21 July 2008

Rest day reflections...

Rest day reflections on le Tour de France...

I haven't written much about this year's Tour de France, mostly because I haven't felt incited to do so, well, except the other day when Ricco got taken down for doping. And then come to find out, Piepoli got taken down as well. Turns out, 2 bad apples do make a bunch, as their sponsor is going to pull out because of the 2 doping cases, and the team has suspended their racing schedule pending, well, whatever happens next. Way to go you ego-maniac! You almost, by yourself, took down your entire team, and will probably put a bunch of people out of work just because you wanted to win a bike race. Your support staff, your directors, your fellow riders, they are all probably going to be out of a job. Talk about downsizing. I think therein lies the real bad rotten end of doping. Someone on your team takes some PEDs to win a bike race or 2, said person gets busted, and then the entire team either folds immediately, or ends up folding at the end of the year because of it. Then you have 30 something riders looking for work, one less top end team to take any of them in, and a bunch of not very well paid support staff looking for jobs as well. Even if doping did just affect the one person doing it, maybe you assholes doing it should just think of someone beside yourself before jabbing a needle into your vein to make you go uphill faster. Maybe you ought to think about the other people around you, who are, like it or not, going to be affected by your actions. That's the insidiousness of doping right there. Not the guy taking it, but everyone around him who gets screwed to the wall at the end of the day. You don't really see this with other top level sports. Say, someone in pro baseball gets busted. Their entire team doesn't get suspended from playing. Just the one player. Their team sponsors don't pull out, and stop paying everyone, maybe just that one guy, and maybe only for a month or so. It's different for cycling. A lot different, and it affects a lot more people. So to you dopers out there, think about it before you go doping away. Think about your soigneur's infant child, whose mouth you'll be taking food out of. Think about your teammates, who won't have a team come this time next year. And above all, stop thinking about yourselves.

Moving on from that little blight on my otherwise great day. I've got to throw out props, big time, to Garmin-Chipotle. Here you have a team that has taken upon itself an internal doping program like almost no other in the world. There are other teams out there who are doing something similar, but Garmin-Chipotle I think came down with this first. Their riders are tested at least once every 2 weeks throughout the year, and sometimes more. All of this information is contained in their dossier, and is available for review at any point in time by the powers to be if and when it is required. This is not to mention the other testing that is carried out on these athletes, for example, by their own cycling federations, at races, and other random controls that pop up every once in awhile. This is good. This team is transparent, and they can be proud of that, and maybe even a little smug. Having that program got them into the Tour de France. Their early season results didn't hurt too much either really. They seem to have a great thing going, and as far as sponsors wanting to be involved with them, I think that they are only going to grow from here. Why? Well, we've seen sponsor after sponsor dump their teams because of doping. Here you have a squeaky clean team riding, and winning some races, and riding at the front, and doing well for the most part, and they are as transparent as Caspar the Friendly Ghost. They're doing it right. If you have been watching/reading the Tour coverage, you will also seem something else about them. They are getting involved. They are in the breakaways,
Danny Pate made the final selection yesterday, and almost took a win on a tough alpine stage. Christian VandeVelde is sitting in 5th place overall (only 39 seconds back from the lead), and they are doing it without doping. As far as we know. They are showing the rest of the cycling world that you can be competitive, and you can be strong, without doping. It's inspiring to me and it makes me want to watch the sport more now. I dread and fear what would happen though if one of their riders currently in the Tour de France got busted for doping. I fear we'd see that team come tumbling down around Jonathan Vaughters' sharply pointed sideburns. I do believe in the sport, but the last few years have made me very cynical about it as well. As I said, Garmin-Chipotle gives me great hope, but I'm also waiting for the house to come down. Let's just say that nothing would surprise me anymore. For the time being though, go Garmin-Chipotle! I want to see Christian VandeVelde attack tomorrow. Why? Because if he wants to win, he needs to attack, and he needs to be able to ride away from the other leaders, or maybe bring one or 2 of them with him, and then kick them in the ass during the TT. I believe he ought not to protect his position, on the other hand, he should lay it out there. If it works, it works, and he might win the biggest race of his career. If it doesn't work, well, you can't say he didn't try. And the best part about his efforts thus far, he's been pretty much doing it all alone. CSC had 3 or 4 guys on the final climb yesterday, and they were yanking it. Christian? Nope, he was alone. Sure, Pate was up the road, but he wasn't coming back, well, that break wasn't coming back. VandeVelde is basically doing it alone. If he could get just a little help from Millar, Lowe, or Ryder, he might be able to attack better up the final climbs of the day. One thing is for sure, this Tour has been exciting. It's been great to watch, and to take in. The race favorites, at the head of the race, kicking each other in the nuts every chance they get. It is also inspiring to watch, and to see. This is the way it should be. Not one entire team riding TTT style into the final climb of the day, and then burning everyone off, giving a springboard to their team leader. Sure, that works, and it led to many victories for Armstrong, but it's also boring to watch. I enjoy seeing these guys, pain faced, clawing up the climbs, attacking each other, coming back, attacking again, helping one another. It's great race drama. It's been a great race so far, and tomorrow, we have a killer day, and the day after that, we have l'alpe d'Huez. It's going to be very interesting to see who rises, and who falls, and who gets taken out of contention.

