still guessing at some of the rosters.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Peak Season

With the Tour upon us, this is a very nervous time for pro cycling bloggers. Did I spend too many words on the Spring Classics? Can my site sustain two peaks? Should I have completely ignored the Giro-Rundfahrt and shut down after some light work on the Dauphinee? Did I hit my peak verbosity-to-body-weight ratio, or can I improve over the three weeks and peak in the Pyrenees?

This and other metaphors will be tortured over the next week as we get limbered up for the Grand Bloggle. And I promise, when the racing begins in earnest, this site will be under constant pressure.

A threshold question: do you plan to get live results, or blind yourself until the nightly re-broadcast? I don't want to foil anyone's plans but would otherwise prefer to be on top of the morning's action that same morning. The discussion just seems fresher without the 24 hour lag.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Friday Focus

OK I'm finally back on line after three days in George Hincapie's adopted home of South Carolina. Bad place for cyclists, really, unless you need to concentrate on flat intervals. Thanks to all the readers who, in my absence, apparently nominated me for the pantheon of great Italian cyclists. Shame on anyone who left Danilo DiLuca off the list.

* I finished Lance Armstrong's War on the plane. Buy it. Now. Right now. You can read an excerpt here to see what I mean. It raises some interesting questions for the upcoming race, such as why are there no Belgians on the squad? Anyway, I'd lend you my copy but Stacey is reading it.

* If you're a betting person, let it all ride on Tom Boonen for the Belgian national championships this weekend. Trust me, I have a method.

* One area of the sport I feel pretty ignorant on is the European nationals. Why are they held so close to the Tour? Seems pretty clearly conflicting with people's agendas, although somehow Vino still thinks it's a good idea to trek back to Kazakhstan for his race. I know they give pretty jerseys and all, but seriously, aren't these races, on the eve of the Boucle, best left to the guys who aren't planning to accomplish anything in the Tour? If so, only the Italian championships can be expected to hold any meaning. There is probably a strong element of tradition here that I don't know about. Then again, overtraining is another old European tradition, and I don't see anyone defending that.

* Over the weekend we can start to sort out the contenders a bit. BTW, don't waste much time on VeloNews' Tour Special, it seems aimed at people who like pretty colors and are completely ignorant. I love VN, but when it comes to features, they get their asses kicked by Cycle Sport.

* Godefroot is going to hell for leaving Zabel out. Bad, bad karma over there. And it did NOT have to be that way.

OK, off to bed...

Monday, June 20, 2005

Road Files

Am traveling (again) this week... but there's free wi-fi in the room.

* Run, don't walk, to buy "Lance Armstrong's War," the latest book on the Girona crowd. I was given it for Father's Day (along with a really cool fingerpainting by Sage), and only got through 60 pages on the plane before admitting I had work to do, but it is riveting! It's a Krakauer style in-depth report, and I'm not sure why it's called what it is because although Lance is at the center of the action, there is a TON of information about all the other characters in this drama. My favorite is the description of how everyone knows the eastern bloc guys will stop at nothing, however reckless, because they have nothing else to live for.

* Latest VN finally gives its postmortem on the best Giro in my adult lifetime. For all those people who want to congratulate Simoni on giving his best effort, here is what he said about his near-miss on the queen stage to Sestriere: "I knew the Finestre was my last chance. It's disappointing that Cunego wasn't there to help me. With the two of us we could have made something on that last climb. Instead, I was left alone to try to erase the losses from the time trial." What an asshole. Simoni lost to a guy who had no team whatsoever, and it's Cunego's fault? Gibo is fighting the PR war for the Tifosi's love, but this kind of nonsense isn't likely to make him friends.

