A two-for-one post... some items I couldn't let pass without comment.
- Denis Menchov used the rest day at the Vuelta yesterday to clarify the purpose of his withdrawal from the Tour: Rasmussen betrayed him. Recall, the Chicken had previously held up Menchov's dispirited exit as a show of solidarity with the exiled maillot jaune. Given ~:>'s popularity within the team, or lack thereof, it always seemed like a stretch. Now we know.
- Of more import, however, have been the developments of the Alejandro Valverde exclusion from the World Championships. Earlier this week the UCI reiterated its intentions to exclude the Spanish ace. Initially this decision came with a request that the Spanish cycling federation reopen its investigation into links between Valverde and Operacion Puerto. The RFEC (federation) replied that there was nothing new in the file which warranted reopening the investigation... to which the UCI said, too bad.
Obviously the UCI is trying to brandish its dope-fighting credentials after doing their best slapstick routine over the Rasmussen affair. What they have done, however, is carelessly lowered the bar for excluding a rider down to pretty much nothing. If you don't like the smell of someone, you can just toss him out to "safeguard the atmosphere and reputation" of your downtown crit or whatever.
This is a dangerous precedent, and points out for the 1,275th time why something besides the current structure is needed in Cycling (scroll down a few stories for some ideas about exactly what). So the UCI thinks that Valverde smells funny, but nobody has any documentation and there's no ongoing investigation -- the latter being the agreed-on trigger for exclusion. If a newspaper publishes a story about alleged drug connections, will that be enough to exclude someone? If Pat McQuaid gets an anonymous phone call about a rider (from a rival team, or Floyd's buddy Gheoghian, or whomever), is that enough to put someone's career on hold?
Cycling doesn't need an impossibly high bar for exclusions, it just needs one you can actually decipher. The UCI's newest threshold is "I know suspicion when I see it." For all the UCI's ignorant missteps in the doping arena, this could be the one that actually throws the sport into chaos. For once, I'm rooting for the rider's legal defense team to shut down Pat McQuaid's homespun legal career... and with any luck, break his brainless stranglehold on the UCI in the process.