The new Astana squad is at training camp this week and there are some fabulous shots of the new team by Graham Watson over at Velo News.
It's an impressive team that is no doubt striking fear into the hearts of many a European team director but these pictures are just a little weird. The old Disco riders are still under contract with the Discovery Channel to wear their Disco kit right up to the end of 2007 so, even though they've signed with Astana and they're at Astana training camp, they still need to wear the old black and blue until Jan 1.
Looking at the pics of this new, exciting team makes me really start looking forward to the 2008 season. Johan Bruyneel and the Astana boys are going to make things very interesting out on the road. I can't wait.
No doubt 2008 will include those great moments in cycling that bring tears to our eyes (admit it boys, you know what I'm talking about) as well as those horrible moments where you read something that makes you feel like you've been kicked in the gut. I'm sure it will all be there, but isn't that part of what we love about it ? And this year I hope that we can go through the whole roller coaster ride together.
Be sure to come back and visit on Jan 1 (or as soon as the hangover has worn off) as I'll be talking about a very cool new website that I've been involved with that's being launched that day with an awesome new contest that's offering prizes would make any warm-blooded cyclist drool.
Before I go I just want to send a big Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everyone out there. Thanks to all of you who have become regular readers and true friends. I so appreciate all of your support and encouragement. It's so much more fun to be a cycling fan with you guys around.
Please have a safe and happy holiday season everyone!
Went to the doctor this morning and I have strep throat. So, I'm on some nasty antibiotics now and I'm going to spend the day on the couch letting the drugs do their work and trying to get better. Since I don't have enough energy to think about a post today I thought I would just share this interview with Alejandro Valverde that the Caisse d'Epargne media guy sent out yesterday.
I think he's such a sweetie and it sounds like he has big plans for 2008 - not the least of which will be adjusting to life as the father of twins!
Kind of a weird photo that they included. No bike or anything. It's like they did the interview and then thought - oh, we should include a photo, Alejandro just step outside by the tree and we'll snap something.
How do you consider your season 2007? Did you obtain the results you hoped before the beginning of the season?
This season has been a special one, but despite everything I was in good condition when I had to be. It is obvious that I did not obtain the victories which the people and perhaps myself awaited from me and of course I would have like to win more, but I proved once more that I can be with the best riders during the greatest part of the season and that is something very important for a sportsman who wants to try to be all the time at the best level.
In which race you did feel in the best shape?
I felt well on some occasions and very well on some others, but I believe that my best day was in April, the day of Liège-Bastogne-Liège. It was one of the main objectives of my season, after I already won in 2007. This year I felt extremely well too, but Di Luca was the first to attack and then it was impossible to catch him.
For the first time, you finished the Tour de France and arrived in Paris. Which importance does it have? How do you see your future in the Tour and with which ambitions will you start in 2008?
I went to the Tour, after I was obliged to give up in the two previous editions, with the intention of finishing it and arriving on the Champs Elysées of Paris. I left London with the desire of learning and I believe that after three weeks on the French roads, I actually learned a lot. In 2008, the organizers of the Tour will propose a different course, with the preceding the Alps, which should be better for me. I prefer that. The reduction of the number of kilometres in the time trials is also an advantage for me. It is obvious that everything will depends on the beginning of the season, but if all occurs as envisaged, I hope to be able to realize a great Tour de France. I am conscious of the fact that to win it will be very difficult, but I believe that to finish on the podium is feasible.
The year 2008 will be a very important one, with the O G of Beijing and an already very busy calendar. How do you consider the next season and with which objectives?
In 2008, I will especially concentrate on the second part of the season, which will be indeed be very busy. That does not mean that I will neglect the first part, because the Amstel Gold Race, the Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège are races that I like very much but it is clear that if I want to be at the top before the sequence Tour (main goal of the season)-Olympic Games-Vuelta and World Championships, it will be necessary to reduce my spring program. The public will may ask: where is Valverde? Valverde will be training and preparing himself to realize a great second part of the season, with the hope to be present on the appointment.
