Giro d'Italia Drama
The first grand tour of the season has started and that can only mean one thing: doping accusations.
Like the swallows returning to San Juan Capistrano and trout swimming upstream during mating season; doping allegations signal the start of the grand tour season.
Just last week the Dutch newspaper Volkskrant stated that the Rabobank cycling team tolerated doping up until 2007. The other kick to the gut is the statement from ex-team manager Theo de Rooij who said, "If it happened, it was a deliberate decision by the medical staff." Not exactly a strong denial. The team sponsor gave an even weaker non-denial, "Since 2007 there is a new board of directors and new leadership." That's the equivalent of saying, "Move along, nothing to see here."
This team's history is a bit dodgy as Cyclingnews points out. Several Rabobank ex-riders have been either popped for doping or been linked to the Human Plasma case which involved 30 athletes receiving blood transfusions. Ex-Rabobankers Michael Boogerd, Thomas Dekker and Michael Rasmussen were questioned by the Dutch National Anti-Doping Agency.
Regardless of this possibly ongoing investigation and the slightly interesting revelations, we are a few stages into the Giro d'Italia, which started in Denmark on Saturday - honestly my favorite of the grand tours. As a fan you know that Team BMC's Taylor Phinney is in the pink leader's jersey after winning the stage one opening time trial.
America has produced some great riders, but let's face it - they didn't have that certain je ne sais pas to capture our hearts. And the Versus network didn't do other American riders many favors by having their commentators frequently compare them to Armstrong, building up the mythology of the seven time Tour de France winner.
I've been told that certain American riders that I've interviewed are, when surrounded by friends, quite entertaining. However, with the press they clam up, for whatever reason.
The first time I interviewed Taylor Phinney he was still part of the U-23 Livestrong-Trek team. I spoke to him in the lobby of his hotel and the topics varied from dreams of winning Paris-Roubaix to being a contestant on "Dancing With the Stars." He was open, not guarded, and also entertaining - giving me something that I knew the readers would enjoy rather than the usual, "I hope to have a good season and the team is great" bullshit.
With his time trial win in the Giro d'Italia the question was raised if he was the next "Lance Armstrong," which shows how one-dimensional some journalists can be, or perhaps that's all they know.
Phinney responded that he's a different type of rider than Armstrong, but then he said something else which was also interesting.
"Hopefully I can push the image of the sport for the fan-base, but if you look at the riders that are around my age, whether it's Tejay Van Garderen, Andrew Talansky, Peter Stetina, there's a vast number of US riders coming up who are doing really well."
He had targeted this stage and said that if he won the opening time trail it would be a life altering victory. And he's correct. Forever he will be announced as a wearer of the maglia rosa. He will never have to buy his own drink in a cafe in Italy. Ever.
And as you probably watched today, Phinney went down in the last 100 meters of stage 3. It would have been easy for him to be angry and lash out at Robert Ferrari who brought down Mark Cavendish, which then set off the usual domino effect of crashing riders. Instead he stayed calm, just like he did in stage 2 when he had the mechanical.
For a while I think we all held our breaths to see if Mini-Phinney would get off the ground. Thankfully he did and kept his composure - true class. As we say in the South, "That boy was raised right!"
However, Ferrari's actions are quite the opposite. The rider needs to rethink his post-race comments as he's been reported to have said that he didn't see Cavendish and wasn't concerned about what goes on behind him. What?!? Was he completely asleep during the team's media training? Being a complete "tool" is not the way to act when you are faced with a chartered flight back to Italy.
I'm guessing no one wants to sit next to the Androni-Venezuela sprinter on the flight for fear of guilt by association. My advice to Ferrari is to not use the restroom as I can see him being barracked inside and left behind after the plane lands on "accident."
While Ferrari gets the award for dumb move of the day, his team manager Gianni Savio has tried to grab the joystick of this quickly diving public relations plane and pull it out of the nosedive. He told Cyclingnews that he intends to apologize to Cav on behalf of the team. Now if he can get his rider to do the same...
I have a gut feeling that there will be a détente during the rest day and it will be settled because this is a close traveling group. They'll be together for three weeks, so it's best make peace.
But in all the crash drama, let's not forget about the great win by Matt Goss of Orca-GreenEdge. Looking at the video of the last kilometer numerous times it looked to me that Cav had positioned himself badly and Goss was going to win regardless. This is going to make the battle for the red points jersey interesting as we now have two powerful sprinters dueling for supremacy.
I'm not sure if Cavendish will finish the Giro d'Italia, but this battle will continue into the Tour de France for sure.
So as doping makes another grab at the headlines, I continue to believe that we've made some strides in the right direction with anti-doping. But if this Rabobank story doesn't completely whet your doping scandal appetite the Clemens trial is in full swing and the analogy between the baseball players and their alleged doping practice is entertaining. The players turn on each other to save their skins and tearing into each other's personal lives. Is this possibly a foreshadowing of any possible whistle blowing case that might come up?