Welcome to the Wednesday Session. This week, the Sesh shows up on Pretend Wednesday as opposed to the Day Actually Known As Wednesday. Reality is so over-rated.
I promise it wasn’t my fault. I received an urgent call: Yes, this is Gav. What? But I have to write today, it’s Wednesday. I have to write the Wednesday Session. What? 15 feet? You’re joking. You’re not joking? Uh, I’ll be right there. The buoys said I had to go. Who am I to argue?
But I have not forgotten the Sesh, no indeed. This week, we have Mountains in Italy, Grumpy Old Men, Stupid Cobbles, a Liar, and a Fainting Couch. What could possibly go wrong?
We begin in Italy today where next year’s Giro d’Italia course is now official. Unless you’ve been stuck under a rock or living underwater with the fishes in sea, you know that next year’s Giro starts with three stages in the Netherlands, before returning home to romp around Italy. Orange and pink, I quake at the potential for fashion disaster. Just remember, Prosecco before beer, in the clear. The Giro offers a climber-friendly course this time around and includes visits to the Terminillo, Zoncolan, Plan de Corones, Mortirolo, Gavia, and other assorted uphill curiosities. Though there are four time trials, which sounds like lots, they are all short, and one goes uphill. For the climbers, rejoicing all around. Carlos Sastre, who is waiting for the Vuelta a España course announcement before committing, commented that he likes the looks of this Giro course very much and is leaning toward spending May in Italy. Really, there’s nothing not to like about this course for the zippy little climber dudes.
But the Grumpy Old Men are not amused. Both Felice Gimondi and Francesco Moser think the Giro has gone too mountain mad. In my day, we had to train in the snow. Grumble, grumble. Gimondi says that the course penalizes the crono specialists too heavily and privileges the climbers. Gimondi also does not like the rest day before the time trial on the Plan de Corones. In my day, we raced without rest days. Hmph, kids these days, grumble, grumble. The ex-World Champion, who is the only living Italian to have won the Tour de France, thinks that the Giro riders should have to contest the final week’s mountains without a rest day. Only then would the strongest rider emerge. Moser is also among the critics. This Giro, it has too many mountains, he says. Grumble, grumble. And it’s too hard. Grumble, grumble. In my day, we had time trials, and helicopters to draft us so none of those smelly foreigners could win. Grumble, grumble.
On the subject of the Giro, Damiano Cunego is so totally over the Pink Jersey. Been there, done that, nailed it shut. Next year, the tiny Italian is turning stage chaser and is hoping to match his performance at this year’s Vuelta a España, where he won two stages in the high mountains. In an interview following the Giro presentation, Cunego dismissed the general classification battle as far, far too stressful. The new Lampre bus will include a fainting couch for when the team leader is overcome. Don’t forget to pack the smelling salts. The Lampre rider likes the looks of the stage finishing on the Terminillo and the Plan de Corones time trial. No doubt Franco Pellizotti will have something to say about the Corones. Cunego has yet to detail his other plans for the year, though it seems likely that the Ardennes races will again figure high on his list of ambitions. Sadly, no further word has surfaced on the transfer of Gilberto Simoni to Lampre. The most recent news had Simoni joining Astana, which will likely earn him more cash, but is way less funny.
Alessandro Ballan, meanwhile, has left Lampre for BMC, and he will ride his first ever Giro d’Italia next season. That’s right, after seven years as a pro and an Italian pro at that, Ballan will start his first Giro next season. Ballan is hoping for a stage win, and should enjoy the jaunt to Montalcino, which passes over gravel roads in homage to the Eroica classic.
It seems that Matteo Priamo was less than honest with the doping police when they came to inquire about his activities. Who is Priamo, you are asking? He’s the dude who allegedly provided the CERA that made Emanuele Sella climb really really fast, and then got him busted. Sella named Priamo as his dealer, but Priamo claimed that he could not possibly have given Sella the goods, because he was not at home at the time. Surveillance tapes collected in the Via col Doping investigation, run by a cycling-loving prosecutor in Padova, reveals that Priamo was not where he said he was. Or rather, he was where he said he wasn’t. If the evidence proves solid, Priamo is now in deeper doo-doo than he was when he was just a dope dealer. Liar, liar pants on fire. Prosecutors, so not down with the perjury. If they prove their case, Priamo could serve up to three years in prison. Let that be a lesson to you kids. Don't chop down the cherry tree.
