Deep into the third week of the Tour, the sleep becomes precious in its brevity and the drama, well, we've had plenty of that. Here at the Gossip we struggle to keep up. To be dropped from the break, we could not possibly endure so horrible a fate. No, instead we have dug deep into our suitcase of verbiage, and brought forth all the Gossip you could possibly need, and maybe more than you ever wanted. Next time, let's meet for tapas.
It's a hit! All the cool people think so. This Tour de France has received positive reviews from the press and talking heads around the sport. Here is what Bernard Thêvènet had to say: "This tour engrosses me more than the others. Perhaps because there was no prologue, no bonifications, the course seemed to me more free. It has been very interesting. There are more ambitions than in the years of Armstrong. I feel like a wind of freedom has swept through the peloton, more recklessness than calculation." Whatever it is, we'll take it.
Oscar Pereiro's crash on the descent off the Col Agnel shocked the peloton. Said Periero, "I had fear of dying ... I found myself in front of the abyss. I found myself in the air and I tried to protect my head. I thought that I was going to die and I hoped that I would not suffer too much, hoping to be unconscious at the moment that I touched the ground." (Grazie Tifosa for the translatin') Damiano Cunego who saw the crash had this to say: "I was afraid, so afraid, in the moment, I believed that he had died." David Arroyo, meanwhile, said he had "the fear of his life" when he came upon his downed team mate. "I leaned over and I saw that he budged. He had his eyes open, and he all at once demanded if he was bleeding from his head. His lucidity impressed me. I was not fully reassured... but he was aware." José Ivan Guttierez, in the second before he reached Pereiro did not know what to expect, and said later, "I prayed for him to be alive." Like Cunego, Alejandro Valverde was badly shocked by the crash. Despite these fears, Oscar P escaped with a broken arm. The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.
From the Unsolved Mysteries File. How did Maxim Monfort fall behind Roman Kreuziger in the White jersey competition during stage 12 on the road to Narbonne? By drafting the team car, or more to the point, by getting caught drafting the team car. Monfort received a 40 second penalty for sitting behind the car while trying to regain the field. Monfort's DS appealed, but received no love from Tour officials. Monfort sits a distant 4th in the young riders classification, after a jour sans on Wednesday's queen stage, which also saw Vincenzo Nibali lose significant time.
There are many things we can say about Denis Menchov, but an exciting interview, he is not. Here is his post-race comment after the hard-fought stage to Prato Nevoso: "I did not have good luck in falling just as I had attacked, but I came back well. Today, I did my best and I can be satisfied with my day. ... my situation is more interesting than it was last night." If only your post-race comments were similarly more interesting, Denis. At least, we can rest assured that there will be no headbutting or other tomfoolery from the Quiet Russian.
Number 1 Fan. Papa Vandevelde loves him some bike racing and loves nothing more than watching son Christian ride at the front. He confided, "When I was watching the Hautacam, I started yelling and screaming. I woke up the whole house!" We wish Papa Vandevelde many more happy mornings of bike racing.
Here at the Gossip we have kept our eyes tightly shut whenever Fränk Schleck ventured near a descent in this Tour de France. It turns out we need not have worried. Bernard Hinault, ex-Tour winner and winner of pretty much every race on the planet (except Milano-San Remo), gave the crash-prone Schleck a bit of advice before the départ at Cuneo. Said le Blaireau, the team mechs, they inflate your tires too much. Once you get to the line, let out some air. Then, you will descend more easily. Voilà, no more problems. Whether he has followed the advice of Hinault or simply kept his luck about him, Fränkie has survived the mountains of this Tour without incident. Chapeau!
Maybe Schleck simply gave the crash bug to Kohl. Bernard Kohl has lost over a minute to crashes in this Tour de France, only one of which fortunately was his own. At Nantes, Kohl dropped 38 seconds, after the dudsmak of Gomez. At Super-Besse, a crash by Schumacher delayed Kohl and lost 32 seconds. And on the road to Prato Nevoso, he attacked, fell, chased, then attacked again. Someone get the kid a body guard. Or some bubble wrap.