Some difficult moments expected you in 2007, with a lot of pressure on your shoulders. How did you get through?
It is true that the year has been a little complicated, with the pressure exerted by the UCI and by the press. Even if that did not enable me to be to be present in good shape in the major events, it was not easy to train because my head was in two places at the same time. But I had the chance to be well advised, which enabled me to spend these moments rather well. I hope that 2008 will be a quieter year. I wish to take advantage of the end of the year to thank my family, my managers, my team, the Spanish Federation, the Higher Council for Sports and all the journalists who supported me in the most difficult moments. I wish everybody a Merry Christmas and a marvellous 2008.
2007 will finish in a very particular way for you.....
Indeed! These days, - we do not know yet if it will be at the end of December or at the beginning of January -, my wife Angela will give birth to twins. That will be a great joy, something very special and from then I will be another man.
I'm sick today. My throat started to hurt yesterday and by last night I could barely speak. Luckily the majority of the work that I needed to get finished was wrapped up last week so I can relax a bit and try to get well before the big day next week.
Thanks to everyone who has been sending out such warm and thoughtful holiday wishes. It's so nice of you all to keep the Inane Asylum in your thoughts at this time of year. And welcome to nakigrl (depending on how long you've been quietly visiting you may or may not know what I mean by the "Inane Asylum" but it's sort of a long story and one that you needn't really grasp in order to join our happy little group here)!
Best wishes out to Chris Horner who is currently sitting in a hospital bed recovering from an emergency appendectomy. The procedure kept Horner from competing in the elite national cyclo-cross championships in Kansas City on Sunday but he says that everything went well with the surgery and he plans to be back on a bike in a couple of weeks.
Alberto Contador says that he has no reservations about riding for a team with two other podium contenders on it (Leipheimer and Kloden). The Tour winner told Spanish website as.com that Levi has already proven that he is happy to work for the young Spaniard in races, and as far as Kloden goes, "I don't know Klöden, but I have seen how he has put himself in the service of other riders like Ullrich or Vinokourov."
I know that I always come back to this, and I know that supposedly these guys are just thrilled to be on a Tour-wining team, blah, blah, blah, but I still just can't totally buy that a 34-year-old and 32-year-old professional cyclist who have spent full careers focused entirely on one day winning the Tour de France are excited to be working to help a 25-year-old win it.
I've talked before about the multitude of different cycling-related groups that exist on Facebook today. One new one that I just joined is called "I'm Tired of Explaining Cycling" and boy can I relate sometimes!
One of the topic threads that the folks over there have started is "Questions You're Sick of Hearing" and people have contributed some good questions already like, "Why're you locking your bike? Nobody's gonna steal it..." My contribution was "So, was Lance doping?" because, for some reason, that's the first question that everyone asks me when they hear that I'm into pro cycling.
So tell me, what are the questions about cycling that you're sick of hearing?
Also, a quick shout out to Debi - it's her birthday (another sneaky thing you can learn over on Facebook).
Okay, I have yet to comment on the new story that's been splashed around the cycling rags about hunky Tom Boonen's new sweetheart. I've been tied up with work and busy making fun of other riders.
For cycling fans who have been living under a rock, the young girl in question is 16 year-old Sophie van Vliet, daughter of former pro Leo van Vliet
I knew that something was up even before the story hit Cycling News because I started getting a flood of visitors to the site who were again coming from search engines after using search terms that included a lot of "Tom Boonen" and "girlfriend" or "dating."
What is it with the sexy Belgian and our obsession with what (or should I say "whom") he does in his spare time? I think he may be the only pro cyclist who actually has a whole section in his Wikipedia entry entitled "Personal Life." In fact, in that same Wikipedia entry, they offer only two highlights for Boonen's 2007 Season: his wins on stages 6 and 12 of the 2007 Tour de France as well as the overall sprint leader's jersey, and the fact that he's dating the 16 year-old. That's it, that's how they sum up his entire season as a bike racer.
