Extendo-Dance Mix Edition.
What a lovely vacation we had, but all good things must come to an end. So here we are, another day, another Gossip Page. Gather round, my friends, and join in the feast. There's plenty to go around. We even brought a nice Barolo. For what better way to celebrate a new Italian World Champion? Sadly, the Gossip Headquarters budget could not extend to a Brunello. We'll strive mightily to survive this small set-back.
Basta, with this whining, you say, give us the Gossip!
We begin in Italia today, with the new World Champion Alessandro Ballan. Ballan, who comes from Castelfranco Veneto, said he did not expect to win in Varese, but that "Bettini left the way open for the three of us." He is a "great man and a grand champion," said Ballan of Bettini. Ballan hopes to ride next year's 100 anniversary Giro in the rainbow jersey.
What's the new world champion really like? Ballan likes a good glass of wine and moto-cross, which he only does in the winter when he cannot ride the bike. He claims that motocross helps him handle the bike on the cobbles and acclimate to the vibration. The new world champion wears a size small jersey and small bibs, though he gets a custom job with an extra 4 cm in the legs. Shoe size? 44. There. Now you can't say you never learned anything useful from the Gossip. Joaquim Rodriguez is a fan. The Spanish rider, who made the final break, confided to Gazzetta dello Sport that after covering the incessant attacks of Rebellin, Cunego and Ballan, he decided to let Ballan's final move go. "In the end, I let Ballan go, of the three, he is the nicest," said the Spaniard. Eat your heart out, Damiano and Davide.
Though visibly upset at the finish, second-place Damiano Cunego called it "a phenomenal day." Like Ballan, he paid tribute to the retiring Bettini, saying that the two-time world champion had ridden "a great career." Cunego said he was sorry that Bettini "would no longer be in the bunch." For his own part, Cunego said that his silver medal had "meant a lot to him," and that he had "many mondiali ahead." Indeed, next year's course in Medrisio, Switzerland should suit Cunego as well, if not better, than this year. Buck up little camper, don't be sad! In a scoreboard moment, Cunego defended Ballerini's decision to select him, rather than Danilo Diluca, whom some had favored. Franco's choice has been confirmed by the results, he said. "Today we have demonstrated that we Italians, when we are in good condition, ride the best of all," he concluded. And yes, Damiano, we promise, we've forgotten all about that Tour thing.
On the subject of forgetting, Tom Boonen would like to forget all about Varese. The former world champion had nothing good to say about the Belgian team's riding in the finale of Sunday's road race. He said that the team had agreed to ride for him before the start. "I had the sensations like I'd never had before," he said. Are you sure that was the bike race, Tom? In the final lap, rather than riding for him, his team-mates instead attacked, he claimed. "They should have stayed with me," he said. Without their support, he had no chance in winning. Indeed, Oscar Freire reportedly asked Boonen what his team was doing. Freire wanted the Belgians to chase, natch. No luck for the sprinters this time around. Better luck on the Via Roma, kids. In the meantime, Boonen plans to ride the Tour of Lombardia. Just to see what it's like.
Maxime Monfort will ride for the next two seasons for Team Columbia. He joins an exodus from Cofidis, which includes Nick Nuyens (Rabobank), Staf Scheirlinckx (Silence), Kevin De Weert (QuickStep), and Rik Verbrugghe, who will become a DS at QuickStep. We're beginning to wonder who is left on the roster there at Cofidis.
On the subject of DSing, Bradley McGee will become a DS for Team CSC-Saxo Bank next season. Apparently, unlike Bobby Julich, McGee can multitask. Do you suppose he had to pass a test? Here Bradley, drive the car down this mountain road, answer the phone, hand off a bottle, send a text message, and watch the race on television. Try not to crash. McGee said he was looking forward to the new challenge of managing the team on the road. "Not a bone in my body feels the pull to stay racing," he wrote on his official website. Of his career he said: "I have always remained true to myself, family and supporters. True to the sport and true to my competitors. For this, I am also a little proud. It pushes a smile across my face and warms my belly for what, I have no doubt, will be eternity." McGee also thanked the "many beautiful to the bone people" who have supported his career. Here at the Gossip World Headquarters, we have always been a fan of the Aussie pursuiter, turned prologue winner, turned Giro top ten finisher. We wish him the best of luck with all that multi-tasking stuff.
Is Yaroslav Popovych ending his career? The Belgian press reports that the 28 year old Ukrainian will not continue his career next season. Odd. True? We're not so sure, as no formal announcement from the rider has yet surfaced. Isn't ISD-Danieli looking for Ukrainian riders? Yes, though no rumors have linked Popovych to the new team. Very mysterious these Belgian press reports some days. Wednesday Update: In a statement issued on Wednesday, Popovych denied reports that he intended to retire from the sport. Though he admitted that he had ridden a poor season, he said he still intended to ride out his contract with Silence-Lotto, a contract that runs two more seasons. "A contract is a contract," he said. Rumor has linked Popovych to both Astana and ISD-Danieli. He confirmed that he has spoken with both, but remains for now, committed to fulfilling his contract with Silence-Lotto.
No mud for Gadret. John Gadret of AG2R had decided not to race cyclo-cross this winter for the first time since 1996. He does plan to go to cyclo-cross worlds to cheer on his team-mates. Winner of the Tour de l'Ain this year, Gadret wants to ride the Giro next year, and consequently needs the winter to prepare for his road racing season. This year also marked the first time Gadret has ridden World Championships on the road for France. Gadret hopes to return to cyclo-cross after a break of two seasons. Gadret withdrew from this year's Tour de France during the first week, citing fatigue. A talented climber at his best, Gadret could find the Giro very much to his liking. No doubt his team management at AG2R are pleased with his decision to focus his energies on the road.
