Blazin' Saddles

Leopard’s glass scarf full

Blazin' Saddles

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The moment
we'd all been waiting for occurred this week: the Schleck brothers' new team
Leopard-Trek was unveiled to the world amid much fanfare and sartorial speciousness.

Of course,
the first thing we all noticed were the identikit scarves adorning the
shoulders of the whole squad, all of whom were wearing matching fitted black
suits and frilly white shirts.

It was as
if Team Lux had employed German football manager Joachim Loew as their
principal fashion consultant.

The thing
is, those black scarves with white polka dots made their owners look more like
fashion victims than the intended debonair dandies. Talk about having a noose
around their necks.

The less
said about Fabian Cancellara's hair the better (he could have at least dried it
before mounting the podium) - and don't even get Saddles started about Davide
Vigano's crazy white Gucci glasses - anyone would have thought he had a job at
the BBC... or The Guardian.

BS can
comfortably pin most of the blame on to the polished pate of team manager Bryan
Nygaard - a PR man with no previous team management experience - who took to
the stage looking more and more like Bjarne Riis, the man in whose shadow Leopard-Trek
will have to emerge if they want to write their own individual narrative.

"This
is not Saxo Bank, it's something brand new," Spartacus tried to convince
reporters who found themselves sitting in front of pretty much the entire Saxo
Bank squad from last year, minus Richie Porte.

"It's
based in Luxembourg. It's not Frank and Andy Schleck's team, it's a Luxembourg
team and we're all team members. We'll do everything we can and we'll show that
we are our own team and we have our own way, and that we don't have to copy
Bjarne or HTC or Sky. Everybody has to do their own job and we'll set about
doing that in the right way."

If the
subsequent team presentation was anything to go by, then doing things their own
way involves performing various gravity-defying stunts on the centre stage.

You see,
the introduction of the riders sporting Leopard-Trek's new racing kit - (with
those tiny sponsor logos, are they casting themselves as the Barcelona of
cycling?) - was preceded by what can only be described as a Cirque du
Soleil-style acrobat frolicking around with a huge ring.

Strangely,
this man was sporting a zebra-print lycra suit (which, incidentally, really
emphasised his, erm, musette, so to speak) as opposed to the leopard spots we
could have (quite rightly) expected.

The
choreographers clearly missed a trick: for those who follow Blazin' Saddles on
twitter (@saddleblaze, btw) you'll know that there's no end of tight-fitting,
high-end, snow leopard cat-suits out there on the internet. Man, they even have
a range for dogs.

Back to
those scarves. Saddles presumes that the white polka-dots on black was a nod to
the animal which lends part of its name to the team's moniker, which was
confirmed this week as Leopard-Trek (not to be confused with a Nepal-based
adventure travel company of the same name).

So what, if
anything, do snow leopards tell us about the aims, objectives and style of the
team?

Well, the
rare endangered animal inhabits rocky terrain and cold mountainous environments
- which suggests the Schleck brothers' intent to do most of their damage in the
Alps and Pyrenees.

Common snow
leopard noises include hisses, chuffing, mews, growls and wailing - which begs
the question, why did they not try and sign renowned babbler Bradley Wiggins
over the summer?

Like other
cats, snow leopards use scent marks to indicate their territory, often by
scraping the ground before depositing urine or scat. Those calls of nature off
the front of the peloton are going to take on a whole new dimension next
year...

Seeing that
snow leopards are crepuscular - most active at dawn and dusk - expect none of
the riders to have any complaints about ASO's proposed nocturnal doping tests
during the Tour.

Snow
leopards are known for being extremely secretive and well camouflaged - and the
slightly nondescript black, pale blue and white kit should make their riders
melt into the peloton with ease.

Snow
leopards are also carnivores that actively hunt their prey and prefer to ambush
their victims from above. With this in mind, Andy Schleck will have to rethink
his entire cycling philosophy - for it won't be enough to simply follow, kiss
and cuddle his principal rivals.

Finally, it
must be said that if any team should have taken the snow leopard as their
mascot animal it should have been Astana: the rare cat features on several
Kazakh banknotes and is the symbol of its two biggest cities.

In fact,
Alexandre Vinokourov is even known as "the snow leopard" in his home
nation - which raises the interesting prospect of Vino having to beat not only
his rivals but himself this season.

+++++

DOG DAYS: 2006 de facto Tour winner Oscar Pereiro this
week hit back at those people who suspected him of being involved in Operacion
Puerto after he was cleared of being linked to Dr Eufemiano Fuentes through his
dog, wrongly thought to be named "Urco".

"Ah! So I am not Urco after all? What a
disappointment," Pereiro told Spanish media after it was made known that
"Urco" was in fact the nickname of a Spanish middle-distance runner
who had dealings with Fuentes.

For those in the know, Oscar's dog is actually
called Zor (it was meant to be Thorpe, after the Australian swimmer, but the
vet didn't understand the request).

"I decided to sue," said Pereiro.
"I presented the dog's registration document with his real name on it. It
showed an enormous lack of respect to my dog, whose name they changed."

As he said that, Zor barked in agreement -
clearly upset with the notion of being labelled Urco, a mythological huge dog
which rises from the sea to bring bad tidings according to Galician folklore.

Retired rider Pereiro is now attempting to make
a career in football having signed with local part-time club Coruxo FC, who ply
their trade in the lowly Segunda Division B, where he is said to assume a
Didier Deschamps-style water carrier role in midfield. Much like his role at
Astana last year, then.

+++++

QUOTES
OF THE WEEK:

"We'll almost certainly have a team of adventurers for the Tour, without a
designated leader. That suits us best and gives me the best feeling," said
Vacansoleil team manager Daan Luijkx
before unveiling a squad boasting the likes of Bruce Parry, Bear Grylls, Ben
Fogle, Marco Polo, Colombus and Mr Magoo.

"When
they stopped me I was leader in the UCI world rankings and I will be so again.
Once the first three or four months have passed [after the ban] I am sure that
the best of Alejandro Valverde will
be on show again." With one top Spanish rider still unsure about his
future, another remains bullish about his return in January 2012.

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

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