Sunday, July 22, 2007

STAGE 14 - SHAKE UP IN THE PYRENEES

NOTHING LEFT IN VINO'S TANK. Well, that didn't go as planned for Alexandre Vinokourov. I guess he spent himself in the Individual Time Trial yesterday. As valiant as his effort has been, his game plan seems to have been exploded by the pace set by Discovery Channel in this first day in the Pyrenees. In addition, he took another spill during the stage.

DISCOVERY CHANNEL IN CHARGE. Can you say "Team?" How about Discovery Channel? Wow! They set a tepid pace the blew up the peloton. In a charge reminiscent of the Armstrong years, George Hincapie sacrificed himself on the mountain for the sake of his team members. They launched skyward on the Plateau-de-Beille, drawing the race contenders into a duke-it-out free-for-all. When the dust cleared, Alberto Contador (in photo) was sitting on top of the heap with a stage win over Michael Rasmussen, and Levi Leipheimer had leap-frogged into fourth place overall. Yaroslav Popovych wasn't far behind. Contador is now in second place overall and he's on his way to a top-three finish if he doesn't have a bad day.

KLODEN HANGING IN. Astana, which shined on Saturday, took major hits on Sunday. Now in 5th place, Andreas Kloden is still in the hunt, but his climbing companions didn't or couldn't help him much and he lost time to Rasmussen.

AUSTRALIAN HOPES ALIVE. Australian Cadel Evans arrived at the top of the Plateau-de-Beille 1'12" after Leipheimer and dropped into third place overall behind Contador. Evans, whom I think will win the Tour, is now 3'04" behind Rasmussen. If Evans can close some of that gap in the next two mountain stages, he'll be poised to beat Rasmussen in the Individual Time Trial on Saturday.

DO THEY HAVE ANYTHING LEFT? Do any of these guys have anything left in their legs? Today seemed like they left it all on the mountain. They've got to be spent. And yet the toughest stage is tomorrow -- two Category 2, two Category 1 and one Beyond Category (toughest) climbs. And then another monster mountain day after Tuesday's rest day.

EVANS AND LEIPHEIMER. I'm pulling for Evans and Leipheimer tomorrow. Given the corroborated evidence implicating Rasmussen in doping, I no longer consider him legitimate, even if he miraculously hangs in for a win (in this case "miracle" would be spelled "c-h-e-a-t-i-n-g"). Evans wants the Yellow Jersey in Paris very much. Leipheimer is intensely committed to a podium finish, too. These two riders, in their own unique ways, have the tenacity and steadiness to reach their goals.

4 comments:

Adam said...

what implications? all that happened is he didn't tell the whole world where he was on time. at no point did they want to test him during those times. He just wasn't available should they have wanted to test him. the 10's of other times he was tested he was clean.

bikehiker said...

In fact, Rasmussen was not available on two occasions that UCI wanted to test him in May and June of 2007. That, in addition to not turning in his travel itinerary for the specific purpose of out-of-competetion drug testing, prompted the Danish cycling officials to sack him. In addition, the corroborated story in VeloNews of Rasmussen purchasing and trying to have a friend transport Biopure bovine blood product from America into Italy in 2002 implicates him as one who has cheated. I think his actions on both accounts deserves more accounting and investigation than for him just to say, in the first case, that it was simply an "administrative error," and, in the second case, that "I cannot confirm that." If this occurred with Lance Armstrong, the European press and cycling officials would have eaten him for lunch. For me, at least, he's no longer legitimate.

Anonymous said...

Claims by a former physiotherapist with the US Postal team, Irishwoman Emma O'Reilly, that Armstrong succumbed to using the banned blood booster EPO, threaten to take the shine off the American's reputation. O'Reilly worked with Armstrong for 3 years from 1998 and was in almost constant contact with his close-knit team... Is this evidence ?

bikehiker said...

If I recall correctly, O'Reilly's claims were non-specific and were not corroborated, like others who have made claims that Armstrong doped.

But Mr. Whitney Richards' story regarding Rasmussen asking him in 2002 to transport a box supposedly containing cycling shoes from America to Italy (only to discover that the box was full of banned performance-enhancing substances) is at least corroborated by a physiologist and has the specificity level that might be more in the realm of "evidence." Too bad Richards didn't preserve and turn over the Biopure products to authorities.

I think if that level of information were even now available regarding Armstrong, you would have to call for an investigation and accountability.

Just so you'll know, I am not defending Armstrong. Oh, how I hope he rode clean; but, realistically, I doubt he always did. We know he was likely the most frequently drug-tested athlete out there. And, other than one disputed, years-old vial of blood from a stage during his first Tour de France win that was tested just last year, all his blood tests have been negative for banned substances.

The problem is, some of these athletes appear to be using substances and products and procedures that are effectively masked in current testing methods.

Honestly, I really WANT to believe these guys are clean. The sport NEEDS them to be clean. But when you have specific violations amounting to strategic test-avoidance and corroborated testimony of doping hanging out there, how can the Yellow Jersey of Michael Rasmussen be taken seriously? That's where I'm having trouble.