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Unfair and Unbalanced
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April 30: Mark Cavendish won the second stage of the Tour of Romandie. As he crossed the line, he made a rather ...er..emphatic gesture. For that the Swiss fined him some Euros. Then HTC-Columbia felt it would be better if they pulled their impetuous rider from the race and sent him to his room for a time-out.
Here are the 3 press releases from HTC Columbia as the situation developed:
"San Luis Obispo, CA - 29th April 2010 - HTC-Columbia's Mark Cavendish has blasted to his second victory of the season in a bunch sprint in stage two of the Tour of Romandie. Cavendish's teammates placed the sprinter in a perfect position, with a strong lead out from Mark Renshaw, giving Cavendish the chance to accelerate away and beat the rest of the pack by more than a bike length.
"I've ridden this finishing circuit before," Cavendish said later, " and I knew I was in good enough shape for the win. My teammates were amazingly strong. They did some massive turns on the front, and even though the headwind made it hard, they went all out. With all the problems I've had earlier this season they could have lost some faith in me, but they gave it everything."
Following teammate Marco Pinotti's victory in the opening prologue, Cavendish's win is the second in three days for HTC-Columbia in the Tour of Romandie."
"30th April 2010 - Please find below an apology that Mark Cavendish wishes to be released today.
"I want to publicly apologize for the gesture I made on the finish line of the Tour de Romandie yesterday. I did want to make a statement to my critics but I realize that making a rude gesture on the finish line is not the best way to do that. I apologize to everybody watching the race and especially the kids. I am not proud of releasing the feelings in that way. I hope I can redeem myself and show my feelings and passion for cycling with some exciting results in the next couple of months rather than with gestures such as the one yesterday." "
"San Luis Obispo, CA - 30th April 2010 - High Road Sports has taken Mark Cavendish out of the Tour de Romandie at the conclusion of today's stage, as a result of his inappropriate actions after winning stage two of the race on Thursday.
Cavendish has separately issued his own apology stating "I apologize to everybody watching the race and especially the kids. I am not proud of releasing my feelings in that way. I hope I can redeem myself and show my feelings and passion for cycling with results rather than with gestures such as the one yesterday."
High Road Sports agrees with the individual fine issued by the UCI commissaries today and in addition will direct payment of Cavendish's prize money from his stage win to the international charity Right To Play. Right To Play operates in 25 countries and helps millions of children around the world by teaching them life values and lessons through sport and has been a partner of High Road Sports for the last three years."
April 27: Well butter my butt and call me a biscuit. Of all the people I had thought might be contenders for winning Liège - Bastogne - Liège, Alexander Vinokourov was fairly low on my list. Given that he had just won the Giro del Trentino, that was really ignorant of me. As I thought, none of the riders who are on track to truly contend for a Tour victory were able to crack the top ranks. Cadel Evans, who is targeting the Giro, came in an admirable 5th. Andy Schleck was over a minute down. Valverde, who came in third, can't win the Tour and I don't include him in any list of serious Tour contenders.
Vinokourov's win made jaws drop. He has been hammered with suspicious questions, no surprise since he just came off a suspension for blood doping in the Tour. Anyone who has read postings on this site know that I take a back seat to no one in hating dopers and in feeling that the entire peloton is a rolling mafia, with even the clean riders helping to cover up the misdeeds of the drugged miscreants.
But in this case I am in agreement with Vino. He served his 2 years on the galleys, which is the punishment agreed upon for the offence. He should be allowed to come back with a tabula rasa and allowed to start anew. If we need a harsher penalty, then inflict that. But once the time has been served, a rider should be allowed back. We should be civilized and not create Jean Valjeans whose punishment, even after prison, is eternal.
And, as he said, if he can be allowed to race, then he should be allowed to win. And Vino is, without a doubt, the most exciting rider racing today. He forces the other riders to have eyes on the backs of their heads because he is a bomb that can go off at any time. So, welcome back to racing, Mr. Vinokourov. Do well and race clean.
And if he's caught again, tie him to a pole, give him a blindfold and a cigarette...
April 24: This is it, the last classic before the season becomes dominated by stage races. The Tour of Romandie starts Tuesday. But tomorrow is one of the greatest prizes in cycling, Liège - Bastogne - Liège, the oldest race on the pro calender.
Philippe Gilbert showed that he is tanned, rested and ready with his Amstel Gold win. I lean to Gilbert as my favorite with Cadel Evans as a close second. Evans has been preparing for the Giro and I would guess that he's probably a little farther ahead in his fitness that the men who are centering their programs around the Tour in July. The Schlecks want this one really badly, but I haven't seen evidence that they are ready to beat Evans and Gilbert. Should be a wonderful race with an awesome start list.
