How much longer? Edition.
The Tour fast approaches, and with it comes Gossip galore. Without further ado...
We begin today in France, where forty-nine year old Jeannie Longo has won the French national time trial championship. Again. This is her eighth win in the national time trial, and her 53rd national championship title. Longo was a tad ho-hum about the whole thing, saying that her main objective is the Olympic games. On the mens' side, Sylvain Chavanel won his third national title against the watch. Kirchen, Grivko, Bak, and Rabon have all also won their respective national cronos, joining the already crowned Cancellara and Pinotti. We leave it to you, wise reader, to match each rider with his correct country.
The clock is ticking down on the career of Erik Zabel, though he still has ten years left to equal Longo. For now, Zabel will concentrate on the Tour de France, but in August he will consider his future and decide whether to ride another year. He is hoping for a stage win, and perhaps to wear the Green jersey, if only for a day. Forza Ete!
Rasmussen fixed on Tuesday! So reads the headline over at l'Equipe this afternoon. What ever could the good people at l'Equipe mean by this? They mean, that Michael Rasmussen is fixated on next Tuesday. (Beware the false cognate, gentle reader, it will always lead you astray.) Rasmussen will learn his fate at last, it seems. The Federation of Monaco, where Rasmussen is licensed, will decide whether, or for how long, the Dane will be sanctioned for his confusion last June over his whereabouts. Fired by his team for lying (Rasmussen has a case pending against the team for this decision), Rasmussen could incur a two years suspension. Presumably, they will count time served, as he has missed already a year of competition. Yes, I'm still in Mexico.
Italian Riccardo Ricco is warming up the smack talk for his big trip to France. He plans to emulate his idol Pantani by winning on l'Alpe d'Huez, he confided to the press. Il Cobra also wants to wear white in Paris. Pretty mild stuff there from Ricco. But he's just getting warmed up.
One thing's for sure. Ricco will not be finding the love in France. Ask Karsten Kroon just a tad derisively, "Who names themselves the Cobra anyway?" And perhaps on the roads of France, il Cobra will again meet "de Temmer." Who is de Temmer? There, my friends, is a story. The story takes place at the Vuelta al Pais Vasco, on one of the more difficult stages. Ricco wanted to win, and attacked confidently early in the stage. Laurens ten Dam followed him with ease, and rode up next to Ricco and looked right at him, as if to say, I am not afraid of you. Ricco has been known to brag, that he stares down his victims, before he kills them. Not surpisingly, then, Ricco was very irritated by this show of defiance from the Dutch climber. So irritated, in fact, that he overshot a corner and crashed, causing a mechanical. Ricco was not seen at the front again for quite some time. Can a Cobra put his tail between his legs? Since then, Laurens ten Dam has carried the name, "de Temmer." He is the Cobra Tamer.
Dekker Disgruntled. According to the Dutch press, the relationship between Thomas Dekker and Team Rabobank has deteriorated rapidly following his poor ride at the Tour de Suisse. On Tuesday, Erik Bruekink called Dekker at his home in Lucca to tell him he would not be riding the Tour for Rabobank. Dekker's reaction? The Tour is "not holy," he said. "Just because one lives nearer to Rome, one doesn't pray more, does one?" Up until Tuesday when he heard the news, Dekker had not spoken with anyone from the team management since the Tour de Suisse, and indeed, communications have broken down almost completely between Dekker and the team management. Dekker will now focus on the Olympic Games, and National Team Director, Egon van Kessel, has been avidly observing this drama from the sidelines. While refusing to comment on the internal politics at Team Rabobank, Kessel said in a recent interview that he has big plans for Dekker in Beijing. "At least, someone still has confidence in me," remarked Dekker. Team Rabobank, it appears, no longer does. Anyone on the market for a young Dutch stage racer? It seems there might be one available soon.
Robbie McEwen very nearly joined the Disgruntled Group also, as the management at Silence! considered leaving him off the squadra for the Tour. Determined to secure the Yellow Jersey for Cadel, the team was set to fill Robbie's spot with another support rider, until McEwen's successes at the Tour de Suisse made it impossible to leave him at home. The Aussie sprinter will ride his 10th Tour, and counts four green jerseys and thirteen stages among his Tour successes. Evans has publicly rejected the notion that he had anything to do with McEwen's near-miss. In fact, he says, he prefers to have McEwen on the team, as it lessens the pressure on him during the first week.
Sellllllaaaa! Emmanuelle Sella has renewed his contract with CSF, saying that Reverbi is like family to him. Sella will soon head off for his honeymoon. And no, we do not know where he is going or if brightly-colored drinks with paper parasols are involved. Memo to the paparazzi: please do not inflict us with any photos of Sella on the beach. Thanks in advance.
In an unusual turn of affairs, an Italian lab has confirmed that a tainted amino acid supplement almost certainly caused the positive test result of Maximilliano Richeze. Richeze, a sprinter at CSF, tested postiive for a steriod at the Tour de la Sarthe and was excluded from the Giro just before the start. Richeze hopes that the finding will remove the threat of suspension. So far, the Argentine federation has not yet formally considered the case. One hears the tainted supplement excuse regularly. Once in a while, it might actually be true.
Hot? Danniele Bennati, though perhaps not his Achilles tendon.
Not? National Championship races. A surprising number of prominent riders in Italy and Spain are skipping their national championships this weekend. In Italy, Diluca and Savoldelli will give it a pass, though the race takes place in Savoldelli's home region. Sella, Pozzovivo and Balliani of CSF will skip the race, as will Gilberto Simoni, who is busy with his mountain bike. In Spain, Contador, Colom, Noval, Rubiera, Friere, Flecha, Horillo, Sanchez, and Zubeldia are all far, far too cool to ride the national road race. The absences from Spain are in the main due to a pressing engagement in France.
That's all for today! Only one more week to go. But who's counting? Certainly, not us.
Super special thanks to Cafe member frinking for the links on the Thomas Dekker and Laurens ten Dam stories! All errors are, of course, mine. Reader contributions always happily accepted!