Blazin' Saddles

Papp to the Future

Blazin' Saddles

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In
the third installment of "SaddlePapp", Joe Papp the pocket-rocket from Pittsburgh
talks blood thinners, chat-up lines, Christmas and the sexual habits of the
peloton, while also making some insightful predictions for the 2011 season.

To get up to speed, Saddles suggests you read last month's
second Q&A with Joe Papp, the man who could once eat Spanish steak until
the cows came home.

BS:
So, what have you been up since we last spoke?

JP:
I've been trying to figure out how four months seemingly passed in the span of
24 hours. I still have unopened pairs of Vermarc bib shorts! On a more serious
note, I've been advising athletes involved in various ways with the anti-doping
process - whether they're sanctioned and trying to lay the groundwork for a
comeback, or fear they're being investigated.

So, do you think convicted dopers should be forced to seek professional
help from a therapist before returning to the peloton?

I
don't think they should be forced to do anything, other than comply with the
rules and any on-going terms of their sanction. However, I know from personal
experience that the result of being sanctioned is itself traumatic enough that
in some cases, especially those where the athlete lacks an effective support
network, the assistance of a professional therapist familiar with the
psychology of doping could be of great benefit. In my own situation, because of
the ongoing nature of the stress and anxiety I'm under, I find therapy merely
helps me keep things afloat - never mind getting back to shore.

Why
is your nickname Mr 58%?

I
once shared with the world that my hematocrit levels had risen to 58 per cent prior to
a life-threatening crash. Someone thought that was cute - or otherwise
noteworthy - and decided I merited that nickname. Perhaps Barnaby Riis and I
can start a club.

Tell
us about the crash. Why was it so bad? 

Well,
my hematocrit levels were too high and I should simply have never ridden in the
first place because I was exposing myself to the haemostasis in the case of a
fall. Sure enough, I crashed at low-speed on the final climb of the race. I
thought it was ok, but several hours later it became readily apparent that I'd
suffered a gluteal hematoma and my body was haemorrhaging blood that would not
coagulate effectively. The situation required hospitalisation, and after
several days spent hoping that my body could reabsorb the leaked fluid on its
own, the doctors decided to operate to remove 1,200 ml of dead blood. Had it
been a head injury and not a gash to my skinny ass, I could have died from an
intracranial haemorrhage. I know I'm lucky I didn't, but when I think about
what's come since, and what lies ahead, well, sometimes I wish I had.

[Putting
away his violin] To lighten things a little, what do you think about Franco
Pellizotti's haircut?

It's
heartbreaking. No, devastating. Until I saw him without it, I didn't realize
how integral those golden locks were to his image - I don't even recognize him
anymore.

What
do you think of Filippo Pozzato's tactic of going without sex during the
competitive part of last season? Could you do it?

If he really abstained, I don't think
he did so voluntarily - but it didn't work anyway! I'd have to conclude that
Pippo's tactic of going without sex during the competitive part of last season
is great if you want to finish just outside of the medals at the Worlds. Could
I do it? I wouldn't intentionally not do it, but if that was how things
worked out, then I'm sure I could survive the barrenness.

Are there any gay riders in the peloton? Would coming out be an issue?

Good
question. I'm not aware of any, though I hardly think it would be an issue. And
even if you were a homophobe, and your gay team-mate had come out during the
Vuelta, how's that going to impact your race? It's not like you're allowed to
have your wife or girlfriend with you in the hotel during the race anyway, so I
can't imagine them making an exception for boyfriends. I'll admit, though, that
the only rainbows in the peloton belong to the World Champion.

You
try saying that to Thor Hushovd's face. Talking of tough guys, who would win an
arm-wrestle between Jan Ullrich and Magnus Backstedt?

Backstedt
by default. Ullrich would decline to participate, citing burnout syndrome.

You're hosting a dinner party and you can have five guests, dead or alive - who
would they be?

JFK.
I'd like to know who he thinks shot him. Frank Vandenbroucke, so he
could spill the beans about the 90s and early 2000s. I'd also ask him if he'd
known the end was near. Don't ask why, but I'd invite the German Luftwaffe ace
Adolf Galland. Then they'd be Megan Fox, my celebrity crush, and finally my dad,
who died when I was young so I never really got to know him.

What
are your tips and predictions for next season?

The
Giro will be much more exciting than the Tour - and not just for the police
raids and late-night anti-doping controls. Tom Boonen will win one of the
classics. Riis will leave Saxo Bank to turn his attention to developing a kids
cycling league in Herning to spot the next Danish GT contender. Pozzato
will finally win a big race again. Hushovd will smash the field in Roubaix. 2011 will see a Cunego renaissance, but it will be Nibali who takes the
Tour of Lombardy. Vino will once again be one of the most exciting and
aggressive riders in the peloton and certain cycling commentators won't be able
to manifest such a blatant anti-Vino bias when forced to commentate on his
attacking. And finally, my contacts tell me to keep an eye on Geraint Thomas.

So,
will Team Sky be any better this year?

Yes.
They'll figure out what it takes.

Who
will win more stages Down Under - Mark Cavendish or Andre Greipel?

Andre.

If
you were Cav, what would your best chat-up line be?

"You
have beautiful teeth."

What
does Christmas have in store for Joe Papp?

I
think this Christmas will be spent in melancholic reflection, a victim of
nostalgia.

That
sounds a bit morose. Maybe some presents will cheer you up... what's ideally
under your tree?

A
fully-stocked legal defence fund, or at least the names and contact info for
anyone willing to help me resolve my case. A Giant Anthem X Advanced SL 1 MTB
and Specialized S-Works shoes. A Pelikan 1931 Originals of Their Time gold
fountain pen. Oh, and some new friends to replace the ones who either betrayed
me or compelled me to betray them in the shadows of the anti-doping war.

And
finally, if you could buy one man in cycling a Christmas present, who and what
would it be?

I
would have bought Aldo Sassi 10 more months.

A
nice touch. Thanks Joe - and merry Christmas! Here's to catching up in the New
Year. In the meantime, you readers can follow Blazin' Saddles throughout the
festive season on www.twitter.com/saddleblaze.

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