Welcome to this week’s edition of the Wednesday Session. Yes, yes, it’s still Wednesday here in California. Suck it, Europe. Australia? Don’t even talk to me. I even made it before sunset. Eight minutes to spare, baby. Alrighty, this week, it’s mix and match, this and that. Some Lombardia, some Lampre tomfoolery, a few transfers, a dash of doping, an air-reverse, a lay-back snap, a sushi roll, and a partridge in a pear tree. I skipped the lady’s dancing, we try to keep it family at the Sesh, and I still haven’t mastered the rodeo, so we’ll have to do without one of those. Maybe next week.
We begin with the Giro di Lombardia, where Gilbert killed it to take the Autumn Double. Gilbert, he likes his classics, and next season, the talented Belgian is planning a full-on assault on Milano-Sanremo, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, and the World Championship road race. There was no tactical hocus-pocus for this Lombardia, as quite simply, the strongest rider won. In the closing kilometers, Gilbert looked to be negotiating with Sánchez. A quick camera shot showed Sánchez shaking his head, no deal. Not that it mattered, for in truth, Gilbert had no need to go shopping and he easily beat Sánchez at the line.
But it wouldn’t be an Italian race without the hint of treachery and a rumble of recrimination. Italian Damiano Cunego threw himself into the polemica breach in his post-race comments. The Lampre rider, who has three wins at Lombardia to his credit, criticized his team-mate Mauro Santambrogio for going up the road, leaving Cunego to his own devices among the favorites. Santambrogio transfers to BMC Racing at the end of the season, and no doubt has ambitions of his own. Anyway, what’s wrong with a little freelancing among friends? Cunego, not a fan of the freelancing apparently, would have much preferred that Santambrogio chose loyalty over ambition. But really, who is he fooling? Like Cunego really had the legs to follow Gilbert? Bitch, please. Gilbert owned that race. Better luck next time to the mini-Italian, who really needs a new nickname. Little Prince. Bah.
He may need a few new team-mates, too, this Cunego. Lampre has long specialized in hiring riders who look exactly like Cunego. Raise your hand if you confused Santambrogio with Cunego at least once during the Giro di Lombardia? They all look the same, these Lampres. Or at least, they did. One of the Other Cunegos, Paolo Tiralongo has decided to transfer to Astana, where he will ride in support of Alberto Contador, who looks nothing like him, for far, far, far more cash. Okay, I exaggerate, but everyone knows that Lampre has the smallest budget in the pro tour, or one of them, despite the addition of a new sponsor next season, Vini Farnese. The Other Cunego left a nice parting gift in the press for the Real Cunego, calling his former team captain self-centered, and completely incapable of gauging his form. According to Tiralongo, Cunego never knows if he has the legs to win, yet always demands that his team-mates ride for him. It’s easy to see how this might cause just a little bit of tension in the team bus among the Other Cunegos. So anyway, they - both Tiralongo and Santambrogio - are leaving, and Saronni was last seen traveling the length of Italy in search of More Cunegos. In the meantime, four riders from LPR will join Lampre-Vini Farnese next season: Alessandro Petacchi, Alessandro Spezialetti, Lorenzo Bernucci, and Daniele Pietropolli. With the co-sponsor and riders heading for the exits, it seems that Bardonali’s LPR is done for. Shall we have a moment of silence? No? Sheesh, I was just trying to be nice. Remind me not to try that again.
Astana has been on quite a hiring spree lately, though the much-desired pro tour license remains elusive. In addition to Tiralongo, 29 year old Rubén Plaza has joined the team. Rumor also suggests that Allan Davis will leave Quick-Step, as his contract is up, and head to Astana. Goradz Strangelj, Enrico Gasparotto, and David de la Fuente may also join the team. Rumor also attached Juan José Cobo to Astana, but Cobo is also linked to Caisse d’Epargne. Gilberto Simoni may also head to Astana. This can not happen. Comedy demands that he transfer to Lampre. The Grapevine promised me comedy. It would be such a let-down, if the Simoni-Lampre deal fell through. Simoni and Contador, so not as funny as Simoni and Cunego. Besides, I do think Damiano could use a solid dose of Simoni, so long as WADA does not object. In any case, Astana looks pretty serious about this bike racing thing, and will learn sometime in November whether the UCI agrees and will toss a pro tour license their way. Meanwhile, Giuseppe Martinelli has signed on as a sports director. I haven’t come up with anything more to say about this move since this morning. So, I’ll just repeat myself. Yuck.
