By Tick of
I tell you, this is the life -- the sun is shining, it is finally warm
enough to open the windows and there's a bike race on tv. What more
could I want?
Yes, spring has finally sprung here in far western Germany and so one's
thoughts automatically turn to -- CSC! Well, this year that's a natural
association. CSC is certainly "the" team of the season so far. And
having worked his wonders with Jörg Jaksche, Bjarne Riis has turned his
attention to another German. The comeback of the weekend? Jens Voigt,
popular here for his riding style as well as for his modesty, made the
Criterium International his own. What a thrill for him -- 2 stage
victories and the GC win all in one day! And add to that the thrill of
beating Lance Armstrong in a time trial. The outstanding teamwork
continued, too, with CSC winning the team ranking and with Bobby Julich
taking the overall 4th. Perhaps it will be Bobby's turn to make the
comeback next time?
The sad part of the CSC story is that so many people are asking, "How
can Riis do it?", and are coming up with an answer that they think can
only involve doping. So many people are muttering about this that Riis
found it necessary to issue a long statement proclaiming his team to be
clean and condemning doping.
Two more big comebacks last week, one joyfully successful, the other
not. Gerolsteiner's Rene Haselbacher has apparently overcome a spinal
cord infection which kept him off his bike for months on end, and for
much of that time he was the only one who ever thought he would ride
again. He brought his delightful personality back to the peloton in
Joseba Beloki chose Voigt's Criterium International to make his first
racing appearance since his horrendous crash in the TdF last July -- and
crashed again. Apparently he wasn't hurt but it was enough to cost him
over 16 minutes and place him dead last in the first stage. And he
appeared at the start the next mountain, but decided against riding
further. Hopefully he has successfully overcome not only the physical
but also the psychological damage....
One comeback that was really not at all necessary was the return of
doping stories. Reading Manzano's acccounts of what was done to him and
what he did to himself turned my stomach. He gave enough details that
Jean Marie Le Blanc believed that there must be a kernel of truth in it,
and canceled Kelme's tentative invitation to the Tour de France. Of
course it bothers me tremendously to think that such doping practices
are everyday occurrences. But what I also can't stand is the UCI's
reaction: threatening to sue anyone who "tarnishes the image of cycling
and its riders."
Certainly it would be lovely if it were proved that there is nothing in
Manzano's story, but I have no understanding whatsoever for the UCI's blanket
denial: "there is absolutely no chance at all that any of our riders has ever
so much as thought of using an illegal substance -- and if you say one peep
otherwise we will sue your ass off." Let's get real, guys...