Procrastinators Anonymous Edition.
Anyone who's ever been a writer knows this simple truth: Whenever there's something that needs writing, there's always something else that needs doing. Indeed, we raise procrastination to an art form, reading the dictionary (you never know what new word you might find), re-arranging the bookshelves (I own that book?), and when all else fails, digging into some serious chores (what is that thing living under my couch?).
After exhausting all these possibilities, we come at last to keyboard. There's no escaping it. The dishes are washed, the cat box cleaned. It's time to make words.
Voilà, the Gossip.
Caisse d'Épargne presented their team Paris on Wednesday. The gala event, which no doubt created a shortage of hair gel throughout Paris, introduced the team roster, which includes five new signings. Rui Costa of Portugal, Andrey Amador of Costa Rica, Arnold Jeannesson of France, and Bylerussian Vasil Kiryienka, who transfered from Tinkoff join a roster that remains mostly unchanged from 2008. The event also included talk of races and objectives and such. Alejandro Valverde confirmed that he will concentrate "totally" on the Tour de France. He plans to ride a lighter schedule in the Spring "without objectives, more relaxed," because he believes his troubles in the high mountains at the Tour have resulted from "an excess of competition." Classics fans weep. Valverde hopes that this plan will enable him to reach the Tour podium. A boy can hope, at least.
The 2006 Tour de France winner Oscar Pereiro, meanwhile, has disclaimed any ambition to ride for the general classification in July, and said he intends to support his team-mate's ambitions. Pereiro is still working to recover his form after his serious crash on the Col d'Agnel during the 2008 Tour de France. "I can not yet train at 100 percent," he reported. "I did not believe that I could return to racing when I was lying in the hospital," he confided. "For me, this is like a second birth." The former Tour winner also showed off his new tattoo on his left arm, spelling out the name of the col where he crashed.
The Dutch Amstel Gold Race has announced the four teams who will receive an invite to the 2009 edition of the race. Vacansoleil, Skil-Shimano, LPR-Farnese-Vini, and Topsport Vlaanderen have all received invites to the Dutch classic. This is excellent news for Danilo Diluca, who named the Ardennes classics and the Giro d'Italia as his principal objectives for the year. No word yet whether LPR has received invitations to Flèche-Wallone or Liège-Bastogne-Liège. They did, of course, receive a Giro invite on Wednesday, and will also ride Milano-San Remo and Tirreno-Adriatico. Vacansoleil, meanwhile, did not receive invitations to Milano-San Remo or Tirreno-Adriatico. Locals only, man.
Really, this whole invite thing is starting to sound like a GRE question. Moving right along now... Damiano Cunego is no fan of the comeback, as practiced by Lance Armstrong and (perhaps) Michele Bartoli. "I am opposed to this sort of return. When a career is over, it should not be re-started. When a career is over, it is over and enough," said the former Giro winner. Cunego recently received an award from the fans in Pistoia for sportsmanship. Franco Ballerini did the presenting. The award in part recognized his increasingly strong stance against doping. Cunego told the tifosi that he was not alone in his views: "Many would like to defeat the plague of doping once and for all," he said. Cunego will ride the Ardennes, the Giro d'Italia, and the World Championship road race in Mendrisio as his main objectives for the year.
On the subject of comebacks, Gilberto Simoni has some advice for Lance Armstrong. Simoni thinks that Amstrong should rethink his program for the early season. "At his age, which is the same as mine, he seems to me too optimistic. Tour of California, San Remo, Ronde van Vlaanderen, Giro del Trentino, Giro d'Italia, Tour de France. Isn't that too much?" Clearly, Gibo thinks so. Simoni will try to win his third Giro d'Italia this season, equaling the records of Felice Gimondi, Gino Bartali, and Bernard Hinault. The Trentino believes that the lengthy time trial at Cinque Terre will not necessarily suit the specialists like Armstrong. In this year's crono, "there are always accelerations, frequent changes of rhythm, difficult descents, it will not be an easy thing for him to make the difference in a crono like that in Cinque Terre," concluded the two-time Giro winner. Always with an opinion, that Simoni. How much longer 'til the Giro?
Over at Français des Jeux, Marc Madiot sees no purpose to team-run anti-doping programs. To hire someone is a gesture of trust, in the view of the former French champion. Madiot also criticized the cost involved. "You pay a fortune to the rider, and another fortune for the internal control: there is no logic," he complained. "The UCI and WADA are charged with doing the controls: I give them my confidence. I pay 120,000 euros per year for the biological passport, I am not going to pay another 200,000 euros to give myself a good conscience," he concluded. Madiot considers the programs of teams like Garmin, Saxo Bank, and Columbia-High Road "good for the public opinon, maybe," but not much more.