The new French team managed by Stéphane Heulot is growing. Heulot has signed three former Crédit Agricole riders: Jimmy Engoulvent, Julien Simon, and Jean-Marc Marino. Benoit Sinner, currently of Agritubel, will also ride for the new team, as will neo-pros Cyril Bessy and Fabrice Jeandesboz. The team, which Heulot will register at the 3rd division level, counts Vivarte and Sojasun as sponsors so far. Based in Brittany, the team's goal will be to secure an invitation to the Tour de France in 2010. Bonne Chance, M. Heulot!
British rider Jonathan Bellis will turn professional with CSC-Saxo Bank next season. Bellis finished third in last year's U23 World Championship. Focused on the track this year, Bellis reported that Riis's team had supported him throughout the season. "I am happy that they maintained their interest in me," the 20 year old. On the road, Bellis finished third in the U23 national championship in Britain, 2nd in a stage of the Giro della Valle d'Aosta, and 10th in the U23 Ronde van Vlaanderen. He also represented Great Britain in the Olympic road race in Beijing.
Alberto Contador is still looking for a new team. Or, at least his older brother who serves as his agent is. Already CSC-Saxo Bank and Team Columbia have denied any interest in the 2007 Tour winner, who is also the 2008 Giro winner and the 2008 Vuelta winner. Shorter: The guy that wins grand tours lots (TGTWGTL). Anywho, since Contador has one year still on his contract with Astana, any team who might wish to sign him must negotiate a buy-out. Raise your hand if you think Bruyneel will let Contador go easily? No doubt the buy-out clause would be a hefty one, and few teams at this stage of the year can rally up so many euros as all that. Katyusha and Caisse d'Épargne have received the most mention in the rumor mill. We don't dare make any predictions.
The good people at Süddeutsche Zeitung hearts them some Puerto. Puerto, right, I remember now. The doping scandal with all the ridiculous code names. Something about dogs. It's all coming back to me now. The latest SDZ Puerto story broke over Worlds weekend and named Fränk Schleck as the Amigo di Birillo and claimed that the Amigo had paid Fuentes 7000 euro. For services rendered, presumably, though no one seems to know exactly what the Amigo got for his 7000 euro. A trip for two to the Canary Islands? A new bike? Schleck denied having doped, though he did confirm the payment to Fuentes. He will meet with the anti-doping authorities in Luxembourg to discuss matters. Because we can never get enough Puerto, SDZ also reported that Thomas Dekker numbered among the clients of Dr. Fuentes. Anomalous blood cells and Fuentes, oh my! Dekker and his blood cells, anomalous or otherwise, will ride for Silence-Lotto next season. Birillo, busy in his dog house with his new chew toy, could not be reached for comment.
Riccardo Riccò has received a sanction of 20 months for his positive test for CERA at the 2008 Tour de France. The procurator discounted his 30 month sanction — two years for doping, six months for consorting with Dr. Santuccione — because of Riccò's willingness to name Santuccione and his team-mate Leonardo Peipoli in his confession. Riccò can return for the Tour de France in 2010, assuming he finds a team with an invite. CONI is currently preparing the case against Peipoli. Meanwhile, the authorities will also soon announce the sanction for Emmanuelle Sella, positive for CERA in an out of competition test. Sella named his team-mate, Matteo Priamo as his supplier for the drug. Look for CONI to get busy on Priamo pronto.
Surfing the Tsunami. We laden onze woody, met onze borden binnen. On Friday, Pierre Bordry of the LLND in France set off a mackin' wave of speculation in the cycling press. Bordry announced that the French authorities would re-test suspect samples from the recent Tour de France, using a new blood test for CERA, the variant of EPO Riccò made famous. L'Équipe reported that as many as 30 riders could be involved in the latest round of testing. Bordry claimed that the re-testing could well explain a few late decisions to skip the Varese World Championships, though he did not mention any specific names in his statement. "Perhaps there are those who got away, perhaps now we are going to trap them by the ears," he said.
Two days later, Gazzetta dello Sport weighed in. Despite the secrecy Bordry promised the testing process involved, Gazzetta shook loose a few more details. Thirteen riders, including two from the startlist of the Varese road race, could be positive, reported Gazzetta. Key word: Risulterebbero. This, my friends, is the present conditional. The new testing could result in more positive cases. Conditional or no, the Gazzetta story quickly made the rounds. The Dutch press gave us more details, claiming that among the positives were two riders from AG2R, including Valjavec, three riders from Saunier Duval, including Cobo, Piepoli, and Riccò, two riders from Team Columbia, five riders from CSC-Saxo Bank, and two riders from Gerolsteiner. French television also added their bit: Tests for 14 riders outside the Tour would also be re-tested. For those counting at home, that's 30 riders from the Tour and 14 from not-the-Tour. AG2R has subsequently denied that any of their riders are under suspicion. Damsgard has also claimed it unlikely that a CSC-Saxo rider could have used CERA without tripping the internal testing. All of which leaves us... confused. Hopefully, this story will reach its conclusion soon, preferably with named sources and on the record comments. In the meantime, laten we eens gaan surfen nu.
What, the bottle is empty? You drank it all without me? This Gossip gig is a thankless job, I tell ya. Fortunately, I know something you don't know. I have another bottle stashed away just for me. Salute!