A few random signing newsbits: Jakob Fuglsang has re-signed with Saxo Bank. Are we surprised? Er, no. Dani Moreno transfers to Silence-Lotto for next season. Johnny Hoogerland is considering offers from various teams, though Vacansoleil included him in their roster for next year, announced today. Sprinter Michele Muro goes to Fotoon-Servetto. Is it me, or is Fotoon the most bizarrely spelled sponsor since Camaiooro? Yes, thank you, pass the vowels. Pierrick Fédrigo has decided to stay at Bbox Bouygues Télécom, and Nicholas Vogondy may join him. Gerben Löwik, lately of Vacansoleil, did not receive a new contract and is chatting with Silence-Lotto. No contract, just yet though. Eduard Vorganov leaves Xacobeo-Galicia for Katusha. Katusha, so much easier to spell.
So Spain has a new doping case to ignore. Maybe I could get the Spanish judiciary to tell my landlord that I don’t have to pay the rent? That would be cool. Anyway, Moises Dueñas, remember him? He tested pozzy for EPO at the Tour. Dueñas decided to have a chat with the authorities in the hope of shortening his vacay from cycling. He gave up the name of his supplier, a certain Dr. Jesús Losa. According to El País, Dueñas paid 6000 euros to Losa in 2008. Cheap date, this Losa. Not coincidentally, Maribel Moreno, who tested positive in Beijing and fled the Olympics, also offered up the very same name. We have previously encountered this Dr. Loser. David Millar named him as a supplier for EPO, and he was fired from Euskaltel-Euskadi due to doping-related troubles. From the Basque team, Losa went to work for a regional sports medicine center in Castilla y León. Investigators seized SMS exchanges between Losa and several clients. According to El País, Francisco Mancebo, currently of Rock Racing, Luis León Sánchez of Caisse d’Epargne, and Alexandr Kolobnev of Saxo Bank are among the riders in correspondence with Losa. What will happen in this case? Yes, that was a trick question.
Moving right along to the next doping story du jour. Der Spiegel tells us this week that Jan Ullrich reportedly visited Dr. Fuentes on 24 occasions between 2003 and 2006, and paid out at least 80,000 euros for the doctor’s services. This number comes from two bank transfers that investigators found in Ullrich’s financial records. Rudy Pavenage reportedly also frequently visited Fuentes and travelled to Madrid on 15 occasions. Maybe they were just good friends. Pavenage, an apologist to the end, told investigators that Ullrich visited Fuentes for help with his oft-publicized weight problems. I don’t know about you, but I always visit my OB-GYN for diet advice. All of the men have now fled the room. It’s okay boys, you can come back now, we’re done talking about the Girly Doctors. The new information about Ullrich’s habits came from a computer obtained by investigators in a raid of Pavenage’s crib. Der Spiegel obtained portions of a 2000 page document prepared in connection with the fraud investigations of Jan Ullrich between 2006 and 2008. It seems that the information will not lead to any further prosecution of the retired Tour winner and Olympic road race champion, though the report also concludes that Ullrich used the services of Fuentes to win races with the help of banned methods and substances. 2006, so last year.
Oh, and by the way, the B-samples for the three Liberty Seguros riders who were allegedly doing the naughty during the Tour of Portugal came back positive. That’s Nuno Ribiero, Isidro Nozal, and Hector Guerra for those of you playing along at home. Really, I have nothing to add.
Route announcements galore! The Tour of California will hold a presser in Sac’to to announce the stage towns for next year’s romp around California. So far, no rumors of gravel roads or team time trials have emerged. That’s Giro 2, Tour of Cali, 0. Next, they’ll be heading out back to compare mountains. For their part, the Italians will announce next year’s Giro d’Italia route, the not-Centenario Giro, on Saturday evening. Forget the route, I’m here for the fashion. Who will take the place of the missing Riccardo Riccó as the King of Fashion Disaster? Whose hair will look like an alien set loose from a mid-century horror film? And who will win the prize for the Most Beautiful of Them All? These, my friends, are the vital questions of the day. I positively shiver with suspense.
In the meantime, run along and amuse yourselves. My work is done here.