The Tour of Murcia's comedy tit-for-tat decision to refuse invitation to any Italian teams in the wake of Alejandro Valverde's two-year ban from competing in Italy has opened to door to Britain's second biggest cycling team, Endura Racing.
With Bradley Wiggins and Team Sky having such an arousing effect in the metaphorical trousers of the UK media of late, the launch of the no-frills Lothian cycling outfit this winter went as firmly under the radar as the Red October.
Sponsored by a Scottish clothing company, Endura Racing is predominantly made up of English and Scottish riders, with one Welshman, a token Frenchman and two New Zealanders thrown in for good measure. As such, its British credentials certainly carry more weight than Sky's League of Nations.
Unlike its more illustrious big brother, the second tier Pro Continental team, whose name sounds more like a brand of long-lasting contraception, is hardly brimming with star factor and pizzazz. In fact, the only name you'll probably recognise on the team sheet is that of Jack Bauer - and only because he's taking time out from filming season nine of the US hit TV series 24.
Fresh out of hospital after suffering concussion on his debut for the team in the recent Tour du Haut Var, Bauer - not Keifer Sutherland's alter ego, but the current Kiwi road race champion - is one of seven Endura riders who will start the five-stage Tour of Murcia on Wednesday bent on making a splash.
Endura's roster also includes 21-year-old Scottish road race champion Ross Creber, Edinburgh-based rider Evan Oliphant, Frenchman Alexandre Blain, Welshman Rob Partridge and English duo Ian Wilkindon and James Moss.
While the likes of Tour de France main contenders Wiggins and Lance Armstrong will be using Murcia as a good gauge of form ahead of the business end of the season, Endura racing will be simply pinching themselves that they're there.
"It's a little scary looking at the start sheet," admits Creber, who lists cooking amongst his hobbies.
Oliphant (pictured) - not, as his name suggests, part olive part pachyderm - has caught the eye of Blazin' Saddles. The 28-year-old is nicknamed 'Sloth', can play the bagpipes and enjoys a spicy Rogan josh curry after a hard day on the road. A former grass track champion, Oliphant won the illustrious 2008 Sea Otter classic in the States. Eat your heart out, Wiggo.
SADDLES, YOU HUNT: Talking of Murcia, the race's opening stage was won on Wednesday by Robbie Hunter of Garmin-Transitions. And it couldn't have happened to a nicer bloke, says BS.
Last week, BS, in his typical flippant way, suggested on Twitter that Hunter was the peloton's Nigel Farage following the South African's mini-rant against Belgium in the wake of the English MEP Farage's entirely unconnected rude and childish outburst against the President of the European Council in Brussels.
It was a joke, of course, but Robbie still sent a direct message to Saddles in a bid to clear his name. After hearing BS's explanation, Hunter replied: "All good!!!" Given his latest victory, BS would suggest things were a trifle better than just good now.
IN THE STIJN BIN: The spring classic season got off to a wet and windy start over the weekend with wins for Sky's Juan Antonio Flecha in the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Bobbie Traksel in Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne.
But perhaps the most unlikely event during the two races was Belgian classics specialist Stijn Devolder being knocked off his bike by a dustbin lid on Sunday.
"I was in first position when a bin flew in my front wheel [and] I banged the inside of my knee pretty badly," said Devolder. He then didn't say: "All in all, it was rubbish and could have bin much better."
The reason for the flying refuse receptacle was, of course, the ravaging Atlantic storm Xanthia, which ripped through France and Western Europe over the weekend to devastating effect.
One rider who didn't mind the ghoulish conditions was the unheralded Traksel, who said (with reference to his chubby girth): "Sometimes they say I'm fat, but in these conditions it's pretty helpful. I can deal well with this foul weather - this is my environment."
Incidentally, one of the worst hit regions was the Vendee and the Island of Noirmoutier, which will host the start of the 2011 Tour.
WHAT VANIA DID NEXT: Riccardo Ricco and Vania Rossi are fast becoming the Ashley and Cheryl Cole, the John and Toni Terry if you will, of the peloton, after it emerged that the spurned Rossi is trying to win back the heart of her ex boyfriend.
In a heartfelt letter written to an Italian newspaper, Rossi once again denied that she had ever taken EPO and admitted her dismay at being "publically humiliated" by Ricco, the father of her child.
But Rossi also stressed: "I hope he comes back because I still love him". Quite how the slippery Cobra has earned the love of the pretty Rossi is anyone's guess - BS reckons he must have a major hidden talent if she feels so strongly after all he's done.
Meanwhile, Ricco was up to his usual tricks, telling the media that real cycling fans don't give a monkey's about doping and speaking about himself in the third-person (a tendency which BS truly hates).
"I don't think real 'tifosi' are interested in doping. They're interested in the battle and competition," the 26-year-old hissed. "If someone is a fan of Ricco, they still are now, even if he's made a mistake or not."
Sadly, Rossi's stance is only going to continue feeding Ricco's earth-shattering self-delusion.
DEKKER DECKED: Talking of EPO, the UCI confirmed this week that Dutch rider Thomas Dekker has been suspended for two years for retrospectively testing positive for DynEPO during an out-of-competition test on Christmas Eve 2007.
After initially claiming he had been framed - a defence about as brittle as an Arsenal forward's ankle - Dekker acknowledged he had "made a mistake", but stressed he had only used EPO once in his career. Interesting that he should choose December 24 to break his doping duck - maybe he needed a quick fix to help him get through all that Christmas turkey?
TWEET OF THE WEEK: "Met my nutritionist who has given me a pot of green powder, in his words it will make me piss like a donkey for days." Saddles never knew that donkeys were renowned for their incontinence but he does now, thanks to @bradwiggins.
Follow Blazin' Saddles throughout the week on www.twitter.com/saddleblaze.
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