* Nice to see Aitor Gonzales back, right? [/sarcasm] Winning the Giro-Rundfahrt is like finishing first in a charity century ride. Someone has to finish first, and cyclists tend to like any kind of a race, for the same reason we like to sprint against each other to the next telephone pole. But all this says is that he was the best rider among people who were in Switzerland to win, which is about 30 percent of the peloton.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Chris Horner

Well, I guess there is something to be accomplished in the Giro-Rundfahrt: auditioning for your team's Tour lineup. All I know about today's stage is what I read in the live reports. I love the image of Horner yelling at his breakaway partner Nibali to take his freakin turn, hearing no answer, and ditching him. In fairness, Nibali was cramping. Anyway, nice ride.

Update 6/17: He's in! Saunier tapped Horner for the TdF squad last night.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Guessing Game

OK, so check out the Discovery Channel Cycling Team Roster here. Let's do a little exercise and try to guess who the 9 TdF riders will be.

We know the following are IN: Armstrong, Hincapie, Beltran, Popovych, Rubiera. Ekimov would definitely have been in the mix but for injury; not sure but the same could probably be said about Danielson at this point too. That leaves four spots.

Savoldelli was supposedly in, although I am slightly skeptical after what he just went through. Then there is Azevedo... I can't recall who's being saved for the Vuelta, I thought maybe he was their #1 GC guy? Otherwise he'd be part of the mountain team in July. Then there are the stalwarts: Joachim, Noval, Padrnos and Van Heeswijk, all competent support guys. Pick probably two from that group. And don't forget Barry, Devolder, Hammond (getting going in the Giro-Rundfahrt), Hesjedahl, McCarty, McCartney... About all you can say for sure is Beppu will be a tourist.

I say Savoldelli gets dropped back to recovery phase/Vuelta stud, and the last four are Hammond, McCartney, Noval and Joachim. Or Padrnos. I can never tell those two apart. Lance doesn't need any more mountain goat lieutenants after Chechu, Triki, Georgie and understudy Popo. He needs some all-rounder/watercarrier types who can put their all into a TTT, then basically rest up. I think Hammond gets the nod to try for points with Hincapie, as an afterthought, or at least to navigate the sprint finishes safely. If he's racing in the Giro-Rundfahrt, I'm guessing he found his strength again. This will also get him ready for the August "classics" with Devolder and anyone else not on bed rest.

Who say ye?

Checking in on Ullrich

Meanwhile, over in the Tour de Suisse (a.k.a. Giro di Svizzera, a.k.a. Schweitzer Rundfahrt [my personal favorite]), Jan Ullrich is either desperately trying to catch up on his fitness, or gearing up for another attempt at striking gold with his training program. We can ridicule him for delaying his fitness the way he has in the past, trying to get his peak just right, but remember he did get his peak right in 2003. And had he not dumped two minutes on the first mountain stage when he had a stomach bug, he may well have ridden Lance into oblivion. Frankly, Lance has uncanny luck, not only that he hasn't had these problems, but that the one time Ullrich was good enough to win, Jan got ill. Anyway, Ullrich's fitness is about as mysterious as Lance's, and will remain that way in the Rundfahrt-Giro, since it's strictly a training race for him rather than a goal.

Ullrich seems like one of the most normal people in the peloton, so it's hard not to root for the guy, and if Lance were not American, I'd probably be doing exactly that. I was reading last night in Uphill Battle: Cycling's Great Climbers, a must-read in this corner, about Indurain: a larger guy who could win on any terrain, but mostly blasted out incredible power to rule the time trials, while sticking to his grinding pace on the climbs, letting go of the true climbers but ultimately bringing most of them back before any real damage was done. Well, their lives overlap almost entirely, and last I checked Indurain was still alive, so Ullrich cannot be considered his reincarnation. But the similarities are uncanny. So why does one have five titles and a place in immortality while the other wears the "unfulfilled potential" millstone? A little less discipline, a lot less luck, and one Lance Armstrong. The true measure of Lance's greatness, perhaps, is that because of him and only him Ullrich has so few wins in July.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Laying Low

This may be the most difficult time of year for cycling bloggers. Believe me, I would know. Because there is nothing credible to report and discuss -- the Dauphine was exposed last year (to those few who follow the sport and didn't already know) as a sham dress rehearsal, where the key players in July are either holding their cards close to the vest, or not, but nobody outside of themselves has any way of knowing. So in other words, other than speculating about who's on form, everyone's favorite exercise, there is little to talk about.

