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The Wednesday Session

Gav_mediumSo apparently I had to go for a bike ride before I could write this week's column. And eat a few gummy bears. Of course, this delay means that some of you will have to read the Wednesday Session on Thursday. Hopefully, the cosmos will survive. Good thing the editor around here is a total creampuff. Or I'd be so out on my, erm, shammy. Now, I'm all caffeinated, endorphined, sugared and ready to shred. This week, a delightful buffet of small bites, zestily seasoned with snark.

Let's start with the silly kids over at LPR-Brakes. Yesterday, they decided it was time for Danilo Di Luca to go. Di Luca, whose B-samples from the Giro d'Italia, came back positive in an unsurprising match of the A-samples, is now out on his, erm, shammy. LPR-Brakes also threatened to sue the Italian for damages to the team image. Damages to the team image? Bitch, please. No doubt the team is trying desperately to avoid the fate of CSF-Navigare, who has not seen the start of a major race since the doping cases involving Emmanuele Sella and Matteo Priamo last season. See RCS, looks at us, we're super duper indignant about Di Luca testing positive. We're like so totally a clean team and look, we're holding him completely responsible. Please, pretty please invite us to the Giro next year? Aaaah, I do like me some schadenfreude. Toasted over a bed of arugula with a nice chianti. Mamma mia, that's some good stuff right there. While LPR-Brakes is talking a big game - as is Di Luca, who promises to prove the testing method is thoroughly flawed - I doubt much will come of all this operatic hand-waving. If CONI proves its case, the double positives carry a four year sanction. Adio Di Diluca.

The Shack is a hug. At least, according to the marketing poster hanging in the window of my local RadioShack, which should under no circumstances be confused with the Gav Shack®. Anyway, the Team The Shack, the most awkwardly named cycling team in the history of the world must represent the sponsor's brand in all things. Group hug! Just imagine if The Shack had sponsored the team during the recent Tour de France. No time for in-fighting, too busy hugging. The hiring process, meanwhile, seems not be be all hugs and sunshine so far for Team The Shack. Today Tony Martin confirmed he had turned down an offer to ride for the team, while last week, Andy Schleck similarly denied negotiating with the Shack-sters. George Hincapie, who has no love for Astana-turned-Shack after those meanies chased him out of the Yellow Jersey, will certainly not be joining his former team-mate Lance Armstrong, and is rumored to be joining the up-and-coming BMC, who has big ambitions of their own. BMC is also reportedly courting Levi Leipheimer, because they WANT TO GO TO THE TOUR. Really, really badly. Leipheimer hasn't said much of anything about his plans. He's quiet that way. So far, the confirmed riders for the The Shack include Lance Armstrong and Sergio Paulinho, with Janez Brajkovic, Jaroslav Popovych, Gregory Rast, and Haimar Zubeldia likely to follow. Hope they like to hug.

Meanwhile, the new Team Sky has managed to fill all of its roster spots except three, according to sports director Scott Sunderland. We do know who isn't riding for them, at least for now: Bradley Wiggins, Vincenzo Nibali, Mark Cavendish, Dan Martin, and Alessandro Ballan. Then, it's a whole lot of maybe's. Edvald Boasson Hagen might ride for them. So might Thomas Lövkvist, while Simon Gerrans, Heinrich Haussler are also all rumored to be headed to the new British team. Will there be hugging?

The Contador riddle continues, and Jonathan Vaughters seemed to deny that Garmin-Slipstream would hire the Spanish Tour champion in a recent interview with NY Velocity. Either Vaughters is playing his cards close to his chest or the American team does not have the cash to buy out Contador. The pre-Tour flirtation between Contador and Garmin-Slipstream assumed that the Astana team would dissolve and Contador would be free to find a new team. Now Vaughters tells us that despite The Shack, Contador has another year on his contract with Astana. Say who-wha? It's all very complicated this Contador confusion. How are the future Shack-sters able to change teams, while Contador remains locked into his contract? Strange doings, that's for sure, especially when by all accounts, the riders on Astana contracted with Bruyneel's management company, not the Astana sponsors. In the meantime, Caisse d'Épargne is reporedly looking for a new sponsor to cover the cost of Contador's salary, but have yet to find one. The Spanish team, sponsored by a French bank, have frequently been named as Contador's likely destination, but without a sponsor they will have to keep dreaming. No cash, no Contador. If Vaughters is correct, and really, would you trust a guy with sideburns like that? - Contador still needs to buy out his old contract, which complicates the transaction further. Or does he. I can't help but ask: Vaughters, baby, are you playing us?

