Blazin' Saddles

Blazin’ Saddles: Tour of D’oh! Man

Blazin' Saddles

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From above, it looks very much like the closing kilometres of any typical race: the peloton is beginning to jostle for positions as the 148km second stage of the Tour of Oman approaches its culmination in the town of Samail.

Then outshoots a single rider with a burst of pace not seen since someone told Tom Boonen back in spring 2009 that the toilet cubical at Roubaix's premium nightspot was free.

The rider in question is Vacansoleil's Lieuwe Westra, eyeing a second career stage scalp after breaking his duck last year in Picardie.

Such an explosive turn of pace seems to confuse everyone, and the Dutchman must think it's his lucky day as he powers clear of the peloton towards the red beacon at the finish line while, no doubt, his directeur sportif shouts encouragement though his earpiece: "Go Lieuwe, go! You're out ahead - not long to go now, then you can do a lap of honour!"

With clapping sheiks lining the road, 'The Beast of Friesland' roars and holds his arms aloft as he crosses the line - only for his face to become a sudden picture of gutted embarrassment when he realises his ghastly mistake.

For the stage is very much still unfinished - the riders have just completed two of three closing laps around the town and there still remains seven kilometres in the fierce heat before the sprinters battle it out, with Italian Daniele Bennati eventually taking the spoils.

As for Westra, he's left to do cycling's equivalent of the walk of shame as he sits up and waits to be swallowed up by the peloton, whose muffled laughter he will not forget in a long time.

But while most riders refuse to kick a man while he's down, Italy's Filippo Pozzato can't resist saddling up to Westra, patting him on the back and clenching his fist in mock adulation. The shame of it, Pipo: God will judge you, as you know only too well.

The whole episode will hardly linger in the grand scheme of things, but Blazin' Saddles certainly believes that Westra cannot be 100 per cent to blame.

As far as Saddles knows, there is no ban on race radios out in Oman, so - unless Westra was himself not hooked up - we can only presume that the 27-year-old was under team orders to go for the jugular. In which case, that represents a colossal oversight by Pro-Continental team Vacansoleil.

If the Dutch outfit hope to get a wildcard to the three major Tours this year, they will have to show better tactical acumen than in Oman, that's for sure.

WHAT A CARVE UP: Race organisers almost did a Westra in the opening stage of the Tour of Algarve on Wednesday after failing to close off the roads to traffic as the peloton approached the finish. The roads were cleared up in the nick of time, with Frenchman Benoit Vaugrenard attacking in the last kilometre to defy the big sprinters, including the in-form "Dr" Andre Greipel.

LANDIS-PICABLE: Do you remember the 1983 American thriller WarGames, starring a young Matthew Broderick as a computer nerd who unwittingly hacks into the US military's computer system and almost triggers off World War III?

Well, Floyd Landis certainly does. In fact, this caper seemingly gave him the inspiration for his latest alleged brush with the authorities.

Not content with trying to win the 2006 Tour by filling his body with synthetic testosterone; not content with seeing one of his "team" blackmail three-times Tour champion Greg Lemond and belittle the sexual abuse he endured as a child; not content with taking money from his own gullible fans for the now-defunct Floyd Landis Defence Fund; and not prepared to call it a day when losing his case in the High Court, Landis now, according to the French anti-doping agency, has hacked into one of the agency's laboratory computers in the latest bid to clear his name.

Quite what he thought he could achieve is anyone's guess. Did Landis really think that by erasing his doping records he could also miraculously erase all memory of his actions in the minds of the cycling public?

And it doesn't exactly say much about the security systems at the Chatenay-Malabry lab if they can allow their computer network be breached by Landis, a renowned Mennonite whose beliefs supposedly reject technology in favour of a simpler lifestyle.

Anyway, Landis is now under an international arrest warrant. Ouch - that's got to hurt. One thing's for certain: at the end of all this rigmarole, there'll be a top-notch movie to make. Maybe they could call it 'WarGames III: Catch Me If You Can'?

COMING SOON: The Mexican Chicken Taco, available as a limited edition in Danish Nando's from 2011. Yes, this is the news that Denmark's Michael Rasmussen is considering taking up Mexican citizenship in a bid to perform at the 2011 World Championships in his native country. As they say in Mexico: Scusi, dov'e il bagno?

SNAKE BITE: So, Riccardo Ricco has dumped his girlfriend Vania Rossi following her positive test for CERA. "There can be no reconciliation until Vania is shown to be innocent," said Ricco, seemingly forgetting how Rossi - the father of his baby son - stuck by him during his own doping shame.

Still, BS does have a modicum of sympathy for the rattled Cobra. Supposing he did give Rossi his unanimous support, how would the blood-baying media react to his further association with the drug that sealed his fall from grace?

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: "Definitely." An ambitious Bradley Wiggins's answer when asked by Willliam Fotheringham of The Independent whether he would reach for his pen if he could sign on the dotted line for third overall in this year's Tour de France. "It's sh*t or bust time," Wiggo added, eloquently.

Follow Blazin' Saddles throughout the week on www.twitter.com/saddleblaze.

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