Ah, it is July, the month for bike racing around France. There are artworks carved into the grain fields. In the south, the sunflower fields bloom. Thunderstorms and crosswinds buffet the bunch. The crash tally increases. The tifosi pack their campers, their pic-nics, their beer coolers, and they set out to cheer on the big race. Toujours le Tour! Or so goes this year's slogan. And of course, where there is bike racing, there is toujours the Gossip.
Did you know? There are three Schleck brothers. The third man is the oldest, and began racing bikes first. A Gossip correspondent sends the following story: When all the Schleck brothers were wee juniors, the oldest Schleck would go to the races. Sometimes, he did not get a good result. Fränk would always ask him why he did not win. At last in exasperation and in a vain effort to shut his brother up, the very eldest Schleck told Fränk to go out and try to win himself. And so he did. Grazie to Hanne in Denmark for this story.
Angel Gomez of doodsmak fame has a suffered a small fracture to the right side of his pelvis. Gomez will not need surgery, but he will miss a month of training, and his season is almost certainly over. Before the Tour, Gomez worried about the first week of the Tour with its nervy finishes and high speed. If you look at it, you will hit it. With his contract up this year, Gomez needed a good result in this Tour. Good thing DS Josean Matxin has already assured Gomez that he will have a new contract for next year. Here at the Gossip, we wish Gomez a speedy recovery and an avoidance of all things doodsmak-able!
"I am not here for the classification," announced Riccardo Ricco. That comment came after losing round about 40 seconds at the finish of stage 3. Ricco did have a team mate helping out with the chase, but I guess they didn't really mean it. After the stage, Ricco promised that he was not angry. You can put the helmets away there in the press box, Ricco is not going to throw his bike into the crowd. He did say he was very sad for his team mate Gomez, who crashed. Apparently, not all ego, il Cobra. Lest we think that the Cobra has lost his bite, though, he told the assembled press after receiving the White Jersey of Best Young Rider, "I detest this color." Perhaps this explains his poor performance against the watch on Tuesday. Hinault's impression? "This Ricco, he seems to me a little crazy." But in a good way, explained le Blaireau to l'Équipe. Hinault thinks that Ricco's craziness is just the thing to ensure against an insipid race.
It's July, it's France, how about a protest with your bike race? Workers from the port of Nantes-Saint Nazaire temporarily blocked the road during Stage 3, in order to publicize their cause, which involved a reorganization at the port. An apparently un-related demonstrator, who had some issue with airports - We at the Gossip do not pretend to know the exact reasons for all these protests. What do you think we are, journalists or something? Anyway, this other guy decided that he needed to jump on the podium to share his cause with us. Little did he know that he faced a veteran in Bernard Hinault, who once punched a demonstrator in the face during a Tour stage while racing. Takes this Tour thing pretty serious like, does Bernie. Hinault expressed his views by bodily throwing the demonstrator - who was not small, by the way - off the stage. Don't mess with le blaireau!
Il Falco retires. Paolo Savoldelli will retire at the end of this season after fourteen seasons as a professional. His best moment? Winning the Giro in 2005. Savoldelli grew up hearing stories from his father of the exploits of Merxck and Moser, and dreamed of racing his own bike up the Gavia. From cycling, he learned to take things as they come, and to endure. To the end, though, he has remained a bergamaschi, his feet firmly planted on the ground, as he put it in a recent interview. Career highlights include the Giro overall in 2002 and 2005, 3 stage wins at the Giro, a stage of the Tour de France, the overall at the Giro del Trentino in 1998 and 1999, and the overall at the Tour de Romandie in 2000. He is currently riding the Österreichische Rundfahrt. Buona Fortuna il Falco!
Just passing the time. Christophe Laurent, who to his surprise was left off the Garmin-Chipotle Tour team, is busy getting dirty. Originally a mountain bike racer, Laurent headed out to a mountain bike race in the Alps over the weekend. No, he didn't win. But hopefully, he had a little fun. On the subject of the Garmen-Chipotle Tour selection, Jonathan Vaughters told Eurosport that he abstained from the discussion about the addition of Will Frischkorn to the roster, as he liked Will far too much to decide objectively. Certainly, Frischkorn has since earned his selection and then some with his ride in the break during stage 3. Chapeau!
Three up, three down. In Italy, at the Giro Donne, the women have ridden three stages. Ina Tuetenberg of Team Columbia has won all three. She also leads the general classification, natch.
Tinkoff has added Cadel Evans to their shopping list for next season. Because they aren't connected by rumor to enough riders already. Gert Steegmans joins Evans among this week's names. Is there anyone left in the sport who isn't apparently transferring to Tinkoff next season? Having already written to Santa Claus, Tinkoff has now moved on to the Tooth Fairy.
More certain is the relationship between Oscar Freire and Team Rabobank. The three-time world champion has all but signed a new contract for two years with the Dutch team. Freire has said that once he has ridden out this contract, he will retire from the sport. Rabobank appears to be on speaking terms with one of their riders, at least.
Not so for Thomas Dekker, who rumor has it only speaks to Team Rabobank through his lawyers. Young Dekker and the team have been on poor terms since the Tour de Suisse. And yes, other teams are waiting to lure the talented Dutch rider away from Rabobank. Dekker remains non-commital, and will not confirm publicly any plans to transfer. Raise your hand if you think Tinkoff wants to hire Thomas Dekker?
Rumor claims that Filippo Pozzato has signed a contract with Tinkoff. But you know how rumor goes. We do know that he will not renew with Team Liquigas. Team DS Robert Amadio has confirmed to the press that Pozzato will not receive a contract renewal offer from the team. Instead, the team has expended its budget signing Ivan Basso.
Get your asterick today! All the cool kids have them. How? Simply win the Tour de France. Then, years later, after all the dust has settled and you've packed the Yellow Jersey away in a cardboard box, stashed in the bottom of your closet, admit that you doped in order to win. Voilà, an asterick for you. Bjarne Riis has one. Who will be next to earn this rare honor? We dare not speculate.
According to Stefan Schumacher, he is nothing like Tom Boonen, never mind the tendency to drive drunk, crash his car, and get caught with party drugs. Has he ever done a little blow? Says Shumi, "I have never taken that shit." One wonders how Schumi might have reacted to being caught with a White House intern. I have never had... well, right anyway. The German also commented that he could not be an example for the kids, though he has followed the sporting rules. Now children, drugs are bad, unnkay?
Happy Birthday Erik Zabel! Zabel turned 38 on Monday. The German sprinter currently lies 5th in the Points classification with 46 points, and would dearly like to win the Green in Paris, though he does not rate his chances especially highly. Indeed, Zabel suggested that this year's course may favor a non-sprinter for the Points, because of the very difficult middle stages through the Massif Central. Those stages would favor the chances of a rider like Alejandro Valverde or Kim Kirchen better than the pure sprinters. In the finish at St. Brieuc, Zabel said he had good legs, but made a mistake in the finale. "One never stops learning, even at my age," he said in an interview at radsport-news.com.
And with that, mes amis, we close this edition of the Gossip. Really, we can hardly wait to see what happens next. Certes, you will be the first to know!