On the subject of Vaughters and Garmin-Slipstream, Peter Stetina, who has had significant success as an U23, will ride for the pro team beginning next year. Jack Bobridge, Travis Myers, and Michele Krater are also joining Garmin-Slipstream from the U23 ranks, because according to Vaughters chicks dig argyle.

In women's racing, meanwhile, Ina Teutenburg won today's stage of the Route de France, a five day stage race taking place in, you guessed it, France. Information about the race is sadly a bit scarce, though the official site has short daily updates. Teutenberg told that today's finale was "hard, because it went uphill, though the stage was mostly flat before." The final two stages involve climbing, and Tuetenberg expects it to be difficult to hold the race lead. That's all I got.

On the subject of women's racing, in the "beer thread", a brief discussion broke out over reactions to the decision by Cyclingnews to publish a blog from Liz Hatch. A few of the women's team directors were less than stoked by this decision (the twit refused to give up the original comments, and they may have been removed.) No doubt the reaction had a great deal to do with frustration over the perception that the main cycling websites devote too little attention to women's racing. Certainly, the cycling media remains something of a dudecruise. (Scroll to the bottom, clicky "authors". Seriously VeloNews, no women on the writing staff? Not one?) Me, I keep hearing the mainstream media is like so over and that Cyclingnews is dead. Dead. Dead. Dead. Of the more than 300 "people" I follow on the Twit, though, only about a dozen of the Twit-erz are women riders. Seriously, girls, where are you? The high profile men's teams are high profile either because they win a lot of races (Columbia-HTC) or because they make sure that the fans get to know their riders (Slipstream-Garmin). Both is ideal, natch. Slipstream-Garmin, they have this PR thing dialed. Wander by their webby, and there's sure to be a story from a rider - not just a race report from a PR person, but a story from an actual rider. Me, I'd love to get to know more women riders. Dear Women's Teams, Please help me get to know your riders. Tell them to blog more. And write funny race stories. And make Twit. XOXO, Gav.

Turning to Italy for a moment, there's rivalries galore in the House of Liquigas. After his podium finish, Franco Pellizotti wants full-on team leadership for the Giro d'Italia. Pellizotti hopes to negotiate with Ivan Basso for the privilege, offering in return support for a Tour bid by Basso. Of course, that plan runs smack into the ambitions of the young riders at Liquigas, Vincenzo Nibali and Roman Kreuziger, both of whom finished in the top ten of this year's race around France. No doubt Basso hopes he will find success in the upcoming Vuelta. A high-placing would strengthen his hand in the intra-squad rivalry. Now, how could these boys settle this little rivalry... Mud-wrestling?

Staying in Italy, the Trittico Regione Lombardia takes place next week. The Coppa Ugo Agostoni starts things off on Monday. Monday is a truly odd day for a bike race, but nobody asked me. Ivan Basso and Alessandro Ballan will take the start. The 89th running of Tre Valli Varesine comes next, on Tuesday 18 August. Ballan, Basso, and Stefano Garzelli will all attend the party, which begins in Luino. The race follows bumpy terrain and this year, finishes on a short, steepish climb (Gradient 7.6%). Francesco Ginanni won last year. Don't believe me? Watch the viddy. The threesome finishes with the Coppa Bernocchi. Danilo Napolitano won this race three times in a row. Which tells you something about the profile. It's, erm, flat. These races are among the number of one-day races that pop up on the Italian calender late in the season in preparation for the World Championships and Italy's grand finale, the Giro di Cunego.

Vinokourov... Who?

Okay, I've run out of gummy bears, which means this snark session must come to an end. But don't be sad, because we can do it all over again next week. Promise. I might even write the Wednesday column early enough for more people to read it on Wednesday. But I'm not making any rash sorts of promises. I mean, I might have to go for a bike ride again. Or buy more gummy bears.