Except Santiago Botero. Has he reformed, or is this just a different shade of silliness from him? You can guess where my vote is.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Fine Vino?

OK, from last year we know better than to jump to conclusions about
either Lance or his rival based on what happens on the slopes of
Ventoux in June. Peaking in June is not good strategy for July. Where
exactly is Iban Mayo these days anyway?

But we can at least say that Alexander Vinokourov is getting ready for
a serious, serious run at the Tour, notwithstanding the fact that based
on last year's results he would be the #3 guy on his own team. I think
his run up Ventoux is both a warning shot to the peloton and the
beginning of a hostile takeover of his own team. He's already called
out Ullrich for not training enough, so one can assume he has an even
lower opinion of the notoriously underprepared Kloden.

[BTW, is T-Mobile officially the 1980s New York Yankees of cycling?
Ullrich would be Dave Winfield, etc. Not only are they a massive civil
war in waiting, but look at the guys who've recently left, after doing
absolutely nothing rotting away on the T-Mobile bench: Savoldelli (Giro
champ), Julich (completely resurrected), Cadel Evans (coming back),
Santi Botero (back on form)... they waste more talent than most teams
can ever assemble.]

Anyway, head-to-head I would take an in-form Lance over Vino even now:
when Lance loses a time trial to him, it will be a first. And when
Lance is peaking in July, as he does like clockwork, he won't be
blowing up on the bottom of a climb. But Vino's aggressiveness
threatens to derail Discovery's patient tactics, and from there
anything can happen. So it should be exciting.

Monday, June 06, 2005

DP Investigates!

Digital Peloton
has discovered that the Four Days of Dunkirk is in fact a five-day race! Remember, this is a Digital Peloton exclusive. Could this be the source of bush's antipathy toward France? Counting can be difficult enough without people throwing curves like this at you. DP will continue to provide updates as this story unfolds.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Down Time

Not for me, mind you, but the peloton has been shattered as if it were ascending the Stelvio... in an abstract sense. After three weeks of watching a relatively cream-of-the-crop field contest the Giro, we're now left with the protagonists all off working on little pet projects, like the USPRO, or the Dauphine-Libere recon mission, or the Tour of Luxembourg (seriously, how long can that take?), or some such thing. It's just as well, after an incredibly riveting Giro, that we all get to catch our breaths. Still, it's worth checking around and seeing how folks are faring.

* I'm glad that the USPRO was won by both a domestic pro, and by someone who actually hit the tape first. In the past there have been several foreign winners -- even Canadians -- so that the Stars and Stripes jersey has been kind of a joke. Well, US Cycling deserves a little better, since the US is finally putting out its share of competent pros, and since the race itself is a serious circuit worthy of a "major" championship. Which is more than can be said of the Worlds, often enough. That it went to Chris Wherry, a domestic pro for the Health Net-Maxxis team, is also pretty cool. The domestic pro scene is pretty robust these days, with guys like Chris Horner, Tom Danielson, Michael Barry, etc. earning their passage to Europe in a steady stream from results at places like Lancaster and Sea Otter. Wherry has been around, probably doesn't have a big future internationally, but his long list of domestic palmares makes him a fine candidate for the S&S jersey. Anyway, I'm glad Fast Freddie didn't win again. It may not be fair to judge him by his results here when his team is missing or jet-lagged, but he's been getting smoked by these domestic guys.

* I couldn't be less interested in the Dauphine this time, however. Often it's been a chance to watch Lance practice his victory waive for July, but last year showed us that it's really just a practice course, and we should care even less about the results than we already did. By the way, where exactly is Iban Mayo?

* Two of my teammates are riding in the Mount Hood Classic, and show up on Here's a link to a picture of Druska, incorrectly identified, but who's counting?

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