Despite his crashing tendencies, Berni has gained a huge following in his home country of Austria. On his website, which is currently decked out in dots, he quotes John Howard: "The bicycle is a curious vehicle. It's passenger is also its motor." Of Wednesday's stage he writes, it was "another unbelievable stage at the Tour de France... The motivation was huge, and I have today really given everything that I had." He also thanked Schumacher for riding in the break for him, and protecting the mountain points. On the final climb, "CSC rode once more an enormous high tempo, that only a few could follow. After a few kilometers on the Alpe d'Huez, Sastre attacked and no one could follow him. He was simply the strongest today. I had to really work to stay with the Evans and Schleck group." To wear the polka dot jersey on the Alpe gave Berni huge motivation, and the atmosphere on the mountain was "crazy." Of course, he will give his all in the crono. There. Now we all know something about Berni Kohl (former) international man of mystery.
Pipi di Ricco: World Tour 2008. Coming soon to a city near you? The now-notorious Ricco sample from the Cholet crono became a bit of a world traveller last week. Officials at Paris, Lausanne, and Barcelona all analyzed the suspect pipi before declaring a positive result. It seems likely that they will follow a similar procedure for any other suspect doping tests. Ricco's reaction? "Cycling is a world of hypocrites." Happily, Ivan Basso returns to racing soon, so the passions will be diverted, he predicted sanguinely. Tuesday, meanwhile, the president of the LLND, Pierre Bodry told the press that he did not yet have the test results for Peipoli on his desk. Next up? Pipi di Peipoli World Tour 2008.
In related news, the CONI people have today called both Riccardo Ricco and Leonardo Peipoli to appear. They have scheduled the hearings for 29-30 July, with Peipoli appearing on the 29th and Ricco, the 30th. Saunier Duval has also announced today the withdrawal of their sponsorship from the team. Scott, the current bike sponsor, will continue as title sponsor until the end of the season, and the team will continue to race under the Scott name. Already the Tour of Germany has sent its regrets, declaring the team unwelcome at their race, and the Vuelta has made similar noises. Do they have industrial park crits in Italy? The boys better start working on their cornering. Go fast, turn right.
WADA hearts Roche Pharmaceuticals. Contrary to previous reports that Roche had included a maker in their version of EPO, known as CERA, Roche tells us today that they did no such thing. To do so, would have cost them millions in research money and testing. At the same time, Roche did work with WADA by providing information about the chemical structure of the drug to the doping authorities. This information eased the task of developing a test to detect the new variant of EPO.
Transfer News! Davide Rebellin joins LPR next season. RAI confirmed this tidbit for us during Wednesday's Tour stage. In other RAI news, Davide Cassani clearly reads the Cafe. How do we know? As Damiano Cunego dropped off the back on the Croix de Fer, Cassani launched into a lengthy discussion of how great Cunego is as a one day rider, and how he just isn't really meant for the grand tours. He even thinks that Cunego can win Worlds. Here at the Cafe, we have often said exactly the same thing. So, Davide, while you're here... I've been thinking for your Giro previews that you really need to bring a gossip columnist along as you pre-ride all the Giro roads. The Gossip, so essential. I can even ride a bike both uphill and downhill. I won't crash you out, I promise. And if I happen to see a pro bike racer out training, certo, I will pretend not to recognize him. Thank you for your consideration. Love and kisses, Gavia.
For his part, Cunego has said that his condition simply isn't good enough for this Tour. On Tuesday's stage he was dropped from the breakaway on the Cime de la Bonnette, a climb he called "infinite." After chasing on the descent off the Croix de Fer, Cunego reached the Alpe d'Huez with the group of favorites, but didn't remain there long. "They went too hard for me" on the final climb, said Cunego. Certainly, it's been an infinitely long Tour for Cunego. Crash, get dropped, go to doping control. Wash, rinse, repeat. Perhaps the Olympics, his next objective, will treat him better. At least, he'll only have to go to doping control once.
Vincenzo Nibali who wore the White Jersey of best young rider for a time this Tour is planning to return to the Tour next year. On the stage to the Alpe d'Huez, he finished 17 minutes down, putting an end to his white jersey ambitions. At the same time, he is not overly disappointed with his ride, calling this year's trip to France a necessary learning experience. Next year, he will skip the Giro d'Italia, and focus his energies on the Tour. Ivan Basso, soon to arrive at Team Liquigas, will not ride the Tour next season, riding instead the Giro and Vuelta, which opens the way for Nibali to try his own chances in France next year.
