Blazin' Saddles

  • Nice guy Eddy

    Eddy Merckx waves to fans at the start of the second stage of the 2010 Tour de France

    When it was revealed earlier this week that Denis Galimzyanov — Russia's biggest cycling talent since, er, Vladimir Karpets — had tested positive for EPO, it made Saddles think back at something Eddy Merckx said in January.

    During the Tour Down Under in South Australia, Merckx — the race's official human mascot — told reporters that he believed the sport to be 95 per cent clean.

    "I cannot say 100 per cent clean because no sport is clean," said Merckx, levelling some potentially hazardous (albeit heinously indirect) accusations towards the World Lawn Bowls Association.

    Merckx's view on doping

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  • Classics spring clean

    Boonen

    With the cobblestone and Flemish races now over and the Ardennes classics just around the corner, Saddles weighs in with 10 key points he'd like to get off his chest.

    Don't sack off Tommeke: If Lance Armstrong confirmed for seven successive years at the turn of the century that cyclists can come back from a medical condition that affects the nether regions, then Tom Boonen did just that this year with his indomitable Flanders campaign. He showed that there is life after tearing the sensitive flap of flesh known best as the perineum. While Boonen's wins in the E3, Ghent-Wevelgem and Flanders

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  • Modern Day Delilah

    Mark Cavendish and Peta Todd
    While Mark Cavendish was feeling all my, my, my, Delilah this week, the rest of the world was left asking why, why, why, Delilah.

    Yes, this is news that the world champion has become a father — and he and his partner Peta Todd have named their newborn girl Delilah Grace.

    The announcement set tongues wagging about the possible origins of their daughter's two names. Many believe there is a musical theme, with Cavendish a big fan of Tom Jones and U2, whose respective songs Delilah and Grace were personal favourites of Cav's while competing in the teenage ballroom dancing circuit on the Isle of

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  • Yorkshire pudding in a bid

    2002 - Sheep graze at sunset on the Yorkshire Dales after Great Britain was declared free of foot and mouth disease.

    If you are reading this on April 1, Saddles assures you this is no April's Fool: Yorkshire, England's largest county, has submitted its formal bid to host the start of the 2016 Tour de France.

    Yorkshire may not be as glamorous as London, the last English city to host the Grand Depart back in 2007, but officials from the county in the north of England hope that the cities of Scarborough, Sheffield, York and, ahem, Hull, will have as much pulling power as Barcelona, Venice and Berlin — Yorkshire's chic continental rivals for the crown.

    Plans are sketchy, but it is thought that a prologue in

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  • Johnny collared?

    Vacansoleil-DCM are rumoured to be considering sports psychology sessions for their anxiety-ridden rider Johnny Hoogerland, who is set to sit out the first waffle of Belgian classics while he cobbles together a plan to beat the demons in his head and maybe, just maybe, one day stand on top of the podium for anything other than a Most Combative Rider award or a token KOM jersey.

    Inside sources have disclosed to Saddles (ie. this bit has partially been made up) that Vacansoleil-RunDMC team management have given the 28-year-old compulsive live-wire a series of questions for him to ponder over

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  • Cavarotti

    There's more to Cav than a Page 3 birdHe's full of surprises is that Mark Cavendish. Who would have thought someone so tough and macho would not only be into ballroom dancing but also have a penchant for opera?

    A video interview with Cavendish and his Sky team-mate-slash-human-zimmer-frame Bernard Eisel on the popular sharing website YouTube sees the world champion compare this weekend's Milan-San Remo race to an opera.

    "Milan-San Remo is the perfect example of an Italian-style race," he started ominously, prompting Saddles to think of examples of non-Italian-style races held in Italy.

    In a fabulous piece of erudite analogy, Cav

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  • Nicolas Roche Q&A

    Saddles teamed up with his pal Joe Papp to interview Ag2r all-rounder Nico Roche ahead of this week's Paris-Nice. The 27-year-old, who lives in Switzerland when not racing around Europe (and Beijing), is currently trying his best to secure a maiden European ProTour stage win at Paris-Nice, a race very dear to his heart.

    AG2R La Mondiale's Nicolas Roche

    Top of the morning, Nico. Or should that be bonjour?

    No! I see myself as 100 percent Irish. I'm very attached to my Irish roots and it's worrying to see what's going on at home. I preferred it when the Celtic tiger was alive and kicking rather than the recession.

    To be sure,

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  • Marauding Mariani

    Consumed, but by what? Read the book...This week, Saddles has mostly been reading about the trials and tribulations of stellar Eastern European rouleur Romain Mariani of the Gazin-Regus PMP team.

    There's a good reason why you've never heard of him: Mariani is pure fiction — the leading character in a gothic cycling novel coming out later this summer.

    Entitled 'Consumed', the first 10 chapters of the book will be available to download in June while 200 limited edition illustrated copies will be up for grabs in a deluxe musette-style package.

    The novel is set mostly within the World Tour and follows the 26-year-old Mariani's

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  • Index system in dreamland

    Scarponi: The dream of a diseased mind (Imago)Saddles had a dream last night. Reading the latest gossip on fastfoodnews.com, your favourite cycling doodler came across a rum story which said Pizza Hut had climbed up the PIG Healthy Fast Food Index at the expense of McDonald's (which had been disqualified following concerns about the quality of its cuts of beef).

    In this peculiarly vivid dream, Saddles remembering being wryly amused by the irony of such a situation — and then the dream took on another mind-boggling direction.

    Dressed in the pink and blue of Lampre and coughing his guts up while trying perform a capella alongside Frank

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  • Not so classic Belgian

    Every now and then one of your rivals does something so spectacularly brilliant that you have to put up your hands in admiration and pat them on the back.

    Usually this scenario co-exists with someone else, as a direct result of the brilliance, making an absolute howler; and more often than not, it is this abject floundering that makes the initial piece of play so much more delightful.

    Take, for example, Alberto Contador's attack on the Col de Manse in stage 16 of the Tour de France last year, which split up the pack and led to utterly madcap scenes during a fast descent into Gap, during which

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