Enrico Lazarro, meanwhile, the doctor also implicated in the Via col Doping affair, has been placed under house arrest after surveillance showed him giving doping products to athletes. Matteo Priamo, Davide Rebellin, and Andrea Moletta were allegedly among his customers. According to information from the investigation, Lazarro’s House Specialty involved extracting small amounts of blood, adding ozone gas to the sample, then returning the ozone-ated (is this a word? I think I make it one) blood to the athlete. Apparently, this practice improves the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood cells without altering hematocrit or hemoglobin levels. Is there biologist in the house? Really, I have no idea how this works. Anyway, the practice is undetectable by existing doping controls, natch, and Lazarro now appears to be in all kinds of trouble. Don’t mess with the cycling-loving prosecutor, obviously.
Cobbles are stupid. At least, that’s what Andy Schleck said in reaction to the inclusion of several kilometers of cobbles in next year’s Tour de France. "It is a terrain where one can not win the Tour, but where one can certainly lose it," he said. "This makes no sense. It appears to me ridiculous." All the same, Andy plans to man up and race the Ronde van Vlaanderen. It’ll be a rough ride for the little dude, who doesn’t really have the ballast for cobbled roads. Which do you think weighs more, Andy Shleck or Fabian Cancellara’s right buttock?
Rumor has it that the Vuelta a España will journey into the Asturias mountains next year. The Lagos de Cavodonga and the Alto de la Cobertoria are among the passes rumored to be included in the still un-announced course. I really have nothing funny to say about this. I do think December is a rather long time to wait. But nobody asked me.
To no one’s surprise, Serge Pauwels has left his former team Cervélo TestTeam. Pauwels will ride for Team Sky next season. No doubt Pauwels will be hoping that his new team will not pull him back from the winning break during a grand tour stage. During last year’s Giro, Pauwels was in a two-up break with local boy Leonardo Bertagnoli, when he received the call from the team car to drop back, a call which cost him the stage victory and did little to influence the general classification position of team captain Carlos Sastre. It wouldn’t be surprising if Pauwels decided to leave the team right then and there. Anyway, Pauwels will move on to Sky. In somewhat related news, Michael Barry, Chris Sutton, and David Viganò are also confirmed for Team Sky as of this week. No word on Lucy or the diamonds.
From the unwanted guests file, Riccardo Riccò will return to racing in time for Milano-Sanremo next season. The Cobra, or perhaps the now de-fanged Cobra, will return in the colors of Ceramica Flaminia, who hopes to receive a wildcard invite to the major Italian races. In a confusing turn of events, the UCI decided to shorten Riccò’s ban after they previously lengthened it. Yes, this story is running in circles. Originally, the UCI overturned the CONI decision in relation to Riccò in favor of the two year ban thrown down by the French Federation, who also opened a case against the Italian climber, since his doping offense took place in France. To complicate matters, Riccò had provided information on the case to the Italian authorities, but the UCI did not receive that information. Two cases, two bans, one rider. Now, it seems, the UCI has received the information from Italy, and the short ban is back. Short bus also sold separately.
We also learned this week that Johan Bruyneel does not like Alberto Contador. In other news, the sky is blue, espresso is good, and chocolate is better. Like we needed another interview from old Bruny on this one. Right, we get it, he’s immature, makes too much money, and he’s not Lance. Next question? Moving right along, it appears that Contador will stay with the newly re-organized Astana, unless he transfers to Caisse d’Epargne or Garmin-Slipstream. Since Astana looks prepared to spend buckets of euros to keep the Spanish Tour winner, I’d put my money on the Kazakhs. The grand finale of this drama is expected next week, but I wouldn't bet on it. The fat lady is still lounging on her fainting couch, and can't possibly be bothered with singing just now.
And that, my friends, is all the Session you get this week. But don’t worry, we’ll do it again next week. Maybe, we’ll even get crazy and do it on Actual Wednesday as opposed to Pretend Wednesday. I do fear that The Wednesday Session on Actual Wednesday might cause the cosmos to crack. I would not want to be responsible for such an eventuality.
See you next time!