Where to start? Let’s start with Di Luca. What an absolute d%$k. I see many people are asking whether he was the former Grand Tour rider ready to go down that I spoke of in my last column. Nope — the timing was just coincidental. That news hasn’t been released.
Vini-Fantini said they didn’t want Di Luca back but as is the case with many of these Pro Conti teams, the only reason he got on the team was because he brought one of their big-dollar sponsors on board. And the Italian fans welcome him back with open arms. What a stark contrast that is to the way the Americans view their fallen heroes.
That’s old news now though, with “Santa” [Mauro Santambrogio] being the most recent rider to go positive. There was plenty of talk about him being dodgy. He finished 86th in the Giro in 2012 when he was skinny, and 9th this year when he was fat. I don’t know what happened there, but go figure.
Why did BMC get rid of Santambrogio, who was under investigation (and suspended by BMC) in 2010, and not Ballan who was in the same situation? It was said in the press that Santa was basically given to Vini-Fantini, which suggests to me that BMC had gotten rid of him before the end of his contract (or he brought a hefty sponsor on board).
How did Vini-Fantini even get into the Giro? Luca Scinto cries about how he’s devastated about the positive tests but he hires riders like Di Luca, Santambrogio, Garzelli and so on. Half those guys are back to their Mapei ways and wasn’t Garzelli the final straw before Mapei pulled out of cycling?
How is taking on Di Luca any different than taking on Garzelli? Don’t tell me Scinto couldn’t have prevented Di Luca from coming onto the team if he really wanted to. Fortunately the UCI seems to be catching these guys which hopefully means their controls are working.
The sad thing is that all of this business takes away from what Nibali did at this year’s Giro. In contrast to the Vini-Fantini clowns, Nibali is a pure gentleman. He’s quiet and keeps to himself in the peloton, and he’s an absolute class act.
Nibali is one rider who wouldn’t have been complaining about the atrocious weather that was such a big part of this year’s race. Not just because he won the Giro overall but because he’s one of the few riders in the peloton that actually enjoys riding in cold and crappy weather. When everyone else is wet and miserable Nibali comes into his own and he showed that at the Giro.
And while I’m on the subject of terrible weather, remember how virtually the whole peloton was wearing those black Castelli Gabba jackets at Milan-San Remo and other races earlier in the season? Well the teams that aren’t sponsored by Castelli have put a stop to that. Gotta keep the sponsors happy, even if it means the riders get cold and wet.
Getting back to Nibali, he’s a rider that’s always been good and certainly hasn’t come out of nowhere. I’m seeing a few tweets about rumours of Nibali testing positive after the Giro. I don’t know where that’s coming from because it surely isn’t the talk around my circles.
There was a photo I saw of Nibali celebrating with Vinokourov on the podium at the end of the Giro (see below) which reminded me of something I thought was worth sharing. Most people don’t realise that Vino is actually a fantastic guy, and once you know him, that’s hard to look past. It’s hard to believe he’s a cheat because he’s actually unbelievably generous and kind.
It just goes to show that all dopers aren’t necessarily evil people. Some are, some aren’t. Don’t think I’m making excuses for him, but I think it’s a side of him most people haven’t seen.
Speaking of retired riders from the Eastern Bloc, Denis Menchov retired shortly after my last column. I find it strange that a guy in the twilight of his career would retire in the middle of his 2-million-euro-a-year contract just because of a knee injury. Why wouldn’t he just do the recovery then ride out his contract? Is anyone else asking that question?
Lots of people are certainly talking about Team Sky and the tensions that apparently exist between Wiggins and Froome. It’s no secret in the peloton that they don’t care for each other, to say the least, and it’s a good bet that there’s more going on than just knee problems with Wiggins not starting this year’s TdF.
People seem obsessed with Sky but there’s no shortage of leadership tensions in other pro teams as well. Just take a look at Movistar: they’ve got Rui Costa, Nairo Quintana, Alejandro Valverd … all of whom have GC ambitions when it comes to the big races. There’s a lot of tension among those guys. I wouldn’t be surprised if the same existed at Garmin with Talansky and Hesjedal, and at BMC with van Garderen and Evans.
And it’s not just intra-team rivalries either. There’s quite a bit of bickering going on between the big Spanish riders. For example, Contador and Valverde seem to be competing for Spanish national pride.
And while I’m on the subject of tensions, it’s been funny at the Dauphine this week watching some of the French riders. Riders from all teams are still trying to cement their place in their team’s Tour de France squad but it’s particularly noticeable with the French riders. I guess there’s an extra element of pride when it comes to riding a home Grand Tour.
Watching the posturing between the likes of Pierre Rolland and Thomas Voeckler has certainly been entertaining. You always know when the television broadcast begins because it’s the only time you’ll see them near the front.
And as for the Dauphine, some riders will tell you (personally and in the media) that it’s just a warm-up for the Tour and that they aren’t really trying all that hard. But I can tell you no-one’s just rolling around at the Dauphine for the sake of it; everyone’s giving it a red hot go, even those who have publicly said they wouldn’t, or those that have said that they’re not in form.
But as I said earlier, many riders still don’t know if they’ll make the TdF team or not. It’s a hard one because most of us are trying to peak right now just to get a selection, but if you make the Tour team you’re coming into it already cooked just before a three-week tour.
It’s really tough mentally if you don’t get selected for the Tour. It usually means you’re doing the Vuelta, but that’s still over a month away and it’s tough keeping up the motivation to race and train while everyone else is at the Tour and you’re racing something like the Tour of Poland.
And speaking of Le Tour de France, it’s sure to be another great race with plenty of surprises along the way, but one thing’s as close to certain as you can get in pro cycling: Cavendish will dominate the sprints.
The guy is practically unbeatable. I honestly don’t know how you can beat him in a sprint, particularly now that he’s got a team that’s working for him (which he didn’t last year). And of course, if Cavendish isn’t dominating then Sagan is right behind him ready to take his place. The other sprinters at the Tour will really just be battling for second (or third) place, and they know it.
The Tour will be here before we know it and I hope to speak to you all from there. But that’s all for now. Have a great weekend!