April 20: The Classics season is nearing an end with La Flèche Wallonne coming tomorrow (Wednesday) and Liège - Bastogne - Liège on the 25th (Sunday). Several important riders were caught out by the volcano-caused travel shutdown and were forced to miss Amstel Gold. Among them were Alejandro Valverde, Samuel Sanchez, Bradley Wiggins and Carlos Sastre. They should be there for the 2 big Ardennes races.
Meanwhile, the Giro d'Italia is coming at us really fast which starts on May 8. There some tune-up stage races that the riders will use to test and perfect their form. The favorite is the hilly Giro del Trentino, which is set in the Dolomites. The big dogs will see what their legs can do starting today. Ivan Basso, Alexandre Vinokourov, Maxim Iglinsky, Jose Rujano and Franco Pellizotti are planning to start. Also Michele Scarponi, who is having the best season of his life, will see how he fares against the top riders who have based their season on the Giro. Gilberto Simoni, who lives in the area of the race, has decided to ride the Trentino and then finish his career riding this year's Giro. He just inked a contract with Lampre for these races. This is a climber's race and to make it clear, the race's final stage will end atop the 1,760 meter high Alpe di Pampeago, which averages 10%.
The very important Swiss Tour de Romandie starts on the 27th. Also along the way there are several big 1-day races: the Spanish GP Llodio (24th), Giro dell'Appennino (25th), Vuelta a la Rioja (also the 25th).
April 7: La Gazzetta dello Sport has reported another brewing doping scandal. You can see Gazzetta's story here (If you can't read the Italian, you can use Google to translate it). The basic story is that the small northern Italian town of Mariana Montovana is the center of a blood doping ring that could be related to the Austrian Humanplasma clinic that disgraced rider Bernard Kohl says was involved with his transgressions. Humanplasma denies the allegations.
The Italian police believe 54 people could be tied up with the scandal that centers around Guido Nigrelli, a pharmacist and a trainer of cyclists and horses. Weird that horse people seem to get involved with cycle doping stories. Perhaps it points to the deep doping problems in horse racing.
The Gazzetta story asserts that Signor Nigrelli (who has a checkered doping history) has worked with Lampre boss Giuseppe Saronni. Saronni strongly denies doing anything incorrect and says that he and his team have worked for an honest and clean sport.
In the meantime police investigated Lampre riders Alessandro Petacchi and Lorenzo Bernucci and found what they believe is a cache of drugs at Bernucci's house. Bernucci says the drugs were those of his wife and brother. Pending a resolution of the case Lampre has suspended Bernucci.
The fact that 12 years after the 1998 Tour de France revealed the widespread and institutionalized use of dope in cycling, there is yet another raid that seems to speak of continued wide use of banned performace-enhancing modalities should surprise no one. Mountains continue to be climbed at speeds that would leave not just Bernard Hinault and Greg LeMond far behind, but even Marco Pantani (and his 60-percent hematocrit). Readers of this site know I track race average speeds and several times this year I have posted record average speeds for stage races, the recently completed Tour of Catalonia being the latest example.
Aerodynamic drag goes up at a square of the increase of speed. That means small increases in speed require large (actually huge) increases in power. The continued improvement in climbing speeds and stage race average speeds (especially over what is acknowledged by nearly everyone as the hyper-doped era of the late 1990s) makes it clear that there is still a lot of work to be done before we have a clean and fair sport.
April 1: The 2010 Giro field is starting to firm up. Last year's winner, Denis Menchov (Rabobank) is not going to ride, preferring to save his suds for the Tour. Second place Danilo Di Luca, serving a 2-year suspension for trouble with a mass-spectrometer, is going to watch the Giro from the comfort of his home.
We will have, however, Cadel Evans, Carlos Sastre, Franco Pellizotti (third last year), Alexandre Vinokourov, Stefano Garzelli, Ivan Basso and Damiano Cunego. The last three named riders have won the Giro previously. It should be a good race, but it will be hard to beat last year's down-to-the-wire match.
Is it just me, or does it seem now that Ivan Basso is no longer "planning" to use doping products, he can't treat the other riders like trash. Now, he's just another really good rider. He doesn't drop the rest of the field like stones while barely breaking a sweat.
Reuters/Yahoo posted a story regarding British Cycling's struggle. Despite the world-wide success of British racers (David Millar just won 3 Days of De Panne today), racing on English roads is in danger in extinction. Mass-start road racing has always had trouble getting a footing in the U.K. For decades it was banned. Now, because local police and officials are allowed to tack on any conditions they want before a race permit is given, promoters are forced to give up trying to put on races under the weight of police requirements. Several planned races have had to be cancelled recently. British Cycling is waging a campaign to modernize the requirements that can be demanded of race promoters. Good luck.