David Moncoutié may not receive a new contract from Cofidis. Éric Boyer tells us in Tuesday's press that he has lost confidence in the French climber, who has suffered a string of injuries and returned no notable results over the last two seasons. Boyer wants motivated riders who will attack and battle for victory, he says. Boyer's statements took Moncoutié by surprise and he has admitted that he must now find a new team, as he would like to continue his career. "The confidence is broken." According to an interview over at cyclismag.fr, Moncoutié's main motivation in continuing his career is to end on a happy note, rather than the two years of non-results he's had since breaking his femur in 2006. In the short-run, he is looking forward to reaching Paris and having a beer, though he craves pastries rather than hamburgers like the Schleck brothers.
Staf Scheirlinckx, meanwhile, may also leave Cofidis, but in his case, the move is his choice. Staf S, whose name you really can't expect us to spell, would very much like to ride for a Belgian team. Though not Belgian, Team Columbia is reportedly interested. Staf's dream team, Quick-Step is connected by rumor to Cofidis team-mate Sylvain Chavanel. Staf to Sylvain: I'll trade ya a Columbia for a Quick-Step, and throw in a couple old bikes to seal the deal. Whaddya say? Quicky Update: Chavanel to QuickStep is now confirmed. He has a two year contract with the Belgian team.
Million dollar man Oleg Tinkoff is still shopping. Add Fabian Cancellara to his want list. Cance has received a million euro contract offer from Tinkoff, though he has not in fact signed just yet. Money is not the only consideration, says Cancellara, and he may yet re-sign with his current team, CSC-Saxo Bank.
Lies, all lies. Here at the Gossip we wish to issue a correction. No, Yuri Trofimov will not be riding for Rabobank next year. Sadly, that four year contract was all a hoax intended to trap the unwary gossip columnist into spreading lies and disinformation. For the record, Yuri Trofimov has renewed his contract with Bouygues Télécom for one more year. This year marks his first as professional and he has already found success at the Étoile des Bessèges and the Dauphiné Libéré. We regret any inconvenience this error has caused our loyal readers.
Yes, there are other bike races in the world. Who knew? Linus Returns! Linus Gerdemann has at long last returned to racing. Gerdemann crashed at Tirreno-Adriatico back in March, and has spent the intervening time recovering from a broken femur and a knee injury. Gerdemann is currently riding the Sachsen Tour in Germany, which began today, in hopes of gaining fitness for the Deutschland Tour in August. Thomas Dekker's lawyers are apparently allowing him to appear, and Chris Anker Sörensen took the start for CSC-Saxo Bank. André Greipel of Team Columbia won the first stage on Wednesday. Only his mom noticed.
Unibrow sighting! Danilo Napolitano won Wednesday the first stage of the Brixia Tour in Italy. He wore the leaders jersey of race leader until Skil-Shimano won the team crono in the afternoon and stole it right off his back. The Brixia Tour runs until 27 July, because really, there isn't enough bike racing going on right now.
Factoid-o-rama. Vladimir Efimkin joined AG2R without knowing a word of French early this season. Thanks to a language CD and a dictionary that he carries to every race, he now speaks credible French. Having ridden for Caisse d'Épargne and Barloworld, Efimkin has also learned some Spanish and Italian. He has yet to learn English. Which means, sadly, he can not read the Gossip. Tragic, no?
And this just in! Christian Meier will join Team Garmin as a stagiaire for the remainder of this season. The 23 year old from New Brunswick, nicknamed the Young Man, is the current Canadian national road champion and has spent four seasons with Symmetrics. He says his dream is to ride the grand tours, and ride them clean. Head over to Podium In Sight and learn all about the next big talent from Canada.
Alas, we have no more Gossip today. But tomorrow? No, really, we can not have Gossip already tomorrow. The next day. Maybe the next day. Never do today, what can be put off until tomorrow. Or the next day. Or, better still, the day after that.