Blazin' Saddles

Big Brother on wheels

Blazin' Saddles

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Before Alejandro Valverde chose his overall victory in Romandie as a platform upon which to attack his doubters and defend his name, Saddles was unsure about how he'd lead this week's blog, such was his disillusion with the sport he so clearly loves.

Things got off to a rude start when Mark Cavendish took it upon himself to say a huge "up yours" to the media with a V-sign when any normal-in-the-head self-respecting young man would have been content with a simple arms-aloft celebration after doubling - finally - his tally of stage wins for the season (now one for each finger proffered).

But perhaps the biggest offence from a rider usually so eager to flaunt his sponsors' logos or hold aloft an endorsed product was that, in making the gesture, he obscured the 'HTC-Columbia' festooned across his chest.

It was probably for this critical oversight that CaV - as BS will now refer to him as - found himself ousted from the Tour of Romandie. That and the impending mountains, no doubt.

Just days after BMC's Thomas Frei outlined how any rider could ensure testing negative for EPO simply by drinking a litre of water, the shamed (but admirably honest) Swiss rider suggested the old "no questions asked" mentality still pervades the peloton. (A bit like the David Cameron line to Conservative Party donations, then).

"I am not a victim. It was my decision to dope. I can assure you, I have never been told by a boss to dope, but I have also never experienced a rider being asked why he suddenly became so fast," Frei said, stressing that his improved performances had increased the likelihood of a salary increase in 2011.

"From the bosses you only hear, 'We don't want any doping cases'. But what they really mean is something else," he added, with grim foreboding.

Which brings us on nicely to the Biological Passport-Gate and the axing of Franco Pellizotti, Tadej Valjavec and Jesus Rosendo Prado from this month's Giro.

Pellizotti's suspension over his blood ID card irregularities means two-thirds of the 2009 Giro podium are now under a cloud of suspicion, following runner-up Danilo Di Luca's previous ban for EPO.

The Italian's place in the Liquigas team will be taken by Vincenzo Nibali, a rider who like Pellizotti was only this week linked to the notorious doping doctor, Michele Ferrari. "It feels like it's all a joke," said Pellizotti, reading Saddles' mind entirely.

Meanwhile, Valjavec underlined his dismay at a system "that does not work" while Prado simply told the world that he was suffering from haemorrhoids, presumably employing the tactic that no one in their right mind would admit publically to suffering from piles.

But Prado is right - the whole episode is a right pain in the ass and, it has to be said, still quite unprecedented, so we'll have to wait and see how it unravels. None of the riders have tested positive for anything and will presumably defend their corner with the same vigour Gordon Brown normally uses for ridiculing incompetent or bigoted women called Sue or Gillian.

BS can't help but think that the UCI has acted rather despicably from the outset. It seems as if it is using doping now as a sideshow to the sport in the same way that a television channel may employ swearing and nudity as a means to boost ratings.

Apparently the relevant bodies have been sitting on this information for quite some time, but decided to come out with it on the eve of the Giro seemingly to make a bigger splash - just like all those 'Jennifer Aniston: Unlucky in Love' headlines that strangely coincide with the actress' latest unadvised foray into the world of cinema.

"If they'd told me month ago I'd have had time to race," said Pellizotti. "They told me just two days before the Giro and so there's no time for me to defend myself. At this point I don't believe in cycling anymore."

The curly haired Roman has a point. What's more, the drip-down method of breaking doping stories is pure sensationalist twaddle.

There was Pat McQuaid announcing last week that three riders were about to be collared, including one big Italian name. It's as if the UCI are inviting the public to speculate and evict their chosen culprit.

It's Big Brother on wheels: "Day 56 of the cycling season. With the Giro just around the corner there's a special eviction this week. Who goes? You decide."

Oh well, if the Giro becomes a bit of a circus there's always the Tour of California to look forward to - or, as it is colloquially called, the Amgen TofCal.

Sponsoring a stage race with a successful biopharmaceuticals company clearly doesn't register on the USA's irony metre, then.  But what does Saddles know about cycling anyway? Jack s---, clearly.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: "The word that comes to mind is pathetic. I could use lots more but his antics just show a confused young kid with low self-esteem. Critics will always be there and they're looking for reactions just like that. Cav can't seem to understand that the critics are laughing at him with that stuff." A top rider tells Saddles just what he makes of the whole Cavendish V-sign fiasco.

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