Now, if only I had cable so I could watch the race on TV at night. I don't right now, and that's disappointing, so I have to read the blow by blow accounts on Cyclingnews.com, which suffices, but I do like to see the pictures. Next year I guess I'll be able to watch it. Next year...

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18 July 2008

Ricco suave???

Turns out that Ricardo Ricco, for all of his swagger, for all of his shit talk, and for his running of his big mouth at an almost constant pace is just a straight up typical doper and a cheat in the sport of professional cycling. Turns out, his amazing wins were just that, amazing. Meaning, he took a couple of big wins, and then tested positive, and then was carted away in the team car with a Gendarme in the back seat with him therefore leaving the Tour even a little more tarnished. Not only that, but his entire team picked up their EPO filled ball, and drove on out of France, and they have also apparently suspended all racing activity for the near future. Oh, how the mighty have fallen indeed.

I should have known when I saw Ricco attack on stage 9, from the back of the pack, and as he passed some of the greatest riders and climbers in the world as if they were standing still. That was the rate of his acceleration past what remained of the peloton at that point in time. I think I'm still naive, because I wanted to believe that he had this great ability, that he had this huge forceful attack in him, and I sat there and watched him do it in awed silence, and I didn't think twice about him getting popped for doping. Nope. I just let the race unfold before me, and watched, what I thought at the time, was a great performance. It was at that point in time, that I decided to stop hating on the man as being arrogant, cocky, and overall just not a great person, and decided that his attacking style of racing was a good thing. In short, I sort of became a fan of Ricardo Ricco that day, and now, I have to shun him as he should be shunned. He's a doper. A cheat. And not even a smart one. Apparently, there have been rumors swirling around the peloton this last week or so specifically about Ricco, and how his abilities seemed to have taken on an even greater depth and shape, and now, we all know why. He was juicing on a new form of EPO, and probably thought he would get away with it. Over the last couple of years that he's been racing, Ricco has repeatedly stated that he idolizes Marco Pantani, probably one of the most infamous dopers who never really got caught doping (although in a sort of OJ Simpson way, we all knew that he did dope, it's just that at the time he was racing, there were no tests for EPO, and when there were, the man was but a shell of his previous racing cyclist) and now the circle is complete for him. His idol was a doper, so it stands to reason that Ricco would be one as well. What a dunce. The thing that really fries me about this, is that he'll get suspended, spend 2 years on the sidelines, and then, someone will no doubt hire him once his suspension is over, and since the ProTour has imploded as well, he could race for a top tier team after 2 years of suspension. And Ricco is young, young enough so that this will be but a blip in his career. By the time he gets back to racing, he'll still only be 26, or 27 years old, and will still have many good quality years of racing ahead of him, but for now, he's tossed away his career. What would be a fitting end to this, is if no team would have him back, but we all know that this isn't true. If VDB can get second chance after second chance, something tells me Ricco won't have a hard time finding someone to race for in 2 years, or less, depending on what CONI (Italian cycling federation) does with him.