Polemica, meanwhile, continues between Partick Lefévère of Quick-Step and Pierre Bordry of the AFLD over l'affaire Schumacher. In recent weeks, Schumacher has declared his intention to race this season, claiming that because he has not yet been sanctioned for his two positive tests at the 2008 Tour de France, he remains eligible to ride. Lefévère is profoundly displeased by the situation, and has threated to sue the AFLD, if they do not act within two weeks. "Because in principle, Schumacher is right," explained the Quick-Step DS. "If he has not been found guilty, he can ride, and I have no reason not to respect the contract," he continued. Bordry has defended the process and confirmed that an official case against Schumacher was opened on 14 November. "The case is following a normal track with reasonable delays," the AFLD president claimed. Time à duex vitesses.
Erik Zabel formally ended his career at the 100th edition of the Berlin Six Days, which he won with partner Robert Bartko. Just before midnight on 28 January, Zabel took a final lap to a standing ovation from the 13,500 fans in the velodrome. "Today was a day like a dream," said Zabel after the ceremony. The retiring sprinter counts 212 victories in his career, including 12 stages of the Tour de France and a record six victories in the Tour points classification. Only the rainbow jersey of World Champion eluded him, though he twice finished second. On Friday, Zabel departs for the Tour of Qatar, where he will begin his new role as sprint coach for the American team Columbia-High Road.
The story of H20-Telteck continues. Manager Max Radoni confirmed that the team will seek a license at the Continental level and will register in France. They face a deadline of 6 February to secure a license from the UCI. Radoni admits that the management made some mistakes along the way due to inexperience. In particular, he regrets not paying a visit to the UCI early in the process to explain the unusual nature of the team's sponsorship arrangement. Because the team is funded by a charitable organization, it can not disclose its funding sources. He explained that the donor list for the non-profit remains private, complicating the process of securing a license. The team will have a budget of 2 million euros. The riders will receive new contracts once the licensing process is complete. In the meantime, they are free to transfer if they can find a new team at this late date.
Andy Schleck of Team Saxo Bank will open his season at the Tour of California. Schleck, who finished twelfth at the 2008 Tour de France and won the young rider's classification, will also ride Paris-Nice, Milano-San Remo, and Critérium International as preparation for his first main objective of the season in the Ardennes. Last year, Schleck played the race-maker at Liège-Bastogne-Liège and finished fourth in Ans. After Liège, Schleck will turn his full attention to preparing for the Tour de France, where he will compete for the general classification. En route to the Tour he will ride his home stage race, the Tour of Luxembourg and the Tour de Suisse. Next week, Team Saxo Bank will pay a visit to Solvang, the Danish-style town in California, for a training camp. Here at the Gossip World Headquarters we wish them many sunshiny days.
Meanwhile in Germany... Sprinter André Greipel who crashed out of the Tour Down Under last week underwent surgery on his shoulder. Greipel collided with a motor bike during the windy Stage 3 of the Australian stage race. The Team Columbia-High Road rider is expected to miss 12 weeks of training. Greipel reported on his blog that the surgery went well. He remained in hospital for two days, before returning home. Greipel does not yet know when he can begin rehab for his injuries, but hopes to return to training soon. We wish him a speedy recovery!
A red jersey? That is what the winner of the 2009 Vuelta a España may receive on the podium in Madrid. Unipublic, who organize the Spanish grand tour, are considering a change from gold to red for the leader's jersey. There is some precedent for the red jersey at the Vuelta. In 1945, the Vuelta had a red jersey for the race leader. Delio Rodríguez won that year's edition of the romp around Spain. Red, the color of Sangria. Fitting, no?
Let there be bike races! This weekend, the World Championship cyclocross races go down in Hoogerheide, the Netherlands. That, my friends, should be quite a party. In the men's elite race, watch for a serious battle among Sven Nys, Niels Albert, Erwin Vervecken, Zdenek Stybar, and defending World Champion Lars Boom. On the women's side, the competittion should be no less intense. Home girls Daphne Van Den Brand, Marianne Vos, and Miriam Melchers-Van Poppel will surely want go big for the locals. Both Van Den Brand and Vos have won World Cup races this season. They will face strong challenges from overall World Cup winner and former World Champion Hanka Kupfernagel of Germany and American Katie Compton with three World Cup wins to her credit this season. Maryline Salvetat of France, who finished third at the recent World Cup in Milano, could score an upset win. Beg, borrow, or steal your way into coverage of this women's race. It should be brilliant.
On the road, meanwhile, the pro men head to the desert for the traditional sprinter's party, the Tour of Qatar. Tom Boonen with his new lead-out Marco Velo will match-up against Mark Cavendish for the first time this season. Italian Francesco Cicchi, fresh off a win at the Tour Down Under, will also join in the ultimo kilometer merry-making. Filippo Pozzato and Danilo Napolitano will represent Katyusha. Quick, hide the hair gel. Racing starts Sunday with a team crono. And camels. There will be camels.
Until next time!