Blazin' Saddles

Cycling’s Fab answer to Messi

Blazin' Saddles

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Watching another display of all-round brilliance from Fabian Cancellara over the weekend, Blazin' Saddles wondered whether or not he was looking at the Lionel Messi of cycling.

Ok, BS admits that the analogy is flawed from the outset: cycling and football are two so incomparable sports that this whole sorry attempt to draw similarities is an exercise of journalistic laziness. But that's never stopped him in the past.

Physically, besides their generous hooters the two men could not be more different. One is a pasty diminutive 22-year-old Argentine who was so small as a teenager that he used to be pumped full of (legal) growth hormones, making him the world's first genetically modified footballer.

The other is a 29-year-old strapping six-foot Swiss cyclist whose only link to hormones (besides coach Bjarne Riis) is the testosterone he naturally secretes when storming to another time trial victory (or making love to a beautiful woman).

But now let's look at the similarities.

Both Messi and Cancellara are born winners who stand heads and shoulders (metaphorically speaking in the former's case) above their fellow professionals in their chosen sport.

Both Messi and Cancellara stand out for their consistency. Messi's hat-trick (his fourth of the season) against Arsenal on Tuesday brought his tally to 39 goals this term. Cancellara too performs excellently throughout the year (and not just once a year come July) - be it in one-day spring classics, week-long stage races or grand Tours over the summer.

Both Messi and Cancellara perform on the big stage. Some footballers build up a reputation of going walkies in the major games (Thierry Henry and Cancellara's dead-ringer Zlatan Ibrahimovic spring to mind) but Messi is not one of them. The jewel in Barcelona's crown puts on a dazzling display whichever pitch he graces and already has nine Champions League goals this season and a World Cup to look forward to. Messi holds an Olympic gold from Beijing and is the current Ballon d'Or. Spartacus, too, isn't shy of bright lights, having won a hat-trick of 'monument' races alongside his regular grand tour stages and Olympic and world championship gold medals.

Both Messi and Cancellara are renowned for their speed, one when mesmerising defences with his deft PlayStation style of playing the beautiful game, and the other when hurtling down an Alpine descent at breakneck speed, when blitzing up a cobbled climb in Flanders or when racing alone and against the clock.

And there you have it. Probably a futile exercise, but just a token of the esteem in which Saddles holds Cancellara. The moment Fab upped the tempo on the Kapelmuur on Easter Sunday, it was clear to everyone that Tom Boonen was going to be chasing his shadow across the final 15km in Flanders. What was incredible was the way Cancellara launched his attack while firmly sat in the saddle, whilst Boonen was dancing away but coming to a near stand-still merely trying to keep in touch.

After his latest victory, Cancellara announced his aim now lies in winning the two remaining 'monument' races that elude him: Liege-Bastogne-Liege and Giro di Lombardia. No current rider has yet achieved the feat, but if anyone can, Fab Can.

SEEDY CYCLING SHOES: The advert breaks in Eurosport's cycling coverage at the moment are sandwiched by a rather disturbing ad for Sidi Cycling Shoes in which a naked (and heavily oiled) Filippo Pozzato smiles at the camera while holding said product in front of his groin to cover his manhood. The voiceover says "Sidi" but to Saddles it's just plain seedy. . .

COLUMBIA CLASH: BS was going to dissect Mark Cavendish's latest clash with HTC-Columbia team-mate Andre Greipel in great depth before deciding it just wasn't worth the effort.

There is no love lost between the two riders and Cav clearly feels threatened enough to go on the defensive (or offensive?) with his ever-so-childish outburst following his San Remo troubles.

But Saddles does find it strange that Cav should have a pop at his team-mate riding "small races" just days after he announced he himself would be riding the Tour of California instead of the Giro this May.

And it's a bit rich dismissing Greipel's chances of winning a 'monument' while boasting that "me on bad form is still better than him". Firstly, it's clearly incorrect: Cav on bad form has just one win to his name this year while the German Giant has five. Shouldn't Cav have more respect for a rider who has managed something which he has failed to do so far in his career: win the points classification in a major Tour?

What's more, it's hardly worth boasting that you won Milan-San Remo last year while "picking my nose". BS never claims to have written one of his blogs while sitting on the loo, does he?

LAMPRE LAMPOON: So, Lampre seem to be in a spot of bother after allegations made in the Gazzetta dello Sport led to 16 staff and riders (both current and former) put under investigation for doping related offences.

The man at the centre of the investigation is a pharmacist called Guido Nigrelli whose stash is conveniently located away from the spotlight in some tiny village in north Italy.

Nigrelli apparently has close links to Lampre coach Sergio Gelati although he promises that Lampre only buy "legal medicines" from his pharmacy.

It all seems a bit complicated for BS's simple mind - but surely the alarm bells should have started ringing as soon as this Sergio Gelati chap entered the fray. Gelati, as we all know, is the Italian word for 'ice creams'. Surely anyone called Mr Whippy should be handled with utmost care.

Anyway, if Lampre follow the trajectory of Festina then at least that would open up a Tour berth for Vacansoleil. Every cloud. . .

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: "When he passed me I had to drop. Cramps shot up my right leg. I hoped I would get my rhythm back again but he took 20 seconds off me in one kilometer. What should I do? Kill him?" Having been beaten by Cancellara in the Tour of Flanders, Boonen ponders the Michael Rasmussen approach to tackling his rivals.

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

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