Not leave Ricco out there hanging in the wind himself, we did have another no named guy from Barloworld who also tested positive for EPO. His name was Moises Duenas. Like I said, no named rider, but still. The other one hanging out there though that is even more damning in my eyes, is Manuel Beltran. Why is Beltran's positive more damning? Well, we can add him to the list of guys who used to be teammates with one Lance Armstrong, and who helped him to win 7 Tours de France in a row. It also starts to show a pattern of doping that existed on that team, and as it surrounded its main guy, Armstrong. Look at the list of guys who used to ride with him, and have either been caught and busted, or admitted that they used some PEDs, or have been named in other doping investigations:

Tyler Hamilton
Floyd Landis
Manuel Beltran
Roberto Heras
Ivan Basso
Frankie Andreu
Jonathan Vaughters

And I'm sure that there are more in there that I'm missing somehow. I just can't remember them all currently. This looks bad for the past champion, but he's retired. Nothing will happen in hindsight. Riis came out last year, and said that he doped to win his Tour, and the ASO ranted and raved that they were going to take the win away from him. Well, they haven't. Far as I know, he still has his yellow jerseys hanging over his mantel at home. And probably will for a long time.

I would like to be one of the people who, every single time someone gets busted for doping, pronounces professional cycling dead, but it just won't happen. I've decided to take the optimistic approach. As in, we're catching the bad guys, and we're nailing them to the wall. Show me another pro sport that suspends someone for 2 years for a first positive test for PEDs. There aren't any. 2 years in other pro sports would spell the end of a career, and for some in cycling, it does spell the end of their careers. That's good if you ask me. There really is no room for doping in any pro sport, although we all know it goes on, and will continue probably unabated for as long as there are pro sports (amateurs are not immune from this either, believe me), and hopefully we'll continue to catch the bad guys. I for one, will continue to watch pro cycling, only now with a more and ever increasingly jaded eye on the riders who are flying up the mountains, and riding people off of their wheels. I got caught up in the excitement last week, and forgot the "jaded" part when I was watching Ricco stomp down on his adversaries. I won't make that mistake again.

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15 July 2008

I couldn't resist...


09 July 2008

House pictures...

Here are some pictures of the new house. There should be more to come later on down the line I hope. Some of the other pictures that I took got corrupted somehow. Ah well, try and try again I suppose.


06 July 2008

Thing is...

Thing is, the wife and myself, we bought a house last week (pictures forthcoming after I go over there for the inspection this coming week). Yeah, we finally did it. We're all grown up now, we'll have a mortgage, a house, and actual furniture and stuff like that. I can't think of a better place to do this though. Asheville is a great place to live. Actually, it's horrible. Everyone should just stay away from here, and run as fast as you can. No, but seriously, it's great. I just don't want more people like myself moving here is all.

Just a few quick updates:

1. The wedding season is finally over for myself and the wife. We went back to the homeland this weekend (Mexico Maine), and my parents had a great party for us to celebrate our marriage, since we did have a very small wedding in the Caribbean, not everyone got to come. The folks who didn't get to come, came on over, we had tons of food, drinks, games, and a good time was had by all. I got to see a few folks from my class I haven't seen in probably 10-15 years, and caught up with some old friends from around town, and they all got to meet the wife, which was good as well. We had a great time, and thank everyone for coming out this weekend. It was much appreciated.

2. See first paragraph above. We bought a house.

3. The new job is going well thus far. Can't complain. It's much like the old job, except not covered in a layer of crap all of the time. Meaning, this place I'm working at now, at least for now, has their act together, and things seem to be working out pretty good for me so far. I'll start traveling soon for work, and we'll go from there. Of course there will be some rougher times, I have no doubt about it, but for now, I'm working normal 8-9 hour days, getting to ride the bike after work, and can't complain at all really, nope, not at all.

And I think that's about it for now, like I said, just some quick updates. I'm thinking about starting up another blog. The next one is going to be all about things I get from my suppliers during business trips. Just the physical things, oh, and maybe I'll drop a few pictures in there of extravagant dinners they get for us as well. Actually, I might just make that an on-going project of this blog as well. No need to start up yet ANOTHER blog for something like that right? Yeah, probably true. Stay tuned for useless shit I get from my suppliers.

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