I'll give you that it's a tad stomach-churning to think of him robbing the cradle with a girl 11 years younger than him, but we have to remember that Boonen is basically a rock star. He lives a rock star life in Europe complete with the modeling contracts, pop songs about him and screaming, swooning girls. I'm not saying it excuses the behavior, but it does a bit to explain it.
They say that a rock star's life is all about sex, drugs and rock and roll. We know that he's got two out of three covered...
Alexander Vinokourov announced at a press conferene in his home of Kazakhstan today that he will retire from the sport of cycling. This decision comes after yesterday's ruling from the Kazakh Cycling Federation to suspend him for a year for blood doping during this year's Tour.
"I am stopping competition ... It's a definitive decision. I don't want this sport anymore ... I'm slamming the door and I'm leaving,"
Or, if I may paraphrase, "You can't fire me, I quit."
For me, this decision smacks of guilt. He was given a one-year suspension when UCI guidelines strongly suggest a two-year ban for a first offence. The one-year ban would put him back in competition just in time for the Beijing Olympics. It was like a friendly slap on the wrist. He could have trained like mad this year and come back to compete for a medal. He is 34-years old so I recognize that he doesn't have a lot of time left to race, but Hincapie is 34 and he still plans to win the Tour and at 36, Chris Horner is showing no signs of throwing in the towel just yet.
No, my guess is that he knows that all eyes are on him now and he either can't, or doesn't want to, ride clean, so he'd rather just walk away.
But, while Vino may have locked his bike in the garage for good, he is not going to give up the fight to clear his name. Vino said that, despite his decision to retire, he is still considering an appeal of Thursday's ruling from his national federation.
"It's sad that my career is ending like this but I want to restore my honor ... I will prove that I'm not guilty and get the results of this test rescinded," he said.
During the press conference, Vino went on to explain his suspicion that his problems with doping allegation are the result of an anti-Kazakh bias in the sport of cycling. He's probably onto something there. I mean, if each of us digs deep inside of ourselves and is really honest, can't we all admit to, at one time or another, being a bit of an anti-Kazite? Come on, you know you've sat there in front of the TV during the Tour, shaking your fist in the air and cursing those darn riders from Kazakhstan from ruining our beautiful sport. I'll admit that that's part of the reason I dislike Mark Cavendish so much, I always suspected that he was part Kazakh.
Give me a friggin' break! An anti-Kazakh bias?!?! That goes right up there with Tyler Hamilton's mysterious lost twin as some of the best defenses for a positive blood doping test.
Anyway, I know that Vino did a bad thing, but I'm going to miss him. Having him come into the Tour this year on top of the world, then seeing his hopes dashed by injury, and then rooting for him as he battled the pain each day, clawing his way back into contention. He was amazing and I just fell hopelessly in love with him. Well, up until that part where we found out he was a lying cheat.
Don't everyone start on me for being insensitive here, but that really was my first reaction when I read yesterday's AP story stating that Michael Rassmusen had considered suicide after being ejected from the Tour this year.
According to the story, Rasmussen said that he cried while he was driven away from the race. "On the other side of the road, trucks kept passing us. It would have been easy to grab the steering wheel. Then this terrible nightmare would have been over.''
Later, sitting in a hotel room with Rabobank teammate Erik Dekker, Rasmussen said he thought of taking his life.
"Five hours after I stood on the podium, I was sitting alone. My whole world had collapsed,'' Rasmussen said. "Luckily I couldn't find a rope in the room, otherwise I would not be here now.''
Okay, let's get a little perspective here my friend. I get that it would suck to have worked so hard for something and, in the matter of a few hours, go from almost reaching your dream to utter disappointment. But, that being said, it's a bicycle race. It's a bunch of guys in spandex riding their bikes along the road and seeing who can go faster. No one died here. Ya, ya, I can hear someone out there saying, his dreams died, but seriously. I love cycling, but killing yourself over a bike race - even a really big bike race - is the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard.