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The Session

Gav_mediumSomehow it got to be Friday. And as we all know, Friday is a long way from Wednesday. Those pesky days, where do they go? I blame the Boy Who Was Actually Not in the Balloon. This week, some Giro rumors, fun with suits, look who's got a pro tour license, and other hap's.

Let’s start with the Giro, whose course is steadily taking shape. Milano, you’ve been shunned. Next year’s Giro will not visit the traditional finish city. Actually, the shunning is mutual as the city government is not feeling the love toward the RCS of late. Milano-Sanremo will also forswear Milano and take the start outside the city, making it Milano-Sanremo That Is Actually Not in Milano. The Giro, meanwhile, will conclude with a crono running between Soave and Verona, similar to the 1984 edition when local boy Francesco Moser won the Pink Shirt ahead of Laurent Fignon.

From the sounds of it, this Giro course promises a surfeit of transfers. According to reports circulating in the Italian press, there will be no rest day in the first week to accommodate the transfer from the Netherlands to Piedmonte. The riders will fly from the Netherlands to Northern Italy. Best of luck to the mechs, who will have to drive the team bikes and equipment the length of Europe. The first stage on Italian soil will be a team time trial in Cuneo. Eat your heart out Tour de France. Then, it’s time to celebrate il Campionissimo with a stage between Novara and Nove Ligure. The Giro will subsequently pay a visit to the Strada Blanca in Chiancino. Oh yeah, you got cobbles? Well, we have white gravel, so suck it Tour de France. It’s the 10th anniversary of the death of Gino Bartali, so a stop in Firenze is likely. The Terminillo will mark the first mountain-top finish of the race, and shows up on a tifosi-friendly Saturday during the first week. Sunday, the Giro finishes at Cava de’Tirreni, a city in Sorrento just inland from the Amalfi Coast. That stage should be stunningly picturesque, though the Giro will have to cover a great deal of ground to get from Rotterdam to Sorrento in just one week of racing. I have jetlag just thinking about it.

After a rest day, the Giro heads into Abruzzo and pays a visit to Foggia and l’Aquila. The visit to Abruzzo honors the earthquake victims of l’Aquila and Abruzzo’s campione Vito Taccone. A stop in Cesenatica in celebration of Marco Pantani is also rumored. There will be climbing during the sojourn in Abruzzo, including Monte Trebbio and Monte Grappa. Somehow, the Giro will make it to Friuli in time for an appointment with the Zoncolan on Sunday, 23 May. The second rest day serves as a transfer day to Alto Aldige and follows the Zoncolan stage. Last year’s Giro had very few transfers. They seem to be making up for it this year and then some.

The final week is all about climbing, beginning with a crono up the Plan de Corones. A stage between Pejo Terme and Brescia follows and involves unspecified climbing. The Mortirolo is paired with the Passo de Vivione in a stage between Brescia and Aprica on 28 May, while the Gavia pairs with the Tonale the following day from Bormio. The Tonale reportedly hosts the mountain-top finish. Then, it’s on to Bardalino in Verona for the final crono.

If the rumors have it right, the Giro returns to its roots with this edition. It’s very mountainous. Indeed, next year’s grand tours look to be very much a feast for the climbers, with the climber-friendly Tour course already announced. Two trips up the Col de Tourmalet? Seriously? Like one isn’t enough? Anyway, the Giro course looks heavy with climbing and light on the cronos - a team time trial in Cuneo and the final crono in Verona. We can expect much grumbling about the transfers next year, that’s for certain, especially the first week jump from the Netherlands to Piedmont. #goodluckwiththat. This course also may discourage the Tour-preppers. The heavy climbing in the final week may be a big ask for the riders who are thinking more Paris than Verona. Not surprisingly, Armstrong has yet to send in his r.s.vp.

On the subject of Armstrong, Team RadioShack today received its pro tour license, though several riders still remain in limbo due to the on-going contract disputes with Astana. Haimar Zubeldia is stuck with Astana, though he had reportedly transfered to RadioShack. Bruyneel liberated himself, no doubt with buckets of euros and a well-suited lawyer. It’s all about the suits. Alberto Contador was again rumored to QuickStep this week, but we all know who those rumors go. Really, my very small brain can’t keep up with all these hijinx. I think I need a flow chart.

The suits will certainly be on display on 16 November when TAs will consider the first of two cases involving Alejandro Valverde. This case represents Valverde’s challenge to the CONI decision to ban him from racing for two years as a consequence of their analysis of the Puerto evidence. The gift that keeps on giving, that Puerto. According to the press statements from Valverde’s well-suited lawyer, the challenge hinges on the question of jurisdiction. The Valverde team claims that CONI has no right to ban him. CONI says they do. Nyah nyah nyah. Anyway, we can expect a decision on this case sometime in the far distant future when Campag introduces 20 speed derailleurs, framesets are made from nanotubes, and extraterrestrials have taken over the planet.

The Critérium Dauphiné Libéré wants to pay the Alpe d’Huez a visit next year. A bit of trouble has arisen for the long-running race, though, thanks to the purchase of the Dauphiné Libéré newspaper, who organized the Tour de France pre-party. A bank, Crédit Mutuel, now owns 100% stake in the holding company that includes the Dauphiné Libéré, and its unclear if they will prove willing to underwrite a bike race. According to a report in the Dauphiné daily, the course planning is underway and a romp up the Alpe d’Huez is planned for Saturday 13 June following a Friday stage finishing in Grenoble. We can only hope the bank loosens the purse strings.

In women’s news, Nicole Cooke has signed on with a new team. Like shoes, you can never have too many teams. Skyter - not to be confused with the British Team Sky - has taken over as the sponsor for the Nürnberger Versicherung team in Germany. Cooke will race along side Trixi Worrack and Amber Neben with the new team and has signed a one year contract.

The Wednesday Comment, which shockingly actually appears on Wednesday.... What’s up with that? These real journalists, so on deadline and stuff. Anyway, Lionel Birnie has this week written a brief but insightful comment on the death of Frank Vandenbrouke. If you haven’t read it, go do it now. Wait, you’re not saying you actually read the Wednesday Comment on Wednesday, are you?

Giro di Lombardia tomorrow! That's Saturday, for those of you who keep track of such things. This is so totally one of my favorite races of the year. Filippo Pozzato, who claimed he wanted to win this year, reportedly has come down with a flu thingy. No hair club? How will we ever survive? Hopefully, Pellizotti can carry the Hair burden for tomorrow’s race. I want Cunego to win, of course. But it’s certainly hard to argue with the screaming fast form of Philippe Gilbert. Out-sprinting Tom Boonen on the Grammont? Shit boy, that’s going big, even if Boonen did badly misjudge that particular finish. Tomorrow’s edition of the Dead Leaves should be quite the showdown, in contrast to some years when no one really feels like racing around the hills of Northern Italy in late October. Wusses.

Okay, that’s all the words I got for today. I’ll come back next week sometime and we’ll play some more. Maybe, I’ll even show up on Wednesday. Deadlines, shmeadlines. Happy weekend to all!