By Tick of
So the European season has finally started! About time! Somehow this
off-season and winter have seemed longer than usual, but perhaps it's just the
weather that makes it seem so...
And congratulations to the Illes Balears-Banesto team for winning the
Challenge Illes Balears! Is this the new trend? Then I'd say it doesn't look
good for Armstrong, Ullrich, Vinokurov, Hamilton or Mayo (have I forgotten
anyone?) in the Tour this year. Which French rider on which French team will
Mario Cipollini started the new season in the same way in which he pretty
much ended his season last year -- by crashing in a sprint finish. Let's hope
this is not one of the new trends, for him or for anyone else!
One trend that really has absolutely nothing to recommend it is that of
sponsor and financial difficulties. Only a few weeks ago we were all applauding
the UCI for coming down hard on those teams with problems, and what do we hear
now? Alessio-Bianchi manages to make headlines because it allegedly can't pay
its "Scandinavian Seven."
It's the usual tangled tale of sponsors who want to
but can't and sponsors who can but no longer want to and sponsors who want to
but only if the logo appears on the right place on the jersey...and in the end,
a sponsor who (hopefully) is willing and able to cough up enough to pay for the
Seven "until another sponsor can be found." Famous last words, but let's hope
for the best...
And one more trend, which really shouldn't surprise anyone: the new jerseys
have all been presented and the color of the year is -- blue. Gerolsteiner will
stand out of the crowd with its baby blue, but USPS, Liberty, Mr. Bookmaker,
Quick Step and de Nardi have all gone with your basic dark blue. Anything to
make life harder for the poor tv announcers...