Long time, no sesh. So, how are we today? Good, good. I bet you thought I’d forgotten all about you, didn’t you. Nothing could be further from the truth, my friends. I think about you every day. Right after I check the bouys, consult my tide book, feed the cat, and whatnot. Especially the whatnot.
Apparently, there is bike racing in France. And also in Italy. And no doubt somewhere someone has done something silly. Which calls for a sesh. So here I am, and there you are, and we’re going to do whatever it is we do here.
Let’s start with some bike racing, hmm? Marianne Vos won her third World Championship in cyclocross this past weekend in Tabor. The multi-talented Vos finished 45 seconds ahead of four-time cross World Champion Hanka Kupfernagel and over a minute ahead of former World Champion Daphne van den Brand. French riders Christel Ferrier-Bruneau and team-mates Caroline Mani and Pauline Ferrand Prevot put up a solid challenge for the podium, but a late crash derailed Ferrier-Bruneau’s chances. A crash and mechanical trouble also slowed a hard-charging Katerina Nash, who ended the day in fourth.
Indeed, Vos and Kupfernagel proved the only two favorites to escape crashing on the rutted and icy course. Kupfernagel showed her strength and experience, but Vos rode silky smooth over the difficult terrain and won it with otherworldly bike handling. "I didn’t make any mistakes," Vos said after the race. Understatement much? For the Americans, Katie Compton had a disappointing day, dropping out with leg cramps. U.S. National Champion on the road, Meredith Miller finished 12th as the top American, just ahead of Amy Dombroski in 14th. New Englander Dombroski never found her rhythm on the snowy course, though she is typically at home in wintery weather.
In the men’s race... Wait, there was a men’s race?
Cyclocross, so over. Moving on. Time to play road bikes! Sprinter Borut Božič of Vacansoleil, best known for having far too many accents in his name and finishing on the podium of last year’s Paris-Tours, won today’s first stage of the Etoile des Bessèges stage race. Set in France, Etoile des Bessèges is best known for wet weather and crashes. The sun came out for the race today, but sadly, that didn’t prevent the early season jitters from striking and taking Daniel Lloyd out of the race. Early reports claimed that Lloyd suffered a compression fracture in his spine, the same injury that took Dave Zabriskie out of the Tour de France a few years back. But Lloyd has since confirmed that he has no fractures. In a rain on your wedding day stroke of irony, Lloyd wasn’t originally scheduled for this race. I’m not even supposed to be here today! Lloyd was filling in for sprinter Thor Hushovd who had the flu. Hushovd said he did not want to stress his body so early in the season, and decided to postpone his season start. The Norwegian will ride the Volta ao Algarve as his first race of the year.
Meanwhile, in Italy, there is also bike racing. Sprinter Alessandro Petacchi, who now rides for Lampre-Vini Farnese, has won two stages of the Giro delle Provincia Reggio Calabria. The 36 year old sprinter pronounced himself pleased with his victories and declared that already the team is working perfectly for him. "The mechanism is beginning to function," he said after Tuesday's victory. Only one incident interrupted Ale’s tranquility during today’s stage. Danilo Hondo, the German sprinter who plays lead-out for Petacchi, stopped to pipí at 25 kilometers to go, right about the time Lampre and Liquigas were getting busy with chasing down the requisite doomed early break. Fortunately for all involved, Hondo got himself back on the bike in good order. Young sprinter Oscar Gatto of ISD finished second today, followed by Mattia Gavazzi. Matteo Montaguti celebrated his first ever professional victory earlier this week during the Reggio Calabria, and dedicated his win to his fiancée Valentina. A nice early Valentine's Day gift, no?
The women’s racing season has started in Qatar. So far, no photos of women on camels have surfaced. Rasa Lelivyte of Safi-Pasta Zara won today’s opening stage which ended in a sprint. Cervélo TestTeam controlled the race intent on setting up sprinter Kristen Wild for the finale, but Wild flatted with 500 meters to go. It was Cervélo’s day for bad luck, as British rider Elizabeth Armistead crashed out of the race. A crash also took U.S. National team rider Amber Rais out of the race before the start. Rais broke her pelvis in the accident. Dangerous days, these early season races.
On the subject of injuries, HTC-Columbia rider Tony Martin has tendonitis in his knee as a consequence of over-training. This news comes after comments from one of his sports directors that he looked too light for the time of year. Martin seems to have worked overtime in the off-season in his desire for a successful year. Now after two weeks off the bike, he is slowly building back up. Though he may yet start Paris-Nice, his first planned race of the year, it will be difficult for him to match last year’s success which saw him win the Mountains classification. Said Erik Zabel of the talented young rider, "We must put the brakes on his enthusiasm sometimes." If Zabel says you are training too hard, you are probably training too hard.
In other news, Floyd Landis apparently lives in a Shack behind a car wash. Shacks these days, everyone’s got one. Landis is considering writing a book, but that ambition has been derailed by a job as a golf sign holder. Maybe this is real. Or, maybe this is the surreal projection of Neil Browne’s feverish imagination. I just think it needs more crayon. Maybe purple or cerulean.
The lengthy contract dispute over Fumi Beppu has at last come to an end. Beppu will leave his former team Skil-Shimano to ride for RadioShack this season. Rumor has for some time considered the transfer a done deal, but Skil-Shimano refused to release the Japanese rider, who had a year remaining on his contract with the Dutch-registered team. According to today’s press reports, Beppu (or The Team The Shack) will pay Skil-Shimano an unspecified amount to compensate them for his departure.
In doping news this week, DiLuca now owes €280,000 in fines for his sins. He will also spend the next two years on vacay from cycling, unless of course, the sports arbitration court overturns his sanction. Do you feel lucky Dani? DiLuca tested positive for CERA not once, but twice, at the 2009 Giro d’Italia. Two times the charm? Something like that, anyway. DiLuca has promised that he will appeal the sanction. Oh goody! Really, the appeals are my favorite part.
Vania Rossi meanwhile must be the only rider in history to use the pregnancy defense. Rossi tested positive for CERA just like her partner Riccardo Riccó. Interesting household you keep there kids. Riccó, who will ride for Ceramica Flaminia this season, claims he had no idea what Vania was up to. He only dresses like her, he doesn’t actually know what she does with her time. Riccó is also famously supportive of her racing career saying, "People know I don’t like her racing... Cycling isn’t for women, it hurts too much." Hey Riccardo, do you think you boys could take over the childbirth part? Because I hear that really really hurts, too.
Last, but not least, Jens! tells us today over Twitter that he is tired of talking about his crash from last year’s Tour. The Saxo Bank rider hijacked team-mate Andy Schleck’s laptop to tell Planet Twitter that the crash in the past now, and he’d much prefer to talk about something else. "ask me about my favorite joke, how to catch a helmet tiger. Its a silly one, but I just love it! Oops andy wants his laptop back," Jens! said. A helmet tiger. Don't ask me, I'm just the writer chick.
With that bit of silliness, I’m calling it done. Like, so done. How ‘bout we do it again next week? Maybe we could all wear funny hats and sing stupid songs. Or not.
P.S. If you haven't bought your Podium Cafe kit, get on that thing already! Ordering closes on Friday.